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UK vows to retaliate against Russian hacking

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London, May 24 British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Hunt has pledged to retaliate against alleged Russian cyber attacks with as much as 22 million pounds “kept” to be spent on enlarging an “offensive hacking” unit, the media has reported.

This comes amid reports of Russia plotting to interfere in the European elections by spreading fake news and hacking candidates’ websites.

“All in all, British rhetoric is growing about the nation being increasingly willing to actively hack and damage other countries’ cyber infrastructure in retaliation for attacks on our own, or allied, infrastructure.

“With the general thrust of recent defence and foreign policy being to push Britain as a countering ‘force for good’ against the traditional bogeyman of Russia, cyber warfare threats will be playing an increasingly larger role,” The Register reported on Thursday.

Hunt’s speech was the keynote of a NATO press conference, arranged for the “NATO Cyber Defence Pledge” conference.

UK Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt announced that a fresh 22 million pounds from the Ministry of Defence’s budget would be spent on enlarging existing “offensive cyber” units.

“Cyber enemies think they can act with impunity. We must show them they can’t. That we are ready to respond at a time and place of our choosing in any domain, not just the virtual world,” she said.

London, May 24 British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday announced that she would quit as the leader of the ruling Conservative Party on June 7, paving the way for a leadership battle for the next Prime Minister’s post.

“I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success were high. But it’s now clear to me that it’s in the best interest of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort. I am today (Friday) announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on 7th of June, so that a successor can be chosen,” she said.

The party said it hoped a new leader could be in place by the end of July, reports BBC.

Fighting tears outside Downing Street, May said she had done her best to deliver Brexit and it was a matter of “deep regret” that she had been unable to do so.

“It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the referendum. To lead, he or she will have to find consensus in Parliament where I have not,” May said.

She said she would continue to serve as Prime Minister while a Conservative leadership contest takes place. According to the party, a new leader could be elected by the end of July, the UK media reported.

May, under increased pressure from her party to pronounce her departure date amid internal schisms over her handling of Brexit, announced her decision after a meeting with Chief Whip Julian Smith, the lawmaker in charge of keeping the party unity in Parliament.

May’s Brexit withdrawal bill has been rejected three times in the House of Commons.

Her voice croaked as she ended her speech saying: “I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold. The second female prime minister, but certainly not the last.”

She took over from former Prime Minister David Cameron when he resigned the day after the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

In a statement, the Conservative Party said the likely timetable for the party leadership contest was that nominations would close during the week beginning June 10, with the process of whittling down candidates to the final two to conclude by the end of the month.

Following the May’s decision, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt became the latest MP to say he would run for the party leadership, joining former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Conservative Party politicians Esther McVey and Rory Stewart.

Meanwhile, Johnson told an economic conference in Switzerland on Friday: “We will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal.” A new leader would have “the opportunity to do things differently. The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no deal,” he said..

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May had been “right to resign” and that the Conservative Party was now “disintegrating”.

Cameron said she should be thanked for her “tireless efforts”. “I know how painful it is to accept that your time is up and a new leader is required. She has made the right decision — and I hope the spirit of compromise is continued.”

On May’s decision to quit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had always worked well with May. “Britain’s departure from the European Union is a major transition and regardless of what happens now in Britain, the German government will do everything to achieve a good partnership, an orderly exit and good co-operation,” Merkel said.

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Kim Jong-un holds meeting to discuss Party Congress preps

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Kim Jong Un

Seoul, Nov 30 : North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a Politburo meeting to discuss plans and preparations for the upcoming eighth Party Congress slated for January 2021, state media reported on Monday.

In a report, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the enlarged meeting of the 21st Political Bureau of the seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on Sunday also “examined relevant issues for improving and strengthening the Party ideological work as required by the developing revolution, and approved the organization mechanism issue”.

The eighth Party Congress will be held in January, in which a new five-year economic development plan will be discussed and endorsed after the current five-year plan is completed this year, reports Xinhua news agency.

At the meeting, the country’s economic institutions were “harshly criticized” for “not guiding their sectors scientifically and for failing to overcome subjectivism and formalism in their work”, the KCNA report said.

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Fauci warns of ‘surge upon a surge’ in US Covid-19 cases

His warning came as more than 90,000 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized across the US, with over 18,000 in intensive care units, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

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Anthony Fauci

Washington, Nov 30: Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious diseases expert, has warned that the US might witness a “surge upon a surge” of new coronavirus cases cases in the weeks after Thanksgiving due to cold weather and travel.

“We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s just the reality,” Xinhua news agency quoted Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as saying on Sunday night in an ABC News interview.

“Having said that, we have to be careful now because there almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel.

“We understand the importance of families getting together. And it’s just something that we have to deal with that we likely will have an increase in cases, as we get into the colder weeks of the winter, and as we approach the Christmas season,” he added.

Fauci urged travellers to be safe when returning home from holiday travels, encouraging them to quarantine if possible and to get tested.

When asked if people should expect similar restrictions and recommendations for Christmas this year, the top expert replied: “I can’t see how we’re not gonna have the same thing because when you have the kind of infection that we have, it doesn’t all of a sudden turn around like that.

“So clearly in the next few weeks, we’re gonna have the same sort of thing and perhaps even two or three weeks down the line… We may see a surge upon a surge.”

Fauci added that he did not foresee “a relaxation” of the current Center for Disease Control (CDC) restrictions.

His warning came as more than 90,000 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized across the US, with over 18,000 in intensive care units, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

In its latest update on Monday, the Johns Hopkins University revealed that the US’ current caseload and death toll stood at 13,374,162 and 266,838, respectively.

The two tallies account for the world’s highest, making the US the worst-hit country.

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China to build dam on Brahmaputra river despite concerns raised by India, Bangladesh

China will implement the hydroelectric project downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra River) in 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), said Yan Zhiyong, chairman of Powerchina which is tasked to build it.

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Beijing: In yet provocation amid the ongoing India-China standoff, Beijing is moving ahead with plans to build a hydropower project on Brahmaputra river in Tibet likely to have an impact on lower riparian India and Bangladesh.

The proposal for the same has been made in the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan and is slated to be implemented from next year.

“China will implement the hydroelectric project downstream of the Yarlung Zangbo river in 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and its long-term goals through 2035 made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China,” said Yan Zhiyong, the chairman of Power Construction Corp of China (Powerchina), tasked with the construction of the project, according to government mouthpiece Global Times.

As expected, the Chinese leadership is viewing the project from a security lens as well.

“The project could serve to maintain water resources and domestic security,” added Yan while speaking about the project at a conference on Thursday.

“There is no parallel in history… it will be a historic opportunity for the Chinese hydropower industry,” Yan told the conference to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the China Society for Hydropower Engineering.

The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) and National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 were adopted by Plenum – a key policy body of the Communist Party of China (CPC)- last month.

The details of the project will be released after the formal approval of the same by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in early 2021.

Implications for India, Bangladesh

The proposal for building a dam on the Brahmaputra river, which originates in China, has sparked concern in lower riparian states India and Bangladesh. Beijing has downplayed such fears.

As a lower riparian state, India has rights to the waters of the trans-border rivers under international law. The Indian government has earlier expressed its concerns to Beijing and urged it to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activity in upstream areas.
Yan added that the hydropower exploitation of the Yarlung Zangbo River downstream is more than a hydropower project. It is also meaningful for the environment, national security, living standards, energy and international cooperation.

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