US Warns Russia Not To Divert Power From Ukraine Nuclear Plant

In this file photo taken on April 27, 2022 a general view shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, situated in the Russian-controlled area of Enerhodar, seen from Nikopol. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)
In this file photo taken on April 27, 2022 a general view shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, situated in the Russian-controlled area of Enerhodar, seen from Nikopol. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

 

Washington on Thursday warned Russia against diverting energy from a nuclear plant Kyiv says was cut off from its grid, as calls for an independent inspection of the facility mount.

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is under occupation by Moscow’s troops and was disconnected from the national power supply on Thursday, the state energy operator said.

The United States cautioned Russia against redirecting energy from the site.

“The electricity that it produces rightly belongs to Ukraine and any attempt to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid and redirect to occupied areas is unacceptable,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

“No country should turn a nuclear power plant into an active war zone and we oppose any Russian efforts to weaponise or divert energy from the plant.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Ukraine had informed it the plant temporarily lost connection — “further underlining the urgent need for an IAEA expert mission to travel to the facility”.

“We can’t afford to lose any more time. I’m determined to personally lead an IAEA mission to the plant in the next few days,” the organisation’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre urged Russia to agree to a demilitarised zone around the plant and “allow the IAEA to visit as soon as possible to check on the safety.”

The Zaporizhzhia plant — Europe’s largest nuclear facility — has been occupied by Russian troops in southern Ukraine since the opening weeks of the war, and remained on the frontlines ever since.

Recently Moscow and Kyiv have traded blame for shelling around the complex, a “highly volatile” development the IAEA says “underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russian actions around the plant as a menace.

“Russia has put Ukrainians as well as all Europeans one step away from radiation disaster,” he said in his nightly address.

President Joe Biden, in a telephone call with Zelensky, called for Russia to return full control of the plant and let in UN nuclear inspectors, the White House said.

Zelensky said earlier on Thursday he had spoken with Biden and thanked him for the United States’ “unwavering” support.

“We discussed Ukraine’s further steps on our path to the victory over the aggressor and importance of holding Russia accountable for war crimes”, Zelensky said on Twitter.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to increase the headcount of his country’s army to more than two million, including 1.15 million servicemen, from next January, according to the document published on a government portal.

Putin last set the army headcount in 2017 at around 1.9 million people with 1.01 million soldiers.

Ukraine state operator Energoatom said the Zaporizhzhiaplant was severed from the national network after a power line was twice disconnected by ash pit fires in an adjacent thermal power plant.

The three other power lines “were earlier damaged during terrorist attacks” by Russian forces, the operator said.

“The actions of the invaders caused a complete disconnection of the (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant) from the power grid — the first in the history of the plant,” Energoatom added on Telegram.

It added that “start-up operations are under way to connect one of the reactors to the network”.

Kyiv officials have said they believe Moscow has seized the station in order to divert power to the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Energoatom could not be immediately reached for comment on whether the supply had been diverted, the cause of the ash pit fires, or the number of those without electricity.

However, the mayor of the city of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov said “Russian occupiers cut off the electricity in almost all occupied settlements of Zaporizhzhia”.

Independence day deaths

Meanwhile on Thursday the death toll from an air strike on a train station in central Ukraine rose to 25, as the EU warned those “responsible for Russian rocket terror will be held accountable”.

Russia issued a counter-claim saying it targeted soldiers and killed 200 Ukrainian servicemen in the attack Wednesday on a rail hub in Chaplyne city of the Dnipropetrovsk region.

The attack struck six months to the day since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine and also on the day Ukraine celebrated its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union.

On Thursday, state rail operator Ukrainian Railways said the toll had risen overnight from 22 to 25, and included two children with a further 31 people injured.

In a daily press briefing, Moscow’s defence ministry said the train was “en route to combat zones” in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, which Russia seeks to fully control.

But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell “strongly” condemned “another heinous attack by Russia on civilians”.

The UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown said the strike “is just one more example of the level of suffering that this war is causing the people of Ukraine”.

