US defense secretary discusses upgrading ties with India to counter China
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday discussed upgrading partnership with India, a major arms buyer, as both countries grapple with China's economic rise and increased belligerence, officials said. Austin met with India's Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, with both sides emphasizing technology partnerships including defense, clean energy and space. India is working to promote its domestic defense industry by acquiring technology and reducing reliance on imports, particularly from Russia, its largest supplier of military hardware despite the ongoing war in Ukraine. "I'm returning to India to meet with key leaders for discussions about strengthening our Major Defense Partnership. Together, we're advancing a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific," Austin tweeted after his arrival in New Delhi on Sunday. Also Read: Indian Army Chief arrives in Dhaka on 2-day visit Austin, who is on his second visit to India, was expected to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington on June 22, which has fuelled speculation about a possible announcement of defense contracts. India is looking to buy 18 armed high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. for an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion, said Rahul Bedi, a defense analyst. The UAVs would likely be deployed along its restive borders with China and Pakistan and in the strategic Indian Ocean region, Bedi said. Indian media reports said a joint production and manufacture of combat aircraft engines, infantry combat vehicles, howitzers and their precision ordnance were discussed last month in Washington at a meeting of the U.S.-India Defense Policy Group. Austin arrived in New Delhi from Singapore, where he attended the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum bringing together top defense officials, diplomats and leaders. Austin lobbied for support for Washington's vision of a "free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights" as the best course to counter increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region. Also Read: ‘Asian Century’ presents an opportunity to South Asia: India China's Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu said at the conference that the U.S. has been "deceiving and exploiting" Asia-Pacific nations to advance its own self-interests to preserve "its dominant position." Li suggested that Washington has been holding on to alliances that are "remnants of the Cold War" and establishing new pacts, like the AUKUS agreement with Britain and Australia and the Quad grouping with Australia, India and Japan, "to divide the world into ideologically-driven camps and provoke confrontation." India is trying a balancing act in its ties with Washington and Moscow, and has been reducing its dependence on Russian arms by also buying from the U.S., France, Germany and other countries. The U.S. defense trade with India has risen from near zero in 2008 to over $20 billion in 2020. Major Indian purchases from the United States included long-range maritime patrol aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft, missiles and drones. Experts say up to 60% of Indian defense equipment comes from Russia, and New Delhi finds itself in a bind at a time when it is facing a 3-year-old border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, where tens of thousands of soldiers are stationed within shooting distance. Twenty Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops died in a clash in 2020.
Relations with US still 'excellent', insists Hasan Mahmud
Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said the relationship between Bangladesh and the United States remains excellent despite recent comment regarding US sanctions by PM Sheikh Hasina. “We have taken several positive decisions in recent times to enhance our relations with the United States,” he said, while speaking at a press briefing in the Secretariat this afternoon. Mahmud emphasized the government's desire to strengthen ties with the US. Also Read: PM strikes defiant tone in face of US pressure Highlighting the need to diversify trade opportunities, Mahmud mentioned that Bangladesh has not been able to increase trade with countries of South America. He also stressed the importance of expanding trade with the Middle East beyond labour export, given the increased purchasing power and awareness in the region. He also emphasized the trade potential in ASEAN countries and the Oceania region, citing the Prime Minister's interest in exploring these opportunities. Also Read: New visa policy to help PM Hasina's govt in holding fair elections: US “Prime Minister's remarks regarding the US visa policy were intended to alleviate concerns and ease tension for those worried about obtaining US visas,” he said. Earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday said it doesn't matter at all if someone goes to the USA crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a 20-hour- plane journey. “There are other oceans and other continents in the world, we will make friends with those continents crossing the other oceans. Our economy will be stronger and more developed and vibrant,” she said firmly. Also Read: US govt’s new visa policy does not bother Bangladesh government: Shahriar Alam Hasan Mahmud also mentioned that Bangladesh's budget deficit stands at 5.2 percent, whereas in comparison, India's deficit is 5.9 percent, the United States' is 6 percent, and the United Kingdom's is 5.5 percent. He referred to the proposed budget for 2023-24 as "people-friendly and poor-friendly," stating that the government aims to increase the number of direct beneficiaries and the number of allowances provided. Also Read: People, not PM, to decide whether they go to USA or not: BNP He further said that around two crore people would directly receive various forms of government assistance, including financial aid. In addition, he announced that a list containing the names of individuals involved in arson attacks, as well as their instigators and financiers, would be disseminated to relevant authorities.
