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India Bans TikTok, Other Chinese Apps As Border Standoff Continues

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NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian TikTok users awoke Tuesday to a notice from the popular short-video app saying their data would be transferred to an Irish subsidiary, a response to India’s ban on dozens of Chinese apps amid a military standoff between the two countries.

The quick workaround showed the ban was largely symbolic since the apps can’t be automatically erased from devices where they are already downloaded, and is a response to a border clash with China where 20 Indian soldiers died earlier this month, digital experts said.

“They want to send a message. This is a decision based on a geopolitical situation,” said digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa.

Indian protesters have been calling for a boycott of Chinese goods since the June 15 confrontation in the remote Karakoram mountain border region.

Late Monday, the government said that it was banning 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, which is operated by Chinese internet firm Bytedance. It cited privacy concerns that it said pose a threat to India’s sovereignty and security.

The banned apps include some that enable TikTok users to add visual effects and music to their posts, as well as dating apps, privacy apps and multiplayer games.

India’s information technology ministry issued a statement saying it had received reports that mobile apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data.”

The compilation of such data, and its mining and profiling by elements hostile to India is “a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement said.

TikTok’s countermove, shifting data to Ireland, shows how integrated the two economies have become. Chinese products are ubiquitous in India, from toys to smartphones to Made-in-China Hindu idols. Two-way trade grew from $3 billion in 2000 to $95 billion in 2018, according to Indian government data, with the balance strongly favoring China.

“There is too much of Chinese presence in the everyday life of the average Indian,” said Alka Acharya, professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. The soldiers’ deaths meant the Indian government had to hit back, Acharya said.

The ban on Chinese apps, signed by India’s powerful Home Minister Amit Shah, asked phone companies to begin blocking the applications Tuesday, as top Army officers from India and China were set to meet for a third time to try to quell tensions and rein back on military build-ups in the disputed border area.

Supporters of the ban hailed it as a way to curtail China’s growing influence.

“They are earning from us and then bullying us,” 30-year-old Sonu Mishra said in New Delhi.

Others bemoaned the potential loss of jobs at the app companies’ Indian offices. Some slammed it as an encroachment on free speech.

TikTok “continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government,” the company’s India chief, Nikhil Gandhi, said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time TikTok has been banned in India — the Madras High Court in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu banned it last year over hate speech concerns, but quickly vacated its order.

Chinese-owned apps have found a fast-growing market in India, with some companies creating India-specific apps that have exploded in popularity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has used the country’s 500 million internet users — second only to China — as a lure in getting tech giants including Twitter to localize Indians’ data. It is expected to sponsor data localization legislation later this year.

Among the list of newly-banned apps, Alibaba’s UC Browser, Meitu’s Beauty Plus camera app and Bigo’s Likee video editing app are among the top 100 most downloaded apps in India, according to app intelligence firm App Annie.

India is one of TikTok’s largest markets. As of April, 30% of TikTok’s 2 billion downloads were from India, according to app data analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Bytedance also operates the now-banned Helo social networking app, which was created for the Indian market and has over 50 million users.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China was very concerned about the Indian move and seeking more information. The Indian government has the responsibility to uphold the legitimate rights of foreign investors, while Chinese companies should abide by local laws, he said.

The Karakoram clash fanned already growing anti-Chinese sentiment amid the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged in China in December. India is the fourth worst affected, with nearly 570,000 cases and more than 16,000 deaths. In response to the crisis, a movement has emerged to promote India as an alternative to China for Western markets and to shun Chinese goods.

TikTok has sought to cultivate goodwill: in April it said on Twitter that it had donated 30 crore rupees (about $40 million) to PM Cares, a fund set up by Modi’s office to battle the coronavirus.

The antagonisms carry risks for India: A broader boycott could backfire if China were to retaliate by banning exports of raw materials used by India’s pharmaceutical industry. So far, it has not.

In the longer term, Chinese companies might avoid investing in India’s technology sector and Indian start-ups might be reluctant to accept Chinese investments for fear of repercussions, said Shaun Rein, managing director of market intelligence firm China Market Research Group.

“Chinese investors are going to become very wary of investing in India. They’ll be worried that they might invest billions of dollars into the country and either Indian consumers will boycott and protest against them, or the government will just ban them because they’re backed by Chinese,” Rein said.