Ukraine claimed Thursday to have repatriated 53 children it said were illegally taken to Russia for adoption but gave no details about the operation.

AFP

Convicted Murderer Executed In US After Governor Denies Clemency

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A 50-year-old convicted murderer was executed in Oklahoma on Thursday after the governor rejected a recommendation of clemency from the pardon board of the central US state.

James Coddington was put to death by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in McAlester, prison officials said.

The execution began at 10:02 am and Coddington was pronounced dead 14 minutes later, said Scott Crow, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

He said there were “absolutely no issues.”

“The execution today went in accordance with the protocol with no issues at all,” Crow said.

READ ALSO: US GDP Contracted 0.6 Percent In Q2, Less Than Initial Report

A botched procedure forced Oklahoma to temporarily halt executions in 2015 but they resumed in October of last year.

Coddington was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of a friend, 73-year-old Albert Hale, who had refused to give him money for drugs.

Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency for Coddington but it was denied on Wednesday by Governor Kevin Stitt.

Coddington was the 10th person executed in the United States this year.

AFP

US GDP Contracted 0.6 Percent In Q2, Less Than Initial Report

Shipping containers are stored at the Port Newark Container Terminal in Newark, New Jersey, on July 21, 2022. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)
Shipping containers are stored at the Port Newark Container Terminal in Newark, New Jersey, on July 21, 2022. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)

 

The American economy contracted in the April-June quarter but not as much as initially reported, as revised data showed stronger US exports and spending, according to government data released Thursday.

Second quarter GDP fell 0.6 percent, annualized, less than the 0.9 percent drop the Commerce Department announced in the initial estimate last month.

Coming after the steep 1.6 percent contraction in the first quarter, the data still feeds concerns about a recession in the world’s largest economy, which is often defined as two quarters of negative growth.

But many economists have argued that definition does not apply to the current situation, given that the very strong labor market and resilient US consumer mean the downturn is not widespread throughout the economy.

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics notes that incomes also increased in the latest quarter, which bodes well for continued upward revisions to the data.

“We are reasonably confident that when the comprehensive revisions are published in October, the declines in GDP in Q1 and Q2 will be revised away,” he said.

The report said the upward revision in the most recent data “primarily reflected an upturn in exports and a smaller decrease in federal government spending,” as well as higher consumer spending.

“The increase in consumer spending reflected an increase in services (led by food services and accommodations),” the report said.

 

AFP

Biden Announces ‘$10,000’ Student Debt Relief For Americans

US President Joe Biden announces student loan relief on August 24, 2022 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Biden announced that most US university graduates still trying to pay off student loans will get $10,000 of relief to address a decades-old headache of massive educational debt across the country. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)
US President Joe Biden announces student loan relief on August 24, 2022 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Biden announced that most US university graduates still trying to pay off student loans will get $10,000 of relief to address a decades-old headache of massive educational debt across the country. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

 

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that most Americans trying to pay off university loans will get $10,000 forgiven in a bid to address the decades-old headache of massive educational debt across the country.

“In keeping with my campaign promise, my administration is announcing a plan to give working and middle class families breathing room,” Biden said in a statement issued less than three months before midterm congressional elections, where the issue is seen as a vote winner for Democrats.

In a speech from the White House later, Biden called the assistance “a game changer.”

“All this means people can finally start crawling out of that mountain of debt,” he said. “When this happens, the whole economy is better off.”

The proposed debt relief falls far short of some Democrats’ goal of securing complete forgiveness, but is opposed by Republicans who argue that shaving any amount from loans is unfair to those who have already spent years saving to pay off their own debts.

There was also immediate debate over whether effectively giving millions of people a cash injection will stoke already rampant inflation.

Jason Furman, formerly the chief economic advisor in Barack Obama’s White House, tweeted that “pouring roughly half trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless.”

Biden acknowledged he was “not going to make everybody happy” but defended the move as “economically responsible” and said studies showed there’d be no “meaningful effect on inflation.”

The White House was unable to say how much the debt cancellations would cost, explaining that the amount will depend on how many people take up the deal.