China defends buzzing American warship in Taiwan Strait, accuses US of provoking Beijing
China's defense minister defended sailing a warship across the path of an American destroyer and Canadian frigate transiting the Taiwan Strait, telling a gathering of some of the world's top defense officials in Singapore on Sunday that such so-called "freedom of navigation" patrols are a provocation to China. In his first international public address since becoming defense minister in March, Gen. Li Shangfu told the Shangri-La Dialogue that China doesn't have any problems with "innocent passage" but that "we must prevent attempts that try to use those freedom of navigation (patrols), that innocent passage, to exercise hegemony of navigation." U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the same forum Saturday that Washington would not "flinch in the face of bullying or coercion" from China and would continue regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea to emphasize they are international waters, countering Beijing's sweeping territorial claims. That same day, as a U.S. guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate were intercepted by a Chinese warship as they transited the strait between the self-governed island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and mainland China. The Chinese vessel overtook the American ship and then veered across its bow at a distance of 150 yards (about 140 meters) in an "unsafe manner," according to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Additionally, the U.S. has said a Chinese J-16 fighter jet late last month "performed an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver" while intercepting a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, flying directly in front of the plane's nose. Those and previous incidents have raised concerns of a possible accident occurring that could lead to an escalation between the two nations at a time when tensions are already high. Li suggested the U.S. and its allies had created the danger, and should instead should focus on taking "good care of your own territorial airspace and waters." "The best way is for the countries, especially the naval vessels and fighter jets of countries, not to do closing actions around other countries' territories," he said through an interpreter. "What's the point of going there? In China we always say, 'Mind your own business.'" In a wide-ranging speech, Li reiterated many of Beijing's well-known positions, including its claim on Taiwan, calling it "the core of our core interests." He accused the U.S. and others of "meddling in China's internal affairs" by providing Taiwan with defense support and training, and conducting high-level diplomatic visits. "China stays committed to the path of peaceful development, but we will never hesitate to defend our legitimate rights and interests, let alone sacrifice the nation's core interests," he said. "As the lyrics of a well-known Chinese song go: 'When friends visit us, we welcome them with fine wine. When jackals or wolves come, we will face them with shotguns.'" In his speech the previous day, Austin broadly outlined the U.S. vision for a "free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights." In the pursuit of such, Austin said the U.S. was stepping up planning, coordination and training with "friends from the East China Sea to the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean" with shared goals "to deter aggression and to deepen the rules and norms that promote prosperity and prevent conflict." Li scoffed at the notion, saying "some country takes a selective approach to rules and international laws." "It likes forcing its own rules on others," he said. "Its so-called 'rules-based international order' never tells you what the rules are and who made these rules." By contrast, he said, "we practice multilateralism and pursue win-win cooperation." Li is under American sanctions that are part of a broad package of measures against Russia — but predate its invasion of Ukraine — that were imposed in 2018 over Li's involvement in China's purchase of combat aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles from Moscow. The sanctions, which broadly prevent Li from doing business in the United States, do not prevent him from holding official talks, American defense officials have said. Still, he refused Austin's invitation to talk on the sidelines of the conference, though the two did shake hands before sitting down at opposite sides of the same table together as the forum opened Friday. Austin said that was not enough. "A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement," Austin said. The U.S. has noted that since 2021 — well before Li became defense minister — China has declined or failed to respond to more than a dozen requests from the U.S. Defense Department to talk with senior leaders, as well as multiple requests for standing dialogues and working-level engagements. Li said that "China is open to communications between our two countries and also between our two militaries," but without mentioning the sanctions, said exchanges had to be "based on mutual respect." "That is a very fundamental principle," he said. "If we do not even have mutual respect, than our communications will not be productive." He said that he recognized that any "severe conflict or confrontation between China and the U.S. will be an unbearable disaster for the world," and that the two countries need to find ways to improve relations, saying they were "at a record low." "History has proven time and again that both China and the United States will benefit from cooperation and lose from confrontation," he said. "China seeks to develop a new type of major-country relationship with the United States. As for the U.S. side, it needs to act with sincerity, match its words with deeds, and take concrete actions together with China to stabilize the relations and prevent further deterioration," Li said.
