Staff Writer

Mexican president exhibits sadness and shame over brutality killing of Salvador woman in police custody
Americas

Mexican president exhibits sadness and shame over brutality killing of Salvador woman in police custody

On Monday Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador expressed ‘sadness, pain and shame’ over the killing of a Salvador woman who died in police custody. The 36-year-old Victoria Salazar Arriaza died after a female officer kneeled on her neck. Her autopsy report said that Salazar’s neck had been broken. The cause of death was said to be spinal fracture which happened due to breakage of the first and second vertebrae.

During the Monday’s press conference Mexican premier condemned the brutality and ill-treatment exhibited by the four police officers (one female and three male) who arrested the Salvador refugee woman on Saturday. Expressing his sympathies, Obrador said that Salazar, was “brutally treated and murdered”. He added, “It is a deed that fills us with sorrow, pain and shame.”

Salazar, a single mother of two teenage girls, was detained from the tourist resort of Tulum on the Caribbean coast. Officers did not clarify the reason for her detention but the state media reported that she was held after the police received an emergency call from a convenience store, where was believed to be exhibiting drunk and improper behavior.

The Salvador woman was held facedown on the road, with one knee on the back of her neck. It was the same technique which led to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, last year in police custody. The attorney general of Quintana Roo state, Oscar Montes de Oca, said that Salazar resisted police at the store’s exit which made the police”improperly apply bodily control techniques that ultimately caused (Salazar’s) death”.

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Oca reported that all the officers party to the crime have been taken into custody on the charges of femicide. The state department looking into the investigations of the case said, “The level of force was carried out in a disproportionate, immoderate way and with a high risk to life.” The conviction of the culprits could lead to 20 to 50 years of imprisonment.

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, extended support towards the victim’s family and  said that his government “only asks for justice” and demanded that the “full force of the law” fall on those responsible for her death. He added that his government, would also care for the deceased’s daughters, who are currently living in Mexico. Rosibel Arriaza, Salazar’s mother, condemning the police action, told Salvadoran media, “I ask for justice for my daughter, because I don’t see a justified cause” for what police did to her. She added that her daughter went to Mexico five years ago in search for “better opportunities, like other Salvadorans,” and for “better future for her girls and to help them get ahead”.

US Intelligence report finds Russia worked with Trump allies to damage Biden’s chances in 2020 election
Americas

US Intelligence report finds Russia worked with Trump allies to damage Biden’s chances in 2020 election

US Intelligence reports have revealed a shocking finding that highlights Russian President Vladimir Putin to have most likely authorized attempts to influence 2020 Presidential Elections in US, in favor of his ally former US President Donald Trump. The report alleges that Moscow has potentially spread “misleading or unsubstantiated allegations” about the Democratic presidential candidate and the eventual winner Joe Biden.

But the intelligence report further confirmed that no ‘external forces or government’ had eventually altered or compromised the final results of presidential election.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the 15 page report on Tuesday. The report transcribes ‘influence operations’ that were pushed both by Russia and Iran. Report outlines that individuals linked to Russia had spread claims of unsubstantiated nature about President Biden ahead of the election on November 3, 2020. A campaign maligned with false information too was used to undermine confidence on a broader spectrum about election process. Report further highlights that certain Russian intelligence connections pushed narratives against Biden to media outlets as well as Trump allies with sole intention to undermine Biden’s candidacy.

Report adds that Russian efforts were to boost Trump’s chances of winning the election. On the contrasting side, Iran is said to have launched “multi-pronged covert influence campaign” with aim to weaken Trump’s support. Reason for this was quite clear – Trump during his term had maximized pressure on Iran by imposing extreme sanctions and also escalating “war of words” with it.

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Report underlines with “high confidence” that China did not “deploy interference efforts” ahead of election, although it has been accused of using cyber-attack against Washington. US Intelligence report stated, “China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk blowback if caught.”