At Howard University, a historically Black college, journalism student Amarie Betancourt said, “If everything goes through, that would be absolutely amazing.”

Noting that Biden had promised student debt relief when he was running for the presidency, Betancourt, 20, said, “I think that’s why a lot of people my age and within my generation voted for him.”

$1.6 trillion debt

US colleges can often cost anywhere between $10,000 and $70,000 a year, leaving some graduates with crushing debt as they enter the workforce.

According to government estimates, the average debt for US college students when they graduate is $25,000, a sum many require years or even decades to pay back.

In total, some 45 million borrowers nationwide owe a collective $1.6 trillion, according to the White House.

Government data shows that 21 percent of borrowers eligible for relief are under 25 years old, but that more than a third are 40 or older, with five percent still holding college debt in old age.

Under the relief plan, $10,000 will be cut from all loans owed by people earning a salary of less than $125,000. For students who went to university with need-based government assistance known as Pell grants, the relief will be $20,000.

In all cases, the forgiveness will apply to students or former students who apply, rather than being automatic. The program is also only valid for people whose loans were taken out prior to June 30 of this year.

Meanwhile, a moratorium on loan repayments that was instituted during the Covid-19 pandemic will be extended to the end of the year, with installments restarting on December 31 — reintroducing a revenue stream that Biden said would help offset the cost of the forgiveness program.

“It’s going to be billions of dollars a month in payments coming into the federal government,” Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council, told reporters.

‘Giant step forward’

The plan was announced after months of consideration in the White House on how to thread the needle on an issue that has bedeviled successive administrations.

Biden has been under heavy pressure for months from the senior Senate Democrat, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and lawmakers from the left of the party to take action.

“With the flick of a pen, President Biden has taken a giant step forward in addressing the student debt crisis by cancelling significant amounts of student debt for millions of borrowers,” Schumer said in a joint statement with leading liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“The positive impacts of this move will be felt by families across the country, particularly in minority communities.”

But Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel called the plan a “bailout for the wealthy.”

“As hardworking Americans struggle with soaring costs and a recession, Biden is giving a handout to the rich,” she said.

“Biden’s bailout unfairly punishes Americans who saved for college or made a different career choice, and voters see right through this short-sighted, poorly veiled vote-buy.”

AFP

Biden’s COVID-19 Advisor Anthony Fauci To Step Down

A combo image showing Anthony Fauci and Joe Biden

 

President Joe Biden’s Covid advisor Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert who became the face of the country’s fight against the pandemic, announced Monday that he will step down in December.

Fauci said in a statement he would be leaving both his position as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and that of chief medical advisor to Biden — though he added: “I am not retiring.”

The 81-year-old, who previously disclosed plans to leave by the end of Biden’s current term, announced he would go in December to “pursue the next chapter of my career.”

Biden extended his “deepest thanks” to Fauci in a White House statement.

“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved,” the president said, adding that the country is “is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him.”

READ ALSO: US Governor Visits Taiwan After China Drills

Fauci has helmed the United States’ response to infectious disease outbreaks since the 1980s, from HIV/AIDS to Covid-19, and has served under seven presidents.

When Covid first spread globally from China in 2020, he became a trusted source of reliable information, reassuring the public with his calm and professorial demeanor during frequent media appearances.

But his honest takes on America’s early failures to get to grips with the virus brought Fauci into conflict with former president Donald Trump, and turned the physician-scientist into a hated figure for some on the right.

Fauci now lives with security protection after his family received death threats and harassment.

Biden said that after winning the 2020 election, as he was trying to build a team to lead the Covid-19 response, Fauci was “one of my first calls.”

“In that role, I’ve been able to call him at any hour of the day for his advice as we’ve tackled this once-in-a-generation pandemic,” the president stated.

