Washington: The US on Friday issued orders to ban popular Chinese social media apps TikTok and WeChat from Sunday to safeguard national security, weeks after India banned them, saying they were prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the country.
The move comes a day after US President Donald Trump said he is looking into American major Oracle’s reported bid for the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok and wants to ensure there is no compromise on national security before approving the deal.
Last month, Trump signed an executive order to ban TikTok and WeChat by September 15 unless the ownership of the two Chinese companies changed to American.
At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of US laws and regulations, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.
The Department of Commerce warned other social media apps of replicating WeChat or TikTok’s illicit behaviour. The president has the authority to consider whether additional orders may be appropriate to address such activities.
Beginning September 20, the US has banned any provision of service to distribute or maintain WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the US. It also bans any financial transactions including transferring funds or processing payments within the US, the department said in a statement.
From September 20, for WeChat and from November 12, for TikTok, the US has banned any provision of internet hosting services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the US; content delivery network services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the US.
India banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, We Chat, and UC Browser on June 29, saying they were prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the country. It was expanded to 224 Chinese apps later. The ban was imposed in the backdrop of a tense standoff along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh with Chinese troops.
President Trump had also cited India’s action against the Chinese apps while announcing his plan to ban them last month.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US, the statement said.
The announced prohibitions, when combined, protect users in the US by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality, it said.
Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party, Ross said.
The president has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted, the department said.
While the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar, the Department of Commerce said, alleging that each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories.
Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP. This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security, it said.
On August 6, Trump signed executive orders which determined that the apps capture vast swaths of information from US users, leaving the data vulnerable to CCP access for nefarious purposes.
As per the executive order, the Department of Commerce was required to identify transactions within 45 days to protect national security and the private data of millions of people across the country.
The US has also banned any provision directly contracted or arranged internet transit or peering services enabling the function or optimization of the mobile application within the US; and any utilization of the mobile application’s constituent code, functions, or services in the functioning of software or services developed and/or accessible within the US.
US Northeast digs out after massive snow storm, Two dead
People across the U.S. Northeast were digging themselves out on Tuesday after a powerful storm blanketed parts of the region with more than 2 feet of snow, prompting airlines to cancel flights and contributing to at least two deaths.
The nor`easter – an East Coast storm whose winds blow from the northeast – cut power to thousands of households, and halted some subway and train service in and around New York City. It dropped about 30 inches (76 cm) of snow in parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and up to 18 inches (46 cm) in New York City.
The snowy weather was expected to continue in parts of the Northeast, with a stretch from upstate New York to northern Maine hit the hardest, the National Weather Service said in its latest forecast on Tuesday. Snow could develop in the Upper Midwest on Wednesday before the storm runs its course, it said.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania, a 67-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer`s disease was found lying dead in the snow on Monday after wandering away from her home, police said.
A man in Newark, New Jersey, died after being found lying in the snow on Monday, according to police officials, who said the death was not considered suspicious.
In New York City, public transit was coming back to life. Outdoor subway service, which had been suspended, resumed, buses were running on reduced schedules, and the area`s major commuter railroads had resumed partial or full operations.
The city`s LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, where flights were canceled on Monday, both said they were working to clear the snow and that they expected activity to pick up later on Tuesday.
The storm prompted widespread closings of schools and COVID-19 vaccination sites. In Connecticut, about 10,000 vaccination appointments were canceled on Monday, with plans to reschedule them for later this week.
Putin Ordered To Begin Large-scale Coronavirus Vaccination in Russia
MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin ordered a large-scale voluntary vaccination program against COVID-19 coronavirus to begin next week across Russia, saying teachers and doctors should be first in line to get the country’s flagship Sputnik V vaccine. Putin gave the order during an online meeting with ministers on Wednesday, a day when Russia, which has the fourth-highest number of recorded infections in the world, registered 589 new daily deaths from the coronavirus.
Putin said Russia will have produced 2 million vaccine doses within the next few days. Sputnik V, one of two Russian-made vaccines to have received domestic regulatory approval so far despite clinical trials being incomplete, requires two injections. A third vaccine is also in the works. Russia said last month that the Sputnik jab was 92% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 according to interim results. “Let’s agree on this – you will not report to me next week, but you will start large-scale vaccination… Let’s get to work already,” Putin told Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova. “I understand that you’re using very careful language and it’s absolutely right that we are cautious. But I know that industry and the (health) network are in general ready. Let’s take this first step.” Russia has already vaccinated more than 100,000 high-risk people, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said during a separate presentation to the United Nations about Sputnik V.
According to the presentation, more than 45,000 people are currently participating in Sputnik V trials worldwide. The rise in infections in Russia has slowed since reaching a high on Nov. 27, with 25,345 new daily cases reported on Wednesday. Russia has resisted imposing lockdowns during the second wave of the virus, preferring targeted regional curbs. ‘ABSOLUTE PRIORITY’ The Kremlin earlier gave assurances that Russians were first in line to be vaccinated, with Moscow also discussing supply deals with other countries. “The absolute priority is Russians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Production within Russia, which is already being developed, will meet the needs of Russians.” Authorities in St Petersburg, which reported 3,684 new infections on Wednesday, ordered bars and restaurants to close from Dec. 30 until Jan. 3, to combat the rise in cases there, the RIA news agency reported.
Museums, theatres, and concert halls would be closed to the public in the city of more than 5 million people for the duration of Russia’s New Year holidays, from Dec. 30 to Jan. 10. In Moscow, a remote learning period for secondary school students was extended beyond Dec. 6 to the end of the year. With 2,347,401 infections, Russia only has fewer COVID-19 cases than the United States, India, and Brazil. It has recorded 41,053 deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Iran Mulls Response as it Prepares to Bury Killed Nuclear Scientist
Debate raged in Iran on Sunday over how and when to respond to a top nuclear scientist’s assassination, blamed on arch-foe Israel, as his body was honoured at Shiite shrines to prepare it for burial.
Two days after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died from wounds sustained in a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen near Tehran, parliament demanded a halt to international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites while a top official hinted Iran should leave the global non-proliferation treaty.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council usually handles decisions related to the country’s nuclear programme, and parliamentary bills must be approved by the powerful Guardians Council.
President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap”.
Israel says Fakhrizadeh was the head of an Iranian military nuclear programme, the existence of which the Islamic republic has consistently denied, and Washington had sanctioned him in 2008 for activities linked to Iran’s atomic activities.
The scientist’s body was taken for a ceremony on Sunday at a major shrine in the holy city of Qom before being transported to the shrine of the Islamic republic’s founder Imam Khomeini, according to Iranian media.
Fakhrizadeh’s funeral will be held Monday in the presence of senior military commanders and his family, the defence ministry said on its website, without specifying where.
Israel has not officially commented on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office after four years of hawkish foreign policy under President Donald Trump.