Category: Бізнес

економічні і бізнесові новини

Anti-Putin Protests Fail to Materialize After Sunday Vote

Results from Russia’s parliamentary and local elections Sunday have given a boost to the allies of President Vladimir Putin, who will now retain their majority. After denouncing alleged fraud, the Communist Party – the second largest in parliament – called for demonstrations in the Russian capital Monday but few people appeared. Jon Spier narrates this report from the VOA Moscow bureau.

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US: Ethiopia, Tigray Actors Can Avoid Sanctions by Ending Conflict 

The U.S. government is urging the Ethiopian government, rebel group Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and other warring factions to end the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and allow humanitarian aid to reach millions in need of assistance. Unless the conflict stops, key officials could be facing U.S. travel and financial sanctions.

Speaking at an online press briefing Monday, Bryan Hunt, the acting deputy assistant secretary for East Africa, said the U.S. government wants to see an end to the 10-month conflict in Tigray.

“If the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF take meaningful steps to enter into talks for a negotiated cease-fire and allow for unhindered humanitarian access, a different path is possible, and the United States is ready to help mobilize assistance for Ethiopia to recover and revitalize its economy. Those meaningful steps include accepting African Union-led mediation efforts, designating negotiation teams, agreeing to negotiations without preconditions, and accepting an invitation to initial talks,” he said.

Hunt also said the parties should allow convoys of trucks carrying humanitarian aid to reach Tigray and restore essential services to the region. 

On Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order that paves the way for sanctions on Ethiopian government officials, Eritrea and other groups involved in the Tigray conflict.

Hunt said other tools to press for a peaceful resolution to the conflict have failed.

“This conflict has already sparked one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today, with more than five million people requiring assistance, of which over 900,000 are already living in famine conditions. For far too long, the parties to this conflict have ignored international calls to initiate discussions to achieve a negotiated cease-fire and the human rights and humanitarian situations have worsened,” he said.

The U.S. government said the sanctions program will not affect personal remittances to non-sanctioned persons, humanitarian assistance, and international and local organizations’ activities.

Ethiopian army troops invaded Tigray last November, following months of rising tension between the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Tigray’s ruling party, the TPLF.

Erik Woodhouse, deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department’s Counter Threat Finance and Sanctions Bureau, said the sanctions aim to warn sides to find a solution to the conflict rather than using the military.

“Sanctions are a tool that seek to change the behavior of the targets. These measures impose tangible costs on human rights abusers and perpetrators of conflict. By imposing such costs, the United States seeks to send a signal that such actions are not without consequence,” he said.

Professor Chacha Nyaigotti Chacha, a specialist in diplomacy and international relations at the University of Nairobi, said sanctions are not always effective.

“Some of the leadership, when such sanctions are threatened to be applied, they don’t care. So, sanctions may not work because the idea of a sanctioning, the idea of stopping opportunities from a flowing country which you are sanctioning is to make them feel the pinch then change their trend. But sometimes they don’t care,” said Chacha.

In a letter to Biden, Prime minister Abiy defended his actions in Tigray, saying his government has stabilized the region and addressed humanitarian needs amid a hostile environment created by the TPLF.

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UN Chief Tells World to ‘Wake Up’ to Crises

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the world Tuesday to “wake up” to the greatest “cascade of crises” in our lifetimes. 

“Our world has never been more threatened or more divided,” he told the annual gathering of world leaders, which returned to New York in a slimmed-down version this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

He pointed to the climate crisis and COVID-19, as well as an “upheaval” in numerous countries, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Yemen.  

The United Nations has been at the forefront of the global response to the pandemic, and Guterres took aim at rich nations for what he called their lack of political will and selfishness in hoarding, and in some cases, wasting precious vaccine doses.  

“A majority of the wealthier world vaccinated. Over 90% of Africans still waiting for their first dose,” he said. “This is a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity.”  

Guterres called for bridging the divide between rich and poor countries with a global plan to at least double vaccine production in order to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population by mid-2022.  

He also chastised the world’s billionaires, who he said went “joyriding to space while millions go hungry on Earth.” The world’s wealthiest saw their fortunes soar exponentially during the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, U.N. appeals for billions of dollars to keep famine at bay in several countries have been insufficiently funded, Guterres said.  

Meanwhile, he said, the world is not on track to meet pledges made in the 2015 Paris Agreement to slow global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 

“We need to act now to save humanity and the planet,” Guterres urged.  

Geopolitical divisions 

On the geopolitical front, Guterres warned that “military coups are back.” 

Since January, the military has seized power in several countries, including Myanmar, Mali and Guinea. Overnight, there was reportedly an attempted coup in Sudan, which that country’s military said it thwarted.  

