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Armoured vehicles deployed to major Myanmar cities after mass protests

Security forces in Myanmar opened fire to disperse protesters at a power plant on Sunday and armoured vehicles rolled into major cities as the new army rulers faced a ninth day of anti-coup demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands on the streets.

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(Reuters) – Security forces in Myanmar opened fire to disperse protesters at a power plant on Sunday and armoured vehicles rolled into major cities as the new army rulers faced a ninth day of anti-coup demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands on the streets.

Soldiers were deployed to power plants in the northern state of Kachin, leading to a confrontation with demonstrators, some of who said they believed the army intended to cut off the electricity.

The security forces fired to disperse protesters outside one plant in Kachin’s state capital Myitkyina, footage broadcast live on Facebook showed, although it was not clear if they were using rubber bullets or live fire.

As evening fell, armoured vehicles appeared in the commercial capital of Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, live footage broadcast online by local media showed, the first large-scale rollout of such vehicles across the country since the Feb. 1 coup.

The government and army could not be reached for comment.

The U.S embassy in Myanmar urged American citizens to “shelter in place”, citing reports of the military movements in Yangon. It also warned there was a possibility of a telecoms interruptions overnight between 1:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.

As well as the mass protests across Myanmar, the country’s military rulers were faced with a strike by government workers, part of a civil disobedience movement to protest against the coup that deposed the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Trains in parts of the country stopped running after staff refused to go to work, local media reported, while the military deployed soldiers to power plants where they were confronted by angry crowds.

The junta ordered civil servants to go back to work, threatening action. The army has been carrying out nightly mass arrests and on Saturday gave itself sweeping powers to detain people and search private property.

But hundreds of railway workers joined demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday, even as police went to their housing compound on the outskirts of the city to order them back to work. The police were forced to leave after angry crowds gathered, according to a live broadcast by Myanmar Now.

Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the work of many government departments had effectively ground to a halt.

“This has the potential to also affect vital functions – the military can replace engineers and doctors, but not power grid controllers and central bankers,” he said.

PROTESTS ACROSS NATION

Hundreds of thousands of people protested across the nation after a fearful night as residents formed patrols and the army rolled back laws protecting freedoms.

Engineering students marched through downtown Yangon, the biggest city, wearing white and carrying placards demanding the release of ousted leader Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup and charged with importing walkie-talkies.

A fleet of highway buses rolled slowly through the city with horns blaring, part of the biggest street protests in more than a decade.

A convoy of motorbikes and cars drove through the capital Naypyitaw. In the southeastern coastal town of Dawei, a band played drums as crowds marched under the hot sun. In Waimaw, in Kachin state, crowds carried flags and sang revolutionary songs.

Many of the protesters nationwide held up images of Suu Kyi.

Her detention is due to expire on Monday. Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, could not be reached for comment on what was set to happen.

More than 384 people have been detained since the coup, the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said, in a wave of mostly nightly arrests.

“While the international community is condemning the coup, Min Aung Hlaing is using every tool he has to instigate fears and instabilities,” activist Wai Hnin Pwint Thon from the UK-based rights group Burma Campaign UK said on Twitter, referring to the military ruler.

‘STOP KIDNAPPING PEOPLE’

Residents banded together late on Saturday to patrol streets in Yangon and the country’s second-largest city Mandalay, fearing arrest raids as well as common crime.

Worries about crime rose after the junta announced on Friday it would free 23,000 prisoners, saying the move was consistent with “establishing a new democratic state with peace, development and discipline”.

Tin Myint, a Yangon resident, was among the crowds who detained a group of four people suspected of carrying out an attack in the neighbourhood.

“We think the military intends to cause violence with these criminals by infiltrating them into peaceful protests,” he said.

He cited pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988, when the military was widely accused of releasing criminals into the population to stage attacks, later citing the unrest as a justification for extending their own power.

Also late on Saturday, the army reinstated a law requiring people to report overnight visitors to their homes, allowed security forces to detain suspects and search private property without court approval, and ordered the arrest of well-known backers of mass protests.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in a November election that the army said was tainted with fraud – an accusation dismissed by the electoral commission.

