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BEIJING — China is easing some of the world’s most stringent anti-virus controls and authorities say new variants are weaker. That spurred hopes for a quick end to “zero Covid.” But health experts and economists warn it will be mid-2023 and possibly 2024 before vaccination rates are high enough and hospitals are prepared to handle a possible rash of infections. Ahead of the protests, the Communist Party promised to make “zero Covid” less costly and disruptive but said it was sticking to the overall containment strategy. Travelers at the Chinese capital’s train stations and three airports are required to show a negative virus test within the previous 48 hours. Xi’s government has held up “zero Covid” as proof of the superiority of China’s system compared with the United States and Western countries.
WASHINGTON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. plans to work closely with Israel's new government, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a left-leaning Jewish group in Washington on Sunday, and continues to support a two-state solution to end the decades-long conflict with Palestinians. The U.S. administration expects "the new Israeli Government to continue to work with us to advance our shared values, just as we have previous governments," Blinken told the nonprofit J Street liberal advocacy group. "We will gauge the government by the policies it pursues rather than individual personalities," he said. "Security assistance to Israel is sacrosanct," Blinken said, noting the more than $3 billion the U.S. provides to Israel in foreign military funding. President Joe Biden remains committed to "realizing the enduring goal of two states," Blinken said.
The price cap comes on top of an EU embargo on buying seaborne Russian crude oil as a measure aimed mainly at providing third-party countries with an option to still buy it if the transaction is at or below the price cap level. Below are the main elements of how the price cap is supposed to work:PRICE CAP LEVELThe price cap was set at $60 per barrel. Shipping companies will not be allowed to provide tankers for the transport of Russian crude unless the oil is sold at or below the $60 price cap. WHAT IS ALLOWEDProviding financial and shipping services for Russian crude oil is allowed if it is bought at or below the price cap as well as in an emergency. Specific projects which are essential for the energy security of certain third-party countries may be exempted from the price cap.
The TSA may expand its facial recognition identification system nationwide next year, WaPo reported. Facial recognition is currently used in 16 domestic airports for identifying passengers. The TSA has used various biometric technologies since the 9/11 terror attacks. In addition to the TSA, facial recognition technology is currently utilized by other agencies under the Department of Homeland Security, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which uses the tech to track migrants. Its use by law enforcement is even illegal in some cities, including San Francisco as, in some cases, racially-biased facial recognition scans have led to false arrests and even jail time for a Black man who was misidentified.
COLLEGE PARK, Md., Dec 5 (Reuters) - Top European Union officials intend to complain loudly to their U.S. counterparts at a trade meeting on Monday about the bloc's electric vehicles being cut off from tax credits in U.S. President Joe Biden's signature climate law. "The Inflation Reduction Act will be part of the range of discussions on trade," a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said in a statement. The U.S. side was "committed to continuing to understand EU concerns" through a newly established task force, the spokesperson added. European and South Korean officials criticized the Inflation Act at the G20 Summit in Indonesia last month. French officials say they are hopeful an executive order from the White House could give European nations a break, without the need for seeking revisions from Congress - a move the White House wants to avoid.
UAE president visits Qatar in sign of warming ties
  + stars: | 2022-12-05 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +2 min
DOHA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) president arrived in Qatar on Monday on the first such visit since Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies ended a boycott of Doha nearly two years ago. Qatar is currently hosting soccer's World Cup,The visit "is another step towards strengthening Gulf solidarity and joint action," Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, said on Twitter. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt early last year ended a 3-1/2 year embargo of Qatar, but ties between Doha and Abu Dhabi have not warmed at the same pace as those with Riyadh and Cairo, which re-established diplomatic ties with Doha. UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan visited Doha twice as part of Abu Dhabi's push to manage regional differences. Abu Dhabi, like Manama, has not appointed an envoy to Doha, but restored travel and trade links between the UAE and Qatar.
read moreUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's top aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that it is the world that needs security guarantees from Russia, not the other way around. "Civilized world needs 'security guarantees' from barbaric intentions of post-Putin Russia," Podolyak said on Twitter on Sunday. "Someone wants to provide security guarantees to a terrorist and killer state?" "The only security guarantees we should focus on are essentially non-Russian," he said on his Twitter account. "After that, we are ready to sit down at the negotiation table and talk about security guarantees."
Twitter, as a private company and not the government, can choose what it does and does not publish. But whether or not the decision was wrong, it wasn't a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. "Twitter is not a state actor and the First Amendment applies only to state actors." So whether or not Twitter could violate the First Amendment, depends on whether or not it can be considered the government. "Both the state, the Trump White House, and the Biden team were asking Twitter, and Twitter was under no obligation to either oblige or refuse those requests," Kalir said.
