Americas

Harris in Singapore: Inculpates China of intimidation in South China Sea, pledges US to stand with allies in region
Americas

Harris in Singapore: Inculpates China of intimidation in South China Sea, pledges US to stand with allies in region

Kamala Harris didn’t hold back from delivery sharp blow on China’s actions in the South China Sea, calling it synonymous to “coercion” and “intimidation”. During her visit to Singapore, VP Harris delivered sharp rebuke on Beijing in a key foreign policy speech on Tuesday. She further affirmed that United States will stand strong supporting its allies in the region against China’s advances.

During the speech in Singapore, Harris laid down plans of US President Joe Biden’s administration around the Indo-Pacific region. “Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.”

Why is South China Sea highly crucial for Beijing?

South China Sea is a strategically important channel through which trillions of dollar worth of shipping makes it way annually. China claims almost entire of the highly resourceful area. If successful, the global trade channel will come directly under control of Beijing, with obvious repercussions. Moreover, similar claims are made by four South-East Asian countries also, along with Taiwan.

China’s actions in the region

Beijing directly ignored 2016 international tribunal decision that had declared that majority of China’s claims on the waters is without any ground. China has been accused of deploying military hardware that includes anti-ship and surface to air missiles in the South China Sea region, thereby ignoring the 2016 decision. This has escalated tensions between China and other rivals in the region.

Harris’s reaffirmations

During her speech, Harris cemented US commitment to support the allies in region, which is gaining keen attention and interest of Biden administration. Harris declared that US “stands with our allies and our partners” against China’s advances and threats.

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On Monday, Harris addressed sailors aboard a US combat ship at the Changi naval base, Singapore and said that “a big part of the history of the 21st century will be written about this very region” and their pivotal work defending the region is lauded and appreciated. “It is in our vital interest to stand united with our allies and our partners in south-east Asia in defence of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said.

Harris met Singapore president Halimah Yacob and prime minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday. Her office announced that this meeting has led to agreements in multiple arenas including tackling cyberthreats, climate change, Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain issues. She is on a week long tour of South East Asia.

Kathy Hochul Takes Charge in Crisis Mode as New York’s new governor
Americas

Kathy Hochul Takes Charge in Crisis Mode as New York’s new governor

In the recent turn of events, Kathy Hochul has been announced as New York’s 57th governor. She will be the first woman ever to hold the position. This happened after the disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation goes into effect and he hands over the reins of state government.

Hochul has been Cuomo’s lieutenant governor since 2015 and now will take over the complicated machinery and immense power of state government. During her term as well, she is expected to face enormous challenges as she assumes authority over an executive chamber mired in scandal and a state struggling with myriad crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few of the issues, to begin with, are naming her lieutenant governor, rise in Covid cases due to the Delta variant inspite of the solid vaccination rate, New York’s precarious economy and educational reopenings and expiration of the eviction moratorium.

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The 62-year-old governor Hochul will have to repair the damage of her predecessor Cuomo who resigned from the position in a wake of the scandal. Many believe that Hochul has to come in and heal Albany somehow after decades of corruption and bullying. She has to take the front charge in the toxic environment which includes sexual harassment and assault that’s just rampant and out in the open now.

Ex-Governor Cuomo had to step down after serious sexual allegations were reported against him by 11 women. Along with this, he was also facing a legislative investigation into whether he misled the public about COVD-19 deaths in nursing homes to protect his reputation as a pandemic leader. It is said that he improperly got help from state employees in writing a pandemic book that net him $5 million.

Current Governor Hochul is a resident of the Buffalo area and says that she is prepared and pledged to run a “completely ethical” administration and change the culture that enabled the governor’s harassment, and promised transparency with regards to data on nursing home resident deaths.

Biden promises to muster every resource to bring all Americans stranded in Afghanistan as Taliban takes control of the country
Americas

Biden promises to muster every resource to bring all Americans stranded in Afghanistan as Taliban takes control of the country

 “We will get you home.” This is US President Joe Biden’s promise to stranded American citizens in Afghanistan and their families. As Taliban has taken control of the country forcing its way into the capital Kabul, panic has been the driving force across the world. Western countries have been trying to evacuate their citizens and some Afghans that had been working with their troops, but a lot is still left to do as thousands in the country have been left at the mercy of the insurgent group that is known for its merciless practice and special targeting of women.

Amid mounting pressure to bring back American citizens, President Biden said that US is ready to “mobilize every resource” to bring them to Kabul airport and thereafter to US soil.