The secretary-general pointed to divisions among powers that undermine international cooperation and the ability to get real action in the U.N. Security Council.  

Without naming them, he said U.S.-China tensions are an obstacle to multilateral action. 

“It will be impossible to address dramatic economic and development challenges while the world’s two largest economies are at odds with each other,” the U.N. chief said.  

Guterres said he fears the world is sliding toward two different sets of economic, trade, financial and technology rules, as well as diverging approaches in the development of artificial technology. 

“This is a recipe for trouble,” he warned. “It would be far less predictable than the Cold War.”  

Absent from his address was a strong message to Afghanistan, although he did call for boosting humanitarian aid to the country and defending human rights, especially for women and girls.  

U.N. officials said Guterres would have other opportunities during the week for more in-depth discussions on Afghanistan and other crises. 

The secretary-general did make a global call for more action on human rights, women’s rights and bridging the digital divide. 

Although he gave a grim report, Guterres said he has hope, because these problems are solvable.  

 “This is our time. A moment for transformation,” he said.

 

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EU Rallies Behind Macron as Dispute Between France, US, Britain Worsens

The Australian decision to cancel a $66 billion deal to buy 12 French diesel-electric submarines and to purchase instead at least eight more sophisticated nuclear-powered attack boats from Britain and America continues to reverberate with French officials smarting at what they see as a betrayal by London and Washington.

 

And there are few signs the dispute will abate any time soon.

 

European Union leaders are rallying behind France in the dispute over the shelving of the multi-billion-dollar French deal and Canberra’s decision to sign up to a trilateral Asia Pacific security pact, known as AUKUS, with the United States and Britain, an alliance notably excluding Paris. 

Speaking after a meeting Monday among EU foreign ministers held in New York on the sidelines of this week’s annual gathering for the United Nations General Assembly, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the foreign ministers “expressed clear solidarity with France.”

 

Borrell chided Washington and London saying, “More cooperation, more coordination, less fragmentation” was needed among Western powers in the Indo-Pacific region where China is the major rising power and is promoting alarm among its neighbors. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNN, “One of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable. We want to know what happened and why.” 

 

French anger 

 

Last week France recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington — a dramatic demonstration of French anger. And France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who has accused U.S. President Joe Biden of continuing the “unilateralism, unpredictability, brutality” of his predecessor Donald Trump, says he does not intend to meet his U.S. counterpart, Antony Blinken, while in New York.

 

“I myself do not intend to meet the Secretary of State Blinken,” Le Drian told reporters Monday. The French have also been avoiding timetabling a phone conversation between Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.

 

France claims not to have been consulted by Australia about the plan to scupper what the French once branded the “deal of the century;” Australia says it did raise concerns with Paris for months over the contract, which was struck in 2016. Australian politicians have been emphasizing that the French contractors had fallen well behind schedule. “This has been a farce from day one,” Stephen Conroy, a former Australian senator, told Australian broadcaster Sky News. “This was a deal that was destined to fail,” he says.

 

French officials say they were only informed last week in writing just hours before the announcement by Britain, the US and Australia of an agreement that will see Australia become only the seventh state in the world with a nuclear-powered submarine fleet. 

 

France’s reliability in question 

 

While the core Australian decision rested on Canberra’s military assessment of its needs in the Indo-Pacific region, prompting an equipment upgrade, the move to exclude France from the trilateral defense pact, reveals much about Anglo-American suspicions of France’s reliability as a partner, say some former Western foreign and defense ministers and diplomats.

In defense circles in Washington and London, France is often seen as a frenemy, all too ready to grab commercial and diplomatic advantage over the United States and Britain and to exercise an independent mindedness that can make it an unpredictable military ally going back to General Charles De Gaulle’s 1966 decision to withdraw France abruptly from NATO.

 

Former British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt accused France Tuesday of wanting to have its cake and eat it, having one foot in the U.S.-led alliance while on the other pushing for an alternative French-led European defense alliance and backing an EU investment deal with China which granted better access to Europe’s single market than given to post-Brexit Britain. “France has long believed Europe should build an independent defence capability,” he wrote Tuesday for Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. 

 

An alternative defense arrangement that loosens transatlantic ties with Washington is not conceivable without British backing, he says. The French are “bitterly aware that our central involvement in a new Asian military alliance led by the U.S. makes it much less likely that any European alliance, with or without Britain, would ever be a credible alternative to American leadership,” he says.

 

Another former British foreign minister, Willam Hague, agrees “the petulant French reaction to the consequent loss of a huge defence contract does little to elicit sympathy.” And he notes in a commentary: “Paris would not have hesitated to do the same the other way round.” But he says that as the AUKUS initiative develops beyond submarines into areas such as artificial intelligence, it should be open for others to join, including Canada and European allies such as France. 

