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US Senate Votes to Restrict Chinese Equipment From Telecommunications Networks

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The US Senate has voted unanimously in favour of new restrictions on equipment from Chinese technology companies being installed in American telecommunications networks.

The Secure Equipment Act will prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reviewing or issuing licenses to specific listed companies, including Huawei and ZTE.

It will now pass to President Joe Biden for his signature as his administration comes into conflict with China on a range of topics, from trade to human rights and the independence of Taiwan.

Last year the FCC officially designated Huawei and ZTE as threats to national security, blocking American companies from spending federal subsidies on their equipment. The new law will extend the ban to companies using private funding.

At the time the regulator’s chair Ajit Pai stressed that both companies were subject to China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017, which could oblige them “to co-operate with the country’s intelligence services”.

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“We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure,” Mr Pai added.

In March the FCC designated five companies, including Huawei and ZTE as well as Hytera, Hikvision and Zhejiang Dahua as security threats and moved towards banning any approvals for equipment from these companies to be installed in American telecommunications networks.

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The FCC’s current commissioner Brendan Carr said the new law “will help to ensure that insecure gear from companies like Huawei and ZTE can no longer be inserted into America’s communications networks”.

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Huawei is among five Chinese companies designated a national security threat

“In today’s increasingly connected world, we must animate our technology with our values,” said Senator Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

“That’s why our bipartisan legislation will keep compromised equipment out of US telecommunications networks and ensure our technology is safe for consumers and secure for the United States.

“I’m proud to have helped lead this effort and I thank my colleagues in both chambers of Congress for passing our bill. I stand ready to now work with the Biden administration and the FCC to implement this critical national security measure,” Senator Markey added.

His Republican colleague Senator Marco Rubio said: “Chinese state-directed companies like Huawei and ZTE are known national security threats and have no place in our telecommunications network.

“I am grateful that the Senate and House passed this bill, which will help keep compromised equipment from bad actors out of critical American infrastructure.

“Now, President Biden must swiftly sign it into law so that the Chinese Communist Party can no longer exploit this dangerous loophole,” Senator Rubio added.

A spokesperson for Huawei declined to comment, but the company has repeatedly denied being controlled by Beijing and described the FCC’s move in June as “misguided and unnecessarily punitive”.

The law was criticised by Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson at China’s foreign ministry, who said in June: “The United States, without any evidence, still abuses national security and state power to suppress Chinese companies.”

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Article: news.sky.com

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.

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There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Original Source: news.sky.com

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons

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The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.

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Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed

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A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.

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All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

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An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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Source: news.sky.com

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