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US sanctions NSO Group over Pegasus spyware

The Commerce Department adds the Israeli cybersecurity firm to its Entity List, which limits its ability to use American tech.

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The US Commerce Department on Wednesday announced restrictions on the NSO Group, the Israel-based cybersecurity firm behind the Pegasus spyware that was uncovered on the phones of activists, journalists and executives earlier this year.

The NSO Group was added to the Entity List, which limits its ability to use American tech, based on evidence that the firm “developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target clarks shoes uk government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers,” the Commerce Department said in a release. The agency added that NSO Group tools have also helped foreign governments “conduct transnational repression,” threatening international order.

The spotlight hit the NSO Group in September after Apple released security updates for its iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Mac computers to close a vulnerability reportedly exploited by the invasive Pegasus spyware. The security fix stemmed from research done by a public interest cybersecurity group called Citizen Lab, which found a Saudi activist’s phone had been infected with Pegasus. In July, researchers found evidence of attempted or successful installations of Pegasus on 37 phones of activists, journalists and business executives.

The NSO Group, which licenses surveillance software to government agencies, says its Pegasus software helps authorities combat criminals and terrorists who take advantage of encryption technology to go dark.

On Wednesday, the NSO Group said it was dismayed by the decision and will advocate for the action to be reversed.

“We look forward to presenting the full information regarding how we have the world’s most rigorous compliance and human rights programs that brooks shoes are based the American values we deeply share, which already resulted in multiple terminations of contacts with government agencies that misused our products,” said a NSO spokesperson.

The Commerce Department said the move was part of the Biden administration’s efforts to “put human rights at the center of US foreign policy, including by working to stem the proliferation of digital tools used for repression.”

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Russian COVID cases hit record high as eastern Europe imposes new curbs

Russia reported a record high number of daily COVID-19 cases and some central European countries imposed fresh restrictions on Monday, as a new wave of the pandemic gathered pace.

Authorities around the world have been sounding the alarm as infections surge, with governments in regions where vaccine uptake has been low forced to toughen up restrictions in a bid to stop the virus raging out of control.

Russia on Monday reported 37,930 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest single-day case tally since the start of the pandemic.

U.S. to outline Nov. 8 international travel reopening

The Biden administration plans to asics shoes unveil detailed rules on Monday requiring nearly all foreign air visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Nov. 8, sources told Reuters.

The White House first disclosed on Sept. 20 it would remove restrictions in early November for fully vaccinated air travellers from 33 countries.

South Korea plots course to scrapping COVID curbs

South Korea unveiled a three-phase strategy to get back to normal from the coronavirus with all limits on gatherings and distancing gone by February, after it achieved a goal of vaccinating 70% of its people at the weekend.

The scheme begins next Monday and is due to run until Feb. 20, by when all distancing curbs will be scrapped except for mask-wearing mandates, a government health panel said.

Beijing delays marathon, raises COVID curbs as Olympics near

China’s latest COVID-19 outbreak has forced the capital Beijing to delay its annual marathon and step up other curbs, as the sprawling city and neighbouring Hebei province go into high gear in their preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics Games.

China reported 35 new domestically transmitted cases on Sunday, official data showed on Monday. Beijing accounted for 14 of the 168 cases reported between Oct. 17-24.

The infection numbers are tiny compared to many outbreaks elsewhere in the world, but authorities have adopted a zero tolerance strategy, aggressively tracking potential infections.

EU regulator starts real-time review of Merck pill

U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co Inc said the European Union’s drug regulator has initiated a real-time review of its experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug for adults.

Under the procedure, also known as a “rolling review”, the European Medicines Agency would assess data as soon as it becomes available, instead of waiting for a formal application when all required information has been gathered.

While vaccines are the main weapons against COVID-19, Merck’s experimental pill molnupiravir keen shoes could be a game-changer after studies showed it could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe illness.

Pandemic overwhelms Papua New Guinea

Concerted international action is needed to support Papua New Guinea as a surge in COVID-19 cases overwhelms the Pacific country’s health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday.

Coronavirus cases in the island nation of 9 million have been surging in recent weeks, with 385 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to latest available government data.

Fewer than 1% of the population have been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures.

Who are the Taliban today?

After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan some 25 years ago, Americans became accustomed to news of public executions, bans on everything from televisions to kite flying, and brutal repression of women.

Now, just days after they retook the country, it has come as a surprise to many in the United States to see Taliban leaders speaking at press conferences and being interviewed on live television by Western anchors.

The Taliban clearly see value in communicating openly with Western media outlets, but some experts worry that Americans may be getting a distorted sense of who the Taliban are from this more open approach. The real question, they say, is whether the group has really become more moderate, brooks shoes or if it has just learned to say what Western governments want to hear.

Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said American media coverage has largely overlooked the “most important figure” in the Taliban: Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhunzada.

Akhunzada is the supreme leader of the Taliban, or what one expert describes as the “amir-ul-momenin,” the “commander of the faithful.” The supreme leader “stands at the top,” and “under him is the Rahbari Shura (Leadership Council) of which he is not a member and that advises him,” wrote Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, left, arrives to hold the first press conference in Kabul on Tuesday after the Taliban's swift takeover of Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, left, in Kabul on Tuesday, at the first press conference after the group’s swift takeover of Afghanistan.
Most media coverage has focused on Abdul Ghani Baradar, the English-speaking chief deputy under the supreme leader. Baradar has engaged in negotiations with U.S. officials and spoken publicly, but Haqqani said skeptically that “journalists think people who speak English are the most important in the Taliban.”Baradar is very influential, and senior to the Taliban’s two other deputies: Mawlawi Muhammad Yaqub (the son of the Taliban’s first leader, Mullah Omar) and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Another significant figure is Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai.