President Biden has been under attack and criticism for his decision of hastily withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, bringing an end to the 20 year long war. But the calculations of Biden administration were clearly off the path and mis-anticipated. A force of less than 100,000 Taliban fighters very conveniently took over control from more than 300,000. In only couple of months the Taliban took over Afghanistan bringing the country to brink of another humanitarian catastrophe. The embattled President continues to defend his decision and asserts that it hasn’t hurt US relations with its allies.

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But the current scenario in Kabul and rest of Afghanistan is worse than ever. Reports continue to come that Taliban fighters are not letting people, including American citizens to pass checkpoints to reach the airport. Even US Embassy in Kabul has said that government “cannot ensure safe passage to the airport” for American citizens. But President Biden insisted while speaking from White House on Friday, “Let me be clear. Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.”

However, he noted, “Make no mistake, this evacuation mission is dangerous. It involves risks to our armed forces and it’s being conducted under difficult circumstances. I cannot promise what the final outcome will be or that it will be without risk of loss. But as commander-in-chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary.”

This is far from reality, as the various videos shared on social media platforms indicate. Heart wrenching. Emma Vaughn, a spokesperson for the Republican national committee, said, “Joe Biden created a disaster in Afghanistan, and Americans and our allies are paying the price. Biden’s claims that Americans can safely get to the Kabul airport and that our allies support his management handling of the crisis are verifiably false. Americans deserve accountability and transparency, not continued lies and failure.”

Trump approved & Biden backed Alaska oil project thrown out of window by US judge
Americas

Trump approved & Biden backed Alaska oil project thrown out of window by US judge

 US district court judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage has thrown out approvals by Trump administration for a giant planned oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. Judge Gleason said that the federal review done of project was faulty and failed to include mitigation measures for polar bears.

In a 110 page ruling, Judge Gleason has struck off permits for ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The project was approved by former President Donald Trump’s administration in late 2020. The project also received backing by President Joe Biden in the court.

The federal environmental review of project was conducted by US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the interior department that was found flawed by Gleason. Agency has not commented on the decision. Rebecca Boys, a spokesperson of ConocoPhillips said the company would review Gleason’s decision “and evaluate the options available regarding this project”.

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The review of project by BLM was challenged by grassroots organization Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic and conservative groups. Karlin Itchoak, Alaska director for the Wilderness Society, lauded the ruling and called it “a step toward protecting public lands and the people who would be most negatively impacted by the BLM’s haphazard greenlighting of the Willow project”.

ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project approval by Trump administration

US interior secretary David Bernhardt had signed government’s decision on project in October 2020 that allowed ConocoPhillips to launch up to three drill sites, processing facilities, gravel roads and pipelines on Alaska’s North Slope. Two additional drill sites along with pipelines and gravel roads could be considered later according to the approval. Bernhardt had said the project would make a “significant contribution to keeping oil flowing through the trans-Alaska pipeline system decades into the future” and also assist in providing big revenues. BLM said the project will have capacity to produce up to 160,000 barrels of oil a day with approximately 590 million barrels over 30 years.

Flaws found by Judge Gleason

Judge Gleason said that BLM had excluded foreign greenhouse gas emissions in its review, an act that was “arbitrary and capricious”. She added that the agency had developed its “alternatives analysis based on the view that ConocoPhillips has the right to extract all possible oil and gas on its leases”, a move that stands contrary to law.

Gleason canceled a report by US Fish and Wildlife Service that lacked details around mitigation measures for polar bears. It had concluded the project “was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of polar bears and not likely to result in the adverse modification of polar bear critical habitat”.

Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska program director for the Defenders of Wildlife, called the decision “a win for our climate, for imperiled species like polar bears, and for the local residents whose concerns have been ignored”. Governor Mike Dunleavy, on the other hand, called the decision “horrible” and said that ruling “from a federal judge trying to shelve a major oil project on American soil does one thing: outsources production to dictatorships and terrorist organizations”.

Brazil government mulls suing newspaper over ‘election threat’ article
Americas

Brazil government mulls suing newspaper over ‘election threat’ article

The Brazilian government is weighing on suing national daily Estado de S. Paulo over its July 22 article that claimed Defense Minister Walter Souza Braga Netto threatened to hold the 2022 election. The statement was made by defense minister Braga Netto during an address to Brazilian lawmakers in Brasilia on Tuesday.

According to a Reuters report, Estado de S. Paulo article stated that Braga Netto told head of the country’s lower house that the vote will take place through printed ballot or else the presidential election would not take place. While the Defense Minister and House Speaker Arthur Lira denied the report, Estado de S. Paulo has defended its reporting.

After the newspaper report, Brazilian political leaders are scrambling efforts to ensure the public that the 2022 presidential election will take place. The Estado de S. Paulo story cited anonymous sources.