6 congressmen’s letter to Biden a ‘false projection’ of the state of Bangladesh’s minorities, community leaders say
Several noted minority community leaders, academics and anti-war crimes campaigners have pulled up six US congressmen for what they called “absolutely false projection” of the state of minorities in Bangladesh in a letter to President Biden, asking to take “appropriate measures” for banning Bangladeshi law enforcement and military personnel from participating in UN peacekeeping missions. They called it a “threat to the existing communal harmony in Bangladesh.” Asked about the authenticity of the claim in the letter that “Since Sheikh Hasina's rise to power, the Hindu population has been halved,” Advocate Rana Dasgupta, leader of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad, outright rejected it. “I will say this claim is a travesty of truth,” he said. Read more: Palbari Puja Mandap in Sherpur: Sign of communal harmony for over a century Referring to a number of surveys, he added, “Between 1947 and 1971, under Pakistani rule, a whopping 9.7% of the population declined.” Since Bangladesh became independent, over the last five decades, Hindu population decreased around 10 percent. This happened considerably when the country was ruled by BNP and Jamaat, he said. In response to such assertions in the letter from the US congressmen, Dasgupta said, “As the national election is approaching, a certain group has become very active.” Referring to earlier lobbying efforts by Jamaat, a political party which has proven record of collaborating with the Pakistani Military junta in 1971 in the acts of genocide, abduction, loot, arson, and rape, Dasgupta, also a prosecutor of the International Crimes Tribunal, said: “With the singular objective to stop the war crimes trial and enjoy the culture of impunity, Jamaat spent money and struck an agreement with lobbyist groups overseas to get the backing of foreign governments in their favour.” Read: Jamaat demands the govt declare Ahmadiyyas 'non-Muslim' “On the international stage, a systematic smear campaign has been carried out against the trial process,” he said. The letter from the six congressmen also claims “Sheikh Hasina’s government also has persecuted Bangladesh’s minority Christian population – burning and looting places of worship, jailing pastors, and breaking up families when religious conversion occurs.” Leaders of the community including Nirmal Rozario, president of Bangladesh Christian Association, rejected this claim as well. “It is an outright lie. Rather, the reality is that with the return of AL, our community has been living in harmony – with assistance from the prime minister. The government’s development schemes connect the minorities as well,” he said. Eminent researcher and freedom fighter Ajoy Das Gupta, said, “A number of BNP leaders, including Rumeen Farhana, went vocal on social media, justifying the letter.” “BNP and Jamaat hold a sordid record of attacking minorities,” he added. Read more: ‘Hate campaign’ being run against Ahmadiyyas on Twitter, says member of community Calling such assertions “biased, a travesty of justice, and highly motivated,” the minority community leaders also called into question why the US congressmen did not bother to mention the “BNP-Jamaat sponsored hate campaign against minorities”, including a series of tweets posted from the verified account of Basherkella – known as a “Jamaat mouthpiece” – calling for “boycotting” the Ahmadiyya community.
People, not PM, to decide whether they go to USA or not: BNP
BNP senior leader Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury on Sunday (June 4, 2023) said the country’s people, not the Prime Minister, will decide whether they will go to the USA or not. “It is her (PM’s) personal matter whether she will go to any particular country or not. It’s also a matter of their decision whether the 17 crore people of Bangladesh will go to that country or not,” he said. Talking to reporters after a meeting with Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Iwama Kiminori at BNP chairperson’s Gulshan office, Khosru also said the people of Bangladesh will decide whether they will go to the USA for their personal, business, professional, family and educational purposes. “The Prime Minister can’t take a decision in this regard,” Khosru, also the chairman of BNP’s foreign affairs committee, observed. Also read: Japan wants to understand what’s happening in Bangladesh and where it’s headed, BNP says as ambassador meets Fakhrul Earlier on Saturday (June 3, 2023), Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said it does not matter at all if someone does not go to the USA crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a 20-hour- plane journey. “There are other oceans and other continents in the world and we’ll make friends with those continents crossing the other oceans. Our economy will be stronger and more developed and vibrant,” she added. The PM also said Bangladesh will run on its own feet and the government will build the country. “We will not be dependent on others, who will not give us visas, who will impose sanctions on us.” Meanwhile, BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the Prime Minister is not worried about the US sanctions or visa restrictions but a neutral election. Read more: BNP’s complaints to foreign countries didn’t yield any results: Quader “The Prime Minister becomes ill and suffers from headache when any country talks about fair elections under a neutral caretaker government,” he said. Speaking at a food distribution programme arranged by Jatiyatabadi Tanti Dal’s Dhaka south city unit on the ground floor of BNP’s Nayapaltan central office marking party founder’s 42nd death anniversary, Rizvi said the Prime Minister said it matters little if anyone does not go to the USA. “Then why don't you keep your son in the country? Why do your sons and daughters live abroad? Why did you keep your son in the United States instead of any other friendly country of yours?” he questioned. He said Sheikh Hasina will not take any steps for holding a fair election and establishing a caretaker government as she considers the country’s people as her enemies. Read more: Govt to blame for US’s disrespectful visa policy: Fakhrul “If an impartial caretaker government is established, the people of the country will be able to vote freely and fairly. She knows people won’t ‘vote for her party. So, doesn’t want a neutral caretaker government to come,” the BNP leader said.