 

But analyst Olivier Guitta, managing director of GlobalStrat, an international security and risk consultancy firm in London, believes Washington and London should have been much more diplomatic, and instead of blindsiding Paris should have consulted and offered the French a slice of the new deal. “There was surely a way to find a consensus between the four allies, even when bringing the U.S. and the U.K. to the table, like splitting the contract in three,” he told VOA. 

 

“It is quite ironic that Biden has pushed away France since in the past few months France has been one of the most sanguine to oppose China’s influence in the region,” he says. “Indeed, back in March China complained about French military activities in the disputed South China Sea, after it sent two warships there,” Guitta said. 

 

 

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3rd Russian in Skripal Poisoning Could Be Charged

Police in Britain said Tuesday they have enough evidence to charge a third Russian in the 2018 nerve agent attack against a former Russian spy in the city of Salisbury, England.

Authorities identified the third suspect as Sergey Fedotov, also known as Denis Sergeev, and said he was a member of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.

They said the list of possible charges includes conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, possessing and using a chemical weapon, and causing grievous bodily harm.

Prosecutors have already charged two other suspected military intelligence members in the attack that used the nerve agent Novichok to target Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, who both survived.

A British woman later died from contact with the nerve agent, and a police officer became critically ill.

Russia has denied involvement in the attack.

In a separate development Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia was responsible for the 2006 killing of former agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Litvinenko died after drinking tea at a London hotel laced with Polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the court’s conclusion Tuesday, calling the ruling unfounded. 

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How a Western Military Pact for Nuclear Subs Affects China

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia on Thursday announced what the Royal Australian Navy describes on its website as an “enhanced trilateral security partnership” known as AUKUS (Australia, U.K. and U.S.). It says Australia will get at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, to be built domestically using American technology.

The use of nuclear-powered Australian submarines in the Indo-Pacific has angered China by threatening to curb its expansion in the same waterways, experts say. 

The three-country security deal came after Australia pulled out of an earlier deal with France for diesel-electric submarines, angering Paris. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian even went as far as to describe Australia’s decision to back out of the deal as a “stab in the back.” On Friday, France recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia. 

Analysts point to the partnership as the latest Western effort to vie with China for control over seas that Beijing calls its own despite territorial spats with other Asian governments, including Western allies. One disputed waterway is the resource-rich South China Sea.

Nuclear-powered submarines mean stealthier, faster-moving vessels, while Britain’s participation suggests a wider program and not just another U.S.-led effort targeting China, scholars say. The subs are expected to be ready by 2035.

“Operationally, it should bother the Chinese, because if Australia does get nuclear subs, then it can stay on station in places like the South China Sea or East China Sea for more or less permanent deployments,” said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative under the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Submarines won’t come online right away, he said, but for the first five to 10 years, what is important is “what (the partnership) says about Australia’s posture and willingness to stand up to China and whatever the posture changes are for the U.S.,” Poling said. Washington might eventually increase military rotations and exercises with Canberra, he said.

China’s maritime conflicts 

Beijing claims about 90% of the South China Sea, where it has angered Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines by building artificial islets and passing ships through the contested waters. It vies with Japan over sovereignty in parts of the adjoining East China Sea.

Western countries have taken new notice of their former Cold War foe as the Chinese navy grows rapidly and its ships turn up as far away as Alaska.

AUKUS calls for the sharing of military-related automation, artificial intelligence and quantum technology. Quantum technology can help detect submarines and stealth aircraft. Australia, Britain and the United States have committed to a “comprehensive program of work” over the next 18 months, the Australian navy says.

‘Worst possible contingencies’ 

Nuclear-powered subs based in Australia could reach the South China Sea in a day and stay indefinitely, said Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defense strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra. Alternatively, they might enter the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea or Southwest Pacific, he added.

He said Australia, in pitched political and trade fights with China since 2015, intends to help the United States defend any Chinese movement that’s “inimical” to Australian allies.

“These subs are primarily to boost Australian defenses against a rising China that is challenging not only the U.S. in the region but also all our countries, including Australia, and there is a growing military challenge from China that is very real, and we are preparing for all sorts of worst possible contingencies, including the prospect for a major power war between the U.S. and China over Taiwan some time in this decade,” Davis said.

China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and regularly sends military planes into its airspace. Taiwan’s government, opposed to unification with China, has found growing support from the West.

“Taiwan will have a side (of its population) that cries out, ‘That’s great. England, America and Australia are coming to do a check and balance against China,’ said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the international affairs college at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

British officials joined the tech-sharing deal as part of their “idea of global Britain” following their departure from the European Union, Poling said. Its participation as a non-Indo-Pacific country angers China particularly, Huang said.