Bolsonaro calls for changing voting system

This development has come at a time when Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has been pushing his claim that the country’s electronic voting system is highly prone to fraud.

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Last week, Bolsonaro suffered a massive defeat in Congress after Brazilian lawmakers rejected proposal to use printed receipted at some electronic ballot boxes. Along with electoral authorities, a number of Bolsonaro’s political allies also rejected the proposal, maintaining that the voting system is fully reliable.

The Brazilian president, likely to seek second term in 2022, has been ensuring all possible efforts to amplify his claims against the voting system across various forms of media. As a result, thousands of his supporters carried out demonstrations across various cities over the weekend to raise demand for a change in the system.

“We cannot have dubious elections in 2022. Public counting of votes is needed,” president Bolsonaro said in a recent radio interview.

TSE to probe Bolsonaro

Earlier this month, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) of Brazil launched an investigation against the President’s claims of fraud in the voting system ahead of 2022 elections. TSE judges have backed the existing voting system, noting that Brazil has eliminated a history of election fraud and never reported any fraud case.

Bolsonaro has also stated that he might not accept the result of next year’s elections if polls would be conducted using electronic voting. He has demanded to use printed receipts at the same time in order to count the votes in case of any disputes in the election result.

“There will be printed ballots, because if there are no printed ballots, this is a sign that there will be no election. The message is clear,” Bolsonaro said earlier this month.

Double whammy for Haiti: earthquake followed by tropical depression surges the death count
Americas

Double whammy for Haiti: earthquake followed by tropical depression surges the death count

 Haiti was not even able to awaken from the massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, and now the tropical depression has hit the Caribbean country. Medical teams and search and rescue teams were racing to provide food and shelter to affected Haitians that were hit hard by the Saturday quake.

On Monday the death toll due to earthquake had reached 1,419 with over 6000 injured. Aid workers fear that this count can rise further as search and rescue operations are still underway. But the conditions are likely to worsen further after tropical depression storm Grace makes its landfall in next few hours. The casualties due to quake are far lesser this time as compared to the 7.0 magnitude quake that killed over 200,000 Haitians in 2010. This is because the epicentre this time lies farther from the dense capital.

By Monday midday, the capital Port-au-Prince was already experiencing lashing rains. Flash floods and mudslides are expected to hit the region.

US National Hurricane Center (NHC) has projected that Grace is expected to hit Haiti between Monday night and Tuesday morning. It is indicated that the storm could pass over areas directly affected by the earthquake, bringing up to 38cm (15in) of rain, increasing risk of flash floods and landslides.

Les Cayes is one of the worst impacted towns in Haiti with a population of 100,000, lying 120 miles south west of the capital. Doctors in the town report that hospitals are already saturated with injured patients due to the earthquake. A resident doctor at Les Cayes’ Immaculate Conception hospital said, “People are in need. There is no water in the town, no food. They are sleeping outside. Haiti needs the world and its prayers. People are really scared.”

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“Right now people are traumatised because they don’t know what will happen in the coming hours, days or weeks,” said Thomas Jean Verlin, a 31-year-old teacher from Les Cayes. “There is a lot of panic. I believe 90% of the population needs psychological assistance.” USAid (the United States Agency for International Development) sent its urban search-and-rescue teams to Les Cayes by helicopter, with sniffers dogs to locate trapped vi

Biden Increases SNAP Gains Forever In America
Americas

Biden Increases SNAP Gains Forever In America

 President Joe Biden’s has made a historic move in the upkeep of the nutritional levels of the country, by introducing the token system under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. To be made a permanent feature in the nutrition assistance programs, these food stamps will now provide a large number of low-income families in the US which was finding it difficult to make ends meet due to the Covid-19 ongoing situation.

Post October, almost 42 million Americans will benefit from the introduction of these food stamps. These are the ones who are already registered with SNAP that now stands to increase the provisions for low-income groups by nearly 25 percent.

Many families have only relied on government schemes running since Biden administration took charge in the pandemic times. Many of such schemes were going to expire and this new one is throwing some glimmer of hope.

Under the new rules, the average monthly benefit of $121 a person before the pandemic will rise by $36. The Agriculture Department is making the changes through revisions to the Thrifty Food Plan, a list of food groups the government uses to estimate the cost of an economical and nutritious diet.

The increase is being seen as the largest ever in American history and will be a permanent affair going ahead. The aid boost is being packaged as a major revision of the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan. In concrete terms, the average monthly per-person benefits will rise from $121 to $157. Undeniably, the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise and food critics say, that it has unearth long standing food scarcity and deficiencies that the low-income groups in America have been suffering with. Activists say the previous levels of pre-pandemic SNAP assistance simply weren’t enough, forcing many households to choose cheaper, less nutritious options or simply go hungry as the funds ran low toward the end of the month.

