US announces $26m more in assistance for Rohingyas, host communities
The United States has announced around USD 26 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and the region, for those in Myanmar affected by the ongoing violence, and for the communities hosting refugees from the country. “With this new funding, our total assistance for those affected by the Rakhine State and Rohingya crisis has reached nearly $2.1 billion since August of 2017, when over 740,000 Rohingya were forced to flee to safety in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh,” US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price said in a regular media briefing in Washington. This new funding would allow USA’s humanitarian partners to continue providing lifesaving assistance to affected communities on both sides of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, including nearly 980,000 Rohingya refugees hosted by Bangladesh, some 740,000 of whom arrived in the months following August 2017 when they were forced to flee genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and other horrific atrocities and abuses perpetrated by Myanmar’s military in Rakhine State, he said. Also Read: Rohingya repatriation top priority in JRP 2023, US$ 876m sought This funding will also provide assistance to nearly 540,000 Bangladeshi host community members and to others affected by ongoing violence in Myanmar. The United States appreciated the generosity of the Government of Bangladesh and other nations and the hospitality of the Bangladeshi people in hosting Rohingya refugees, especially now that “we are in the sixth year of this protracted crisis,” he added. “We remain committed to working towards durable solutions to the crisis, and we’ll continue to partner with the Government of Bangladesh, the Rohingya community, host communities, and people inside Burma to ensure a coordinated and well-supported response to this humanitarian crisis,” Ned Price said. The international community, he said, must remain steadfast in their commitment to alleviating the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people, including through the Rohingya crisis response. Also Read: JRP 2023 launched: IOM in $125m appeal for Rohingyas, hosts.
Quad voices deep concern at "deteriorating situation" in Myanmar
Quad countries have strongly emphasized the importance of maintaining peace, stability, and prosperity and expressed their deep concern at the deteriorating situation in Myanmar. "In this regard, we emphasize the need for complete cessation of violence, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, resolution of issues through dialogue, unhindered humanitarian access, and transition to an inclusive, federal democratic system in Myanmar," account to a joint statement released by the Secretary of State of the United States and the Foreign Ministers of the governments of Australia, India, and Japan on the occasion of the Quad Foreign Ministers’ meeting held in New Delhi. Towards this, they reaffirm their consistent support to the ASEAN-led efforts, including the work of the ASEAN Chair and Office of the Special Envoy, and called for the full implementation of ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus. "We also encourage the international community to work together in a pragmatic and constructive way towards resolving the crisis in Myanmar," the joint statement issued by the US Department of State on Friday night after the Quad Ministerial Meeting. The Foreign Ministers of Australia, India and Japan and the Secretary of State of the United States of America met in New Delhi, India on March 3 for the Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. They will work closely to align and complement the Quad’s agenda with Japan’s Presidency of the G7, India’s Presidency of the G20, and the United States’ APEC host year in 2023, according to the joint statement. "We will continue to meet regularly to deliver concrete benefits and serve as a force for good, deepening practical and positive cooperation for the benefit of the Indo-Pacific region," it reads. The meeting reaffirmed the Quad’s "steadfast commitment" to supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is inclusive and resilient. Read more: Quad FMs, wary of China’s might, push Indo-Pacific option "We strongly support the principles of freedom, rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force and freedom of navigation and overflight, and oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, all of which are essential to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and beyond," they said. They underscored the importance of achieving SDGs in a "comprehensive manner" without prioritizing a narrow set of such goals, and reaffirmed that the UN has a central role in supporting countries in its implementation. They recognized that peace and security in the maritime domain underpins the development and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, and reiterated the importance of respect for sovereignty, consistent with international law. The Quad members are determined to "deepen engagement" with regional partners, including through information-sharing, capacity-building and technical assistance, to strengthen maritime domain awareness; to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; to enhance their capability to protect and develop offshore resources, consistent with UNCLOS; to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight; and to promote the safety and security of sea lines of communication. They wwelcome the announcement of the first class of Quad Fellows, who will begin their academic pursuits in the United States in August 2023. The next Quad Leaders’ Summit being hosted by Australia will be held this year.