AFP

US Governor Visits Taiwan After China Drills

This handout picture taken and released by Taiwan’s Presidential Office on August 22, 2022 shows Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (R) speaking with Eric Holcomb (L), the Republican governor of the US state of Indiana, during a meeting at the Presidential Office in Taipei. (Photo by Handout / TAIWAN’S PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE / AFP)
This handout picture taken and released by Taiwan’s Presidential Office on August 22, 2022 shows Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (R) speaking with Eric Holcomb (L), the Republican governor of the US state of Indiana, during a meeting at the Presidential Office in Taipei. (Photo by Handout / TAIWAN’S PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE / AFP)

 

A US state governor met Taiwan’s president Monday, days after Washington announced trade talks with Taipei in a show of support following China’s military threats towards the self-ruled island.

Eric Holcomb, the Republican governor of Indiana, landed in Taiwan on Sunday for an “economic development trip”.

US-China tensions have risen since Beijing staged huge military drills in retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this month.

Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by China, which claims the democratic island as part of its territory to be seized one day — by force if necessary.

Beijing lashes out at any diplomatic action that might lend Taiwan legitimacy and has responded with growing fury to visits by Western officials and politicians.

In her meeting with Holcomb on Monday, President Tsai Ing-wen directly referenced Beijing’s drills and called for like-minded countries to continue supporting Taiwan.

“Presently we are facing the continued expansion of global authoritarianism,” she told Holcomb.

“Taiwan has been confronted by military threats from China in and around the Taiwan Strait. At this moment democratic allies must stand together and boost cooperation across all areas,” she said.

Holcomb said the United States and Taiwan “share so many common values and interests and goals”.

“We will continue to seek to build a strategic partnership with you,” he said.

Holcomb is also expected to meet representatives of Taiwan’s world-leading semiconductor industry before leaving on Wednesday for South Korea.

Alongside South Korea, Taiwan makes some of the world’s smallest and most advanced computer chips — a commodity that is vital for electronics but in short supply worldwide.

The United States is keen to encourage Taiwanese companies to build chip foundries on American soil to diversify supply chains, something Tsai also referenced on Monday.

“Taiwan is willing and able to strengthen cooperation with democratic partners in building sustainable supply chain for democracy chips,” she said.

Holcomb’s visit comes on the heels of the announcement of trade talks between Washington and Taipei in the coming months as a senior US diplomat warned Beijing would continue to put pressure on Taiwan.

China has lashed out at the plans for business talks with Washington — though it also has multiple trade deals of its own with Taiwan, signed during years when their relations were warmer.

AFP

US Strike Kills 13 Al-Shabaab Fighters –  Pentagon

This undated US Air Force file photo released on June 20, 2019 shows a photo of a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.  Handout / US AIR FORCE / AFP

 

The Pentagon said Wednesday that US forces killed 13 fighters of the al-Shabaab militant group in an airstrike in Somalia.

The strike took place on August 14 near Teedaan in the central-southern part of the country while Shabaab fighters were attacking Somali National Army forces, the Pentagon’s Africa Command said in a statement.

“US forces are authorized to conduct strikes in defense of designated partner forces,” the statement said.

It said that an initial assessment of the strike showed that no civilians were injured or killed.

READ ALSOEgypt Judge Sentenced To Death For Wife’s Murder

Last week US forces killed four Shabaab members in a strike in the same region.

Al-Shabaab, which the United States labels a terrorist group, has led an insurrection against Somalia’s federal government for 15 years.

The group controls swathes of the countryside and frequently strikes civilian and military targets.

In May, President Joe Biden ordered the re-establishment of a US troop presence in Somalia to help local authorities combat Al-Shabaab, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw most US forces.

AFP

Biden Signs Major Climate Change, Healthcare Law

U.S. President Joe Biden (C) signs The Inflation Reduction Act with (L-R) Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Kathy Catsor (D-FL) in the State Dining Room of the White House August 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden (C) signs The Inflation Reduction Act with (L-R) Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Kathy Catsor (D-FL) in the State Dining Room of the White House August 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed into law a big climate change and health care spending bill, giving Democrats another boost ahead of midterm elections in which Republicans are suddenly less certain of their predicted crushing victory.

The law, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, was touted by the White House as the biggest commitment to mitigating climate change in US history, as well as targeting long sought changes in the way medicines are priced, while adding fairness to the tax system, with a minimum 15 percent tax for corporations.

