Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus has called for immediate action to create a Palestinian state. In a statement released from the Yunus Centre on Sunday (October 22, 2023), he said: "The conflict between Israel and Palestine is a very old problem which has become much more complicated now because of the treatment that the people of Palestine have been receiving from Israel.” It has been brewing over time and suddenly recently it became very explosive and unacceptable against any civilised standard, added the statement. Read: Blinken, Austin say US is ready to respond if US personnel become targets of Israel-Hamas war “The solution right now is the creation of two states, something which the United Nations has a resolution on but which remains unimplemented. There is no way to escape from this resolution if we want to bring peace to the region. The top-most priority right now is to implement the long ignored UN resolution on creating two states. Otherwise we don't know where this conflict will lead us to. It has the potential to set the whole region on fire and suck in a larger part of the world into that fire,” it further reads. "We must create the state of Palestine with extreme urgency. The key actor in bringing this to reality is the United States. If the US moves fast others will follow. The Biden administration must lead the world on this vital and urgent issue without delay. Read: Stop Israel-Palestine war, save women and children: PM Hasina urges world leaders "I urgently call upon all parties engaged in the conflict to immediately cease hostilities, ensure the safety and well-being of the innocent children and civilians caught in the midst of this crisis. It is imperative to facilitate and expedite the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to the suffering population. It is time to focus on saving human lives, protect dignity and get to work on a permanent solution," he said. "Let us join hands to put an end to the suffering, ensure uninterrupted humanitarian access, and foster an environment conducive to meaningful peace negotiations and work out the modalities to create Palestine state at the fastest pace. In this day and age, we should collectively recognize that war and bloodshed are inconsistent with the values and progress of our modern civilization. The world is watching and it is our shared responsibility to work towards a future where both Palestine and Israel can co-exist in harmony and peace together with friendly collaboration,” the statement concluded. Read: Israel has right to statehood, so does Palestine: Chinese Ambassador
The Biden administration declared its Ukraine solidarity with fresh action as well as strong words on Friday, piling sweeping new sanctions on Moscow and approving a new $2 billion weapons package to re-arm Kyiv a year after Russia’s invasion. Despite the U.S. and allies’ continued ambitious efforts to bolster the Ukrainians, there are no signs of an endgame in the war, which seems destined to enter an even more complicated phase in the months ahead. On the somber anniversary, Biden and fellow leaders from the Group of Seven allies that have been at the forefront of backing Ukraine stayed focused on a unified front. “Our solidarity will never waver in standing with Ukraine, in supporting countries and people in need, and in upholding the international order based on the rule of law," the G-7 leaders said in a joint statement after a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. As Ukraine mourned its war dead and vowed it would ultimately emerge victorious, the Pentagon unveiled its latest weapons package. It includes more ammunition, electronic warfare detection equipment and other weapons to counter Russia’s unmanned systems, and several types of drones, including the upgraded Switchblade 600 Kamikaze attack drone. The latest aid package uses the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to provide funding for longer-term contracts to buy weapons and equipment. Unlike the presidential drawdown authority that the Pentagon has used repeatedly over the past year to pull weapons from its own stocks and quickly ship them to Ukraine, the USAI-funded equipment could take a year or two to get to the battlefront. As a result, it will do little to help Ukraine prepare for an expected new offensive in the spring. “Difficult times may lie ahead, but let us remain clear-eyed about what is at stake in Ukraine,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “to ensure that a world of rules and rights is not replaced by one of tyranny and turmoil.” Biden said in an ABC News interview on Friday that he's not ready to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Zelenskyy has been pressing the U.S. and allies for jets, but White House officials have pushed back that they are not the weaponry that Ukrainians need in the near term. “There is no basis on which there is a rationale, according to our military now to provide F-16s,” Biden said. “I am ruling it out for now.” Meanwhile, the White House said that new sanctions hitting over 200 people and entities will “further degrade Russia’s economy and diminish its ability to wage war against Ukraine.” The Biden administration will also further restrict exports to Russia and raise tariffs on some Russian products imported to the U.S. Read more: White House announces $270M military package for Ukraine "Now, not only does Ukraine stand, but the global coalition in support of Ukraine is stronger than ever, with the G7 as its anchor," Biden said on Twitter following Friday's virtual meeting with Zelenskyy. Still, as the conflict enters a second year, there are no indications that President Vladimir Putin will retreat from the conflict. And the avalanche of international sanctions that have been steadily hoisted on Moscow over the past year have yet to deliver the sort of knockout blow to the Russian economy that the White House — and independent economists — predicted at the outset of the war. The Russian economy has weathered sanctions better than expected in 2022, in part due to “the slow introduction of commodities sanctions," according to a Moody’s Investors Service report on Friday. The Russian economy is expected to weaken in 2023, with GDP shrinking by 3% this year, according to the Moody's projection. The economy shrank 2.2% in 2022, far short of predictions of 15% or more that Biden administration officials had showcased at the start of the war. Export controls and financial sanctions are gradually eroding Russia’s industrial capacity, but oil and other energy exports last year enabled Putin to keep funding the war. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that Russia's economy was “showing some resilience” but he also said it's not clear that it “can be sustained for the long haul.” Of Putin, he said, “He has had to take some drastic measures to prop up his economy, to prop up his currency, including playing pretty aggressively with interest rates for instance." The new sanctions introduced by U.S. Treasury on Friday hit Russian firms, banks, manufacturers and individuals, taking aim at entities that helped Russia evade earlier rounds. Russia’s metals and mining sector are among those targeted in what Treasury called one of the “most significant sanctions actions to date.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, attending meetings in India on Friday with fellow financial chiefs of the Group of 20 leading economies, called out Russian officials in attendance and insisted the world's biggest economies must do more to support Ukraine. Read more: Biden says US sending medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine “I urge the Russian officials here at the G-20 to understand that their continued work for the Kremlin makes them complicit in Putin’s atrocities,” Yellen said. “They bear responsibility for the lives and livelihoods being taken in Ukraine and the harm caused globally.” The U.S. State and Commerce departments as well as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative also issued plans Friday to increase pressure on Russia. These steps impose visa restrictions on 1,219 members of the Russian military, increase tariffs on Russian products such as metal, worth roughly $2.8 billion, and add nearly 90 Russian and third-country companies, including from China, to a list of identified sanctions evaders. More than 30 countries representing more than half the world’s economy have already imposed sanctions on Russia, making it the most sanctioned nation in the world. The sanctions have imposed price caps on Russian oil and diesel, frozen Russian Central Bank funds and restricted access to SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions. The U.S. and allies have directly sanctioned roughly 2,500 Russian firms, government officials, oligarchs and their families. The sanctions are depriving them of access to their American bank accounts and financial markets, preventing them from doing business with Americans, traveling to the U.S. and more. By Friday afternoon, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, an international standard-setting body on illicit finance, suspended Russia from its membership. The removal occurred for the first time in the body's 34-year history. Britain also announced new sanctions Friday on firms that supply Russia’s battlefield equipment and says it will bar export to Russia of all items it has used in the war, such as aircraft parts, radio equipment and electronic components of weapons. “We don’t think the job is by any means done," Britain’s Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt said.
The U.S. will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, senior administration officials said Wednesday, reversing months of persistent arguments by the Biden administration that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain. The U.S. decision came on the heels of Germany agreeing to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its own stocks. Germany had said the Leopards would not be sent unless the U.S. put its Abrams on the table, not wanting to incur Russia's wrath without the U.S. similarly committing its own tanks. Since then, both sides had participated in "good diplomatic conversations” that had made the difference and were part of the “extraordinary shift in Germany’s security policy" over providing weapons to Ukraine since Russia invaded 11 months ago, said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity to describe the new tank package in advance of the announcement. The $400 million package announced Wednesday also includes eight M88 recovery vehicles — tank-like tracked vehicles that can tow the Abrams if it gets stuck. Altogether, France, the U.K., the U.S., Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will send hundreds of tanks and heavy armored vehicles to fortify Ukraine as it enters a new phase of the war and attempts to break through entrenched Russian lines. But there were few answers about what U.S. tanks would be sent — whether they would be pulled from the existing stockpile of more than 4,000 Abrams and retrofitted, or whether the U.S. would use the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to buy new systems to possibly backfill allies who send their own or buy new systems outright for Ukraine. Read more: In reversal, US poised to approve Abrams tanks for Ukraine Either way, using the assistance initiative funding route means that while Abrams have now been promised to Ukraine, it will likely be many months before the tanks are actually on the battlefield, and not in time for Russia's anticipated spring offensive. Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechayev on Wednesday called Berlin’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “extremely dangerous.” Nechayev said in an online statement that the move “shifts the conflict to a new level of confrontation and contradicts the statements of German politicians about their reluctance to get involved in it.” “We’re seeing yet again that Germany, as well as its closest allies, is not interested in a diplomatic resolution of the Ukraine crisis, it is determined to permanently escalate it and to indefinitely pump the Kyiv regime full of new lethal weapons,” the statement read. Until now, the U.S. has resisted providing its own M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, citing extensive and complex maintenance and logistical challenges with the high-tech vehicles. Washington believes it would be more productive to send German Leopards since many allies have them and Ukrainian troops would need less training than on the more difficult Abrams. Just last week, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told reporters that the Abrams is a complicated, expensive, difficult to maintain and hard to train on piece of equipment. One thing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been very focused on, he said, “is that we should not be providing the Ukrainians systems they can’t repair, they can’t sustain, and that they, over the long term, can’t afford, because it’s not helpful.” Read more: Germany says it won't block Poland giving Ukraine tanks For the Abrams to be effective in Ukraine, its forces will require extensive training on combined arms manuevuer — how the tanks operate together on the battlefield, and on how to maintain and support the complex, 70-ton weapon. The Abrams tanks use a turbine jet engine to propel themselves that burns through at least two gallons a mile regardless of whether they are moving or idling, which means that a network of fuel trucks is needed to keep the line moving.