The U.S. has been putting pressure on the Netherlands to block exports to China of high-tech semiconductor equipment. The Netherlands is home to ASML, one of the most important companies in the global semiconductor supply chain. Instead, it makes and sells $200 million extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines to semiconductor manufacturers like Taiwan's TSMC. ASML has not been able to ship an EUV machine to China since 2019 due to various Dutch export restrictions, according to a company spokesperson. According to a Reuters report from 2020, the Dutch government withdrew ASML's license to export its EUV machines to China after extensive lobbying from the U.S. government.
Trafigura enters $3 bln loan to supply Germany's Sefe with gas
  + stars: | 2022-12-05 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +1 min
FRANKFURT, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Commodities trading firm Trafigura on Monday said it has entered into a $3 billion four-year loan to supply gas to German gas trader Sefe, formerly known as Gazprom Germania, and help Europe's largest economy secure volumes long-term. The deal comes as Germany is struggling to replace Russian gas volumes, formerly its biggest source but supply of which was fully stopped in August, with alternatives. The loan is jointly arranged and underwritten by Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and another international bank. The loan is partly secured by a guarantee under the Untied Financial Loan program of the German government acting through the German Export Credit Agency Euler Hermes AG, a division of Allianz (ALVG.DE). Trafigura said it would mainly use existing quantities from its global gas and LNG portfolio to cover supplies to Sefe.
BERLIN, Dec 5 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned against creating a new Cold War by dividing the world into blocs and called for every effort to be made to build new partnerships, writing in an opinion piece for Foreign Affairs magazine published online on Monday. The West must stand up for democratic values and protect open societies, "but we must also avoid the temptation to once again divide the world into blocs," wrote Scholz in the piece. "This means making every effort to build new partnerships, pragmatically and without ideological blinders," he added. Scholz singled out China and Russia in particular as two countries that pose a threat to a multipolar world, which requires stronger European and transatlantic unity to overcome. "Germans are intent on becoming the guarantor of European security that our allies expect us to be, a bridge builder within the European Union and an advocate for multilateral solutions to global problems," wrote Scholz.
Police on Friday arrested a Connecticut man accused of brutally murdering his 11-month old daughter, culminating a two week-long manhunt involving the FBI in a case that one police official called "horrific and gruesome." Authorities also credited community members with helping to facilitate Francisquini's arrest. An 'extensive criminal history'Before his arrest, Francisquini was believed to have last been seen on Nov. 18, when police say security video captured him walking down Quinnipiac Avenue in New Haven. He also said earlier in the investigation that police arrived at the grisly scene of the alleged murder after someone in the house called 911 to report that Camilla was dead. Saturday — the day after Francisquini's arrest — would have been Camilla's first birthday, according to a tweet posted by the Naugatuck Police Department.
The milestones people post about are often the answers to the security “challenge” questions we use to get into online accounts when we forget our passwords. There are few things more heartwarming than seeing parents posting about their children on social media. What parents wouldn’t want the world to know how wonderful their child is? In recent years, however, such “sharenting” has gotten some pushback for violating children’s privacy, and depriving them of choices about their online identities. How, some people are asking, will my 21-year-old daughter feel one day about what I’m sharing now?
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday the U.S. will not shrink from its unwavering support for Israel despite stark differences with Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu and concerns the Biden administration may have about potential members of his incoming right-wing government. Blinken said the Biden administration would engage with Netanyahu’s government based on its policies and not on personalities, including potential senior Cabinet ministers who have expressed vehement anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab views in the past. He said those would be detrimental to Israel’s long-term security or future as a Jewish democratic state. We will hold it to the mutual standards we have established in our relationship over the past seven decades,” Blinken said. He lauded the recent completion of a maritime border accord between Israel and Lebanon.
Iran‘s Attorney General said Saturday that the country’s controversial morality police will be “abolished,” local media reported, amid ongoing nationwide protests. Montazeri's brief and unscripted comment came in response to a question about “why the morality police were being shut down,” the outlets reported. Iran’s Interior Ministry and police have not commented on the status of the morality police. Amini had allegedly failed to fully cover her hair and defied the country’s strict dress codes when she was arrested in Iran’s capital, Tehran. Police had said Amini died after she fell ill and slipped into a coma, but her family has said witnesses told them officers beat her.
Earlier, more than 200 people had gathered around the building in the center of the Druze-majority city, chanting slogans calling for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad, they said, amid spiraling prices and economic hardship. Syrian state media said tens of “outlaws” stormed the governor’s office and burned files and official papers. Three witnesses told Reuters the governor was not in the building which was vacated before protesters stormed the offices. The minority Druze sect, whose faith draws its roots from Islam, have long resisted being drawn into the Syrian conflict that pits mainly Sunni rebels against Assad’s rule. Witnesses in Sweida told Reuters that once inside the building, demonstrators brought down pictures of Assad.
