Maina’s Son Has Fled To U.S.A, EFCC’s Lawyer Tells Court

A file photo of Faisal Maina during his arraignment at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has alerted a Federal High Court in Abuja that Faisal Maina, son of the former chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina is on the run to the United States Of America (USA).

Faisal, who is standing trial on charges of money laundering, had jumped bail refusing to attend trial since November 24, 2020.

At the resumed trial, the lawyer to the anti-graft agency, Mohammed Abubakar told the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, that from the information at the disposal of the commission, Faisal Maina sneaked to the USA through the Republic of Niger despite his Nigerian and American passports still with the registry of the court.

READ ALSO: Three Chinese Nationals Kidnapped, Police Escort Killed In Osun

“We have a bench warrant of the court for the arrest of the defendant and his apprehension before the court.

“We have been making serious efforts to execute the bench warrant but it has met challenges. The defendant has absconded to the USA,” EFCC lawyer told the court.

Faisal Maina’s lawyer, Anayo Adibe however disputed the claim of the prosecution as he insists that his client was arrested by the Nigeria Police Force in Sokoto. He urged the court to open an inquiry as to the true whereabouts of his client.

“The defendant personally called me the day he was taken into custody in Sokoto. Since then, every effort made to reach the defendant has been abortive. His phones are switched off.

“We are afraid for his life. We urge the court to cause an inquiry into the whereabouts of the defendant,” Adibe told the court.

Earlier in the course of the sitting, Justice Abang, in a committal proceeding, ordered Faisal’s surety, who is a member of the House of Representatives, Sani Dan-Galadima representing Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, to forfeit a N60million  property used as a bail bond.

The further trial has been adjourned to March 31, 2021.

Trailblazer Kamala Harris: America’s First Woman Vice President

FILES) In this file photo taken on January 4, 2021 US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff take a selfie with the owners of Floriana, an Italian restaurant that has been in business over 40 years, during a visit to support the local establishment amid the Covid-19 pandemic, near Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.
Eric BARADAT / AFP

 

Kamala Harris will shatter one of the highest glass ceilings Wednesday when she takes the oath of office as America’s first woman vice president, blazing a trail in the most diverse White House ever.

As running mate to incoming president Joe Biden, she helped bring Donald Trump’s turbulent rule to an end, rapping him during the campaign for his chaotic handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, last year’s unrest over racial injustice and his crackdown on immigration.

Harris, 56, enters the post already forging a unique path, as California’s first Black attorney general and the first woman of South Asian heritage elected to the US Senate.

As vice president, she will be a heartbeat away from leading the United States.

With Biden, 78, expected to serve only a single term, Harris would be favored to win the Democratic nomination in 2024, giving her a shot at more history-making — as America’s first female president.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” Harris said in a speech on November 7, her first after US networks projected Biden and Harris as the winners over Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump bitterly contested the results, peddling the lie that the Democrats only won due to massive election fraud.

During the campaign he routinely attacked Harris, branding her a “monster” after her October vice presidential debate with Pence. When asked about it my reporters, Harris curtly dismissed the president: “I don’t comment on his childish remarks.”

While Harris pushed back fiercely during the campaign, in the past two months she rose above the fray, pivoting to plans she and Biden are unveiling to help struggling families and fix a reeling economy.

“The first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration will focus on getting control of this pandemic — ensuring vaccines are distributed equitably and free for all,” she tweeted Tuesday.

 

US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks after US President-elect Joe Biden nominated their science team on January 16, 2021, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. 
ANGELA WEISS / AFP

– The decider –

While the vice president’s job is often seen as ceremonial, Harris will also be thrust into the powerful role of ultimate decider in the US Senate.

Thanks to two shock Democratic run-off victories this month in Georgia, the Senate will be evenly split, 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

That means Harris may spend considerable time on Capitol Hill acting as the tie-breaking vote on legislation on anything from judicial nominees to Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan.

Harris was born to immigrants to the United States — her father from Jamaica, her mother from India — and their lives and her own have in some ways embodied the American dream.

She was born on October 20, 1964 in Oakland, California, then a hub for civil rights and anti-war activism.