In what would be a reversal, the Biden administration is poised to approve sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, U.S. officials said Tuesday, as international reluctance to send tanks to the battlefront against the Russians begins to erode. The decision could be announced as soon as Wednesday, though it could take months or years for the tanks to be delivered. U.S. officials said details are still being worked out. One official said the tanks would be bought under an upcoming Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package, which provides longer-range funding for weapons and equipment to be purchased from commercial vendors. The U.S. announcement is expected to come on Wednesday in coordination with an announcement by Germany that it will approve Poland’s request to transfer German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, according to one official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been made public. By agreeing to send the Abrams at an as-yet unspecified time under the assistance initiative, the administration is able to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's demand for an American commitment without having to send the tanks immediately. Weapons provided through the assistance initiative can take many months to several years to reach the battlefield. Much of the aid sent so far in the 11-month-old war has been through a separate program drawing on Pentagon stocks to get weapons more quickly to Ukraine. But even under that program, it would take months to get tanks to Ukraine and to get Ukrainian forces trained on them. It's unknown how many tanks would be approved. Until now, the U.S. has resisted providing its own M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, citing extensive and complex maintenance and logistical challenges with the high-tech vehicles. Washington believes it would be more productive to send German Leopards since many allies have them and Ukrainian troops would need less training than on the more difficult Abrams. A U.S. official familiar with White House thinking said the administration’s initial hesitancy was based on concerns about the requisite training and the sustainment of the tanks. The official added that the administration believes that such plans are now in place, but it could take time to implement them. Read more: Defense leaders meet amid dissent over tanks for Ukraine At the Pentagon, spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said he had nothing to announce on any U.S. decision regarding Abrams tanks. But he said, “anytime that we’ve provided Ukraine with a type of system, we’ve provided the training and sustainment capabilities with that.” The administration's reversal comes just days after a coalition of more than 50 senior defense officials from Europe and beyond met in Germany to discuss Ukraine’s war needs, and battle tanks were a prime topic. Ukrainian leaders have been urgently requesting tanks, but Germany had resisted mounting pressure either to supply its own tanks or clear the way for other countries, such as Poland, to send the German-made tanks from their own stocks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the deployment of Western tanks would trigger “unambiguously negative” consequences. Defense leaders from the countries that have Leopard 2 tanks met with the Germans during the Friday conference at Ramstein Air Base in an effort to hammer out an agreement. On Sunday, Berlin indicated it wouldn’t stand in the way if other countries wanted to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv. Germany needs to agree for the tanks to be given to Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO. U.S. and German officials have given mixed signals about whether the U.S. and German decisions are linked, and whether Berlin was hesitant to send its tanks unless the U.S. sent Abrams. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said Tuesday that Poland has officially requested permission from Germany to transfer its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. Read more: Poland asks Berlin to OK Ukraine tanks; Kyiv targets graft German officials confirmed to the dpa news agency they had received the application and said it would be assessed “with due urgency.” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Sunday that Berlin wouldn’t seek to stop Poland from providing the high-tech armor to Kyiv. Lawmakers in Congress have also been pushing the U.S. to beef up its aid to Ukraine. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday “it’s time, past time” for the Biden administration and allies to send more military aid to Ukraine, and that the U.S. must provide more tanks and weapons to help Ukraine “win this war.” “It’s time, past time, for the Biden administration and our allies to get serious about helping Ukraine finish the job and retake their country.” The likely plans to send the Abrams were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Biden administration officials are toughening their language toward NATO ally Turkey as they try to talk Turkish President Recep Erdogan out of launching a bloody and destabilizing ground offensive against American-allied Kurdish forces in neighboring Syria. Since Nov. 20, after six people died in an Istanbul bombing a week before that Turkey blamed, without evidence, on the U.S. and its Kurdish allies in Syria, Turkey has launched cross-border airstrikes, rockets and shells into U.S.