Britain says Russia on cyber offensive to sabotage Tokyo Olympics

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Britain and the United States on Monday condemned what they said were a litany of malicious cyberattacks orchestrated by Russian military intelligence, including attempts to disrupt next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

British and U.S. officials said the attacks were conducted by Unit 74455 of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, also known as the Main Centre for Special Technologies.

In an indictment unsealed on Monday, the US Justice Department said six members of the unit had played key roles in attacks on targets ranging from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea to the 2017 French elections.

British officials said the GRU hackers had also conducted “cyber reconnaissance” operations against organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Games, which were originally scheduled to be held this year but postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The officials declined to give specific details about the attacks or whether they were successful, but said they had targeted Games organisers, logistics suppliers and sponsors.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “The FBI has repeatedly warned that Russia is a highly capable cyber adversary, and the information revealed in this indictment illustrates how pervasive and destructive Russia’s cyber activities truly are.”

Russia was banned from the world’s top sporting events for four years in December over widespread doping offences, including the Tokyo Games which were originally scheduled for this year but postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The attacks on the 2020 Games are the latest in a string of hacking attempts against international sporting organisations that Western officials and cybersecurity experts say have been orchestrated by Russia since its doping scandal erupted five years ago. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Britain and the United States said on Monday those attacks included a hack of the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in South Korea, which compromised hundreds of computers, took down Internet access and disrupted broadcast feeds.

The attack in South Korea had previously been linked to Russia by cybersecurity researchers but was made to look like the work of Chinese or North Korean hackers, Britain’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The attacks on the 2020 Summer Games are the latest in a campaign of Russian malicious activity against the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” it said.

“The UK is confirming for the first time today the extent of GRU targeting of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.”


Egyptian grandfather becomes world’s oldest soccer pro

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian grandfather Ezzeldin Bahader has been recognised as the world’s oldest professional soccer player after completing a second full match just short of his 75th birthday.

Bahader was awarded the title by Guinness World Records on Saturday evening after missing a penalty kick as his team, 6th October, lost 3-2 to El Ayat Sports club in the Egyptian third division.

The former amateur player, who turns 75 on Nov. 3, scored a goal from the penalty spot in his debut match on March. He planned to play a second 90-minute match the same month to claim his record, but the suspension of sports activities to contain the spread of the coronavirus put his plans on hold.

Bahader had previously told media he was 75, which he attributed to “rounding up”. Having him on the team had allowed 6th October to gain sponsors and publicity, he said.

Some of Bahader’s six grandchildren attended Saturday’s match, chanting “Come on, Grandpa” from the touchline.

“I dream of being able to break my own record one more time, just to make the competition a little harder,” Bahader said, though he is now out of contract.

The record was previously held by 73-year-old Israeli Isaak Hayik.


Europe, North America should learn from Asia on COVID-19: WHO expert

GENEVA (Reuters) – Europe and North America should follow the example of Asian states by persevering with anti-COVID measures and quarantining anyone who comes into contact with infected people, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert said on Monday.

The WHO’s Europe region, which includes Russia, has recorded up to 8,500 deaths in the past week – and half the countries have seen a 50 percent rise in cases, Mike Ryan, the body’s top emergency expert, told a news conference.

Over recent months, authorities in Australia, China, Japan and South Korea had reduced the spread by detecting cases, isolating them and quarantining contacts, he said.

Their populations had shown “higher levels of trust” in their governments who had kept up measures longer.

“In other words, they ran through the finish line and beyond and they kept running, because they knew the race wasn’t over, that finish line was false. Too many countries have put an imaginary finishing line and when they cross this may have decelerated some of their activities,” Ryan said.

“The countries in Asia, south Asia, the Western Pacific that have been successful to my mind have really continued to follow-through on those key activities,” he added.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged authorities to persevere in the fight against the virus that has infected 40 million and killed more than 1 million, according to the latest Reuters tally.

“I know there’s fatigue but the virus has shown that when we let our guard down, it can surge back at breakneck speed and threaten hospitals and health systems,” Tedros said.

