US to test bombs that can fly five times speed of sound and maneuver en route

New Delhi: The Pentagon plans a “very aggressive” expansion of its hypersonic weapons efforts this year, with at least four initial flight tests of prototypes for glide bombs that can fly five times the speed of sound and maneuver en route, officials said.

A new Hypersonics Transition Office that Congress funded this year will also bankroll a university consortium to conduct advanced research into the weapons and develop a workforce for the new technology, the officials said.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that the next Pentagon budget proposal will increase funding beyond the $5 billion provided in this year’s five-year budget plan for the technology that he called a key part of the “great-power competition” with China.


Islamic State group vowes to shift its focus from remnants of its caliphate towards Israel

New Delhi: The Islamic State group vowed to shift its focus from the remnants of its “caliphate” towards Israel, in its first audio statement since confirming the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In a purported audio message by its spokesman Abu Hamza al-Quraishi, the jihadist organisation called for sabotaging a so-called peace plan US President Donald Trump is due to unveil.

The spokesman said IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi encourages the group’s fighters to launch “a new phase” and vowed major operations against Israel.

“The eyes of the soldiers of the caliphate, wherever they are, are still on Jerusalem,” the spokesman said in the 37-minute message.


China announces to close a section of Great Wall and other famous landmarks to control spread of deadly virus

New Delhi: China announced it will close a section of the Great Wall and other famous Beijing landmarks to control the spread of a deadly virus that has infected hundreds of people across the country.

The Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda will also be closed from Saturday, the authority that oversees the sites said, while the Bird’s Nest stadium closed Friday, in order to “prevent and control” the spread of the virus.

China also added four more cities to a transport ban around the epicentre of a deadly virus, restricting the movement of some 41 million people in 13 cities as authorities scramble to control the disease.


US’ financial chief tells Swedish teen Greta Thunberg to study before calling for a fossil fuel halt

New Delhi: The United States’ financial chief told Swedish teen Greta Thunberg to go study before calling for a fossil fuel halt, prompting the climate campaigner to reply it doesn’t “take a degree” to understand the science.

The spat between US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Thunberg again highlighted the tensions over climate change at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, where governments have come under pressure to act on global warming as well as talk about the issue.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday also said in a keynote address that governments were obliged to act on the younger generation’s concerns over climate change.

Mnuchin had earlier advised Thunberg, who has been bitterly critical of US policy during her stay at Davos, to study economics before giving out lessons.


China locks down Wuhan in an attempt to stem rapid spread of the novel coronavirus

New Delhi: In an attempt to stem the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, China has locked down the central city of Wuhan, which is at the core of the outbreak. It has announced the shutdown of its public transport system and closure of railway stations and airport from Thursday morning.

As on Thursday, the coronavirus had killed 17 people – all in the central Chinese province of Hubei of which Wuhan is the capital – and infected nearly 600.

Official news agency, Xinhua reported that Wuhan “…battling with a pneumonia outbreak has announced to suspend public transportation, and close the airport and railway stations to outgoing passengers, while asking citizens not to leave the city without specific reasons.”

The city has a population of around 11 million and is home to thousands of foreigners including Indian students.