US Maintains Entry Restrictions Due To Rising Delta COVID-19 Cases

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 26, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

 

The United States said Monday it would maintain restrictions on international travel into the country, sidestepping European pressure, as cases rise of the Covid-19 Delta variant.

“We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

“The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and abroad,” she said.

She said the trend of rising cases appeared likely to continue “in the weeks ahead,” although she repeated that it mostly affected unvaccinated people.

READ ALSO: NYC Orders COVID-19 Vaccines Or Weekly Tests For All Public Workers

The United States has restricted travel from the European Union, Britain, China and Iran for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, later adding other countries including Brazil and India.

The European Union in June opened up to travelers from the United States, typically requiring proof of vaccination or negative tests, under pressure from tourism-dependent nations such as Greece, Spain and Italy that feared another troubled year.

EU leaders have asked the United States to show reciprocity and President Joe Biden on July 15 said he would have an answer on the issue “within the next several days” after appeals by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

AFP

Op-Ed: Strange Bedfellows Merge To Fight Insurgency In Nigeria

Mere connection with what is known as a superior race will not permanently carry an individual forward unless he has individual worth- Booker T Washington.

Nigeria’s political history is replete with failed alliances and mergers. While the first and second republics had their own share of unsuccessful mergers, the return to democracy in 1999 saw the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which had swept the South-west in earlier polls, align with the All Peoples Party, APP, that dominated elections in the North with the intention of beating PDP at the presidential poll. It gave the PDP a good fight but failed to win the election.

Similarly in 2007, about 15 parties came together and formed the Action Congress, AC, but the party made little or no impact in the presidential election.

Before the 2011 elections, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) attempted to join forces in order to field a joint presidential candidate to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP. The move fell like a pack of badly arranged cards when the parties could not reach an agreement on who to field.

After the 2011 elections, leaders of the merging parties kick-started another move and set up various committees. The highlight of the move was the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

However, recent goings on in the country has led to another ‘merger’, this time around in the security apparatchik of the country to capture and return peace to Nigeria. The formation of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to protect borders of Niger, Chad and Nigeria from the growing influence of Boko Haram insurgents was the first step taken in that direction. How that has fared is left for you to ponder upon.

Despite this effort, insurgents have burnt schools, killed students and attacked military formations numerous times without been confronted by either the Nigerian Army or MNJTF when they fled Nigeria to seek safety in neighbouring countries. That is not to say they have never been repelled by the forces, they have, just not as much as they have been successful in carrying out their attacks.

The last straw that drew global attention was the abduction of over 200 girls from a secondary school in the north eastern town of Chibok in Borno state. This incident gave birth to another merger, with due respect to all parties involved, bound to fail, unless the modus operandi is changed.

Following the #BringBackOurGirls protests in and outside Nigeria, world powers- United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Israel- offered to ‘merge’ with Nigerian military officers and combine efforts in fighting Boko Haram and rescuing the abducted girls, whose number now stands at 219, from their abductors.

It is imperative to state that weeks into this ‘merger’ no head way has been made, rather high hopes dashed by the day as officers release conflicting situation reports.

First, it was alleged that satellite images failed to show movement of such a number (274) of people moving out of Nigeria, alleging that if indeed it happened, local material must have been used to cover the girls, making it impossible for modern technology to detect the movement.

Then there was the claim that a deal to swap the girls with detained suspected Boko Haram members was called off at the eleventh hour and the most bizarre and conflicting report on the location of the girls by the Nigerian and United States security officials.

Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh had told some protesters at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, that the military has information on the location of the girls but would tread softly to get the students out by not using force to rescue them.

“We know what we are doing; we can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.

“If we are fighting an external war, they would have been begging us to withdraw”, he said, adding that the Nigerian Military has shown its abilities in civil war situations, making reference to its role in restoring democracy in Liberia and Sierra-Leone.

The CDS refused to give details of his statement that the military would not use force in its efforts to secure the release of the abducted girls but gave assurances that the war on terror would be won by the Nigerian military. “The President has empowered us to do the work”, he said.

However in a swift reaction, the United States said it does not have information that would support Nigeria’s claim that it knows the whereabouts of the kidnapped schoolgirls.

“We don’t have independent information from the United States to support that statement”, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“We, as a matter of policy and for the girls’ safety and well-being, would not discuss publicly this sort of information regardless.” She added.

Some Europeans also noted that as far as they knew, technical intelligence systems had not produced precise or credible information establishing the girls’ location.

The officials said that if the Nigerians had obtained such information from informants on the ground, it has not been shared with U.S. and allied agencies.

Badeh’s action reminds one of the struggle by merging political parties to outwit the others in the fight for the control and soul of the party they have merged to form. That might have worked out for political parties, but for the rescue effort, it is a fatal blow that will be celebrated in the enemy camp. It will give them more confidence to orchestrate more attacks as the (security) house is not in order.

Worthy of note is the fact that since world powers offered to help Nigeria in its fight against terror and the quest to rescue abducted school girls from the clutches of Boko Haram, there is no structure put in place (only if they have not made it public) by Nigeria, China, U.S, UK, France and Israel on how to go about engaging the insurgents.

Simply put, a five-pronged attack was launched against the insurgents without proper coordination amongst the attackers and a proper channel of sharing intel gathered.

