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United Nations headquarters lights up for Diwali for the first time

United Nations: Diwali was commemorated for the first time at the United Nations, with the world body’s imposing headquarters lit up especially on the occasion of the Indian festival of lights.

The facade of the UN headquarters was lit in bright hues and the words ‘Happy Diwali’, along with the image of a traditional ‘diya’, projected onto the building.

“Lighting up. @UN lights up for #Diwali for 1st time,” India’s Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.

“Happy Diwali! @UN celebrates Diwali for 1st time. Thank you @UN_PGA for this initiative,” Akbaruddin said in another tweet, thanking General Assembly President Peter Thomson for the initiative.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

He also tweeted a picture of passers-by clicking photographs of the building as well as being themselves clicked against the illuminated UN headquarters in the background.

Thomson also tweeted a picture of the UN building lit up in bright blue for Diwali and said “Light over darkness, hope over despair, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil – the UN lights up. Happy Diwali!”

The UN Secretariat building will be lit up for Diwali from 29-31 October.

It is for the first time that the Indian festival of lights is celebrated at the world body after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December, 2014 that acknowledged the “significance of Diwali”.

Noting that the festival is observed in many UN member states, the resolution had called on UN bodies to avoid holding meetings on Diwali, declaring it a no-meeting day.

From 2016 onwards, Diwali was made an optional holiday for the UN, India’s Permanent Mission to the world body said in a special video message.

Earlier in June, the UN building was lit up on the occasion of the International Yoga Day, with images of Yoga postures projected on the imposing headquarters.

Sikh community members protest outside UN headquarters over Indo-Pak tensions

New York: Several members of the Sikh community held a protest outside the UN headquarters in New York to raise their concerns over the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan and its impact on the lives of the people in Punjab.

The ‘Save Punjab Rally’, organised on Tuesday by rights group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) in collaboration with civil rights groups and management committees of the Sikh temples across North America, also demanded a referendum in Punjab.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

During the rally, held across the street from the UN headquarters, the demonstrators, including several pro-Khalistan Sikhs, carried placards that read ‘Boycott India’s Jingoistic War’ and ‘Support Punjab Referendum.’

SFJ also submitted a communiqué to officials from Uruguay’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Uruguay is one of the 15 members of the Security Council and is due to hold the Presidency of the Council in January.

The communiqué alleged that the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan is forcing thousands of Sikh farmers in Punjab to evacuate their homes, “turning them into refugees.”

SFJ Legal Advisor said war is not a solution, adding that a referendum should be conducted in Punjab.

Panic gripped the residents of villages in many border districts of Punjab after reports of escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan spread, following a surgical strike by the army on terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on September 28.

Authorities have also begun evacuating people residing in the villages falling within 10 kilometres of international border. Heads of local gurdwaras, temples with the help of Sarpanches have asked the people to evacuate at the earliest in the light of escalating situation.

Punjab shares a 553-km border with Pakistan. It has six districts which lie close to the international border. There are some 135 villages which lie very close to the IB.

Sushma Swaraj at UN General Assembly: After Nawaz Sharif’s salvo, high expectations from tonight’s speech

See original article:  Sushma Swaraj at UN General Assembly: After Nawaz Sharif’s salvo, high expectations from tonight’s speech

No need of a dossier, entire world knows about Pakistan’s role in terrorism: Vikas Swarup

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday raised the issue of Kashmir and accused India of human rights violations in the region during his address at the 71st UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

India reacted sharply on Thursday by declaring his speech as “non-factual”. Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, who was at the UNGA, said at a press conference, “We just heard a speech full of threat bluster and rising immaturity and complete disregard of facts.”

MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup too briefed the media on Thursday and denounced Sharif’s speech while referring to the global support that India is receiving since the Uri terror attack on 18 September against Pakistan.

Swarup said that the onus is now squarely on Pakistan to act against terrorist groups and those who find safe haven in the country. He called Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism.

While responding to a question about Pakistan being designated as a terrorist state by the US, he said that the Bill was introduced by two American lawmakers — Republican Ted Poe and Democrat Dana Rohrabacher — and India hopes that it will be treated with seriousness.

The Bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.

Terrorism is being recognised as a larger regional concern because the international community is also suffering from Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, Swarup added. “Terrorism is not just directed towards India now,” he said.

Referring to Sharif’s speech, he reminded everyone that almost 50 countries have spoken at the UNGA until now, but no one referred to the issue (Kashmir) that Sharif devoted 80 percent of his speech to. On the contrary, Swarup said that everyone talked about terrorism as a growing menace.

