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Why America is short of masks and does want Chinese makes?
Americas

Why America is short of masks and does want Chinese makes?

Battling the corona virus outbreak wasn’t enough, that countries are now finding it difficult to find protective masks to support the medical staff worldwide.

The United States is in dire straits. Hospitals are bleeding for space and medical aid workers are now short of everything they need in terms of self preservation. There is a huge shortage of face masks and other safety equipment. China has gone one step ahead and is now churning out Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) respirators for its medical aids.

The strange part is that there are eager individuals wishing to rope in the Chinese PPE manufacturers, but are unable to do so. Blame it on the layers of approvals that the American government wants to through, before such protective gear can be imported.

The Chinese makes are getting supplied to parts of Asia and Europe. Other issues holding back the delivery to American medical aid workers, doctors and nurses includes the innumerable confusing government regulations that would prefer it own products over others, old-school billing practices, apart from the fact that hospital administrators are actually scared of being sued of handing over such masks to nurses and first responders during the coronavirus pandemic.

Strained diplomatic relations seem to be taking precedence over the Trump government taking active steps to ramp up domestic production of such masks. Medical staff has shared stories with the media of using all sorts of things has protective masks. They are also lamenting over hospitals using age old systems of dispensing salaries months later.

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The N95 respirators cannot be re-used frequently, due to repeated exposure to the virus. But nurses in the US have been asked to do so. America has not been able to innovate and adapt to the pandemic in real time- is the general consensus of medical staff.

Currently, the international company 3M has pledged to produce more than 1 billion N95s by the end of the year. The shortage has been exasperated by the attitude of the hospitals and government together that are not proactive in using other respirators available in the market. These include the Chinese KN95, which may not meet FDA regulations but offers comparable levels of protection, and is certainly more effective than other makeshift masks. Medical staff has been force cloth, handkerchiefs, a piece of cotton or gauze, let alone a bra cups as well.

Taliban refuses negotiations with the selected by the  Afghan government
Asia Pacific Focus

Taliban refuses negotiations with the selected by the Afghan government

A Taliban spokesman said that the Taliban would not negotiate with the team announced by the Afghan government, in a possible setback in the US-brokered peace process.

The spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the movement refuses to negotiate with the team selected by the Afghan government because it was not chosen in a way that includes “all Afghan factions”. The Afghan government announced the formation of a team late on Thursday, which was praised by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and described as “complete”.

In February the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban requiring the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, but progress required toward negotiations between the movement and the Afghan government has been delayed by differences between Afghan politicians and a dispute between the Taliban and the government over the prisoners’ release and a possible ceasefire as preconditions for talks.

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Mujahid said that the Afghan government’s announcement of the negotiating team had “violated” its agreement with the United States and that all parties had not agreed on the team.

“In order to reach a real and lasting peace, the aforementioned team must be agreed upon by all Afghan actors,” he said.
In response, Najia Anuri, a spokesperson for the Afghan Peace Affairs’ Ministry, said, “This team was formed after wide consultation with the different classes of Afghan society.”

So far, Abdullah Abdullah, political rival to President Ashraf Ghani, has not confirmed whether he accepts the delegation, a move diplomats say is gaining in importance due to his team’s strong influence in north and west Afghanistan.

On Friday, Abdullah’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny whether he would support the negotiating team. His spokesman did not respond, and the US embassy in Kabul did not respond to two requests for comment on Saturday.

Spain returns ‘faulty’ coronavirus testing kits bought from Chinese company as experts say China is filling the void left by Europe’s usual go-to ally the US
Europe

Spain returns ‘faulty’ coronavirus testing kits bought from Chinese company as experts say China is filling the void left by Europe’s usual go-to ally the US

A Chinese company offered Friday to replace thousands of faulty coronavirus test kits after Spanish health authorities – desperate for materials to cope with the world’s second highest COVID-19 death toll – complained they did not work as promised.

China has sold face masks and other medical equipment through a series of personal contacts with Spanish authorities, including discussions between chief executives of Chinese tech giant Alibaba and Spain’s King Felipe.

But the first shipment of 640,000 test kits was found to have “insufficient sensibility” to reliably identify infected patients, according to Health Minister Salvador Illa, who announced Thursday that 58,000 kits had been returned.

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    The Chinese company supplying the test kits, Shenzhen Bioeasy Technology, said in a statement quoted by Reuters that the incorrect results may have resulted from a failure to collect samples or use the kits correctly.

The firm said it had not adequately communicated with clients how to use the kits and would resend them “assuring the sensitivity and specificity needed to help Spain fight against COVID-19.”

Spanish medical experts, who have examined the 9,000 kits delivered last week, said they have only a 30 percent probability of detecting the virus.