Her diploma from historically Black Howard University in Washington was the start of a steady rise that took her from prosecutor, to two elected terms as San Francisco’s district attorney and then California’s attorney general in 2010.

However, Harris’s self-description as a “progressive prosecutor” has been seized upon by critics who say she fought to uphold wrongful convictions and opposed certain reforms in California, like a bill requiring that the attorney general probe shootings involving police.

Yet Harris’s work was key to molding a platform and profile from which she launched a successful US Senate campaign in 2016, becoming just the second Black female senator ever.

Her stint as an attorney general also helped her forge a connection with Biden’s son Beau, who held the same position in Delaware, and died of cancer in 2015.

“I know how much Beau respected Kamala and her work, and that mattered a lot to me, to be honest with you, as I made this decision,” Biden said during his first appearance with Harris as running mates.

 

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE – JANUARY 16: U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an announcement January 16, 2021 at the Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. President-elect Joe Biden has announced key members of his incoming White House science team. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP
ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

– ‘I’m speaking’ –

Harris oozes charisma but can quickly pivot from her broad smile to a prosecutorial persona of relentless interrogation and cutting retorts.

Clips went viral of her sharp questioning in 2017 of then-attorney general Jeff Sessions during a hearing on Russia, and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh the following year.

Harris also clashed with Biden during the first Democratic debate, chiding the former senator over his opposition to 1970s busing programs that forced integration of segregated schools.

“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”

That showdown did not stop him from picking Harris, who brought that feisty energy to Biden’s carefully stage-managed campaign.

During her only debate against Pence, Harris raised her hand as he tried to interrupt her.

“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking. I’m speaking,” she said with a glare.

Harris has no children of her own. But she claims the role of “momala” to the son and daughter of her husband Doug Emhoff.

Emhoff, a lawyer, will become the first-ever US “second gentleman,” and the first Jewish spouse of a US vice president.

As for her mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a scientist born in India who immigrated at 19, “maybe she didn’t quite imagine this moment,” Harris said in her November speech.

“But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible.”

-AFP

US Removes Sudan From Terrorism Sponsor Blacklist

A Sudanese man waves a banner showing the national flag colours of Sudan during a protest in the capital Khartoum. PHOTO: Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP

 

The United States has formally removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist, its Khartoum embassy said on Monday, less than two months after the East African nation pledged to normalise ties with Israel. 

The move opens the way for aid, debt relief, and investment to a country going through a rocky political transition and struggling under a severe economic crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

US President Donald Trump had announced in October that he was delisting Sudan, 27 years after Washington first put the country on its blacklist for harbouring Islamist militants.

READ ALSO: Six Killed, 24 Abducted In DR Congo Attack

“The congressional notification period of 45 days has lapsed and the Secretary of State has signed a notification stating rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation,” the US embassy said on Facebook, adding that the measure “is effective as of today”.

In response to the move, Sudan’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — who doubles as the head of the Sovereign Council, the country’s highest executive authority — offered his “congratulations to the Sudanese people”.

“It was a task accomplished… in the spirit of the December revolution”, he said on Twitter, referring to a landmark month in 2018 when protests erupted against dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir was deposed by the military in April 2019, four months into the demonstrations against his iron-fisted rule and 30 years after an Islamist-backed coup had brought him to power.

 

– ‘Global siege lifted’ –

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also welcomed Washington’s move in a post on Facebook, noting that it means “our beloved country… (is) relieved from the international and global siege” provoked by Bashir’s behaviour.

The removal of the designation “contributes to reforming the economy, attracting investments and remittances of our citizens abroad through official channels” and creates new job opportunities for youth, the premier said.

As part of a deal, Sudan agreed to pay $335 million to compensate survivors and victims’ families from the twin 1998 al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and a 2000 attack by the jihadist group on the USS Cole off Yemen’s coast.

Those attacks were carried out after Bashir had allowed then al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden sanctuary in Sudan.