Kim Sledge of the band Sister Sledge will donate proceeds from a special version of the hit song “We Are Family” to the WHO, the agency said.

Sledge said that the song’s message held personal meaning during the pandemic: “Because I have two members of my family, my husband and my daughter, who are physicians, who are on the front line.”


Murray pulls out from Cologne event with pelvic problem

(Reuters) – Andy Murray has suffered another injury setback and has pulled out of this week’s ATP Tour event in Germany due to a lingering pelvic problem, the former world number one said, raising doubts over his participation for the remainder of the year.

The Briton returned from a second hip surgery in January 2019 to win the Antwerp title seven months later – his first since 2017 – raising hopes of a return to the top echelons of men’s tennis.

But the 33-year-old again suffered complications with his hip following the Davis Cup in November and only returned to the circuit after the lengthy COVID-19 pandemic break.

Murray played the first of back-to-back events in Cologne, where he was knocked out in the first round by Fernando Verdasco last week.

He said he was suffering from tendonitis in his left psoas, the muscle which connects the lower back to the top of the leg.

“It’s been kind of on and off since the U.S. Open,” Murray said in a video message on Facebook posted on Sunday. “I’ve been trying to deal with it in training, and in the matches, and unfortunately after my match here this week it’s flared up again.

“I’ve been practising the last few days and trying to manage it, but after playing some points today, I decided that it was not going to be good enough to play.”

The three-time Grand Slam champion also fell in the opening round of the French Open after suffering a second-round defeat in the U.S. Open.

Murray, whose ranking has slipped to 116th in the world, did not clarify if he would seek a wildcard in the ATP Masters event in Paris in two weeks and the subsequent event in Bulgaria.

“I will see you on the court soon,” Murray signed off, without specifying how long he will be out for.


As US election looms, Europe weighs risk of a disputed result

BRUSSELS/BERLIN/LONDON (Reuters) – With less than three weeks until the US presidential election, European capitals are concerned about the risk of a disputed outcome and the impact it would have in the United States and abroad.

While Democrat candidate Joe Biden leads in opinion polls, the 2016 election produced a split between the popular vote and the Electoral College. Analysts say that remains possible on Nov. 3.

With Trump equivocating on whether he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, and suggesting the Supreme Court may have to decide the winner, the risk of a contested result is significant.

One British bookmaker is offering 9/4 that Trump will lose the popular vote but be re-elected, odds that imply a 69% probability. A poll of global fund managers by Bank of America found 60% expected the result to be disputed.

In major European capitals, where many quietly hope the election will produce a change of president and a shift in US policy on issues from climate to trade, NATO and the Iran nuclear deal, caution prevails.

“The majority of EU governments hope for a Biden victory, although no one would say that,” said one EU diplomat.

“Governments are looking at scenarios, contingency plans, although it remains to be seen what could be done in the case of Trump contesting the result.”

German officials have been thinking through the implications for months – since Trump raised doubts about whether he would accept the outcome. “We analyse what could happen, different scenarios,” one said.

Presidential elections have been disputed in the past, as in 2000, when lawyers for Al Gore and George W. Bush spent a month arguing over a Florida recount that the Supreme Court ultimately decided in Bush’s favour.

But a dispute this time could last longer and be more unpredictable, officials say, including the risk of violence on the streets, legal challenges and the chance Trump refuses to vacate the White House.


That would have grave implications in a country already polarised over race and politics and battling the coronavirus.

Washington is in a trade dispute with China and trying to exert influence from the South China Sea to Yemen. A contested result could risk a leadership vacuum that Beijing, Moscow or Pyongyang might seek to exploit. Geopolitical analysts are concerned, for example, that China might move against Taiwan.

For Britain, it would create more uncertainty as a potential no-deal Brexit kicks in on Jan. 1, and as London tries to clinch a trade deal with Washington.

Britain’s Foreign Office says it is “ready for any outcome”.

For France, it could mean the difference between the United States fully withdrawing from the Paris climate accord or potentially rejoining it under Biden.

NATO wants a strong US recommitment whether Trump or Biden wins, and countries in east Europe, always wary of Russia, want US security promises kept, including more troops in Poland.