Cindy McCain next World Food Programme chief
Cindy McCain will become the next executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) next month, the UN agency said Thursday. Currently serving as the United States Ambassador to the UN agencies in Rome – which includes lifesaving food relief agency WFP – the wife of the late US Senator and Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, said she was "deeply honoured" to be appointed, noting that the agency has been part of her life for decades. Cindy is the former chair of the Board of Trustees of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University. She has a long track record in non-profit and humanitarian work, having served on the Board of Directors of Project CURE, CARE, Operation Smile, the Halo Trust and the advisory boards of Too Small To Fail and Warriors and Quiet Waters. "I am ready to roll up my sleeves and spend time both in Rome and in the field, deepening my understanding of WFP's vital work, and making sure it continues to grow to meet the needs of a hungry world," said McCain. Read more: Reduction in WFP assistance could drive up crimes, radicalization in Rohingya camps: ARSPH She will take over from fellow American, David Beasley, who will have served six years when his term ends on April 4. Announcing the appointment at the regular press briefing in New York, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the secretary-general was "deeply grateful for his "important contribution and service" to the WFP. Cindy, he said, was a "champion for human rights" who has "a long history of giving a voice to the voiceless through her humanitarian and philanthropic work." The increasing number of conflicts, climate shocks and economic turmoil has led to a sharp rise in the number of acutely food-insecure people struggling to get enough food to feed their families – up almost 200 million since before the coronavirus pandemic, the WFP said in a press release announcing Cindy's appointment. The WFP said it provided more than 158 million people with food, cash and vouchers last year, more than in any previous year, and received a record $14 billion in funding. In 2020, the emergency food agency was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
US man arrested trying to bring homemade explosive onto plane
A Pennsylvania man faces federal criminal charges after he checked in a suitcase with an explosive device hidden in the lining on a flight to Florida, authorities said Wednesday. Marc Muffley, 40, is charged with possessing an explosive in an airport and possessing or attempting to place an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft, according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutors allege that the material was found in a suitcase Muffley had checked in Monday at Lehigh Valley International Airport to Allegiant Air Flight 201, which was bound for Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida. After an alert during security screening, the bag was examined and found hidden in the lining was a “circular compound” about three inches in diameter encased in a wax-like paper and clear plastic wrap. An FBI bomb technician X-rayed the compound and concluded that it contained a granular powder consistent with a “commercial grade firework” and “suspected to be a mixture of flash powder and the dark granulars that are used in commercial grade fireworks.” Attached to it was a “quick fuse” similar to a candle wick — apparently part of the original manufacture of the compound — as well as a “hobby fuse” that burns more slowly and appeared to have been added after the manufacture, authorities said. Authorities said they concluded that both the black powder and flash powder “are susceptible to ignite from heat and friction and posed a significant risk to the aircraft and passengers,” according to the criminal complaint. The baggage also contained “a can of butane, a lighter, a pipe with white powder residue, a wireless drill with cordless batteries, and two GFCI outlets taped together with black tape,” authorities said. GFCI outlets are a type of circuit breaker. Authorities said Muffley was paged over the airport’s public address system and shortly thereafter he was seen leaving the airport. He was traced to a Lansford address where he was arrested by the FBI late Monday night. Officials said he remains in custody pending a probable cause hearing and detention hearing Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Allentown, with Muffley attending via videoconference. A message was left Wednesday for Muffley’s federal public defender, Timothy Wright.
CIA chief: China has some doubt on ability to invade Taiwan
U.S. intelligence shows that China’s President Xi Jinping has instructed his country’s military to “be ready by 2027” to invade Taiwan though he may be currently harboring doubts about his ability to do so given Russia’s experience in its war with Ukraine, CIA Director William Burns said. Burns, in a television interview that aired on Sunday, stressed that the United States must take “very seriously” Xi’s desire to ultimately control Taiwan even if military conflict is not inevitable. “We do know, as has been made public, that President Xi has instructed the PLA, the Chinese military leadership, to be ready by 2027 to invade Taiwan, but that doesn’t mean that he’s decided to invade in 2027 or any other year as well,” Burns told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I think our judgment at least is that President Xi and his military leadership has doubts today about whether they could accomplish that invasion,” he said. Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with the Communist Party in control of the mainland. The self-governing island acts like a sovereign nation yet is not recognized by the United Nations or any major country. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter formally recognized the government in Beijing and cut nation-to-nation ties with Taiwan. In response, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, creating a benchmark for a continuing relationship. Taiwan has received numerous displays of official American support for the island democracy in the face of growing shows of force by Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory. President Joe Biden has said that American forces would defend Taiwan if China tries to invade. The White House says U.S. policy has not changed in making clear that Washington wants to see Taiwan’s status resolved peacefully. It is silent as to whether U.S. forces might be sent in response to a Chinese attack. In Sunday’s interview, Burns said the support from the U.S. and European allies for Ukraine following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of that country may be acting as a potential deterrent to Chinese officials for now but said the risks of a possible attack on Taiwan will only grow stronger. “I think, as they’ve looked at Putin’s experience in Ukraine, that’s probably reinforced some of those doubts,” Burns said. “So, all I would say is that I think the risks of, you know, a potential use of force probably grow the further into this decade you get and beyond it, into the following decade as well. “So that’s something obviously, that we watch very, very carefully,” he said.