Sudan in October became the third Arab country in as many months to pledge that it would normalise relations with Israel, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The transitional government’s pledge came amid a concerted campaign by the Trump administration to persuade Arab nations to recognise the Jewish state, and it has been widely perceived as a quid pro quo for Washington removing Sudan from its terror blacklist.

But unlike the UAE and Bahrain, Sudan has yet to agree a formal deal with Israel, amid wrangling within the fractious transitional power structure over the move.

 

– Cracks in transition –

The first major evidence of engagement between Sudan’s interim authorities and Israel came in February when Burhan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda.

In late November, a spokesman for the Sovereign Council, comprised of military and civilian figures, confirmed that an Israeli delegation had visited Khartoum earlier in the month.

Seeking to downplay the visit, council spokesman Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman had said “we did not announce it at the time because it was not a major visit or of a political nature”.

Sudan’s transition has lately displayed signs of internal strain. Burhan last week blasted the transitional institutions, formed in August 2019 after months of further street protests demanding the post-Bashir military share power with civilians.

“The transitional council has failed to respond to the aspirations of the people and of the revolution,” Burhan charged while also lauding the integrity of the military.

Trump sent his notice to remove Sudan from the terror blacklist to Congress on October 26. Under US law, a country exits the list after 45 days unless Congress objects, which it has not.

Families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks had called on lawmakers to reject the State Department’s proposal, saying they want to pursue legal action against Sudan.

AFP

US Expects To Start Covid Vaccinations In Early December

This creative image taken in a studio in Paris on November 16, 2020, showing a syringe and a vaccine vial with the reproducted logo of a US biotech firm Moderna, illustrates the announcement of an experimental vaccine against Covid-19 from Moderna that would be nearly 95% effective, marking a second major step forward in the quest to end the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

The United States hopes to begin a sweeping program of Covid vaccinations in early December, the head of the government coronavirus vaccine effort said Sunday as cases surge across the worst-hit nation.

The beginning of vaccinations could be a crucial turning point in the battle against the virus that has claimed more than 255,000 lives in the US, the world’s highest reported toll, since emerging from China late last year.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours of approval” by the US Food and Drug Administration, Moncef Slaoui told CNN, pointing to possible dates of December 11-12.

FDA vaccine advisors reportedly will meet December 10 to discuss approving vaccines which pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Moderna say are at least 95 percent effective.

Worldwide, nearly 1.4 million people have died this year and at least 58 million cases have been registered.

Slaoui estimated that 20 million people across the US could be vaccinated in December, with 30 million per month after that.

– ‘Herd immunity’ by May? –
He said that by May, with potentially 70 percent of the population having been vaccinated, the country could attain “herd immunity,” meaning the virus can no longer spread widely — and that people can move closer to resuming their pre-coronavirus way of life.

But Slaoui added a note of caution, saying, “I really hope and look forward to seeing that the level of negative perception of the vaccine decreases and people’s acceptance increase.

“That is going to be critical to help us.”

A recent Gallup poll showed that four in 10 Americans still say they would not get a Covid-19 vaccine, though that is down slightly from five in 10 surveyed in September.

Slaoui said he thought it would help in persuading vaccine skeptics to learn that trials have shown the new vaccines to be 95 percent effective — well above the 50 percent level that an earlier target for vaccine approval.

Officials have yet to announce which groups in the population would receive the vaccine first, though health care workers are certain to receive priority, followed by vulnerable groups like the elderly.

Slaoui said that while the trials had ensured only short-term safety, decades of experience showed that nearly all adverse effects of vaccines occurred within 40 days of being administered, while the current trials protectively covered 60 days.

With the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Slaoui added, there were no serious adverse effects in that period.

For now, the vaccines have not been tested on young children, but the doctor said trials are underway, with a chance toddlers could be vaccinated starting in the second quarter of 2021, with infants coming afterward.

Countries worldwide, as well as international organizations, were working out plans for global distribution of these vaccines and potentially others still being developed.

The G20 countries, in a virtual meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia, plan to pledge to “spare no effort” in ensuring fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide, according to a draft communique seen by AFP on Sunday.

The communique offered no details, however, on how the effort would be funded.