“There are several concerns – one is that Trump will be reelected,” said a senior EU official. “The other big concern is that there might be violence on the streets in the US after the elections.”

Some European officials feel more confident now about Biden winning.

“I think the game’s almost over,” said one. “For a long time we thought Trump would do it, but now, I don’t see it.”

Yet in Brussels, officials fear Trump’s return would mean another four years of tension. They are preparing for either outcome, while hoping that the result is accepted.

If Trump disputes it, one official said, “it would send Washington into political paralysis”. Brussels would have to look at “how quickly the rats leave the sinking ship”, including how quickly the Republican party distances itself from Trump.


Half of Indians may have had coronavirus by February, government panel estimates

MUMBAI (Reuters) – At least half of India’s 1.3 billion people are likely to have been infected with the new coronavirus by next February, helping slow the spread of the disease, a member of a federal government committee tasked with providing projections said on Monday.

India has so far reported 7.55 million cases of the coronavirus and is second only to the United States in terms of total infections.

But COVID-19 infections are decreasing in India after a peak in mid-September, with 61,390 new cases reported on average each day, according to a Reuters tally.

“Our mathematical model estimates that around 30% of the population is currently infected and it could go up to 50% by February,” Manindra Agrawal, a professor at the Indian Institute for Technology in Kanpur and a committee member, told Reuters.

The committee’s estimate for the current spread of the virus is much higher than the federal government’s serological surveys, which showed that only around 14 per cent of the population had been infected, as of September.

But Agrawal said serological surveys might not be able to get sampling absolutely correct because of the sheer size of the population that they were surveying.

Instead, the committee of virologists, scientists and other experts, whose report was made public on Sunday, has relied on a mathematical model.

“We have evolved a new model which explicitly takes into account unreported cases, so we can divide infected people into two categories – reported cases and infections that do not get reported,” Agrawal said.

The committee warned that their projections would not hold up if precautions were not followed, and cases could spike by up to 2.6 million infections in a single month if measures such as social distancing and wearing masks were ignored.

Experts have warned that infections could rise in India as the holiday season nears, with celebrations for the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja and Diwali due this month and in mid-November, respectively.


Brexit brinkmanship: UK, EU tell each other to move on trade

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain and the European Union said on Monday the door was still open to a deal, calling on each other to compromise to find a way to protect billions of dollars of trade between the neighbours.

With just over two months before Britain ends a status quo transition arrangement with the EU, both sides are deadlocked over a way forward to try to secure a trade deal with neither wanting to move first to offer concessions.

A no-deal finale to the United Kingdom’s five-year Brexit crisis would disrupt the operations of manufacturers, retailers, farmers and nearly every other sector – just as the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic repeated on Monday that the EU still wanted a trade deal with Britain but not “at any cost” after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday there was no point in continuing talks.

“It has to be a fair agreement for both sides – we are not going to sign an agreement at any cost,” Sefcovic told reporters after meeting Michael Gove, Britain’s point man on the existing divorce agreement, in London.

“The European Union is ready to work until the last minute for a good agreement for both parties,” Sefcovic said.

Earlier, British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick called on the EU to “go that extra mile, to come closer to us on the points that remain for discussion”.

“We hope that they could come forward now with some relatively small but important changes which respect us as an independent sovereign nation,” he told Sky News.


EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had been due in London for talks with British counterpart David Frost this week. Instead, they will now speak by telephone on Monday to discuss the structure of future talks, Barnier’s spokesman said.

Negotiations broke down on Thursday when the European Union demanded Britain give ground. Issues still to be resolved include fair competition rules, dispute resolution and fisheries.

EU diplomats and officials cast Johnson’s move as a frantic bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal was done, and European leaders have asked Barnier to continue talks.

UK officials have repeatedly said any deal has to honour Britain’s new status as a sovereign country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said compromises on both sides would be needed. French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed a Brexit deal more than the 27-nation EU.

“We are ready for a deal, but not at any price,” he said.

Britain is launching a campaign this week urging businesses to step up preparations for that. In a statement accompanying the launch, Gove says: “Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act.”