- and Kurdish-patrolled areas of Syria, leaving Kurdish funeral corteges burying scores of dead. Some criticized the initial muted U.S. response to the near-daily Turkish bombardment — a broad call for “de-escalation” — as a U.S. green light for more. With Erdogan not backing down on his threat to escalate, the U.S. began speaking more forcefully. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday to express “strong opposition” to Turkey launching a new military operation in northern Syria. And National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Friday made one of the administration's first specific mentions of the impact of the Turkish strikes on the Kurdish militia, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, that works with the United States against Islamic State militants bottled up in northern Syria. How successfully the United States manages Erdogan’s threat to send troops in against America's Kurdish partners over coming weeks will affect global security concerns far from that isolated corner of Syria. Read more: Biden, Macron vow unity against Russia, discuss trade row That's especially true for the Ukraine conflict. The Biden administration is eager for Erdogan's cooperation with other NATO partners in countering Russia, particularly when it comes to persuading Turkey to drop its objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. But giving Turkey free rein in attacks on the Syrian Kurds in hopes of securing Erdogan's cooperation within NATO would have big security implications of its own. U.S. forces on Friday stopped joint military patrols with the Kurdish forces in northern Syria to counter Islamic State extremists, as the Kurds concentrate on defending themselves from the Turkish air and artillery attacks and a possible ground invasion. Since 2015, the Syrian Kurdish forces have worked with the few hundred forces the U.S. has on the ground there, winning back territory from the Islamic State and then detaining thousands of Islamic State fighters and their families and battling remnant Islamic State fighters. On Saturday, the U.S. and Kurds resumed limited patrols at one of the detention camps. “ISIS is the forgotten story for the world and the United States, because of the focus on Ukraine,” said Omer Taspinar, an expert on Turkey and European security at the Brookings Institution and the National War College. ISIS is one widely used acronym for the Islamic State. “Tragically, what would revive Western support for the Kurds ... would be another ISIS terrorist attack, God forbid, in Europe or in the United States that will remind people that we actually have not defeated ISIS,” Taspinar said. Turkey says the Syrian Kurds are allied to a nearly four-decade PKK Kurdish insurgency in southeast Turkey that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people on both sides. The United States' Syrian Kurdish allies deny any attacks in Turkey. U.S. Central Command, and many in Congress, praise the Syrian Kurds as brave comrades in arms. In July, Central Command angered Turkey by tweeting condolences for a Syrian Kurdish deputy commander and two other female fighters killed by a drone strike blamed on Turkey. In 2019, a public outcry by his fellow Republicans and many others killed a plan by President Donald Trump, which he announced after a call with Erdogan, to clear U.S. troops out of the way of an expected Turkish attack on the Kurdish allies in Syria. Read more: Biden strengthening US policy to stem sexual violence in war zones, including in Ukraine Then-presidential contender Joe Biden was among those expressing outrage. “The Kurds were integral in helping us defeat ISIS — and too many lost their lives. Now, President Trump has abandoned them. It’s shameful,” Biden tweeted at the time. The measured U.S. response now — even after some Turkish strikes hit near sites that host U.S. forces — reflects the significant strategic role that Turkey, as a NATO member, plays in the alliance's efforts to counter Russia in Europe. The State Department and USAID did not immediately answer questions about whether the Turkish strikes had hindered aid workers and operations that partner with the United States. Turkey, with strong ties to both Russia and the United States, has contributed to its NATO allies' efforts against Russia in key ways during the Ukraine conflict. That includes supplying armed drones to Ukraine, and helping mediate between Russia and the United States and others. But Turkey is also seeking to exert leverage within the alliance by blocking Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. Turkey is demanding that Sweden surrender Kurdish exiles that it says are affiliated with the PKK Kurdish insurgents. Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that Sweden extradited a member of the PKK and he was arrested Saturday upon arrival in Istanbul. Turkey is one of only two of the 30 NATO members not to have signed off yet on the Nordic countries' NATO memberships. Hungary, the other, is expected to do so. At a gathering of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, this past week, NATO diplomats refrained from publicly confronting Turkey, avoiding giving offense that might further set back the cause of Finland's and Sweden's NATO membership. Turkey's foreign minister made clear to his European counterparts that Turkey had yet to be appeased, when it came to Finland or Sweden hosting Kurdish exiles there. “We reminded that in the end, it’s the Turkish people and the Turkish parliament that need to be convinced,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on the sidelines. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to talk Thursday with Finland's and Sweden's foreign ministers on dealing with Turkey's objections to their NATO accession. Experts say the Biden administration has plenty of leverage to wield privately in urging Erdogan to relent in the threatened escalated attack on Syrian Kurds. That includes U.S. F-16 fighter sales that Turkey wants but have been opposed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and others in Congress. There's a third big security risk in the U.S. handling of Turkey's invasion threat, along with the possible impact on the Ukraine conflict and on efforts to contain the Islamic State. That's the risk to Kurds, a stateless people and frequent U.S. ally often abandoned by the U.S. and the West in past conflicts over the past century. If the U.S. stands by while Turkey escalates attacks on the Syrian Kurds who were instrumental in quelling the Islamic State, “especially in the aftermath of Afghanistan, what message are we sending to the Middle East?" asked Henri J. Barkey, an expert on Kurds and Turkey at the Council on Foreign Relations and at Lehigh University. “And to all allies in general?" Barkey asked. An ethnic group of millions at the intersection of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, Kurds lost out on a state of their own as the U.S. and other powers carved up the remnants of the Turkish Ottoman Empire after World War I. Saddam Hussein and other regional leaders used poison gas, airstrikes and other tools of mass slaughter over the decades to suppress the Kurds. As under U.S. President George H.W. Bush in 1991 after the Gulf War, the United States at times encouraged popular uprisings but stood by as Kurds died in the resulting massacres. On Nov. 28, hundreds of Syrian Kurds gathered for the victims of one of the Turkish airstrikes — five guards killed securing the al-Hol camp, which holds thousands of family members of Islamic State fighters. Relatives of one of the Kurdish guards, Saifuddin Mohammed, placed his photo on his grave. “Of course, we are proud,” said his brother, Abbas Mohammed. “He defended his land and his honor against the Turkish invading forces.”
The Biden administration on Monday told hospitals that they “must” provide abortion services if the life of the mother is at risk, saying federal law on emergency treatment guidelines preempts state laws in jurisdictions that now ban the procedure without any exceptions following the Supreme Court’s decision to end a constitutional right to abortion. The Department of Health and Human Services cited requirements on medical facilities in the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA. The law requires medical facilities to determine whether a person seeking treatment may be in labor or whether they face an emergency health situation — or one that could develop into an emergency — and to provide treatment. “If a physician believes that a pregnant patient presenting at an emergency department is experiencing an emergency medical condition as defined by EMTALA, and that abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve that condition, the physician must provide that treatment,” the agency’s guidance states. “When a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life of the pregnant person — or draws the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s emergency medical condition definition — that state law is preempted.” The department said emergency conditions include “ectopic pregnancy, complications of pregnancy loss, or emergent hypertensive disorders, such as preeclampsia with severe features.” Currently, even the states with the most stringent bans on abortion do allow exceptions when the health of a mother is at risk, though the threat of prosecution has created confusion for some doctors. In a letter to health care providers, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra wrote, “It is critical that providers know that a physician or other qualified medical personnel’s professional and legal duty to provide stabilizing medical treatment to a patient who presents to the emergency department and is found to have an emergency medical condition preempts any directly conflicting state law or mandate that might otherwise prohibit such treatment.” The department says its guidance doesn’t reflect new policy, but merely reminds doctors and providers of their existing obligations under federal law. “Under federal law, providers in emergency situations are required to provide stabilizing care to someone with an emergency medical condition, including abortion care if necessary, regardless of the state where they live,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “CMS will do everything within our authority to ensure that patients get the care they need.” Mississippi’s trigger law, which went into effect Thursday, says abortion will be legal only if the woman’s life is in danger or if a pregnancy is caused by a rape reported to law enforcement. It does not have an exception for pregnancies caused by incest. When asked about the Biden administration’s new guidance, Michelle Williams, chief of staff to Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, pointed to the existing exception in Mississippi’s abortion law. Read: Post-Roe, states struggle with conflicting abortion bans “Mississippi’s law already makes an exception for preservation of the mother’s life,” Williams told The Associated Press on Monday. “The Biden Administration’s statement of existing law today is about nothing more than maintaining the false narrative that women’s lives are in danger in order to appease his base.”
