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Home >News >Business Of Life >Mint Lite| US-China talks, Covid babies, Child & maternal deaths in India & more

The United States and China will face a new test in their increasingly troubled relations when top officials from both countries meet in Alaska. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet China's top two diplomats, State Councilor Wang Yi and Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi in Anchorage, Alaska. Difficult discussions are anticipated over trade, human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong, China's western Xinjiang region, Taiwan, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the coronavirus pandemic. No agreements are expected.

French diplomat appointed as personal envoy on Afghanistan

French diplomat appointed as personal envoy on Afghanistan
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French diplomat appointed as personal envoy on Afghanistan

UN chief Antonio Guterres has appointed veteran French diplomat Jean Arnault as his personal envoy on Afghanistan and regional issues, authorising him to liaise with regional countries on his behalf to support negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban and implement any agreements reached between them. The appointment of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General on Afghanistan and Regional Issues reflects the continued commitment by the United Nations to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary-General, said. Arnault’s responsibilities as Personal Envoy include to liaise, on behalf of the Secretary-General, with regional countries with the aim of supporting the negotiations between Afghanistan and the Taliban and implementation of any agreements which are reached. Given the importance of regional cooperation in support to Afghanistan, the Personal Envoy will seek to advance the good neighbourly relations contributing to peace in the country, Dujarric said.

Covid babies restrained in Hong Kong

Covid babies restrained in Hong Kong
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Covid babies restrained in Hong Kong

Hong Kong health authorities have defended the practice of physically restraining some babies and children in coronavirus isolation wards after criticism built over the treatment of families under the city's strict anti-virus measures. Despite being one of the most densely packed cities in the world, Hong Kong has kept infections low thanks to some of the most stringent quarantine measures in the world, recording some 11,000 infections and 200 deaths since the pandemic began. Anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus is taken to isolation wards while those deemed "close contacts" are sent to mandatory government quarantine camps. The measures have helped curb infections and have been in place for much of the past year, largely without complaint when cases were concentrated in low-income districts. But there has been growing pushback in recent weeks after an outbreak hit neighbourhoods favoured by wealthier—and more politically connected—white-collar locals and foreigners.

Deepfakes in the news

Deepfakes in the news
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Deepfakes in the news

Chinese regulators recently summoned 11 domestic technology companies including Alibaba Group, Tencent and ByteDance for talks on use of 'deepfake' technologies on their content platforms, stepping up scrutiny of the sector. China’s cyberspace administrator said in a statement on Thursday that it and the public security ministry met with the companies to talk about "security assessments" and potential problems with deepfakes and audio social apps. Kuaishou Technology and Xiaomi Corp also attended the meeting, it said. All the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to create hyper-realistic but fake videos or audios where a person appears to say or do something they did not. According to Reuters, China has increased scrutiny of its internet giants in recent months, citing concerns over monopolistic behaviour and potential infringement of consumer rights.

Proposal to rewrite Thai constitution fails

Proposal to rewrite Thai constitution fails
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Proposal to rewrite Thai constitution fails

Thailand's parliament has failed to pass a bill that would have allowed changes to a military-backed constitution enacted after a 2014 coup, stalling a move by lawmakers to address a key demand of mass street protests last year. The bill, which included a plan for an elected committee to rewrite the constitution, was far short of the votes in a joint session late on Wednesday of the elected lower house and the junta-appointed Senate. Thailand's government agreed to consider amending the constitution after a youth-led protest movement started in July to demand changes to the 2017 charter, which they said was designed to keep Prime Minister and former coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha in office and cement the military's role in politics, reports Reuters. The movement wants to oust Prayuth and curb the power of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Child and maternal deaths in India climb

Child and maternal deaths in India climb
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Child and maternal deaths in India climb

India is projected to register the greatest increase in the number of deaths among children under 5 in South Asia in 2020 as well as the highest number of maternal deaths as the covid-19 pandemic disrupts the country's health services, a UN report has said. The report also noted that India could spend nearly $10 billion on covid-19 testing and healthcare utilisation by September 2021, the biggest share of the overall costs in the region. The report ‘Direct and indirect effects of the covid-19 pandemic and response in South Asia’ by UNICEF, WHO and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that as of February 2021, South Asia reported more than 12 million covid-19 cases, with the vast majority being in India, which has reported over 10.9 million cases. The report focuses on six most populous South Asian countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Curated by Sohini Sen. Have something to share with us? Write to us at feedback@livemint or tweet to @shohinisen

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