When I first started investigating China’s top spy agency in 2020 for my book, “Spies and Lies: How China’s Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World,” I thought espionage was its main game. In October, the Justice Department charged 13 people with plotting to covertly advance China’s interests in the United States. Several of those charged are allegedly officers of China’s Ministry of State Security. I soon realized that the Ministry of State Security’s covert influence operations have been at the forefront of its work to shape the world. Many countries, including the United States, are working to combat espionage but lack laws suited to tackling covert influence operations.
More than 50 demonstrators, including members of the Proud Boys, gathered near the church Saturday morning and shouted, chanted and held up signs. Saturday morning, speaking on the event's stage, framed by holiday decor that included a Christmas tree in the rainbow colors of the pride flag, Red Oak Community School manager Cheryl Ryan made an emotional video address explaining why "Holi-Drag Storytime" was canceled. Ryan blamed local leaders, including law enforcement, for letting members of the Proud Boys and other right-wing demonstrators gather while the audience for "Holi-Drag Storytime" ultimately could not. The National Center for Transgender Equality said Saturday's cancelation is another example of right-wing incursions, including violence, on LGBTQ+ rights. The first “Holi-Drag Storytime” was took place successfully in Dec. 8, 2021, on the grounds of Columbus' Vanderelli Room art gallery.
Russian forces in Ukraine are burning through ammunition faster than the country’s defense industry can replace it, U.S. National Intelligence Director Avril Haines said Saturday. Asked how fast Russia was using up ammunition, Haines said: “I don’t think I can give you precise numbers in this forum. Echoing previous statements from Biden administration officials, Haines said that Russia was using up precision munitions even faster than its conventional ammunition. The Biden administration previously said Russia has turned to North Korea to secure more supplies of artillery ammunition. Russian President Vladimir Putin was “surprised” at his military’s disappointing performance after its invasion of Ukraine in February, according to Haines.
Declining immigration and an aging population could cause the labor shortage to continue in the years ahead. And the labor shortage may only get worse in the years ahead. Those slowdowns have already contributed to the current labor shortage, and will continue to do so for years to come. "But it's happening very slowly, and I don't think it explains what is particularly going on in the labor market right now." A steady decline in the US' working age population might not only create problems for businesses looking to grow.
Amazon to restart advertising on Twitter - Platfomer reporter
  + stars: | 2022-12-04 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: 1 min
Dec 3 (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) is planning to restart advertising on Twitter at about $100 million per year, pending some security tweaks to the social media company's ads platform, according to a Platformer reporter tweet on Saturday. Twitter CEO Elon Musk also said Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has resumed advertising on the platform, according to a Bloomberg report, citing comments made during a Twitter Spaces conversation on Saturday. Amazon, Apple and Twitter did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment on the matter. Reporting by Juby Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast. Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
The Saudi government did not respond to requests for comment on Xi's visit and its agenda. It is China's top oil supplier, although fellow OPEC+ producer Russia has increased its Chinese market share with lower-priced fuel. The Chinese delegation is expected to sign dozens of agreements with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states covering energy, security and investments, diplomats have told Reuters. U.S. officials have declined to comment when asked about Saudi-China bilateral relations ahead of Xi's visit. "The relationships with China pale versus those with the United States in terms of both complexity and intimacy," he said.
Madrid-based human rights campaigner Safeguard Defenders says it found evidence China was operating 48 additional police stations abroad since the group first revealed the existence of 54 such stations in September. When approached by CNN last month about Safeguard Defenders’ original allegations, China’s foreign affairs ministry said the overseas stations were staffed by volunteers. However, the organization’s latest report claims one police network it examined had hired 135 people for its first 21 stations. The organization also sourced a three-year contract for a worker hired at an overseas station in Stockholm. The NGO determines Italy has hosted 11 Chinese police stations, including in Venice and in Prato, near Florence.
Former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard left the Democratic Party before campaign with far-right Republicans. "Nope," Sanders said when Insider asked if he'd like to talk about former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an early supporter of his 2016 presidential campaign. "I'm not surprised," said Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, another former Armed Services Committee colleague of Gabbard's. Hawaii's two Democratic senators — Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz — both declined to speculate about what may be driving Gabbard's political movement, despite serving with her in the Hawaii delegation. "I think she's home," Hirono said repeatedly when asked what she thought had happened, referring to Gabbard's political home.
REUTERS/Afolabi SotundeABUJA, Dec 4 (Reuters) - West African leaders said on Sunday they would establish a regional peacekeeping force to intervene in member states to help restore security and constitutional order in a region that has witnessed several coups in the past two years. West and Central Africa has made strides in the past decade to shed its reputation as a "coup belt", but the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) wants to do more to boost constitutional government in its member states. The ECOWAS leaders also expressed concern over the continued detention of 46 Ivorian soldiers in Mali. They asked Malian authorities to release the soldiers by the end of this month. Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by David HolmesOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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