Clearing out air around interference with election process and mail in ballot system during election, report mentions, “We have no indications that any foreign actor attempted to interfere… by altering any technical aspect of the voting process, including voter registration, ballot casting, vote tabulation, or reporting results.” The assessment by US Intelligence finds that while Russia attempted to denigrate Biden’s chances in election, China and Iran sought loss of Trump.

Biden faces tough resistance from Republicans amidst COVID19 vaccine push
Americas

Biden faces tough resistance from Republicans amidst COVID19 vaccine push

WASHINGTON: As President Biden urges to vaccinate the Americans, he is facing deep skepticism among the Republicans, a group that is challenging for him to persuade.

He is currently facing degrees of opposition to coronavirus vaccination including African-Americans and the Republican antivaccine activists, polling says that opinions in this regard are spread along partisan lines.

Nearly one-third of Republicans, in a CBS news poll, said that they would not want to be vaccinated — in comparison to 10 percent of Democrats — and nearly around 20 percent of Republicans said they were “very unsure”. All other polls have seen similar trends.

The Biden administration is currently readying television and online advertising and are on all-out efforts to promote the vaccination process, the challenge to the White House is very complicated mainly due to the perceptions of his predecessor President Donald J. Trump’s rigid stance on the issue. Even though Mr. Trump was vaccinated prior to his departure from office and urged the conservatives to not get inoculated last month, most of his supporters appear pretty reluctant to do so, and he has clearly not played a very decisive role in promoting vaccination.

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When ssked about this issue on Monday at his office, Mr. Biden played the challenge down by saying that Mr. Trump’s assistance in promoting vaccination was less important compared to getting trusted opinion leaders on board.

If the widespread opposition to vaccination was not overcome, it could lead the United States stay aback from the point where the spread of the coronavirus could be halted. It will directly set back the efforts to get the economy back on track and people won’t get back to a normal life anytime soon. The problem until now is access to the right supplies of the vaccine, administration officials are of the expectation that exceeding demands won’t be seen if this many Americans remain reluctant.

Furthermore, with respect to this decision, a National Hockey team’s skills camp was also called off and players were asked to go back to their homes after being tested.

Biden takes action: the US to allow entry of Mexico asylum seekers
Americas

Biden takes action: the US to allow entry of Mexico asylum seekers

Taking action over burning issue of immigration in the United States, President Joe Biden and his administration have announced on Friday its plans of allowing thousands of asylum seekers waiting in Mexico entry into US. These asylum seekers are waiting for their immigration court hearing and would be allowed to enter the country while their cases proceed. 

Authorities confirmed that the first lot of 25,000 asylum seekers in Mexico would be allowed to enter the US on February 19. Biden administration is planning to slowly start up the process with two border crossings and each processing taking up to 300 people per day. Third processing is to take fewer number of people. Location name of border crossing haven’t been disclosed with fear of mass influx at border. 

The policy is the direct dismantling of former President Donald Trump’s highly controversial and detrimental policies of preventing asylum seekers gain entry into the US. President Biden has been keeping up with his campaign promises on various issues by signing executive orders. The issue of immigration and asylum seekers entry ban was a key issue raised by Biden which he called as ‘inhumane’ and ‘dangerous’.

On first day of President Joe Biden in office, the DHS (department of homeland security) had suspended new arrivals policy. Post that few of the asylum seekers that had been picked up at the border by border police have been released in US. 

Trump had made it a priority to tackle and reverse the surge of asylum seekers entering the US that had peaked in 2019, calling it ‘important’. But this had invariably exposed the vulnerable people to violence a Mexico border cities. Finding lawyers to present their case in immigration courts was made extremely difficult for the asylum seekers. 

The Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas said, “As President Biden has made clear, the US government is committed to rebuilding a safe, orderly and humane immigration system. This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values.” 

The decision which is in plans to be implemented quickly, will effectively save tens and thousands of children and adults from increasing violence, rape and abduction at the border cities. Mayorkas made a note, “It’s a very, very important cautionary note that they should not travel to the border. That will only increase the pressure on the humanitarian effort to provide for them carefully and safely.”

