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Snowzilla’ paralyses US from Washington to New York

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A monster storm paralysed major cities from Washington to New York along the US East as it dumped more than three feet of snow in some places, disrupting road and rail traffic and grounding thousands of flights.

At least 19 storm related deaths were reported in several states, more than 160,000 people lost power, about 140,000 of them in North Carolina and South Carolina alone, travel was banned in New York and more than 10,000 flights were cancelled. As of Saturday evening, Glengary in West Virginia reported the highest snowfall, with 40 inches. The storm ranked No. 3 in terms of snowfall accumulation in New York City history with at least 25.1 inches

Dubbed “Snowzilla” and “Snowmageddon 2016″, it was among Washington’s biggest too with Dulles International Airport getting 26.5 inches. The record for Washington is 28 inches, set in 1922. As many as 11 states — Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia — declared states of emergency. Washington, DC, has declared a “snow emergency.”

The storm caused major traffic tie-ups on highways in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Road accidents Friday night caused a 7-mile-long backlog involving around 500 vehicles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, CNN reported. In central Kentucky, some drivers were stranded along a 35-mile stretch of Interstate 75 for as long as 19 hours, from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning.

Mass transit services in Washington and Baltimore have been suspended for the weekend. US national railway Amtrak’s service to and from the East Coast has either been cancelled or truncated. In New Jersey, the storm’s winds were pushing water from the ocean into the state’s barrier islands.

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Pakistan to begin Covid vaccination from next week

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) has made an integrated plan for the vaccination drive, Geo News reported.

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Islamabad, Jan 28 : Vaccination against the novel coronavirus in Pakistan is set to begin across the country from next week, a Minister has revealed.

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday evening, Federal Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said: “The system for vaccination is in place. Hundreds of vaccination centres in the country will be administering Covid vaccine… The vaccination of frontline health workers will start next week.”

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) has made an integrated plan for the vaccination drive, Geo News reported.

Addressing an online event on Wednesday Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Faisal Sultan said that “the government-backed coronavirus vaccines would be free for all the country’s citizens, adding that it is the “top-most priority to provide quality healthcare to people”.

The development comes as Pakistan has registered a total of 539,387 coronavirus cases and 11,514 deaths.

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Italy PM Giuseppe Conte to quit Tuesday, seeking new govt

His resignation comes ahead of a key vote on judicial reforms later this week, which commentators suggest the government was on course to lose.

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Giuseppe Conte Italy PM

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced he will resign Tuesday, in what media reports said was an attempt to build a new government after weeks of political turmoil.

He called a cabinet meeting for 9:00am (0800 GMT) when he “will inform the ministers of his desire to go to the Quirinale (President Sergio Mattarella’s office) to resign”, his office said.

Media reports suggest Conte will seek a mandate to form a new government to run Italy as it battles the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 85,000 people dead in the country and crippled the economy.

The ruling coalition has been teetering on the edge of collapse since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his small Italia Viva party on January 13.

Conte survived a parliamentary vote of confidence last week but failed to secure a majority in the Senate, the upper house, leaving his government severely weakened.

His resignation comes ahead of a key vote on judicial reforms later this week, which commentators suggest the government was on course to lose.

“Conte’s calculation is that by moving early, and thereby avoiding a humiliating defeat in the Senate later this week, he would increase his chances of securing a mandate from Mattarella to form a new government,” noted Wolfango Piccoli of the Teneo consultancy.

He will likely then seek to widen support beyond his coalition, currently comprising mainly of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

“However, it is currently unclear whether Conte can succeed in such an effort,” Piccoli said.

He added that if he fails, the M5S and PD could “ditch Conte and look for another candidate” to head a new coalition government.

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Why Chinese involvement in financial frauds in India is alarming

G.K. Goswami Inspector General ATS said Xu Xunfu’s business visa had expired in July 2020, while Li Teng Li’s tourist visa expired in September 2020.

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New Delhi, Jan 25 : Within a span of 15 days, two major financial fraud cases involving Chinese nationals have come to the forefront. Soon after the Delhi Police unearthed a transnational malware and fraud syndicate and arrested two Chinese women in a gang of 12 in multiple raids starting January 13, two Chinese have been caught by the UP ATS from Noida for fraudulent monetary transactions.

UP ATS arrested two Chinese citizens in money laundering case, fraudulently  carrying fake SIM card - The India Print : theindiaprint.com, The Print
Two Chinese nationals arrested by UP ATS for money laundering worth crores

This is cause for alarm as it raises apprehensions that multiple Chinese syndicates have been operating within the country to cheat and defraud Indian citizens and capture personal data of unsuspecting people for illegitimate purposes.

When it arrested Chinese nationals Chaohong Deng Daoyong, 27 and Wu Jiazhi, 54, the Delhi Police said the accused were installing malware in devices of people in the garb of a multi-level marketing application.

Police said that around 40,000 confirmed victims have been identified who have been cheated of crores in two months. Almost Rs 4.75 crores of cheated money has been blocked in various accounts and more than Rs. 25 lakhs recovered in cash from the arrested Chinese nationals.

“The malicious app was also making millions of Indian users follow thousands of social media accounts of unknown origin and ownership, with huge potential of future misuse of this by a foreign entity,” said Anyesh Roy, DCP Crime Crime.

Now the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terror Squad (UPATS) has arrested Xu Xunfu a.k.a July and Li Teng Li a.k.a Alice from Gautam Buddha Nagar, following a red corner notice against them by the Interpol.

Additional Director General (law and order) Prashant Kumar said, “The UPATS arrested the two for purchasing SIM cards by submitting forged documents and then making fraudulent monetary transactions with those SIMs via banks. It is for the first time that the ATS has arrested Chinese nationals.”

He further said, “We traced the duo after interrogating 14 persons arrested last week from Delhi and different parts of Uttar Pradesh in a similar fraud.”

G.K. Goswami Inspector General ATS said Xu Xunfu’s business visa had expired in July 2020, while Li Teng Li’s tourist visa expired in September 2020.

The Delhi Police have also hinted two Chinese nationals Yangqing Zhang and Bao Peng , are the kingpins of this criminal conspiracy to cheat and defraud Indian citizens and hack into their devices through malicious mobile applications. This is a serious concern as kingpins of Chinese origin are hatching the conspiracy from locations outside India

Not just financial frauds but alleged Chinese involvement have also been claimed by Delhi police in a spying case as on September 14 last year, the Special Cell of the Delhi Police had arrested 61-year-old freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, for allegedly working with Chinese intelligence.

During Sharma’s police remand, a Chinese woman Qing Shi and her Nepalese partner Sher Singh alias Raj Bohra were also arrested. They were allegedly found supplying the scribe with huge amounts of money routed through hawala channels for conveying sensitive information to Chinese Intelligence, DCP Special Cell Sanjeev Yadav had said.

This is why the Indian Police force in a coordinated manner is keeping extra vigil on the working of these fraudster syndicates involving Chinese nationals.

(Zafar Abbas could be reached at [email protected])

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