AFP

US Won’t Enforce TikTok Ban Following Court Ruling – Report

In this file photo illustration taken on November 21, 2019, the logo of the social media video-sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris.  (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP).

 

The US government has decided against enforcing its ban on Chinese-owned social media sensation TikTok to comply with a federal court ruling issued in the national security case, a media report said Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal reported the US Commerce Department had decided to hold off on enforcing a Trump administration order to ban the video-sharing app owned by Chinese-based ByteDance.

The move comes after a federal court in Pennsylvania blocked the Trump administration from carrying out the ban, which had been ordered by the White House based on claims the app posed a security threat due to the company’s links to Beijing.

According to the report, the Commerce Department said the shutdown order won’t go into effect “pending further legal developments.”

Other court cases are also pending on the matter.

ByteDance had been given until Thursday to restructure ownership of the app in the United States to meet national security concerns, but it filed a petition in a Washington court this week asking for a delay.

The company said in a Tuesday statement that it had asked the government for a 30-day extension because of “continual new requests and no clarity on whether our proposed solutions would be accepted,” but it was not granted.

The Trump administration has been seeking to transfer ownership of TikTok to an American business to allay security concerns, but no deal has been finalized.

AFP

US President Trump Fires Defense Secretary Esper

File photo: US Secretary of Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses a meeting at the Defense Ministry in Hanoi on November 20, 2019. Nhac NGUYEN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump on Monday announced by tweet that he had fired his defense secretary Mark Esper, further destabilizing a government already navigating Trump’s refusal to concede election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.

“Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service,” Trump said on Twitter, announcing his replacement by Christopher Miller, the current head of the National Counterterrorism Center.

The firing of Esper, who had clashed with Trump over his suggestion of using military personnel to quash civic unrest, comes a week after the US presidential election.

Trump, who is pursuing so far flimsy claims of election fraud in the courts, has only until January 20 before he has to leave office and Biden takes over.

Tens Of Thousands Left Homeless As California Wildfires Ravages Wine Regions

California Wildfires
The Shady Fire can be seen on the hillside behind homes in Santa Rosa, on September 28, 2020. – The wildfire quickly spread over the mountains and reached Santa Rosa where it has begun to affect homes. (Photo by Samuel Corum / AFP)

 

Tens of thousands of Californians fled their homes in the Napa and Sonoma wine regions in the face of wildfires, emergency officials said, as a new blaze in the north of the state killed three people.

Under an orange sky and a sweltering heatwave, some of Napa Valley’s best-known vineyards were consumed by an out-of-control blaze that raced through more than 35,000 acres (14,000 hectares), according to state fire agency Cal Fire.

Celebrated wineries such as Chateau Boswell and part of Castello di Amorosa went up in smoke, while there was a “significant loss” of buildings on the fringes of Santa Rosa — neighbouring Sonoma County’s largest town — said fire chief Tony Gossner.

Around 200 miles (320 kilometres) north, three people perished in a “very fast-moving, very fluid, very hot” fire in Shasta County, said Sheriff Eric Magrini.

The fires prompted authorities to order more than 35,000 residents to evacuate, with thousands more poised to flee, as “explosive fire growth” burnt through dry vegetation and difficult mountainous terrain, officials said.

The causes of the fires are still being investigated.

Calistoga, a picturesque community at the top of the Napa Valley known for hot springs and as a launchpad for wine tours, has largely been evacuated.

CeeBee Thompson spent sleepless hours watching flames in the distance and packing her car, as Calistoga’s recently installed warning sirens sounded twice during the night.

“We could see flames shooting up all night long,” Thompson told AFP. “The only thing we have left to do is put the cats in the car.”

– ‘All hell breaks loose’ –

The inferno is threatening communities in Napa and neighbouring Sonoma, still reeling from devastating wildfires in 2017 when 44 people died and thousands of buildings were razed.

“It’s like a double whammy,” Thompson said.

On Monday strong winds gusted up to 55 mph (90 kph) sent embers flying, fueling the wine country blaze named the “Glass Fire,” and the “Zogg Fire” further north.