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The move, as said by DHS, is no to be taken as random irregular immigration of people to the US. Asylum seekers must note that under public health advisory placed since March after pandemic struck, any illegal border crossing would lead to expulsion of the people.  

Trump impeachment trial rules agreed upon by Senate leaders
Americas

Trump impeachment trial rules agreed upon by Senate leaders

Senate leaders on Monday have reached an agreement over former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial that is beginning this week. The zeroed down rules will allow impeachment managers and also Trump’s lawyers up to 16 hours to present the case, create debate option and vote to call witnesses if impeachment managers at House seek it. 

Senate leaders have agreed on the second impeachment trial’s rapid timetable that will begin on Tuesday. Former President Donald Trump is charged with “inciting insurrection” during his speech leading to violent US Capitol riots on January 6. Democrats say of the ‘overwhelming’ evidence they have that will prove Trump’s guilt while lawyers defending Trump claim that the mob acted independently. Trump’s lawyers call the trial unconstitutional as he has now left the office and is now a private citizen. The nine impeachment managers, who are all Democrats from the House, argue that Trump must be held accountable for his actions as a president. 

US Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer said, “All parties have agreed to a structure that will ensure a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial of the former president.” 

If after debate on Tuesday voting will be done at end of the day. If constitutional vote passes, opening arguments will commence Wednesday afternoon with both parties allowed up to 16 hours each for presenting their sides. Arguments are expected to extend till weekend. It is unclear if impeachment managers will seek extending the timetable by calling or sending subpoena to witnesses. Trump however, has already declined testifying voluntarily. 

Trump’s defense team is led by Bruce Castor, a former county prosecutor from Pennsylvania. His team made an extraordinary claim on the Senate floor on Monday saying that presenting Capitol attack would lead to “a brazen attempt to glorify violence”. 

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Impeachment managers, sent by the House of Representatives, are led by Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Their argument which amounts to an 80-page brief was submitted last week and documents various tweets made by Trump, starting from “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” to “Election Rigged and Stolen” to “So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue”. 

Biden’s Covid-19 relief package passed in Congress, GOP gets no chance to filibuster
Americas

Biden’s Covid-19 relief package passed in Congress, GOP gets no chance to filibuster

Budget resolution for President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 relief package of $1.9 trillion has been passed by both Congress chambers, thus steering clear of the GOP invoked filibuster. The passing of the resolution is the key step towards passing the sweeping relief package by Democrats. 

After 15 hours of debate in the Senate followed by voting that had 50-50 votes for ‘yays’ and ‘nays’, Vice President cast her Senate vote to break the tie in affirmative of the resolution. The resolution was passed early morning Friday with a final vote tally of 51-50. The resolution was then passed to the House where it was later passed on Friday. The House of Representatives had already passed the relief budget in the week, but it needed to be voted back in the House for a final vote as it was amended in the Senate. 

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Senate voting took long hours due to exhausting “vote-a-rama” wherein the Senators can offer multiple amendments to the resolution theoretically. This is also a way through which either party can force the other side to take a stand or speak on record over controversial issues. Senate debate led to most of amendments extended by the GOP defeated. 

The budget resolution passed by Congress is not the actual Covid-19 relief bill but enabling of a process called ‘budget reconciliation’ that will help the party-line vote to pass the relief bill. The bill is scheduled to be passed sometime in February and March after Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is completed in Senate. 

Post the resolution passing in Congress, President Joe Biden has expressed his confidence in passing the bill without support from the Republicans. He has also underlined that he’s willing to make changes or concessions if the issue raised has bipartisan support. 

The ‘American Rescue Plan’ backed by the Biden administration will issue $1,400 cheques to most Americans. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “His view is that at this point in our country when 1-in-7 American families don’t have enough food to eat, we need to make sure people get the relief they need and are not left behind.” 