The Biden administration, reacting to a federal court ruling in Texas, has suspended an order that had focused resources for the arrest and deportation of immigrants on those who are considered a threat to public safety and national security. The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Saturday it will abide by the decision issued this month, even though it “strongly disagrees” and is appealing it. Immigrant advocates and experts on Monday said the suspension of Biden’s order will only sow fear among immigrant communities. Many living in the country illegally will now be afraid to leave their homes out of concern they’ll be detained, even if they’re otherwise law-abiding, said Steve Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University. Also read: Biden urges Western unity on Ukraine amid war fatigue Prioritizing whom to arrest and deport is a necessity, he said. “We simply don’t have enough ICE agents to pick up and put into proceedings everyone who violates our immigration law,” Yale-Loehr said. The Texas case centers around a memorandum Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, issued last September, directing immigration agencies to focus their enforcement efforts on those who represented a threat to national security or public safety or who recently entered the U.S. illegally. The approach was a departure from President Donald Trump’s administration, when immigration agencies were given wide latitude on whom to arrest, detain and deport, prompting many immigrants without legal status to upend their daily routines to evade detection, such as avoiding driving or even taking sanctuary in churches and other places generally off limits to immigration authorities. But on June 10, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton in southern Texas voided Mayorkas' memo, siding with Republican state officials in Texas and Louisiana who argued the Biden administration did not have the authority to issue such a directive. In response, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will make enforcement decisions on “a case-by-case basis in a professional and responsible manner, informed by their experience as law enforcement officials and in a way that best protects against the greatest threats to the homeland,” the Department of Homeland Security said in its statement Saturday. Also read: G-7 to ban Russian gold in response to Ukraine war: Biden How the court ruling plays out in cities and towns across the country remains to be seen, advocates say. Sarang Sekhavat, political director at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, the largest such group in New England, said the outcome likely rests on the approach taken by local ICE field offices. Some ICE offices may elect to go after a wider range of immigrants, while others will continue to focus on going after ones that pose the greatest threats, he said. “This takes away any kind of centralized guidance,” Sekhavat said. “What this does is really leave it in the hands of the local field office and how they want to go about enforcement.” Nationwide, ICE officials arrested more than 74,000 immigrants and removed more than 59,000 in the fiscal year that ended in September, according to the agency’s most recent annual report. That’s down from the nearly 104,000 arrests and 186,000 deportations the prior fiscal year, according to ICE data. ICE spokespersons in Washington and the Boston field office, which covers the six-state New England region, declined to comment Monday, as did officials in ICE’s Los Angeles field office. But in a June interview with The Associated Press conducted before the Texas court ruling, Thomas Giles, head of ICE's LA office, said nine out of 10 immigration arrests locally involve people convicted of crimes. He said the Biden administration’s priorities didn’t bring a huge change for the region because officers were already focused on people with felony criminal convictions or prior deportations. It required them to weigh aggravating and mitigating factors and make more detailed evaluations on cases, he said, but the focus remained constant. “We’re out here enhancing public safety," Giles said.