Sharif mentioned sending a dossier to the UN Secretary-General about the violence in Kashmir, but Swarup said that the handout given by Ban Ki-moon’s makes no mention of any dossier and has said that the issue needs to be resolved unilaterally.

India, however, does not need any dossier because the entire world is aware of Pakistan’s role in promoting terrorism.

Swarup also refrained from answering if Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Islamabad for the Saarc summit.

India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had on Wednesday summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit for talks and according to Swarup, Basit was apprised of the Uri attack and the earlier attacks on the Indian soil as well.

He said that the demarche underlined that Uri was the latest, in a series of attack, that have emanated from Pakistan.

Swarup further advised Pakistan to act swiftly for their own interest. Jaishankar also shared details of the evidence found in the Uri attack with Basit.

He told Basit that if they want to investigate, India will fully assist Pakistan. However, Swarup made it clear that unlike the Pathankot attack, they did not offer Pakistan to send a team to India. Instead they are willing to share the finger prints of the terrorists with them so that they can check their database to ascertain that the terrorists belonged to Pakistan.

He also referred to Russia and said that there has been continuous communication between the MEA and its Russian counterparts and everyone knows Russia’s stand on terrorism.

With inputs from agencies

New York attack: Sikh man in US hailed as hero for helping arrest terror suspect

New York: A Sikh man in the US is being hailed as a hero for helping the police capture an “armed and dangerous” Afghan-born American wanted for the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey that injured 29 people.

Harinder Bains, the owner of a bar in Linden found 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami sleeping in the doorway of a bar he owns.

Bains said he was watching news on TV on his laptop from another business across the street.

At first, he thought he was some “drunk guy” resting in the vestibule but then recognised Rahami and called police.

“I’m just a regular citizen doing what every citizen should do. Cops are the real heroes, law enforcement are the real heroes,” Bains said.

When officers responded, Rahami pulled out a handgun and opened fire, striking an officer in the chest.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A foot chase ensued, during which Rahami shot at a police car, causing a bullet to graze another office in the face.

The chase ended when Rahami was shot multiple times.

He was taken to a hospital for surgery. Rahami was not initially cooperative with police who tried to interview him, a law enforcement official said.

Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra told PTI that Bains “dared to honour his Oath of Citizenship to protect & defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic – and it’s turns out that the Chelsea Pressure Cooker Bomber suspect, a naturalised citizen, is caught by another immigrant, an Indian-American Hero-Sikh.”

In a statement, the National Sikh Campaign said this was brave and courageous act by Bains.

“A Sikh helps police get to the terrorist involved in New York and New Jersey bombing over the weekend,” it said.

“He heroically helped save many innocent lives and yet gave credit to law enforcement officers. Harinder Bains certainly did what every responsible citizen in America ought to do. Brave and courageous act!” said the National Sikh Campaign.

Insight – Before massive Bangladesh heist, New York Fed feared such cyber attacks | Reuters

In the years before hackers stole $81 million from a Bangladesh central bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, senior Fed security officials examined the risk of such an attack – but judged the prospect unlikely, bank sources told Reuters.

The Fed managers worried that lax security procedures and outdated technology at some foreign central banks could allow cyber-criminals to commandeer local computers and breach foreign accounts at the U.S. central bank, according to interviews with seven current and former New York Fed officials and a former U.S. government official familiar with the discussions.

Over several years, New York Fed and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials discussed the risk of an attack made using the banking system’s communications network, known as SWIFT, according to Fed and government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The New York Fed was concerned with lots of vulnerabilities,” said the former government official. “SWIFT was one of them.”

But the Fed focussed security resources on other priorities, such as preventing money-laundering and enforcing U.S. economic sanctions, officials with knowledge of the bank’s security operations told Reuters. Fed officials took some comfort in the fact that SWIFT’s security software had never been cracked, the officials said.

The immediate result of the breach for the New York Fed is a claim from the Bangladesh Bank for payment of lost funds and a potential lawsuit. Beyond that, the heist showed that the U.S. central bank long understood a potentially systemic risk to a vital global finance network, but was unable or unwilling to address it.

The New York Fed declined to comment on past security priorities or on whether it had made changes since the heist. SWIFT declined to comment.

Before the heist, some New York Fed officials considered the threat of fraudulent transfers ordered through SWIFT a “fat tail risk” – a statistical term for events with low probability but dire consequences, said one well-placed official with knowledge of the discussions. February’s theft from the Bangladesh Bank fit that definition – a bold cyber heist in which thieves attempted to withdraw nearly $1 billion in dozens of requests.