Gunman shoots employee inside Bangladeshi-owned restaurant in New York
A Bangladeshi-owned restaurant in New York’s Queens came under attack by an unidentified gunman on Saturday (June 3, 2023), injuring one employee and sending customers running for cover, CBS News reports. Surveillance video from inside Boishakhi Restaurant -- in the Astoria neighbourhood of Queens -- shows people, including children, who were sitting down eating and in line waiting for food, running out of the establishment and ducking for cover after a gunman opened fire. "We had a lot of customers inside. After the initial shooting, he moved around a bit, then he went behind my counter and shot one of my employees," restaurant owner Abu Taher told CBS News. Read more: Top Instagrammable rooftop restaurants in Banani According to Taher, the gunman, who was wearing a mask and a red hooded sweatshirt, fired three shots. "He didn't say anything. He just came and shot and ran away," he said. One of the bullets hit an employee of the restaurant in the upper thigh. Police say the shooter took off running. Read more: Best Instagrammable Rooftop Restaurants at Gulshan in Dhaka While the motive is still being investigated, sources say the gunman got into an argument with an employee in the store earlier in the week. Now, the shattered glass, bullet holes and half-eaten food left behind are a grim reminder to the family who runs the restaurant that gun violence can affect you when you least expect it. "Definitely scared, you know. It's a very small business," Taher told CBS. "I'm really scared to run a small business in New York City. It's not safe, actually. We are not safe. Our life is not safe." Boishakhi Restaurant -- near 36th Avenue and 29th Street in the Astoria neighbourhood -- was previously featured in The New York Times for its delicious Bangladeshi food. It also received “Special Congressional Recognition” in 2021 for its community service during the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more: Police: 8 killed in Texas mall shooting, gunman also dead
Ahead of House debt ceiling vote, Biden shores up Democrats and McCarthy scrambles for GOP support
Hard-fought to the end, the debt ceiling and budget cuts package is heading toward a crucial U.S. House vote as President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy assemble a coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans to push it to passage over fierce blowback from conservatives and some progressive dissent. Biden is sending top White House officials to meet early Wednesday at the Capitol to shore up support ahead of voting. McCarthy is working furiously to sell skeptical fellow Republicans, even fending off challenges to his leadership, in the rush to avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default. Despite deep disappointment from right-flank Republicans that the compromise falls short of the spending cuts they demanded, McCarthy insisted he would have the votes needed to ensure approval. "We're going to pass the bill," McCarthy said as he exited a lengthy late Tuesday night meeting at the Capitol. Quick approval by the House and later in the week the Senate would ensure government checks will continue to go out to Social Security recipients, veterans and others, and prevent financial upheaval at home and abroad. Next Monday is when Treasury has said the U.S. would run short of money to pay its debts, risking an economically dangerous default. The package leaves few lawmakers fully satisfied, but Biden and McCarthy are counting on pulling majority support from the political center, a rarity in divided Washington, testing the leadership of the president and the Republican speaker. Overall, the 99-page bill restricts spending for the next two years, suspends the debt ceiling into January 2025 and changes policies, including new work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid and greenlighting a controversial Appalachian natural gas line that many Democrats oppose. For more than two hours late Tuesday as aides wheeled in pizza at the Capitol, McCarthy walked Republicans through the details, fielded questions and encouraged them not to lose sight of the bill's budget savings. The speaker faced a sometimes tough crowd. Leaders of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus spent the day lambasting the compromise as falling well short of the spending cuts they demand, and they vowed to try to halt passage by Congress. "This deal fails, fails completely," Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said earlier in the day, flanked by others outside the Capitol. "We will do everything in our power to stop it." A much larger conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, declined to take a position. Even rank-and-file centrist conservatives were not sure, leaving McCarthy desperately hunting for votes. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said after the "healthy debate" late into the night she was still a no. Ominously, the conservatives warned of potentially trying to oust McCarthy over the compromise. "There's going to be a reckoning," said Rep. Chip Roy of Texas. Biden was speaking directly to lawmakers, making more than 100 one-on-one calls, the White House said. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restrictions in the package would reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top goal for the Republicans trying to curb the debt load. McCarthy told lawmakers that number was higher if the two-year spending caps were extended, which is no guarantee. But in a surprise that could further erode Republican support, the GOP's drive to impose work requirements on older Americans receiving food stamps ends up boosting spending by $2.1 billion over the time period. That's because the final deal exempted veterans and homeless people, expanding the food stamp rolls by some 78,000 people monthly, the CBO said. House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to turn out votes from some two-thirds of the Republican majority, a high bar the speaker may not be able to reach. Some 218 votes are needed for passage in the 435-member House. Still, Jeffries said the Democrats would do their part to avoid failure. "It is my expectation that House Republicans would keep their promise and deliver at least 150 votes as it relates to an agreement that they themselves negotiated," Jeffries said. "Democrats will make sure that the country does not default." Liberal Democrats decried the new work requirements for older Americans, those 50-54, in the food aid program. And some Democratic lawmakers were leading an effort to remove the surprise provision for the Mountain Valley Pipeline natural gas project. The energy development is important to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., but many others oppose it as unhelpful in fighting climate change. The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, said including the pipeline provision was "disturbing and profoundly disappointing." Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, had this warning for McCarthy: "He got us here, and it's on him to deliver the votes." Wall Street was taking a wait-and-see approach. Stock prices were mixed in Tuesday's trading. U.S. markets had been closed when the deal was struck over the weekend. The House aims to vote Wednesday and send the bill to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader McConnell are working for passage by week's end. Schumer called the bill a "sensible compromise." McConnell said McCarthy "deserves our thanks." Senators, who have remained largely on the sidelines during much of the negotiations between the president and the House speaker, began inserting themselves more forcefully into the debate. Some senators are insisting on amendments to reshape the package from both the left and right flanks. But making any changes to the package at this stage seemed unlikely with so little time to spare before Monday's deadline.
US says ‘the time is now’ for Sweden to join NATO and for Turkey to get new F-16s
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday the "time is now" for Turkey to drop its objections to Sweden joining NATO but said the Biden administration also believed that Turkey should be provided with upgraded F-16 fighters "as soon as possible." Blinken maintained that the administration had not linked the two issues but acknowledged that some U.S. lawmakers had. President Joe Biden implicitly linked the two issues in a phone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday. "I spoke to Erdogan and he still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden. So let's get that done," Biden said. Also Read: Finland could join NATO ahead of Sweden: Defense minister Still, Blinken insisted the two issues were distinct. However, he stressed that the completion of both would dramatically strengthen European security. "Both of these are vital, in our judgement, to European security," Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference in the northern Swedish city of Lulea with Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. "We believe that both should go forward as quickly as possible; that is to say Sweden's accession and moving forward on the F-16 package more broadly." "We believe the time is now," Blinken said. He declined to predict when Turkey and Hungary, the only other NATO member not yet to have ratified Sweden's membership, would grant their approval. But, he said, "we have no doubt that it can be, it should be, and we expect it to be" completed by the time alliance leaders meet in Vilnius, Lithuania in July at an annual summit. Also Read: Erdogan might approve Finland’s NATO bid, ‘shock’ Sweden Fresh from a strong re-election victory over the weekend, Erdogan may be willing to ease his objections to Sweden's membership. Erdogan accuses Sweden of being too soft on groups Ankara considers to be terrorists, and a series of Quran-burning protests in Stockholm angered his religious support base — making his tough stance even more popular. Kristersson said the two sides had been in contact since Sunday's vote and voiced no hesitancy in speaking about the benefits Sweden would bring to NATO "when we join the alliance." Blinken is in Sweden attending a meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council and will travel to Oslo, Norway on Wednesday for a gathering of NATO foreign ministers, before going on to newly admitted alliance member Finland on Friday. Also Read: Erdogan says no support for Sweden's NATO bid Speaking in Oslo ahead of the foreign ministers' meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the goal was to have Sweden inside the grouping before the leaders' summit in July. "There are no guarantees, but it's absolutely possible to reach a solution and enable the decision on full membership for Sweden by the Vilnius summit," Stoltenberg said.