Associated Press writers Penny Yi Wang in Bangkok, Joe McDonald in Beijing and Zen Soo in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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US Covid-19 cases are climbing but some state and local leaders are clashing over moves to curb the spread

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In Florida, Rep. Donna Shalala said the virus is still out of control and places like Miami are edging closer to shutting down for a second time.

“It’s out of control across the state because our governor won’t even tell everybody to wear masks. At least in Miami-Dade county, everyone must wear a mask when they’re outside,” she told CNN Saturday night.

“This is an American tragedy,” she added.

In the past weeks, the state broke multiple records of single-day highs in new cases and reported another 10,360 new infections Saturday. Around 40 hospitals across the state have no ICU beds available and more than 7,000 patients are hospitalized statewide with the virus, state data showed Saturday.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted implementing a state-wide mask mandate, saying last week the state has “stabilized where we’re at.” On Saturday, he suggested Florida would not be moving on to the next reopening phase for now, saying “we want to get this positivity rate down.”
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp slammed the Atlanta mayor’s decision to move the city’s reopening back to phase 1, saying the action was “merely guidance — both non-binding and legally unenforceable.” Phase 1 includes an order for residents to stay home except for essential trips. The mayor, who has tested positive for Covid-19, defended her decision saying the state opened recklessly and residents were “suffering the consequences.”
Expert warns the US is approaching 'one of the most unstable times in the history of our country'
“As clearly stated in my executive orders, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide,” Kemp wrote on Twitter.

The debates are part of nationwide efforts by US leaders to control a now rapid spread of coronavirus without having to force residents into a second lockdown. More than half of US states have paused or rolled back their reopening plans in hopes of slowing down new cases. But both mandates and suggestions for face masks by officials still face heavy backlash by many Americans — even as experts warn they’re the most effective way to prevent further spread of the virus.

Now deep into the coronavirus crisis, the US is reporting more than 3.2 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s more than the individual population of 21 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico, according to US Census Bureau data. At least 134,814 Americans have died.

How states are trending

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, at least 33 states are recording an upward trend in new cases, compared to the previous week.

How coronavirus affects the entire body

Those states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Fourteen states are trekking steady: Alaska, Arizona, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington state and Wyoming.

Three states are reporting a decline: Delaware, Maine and New Jersey

Americans hit the road on 4th of July

Even as cases surge in many parts of the country, a new analysis of cell phone data across 10 coronavirus hotspots suggests even more people hit the road over the July 4 holiday than during the Memorial Day weekend.

Mobility is one of the drivers of transmission of the virus, experts have said, but it could be weeks before there is — if there is — an increase in cases linked to the July holiday.

New WHO report says airborne coronavirus transmission 'cannot be ruled out' in outbreaks in some indoor settings

The analysis comes from data shared with CNN by Cuebiq, one of the private companies the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to track general movement in the US. It included data from Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Orlando, Tampa, Charleston, Miami and Atlanta areas.

Travelers tended to visit cities in their own state or region, but some traveled further. About 3.7% of visitors to the Miami area came from New York, and nearly 4% came from the Atlanta area. Of the people who visited Phoenix, 16.3% came from just three metro areas in Southern California — including Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego. Others came from areas around Chicago and Dallas.

The travels come despite guidance from health officials who urged Americans to skip traditional celebrations, adding residents who may be feeling well could also be carrying the virus.

The CDC now estimates 40% of people infected with coronavirus show no symptoms. The percent of asymptomatic cases in the country remains uncertain, the agency said.

The fiery debate around school openings

As the country grapples to get ahold of the crisis, the president announced last week he’s pressuring governors to reopen schools in a push to return the country to business as usual.

Pediatrician: The truth about reopening schools during Covid
Despite a surge in cases in the state and cries of protest from educators, Florida’s education department announced it will require schools to reopen in the fall. Other state leaders have stopped short of announcing any changes just yet, but some local decisions have pushed the beginning of fall semesters back. The CDC has released guidelines for parents and administrators, but the agency’s head, Dr. Robert Redfield, said the decision for the safest course ultimately lies with the districts.
But internal documents from the CDC warned fully reopening K-12 schools and universities would pose the “highest risk” for spread of the virus, according to a report by The New York Times.

The 69-page document obtained by the Times marked “For Internal Use Only” was among materials for federal public health response teams deployed to coronavirus hotspots to help local public health officials handle the outbreak, the newspaper reported.