This means the countries involved report to their countries and not to the established (if one exists) chain of command, just to outwit one another to claim the ultimate glory of who would find and successfully rescue the girls.

All parties involved must note that this is a very important mission that has drawn global attention and personal interests must be put aside to fight the common enemy, bring them to justice and rescue the abducted school girls

But most importantly, parties involved in this mission must display individual and collective worth or else their alliance will not move them out of the security quagmire they are fighting at the moment and could liken the situation to that of strange bedfellows coming together to retrieve what has been taken away by the identified opposition.

Despite the foregoing, I must thank the President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama and other national governments like United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, among others, currently assisting Nigeria to #BringBackOurGirls.

Victor Mathias writes from Lagos and tweets @victor_mbidi

 

 

 

U.S. Cannot Confirm Nigerian Claim To Have Located Kidnapped Girls

Women-protest-Chibok-girls-abductionThe United States said on Tuesday it does not have information that would support Nigeria’s claim that it knows the whereabouts of more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls, and U.S. and European officials voiced skepticism about the statement.

“We don’t have independent information from the United States to support” that statement, U.S. State Department spospokeswoman, Jen Psaki told reporters. “We, as a matter of policy and for the girls’ safety and well being, would not discuss publicly this sort of information regardless.”

Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, said on Monday that the country’s military knew the location of the schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram Islamic militant group on April 14.

Five U.S. and European security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to Reuters, said they had no credible information on the location of the girls and were skeptical that the Nigerian government knew where they were.

The five officials said the United States and some European allies had provided technical intelligence, including information from spy aircraft and satellites, to Nigerian authorities.

But the officials said that as far as they knew technical intelligence systems had not produced precise or credible information establishing the girls’ location.

The five officials said that if the Nigerians had obtained such information from informants on the ground, it has not been shared with U.S. and allied agencies.

One impediment to finding the girls, the officials said, was that since their abduction seven weeks ago they had been divided into small groups.

Boko Haram is also believed to be hiding them in densely forested terrain where it would be hard for modern technical intelligence systems to gather information.

Thailand’s Coup Leaders Detain Former PM Yingluck

yingluck-shinawatraAs the army seeks to tighten its grip on power, Thailand’s ex-Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra and some members of her family have been detained.

Ms Yingluck and scores of politicians from the deposed government had been told to report to a Bangkok army base.

She was kept for several hours and then driven to an undisclosed location.

Army Chief General, Prayuth Chanocha also met key officials, telling them reform must come before any elections.

Senior government officials and the caretaker prime minister arrived at an army facility in Bangkok on Friday; after Thailand’s military leaders summoned them to a meeting.

Military leaders also summoned ousted Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to the meeting; a day after Army Chief, Prayuth Chanocha seized power in a bloodless coup and said he wanted to restore order following months of turmoil.

Prayuth launched his coup after the various factions refused to give ground in a struggle for power between the royalist establishment and a populist government that had raised fears of serious violence and damaged Thailand’s economy.

Soldiers detained politicians from both sides when Prayuth announced the military takeover, which drew swift international condemnation, after talks he was presiding over broke down.

The U.S. Department of State Spokesperson, Jen Psaki, in his condemnation said: “At this point what we are doing is we are reviewing our military and other assistance to the government of Thailand. We’ve taken preliminary steps to suspend military engagement and assistance while we consider the facts on the ground.

“This is a standard part of the process that would take place. So right now there is a comprehensive review of that going on. The State Department and USAID provide approximately 10 million dollars annually in bilateral assistance to Thailand only a portion of which is assistance to the Thai government.”

The military censored the media, dispersed rival protesters in Bangkok and imposed a nationwide 10P.M. to 5A.M. curfew.

US Says Russia Is Making Crimea Diplomacy More Difficult

State Department Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki addresses reporters.
State Department Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, addresses reporters.

The United States said on Tuesday, March 11 that Russia’s responses to U.S. proposals to end the crisis in Ukraine do not create the environment for a diplomatic resolution.

Russia’s bloodless seizure of the Crimea region of Ukraine has brought U.S.-Russian relations to one of their lowest points since the Cold War, with the United States searching for a way to keep Russia from annexing Crimea and its Russian naval base.

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry spoke to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday morning to discuss a series of questions that Washington put to Moscow over the weekend in an effort to find a diplomatic solution, the State Department said.

“He (Kerry) also reiterated his willingness to continue to engage with Foreign Minister Lavrov, including this week, but that the environment has to be right and the goal must be to protect the immunity and sovereignty of Ukraine and we didn’t see that, obviously, in the responses that we received back,” State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki told reporters.

Psaki said that Russia gave its response to the questions on Monday (March 10).

On Monday, the State Department held out the possibility that Kerry might travel to Russia this week but that it needed to know whether Moscow would engage on a diplomatic solution.

While the spokeswoman said Kerry was still open to going to Russia before Sunday’s (March 16) planned referendum in Crimea on whether to join Russia — a poll the United States sees as illegitimate — her comments suggested such a trip was now unlikely.

Kerry told Lavrov “any further escalatory steps will make the window for diplomacy more difficult;” Psaki said, adding that he also said that “it is unacceptable that Russian forces and irregulars continue to take matters into their own hands.”