AUKUS follows other Western-spearheaded efforts such as the 16-year-old Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among India, Japan, Australia and the United States. Western-allied countries periodically pass ships through the South China Sea on their own. China normally protests.

Stern words, deeds in China

China calls the AUKUS deal a danger to the Indo-Pacific region. “For the United States, U.K. and Australia to launch nuclear submarine cooperation severely disrupts regional peace and stability, increases the arms buildup race and wrecks the hard work of international disarmament,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Thursday.

Asia’s chief superpower isn’t standing by either. On September 1, China implemented its Revised Maritime Safety Traffic Law to counter foreign ships that pass near its coasts. The law tightens Chinese control over the East and South China seas by giving Beijing power to stop a range of foreign vessels.

“The United States Navy, if it was ordered to conduct a freedom of navigation (operation), that just sets up a confrontation, because how are you going to stop an American warship?” said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor of politics at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

China could follow up AUKUS further by restricting additional Australian imports, Davis said. Canberra, however, has already found new foreign markets for its all-important coal and wine because of earlier friction with China.

 

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Lawsuits Against Doctor to Test Constitutionality of Texas Abortion Law

A San Antonio physician who announced he gave an abortion to a woman in defiance of a new Texas law was sued in Texas state court on Monday by two plaintiffs from other states who want to test the law’s constitutionality. 

Alan Braid said in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Saturday that he had broken a new Texas law that banned abortions beyond the point where rhythmic contracting of fetal cardiac tissue could be detected. The law leaves enforcement of the ban to citizens, rewarding them at least $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who helped provide such an abortion and paying their court costs. 

In the cases filed on Monday, the state would be paying the costs of testing the law. One of the plaintiffs who sued Braid, Oscar Stilley, said in a phone call with Reuters on Monday that he opposes the Texas law and wanted to be the first person to force a court to assess its legality. 

Texas’ new abortion restrictions violate women’s constitutional rights, Stilley said. 

“I think it’s a decision between her and her doctor,” he said when asked whether he supported giving women the right to choose abortion access. 

Stilley, a disbarred lawyer, is on home confinement serving the 12th year of a 15-year sentence for tax evasion and conspiracy. 

The other plaintiff, Felipe Gomez, a suspended lawyer from Illinois, alleged in his complaint that “the Act is illegal as written and as applied here.” Gomez did not immediately return a call for comment. 

Monday’s lawsuits are to date the most direct test of the legality of the Texas abortion ban, which is one of the most restrictive such laws in the United States. Abortion rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department have also sued Texas over the law in federal court, saying it violates a woman’s constitutional right to abortion before the fetus is viable. 

Braid’s office in San Antonio referred requests for comment to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has pledged to represent Braid in any lawsuit. 

Asked for comment, the Center forwarded a statement from its senior counsel, Marc Hearron, who acknowledged that the law enables anyone to sue people who aid or abet abortions beyond the prescribed limit. “We are starting to see that happen, including by out-of-state claimants,” the statement read. 

Texas Right to Life, a state anti-abortion group, did not return a call for comment.

 

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US Releases Some Haitian Migrants in Texas

U.S. immigration officials released a few dozen Haitians from detention Monday in Del Rio, Texas, a small border town making headlines because of an influx of migrants hoping to enter the United States.    

“Thank God we’re here!” Micheline Baptiste told VOA Creole. “I’m thrilled — it’s a blessing. We fought hard to get here.” She had been living in Chile before heading to the United States and said the journey on foot took 2½ months.  

“A lot of misery. Many people died. We were walking over dead bodies. Some people drowned. Others were trying to escape robbers when they fell into the water and drowned,” she said. “Children were left motherless, fatherless. It was really tough.”  

Baptiste is one of the lucky few to gain entry into the U.S., where she will have to appear in court with a lawyer to petition for asylum.

According to Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, about 300 people were released from deportation and not all were Haitians. They were considered vulnerable and had to give authorities a U.S. address where they would be living with a relative who is a legal U.S. resident. And they had to commit to returning to court with a lawyer to petition for U.S. residency. 

The Biden administration announced Saturday it would deport migrants massed in a makeshift camp under the Del Rio International Bridge, on the Texas border with Mexico. Three deportation flights carrying hundreds of Haitian migrants traveled back to Port-au-Prince on Sunday, and three more left Monday.

WATCH: More than 12,000 Migrants Look for Asylum in Texas 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reiterated his message to migrants.  

“We are communicating, as we have now for months, loudly and clearly, that irregular migration, the perilous journey, is not the journey to take,” Mayorkas said Monday during a visit to Del Rio. “We have been, we are and we will continue to exercise the public health authority of the Centers for Disease Control in light of the fact that this country and this world is confronting a pandemic.”  