“A nation can be transformed. That’s what’s happening now,” Biden said in a White House speech likely to form the basis of his campaign ahead of the November polls, where Republicans have hoped to end Democrats’ narrow control of Congress.

“It’s about tomorrow,” Biden said. “It’s about delivering progress and prosperity to American families. It’s about showing America and the American people that democracy still works in America.”

While the sprawling bill is a fraction of the gargantuan package Biden originally tried and failed to get through Congress, the fact he was able to sign even the scaled-back version marked a political resurrection — a success Democrats now hope might fuel a comeback at the ballot box later this year.

Under the plan, the government will spend about $370 billion on green energy initiatives while also allowing the state-run Medicare system to negotiate prices for prescription drugs, a popular measure designed to cut the often ruinous prices Americans are forced to pay.

Although the Republican National Committee called a provision to subsidize electric vehicle purchases a “scam,” the Sierra Club, an environmental lobbying group, praised what it called a bold step in the struggle against an overheating planet.

“This day will be remembered by future generations as the turning of the tide against the fossil fuel industry and toward a healthier, cleaner, and more just future for all people across this country,” Sierra Club president Ramon Cruz said.

The law’s massive cost will be covered in large part by closing numerous tax loopholes and enforcing a new 15 percent minimum tax on corporations — a measure Biden has long promised to his base as a way to get the wealthy to “pay part of their fair share.”

Democratic resurgence, Republican disarray?

Battered by outrage over the chaotic final exit of US troops from Afghanistan, stubborn Covid waves, and the highest inflation in 40 years, the Biden administration has had a rough last 12 months.

Adding to the left’s gloom, opposition from just two center-right Democratic senators has repeatedly doomed party attempts to make use of a razor thin advantage in the Senate.

Opinion polls show Republicans likely to get a healthy majority in the House of Representatives and possibly also win the Senate.

This could effectively turn Biden into a lame duck for the rest of his first term, with Republicans shutting down his legislative agenda and subjecting government officials to aggressive probes by congressional committees.

The last few weeks, however, have seen a momentum shift.

Republicans are embroiled in the scandal over former president Donald Trump’s alleged illegal hoarding of top secret documents at his Florida golf club.

Meanwhile, Biden has scored a series of victories, allowing the White House to project a message that Democrats are focused on helping ordinary people.

In addition to the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress has passed the first meaningful gun safety legislation in three decades, a government-financed plan to rebuild the anemic US microchip industry, and a bill expanding health care for military veterans exposed to toxic smoke.

Coming on top of wins early in his presidency to pour billions of dollars into supporting the pandemic-hit economy and transforming national infrastructure spending, this amounts to a serious legacy, Biden argued.

“I know there are those here today who hold a dark and despairing view of this country. I’m not one of them,” he said.

The new climate and health care law — opposed by every single Republican member of Congress — meant “the American people won and the special interests lost,” Biden said.

“That’s the choice we face: we can protect the already powerful or show the courage to build a future where everybody has an even shot. That’s the America I believe in.”

AFP

China Conducts Fresh Drills Around Taiwan As US Lawmakers Visit

In this file photo, Chinese military helicopters fly past Pingtan island, one of mainland China’s closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022, ahead of massive military drills off Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

 

China staged fresh military drills around Taiwan on Monday, slamming a new visit by United States lawmakers to the island days after a similar trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi triggered a furious response from Beijing.

The unannounced two-day trip by senior members of Congress prompted China to renew its rhetoric that it would “prepare for war” over Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy that Beijing’s leaders claim and have vowed to one day seize.

The five-member congressional delegation — led by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts — met with President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday, according to Washington’s de facto embassy in Taipei.

“The delegation had an opportunity to exchange views with Taiwan counterparts on a wide range of issues of importance to both the United States and Taiwan,” it said.

Tsai told the lawmakers she wants “to maintain a stable status quo across the Taiwan Strait” and “jointly maintain the prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific region”, her office said in a statement.