In President Joe Biden’s estimation, the U.S. is in a strong position to overcome the worst inflation in more than 40 years. But so far, inflation just keeps getting the better of the U.S. economy and of the Biden administration. The president’s policies, his deals with the private sector, regulatory actions and public jawboning have failed so far to stop prices from marching upward. Biden on Friday pledged to keep fighting against inflation while touring the Port of Los Angeles, America’s busiest port and a place that the White House said last October would be key for reducing price pressures. “My administration is going to continue to do everything we can to lower the prices for the American people,” the president said after a decidedly bleak new report on consumer prices. The Labor Department reported Friday that consumer prices climbed 8.6% in May from a year ago. That’s the worst reading since December 1981 and a troubling sign for the economy as rate hikes by the Federal Reserve have yet to tamp down inflation as gasoline costs are surging upward. Rising prices are imperiling the U.S. economy as well as Democratic control of the House and Senate, putting Biden on the defensive. AAA separately reported that average U.S. gas prices reached a record $4.99 a gallon, an increase that has overwhelmed the president’s previous efforts to reduce overall inflation. The pain at the pump is hurting Biden’s public approval ahead of the midterm elections. The president on Friday also blamed corporate profits for inflation, saying that some companies — including shipping firms and the oil industry — are focused on maximizing profits. Biden specifically targeted ExxonMobil for not doing more to increase oil production. “Exxon made more money than God this year,” he said. ExxonMobil responded to Biden’s comment by saying that it is producing more oil. “We have been in regular contact with the administration, informing them of our planned investments to increase production and expand refining capacity in the United States,” Casey Norton, a spokesperson for the company, said in an email. “We increased production in the Permian Basin by 70%, or 190,000 barrels per day, between 2019 and 2021. We expect to increase production from the Permian by another 25% this year.” The Port of Los Angeles moved to round-the-clock operations last October under an agreement that the White House helped to shepherd. The goal was to clear backlogs of ships waiting to dock and containers waiting to flow into the country, a logjam that was pumping up prices as the world began to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. READ: Biden says US sending medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine The port is now moving out a record 200,000 containers on a rolling 30-day average. But the forces driving inflation have largely shifted to rising energy and food costs in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There has also been a broader increase in prices that go beyond supply chain issues. Housing, airfare and medical services expenses rose significantly in May. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said there were many levers that caused performance to improve in terms of getting goods to consumers and businesses faster. But he specifically credited the “convening powers of the federal government to bring people to the table” and the Biden administration’s focus on the supply chain. “We’ve reduced those ships that have been waiting to get into the port by 75% this year,” Seroka said. “These guys are really working because we’ve got strong consumer demand still.” The Biden administration is seeking to further reduce shipping prices with a bipartisan bill that the House could pass as soon as next week. The bill would give the Federal Maritime Commission tools to make ocean-based trade more efficient and price competitive, improving the flow of exports and imports. “What I have found here in California is that they want us to do whatever we could possibly do to address the inflation problem — and this is clearly one significant part of the problem,” said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., a sponsor of the bill. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said he saw a need for the additional tools in part after a cheese processor in his state had two million pounds of lactose rot because no carriers would take the product even though 60% of shipping containers were going back to Asia empty. “This is not a silver bullet with regard to inflation,” said Johnson, who sponsored the bill. But he noted that, as the provisions get implemented, “this will absolutely have an impact on inflation.” Strong consumer demand has been a mixed blessing for Biden. It reflects the robust job growth and solid household balance sheets that followed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed last year. But demand has consistently outpaced supply, causing prices to rise to levels that are forcing the Federal Reserve to try to slow growth and possibly risk a recession. The White House contends that the U.S. can tackle inflation without stumbling into a downturn because the economy is so strong with its 3.6% unemployment rate that it can withstand a slowdown. Biden is also trying to frame inflation as a global challenge, having been triggered first by the pandemic and then by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The president is attempting to rebut criticism by Republican lawmakers that inflation was the result of his government aid being too generous and his restrictions on U.S. oil production too onerous. Biden has attempted to slow inflation by improving port operations and twice releasing oil from the U.S. strategic reserve, in addition to other regulatory initiatives and a domestic agenda that includes budget deficit reduction and would need congressional approval. The visit to the port occurs as Biden has been hosting the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. On Friday, he will also announce a declaration on migration and hold a working luncheon with the heads of government and state attending the conference for nations in the Western Hemisphere. And mindful of the campaign season, Biden on Friday will attend two fundraising receptions for the Democratic National Committee.