Facebook parent Meta hit with record fine for transferring European user data to US
The European Union slapped Meta with a record $1.3 billion privacy fine Monday (May 22, 2023) and ordered it to stop transferring user data across the Atlantic by October, the latest salvo in a decadelong case sparked by U.S. cybersnooping fears. The penalty fine of 1.2 billion euros from Ireland's Data Protection Commission is the biggest since the EU's strict data privacy regime took effect five years ago, surpassing Amazon's 746 million euro penalty in 2021 for data protection violations. The Irish watchdog is Meta's lead privacy regulator in the 27-nation bloc because the Silicon Valley tech giant's European headquarters is based in Dublin. Meta, which had previously warned that services for its users in Europe could be cut off, vowed to appeal and ask courts to immediately put the decision on hold. Read more: Facebook user data issue: Facebook parent company Meta will pay $725M “There is no immediate disruption to Facebook in Europe,” the company said. “This decision is flawed, unjustified and sets a dangerous precedent for the countless other companies transferring data between the EU and U.S.,” Nick Clegg, Meta's president of global and affairs, and Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Newstead said in a statement. It's yet another twist in a legal battle that began in 2013 when Austrian lawyer and privacy activist Max Schrems filed a complaint about Facebook’s handling of his data following former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. cybersnooping. The saga has highlighted the clash between Washington and Brussels over the differences between Europe's strict view on data privacy and the comparatively lax regime in the U.S., which lacks a federal privacy law. Read more: Meta oversight board urges changes to VIP moderation system An agreement covering EU-U.S. data transfers known as the Privacy Shield was struck down in 2020 by the EU's top court, which said it didn’t do enough to protect residents from the U.S. government's electronic prying. That left another tool to govern data transfers — stock legal contracts. Irish regulators initially ruled that Meta didn't need to be fined because it was acting in good faith in using them to move data across the Atlantic. But it was overruled by the EU's top panel of data privacy authorities last month, a decision that the Irish watchdog confirmed Monday. Meanwhile, Brussels and Washington signed an agreement last year on a reworked Privacy Shield that Meta could use, but the pact is awaiting a decision from European officials on whether it adequately protects data privacy. EU institutions have been reviewing the agreement, and the bloc's lawmakers this month called for improvements, saying the safeguards aren't strong enough. Read more: Meta contributes over Tk1.5 crore for Sitrang-hit people's rehabilitation efforts Meta warned in its latest earnings report that without a legal basis for data transfers, it will be forced to stop offering its products and services in Europe, “which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.” The social media company might have to carry out a costly and complex revamp of its operations if it's forced to stop shipping user data across the Atlantic. Meta has a fleet of 21 data centers, according to its website, but 17 of them are in the United States. Three others are in the European nations of Denmark, Ireland and Sweden. Another is in Singapore. Other social media giants are facing pressure over their data practices. TikTok has tried to soothe Western fears about the Chinese-owned short video sharing app's potential cybersecurity risks with a $1.5 billion project to store U.S. user data on Oracle servers. Read more: Ohio retirement fund sues Facebook over investment loss
Debt ceiling: Biden, McCarthy to meet Monday as negotiators ‘keep working’ to resolve standoff
The White House and House Republicans wrapped up another round of debt ceiling talks Sunday as Washington races to strike a budget compromise along with a deal to raise the nation's borrowing limit and avert an economy-wrecking federal default. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spoke by phone Sunday while the president was returning home on Air Force One after the Group of Seven summit in Japan. Upbeat, McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol that the call was "productive" and that the on-again, off-again negotiations between his staff and White House representatives are focused on spending cuts. Biden and McCarthy are set to meet for a pivotal meeting Monday at the White House. Also Read: Debt limit standoff brings tough talk, little action as Biden, world leaders watch for progress Negotiators for the Democratic president and Republican speaker met for 2 1/2 hours at the Capitol as talks appear to be narrowing on a 2024 budget year cap that would be key to resolving the standoff. "We'll keep working," said Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president, as the White House team exited. The Republicans were not seen leaving the speaker's office and offered no immediate comment after the talks. They all face a deadline, as soon as June 1, when the government could run out of cash to pay its bills. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday that June 1 is a "hard deadline." McCarthy said after his call with Biden that "I think we can solve some of these problems if he understands what we're looking at." The speaker added, "But I've been very clear to him from the very beginning. We have to spend less money than we spent last year." Also Read: Biden aims to reassure world on US debt standoff as he consults with Indo-Pacific leaders McCarthy emerged from that conversation sounding optimistic and was careful not to criticize Biden's trip, as he had before. He did caution, "There's no agreement on anything." "We're looking at, how do we have a victory for this country?" McCarthy said. He said he did not think the final legislation would remake the federal budget and the country's debt, but at least "put us on a path to change the behavior of this runaway spending." The White House confirmed the Monday meeting and late Sunday talks but did not elaborate on the leaders' call. Earlier, Biden used his concluding news conference in Hiroshima, Japan, to warn House Republicans that they must move off their "extreme positions" over raising the debt limit and that there would be no agreement to avoid a catastrophic default only on their terms. Biden said "it's time for Republicans to accept that there is no deal to be made solely, solely, on their partisan terms." He said he had done his part in attempting to raise the borrowing limit so the government can keep paying its bills, by agreeing to significant cuts in spending. "Now it's time for the other side to move from their extreme position." Also Read: Biden scraps planned visit to Australia, Papua New Guinea to focus on debt limit talks Biden had been scheduled to travel from Hiroshima to Papua New Guinea and Australia, but cut short his trip in light of the strained negotiations with Capitol Hill. Even with a new wave of tax revenue expected soon, perhaps giving both sides more time to negotiate, Yellen said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "the odds of reaching June 15, while being able to pay all of our bills, is quite low." GOP lawmakers are holding tight to demands for sharp spending cuts with caps on future spending, rejecting the alternatives proposed by the White House for reducing deficits in part with revenue from taxes. Republicans want to roll back next year's spending to 2022 levels, but the White House has proposed keeping 2024 the same as it is now, in the 2023 budget year. Republicans initially sought to impose spending caps for 10 years, though the latest proposal narrowed that to about six. The White House wants a two-year budget deal. A compromise on those topline spending levels would enable McCarthy to deliver for conservatives, while not being so severe that it would chase off the Democratic votes that would be needed in the divided Congress to pass any bill. Top Republican negotiator Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, speaking alongside McCarthy at the Capitol, said the numbers "are the foundation" of any agreement. Republicans also want work requirements on the Medicaid health care program, though the Biden administration has countered that millions of people could lose coverage. The GOP additionally introduced new cuts to food aid by restricting states' ability to waive work requirements in places with high joblessness. That idea, when floated under President Donald Trump, was estimated to cause 700,000 people to lose their food benefits. GOP lawmakers are also seeking cuts in IRS money and, by sparing Defense and Veterans accounts from reductions, would shift the bulk of spending reductions to other federal programs. The White House has countered by keeping defense and nondefense spending flat next year, which would save $90 billion in the 2024 budget year and $1 trillion over 10 years. All sides have been eyeing the potential for the package to include a framework that would speed energy project developments. And despite a push by Republicans for the White House to accept parts of their proposed immigration overhaul, McCarthy indicated the focus was on the House's previously approved debt and budget package. "I think that we can reach an agreement," Biden said, though he added this about Republicans: "I can't guarantee that they wouldn't force a default by doing something outrageous." Republicans had also rejected various White House revenue proposals. Among the proposals the GOP objects to are policies that would enable Medicare to pay less for prescription drugs. Republicans also have refused to roll back Trump-era tax breaks on corporations and wealthy households as Biden's own budget has proposed. For months, Biden had refused to engage in talks over the debt limit, contending that Republicans in Congress were trying to use the borrowing limit vote as leverage to extract administration concessions on other policy priorities. But with the June 1 potential deadline looming and Republicans putting their own legislation on the table, the White House launched talks on a budget deal that could accompany an increase in the debt limit. Biden's decision to set up a call with McCarthy came after another start-stop day with no outward signs of progress. The president tried to assure leaders attending the meeting of the world's most powerful democracies that the United States would not default. U.S. officials said leaders were concerned, but largely confident that Biden and American lawmakers would resolve the crisis. The president, though, said he was ruling out the possibility of taking action on his own to avoid a default. Any such steps, including suggestions to invoke the 14th Amendment as a solution, would become tied up in the courts. "That's a question that I think is unresolved," Biden said, adding he hopes to try to get the judiciary to weigh in on the notion for the future.