“They are useless,” said Victor Jimenez Cid, a senior professor in microbiology at Madrid’s Complutense University. For a test to be effective it must have a 70 percent to 80 percent probability of detecting the virus, Cid said.

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The failure of Bioeasy’s testing kits is a painful setback for Spanish medical authorities, who are struggling to cope with more than 64,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 4,900 deaths, second only to Italy.

It is also hugely embarrassing to China, which is seeking to rehabilitate a national image tarnished by its faulty early response to the virus in Wuhan by offering assistance to other hard-hit countries.

“First they send us the virus, then they sell us the medications to stop it and then defraud us. It’s great for China” said a guest in a panel discussion on a broadcast on the Spanish TV channel La Sexta.

The test is performed by dipping a swab with a sample of a patient’s saliva in a protein extraction that gives color indications of the virus’s presence. The speedy method is essential for emergency examinations by hospitals as well as improvised drive-through facilities that Spanish authorities are setting up to isolate and quickly treat cases of contamination.

Until now, Spanish hospitals have relied on slower molecular laboratory testing, which requires specialized personnel and take four hours to produce a result. Tests like those offered by Bioeasy are supposed to produce a diagnosis in 15 minutes.

Mass testing methods proved essential in South Korea’s successful effort against coronavirus and they are recommended by the World Health Organization as an essential way of controlling the pandemic’s spread.

The Chinese embassy in Spain tweeted that Shenzen Bioeasy is not licensed to sell the product and is not included on a list of “recommended suppliers,” which its ministry of commerce offered the Spanish government.

Spain’s health ministry said Bioeasy products have been approved by European Union quality control agencies and that the “specifications of this test, at least of the lot that was received, do not correspond with EU quality certifications.”
Officials said the deal with Bioeasy was made through an unidentified intermediary.

Health ministry emergency coordinator Fernando Simon said Spain is trying to import 6 million testing kits from China and other EU countries. He also said that “intense efforts” are underway with Spanish biotechnology firms to produce them.

Pompeo arrives in Kabul to resume peace deal talks
Americas

Pompeo arrives in Kabul to resume peace deal talks

To resume the peace talks between US and Taliban, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo arrived in Kabul on Monday. Pompeo’s surprise visit to Kabul highlights the urgency of the matter. He was received by Zalmay Khalilzad — the lead US negotiator in talks with the Taliban — at the Kabul airport.

The US did not want to miss even the slightest of opportunity to close the deal, especially when the intra-Afghan peace process has been stalled over the ongoing political turmoil in Afghanistan. The country’s leaders, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, are fighting over the claim to be Afghanistan’s elected president.

Pompeo held separate and joint meetings with both the rivals.
“We have tried… for the last several weeks to try to find the formula and encourage them to come to an agreement,” a senior state department official said, according to a pool report.
Pompeo has come “to help push, to encourage and to point out what our expectations are and what that assessment is if they don’t do the right thing”.

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A State Department official, who accompanied Pompeo, spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity. He said, “We are in a crisis. The fear is that unless this crisis gets resolved and resolved soon, that could affect the peace process, which was an opportunity for this country that (has) stood in this 40-years-long war. And our agreement with the Talibs could be put at risk.”

The US and NATO forces have already initiated the troop withdrawal process. Though it has reached a slow turn amid the ongoing global outbreak of coronavirus. The US authorities are pressing hard to reach a deal before the negotiation window between Taliban and Afghanistan gets shut again.

The complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is dependent on Taliban’s commitment to prevent other terror group from entering and operating in Afghanistan. Things fell out after the phase one signing of the deal, i.e. in Qatar on Feb. 29, as Ghani refused to fulfill his part of a promise made in the US-Taliban deal to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners, as a goodwill gesture in exchange of 1000 Afghan prisoners.

Social media giants come down on fake accounts heavily
Americas

Social media giants come down on fake accounts heavily

The social media giants are proving to be socially responsible as they are now keeping the notorious and fictitious accounts at bay. It has now been confirmed that Facebook and Twitter have indeed terminated a network of fake accounts targeting the United States. These were essentially Russian-linked fake accounts that were operating out of Ghana and Nigeria.

Showing signs of activity similar to the ones in the past, official statements from Facebook have confirmed that the accounts were functioning by certain local individuals on behalf of Russian entities and were in the initial stages of building some kind of propaganda and audience.

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One major account and related Facebook pages belonged to an NGO. Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher shared via a conference call with the media that the network’s technique appeared “to be attempting to create an NGO that had real-world people working for it on the ground in Ghana as a way to build legitimacy for their narratives and use that to message out.”

So far, there has been no indication of focus on elections, or promote or denigrate political candidates. However, the accounts might be “attempting to sow discord by engaging in conversations about social issues, like race and civil rights.”