The crime rattled the banking industry because the conduit for the theft was the SWIFT network, an acronym for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. A cooperative overseen by 20 of the world’s largest central banks, SWIFT connects about 11,000 financial institutions globally that use it to order money transfers.

“What everyone is realizing right now is that no one has ever really appreciated the risk,” said the person with direct knowledge of the New York Fed’s deliberations.

SWIFT has said that the scheme involved altering SWIFT software on Bangladesh Bank computers to hide evidence of fraudulent transfers. Last week, SWIFT acknowledged that the Bangladesh Bank attack was not an isolated incident but one of a number of recent criminal schemes aimed at its messaging platform. SWIFT has declined to elaborate further.

Two Bangladesh Bank officials have told Reuters they believe both the New York Fed and SWIFT bear some responsibility for the failure to prevent the attack. The officials previously told Reuters that SWIFT gave Bangladesh Bank no prior warning about vulnerabilities, and the New York Fed failed to stop fraudulent orders when they reached New York.

The head of Bangladesh Bank is scheduled to meet next week with New York Fed president William Dudley and a senior executive from SWIFT to discuss the matter. SWIFT has said the attack was related to an internal operating issue at Bangladesh Bank, and the New York Fed has said it has no evidence that its systems were compromised.

Richard Dzina, head of the New York Fed’s wholesale product office, in remarks at a banking conference Tuesday said bank workers “acted properly” in releasing the funds. The system was penetrated, he said, because the hackers had acquired valid credentials to order the transfers.

$80 BILLION A DAY

The New York Fed holds trillions of dollars in funds for central banks worldwide. It processes about $80 billion in fund transfers in and out of their accounts each day, according to a New York Fed official.

Security is handled by the New York Fed’s Central Bank and International Account Services (CBIAS) division, a closely-guarded operation inside its fortress in lower Manhattan. CBIAS assigns risk profiles to individual countries and regions, assessing government stability, terrorism threats, and organised crime activity when deciding how to dispense cash to central banks and other official institutions, current and former Fed officials said.

In the months before the attack, the security unit was focussed on bulking up its anti-money laundering protections, an initiative driven by the Board of Governors at the Fed’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, according to two people familiar with the plan. Another priority was protecting the Fed’s own Fedwire payments system from cyber attacks, several current and former Fed officials said.

Most transfer requests are approved automatically after computer screening. Only a few of about 2,000 daily transactions are flagged for review by employees, according to a New York Fed official.

One of the officials said automated scanners used for SWIFT payments were effective for preventing money laundering and enforcing economic sanctions – but would not defend the bank against fraudulent money transfers.

“There is a balance here that has to be struck between allowing customers to make new payments and to conduct their business in a timely manner, and also to prevent really obnoxious or obvious cases of fraud,” said Shehriyar Antia, a former senior New York Fed policy advisor and analyst in the CBIAS unit.

The CBIAS system specifically checks for typographical errors – and it was a thief’s typo, along with an unusually high number of requests for payments to private entities, that alerted the Fed to February’s cyber attack, banking sources have told Reuters. Once alerted, the Fed suspended payments on most of the requests coming from the Bangladesh Bank, but not before the thieves extracted $81 million.

The Bangladesh Bank, Bangladesh police and the FBI are investigating the attack.

A Bangladesh police official who heads the department’s forensic training institute previously told Reuters that SWIFT servers at Bangladesh’s central bank were vulnerable to hackers because of the absence of a firewall and a lack of basic security protocols.

LOOSE CONTROLS

Three former officials said that the New York Fed had recently focussed on loose controls over terminals and other access points to the SWIFT network at foreign central banks, where bankers often order withdrawals for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The concerns focussed on the possibility that banks would purchase computers implanted with malicious software or that attackers could steal or buy legitimate credentials from employees, said the former U.S. government official. An additional worry, according to two former Fed officials, was the possibility that a corrupt insider — possibly a bank employee — might have access to the SWIFT network and submit a fraudulent payment request.

Years of managing foreign central bank accounts gave some Fed officials concern that certain banks were ill-equipped to handle local security because of a lack of infrastructure investment and other procedural problems. But the Fed does not have the ability to audit the security protocols at correspondent central banks.

“The vulnerability is that central banks, even in developing countries, have a lot of money relative to their level of sophistication,” said the official with knowledge of the security concerns. “It’s not just Bangladesh.”

(Writing by David Greising; editing by Brian Thevenot and Edward Tobin)

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