U.S. officials say 2,000 migrants were transferred out of Del Rio on Friday to various locations where they will be processed and deported. Officials plan to ramp up deportation flights this week to as many as 10 per day.    

Jozef is a Haitian American immigration activist and the president of Haitian Bridge Alliance, an advocacy group for Haitian immigrants. She told VOA that Haitian migrants should not try to cross the border. Her alliance is the only Black and Haitian group working on the border.    

“For now, the deportations will continue even though we are fighting that. There are a lucky few who have been released from detention, and we have welcomed them, but most of those people gave birth two or three days ago, so they are extremely vulnerable,” Jozef said from Del Rio.  

“I tell everyone that the border is closed. If someone tells you the border is open, it’s a lie. That’s why you see all this happening here,” she added.    

In Port-au-Prince, Prime Minister Ariel Henry addressed the situation of Haitian migrants in a national speech.  

“It’s been painful to watch on social media, on television and to listen on the radio the trials and tribulations our brothers and sisters are enduring on the Mexico-U.S. border,” Henry said. “Their images trouble our hearts and impact the dignity of all Haitians, no matter what their beliefs are or where they are currently living.”

The prime minister pledged his full support to all organizations working to help the migrants.     

“After an earthquake and hurricane, people in the south are suffering,” said Serge Bonhomme, head of Providence International Ministries, a human rights organization in Orlando, Florida. “To the American government, especially the Department of State, you should consider that a humanitarian reason exists not to continue to deport these Haitians,” he told VOA.  

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the administration’s immigration policy Monday.  

“One, our immigration policy is not about one country or discriminating against one country over another,” Psaki said during the daily press briefing. “We want to end that and put, and hopefully put, an end to what we saw over the last four years.”  

The U.S. continues to deport those who illegally cross the border under Title 42, a 1944 health statute invoked under the Trump administration by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the coronavirus outbreak and continued by Biden. The law prevents migrants from gaining entry into the U.S. for public health reasons.    

“There are a range of programs that people who are in the country can apply for or may be eligible for, including TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for Haiti, which is something that we still are continuing to look at and review,” Psaki said. 

The Department of Homeland Security said in August that Haitians who had been living in the U.S. since July 29, 2021, would be eligible to apply for TPS. Haitians have 18 months to apply for benefits that include legal residency and permission to work in the United States.   

At the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flights landed Monday afternoon. The migrants aboard were angry about how they had been treated while in U.S. custody after a long, arduous voyage.  

“I left Chile three months ago,” a woman, who declined to give her name, told VOA, holding back tears. “… It’s only by God’s grace that I arrived in Mexico (after getting lost on the road).”  

The woman told VOA that she had arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border on Saturday.  

“When I got there, they called my number and then sent me to a prison, where they took my fingerprints,” she said. “They took pictures of me and my family. They took pictures of my children. They made me sign papers. Why?” she asked. 

The woman said she had been transferred to another prison and then told Sunday night that they would be sent to a religious home, where they could talk to family members living in the U.S. who could purchase airline tickets for them to travel on to other cities. She said there were about 50 families with children held as a group. Instead of being sent to the religious home as promised, she and her family were put on a plane and sent back to Haiti. 

Psaki, the press secretary, acknowledged that migrants were being returned to Haiti at a time when the country was dealing with multiple challenges.    

“We certainly support and want to be good actors in supporting Haiti during a very difficult time,” she said, “with a government that is still working to get back to a point of stability with recovery from an earthquake.” 

 White House correspondent Anita Powell, Jimmy Jacques in Miami, Yves Monpremier in Orlando, and Yves Manuel in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report.

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Biden Administration Seeks to Lift US Refugee Cap to 125,000

President Joe Biden’s administration wants to nearly double the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 125,000 in the upcoming fiscal year starting on October 1 in keeping with a campaign promise, according to a statement from the State Department. 

The State Department will consult with the Department of Homeland Security and Congress to lift the cap, which was set at 62,500 for the 2020 fiscal year ending this month, the statement said. 

The plan to dramatically increase refugee admissions comes at a time when tens of thousands of Afghan refugees are on U.S. military bases awaiting resettlement in the United States. Many still at risk were left behind in the chaotic final days of the withdrawal of U.S. forces. 

Biden, a Democrat who took office in January, promised to reverse course after his predecessor Republican President Donald Trump cut the refugee cap to 15,000, the lowest level in the history of the modern refugee program. 

Biden initially left that level in place but backtracked in the face of criticism from immigration advocates. 

Biden has struggled with mixed messaging on immigration. Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border are at 20-year highs, and most recently, thousands of mainly Haitian migrants have set up a makeshift encampment under an international bridge in southern Texas. 

The refugee program is distinct from the asylum system, since refugees typically apply for relief abroad, are vetted extensively and then are given legal status and resources to establish themselves in the United States. 