Posting on Facebook related groups, facebook pages run by fake NGOs and personal blogs were focused on topics such as black history, black excellence and fashion, celebrity gossip, U.S. news and LGBTQ issues. They also shared negative content about oppression and police brutality.

Social media companies are under pressure to police foreign and domestic misinformation on their platforms, particularly since U.S. intelligence officials said that Russia used social media platforms for an influence operation aimed at electing President Donald Trump – a claim that Moscow has denied.

American Military Linguist Caught In Espionage Net
Americas

American Military Linguist Caught In Espionage Net

It has been confirmed that a linguist seemed to have done an insider’s job when she provided classified information to a Lebanese citizen connected to the Iranian backed Hezbollah terrorist group.

The 61 years of age Mariam Taha Thompson has been accused of transmitting highly classified data while serving at a Special Operations Task Force site in Erbil, Iraq. She works under contract for the Defense Department. Under an FBI investigation, it was found that a day before the strike on the US Embassy in Iraq, Ms Thompson showed dubious activity in those 40 days.
She is said to have accessed some 57 files which she didn’t have a legitimate reason to access, flagging her up instantly. These files were concerning names and other identifying information regarding eight U.S. human-intelligence sources which was top secret information.

Ms. Thompson might face life imprisonment against charges of espionage. In an affidavit, she did defend herself but admitted to have passed on sensitive information due to a romantic interest she had in the Lebanese national. An FBI special agent said the information that Ms. Thompson shared with her unnamed contact included the names of four U.S. human sources, along with a technique that one of the four was using to gather information.

Due to the sensitivity of the information shared by her and the fact that she was in active duty in the military sensitive zone, her will be kept into continued detention. The alleged espionage took place amid rising tensions between the United States, and Iran and its Middle East proxies, including Hezbollah, which has been designated as a terrorist group by the U.S.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal which was the first one to break this news, Jeff Asher, a former CIA officer who teaches espionage history at Tulane University, said it was difficult to ascertain from court documents how damaging the alleged spying might be, but said it “potentially put the lives of people doing work for the U.S. government at risk.”

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US and Taliban may sign peace agreement in February
Americas

US and Taliban may sign peace agreement in February

The United States may soon reach an agreement with the radical Taliban movement. This was announced on Tuesday by the Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security, Robert O’Brien, speaking at the Washington Atlantic Council.


“Great progress has been made, I think we can come close to an agreement” he said. “I’m interested in this, because hostages are still held in Afghanistan. I hope that the Taliban will find certain opportunities to join final negotiations. ” O’Brien recalled that U.S. President Donald Trump suspended negotiations in the fall of 2019 due to the death of American troops, but consultations resumed earlier this year.


“I think we will make significant progress,” said the presidential aide. “Good news may follow soon. It should be a reduction in violence, inter-Afghan negotiations to move forward. We must wait for a few days or weeks.”


Speaking about the prospects for the withdrawal of American troops, Trump’s assistant made it clear that this would not happen in the near future. According to him, the Taliban should guarantee a break in ties with al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.


“The president wants the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Afghanistan should no longer be a safe place for terrorists,” O’Brien said. “Our military and diplomats are working very seriously. But I don’t think the withdrawal is inevitable right now.”


Military sources told that the Trump administration may release a peace agreement to reduce the violence with the radical Taliban this week. According to them, the expected agreement will be a call for a ceasefire between the coalition forces led by the United States and the Taliban, which will become the basis for concluding a peace deal in the near future. The American authorities, the channel notes, are in favor of concluding the first part of the peace agreement with the Taliban in connection with Trump’s desire to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Under this deal, Washington will be able to reduce its presence from 12-13 thousand to 8.6 thousand military personnel. Get all the News of America Today .

America Sanctions and Waives Off Together
Americas

America Sanctions and Waives Off Together

The United States has yet again imposed sanctions on Iran’s nuclear entity as per the Treasury Department. However, it has been stated that the US will not interfere in Russian, Chinese and European firms continuing to work at Iranian nuclear sites. This might make it harder for that country to develop a nuclear weapon.

Further, the US will now issue waivers to sanctions that that initially barred non-US firms from dealing with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. According to the same sources, the waivers’ renewal will allow nonproliferation work to continue for 60 days. This will be done at the Arak heavy-water research reactor, the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Tehran Research Reactor and other nuclear cooperation initiatives.

Waivers have had to be given in order to prevent non-proliferation, a decision that has come after a debate between the US Treasury and State Department. In November 2019, Washington had terminated the sanctions waiver related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site. The US retracted itself from the 2015 Nuclear Deal completely misbalancing world economy. Under the 2015 deal that was a great peace keeping effort made by Barac Obama, it was joint agreement between Iran and six world powers. These include Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Under the agreement, Tehran promised to limit its nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions that had crippled its economy. However, Trump’s retracement has left the rest of the partners in an extremely tough spot.

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