Israel approves over 7,000 settlement homes, groups say
Israel’s far-right government has granted approval for over 7,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, settlement backers and opponents said Thursday. The move defies growing international opposition to construction in the occupied territory. The announcement came just days after the U.N. Security Council passed a statement strongly criticizing Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians. The United States, Israel’s closest ally, blocked what would have been an even tougher legally binding resolution, with diplomats saying they had received Israeli assurances of refraining from unilateral acts for six months. Read More: 10 Palestinians killed, scores hurt in Israel West Bank raid The new approvals took place during a two-day meeting that ended Thursday and appeared to contradict those claims. The U.S. has repeatedly criticized Israeli settlement construction, saying it undermines hopes for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, but taken no action to stop it. Peace Now, an anti-settlement watchdog group that attended the meeting, said a planning committee granted approvals for some 7,100 new housing units across the West Bank. The group said the committee scheduled a meeting next month to discuss plans to develop a strategic area east of Jerusalem known as E1. The U.S. in the past has blocked the project, which would largely bisect the West Bank and which critics say would make it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. Read more: UN approves resolution calling for Russia to leave Ukraine Lior Amihai, the group's incoming director, said some 5,200 housing units were in the early stages of planning, while the remainder were approved for near-term construction. He also said construction was approved in four unauthorized outposts. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had pledged not to legalize any more wildcat outposts. He made the promise after retroactively legalizing 10 existing outposts earlier this month. The Israeli government is “spitting on the face of the U.S., only a few days after announcing that they committed to them that there would be no advancement of settlements in the near future,” said Peace Now. The United States criticized the decision. “We view the expansion of settlements as an obstacle to peace that undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution,” said a National Security Council Statement. But it gave no indication that the U.S. was prepared to act. Read more: Israel's Netanyahu advances judicial changes despite uproar Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, appealed to the United States to intervene. “The American side is required to stop this violation, which will not lead to any peace or stability in the region,” he said. The planned construction is likely to add to the already heightened tensions following an Israeli military raid that killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday. The international community, along with the Palestinians, considers settlement construction illegal or illegitimate. Over 700,000 Israelis now live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem — territories captured by Israel in 1967 and sought by the Palestinians for a future independent state. Netanyahu’s new coalition, which took office in late December, is dominated by religious and ultranationalist politicians with close ties to the settlement movement. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a firebrand settler leader, on Thursday was officially granted Cabinet-level authority over settlement policies. Smotrich had promised earlier this month a major settlement push. His office declined to comment Thursday, but settler representatives, who also attended the planning meeting, celebrated what they said were new approvals. Yossi Dagan, a settler leader in the northern West Bank, welcomed the retroactive approval of 118 homes in “Nofei Nehemia,” an outpost in the northern West Bank, after a 20-year struggle. “Great news for Samaria, for settlement and for the entire nation of Israel,” he said, using the biblical name for the region. Shlomo Neeman, chairman of the Yesha settler’s council, declared the approvals “a tremendous boost.” Neeman is also mayor of the “Gush Etzion” settlement bloc near Jerusalem, where settlers said hundreds of new homes were approved. The decision marks one of the largest approvals of settlement construction in years. In comparison, some 8,000 units were approved in the previous two years, according to Peace Now. “It's very big,” said Amihai.
US mass shooting linked to extremism spiked over last decade: Report
The number of U.S. mass killings linked to extremism over the past decade was at least three times higher than the total from any 10-year period since the 1970s, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. The report — provided to The Associated Press ahead of its public release on Thursday — also found that all extremist killings identified in 2022 were linked to right-wing extremism, with an especially high number linked to white supremacy. They include a racist mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 Black shoppers dead and a mass shooting that killed five people an LGBT nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “It is not an exaggeration to say that we live in an age of extremist mass killings,” the report from the group’s Center on Extremism says. Between two and seven extremism-related mass killings occurred every decade from the 1970s to the 2000s, but in the 2010s that number skyrocketed to 21, the report found. The trend has since continued with five extremist mass killings in 2021 and 2022, as many as there were during the first decade of the new millennium. The number of victims has risen as well. Between 2010 and 2020, 164 people died in ideological extremist-related mass killings, according to the report. That’s much more than any decade except the 1990s, when the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City killed 168 people. Extremist killings are those carried out by people with ties to extreme movements and ideologies. Several factors combined to drive the numbers up between 2010 and 2020. There were shootings inspired by the rise of the Islamic State group, as well as a handful targeting police officers after civilian shootings and others linked to the increasing promotion of violence by white supremacists, said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the ADL’s Center on Extremism. The center tracks slayings linked to various forms of extremism in the United States and compiles them in an annual report. It tracked 25 extremism-related killings last year, marking a decrease from the 33 the year before. Ninety-three percent of the killings in 2022 were committed with firearms. The report also noted that no police officers were killed by extremists last year, for the first time since 2011. With the waning of the Islamic State group, the main threat in the near future will likely be white supremacist shooters, the report found. The increase in the number of mass killing attempts, meanwhile, is one of the most alarming trends in recent years, said Center on Extremism Vice President Oren Segal. “We cannot stand idly by and accept this as the new norm,” Segal said.