Republicans aren’t too happy with the unfolding in Congress. They argue that this would set a more ‘partisan’ tone to rest of Biden’s presidency, something that he had ensured won’t happen in his term. 

Ravaging combination: How pandemic, climate crisis & debt worsened global poverty
Geopolitics

Ravaging combination: How pandemic, climate crisis & debt worsened global poverty

The past year has presented the world with unprecedented situations and challenges. Covid-19 pandemic has tested nations’ and humanity’s limits. The combination of the pandemic, climate crisis, and increasing debt has wrecked havoc on countries, more so on the vulnerable ones. The progress made in the last few decades to tackle global poverty and progress towards eliminating it seems to have taken a reverse gear – all the efforts look lost. 

World Bank has warned of a “truly unprecedented increase” in this year’s poverty levels across the world. It has also urged countries to initiate debt forgiveness to provide some relief. Multiple arenas including employment and education will experience a growing crisis that will persist for years to come, experts warn. In January, the World Bank updated its forecasted number of poverty impacted people in 2021 from between 88 and 115 million to between 119 and 124 million. 

Since 1960s global poverty has improved drastically. It was the time when over 80% of world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Through decades of efforts, now near 10% of that number has been reduced. 

Past few months have seen red flags raised with increased number of dropout in education due to pandemic. In developing nations it adds to the rate of unemployment and loss of wages. With closed schools, workplaces and job lay-offs, this has only added to the growing problem. 

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International Labour Organization (ILO) said that during the pandemic $3.7 trillion in earnings were lost by global workers. This has been one of the most astonishing warnings by a global organization. Last year’s Global Wage Report by ILO had warned that the Covid-19 crisis was “likely to inflict massive downward pressure on wages in the near future with women and low-paid workers disproportionately affected by the crisis”. 

Axel van Trotsenburg, managing director of operations at the World Bank said, “Our concern is that with this crisis we are seeing a reversal in the sustained reduction in extreme poverty and are now witnessing increases. The current estimates are an extra 150 million by the end of this year.”

The pandemic is bringing in changes that would be seen for years to come and would take years of dedicated intense efforts to bring any reversal of damage. 

South Korean captured tanker crew allowed to leave by Iran
Middle East & Africa

South Korean captured tanker crew allowed to leave by Iran

Over a month ago Iran had seized a South Korean tanker in the Gulf. Now the Iranian authorities have agreed to release all the crew members on board, except the captain. 

The South Korean tanker, Hankuk Chemi’s 19 sailors are being released on humanitarian grounds after a request from Seoul, said a foreign ministry spokesperson. He also relayed that South Korea had agreed to unfreeze $7 billion worth of Iranian funds in its banks. 

Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, “Following the request by the government of South Korea and the goodwill of the judiciary within the framework of the law, the crew of the Korean tanker, which was responsible for polluting the Persian Gulf, have been given permission to leave the country on humanitarian grounds.”

On January 4, the Iranian authorities had captured a South Korean flagged tanker near the Strait of Hormuz citing it for polluting the waters with chemicals that the tanker was carrying. The tanker in-charge however, denied the allegations. It was believed that the strategic move by Iran was linked to a row between the two nations over Iran’s seized funds since the US reinstated sanctions on it post 2018 exit from the nuclear deal, JCPOA. 

Post capturing, the 20 crew members were detained in Iran’s port city of Bandar Abbas. Crew members included 11 from Myanmar, 5 South Korea, two from Vietnam and two from Indonesia. 

Mr. Khatibzadeh said that investigation into the tanker and its captain would continue after the release of other 19 crew members. 

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South Korea’s foreign ministry has said that the two nations “shared the view that the release of the sailors was an important first step to restore trust between the two countries and they will work to resolve the issue of frozen Iranian assets in South Korean banks”. 