Baradar and Sirajuddin Haqqani are on the Leadership Council. Stanakzai is not. Neither are the spokesmen for the Taliban who have been highly visible of late, such as Sohail Shaheen and Zabihullah Mujahid.

But Baradar is still junior to Akhunzada, the supreme leader, who has kept a low public profile of late, allowing leaders underneath him to speak for the group. Haqqani, the former ambassador, noted that a key clue to Akhunzada’s worldview is that his 23-year-old son, Abdur Rahman, reportedly died in a suicide skechers uk bombing in 2017, less than a year after his father had been chosen as supreme leader of the Taliban.

“That should give you an idea of how moderate he is capable of being,” Haqqani said.

Ruttig wrote a detailed article exploring how the Taliban may have evolved since the U.S. military stormed into Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. He concluded that “there have been some tangible changes in media and communications, the education system, and the relations with [nongovernmental organizations],” but that this “does not indicate positive changes toward women’s rights, political freedoms, and political participation.”

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, then head of the Political Office of the Taliban, at a meeting in Moscow in 2019 organized by the former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, marking a century of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, then head of the Taliban’s political office, at a 2019 meeting in Moscow organized by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. 

“It is difficult to untangle to what degree the changes in the Taliban’s policies, rhetoric, and behavior reflect a reaction to political necessity, are tactical lip service, or represent a genuine shift in ideology,” Ruttig wrote.

Haqqani, who fought political battles with extremists in Pakistan, was far more pessimistic.

“They’ve learned something in the last 20 years: that you have to say these things” about women’s rights, he said. “The real change is going to be nominal and minimal. The lesson they seem to have learned is not to whip hey dude shoes women in front of Western cameras.”

The television interviews with Western journalists don’t mean the group has changed, according to Haqqani. “The fact that so many people are panicking is that they in their hearts know who these people are,” he said.

The question of whether the Taliban have moderated their views may miss a larger point about Afghan society. As one expert noted, much of the Taliban’s conservatism is popular in large swaths of the country.

“In fact, the Taliban’s positions and attitudes stem from Afghan cultural norms as much as they do Islamic doctrine, which influences them in both strongly conservative and relatively progressive directions,” Borhan Osman, a senior consultant on Afghanistan for the International Crisis Group, wrote in the New York Times.

“The socially conservative views the Taliban espouse are common among rural Afghans, as well as a substantial share of urban educated youth.”

Taliban fighters stand guard along a street near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on Monday.
Taliban fighters stand guard in Kabul on Monday. 

To the degree that the Taliban have moderated their positions — for example, by allowing girls to go to school — it has come as the result of changes in public opinion and of their expanding influence over the past several years, which has led them to consider how to effectively govern a vast and decentralized country.

The Taliban “seem to have reached a conclusion internally that their 1990s model of government is not tenable today,” Osman wrote.

Regardless of those changes, many fear that even a more moderate Taliban will be repressive.

“As the Taliban have said, their ideology is the same, but they have more ‘experience,’” Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “I take this to mean that their political leadership has learned in the last 20 years how to manipulate rhetoric to try and gain international legitimacy, it has learned to maneuver on the world stage, but on the ground in Afghanistan — they haven’t shown any indication that anything will be different from the last time they were in power.”

There is “no indication that it will be any different from their regressive and draconian rule 20-some years ago,” Afzal concluded.

Zhong Nanshan: be wary of the second wave of epidemic. All governments should disclose the epidemic data truthfully

钟南山:警惕第二波疫情 所有的政府都应该真实地披露疫情数据

“China still faces the challenge of the second wave of the new outbreak.” Academician Zhong Nanshan warned in an interview with foreign media video link recently. He also said that all governments should disclose the epidemic data truthfully.

As China’s epidemic situation has been widely controlled, life has gradually returned to normal, enterprises have returned to work, schools have returned to school, and some people have relaxed their vigilance against the epidemic. In response, academician Zhong Nanshan said that China should not be complacent, because the risk of the second wave of epidemic is still very high.

In recent weeks, some areas in China, including Wuhan and the northeast, have seen local outbreaks. Zhong Nanshan said, “I don’t think China’s anti epidemic situation is more optimistic than some foreign countries at this stage.”. Most Chinese are still susceptible to the new coronavirus because they are not immunized enough

At present, Wuhan is testing the new coronavirus for the whole people, and comprehensively screening asymptomatic infections. On May 15, 113609 nucleic acids were detected in the city.

Academician Zhong Nanshan said he was shocked by the number of infections and deaths in the United States and said Western governments did not take the epidemic seriously. “It’s a mistake for some countries to compare the new coronavirus to the influenza virus.” He said.

In early February, China CDC and relevant departments investigated shizhengli Laboratory of Wuhan Virus Research Institute for two weeks. They found nothing, Zhong said.

Zhong Nanshan is not optimistic about the new crown vaccines that are being developed all over the world. At present, there are several vaccines in clinical trials in China, but it may take several years to find a “perfect” solution, he said.

“We test different vaccines over and over again, but it’s too early to come to a conclusion. We don’t know which vaccine to use against the new coronavirus “So I think it will take longer for the vaccine to be finally approved,” said Zhong