READ ALSOExecuted Myanmar Prisoners Deserved ‘Many Death Sentences’- Junta

She said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrated “the threat that authoritarian states pose to the world order”, according to her office, and also thanked Washington for its support in the face of Chinese military threats.

The bipartisan trip sparked another bellicose response from Beijing, which said it had carried out a fresh round of “combat readiness patrol and combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan island” on Monday.

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army continues to train and prepare for war, resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely crush any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatism and foreign interference attempts,” Wu Qian, a spokesman for China’s defense ministry, said.

“We warn the US and the DPP authorities: ‘Using Taiwan to contain China’ is doomed to failure,” he added, referring to Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

In a defiant response, Taiwan’s defence ministry vowed to face the latest drills “calmly and seriously and defend national security”.

“Apart from expressing condemnation (of China’s drills), the Ministry of National Defence will comprehensively grasp the movements in the sea and airspace around the Taiwan Strait,” the ministry said.

It added that its forces had detected 30 Chinese planes and five ships operating around the strait on Monday. Of those, 15 planes crossed the median line — an unofficial demarcation that Beijing does not recognise.

Monday’s drills followed days of huge exercises around Taiwan in the wake of Pelosi’s visit, which saw Beijing send warships, missiles and jets into the waters and skies near the island.

Taipei condemned those drills and missile tests as preparation for an invasion.

China’s Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan but says it will use force if necessary to take the island and bristles at any perceived treatment of it as a sovereign nation state.

 ‘Evil Neighbour’ 

That decades-old threat was reiterated in a white paper published last week, when China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said it would “not renounce the use of force” against its neighbour and reserved “the option of taking all necessary measures”.

Taipei has remained defiant throughout the standoff with Beijing, with Premier Su Tseng-chang saying the island welcomed “all countries and friends across the world” who want to support it.

“We shouldn’t be too afraid to do anything, afraid to let visitors come and afraid to let our friends come, just because we have an evil neighbour next door,” he said.

Foreign minister Joseph Wu struck a similar tone after meeting the US delegation on Monday.

“Authoritarian China can’t dictate how democratic Taiwan makes friends, wins support, stays resilient and shines like a beacon of freedom,” Wu said in a tweet.

Pelosi has stood by her visit which, combined with Beijing’s response, sent tensions in the Taiwan Strait soaring to their highest in decades.

President Joe Biden said the US military was opposed to the trip by his fellow Democrat, who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president.

Congress is constitutionally an equal branch of government in the United States, with lawmakers free to travel where they wish, and Taiwan enjoys bipartisan backing in divided Washington.

The United States switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. But it remains a key ally of Taiwan and maintains de facto diplomatic relations with Taipei.

Washington’s official policy opposes both Taiwan declaring independence and China forcibly changing the island’s status.

It remains deliberately ambiguous about whether it would come to Taiwan’s aid militarily if China invaded.

Visits by senior US officials to Taiwan have happened for decades and even Pelosi’s trip was not without precedent — then-speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich visited in 1997.

But the frequency and profile of US visits has increased both under former president Donald Trump and Biden.

Taiwan has also seen a flurry of delegations visit from Europe and other Western allies in recent years, partly in response to Beijing’s more aggressive stance under Chinese President Xi Jinping.

AFP

Five Major Chinese Firms To Delist From New York Stock Exchange

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on January 03, 2020 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

 

Five major Chinese companies including two of the country’s largest oil producers will delist from the New York Stock Exchange, the firms said in filings on Friday.

Sinopec and PetroChina — two of the world’s biggest energy firms — will apply for “voluntary delisting” of their American depositary shares, the companies said in separate statements.

The Aluminum Corporation of China, also known as Chalco, as well as China Life Insurance and a Shanghai-based Sinopec subsidiary, announced similar moves.

The delisting plans come as tensions between Beijing and Washington climb over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit last week to Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory.

READ ALSO: Taiwan Holds Military Drill After China Repeats Threats

Beijing has raged against the visit, staging unprecedented military drills around the self-ruled island and suspending cooperation with the United States on issues ranging from climate change to fighting drug smugglers.