Asylum-seekers can present themselves to border agents and claim fear of return, triggering a long U.S. court process. But since March 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, most border crossers have been rapidly expelled under a public health order without a chance to apply for asylum.

 

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After Merkel: What Role for Germany on Global Stage?

As Germany prepares to elect a new leader in elections scheduled for September 26, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor will face a series of immediate geopolitical challenges. Among the most pressing is the rise of China.

Beijing’s economic push into Europe, part of its “Belt and Road” initiative, has seen Chinese state-owned firms invest in critical infrastructure including ports, railroads and highways.

Hamburg is Germany’s biggest port, handling more than 8.5 million shipping containers every year, and a key artery for Europe’s largest economy and exporter. If current plans are approved, a large share of the port will soon be sold to Beijing. 

More than 30% of the containers handled at Hamburg are shipped to and from China, four times more than second-place United States. Chinese state-owned shipping firm Cosco wants to buy one-third of the shares in the city’s Tollerort terminal. 

Hamburger Hafen and Logistik AG (HHLA), the company that currently owns Tollerort, says the deal is a natural step in an evolving relationship. “We want to bind Cosco, with whom we have been working together for 36 years, closer to us,” HHLA boss Angela Titzrah recently told journalists. Hamburg’s mayor also supports the deal and says it is vital for growth in the face of competition from Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Antwerp in Belgium.

Critics say Germany should be much more wary of the deal. Jürgen Hardt is a lawmaker from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. “In China, business plans are not mainly the reason to do business, but (are instead) political decisions of the Communist Party,” Hardt told VOA. “Therefore, we should look very carefully on such a deal. I would prefer to have an exchange of shares between Hamburg harbor and maybe Shanghai harbor.” 

Hardt says this is unlikely, as China does not allow foreign companies to own its infrastructure.

China: friend or foe?

Germany’s geopolitical dilemma echoes that of Hamburg. Is China friend or foe?

The European Union describes China as a “negotiating partner, economic competitor and systemic rival.” In recent years, tensions have grown over Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur population, the crackdown on democratic rights in Hong Kong and military expansion in the South China Sea. Germany has found itself caught in the middle, says analyst Liana Fix of the Körber-Stiftung Foundation of International Affairs in Berlin. 

“Europe and the European Union is undecided about which way to pursue. On the one side they feel the pressure from the United States. On the other hand, there are also economic interests especially for member states that are highly dependent on China,” Fix told VOA.

Germany’s leadership could be out of step with the population, according to a recent poll by the Körber-Stiftung Foundation.

“We asked the German public to what extent they would support sanctions towards China, even if it hurts their economy, for human rights issues for human rights violations. And there the majority of Germans said they would support sanctions against China,” Fix said. 

Russia

With Russia too, Germany finds itself caught between East and West. Despite Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Chancellor Merkel has pushed ahead with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was completed earlier this month. It will carry Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, which has until now benefitted from lucrative transit fees.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy offered Merkel a blunt warning following her visit to Kyiv last month. “I believe that (Nord Stream 2) is a weapon. I believe that not to notice that this is a dangerous weapon, not only for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe, is wrong,” Zelenskiy told reporters August 22. 

The United States also opposes the pipeline and has imposed sanctions on Russian companies involved. That has triggered some resentment in Germany, says analyst Fix. “The strong opposition from the United States has to some extent led to a reaction in Germany which said, ‘OK, why is the United States getting involved in our energy policy?’” Fix said.

With Germany phasing out coal and nuclear power over the coming years, a reliable supply of gas is seen as crucial, according to Rüdiger Erben, a member of the Social Democratic party in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. “Germany has experienced over many years that Russia is actually a very reliable partner when we’re talking about energy questions,” he told VOA. 

Europe’s ‘strategic autonomy’ 

Meanwhile, the European Union is seeking what it calls greater “strategic autonomy” to reduce Europe’s reliance on the United States for its security. France is highly supportive of the move, but Germany has stopped short of endorsing the formation of any “EU army.”

The United States signed a deal with Britain and Australia last week to help Canberra build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, in the process cancelling a deal with France to design diesel-electric subs. “It’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves, to reflect on the need to make the issue of European strategic autonomy a priority. This shows that we must survive on our own,” the EU’s ‘s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told reporters September 16.

Merkel’s successor

Navigating global affairs won’t be easy for Germany’s next leader, says analyst Gero Neugebauer of the Freie University in Berlin. 

“The majority of German people see that Germany is currently in a crisis situation. Globalization is at play. The war in Afghanistan. Conflict in Europe. The question of what impact globalization has on jobs. Migration. Climate change.”

Neugebauer added that the main candidates in the election are not well known outside Germany. “Merkel’s successor will have either limited international experience, or none at all.” 