Writing by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Frances Kerry and Pravin Char

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-politics/thousands-protest-myanmar-coup-after-night-of-fear-security-patrols-idUSKBN2AE01U

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Reuters

U.S. Commerce Dept. pressing Taiwan to supply more chips to U.S. automakers

The U.S. Commerce Department is pressing Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (2330.TW) and other Taiwanese firms to prioritize the needs of U.S. automakers to ease chip shortages in the near term, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday.

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The logo of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is pictured at its headquarters, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Jan. 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang

The U.S. Commerce Department is pressing Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (2330.TW) and other Taiwanese firms to prioritize the needs of U.S. automakers to ease chip shortages in the near term, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday.

Raimondo told a Council of the Americas event that longer term, increased investment was needed to produce more semiconductors in the United States and that other critical supply chains needed re-shoring, including to allied countries.

“We’re working hard to see if we can get the Taiwanese and TSMC, which is a big company there, to, you know, prioritize the needs of our auto companies since there’s so many American jobs on the line,” Raimondo said in response to a question from a General Motors Co (GM.N) executive.

“As I said, there’s not a day goes by that we don’t push on that,” she said, adding the medium- and long-term solution would be “simply making more chips in America.”

TSMC said that addressing the shortage remained its top priority.

“TSMC has been working with all parties to alleviate the automotive chip supply shortage, we understand it is a shared concern of the worldwide automotive industry,” it said in a statement to Reuters on Wednesday.

TSMC CEO C.C. Wei said last month the company had worked with its customers since January to reallocate more capacity to support the auto industry, but the shortage had worsened due to a snowstorm in Texas and a fab manufacturing disruption in Japan.

Wei expected the chip shortage for its auto clients to be greatly reduced from the next quarter.

The Commerce Department is planning a high-level meeting with automakers set to take place next week on the chip shortage issue, said officials briefed on the matter. A Commerce Department spokesman declined to comment.

United Auto Workers Legislative Director Josh Nassar said in written testimony for a U.S. House hearing on Wednesday that the chips shortage has resulted in the layoffs of “tens of thousands of workers … Clearly, we need to bolster domestic production of automotive-quality semiconductors.”

Last week, Ford Motor Co (F.N) warned the chips shortage may slash second-quarter production by half, cost it about $2.5 billion and about 1.1 million units of lost production in 2021.

GM said on Friday it would extend production halts at several North American factories because of the shortage.

On April 12, Biden convened semiconductor and auto industry executives to discuss solutions to the chip crisis. He backs $50 billion to support U.S. chip manufacturing and research.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-commerce-dept-pressing-taiwan-supply-more-chips-us-automakers-2021-05-04/

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India’s daily COVID-19 cases pass 400,000 for first time as second wave worsens

India recorded more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Saturday as it battles a devastating second wave, and the country’s massive new vaccination drive was hampered in some areas by shortages of the shots.

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India recorded more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Saturday as it battles a devastating second wave, and the country’s massive new vaccination drive was hampered in some areas by shortages of the shots.

Authorities reported 401,993 new cases in the previous 24 hours, after 10 consecutive days of more than 300,000 daily cases. Deaths jumped by 3,523, taking the country’s total toll to 211,853, according to the federal health ministry.

The surge in infections has overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoriums and left families scrambling for scarce medicines and oxygen. And while India is the world’s biggest producer of COVID-19 vaccines, shortages of the shots in some states hindered the opening of vaccinations for all adults.

West Bengal state was unable to start a drive aimed at adults aged between 18 and 45 due to a shortage of shots and urged the federal government to provide more supplies, a senior state health official said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak with media.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the hard-hit state of Delhi on Friday urged people not to queue at vaccination centres, promising more vaccines would arrive “tomorrow or the day after”.

Eastern Odisha state said on Friday it had received a consignment of 150,000 shots but would only allow a few people to get shots due to lockdown restrictions preventing movement.

In Ahmedabad, the main commercial city in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, hundreds of people lined up for their shots.

“I took my first dose and I am appealing to all students to take the vaccine and be safe,” said Raj Shah, a 27-year-old student in the city.