The five companies are on a list of firms published by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that faced delisting from Wall Street if they did not comply with new audit requirements.

All five companies said in separate statements that they expected to stop trading on the NYSE by early September.

The new requirements came into effect late last year, at a time when Chinese authorities were expressing reservations about China-based companies listing in the United States.

The five companies on Friday all pointed to the costs of maintaining the US listings as well as the burden of complying with reporting obligations as factors behind the decision.

China’s securities regulator on Friday said the moves were made by the companies “out of their own business considerations”.

The delistings “will not affect the companies’ continued use of domestic and foreign capital markets for financing and development”, the regulator said in a statement.

Delisting fears

The US Congress in 2020 passed a law specifically targeting Chinese companies under which the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) must be able to inspect audits of foreign firms listed on US markets.

Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong companies are notorious for not submitting their financial statements to US-approved auditors.

The law therefore puts them at risk of delisting, and its implementation comes at a time when Chinese authorities have expressed reservations in recent months about China-based companies listing in the US.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is among the latest batch of firms added to the list of more than 250 companies at risk of delisting under the rules.

The market heavyweight saw its Hong Kong stocks sink earlier this month after it was put on the list, dragging the Hang Seng Tech Index with it.

In leaving the US market, Chinese companies are giving up an investor base like no other in the world — with $52.5 trillion in assets under management, compared to $7.1 trillion in China, according to a 2020 study by management consulting firm McKinsey and Company.

AFP

US Announces $1bn In New Arms Aid For Ukraine

In this file photo, US President Joe Biden (C) talks to service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Alliance’s Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, on March 25, 2022.  Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

The Pentagon announced Monday $1 billion in fresh military aid for Ukraine, including additional precision missiles for the Himars system that have helped Kyiv’s forces attack Russian troops far behind the front lines.

The package also includes more surface-to-air missiles for defense against Russian aircraft and rockets, more Javelin anti-armor rockets, and other ammunition, according to a statement from the US Department of Defense.

“These are all critical capabilities to help the Ukrainians repel the Russian offensive in the east, and also to address evolving developments in the south and elsewhere,” said Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl.

It took to $9.1 billion the amount of security assistance the United States has provided Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

READ ALSOChina’s Largest-Ever Taiwan Military Drills Draw To A Close

“The United States stands with allies and partners from more than 50 countries in providing vital security assistance to support Ukraine’s defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russia’s aggression,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We will continue to consult closely with Ukraine and surge additional available systems and capabilities, carefully calibrated to make a difference on the battlefield and strengthen Ukraine’s eventual position at the negotiating table,” Blinken said in a statement.

Separately, the World Bank announced Monday $4.5 billion in aid for Ukraine paid for by the United States.

The funds will help Kyiv pay for services and pensions, key to easing economic impacts of the Russian invasion, the bank said in a statement.

“This economic assistance is critical in supporting the Ukrainian people as they defend their democracy against Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

AFP

Biden Out Of Isolation After Testing Negative For COVID-19

In this file photo, US President Joe Biden speaks about supporting Ukrainians defending their country against Russia, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 28, 2022.  Jim WATSON / AFP

 

US President Joe Biden was out of isolation on Sunday, after testing negative for Covid for a second day in a row, the first time he was able to leave the White House since July 20.

Biden, 79, had tested positive for Covid and returned to isolation on July 30, in a result doctors attributed to “rebound” positivity from his earlier bout of the illness.

“I’m feeling good,” the smiling president told pool reporters at the White House as he boarded a helicopter which then flew him to his beach home in Delaware.

He was also optimistic about a sweeping climate and health care bill that was being debated in the Senate overnight Sunday, telling reporters: “I think it’s going to pass.”

READ ALSOUS Says Russia Will Fake Scene Around Mass POW Deaths To Blame Ukraine

The president “will safely return to public engagement and presidential travel,” his physician Kevin O’Connor said in a statement announcing the negative test.

According to Biden’s official schedule he is set to travel to the southern state of Kentucky, the scene of devastating floods, on Monday.

AFP