China warns the US and the Philippines to not interfere with their affairs regarding Taiwan

China warned on Wednesday that a deepening security alliance between the United States and the Philippines should not harm its security and territorial interests and interfere in long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

According to the Washington Post, When asked to comment on the combat exercises between American and Filipino forces that started on Tuesday in the Philippines, the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Wednesday issued a statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, who said that such drills “should not target any third party and should be conducive to regional peace and stability.”

Wang did not say how China would respond if it concludes that the U.S.-Philippine security cooperation was hurting Beijing’s core interests.

In Washington, the U.S. and Philippine defense and foreign secretaries met on Tuesday to discuss the development of nine Philippine military camps, where American forces have been allowed to stay indefinitely under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

“These sites will support combined training exercises and interoperability between our forces to ensure that we’re even better prepared for future crises,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. He added the U.S. was allocating more than $100 million to build infrastructure at the sites, where Americans would be stationed.

China has strongly opposed that agreement, which would allow American forces to establish military staging grounds and surveillance outposts in the northern Philippines across the sea from the Taiwan Strait and in western Philippine provinces facing the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety on historical grounds. Washington disputes China’s claims.

Austin said he also discussed with his Philippine counterpart, Carlito Galvez, the U.S. delivery of much-needed defense equipment, including radars, unmanned aerial systems, military transport aircraft and coastal and air defense systems to Philippines over the next five to 10 years under a security assistance roadmap.

This year’s Balikatan exercises between the treaty allies are the largest since the two sides started joint military combat-readiness exercises in the early 1990s. They will run until April 28 and involve more than 17,600 American and Filipino personnel and a small Australian contingent. About a dozen countries including Japan and India but not China were sending observers, organizers said.

New Covid variant ‘Arcturus’ emerges in India prompting compulsory mask mandates

A new variant of Covid-19 dubbed ‘Arcturus’ is behind a fresh surge of infections in India. The Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.16 strain is causing havoc in the country where cases have soared 13-fold in the last month.

According to Mirror, India’s health ministry launched mock drills this week in an attempt to see if hospitals are prepared to deal with a possible influx of patients following the rise in cases.

Wearing face coverings in public has been made compulsory again in some states, being the first time in more than a year for some. One example is the southern state of Kerela where Health Minister Veena George reintroduced masks for the elderly, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions. This week, case numbers throughout India rose by 3,122 in a single day.

It comes as the country’s Ministry of Health recorded 40,215 active Covid infections on April 12. Officials are now urging states to increase testing for the virus.

Figures from Our World in Data, run by Oxford University, show how new daily cases reached 3,108 on April 4 – 242 more than the previous month.

The Arcturus strain was first detected in late January and is currently being monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO), with officials noting some mutations of concern.

Canadian pastor forced to spend Easter weekend in jail after protesting drag queen events

A Canadian pastor spent Easter weekend in jail after publicly protesting drag shows for children at public libraries in Calgary, Alberta, marking his third arrest in five weeks.

According to the Christian Post, Video footage posted on Rumble shows Calgary police officers arresting Pastor Derek Reimer of Mission 7 Ministries as he protested outside the Genesis Centre on April 4, five days before Easter.

Reimer has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of drag queen story hours, events usually hosted by public libraries where men dressed as women read to children. Reimer was arrested on two separate occasions for similar protests, both of which occurred last month.

In an interview with Rebel News, Reimer described his arrest as “outrageous.” Reimer claims he was “nearly a kilometer away from the Genesis Centre, just preaching, making people aware of what was taking place there.” He said the focus of his protest was the “pervert grooming hour” taking place there, referring to a drag queen story hour.

“The cops come up, you can already see in the video, they arrest me, they’re not telling me even what I’m arrested for or what the warrants are for,” he lamented.

The police informed Reimer that “there’s a warrant out for eight additional charges.” The eight charges include five counts of breaching court conditions, two counts of causing a disturbance and one count of criminal harassment, according to The Calgary Herald.

Speaking to Rebel News, Reimer’s attorney Ben Allison said his client spent Easter weekend in jail due to an alleged breach of his bail conditions. Responding to reports that the additional charges were “hate-motivated,” Allison said that “if a person is sentenced of any criminal act, one of the factors … the court can consider is whether or not … the criminal act was motivated by hate.” Reimer has a court hearing scheduled for April 12.