India has received 150,000 Sputnik-V vaccine doses from Russia and millions more doses will follow, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

DELHI STILL GASPING

Shortages of medical oxygen have plagued the medical system.

In New Delhi’s Batra Hospital, local media reported that eight people including a doctor died on Saturday after the facility ran out of oxygen.

“Delhi required 976 tonnes of oxygen and yesterday only 312 tonnes of oxygen was given. How does Delhi breathe in such a low oxygen?” chief minister Kejriwal tweeted.

At a hearing on Saturday, the Delhi high court took note of the deaths at Batra Hospital and told the federal government to make arrangements for the allocated supply of oxygen to be given to Delhi.

Manisha Bashu presses the chest of her father, who is suffering from breathing problem, after he felt unconscious while receiving oxygen support for free at a Gurudwara (Sikh temple), amidst the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ghaziabad, India, April 30, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

“Enough is enough,” Justice Vipin Sanghi said.

The federal government’s counsel told the court: “We are doing maximum to what human limit can go.”

Desperate coronavirus patients continued to arrive at hospitals despite a shortage of beds.

Gasping for air, 62-year-old Vijay Gupta was turned away by Holy Family hospital, a non-profit private facility in the southeast of the capital, as all of its 385 beds were full.

His family and friends debated what to do try next.

“We have been roaming around since 6 a.m. looking for a bed,” said Gupta’s friend Rajkumar Khandelwal. “Where shall we go?”

A fire in a hospital about 190 km (115 miles) south of Ahmedabad killed 16 coronavirus patients and two staff, the latest in a series of deadly accidents at hospitals. read more

The Delhi government said it will extend for another seven days a lockdown it first imposed for a week on April 19.

WARNING SIGNS IGNORED

Daily infections have soared since the start of April. Some experts blame mass religious gatherings and political rallies for the severity of India’s second wave, which caught the government unprepared.

A forum of scientific advisers set up by the Modi administration warned officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant taking hold in the country, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters. read more

Four of the scientists said that despite the warning, the federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. Millions, largely unmasked, attended religious gatherings and election rallies that were held by Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition politicians.

The surge in India has come as many countries are seeing the pandemic ease.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday banned most travel from India in restrictions that will take effect from Tuesday. read more

Other countries and territories have also imposed travel restrictions on India, including Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy and Singapore. Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand have suspended all commercial travel with India. read more

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Eastern Odisha state said on Friday it had received a consignment of 150,000 shots but would only allow a few people to get shots due to lockdown restrictions preventing movement.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/india-posts-record-daily-rise-covid-19-cases-401993-2021-05-01/

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Biden’s families plan includes free meals for millions of low-income children

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday will propose that Congress spend $45 billion to provide free meals to millions more low-income children, a move that would expand anti-poverty measures adopted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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U.S. President Joe Biden hugs a child as he visits the Houston Food Bank in Houston, Texas, U.S., February 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday will propose that Congress spend $45 billion to provide free meals to millions more low-income children, a move that would expand anti-poverty measures adopted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden wants lawmakers to fund the permanent expansion of a bridge program that gives low-income families cash to pay for food in the months when school is out for the summer and lunches aren’t served. He is also asking to provide more money for free meals in high-poverty areas throughout the school year.

The nutrition program is one component of Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which would raise taxes on wealthy individuals to pay for initiatives shoring up lower-income families.

“The pandemic illustrated the need to address food insecurity,” said Kelliann Blazek, a White House aide whose portfolio includes agriculture and rural policy. “Some of these investments are really pulling on lessons learned during the pandemic.”

In 2019, 5.3 million children lived in households unable to guarantee food for the whole family throughout the year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The administration is also asking Congress to reward schools that expand healthful food offerings with incentive payments and also to allow individuals convicted of drug-related crimes to continue receiving food stamp benefits.

For the funding to be approved, the proposal will need the approval of a closely divided Congress.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

In 2019, 5.3 million children lived in households unable to guarantee food for the whole family throughout the year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/us/bidens-families-plan-includes-free-meals-millions-low-income-children-2021-04-28/

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