 

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US Supreme Court to Hear Case that Directly Challenges Abortion Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear arguments in December about a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the decades-old ruling that gives women the right to an abortion.

The court scheduled oral arguments for December 1 to hear a case concerning a Mississippi state law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The case directly asks justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allows women to have abortions in most circumstances. Roe v. Wade recognizes a constitutional right to abortion before a fetus is viable, typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy. 

The Supreme Court is being closely watched on issues of abortion after it decided earlier this month to allow a Texas state law banning most abortions after six weeks to remain in effect while it undergoes legal challenges.

The Republican-backed Texas law bars abortions once cardiac activity has been detected in an embryo, which typically happens at six weeks when most women are not aware they are pregnant. 

Last week, the Biden administration formally asked a federal judge to block enforcement of that law until legal challenges to it are resolved.

The Supreme Court became more conservative under President Donald Trump, who appointed three justices to the nine-seat bench. Conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority. 

The high court agreed in May to hear the Mississippi case, but its recent decision to allow the highly restrictive Texas law to take effect fueled speculation that a majority of the justices are inclined to formally curtail abortion rights.

The court’s next term begins in October. 

 

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US Eases Foreign Coronavirus Travel Restrictions

The United States said Monday that starting in early November it will ease its coronavirus restrictions for foreign travelers arriving in the country. 

Foreign travel to the U.S. had been largely curbed during the 18-month pandemic, even as European nations in recent months eased restrictions on American travelers ahead of the summertime vacation season. 

Under the new U.S. policy, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said foreign travelers will again be allowed into the country if they can demonstrate proof of being fully vaccinated before they board a flight and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered within three days of their flight. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauded the U.S. action, saying foreign travelers will be able to get to the U.S. before its annual Thanksgiving holiday, celebrated this year on November 25. 

“That’s a great thing,” Johnson said. “I thank the president (Joe Biden) for progress we have been able to make.” 

The U.S. Travel Association trade group also welcomed the move, saying it will “help revive the American economy.” 

“This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement Monday. 

Fully vaccinated travelers to the U.S. will not be required to be quarantined, as has been the case in some foreign countries. 

But Biden’s administration, in its effort to push millions more Americans to get inoculated, said unvaccinated Americans returning from overseas will need to be tested within a day of their flight and again after they return home. 

More than 181 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to government health officials, but it is estimated that 70 million people eligible for the vaccine have so far declined, for one reason or another, to get vaccinated. 

The new policy replaces a patchwork of restrictions first instituted by former President Donald Trump last year and tightened by Biden earlier this year that restricted travel by foreigners who in the prior 14 days had been in Britain, the European Union, China, India, Iran, Brazil or South Africa. 

Zients said the new policy “is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it’s a stronger system.” 

He said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also require airlines to collect contact information from international travelers to facilitate contact tracing if there is a coronavirus outbreak related to foreigners arriving in the U.S. 

It is uncertain under the new policy which vaccines would be acceptable to U.S. authorities, with Zients saying that would be left up to the CDC. Vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are used in the U.S. 

Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.​ Some information also came from Reuters and The Associated Press. 

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US, EU Denounce Parliamentary Elections in Russia

The United States said Monday that laws against “extremism” in Russia prevented opposition parties from a fair shot in parliamentary elections.

 

“The Russian government’s use of laws on “extremist organizations,” “foreign agents,” and “undesirable organizations” severely restricted political pluralism and prevented the Russian people from exercising their civil and political rights,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement Monday.

 

“Furthermore, we do not recognize holding elections for the Russian Duma on sovereign Ukrainian territory and reaffirm our unwavering support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” Price added.

 

Longtime Russian President Vladimir Putin’s party claimed a decisive victory in the elections while many politicians who support jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny were barred from running.

 

Britain also said Monday that the prevention of opposition politicians from running, and intimidation of voters was not in accordance with Russia’s international commitments to free and fair elections.

 

“The measures taken by the Russian authorities to marginalize civil society, silence independent media and exclude genuine opposition candidates from participating in the elections undermine political plurality and are at odds with the international commitments that Russia has signed up to,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement Monday.

 

Within Russia, many candidates in parties opposing Putin’s United Russia claimed the vote had been rigged. In at least 15 districts, opposition candidates who were initially ahead in vote tallies all lost when electronic votes were counted.

 

“I know that such a result is simply not possible,” communist candidate Mikhail Lobanov wrote on Twitter, calling for people to gather to discuss “next steps.”

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Pfizer-BioNTech Say Their COVID Vaccine Safe, Effective for 5- to-11-Year-Olds

The Pfizer and BioNTech drug companies said Monday that lower dose shots of their two-dose COVID-19 vaccine are safe and effective for five-to-11-year-old children.