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‘ Judge orders US to bring back Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” asylum policy
Americas

‘ Judge orders US to bring back Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” asylum policy

A federal judge in Texas has ordered President Joe Biden to reinstate his Republican predecessor’s “remain in Mexico” policy.

It forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico for US court cases.

The Trump-era immigration policy requires migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexican cities for the duration of their immigration cases.

It was brought in place to block asylum seekers from Central America by making them wait in Mexico for the result of their US asylum hearings.

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The program was started Department of Homeland Security under former President Donald Trump in 2019. This program came at the height of a spike in Central American families seeping into the US border. It was turned down by President Biden shortly after he took office.

US Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas, in a ruling late Friday, said the removal of the policy was unreasonable and violated federal law because the administration didn’t consider the benefits of the program properly. He also wrote that ending it had added to the current border surge.

Kacsmaryk’s 43- page ruling found that Texas and Missouri are being harmed by the policy’s reversal because migrants into the US will use health care services and apply for driving licenses, and their children will attend US schools.

A Biden administration memo laying forth a formal end to the policy was circulated on June 1. It was unclear how the ruling would impact that decision ultimately.

Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, stayed his judgement for a week to allow the Biden administration to appeal. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not commented on the development as yet.

Defenders of the policy are of the opinion that it reduced pressure on overburdened immigration officials. Human rights groups said it was a violation of due process and exposed poverty-stricken refugees to the risk of abuse, kidnap, and rape.

‘Racist’ Boston to elect first non-white mayor in the history
Americas

‘Racist’ Boston to elect first non-white mayor in the history

As we move close to see the change in one of the biggest democratic countries of the world, this time in Boston there are all five major candidates of colour in the position of mayor. This includes two Black women who are setting the stage for voters to elect the first non-white man to lead the city.

This year in March, acting Mayor Kim Janey became the first non-white man to lead the city since its inception. Janey and Councilor Andrea Campbell prove what many Black women have tried to explain for years. There can be more than one amazingly qualified Black woman in the room at a time.   

They were accompanied by Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, the four women remain at the top of the heap, with recent polls showing Wu and Janey in the lead. John Barros, the city’s former economic development chief, rounds out the candidate pool. All the candidates came forward with one hope and message that closing the racial wealth gap was a moral imperative for the city. 

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Another candidate Campbell is not counting herself out after the poll results rather are of the opinion that whether as the first Black woman to serve as City Council president or as the surviving twin who grew up in a world that provided little support for her brother, she is going to put her best foot forward and fight for the justice that their race deserves.

Erin O’Brien, who is an associate professor in political science and race at the University of Massachusetts, says that there has never been an election like this in Boston. The city has a reputation for being one of the most unequal places in America. It was also considered the most unwelcoming place to black people.

However, turning the tables around this election in September are going to be extremely interesting and historic. Mayor Janey stated that she is standing up for empowering people. Be it parents, community members or church members and to make the institutions that represent them respond to their real needs.

Trudeau planning for a snap election to seek majority
Americas

Trudeau planning for a snap election to seek majority

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing for a snap election for September 20 to seek voter approval for the government’s high-priced plans to combat Covid-19.

Trudeau will make the announcement on Sunday, said sources privy to the matter.

Trudeau aides have, for months, said that the ruling Liberals would press for a vote prior to the end of 2021, two years ahead of schedule.

The Canadian premier has a minority government and relies heavily on other parties to push through legislation. In the past few months, he has complained about what he calls opposition obstruction.

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Trudeau’s party had a majority previously when he was elected in 2015, but the party got a hit when photos emerged of Trudeau as a young man wearing blackface.

The prime minister wants to draw an extra $100 billion in Canadian money into the economy.

Experts say that circumstances have massively changed since 2019, and the Canadian Premier needs to know whether the Canadians support our plans for economic recovery.

Liberals hold 155 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons currently.

They racked up record levels of debt as they spent massively to shield individuals and businesses from Covid-19. Furthermore, they plan to inject an extra C$100 billion (US$80 billion) into the economy over the next three years – that is between 3 per cent and 4 per cent of GDP.

A poll from Abacus was conducted between 6 August and 11 August. It shows that the Liberal Party leads with approximately 37 per cent of the vote compared to Conservatives, who only have 28 per cent of the vote.

The Liberal Party hasn’t commented on the matter so far.

Lawmakers from the Conservative Party of Canada – Trudeau’s primary adversaries – have blamed the Liberals for lavish spending and burdening future generations with debt.

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