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US blacklists China's CNOOC, S&P deletes from stock indices

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WASHINGTON: The US Commerce Department on Thursday added China’s state oil giant CNOOC to its blacklist over what it called “belligerent” actions in the disputed South China Sea.
The move was the latest in escalating sanctions against the firm that prompted S&P Dow Jones Indices to de-list the company late Wednesday.
It also reflects outgoing President Donald Trump‘s flurry of last minute pressure on Beijing as his days in office wind down, following four years of aggressive diplomatic and trade policies against the rival economic power.
“China’s reckless and belligerent actions in the South China Sea and its aggressive push to acquire sensitive intellectual property and technology for its militarization efforts are a threat to US national security and the security of the international community,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
“CNOOC acts a bully for the People’s Liberation Army to intimidate China’s neighbors, and the Chinese military continues to benefit from government civil-military fusion policies for malign purposes.”
The territorial dispute has festered for years, with Beijing ignoring US protests as it built a series of artificial islands to expand its military and commercial reach in the region that is believed to have valuable oil and gas deposits.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.
“CNOOC has repeatedly harassed and threatened offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction in the South China Sea, with the goal of driving up the political risk for interested foreign partners, including Vietnam,” the Commerce Department said.
Commerce’s decision follows the Treasury Department announcement last week that it would add CNOOC to its sanctions list, which aim to freeze any assets under US jurisdiction and bans American firms — including banks and other companies with branches in the United States — from doing business with them.
S&P Dow Jones Indices said the company will strip CNOOC from its stocks list “on or before February 1.”
Commerce also tightened restrictions on Chinese tech firm Skyrizon, citing ties to the Chinese military which “pose a significant threat to US national security and foreign policy interests,” Ross said.
That means US firms will need a license to do business with the company.
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Biden to reinstate Covid travel bans: White House official

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WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden will re-impose a Covid-19 travel ban on most non-US citizens who have been in Britain, Brazil, Ireland and much of Europe, a White House official said Sunday, as the new administration ramps up its pandemic response.
Biden will also on Monday extend the ban to travelers who have recently been to South Africa amid warnings that new, more transmissible coronavirus variants are already establishing themselves in the United States, the official said, confirming US media reports.
The new president last week tightened mask wearing rules and ordered quarantine for people flying into the United States, as he seeks to tackle the country’s worsening coronavirus crisis.
Biden has said that the Covid-19 death toll would likely rise from 420,000 to half a million next month — and that drastic action was needed.
“We’re in a national emergency. It’s time we treated it like one,” he said on Thursday.
In his last days in office, Donald Trump announced that a Covid-19 ban on travelers arriving from much of Europe and Brazil would be lifted — but the Biden administration immediately said it would reverse the order due to come into effect on January 26.
Trump had announced an initial ban on January 31, 2020 on non-American travelers entering from China to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The ban was extended to European countries on March 14 as the pandemic entered full force.
More than 25 million Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the US since the pandemic began, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally on Sunday.
The milestone was reached only five days after the US, the world’s wealthiest and hardest-hit nation, recorded 400,000 deaths from the disease.
Biden has made fighting the coronavirus a priority and is pushing for Congress to approve a $1.9-trillion relief package that would include billions of dollars to boost vaccination rates.
The president, who was inaugurated on January 20, has said he wants 100 million people vaccinated within his first 100 days in office, and he has called for Americans to wear masks for 100 days.
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US President Joe Biden speaks with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, seeks to cement US-France ties

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WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Sunday spoke with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, expressing his desire to strengthen bilateral ties, the White House said.
In a phone call, Biden also stressed his commitment to bolstering the transatlantic relationship, including through NATO and the United States’ partnership with the European Union, the White House said in a statement. “The leaders agreed on the need for close coordination, including through multilateral organisations, in tackling common challenges such as climate change, Covid-19 and the global economic recovery,” it said.
Biden and Macron also agreed to work together on shared foreign policy priorities, including China, the Middle East, Russia, and the Africa’s Sahel region, the White House said.
This was Biden’s fourth phone call with a foreign leader after being sworn in as the US President on January 20.
Biden’s first two phone calls have been, as per tradition, with the leaders of its two neighbours–Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico.
Biden spoke with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.
After taking over the reins of the country, the Biden Administration has started reaching out to its traditional allies.
The defense secretary has so far spoken over the phone with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and his counterparts from Britain, Japan and South Korea.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has spoken with his counterparts from France, Germany, Britain, Japan, Afghanistan, South Korea and Israel.
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Biden Administration appoints Indian-Americans to key posts in Energy Dept

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WASHINGTON: The Biden Administration has appointed four Indian-Americans to senior positions in the crucial Department of Energy.
The administration appointed Tarak Shah as the Chief of Staff, making him first Indian-American to serve in that position.
Tanya Das has been named as the Chief of Staff to the Office of Science, Narayan Subramanian will occupy the position of Legal Adviser in the Office of General Counsel, and Shuchi Talati has been appointed as Chief of Staff in the Office of Fossil Energy.
“These talented and diverse public servants will deliver on President Biden’s goal to tackle the climate crisis and build an equitable clean energy future,” said Shah as the Department of Energy announced 19 senior-level appointments.
“Guided by their expertise, breadth of experience and following the science, these Department of Energy appointees will contribute to creating a clean energy economy that produces millions of good-paying American jobs and safeguards the planet for future generations,” Shah said.
In addition to the Biden-Harris appointees, David G Huizenga will serve as the Acting Secretary of Energy. He was most recently Associate Principal Deputy Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration and has been a career employee at the department since 1987.
Tarak Shah is an energy policy expert who has spent the last decade working on combating climate change. At the Biden-Harris transition, Shah was the personnel lead for the climate and science team.
From 2014-2017, he served as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Science and Energy at the department. Shah has also worked on political campaigns, including President Obama’s senate and presidential campaigns.
He had received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and his MBA from Cornell University.
Tanya Das was most recently a professional staff member on the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where she worked on a range of issues in clean energy and manufacturing policy.
She earned her PhD in electrical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her BS in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Narayan Subramanian was a visiting research fellow at the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment at Berkeley Law, leading a project tracking regulatory rollbacks, and served as a fellow at the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at Johns Hopkins University and Data for Progress.
Subramanian holds a JD from Columbia Law School, an MPA from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and a BS in earth and environmental engineering from Columbia University.
Shuchi Talati was most recently a Senior Policy Adviser at Carbon180, where she focused on policies to build sustainable and equitable technological carbon removal. She also served as a policy volunteer on the Biden-Harris campaign.
Dr Talati earned a BS from Northwestern University, an MA from Columbia University and a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University.
The Department of Energy said the new leaders will direct policy at the DOE, coordinate across the Administration and enact President Joe Biden‘s vision for bold action on the climate crisis and on safeguarding the Americans most affected by it.
These experienced professionals reflect President Biden’s pledge to equip his Administration with a team that represents America’s diversity, it said.
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