US to refrain from anything that might contribute to further violence in Myanmar: FS
The United States has assured Bangladesh that the implementation of the Burma Act will not contribute to any violence which is “not desired at all” in the region. The US side mentioned about the Burma Act during Counselor of the US Department of State Derek Chollet’s just-concluded visit though there has been no specific proposal from the US side to Bangladesh. “We said there are issues to look into so that there is no further instability. They (US side) assured us that their efforts will be there to (help Myanmar) return to democratic process,” said Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen while responding to a specific question. Briefing reporters at the Foreign Service Academy on Wednesday evening, he said there was no proposal from the US side regarding the Burma Act. Counselor Chollet has emphasized continued US support to Bangladesh in addressing Rohingya issues. Overall, the Burma Act requires little change in US policy in Myanmar. However, it does give the Biden administration the discretionary authority to make major changes, if it wishes to do so. Read more: Dhaka, Delhi to hold foreign secretary-level talks in Dhaka Wednesday In addition, the Burma Act should also be viewed as an indication that Congress thinks that the Biden administration should take a more active role in supporting the pro-democracy forces in Myanmar in their efforts to overthrow the SAC and establish a democratic government in the country, according to Michael F. Martin, an adjunct fellow (non-resident) with the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. On the Rohingya issue, Counselor Chollet said they are continuously working and trying to help Bangladesh, which is hosting over 1 million Rohingyas, and also trying to deal with the root cause of the crisis in Myanmar.
Ambassador Haas lauds success of Bangladeshi students on US campuses
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas on Tuesday lauded the success of Bangladeshi students on US campuses. “We’re thrilled by the increasing number of Bangladeshis who have chosen to study in the United States to improve their prospects and find their passion. These students make valuable contributions to Bangladesh and the United States,” he said. The Ambassador highlighted the increasing number of Bangladeshi students studying in the United States, with Bangladesh currently ranking 13th among the top sending countries of origin for students studying in the United States. Ambassador Haas inaugurated the largest US university fair in Bangladesh with prospective students and US institutions. Read more: Excited to see more Bangladeshi students are choosing US: Peter Haas
Bangladesh's growing economy entices US to maintain good relations: FM
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Tuesday said the United States wants to maintain good relations with Bangladesh and noted that Bangladesh is "becoming a big economy". Momen said US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu came to Bangladesh to "help improve the relationship" between the two countries. “We had a very good discussion. We had a very positive and constructive discussion. They are very happy with us. We are also very happy,” he told reporters, adding that President Biden wants to improve relations with Bangladesh in the next 50 years. Momen said they are also happy with Ambassador Peter Haas because he is an expert on economic issues. “We are on a higher economic trajectory. Our main focus is on economic development. He (Peter) can help us.” Responding to a question on RAB, he said the elite force is now more mature and things have changed with accountability in place. Read more: 'Frequent visits' by US officials a good development: Foreign Minister Momen said Bangladesh is a leader in the world in terms of stopping extremists and terrorists. “We are very successful. There are no terrorism activities.” He said Bangladesh and the US follow the same values and Bangladesh welcomes any constructive suggestion. US Embassy spokesperson Jeff Ridenour on Tuesday said Assistant Secretary Lu praised the Bangladesh government for the “dramatic reduction” last year in the number of allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances by the RAB. During his meetings in Dhaka, Assistant Secretary Lu, however, did not indicate a time frame for the removal of RAB sanctions, he said. Momen said both sides acknowledged the weaknesses during the discussions. Read more: US envoy meets Momen, shares displeasure over embarrassment “We, Americans, have our own problems with democracy, but I am proud that our two countries can talk about these issues openly. We will also welcome support for improving our democracy,” Lu said.