California governor Gavin Newsom — who blames the severity of recent blazes on climate change — said winds were expected to stabilize overnight, which should help firefighters.

The new conflagrations come during a record season, with five of the state’s six biggest wildfires in history currently burning.

The Zogg Fire, which has already torn through more than 30,000 acres, is expected to merge with the 900,000-acre August Complex fire.

Kale Casey, a spokesman for firefighter efforts at the blaze, said winds had already been “pulling” flames away from contained areas before the latest conditions.

“And then you have a day like yesterday where all hell breaks loose,” he said.

More than 2,000 firefighters battled Monday to bring the flames under control in a region that “has been hit over and over and over again,” said Governor Newsom.

Susie Fielder fled her St Helena home in Napa County before dawn, grabbing a photo of her grandparents off the wall and a small, bag of essentials after a warning alarm sounded in her neighbourhood.

“This morning I was thinking what do you do if you lose everything?” Fielder told AFP.

Returning from a refuge in the city of Napa shortly before noon, she found her home ash-coated and without electricity, but otherwise unscathed.

Nearby flame-ravaged Spring Mountain was barely visible through the smoke as Fielder got to work cleaning and moving food into a freezer powered by a generator.

She doesn’t plan to unpack her “go bag” of essentials.

– Peak fire season –

“I’m going to stay until somebody comes and knocks on my door and tells me I have to leave,” Fielder said.

California has been battling massive wildfires for months, stoked by dry conditions, strong seasonal winds and high temperatures.

Newsom warned that California is only “now moving into the peak of the wildfire season,” with Santa Ana winds sweeping south toward Los Angeles, where another major heatwave is expected.

Evacuations have been complicated by the coronavirus, which has hit the Golden State hard. Hotels and university accommodation are being used as alternatives to mass shelters.

-AFP

Teenager Arrested Over Deaths In Protest-Hit US City

Police gather in front of the Kenosha County Court House after a night of unrest, on August 24, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP
Police gather in front of the Kenosha County Court House after a night of unrest, on August 24, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

A teenager was arrested on murder charges Wednesday after two people were shot dead during anti-police protests in the US city of Kenosha, as President Donald Trump said he was sending in additional federal forces.

Violent clashes have erupted in the Midwestern city since police shot a black man point-blank as many as seven times in his back as he tried to enter his car.

During protests on Tuesday, two people were shot dead and a third injured after a man in civilian clothes with an assault rifle opened fire on demonstrators.

“This morning Kenosha County authorities issued an arrest warrant for the individual responsible for the incident, charging him with First Degree Intentional Homicide,” Antioch police said.

“The suspect in this incident, a 17-year-old Antioch resident, is currently in custody of the Lake County Judicial System pending an extradition hearing to transfer custody from Illinois to Wisconsin.”

 

US President Donald Trump walks to board Air Force One prior to departure from Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 25, 2020. SAUL LOEB / AFP
File photo: US President Donald Trump walks to board Air Force One prior to departure from Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 25, 2020. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

Trump announced that additional federal forces were headed to Kenosha as police try to keep control of the volatile demonstrations.

“We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets,” Trump tweeted.

“TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!”

Trump made the announcement after speaking with Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who a day earlier announced he was authorizing increased National Guard support for the county to 250 members.

AFP

289 Nigerians Stranded In US Arrive In Abuja

 

289 Nigerians who had been stranded in the United States have arrived in Abuja.

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), announced this on Wednesday.

The returnees arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at about 13:35 pm via Ethiopian Air.

According to NIDCOM, the flight is the fourth evacuation from the US since series of repatriations commenced following the COVID-19 pandemic and the returnees included 135 male, 142 female and 12 infants.

The commission also noted that all the evacuees tested Negative to COVID-19 before boarding the flight and will also commence a 14-day self-isolation as mandated by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

Meanwhile, it said arrangements for two additional evacuation flights are being concluded from the USA to Lagos on July 31, from Houston Texas and a combined flight to Abuja and Lagos on August 7, 2020 from Newark, New Jersey.