CNN’s Rosa Flores, Jen Christensen, Randi Kaye, Melissa Alonso, Amanda Watts and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.

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West Virginia mail carrier admits attempted election fraud

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ELKINS, W.Va. — A West Virginia postal carrier pleaded guilty Thursday to altering mail-in requests for absentee voter ballots.

Thomas Cooper entered the plea in federal court in Elkins to attempted election fraud and injury to the mail, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell said in a statement.

Cooper was charged in May after eight mail-in requests for absentee voter ballots had their party affiliations altered.

NEW REPORT ARGUES PERILS OF MAIL-IN VOTING GO BEYOND FRAUD

Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork, held a postal contract to pick up mail in the three towns in which the voters live and delivered the forms in April to the Pendleton County clerk, according to a federal affidavit.

An investigation by the secretary of state’s office found five of the ballot requests were changed from Democrat to Republican with a black ink pen, the affidavit said.

Bennie Cogar, an attorney general’s office investigator who conducted the probe on behalf of the secretary of state’s office, said in the affidavit that the Pendleton County clerk called some of the voters after receiving the requests because she knew they were not Republicans. The clerk then contacted the secretary of state’s office to report the alterations.

On the other three requests, the voters’ party was not changed. However, in addition to the “Republican” box originally checked in blue ink, the word “Republican” was later circled in black ink, the affidavit said.

Cooper admitted in an interview with Cogar and a postal inspector that he changed some of the requests he picked up from the Onega post office from Democrat to Republican.

According to the affidavit, when he was then asked about the other requests, Cooper said, “I’m not saying no,” but if the requests were picked up along his postal route, “I would take the blame.” Cooper was then asked if he was “just being silly” and he replied he did it “as a joke” and that he didn’t know those voters.

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Absentee ballots became a political flashpoint nationally in recent months, often along partisan lines. Some state governors have moved to make absentee ballots more available in this year’s elections because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Other elected officials, including President Donald Trump, have raised concerns that expanding the practice would increase the likelihood of election fraud. Examples of mail-in ballot fraud have been minimal, and Trump himself has voted absentee in recent elections.

Absentee ballot applications were mailed to all registered voters in West Virginia in April in a bid to encourage mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic. West Virginia held its primary election on June 9.

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Trump Team Swoons After Their Boss Finally Dons Face Mask Months After Everybody Else

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You’d think President Donald Trump had just discovered a medical cure the way his campaign team figuratively fainted at his feet Saturday. But no, he was simply, finally wearing a face mask during a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as a  COVID-19 safety measure — months after just about everybody else in the world.

Walter Reed requires visitors to wear masks when maintaining a safe social distance isn’t possible, which it wasn’t for Trump.

Jason Miller, Trump campaign senior adviser, crowed in a tweet that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is now “finished” as he posted a photo of a masked president.

It wasn’t clear why. Biden has been wearing a mask pretty much all along. Trump finally wearing a mask now would seem to indicate that he’s been wrong all along not to wear one.

In a not particularly creative echo of Miller, Boris Epshteyn — “strategic adviser for coalition” to the Trump campaign — piped up: “Goodnight, Joe Biden.” Ouch.

Campaign manager Brad Parscale gushed, inexplicably, “America First” and posted a closeup of the same Trump photo on Twitter.

Campaign Press Communications Director Erin Perrine interjected, too. She retweeted a comment about Trump looking “badass” in a mask from a New York Post reporter. 

In her own tweet, Perrine said: “Rocking a mask like a boss.”

The Trump team tweets may have been part of a strategy to give the president lots of positive feedback to reward the reluctant president for wearing a mask. Aides and Republican lawmakers reportedly have been pleading with him for weeks to wear a mask as COVID-19 is skyrocketing to new levels in the U.S. and has killed nearly 135,000 people across the country.

In May, voters were ordered to remove their masks before a roundtable in Iowa with Vice President Mike Pence. That was just hours after Pence had been exposed to an aide who had just tested positive for COVID-19. One of those attending that roundtable, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, tested positive last week after battling symptoms of COVID-19.

Oklahoma had two record spikes this week in daily coronavirus cases, just three weeks after Trump invited some 6,000 people to an indoor campaign rally in Tulsa. He didn’t wear a mask, nor did he encourage others to do so.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

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