More than 70 British business groups representing over 7 million workers on Sunday urged politicians to get back to the negotiating table next week and strike a deal.

“With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through,” they said.


Wales imposes two-week lockdown: ‘everybody must stay at home’

CARDIFF (Reuters) – Wales will impose a two-week “firebreak” lockdown from Friday in which everybody apart from essential workers must stay at home to combat an accelerating second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he understood that people were tired of COVID-19 restrictions but that the imposition of rules was essential as critical care units were already full.

“It will have to be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need,” Drakeford told reporters. “Everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home.”

“If we do not act now, it will continue to accelerate,” he said. “Our critical care units are already full.”

The lockdown will begin on Friday at 1700 GMT and end on Nov. 9. Everybody but essential workers will have to work from home. All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourist businesses will have to close in Wales. Places of worship will also close.

The United Kingdom recorded 16,982 new daily cases of COVID-19 in the space of 24 hours, according to government data issued on Sunday, up from 16,717 the previous day. Wales recorded 950 cases, up from just 400 at the start of the month.

After a public row with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of attempting to sacrifice the north of England to save jobs in the south, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said a lockdown could be imposed within days.

“We do need to conclude this,” Jenrick said of talks with local leaders, adding that the basis for an agreement was there.

Johnson has threatened to put the area into “Tier 3” – the highest level of restrictions forcing pubs and bars to close and banning different households from mixing indoors – against the will of local leaders if agreement is not possible.

Jenrick said he was hopeful a deal could be struck with Manchester leaders on Monday, with newspapers reporting that tens of millions of pounds were on offer to help businesses cope with the lockdown measures.

“Delay will only make the situation worse, will only put people’s lives at risk, and will only make the economic fallout for the city worse in the long term,” Jenrick told BBC TV.


PTA decides to lift temporary ban on TikTok in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Monday decided to lift a temporary ban on the popular short video-sharing Chinese app TikTok.

According to the PTA spokesperson, the decision was made following an assurance by the TikTok management to abide by Pakistan’s laws and block accounts uploading indecent and immoral content.

A notification regarding restoration of the app will be issued shortly, the spokesperson said. The authority has not announced whether the app will be unblocked immediately.

The authority had said at the time of the ban that the decision was made after it received complaints ‘against immoral/indecent content’ on the app.

The PTA said it had issued a final notice to the app and gave considerable time to respond and develop and an effective mechanism for ‘proactive moderation of unlawful online content.’

TikTok has failed to fully comply with the PTA’s instructions, a press release sent by the authority read. The PTA said it has informed TikTok that they are ‘open for engagement and will review its decision subject to a satisfactory mechanism by TikTok to moderate unlawful content’

It is pertinent to mention here that the PTA had on October 9 banned TikTok for failing to filter out “immoral and indecent” content.


If US had controlled Corona like Pakistan, it could have saved $10 trillion: Larry Summers

NEW YORK – The whole world has started to acknowledge Prime Minister Imran Khan’s strategy against coronavirus (COVID-19) as former US finance minister and Harvard University head Larry Summers praised Pakistan’s successful strategy against corona.

In a statement, Larry Summers has said that Pakistan’s COVID-19 response is an example for world. “If the United States had handled pandemic as well as Pakistan, we would have saved around $10 trillion,” the US economist said.

Following the World Health Organization (WHO), international media and Bill Gates, the former US finance minister is also praising Pakistan’s successful strategy against the Corona epidemic. A leading US economist says the Corona epidemic has cost the US economy more than $16 trillion. The direct loss is $7.590 trillion and the health sector loss is more than $8.5 trillion.

Larry Summers advised the Trump administration to learn from Pakistan and said that $10 trillion could have been saved if the US had adopted at least a Pakistan-like strategy to control the Corona epidemic.

This is not the first time that Pakistan’s strategy against the coronavirus has gained international acknowledged. Earlier, the World Health Organization, international media and Bill Gates have also praised the Pakistani government.

Earlier, the WHO and the World Economic Forum had also termed Pakistan s measures against Coronavirus as exemplary for the world. The World Economic Forum had said that the world should learn from Pakistan.