Biden ‘Not Competent’ To Lead The US, Says President Trump

FILES PHOTO: This combination of file photos shows US President Donald Trump(L) speaking to the media prior to departing from the White House in Washington, DC, on March 3, 2020, and Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden at a Nevada Caucus watch party on February 22, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the Nevada caucuses. SAUL LOEB, Ronda Churchill / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump assailed likely opponent Joe Biden as “not competent” to lead the country, speaking as polls over the weekend showed deepening voter disenchantment with his own handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“He’s shot, he’s mentally shot,” Trump said about Biden in a wide-ranging interview with “Fox News Sunday.”

He said that if Biden is elected on November 3, he will “destroy this country.”

Facing the multiple challenges of a spreading pandemic, racial unrest and a struggling economy, Trump made several unfounded or highly speculative accusations against the former vice president, saying Biden would “triple your taxes” and “defund the police.”

 

File photo: Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a “Build Back Better” Clean Energy event on July 14, 2020 at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

He added, “Religion will be gone,” referring to Democratic officials banning large church services to stem the virus spread.

Asked whether he would accept the election result in November, even if he loses, Trump echoed his position of 2016, saying, “I have to see … I’m not going to just say yes.”

The interview, which was taped in advance, came as new polling results showed support for Biden surging as doubts about Trump’s handling of the pandemic grow amid a resurgence in many states.

Interviewer Chris Wallace told the president that a new Fox opinion poll showed Biden with a substantial lead over Trump not only on his ability to manage the pandemic (with a 17-point edge) and to deal with racial unrest (by 21 points), but even — by a single point — on handling the economy, long a Trump strong point.

And a new Washington Post-ABC News poll has Biden leading Trump among registered voters nationwide by a resounding 15-point margin, 55-to-40 percent.

Trump dismissed such polling as “fake,” saying White House surveys show him winning both nationally and in key swing states.

– ‘Mommy, Mommy…’ –

He repeatedly pummeled Biden, who has kept a relatively low profile amid the restraints imposed by the pandemic.

Trump claimed that the Democrat wanted to “defund the police” — a battle cry of some anti-racist protesters — and insisted that such language was in a Biden policy document, though he was unable to produce it when challenged by Wallace.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event about regulatory reform on the South Lawn of the White House on July 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event about regulatory reform on the South Lawn of the White House on July 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

As he repeatedly questioned his rival’s mental acuity, Wallace asked him directly if thought Biden was senile.

“I don’t want to say that,” Trump replied. “I say he’s not competent to be president.”

He questioned whether the Democrat could pass a cognitive ability test that he said he had “aced,” and said the former vice president would fall apart under tough questioning.

“Let Biden sit through an interview like this, he’ll be on the ground crying for Mommy. He’ll say, ‘Mommy, Mommy, please take me home.'”

– ‘Envy of the world’ –

Trump again defended his handling of the pandemic, claiming that “we are the envy of the world” on testing; and, of his early prediction that the virus would someday disappear, said, “I’ll be right eventually.”

He again opposed any national mandate for mask-wearing, saying, “I want people to have a certain freedom.”

Referring to the racial unrest in the country, and a recent spike in violent crime in some cities, the president blamed “Democrat-run cities,” which he said were “stupidly run.”

Asked about statistics showing American blacks are twice as likely to be shot and killed by police as whites, Trump replied, “Many whites are killed also. You have to say that.”

And he equated those who fly the Confederate flag with those saying that “Black Lives Matter,” adding, “It’s freedom of speech.”

– ‘Long overdue’ –

Trump again stated his opposition to renaming US military bases named after Confederate generals — even after the military supported the idea.

“I don’t care what the military says,” the president said.

“We’re going to name it after the Reverend Al Sharpton?” he asked rhetorically, referring to a prominent African-American civil rights leader.

There was no immediate response to the interview from Biden or his campaign, though the former vice president did tweet that “Banning the Confederate flag from military installations was long overdue.”

On other subjects, Trump said the economy was “doing very well,” even as millions remain jobless, with some states reimposing lockdowns. The stock market, he said, was near record highs.