The U.S. company and its German partner BioNTech said trials showed the vaccine was well-tolerated and robust, neutralizing antibody responses at the lower dose levels necessary in younger children.

Pfizer said it plans to soon seek U.S., British and European Union authorization for use of the vaccine for the younger age group, which could greatly expand the scope of the U.S. vaccination effort. About 28 million U.S. children fall into the affected age range, although millions of adults have themselves declined to get the jab. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 181 million people have been fully vaccinated in the country, but 70 million others 12 and older have so far, for one reason or another, not been inoculated. 

Pfizer said it studied a lower dose — a third of the adult strength — in tests involving more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school students, two-thirds of whom were given the vaccine and a third saltwater shots. The company said the children developed antibody levels that were just as strong as exhibited by teenagers and young adults. 

With children now back in school, and the delta variant spreading throughout the U.S., parents in many communities have been anxious for government health officials to approve the vaccine for their children. 

Children are at lower risk than older people of severe illness or death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Dr. William Gruber, a pediatrician and Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press that by the end of the month, the company would apply for emergency use of the vaccine for five-to-11-year-olds in the U.S. and shortly thereafter in Britain and Europe. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would then evaluate Pfizer’s data, a process that could take a few weeks. 

 U.S. vaccine maker Moderna also is studying its shots for young children. Both Pfizer and Moderna are studying use of the vaccine for children as young as six months old, with results expected later this year. 

In Britain, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 12 and 15 began Monday at schools around the country.

Meanwhile, some private hospitals in Kolkata, India, bracing for a possible surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases, have enhanced their facilities and provided additional training for health care professionals.

A new study published by the CDC revealed that roughly one in three people who has tested positive for COVID-19 still reported symptoms several weeks after the fact.  

The CDC reported that rates were even higher in women, Black people, those older than 40, and those with preexisting conditions. The CDC describes people with “long COVID” as experiencing symptoms more than one month after a positive test result.  

The U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, with more than 42 million infections. Around the world, there have been more than 228 million cases and 4.7 million deaths, according to the data.   

Singapore reported more than 1,000 new cases Sunday, the highest rate for the country since April 2020. Even with 80% of its population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Singapore has paused further reopening.    

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.  

 

 

(Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.)

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Pfizer-BioNTech Say Their COVID Vaccine Safe, Effective for 5- to-11-Year-Olds

The Pfizer and BioNTech drug companies said Monday that lower dose shots of their two-dose COVID-19 vaccine are safe and effective for five-to-11-year-old children.

The U.S. company and its German partner BioNTech said trials showed the vaccine was well-tolerated and robust, neutralizing antibody responses at the lower dose levels necessary in younger children.

Pfizer said it plans to soon seek U.S., British and European Union authorization for use of the vaccine for the younger age group, which could greatly expand the scope of the U.S. vaccination effort. About 28 million U.S. children fall into the affected age range, although millions of adults have themselves declined to get the jab. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 181 million people have been fully vaccinated in the country, but 70 million others 12 and older have so far, for one reason or another, not been inoculated. 

Pfizer said it studied a lower dose — a third of the adult strength — in tests involving more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school students, two-thirds of whom were given the vaccine and a third saltwater shots. The company said the children developed antibody levels that were just as strong as exhibited by teenagers and young adults. 

With children now back in school, and the delta variant spreading throughout the U.S., parents in many communities have been anxious for government health officials to approve the vaccine for their children. 

Children are at lower risk than older people of severe illness or death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Dr. William Gruber, a pediatrician and Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press that by the end of the month, the company would apply for emergency use of the vaccine for five-to-11-year-olds in the U.S. and shortly thereafter in Britain and Europe. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would then evaluate Pfizer’s data, a process that could take a few weeks. 

 U.S. vaccine maker Moderna also is studying its shots for young children. Both Pfizer and Moderna are studying use of the vaccine for children as young as six months old, with results expected later this year. 

In Britain, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 12 and 15 began Monday at schools around the country.

Meanwhile, some private hospitals in Kolkata, India, bracing for a possible surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases, have enhanced their facilities and provided additional training for health care professionals.

A new study published by the CDC revealed that roughly one in three people who has tested positive for COVID-19 still reported symptoms several weeks after the fact.  

The CDC reported that rates were even higher in women, Black people, those older than 40, and those with preexisting conditions. The CDC describes people with “long COVID” as experiencing symptoms more than one month after a positive test result.  

The U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, with more than 42 million infections. Around the world, there have been more than 228 million cases and 4.7 million deaths, according to the data.   

Singapore reported more than 1,000 new cases Sunday, the highest rate for the country since April 2020. Even with 80% of its population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Singapore has paused further reopening.    

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.  

 

 

(Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.)

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