A federal judge ordered a two-week halt Wednesday on the phasing out of pandemic-related restrictions on seeking asylum — and raised doubts about the Biden administration’s plan to fully lift those restrictions on May 23. For now, the decision is only a temporary setback for the administration. But the judge staked out a position that is highly sympathetic with Louisiana, Arizona and 19 other states that sued to preserve so-called Title 42 authority, which denies migrants a chance at asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. “(The states) have established a substantial threat of immediate and irreparable injury resulting from the early implementation of Title 42, including unrecoverable costs on healthcare, law enforcement, detention, education, and other services for migrants,” wrote U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Lafayette, Louisiana. Summerhays, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, said states were likely to succeed with their argument that the administration failed to adhere to federal procedures when it announced April 1 that it was ending Title 42 authority. The judge has scheduled a critical hearing on May 13 in Lafayette to hear arguments on whether to block Title 42 from ending as planned 10 days later. Texas filed a similar lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Victoria, Texas. Also Read: Tougher US asylum policy follows in Europe's footsteps The decision to end Title 42 authority was made by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has come under growing criticism from elected officials in Biden’s Democratic Party who contend the administration is unprepared for an anticipated increase in asylum-seekers. The Justice Department declined to comment on the order but the administration has said it will comply, while contending it will hamper preparations for Title 42 to end on May 23. About 14% of single adults from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were processed under immigration laws during a seven-day period ending last Thursday. That’s up from only 5% in March, according to government figures. Summerhays’ order requires the Homeland Security Department to “return to policies and practices in place” before it announced plans to end Title 42 and to submit weekly reports that demonstrate it is acting “in good faith.” Also Read: Judge won't block US asylum restrictions at southern border Migrants have been expelled more than 1.8 million times under the rule invoked in March 2020 by the Trump administration. Migrants were stopped more than 221,000 times at the Mexico border in March, a 22-year-high that has raised concerns about the government’s ability to handle even larger numbers when Title 42 is lifted. Advocates for asylum-seekers say the restrictions endanger people fleeing persecution back home and violates rights to seek protection under U.S. law and international treaty. As the CDC acknowledged, the public health justification for the order has weakened as the threat of COVID-19 has waned. At two often-contentious hearings Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sought to defend the administration’s handling of an increase of migrants at the Southwest border and its plans to deal with the prospect of more with the potential end of Title 42. Mayorkas sought to push back on Republican accusations that the Biden administration has encouraged irregular migration by allowing some people to seek asylum, blaming economic and political turmoil and violence throughout Latin America and the world. “Some of the causes of irregular migration have only been heightened by years of distress preceding this administration,” he said. Mayorkas testified one day after Homeland Security released a plan with more details about how it was preparing for the end of Title 42 authority.
North Korea said Monday leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to develop more powerful means of attack, days after the country's first intercontinental ballistic missile launch in more than four years. The statement suggests North Korea might perform additional launches or even test a nuclear device soon as it pushes to modernize its arsenal and increase pressure on the Biden administration while nuclear diplomacy remains stalled. Last Thursday, the North performed its 12th round of weapons tests this year, launching the newly developed, long-range Hwasong-17, which analysts say was designed to reach anywhere in the U.S. mainland. During a photo session with scientists and others involved in the Hwasong-17 test, Kim expressed a resolve to build up the country’s attack capability to cope with threats, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. Read: North Korea fires ballistic missile in extension of testing “Only when one is equipped with the formidable striking capabilities, overwhelming military power that cannot be stopped by anyone, one can prevent a war, guarantee the security of the country and contain and put under control all threats and blackmails by the imperialists,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying. Kim said North Korea will develop more "powerful strike means” and also expressed his conviction and expectation that his country will “more vigorously perfect the nuclear war deterrence of the country,” KCNA said. North Korea said the Hwasong-17 flew to a maximum altitude of 6,248 kilometers (3,880 miles) and traveled 1,090 kilometers (680 miles) during a 67-minute flight before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Outside experts said if the missile is fired on a standard trajectory, flatter than the steep test angle, it could fly as far as 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), enough to reach anywhere in the U.S. mainland and beyond. Believed to be about 25 meters (82 feet) long, the Hwasong-17 is the North’s longest-range weapon and, by some estimates, the world’s biggest road-mobile ballistic missile system. Its size suggests the missile is meant to carry multiple nuclear warheads, given the North already has single-warhead ICBMs that could hit most of the U.S. U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at convincing North Korea to denuclearize in return for economic and political benefits largely has stalled since 2019. The Biden administration has urged North Korea to return to talks without any preconditions, but Pyongyang has responded Washington must drop its hostility first and has taken steps to expand his weapons arsenals. Read: N. Korea confirms test of missile capable of striking Guam Some experts say Kim could soon conduct another ICBM launch, a launch of a satellite-carrying rocket or a test of a nuclear device as he works to perfect his weapons technology, dial up pressure on the United States and secure stronger internal royalty. The Hwasong-17 liftoff was the North’s most serious weapons launch since it tested a previously developed ICBM in November 2017.