AFP

US, China Impose Visa Restrictions On Each Other In Tibet Row

China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. Photo: Nicolas ASFOURI / POOL / AFP

 

 

The United States and China imposed visa restrictions on each other in tit-for-tat moves over their disagreement on Tibet, adding fuel to the diplomatic fire between the superpowers.

China announced Wednesday its curbs on people from the US who “behave badly” on Tibet-related issues, in retaliation for American curbs unveiled a day before.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday he was taking action against an unspecified number of officials under a new US law that presses China to let Americans visit the far west region, renewing a call for “meaningful autonomy” in the predominantly Buddhist area.

“Unfortunately, Beijing has continued systematically to obstruct travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas by US diplomats and other officials, journalists and tourists, while PRC officials and other citizens enjoy far greater access to the United States,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo restricted visas to Chinese officials determined to be “substantially involved” in the exclusion of foreigners from Tibetan areas.

The State Department declined to name the officials or say how many people were affected, citing US confidentiality laws.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed China’s “firm opposition” to the move and urged the US to “immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs through Tibet-related issues”.

“In response to the wrong actions of the US, China has decided to impose visa restrictions on US personnel who behave badly on Tibet-related issues,” he said, warning of further damage to US-China relations and cooperation.

Amid high tension with China, the United States has increasingly been issuing such visa sanctions, earlier taking action over Beijing’s clampdown on free expression in Hong Kong and its incarceration of some one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic minorities.

The Tibet action comes under a 2018 law passed by Congress that aims to pressure China over its tight restrictions in the Himalayan region.

Beijing says its troops “peacefully liberated” Tibet in 1951, but many Tibetans accuse the central government of religious repression and eroding their culture.

Human rights groups say that Tibetans live under strict surveillance with the threat of jail or abuse for any signs of a non-Chinese identity, including possessing images of the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader.

Beijing has largely barred foreign journalists from visiting Tibet since 2008, when the region experienced a wave of self-immolations as protests, and has not responded to US requests to set up a consulate in the regional capital Lhasa.

By contrast, the law notes that Chinese nationals admitted to the United States face no restrictions on visiting any part of the country.

– ‘A clear message’ –

The International Campaign for Tibet, a rights advocacy group close to the Dalai Lama, welcomed the implementation of the law.

“The US is sending Beijing a clear message that it will face consequences for its human rights abuses and continued isolation of Tibet from the outside world,” said the group’s president, Matteo Mecacci.

The campaign said it saw momentum, pointing to a recent joint call by 57 European parliamentarians from 19 countries to set up their own version of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.

A British MP has also introduced similar legislation.

“China’s oppression of the Tibetan people won’t stop tomorrow even with this law’s implementation,” Mecacci said.

“But international pressure on the Chinese government to open up Tibet to the outside world is a vital step toward bringing justice and human rights back to Tibet.”

The US action comes one day after the 85th birthday of the Dalai Lama, who has spent most of his life in exile in India.

While the Dalai Lama is believed to be in good health, the charismatic monk has reduced his once constant travel, raising fears that the spotlight on Tibet will fade without him.

AFP

US Tops World In Virus Cases, Overtaking China And Italy

Medical staff push a patient on a gurney to a waiting medical helicopter at the Emile Muller hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, to be evacuated on another hospital on March 17, 2020, amid the outbreak of the new Coronavirus, COVID-19. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
Medical staff push a patient on a gurney to a waiting medical helicopter at the Emile Muller hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, to be evacuated on another hospital on March 17, 2020, amid the outbreak of the new Coronavirus, COVID-19. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

 

The United States on Thursday took the grim title of the country with the most coronavirus infections and reported a record surge in unemployment as world leaders vowed $5 trillion to stave off global economic collapse.

More than 500,000 people around the world have now contracted the new coronavirus, overwhelming healthcare systems even in wealthy nations and triggering an avalanche of government-ordered lockdowns that have disrupted life for billions.

In the United States, more than 83,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, edging out Italy, which has reported the most deaths, and China, where the virus was first detected in December in the metropolis of Wuhan.

The US has recorded 1,178 deaths, while the global death toll stood at 23,293.