McConnell calls congresswoman’s ‘loony lies’ a ‘cancer’ for the Republican party
Americas

McConnell calls congresswoman’s ‘loony lies’ a ‘cancer’ for the Republican party

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has called Georgia’s congresswoman a ‘cancer for the Republican party’ for endorsing in ‘loony lies and conspiracy theories’. McConnell did not directly name Marjorie Taylor Greene on a Monday night to The Hill but his attack was targeted to the new Congresswoman who is a strong Donald Trump supporter. 

Greene’s open support to racist conspiracy theory group QAnon and other extremist groups is causing turmoil and friction among Republicans across Congress. The intervention by McConnell raises the debate of what to do with Greene. House Democrats have made it clear that in case House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy fails to expel Greene from various congressional committees, they are prepared to do so. 

McConnell said, “Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr’s airplane is not living in reality.” He added, “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.”

Greene didn’t waste any time in responding and fired back a tweet saying “Real cancer for the Republican party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully.”

Last week sensational videos were released of Greene’s controversial statements on multiple incidents, just a week into her arrival in Congress. Her bizarre stand on array of subjects is rather offensive and has invited calls for censuring her. In 2019 Greene was filmed for harassing Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg, wherein she called the shooting ‘staged’ and claimed it to be ‘false flag’ act of make believe. 

Furthermore, her Facebook posts were reviewed by CNN that showed her open support to idea of executing key Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. 

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McConnell, for past few weeks, is seen treading a delicate walk between pro-Trump and post-Trump camps within the Republican party. Regarding his support to Trump’s impeachment trial too McConnell has suggested he is open to convicting Trump but has also voted along with other Republicans in Senate to dismiss the trial case. 

A military coup in Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi detained as military seizes power, Now What?
Asia Pacific Focus

A military coup in Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi detained as military seizes power, Now What?

Monday early morning Myanmar woke up to detaining of its civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and senior leaders by the country’s powerful and authoritative military. This was followed by a declaration of emergency in Myanmar with power seize in the long-feared coup. 

Coup was accompanied with panic and uncertainty in air accompanied by internet and telecommunications blackout, closed banks and armed soldiers patrolling streets of Yangon, country’s largest city. Television was only tuning in to military-owned Myawaddy channel. It was like people of country were cut off from the rest of the world overnight. Just a few hours before new parliament’s first session was set to begin, Myawaddy channel announced that power was now in hands of army chief Min Aung Hlaing. Accompanied was news of detention of Suu Kyi and NLD or National League for Democracy leaders. The reason for coup is said to be November election voting irregularities, which had shown NLD’s victory with 83% votes. 

The past few weeks had seen political tensions in Myanmar that were worsening over time. A military coup was imminent and feared. 

World leaders have condemned the coup with the US calling on military leaders of Myanmar to “release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people.” 

Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing is under US sanctions since December 2019 over human rights abuses against the Rohingya Muslim community. Hlaing’s office has released a statement that after the voter list is investigated and revised, elections will take place. The statement said, “A free and fair multiparty general elections will be held and then, state responsibilities will be handed over to the winning party meeting norms and standards of democracy.”

Military coup has brought back old memories of oppressive military control of over 50 years with a shudder, before democracy was brought in 2011. Monday would have been the second term commencement of Suu Kyi’s government after she came to power in 2015 after a fair and open election. November re-election with a major win led to fear of coup by military that has always been controlling, even from behind the scene. 

Military has made it clear that it would hold power for a year during which there will be a state of emergency in Myanmar. But people will not be willing to go under military control again, that is for sure according to experts. The timing is in favor of military. 

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Gerard McCarthy, a postdoctoral fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute says, “Seizing power for a year as it has announced will isolate non-Chinese international partners, harm the military’s commercial interests and provoke escalating resistance from millions of people who placed Suu Kyi and the NLD in power for in another term of government.” 

Experts believe that the situation in Myanmar can still be solved through negotiation. The key aim of this coup is to improve the military’s public standing, but citing the public’s outlook it seems highly unlikely. Downhill would be if protests start in Myanmar, which will be straight civic unrest and catastrophe at hands of the military with a track record of human rights abuses. 

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