“We are waging war on this virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource, to halt its spread and protect our citizens,” US President Donald Trump said.

With about 40 percent of Americans under lockdown orders, Trump urged citizens to do their part by practicing social distancing: “Stay home. Just relax, stay home.”

With fears mounting of a global recession if not depression, leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link Thursday, pledging a “united front” to fight the outbreak — along with an enormous financial injection.

“The virus respects no borders,” the leaders said in a statement.

“We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic.”

They also pledged “robust” support for developing nations, where coronavirus could next take hold after ravaging China and then Europe.

But the unity pledged by the G20 has been in short supply, with China and the United States trading barbs over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

And Italy as well as Spain, which has the second-highest death toll, objected to a draft economic plan by the European Union which they saw as too weak.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wants a “strong and sufficient” financial response that deploys “innovative financial instruments truly adapted to a war,” his office said.

– Record one-day toll in France –
Alarmed by the rapid spread of the sickness in Italy, France has taken aggressive action to stem the virus and went under lockdown on March 17.

But the 365 deaths reported Thursday was its highest in a one-day period and, alarmingly, included a 16-year-old girl — a rare case of a young person succumbing to a virus that has devastated the elderly.

“It is very difficult to estimate when the peak will come,” French health official Jerome Salomon said. “People who are ill now were infected before the confinement began.”

“Now there is less contact, people are going out less and get infected less. So we hope there will be fewer people getting sick next week and fewer people going to hospital,” he told reporters.

With hospitals under severe strain, medical workers in Italy and Spain are making painstaking choices.

“If I’ve got five patients and only one bed, I have to choose who gets it,” Sara Chinchilla, a pediatrician at a hospital near Madrid, told AFP.

“People are dying who could be saved but there’s no space in intensive care.”

In Britain, the National Health Service said London’s hospitals are facing a “continuous tsunami” of seriously ill COVID-19 patients, despite a lockdown imposed this week.

And in New York, the virus hotbed in the United States, authorities hope to stem  infections as the city struggles to more than double the number of available hospital beds.

“Almost any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the current healthcare system,” Governor Andrew Cuomo warned.

First responders in New York were receiving more than 6,000 calls to the 911 emergency line a day, many from people seeking virus testing.

It is “breaking records. We didn’t have this many calls on 9/11,” said Anthony Almojeria, a leader in the emergency medical services union, referring to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

– Economic devastation –
The pandemic has already, and rapidly, been catastrophic to the global economy.

In the United States, the world’s largest economy, the Labor Department reported that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — by far the highest number ever recorded.

Job losses have swept across sectors from food services to retail to transportation, as nearly half of the country has closed to “non-essential” businesses.

“It is staggering. We are only seeing the initial numbers; they will get worse, unfortunately,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, estimating that half a million people in the city would lose work.

But Wall Street soared for a third straight day, recouping more of this month’s hefty losses, on expectations for the largest stimulus in US history.

The Senate early Thursday unanimously passed a $2 trillion package that will provide cash payouts averaging $3,400 for a family of four.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced confidence that the House of Representatives would follow suit on Friday.

– Glimmer of hope –
The global lockdown — which also hemmed in India’s huge population this week — tightened further on Thursday as Russia announced it was grounding all international flights, while Moscow’s mayor ordered the closure of cafes, shops and parks.

Tokyo’s millions of citizens have been told to stay home, too, just days after the city was forced to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games for a year.

China said it was barring entry to most foreigners, fearing that imported cases were undermining its success in bringing domestic transmissions way down.

And South Africa came under a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown as its cases climbed to more than 900 — about a third of Africa’s 3,200 cases.

The impact of the virus has stretched well beyond frontline health workers, with billions trapped in their homes and facing what experts say could be lasting psychological harm.

But offering a glimmer of hope, both Italy and Spain have seen lower daily rates of new infections this week.

The World Health Organization called Italy’s numbers “encouraging signs,” but warned it was “still too early to say whether the pandemic is peaking.”

A study from Britain’s Imperial College provided a grim prediction, saying 1.8 million people could die worldwide this year even with swift action to halt the virus.