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  • International appeal for calm in Mali after protest deaths

    International appeal for calm in Mali after protest deathsMali's worried allies and neighbours have appealed for restraint and dialogue as the country's deepening political crisis spirals into bloodshed. After three days of unrest in the capital Bamako, representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS late Sunday voiced their concern. Condemning "any form of violence as a means of crisis resolution," they attacked the use of lethal force by the security forces and urged dialogue, but warned that the arrest of protest leaders was an obstacle to this.

  • Nelson Mandela's daughter Zindzi dies at 59

    Nelson Mandela's daughter Zindzi dies at 59The youngest daughter of South Africa's first black president dies in Johannesburg.

  • Russian prosecutors charge three sisters with murdering their abusive father

    Russian prosecutors charge three sisters with murdering their abusive fatherIn a 'stunning' reversal in one of the country's most notorious cases, Russian prosecutors have brought charges of premeditated murder against three Moscow teenage sisters for killing their abusive father, their defence team said on Monday. The decision was greeted with shock after the same prosecutor Viktor Grin asked investigators in December to drop the murder charges, arguing that the sisters acted in self-defence. Krestina, Angelina and Maria stabbed their 57-year old father Mikhail Khachaturyan in July 2018 after enduring years of intimidation, beatings and sexual abuse. The sisters’ case became a cause celebre among campaigners against domestic violence, triggering public discussion about family and relationships in modern Russia. “This is a stunning standpoint,” Alexei Parshin, defence lawyer for Angelina Khachaturyan, told the Telegraph, referring to the prosecutors’ decision to back the same indictment they dismissed a few months earlier. “It shows that the state is willing to protect a rapist more than his victims.” The girls were “prepared” for this decision, according to Parshin, who said that as victims of long-lasting abuse they believe that “the hell they’re going through right now is much better than what they were subjected to before.” To Mari Davtyan, who often represents victims of domestic violence in court, the prosecutors’ surprise decision spells a worrying trend of cracking down on human rights that appears to have taken hold after Vladimir Putin won the vote earlier this month to extend his rule. “It’s impossible not to notice what’s been happening on a daily basis since 1 July, 2020,” she said on Facebook, referring to the preceding week of arrests and police raids. “The state has chosen its trend. The Khachaturyan sisters’ case is not an exception.”

  • Russia to push back deadline for $360 bln spending on national projects to 2030
  • In Moscow’s Afghan Bazaar, Searching for a Bagman Who Pays Bounties for Dead Americans

    In Moscow’s Afghan Bazaar, Searching for a Bagman Who Pays Bounties for Dead AmericansMOSCOW—If you ask where to find almost anyone in Moscow’s Afghan community, you’ll be told to come here, to the Hotel Sevastopol. Probably you will be told it has 16 floors, which seems important to the direction givers. Much of the hotel has been turned into a market, a sort of Afghan bazaar where men with tired eyes above their covid masks crowd into the elevators carrying plastic shopping bags full of fragrant Indian spices, semi-precious stones, and cheap leather goods.Russian neighbors of the Hotel Sevastopol complain bitterly about drugs being sold in the depths of this maze of hallways and rooms converted into tiny shops. Not unlike Afghanistan itself, they say, the market is a complete mess. But the Afghans seem to have enough clout with Moscow’s city government to keep business going. Always, new men are showing up to have a kebab and share the latest news.   Lately, talk turned to a certain Rahmatullah Azizi. He was identified by the New York Times at the beginning of this month as a middleman U.S. and Afghan security services believe paid bounties to the Taliban and criminal gangs in Afghanistan to kill American and other coalition soldiers. A unit of the Russian military intelligence, widely known as the GRU, allegedly were behind the operation.Both the U.S. and Afghan security services have been investigating the bounty scheme for months, raiding homes and offices and arresting at least a dozen suspects. According to the report, Azizi accumulated considerable wealth, with expensive cars and private bodyguards. A raid on one of his homes in Afghanistan several months ago turned up half a million dollars in cash. But Azizi was believed to have fled to Russia.Here in the Sevastopol Hotel, however, it appears nobody ever heard of Rahmatullah Azizi. He certainly hadn’t shown up here, people said.A tall young Afghan man, who offered just one name, Sam, was selling lapis lazuli necklaces on the 16th floor. “An Azizi worked here before me,” he said. “But he wasn’t Rahmatullah.” Ali, in a small jewelry shop, said his uncle had a pharmacy in Kabul and knew “everybody,” but not Rahmatullah Azizi. He never heard of any such Azizi. The answers kept coming back the same: essentially, “Rahmatullah who?”The bazaaris might not have met that Azizi, they said, but they knew what the story of this particular business meant: “Another conflict between Russia and the United States on Afghan land would be a catastrophe for our people,” says Dr. Sherkhasan Hasan, formerly a practicing physician, who now runs a small business here selling toys.  BLACK TULIPS The Afghan diaspora in Russia counts about 20,000 in Moscow, up to 100,000 around the country. Its leaders, mostly Russian-educated during the decade of Russian occupation and dominance there, play an important role in political negotiations between Moscow and leaders on both sides of the Afghan conflict in which the United States became so deeply embroiled over the last 20 years. Today, Russian attitudes toward Afghanistan are complicated, and even the Kremlin does not articulate any clear strategy. The Soviet war in Afghanistan took the lives of more than 14,000 Soviet soldiers and triggered the fall of the USSR–that is how many in Russia remember this bloody chapter of their country’s modern history.  The word Afghanistan is associated with what became known as “Black Tulips,” the Antonov cargo airplanes carrying dead soldiers home. In recent years, there has been a lot of concern about the drug traffic. Afghan opium smuggled across Central Asia makes its way to every Russian region. Thousands of drug addicts die in Russia every year. Stamping out the drug trade, which is partly run through the diaspora, seemed for a time an opening for cooperation between the United States and Russia in Afghanistan. The cooperation ended after the U.S. economic sanctions on Russia were in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea. Russian Bounties for Killing Americans Go Back Five Years, Ex-Taliban ClaimsIn 2008, three of Vladimir Putin’s close allies decided it was time to re-engage on Afghanistan. They were the head of the FSB Federal Security Service, Nikolai Patrushev; the deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin; and director of the drug-control agency, an old friend of Putin’s from the KGB years, Victor Ivanov.  Ivanov’s aide, Yuriy Krupnov, traveled to Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009  to invite Afghan politicians and Pashto leaders to a high level  forum in Moscow. “By then Afghanistan was sick of American occupation and remembered Russians fondly as sheravi,  which means Soviet people,” Krupnov told The Daily Beast. THE OPENING Patrushev, Sechin and Ivanov on the Russian side and Afghan Vice President Karim Khalili opened the forum at another Moscow hotel–the upscale President Hotel–in May 2009 to sign some business agreements, appeal to the Russian government for bank credits, restore 142 Soviet-built industrial sites, and announce support for some educational programs. Bridges were being built. At the forum, an old friend of Moscow, the nephew of Afghanistan’s last king, Abdul Ali Seraf, declared, "We don't want the American model."  In the fractured political landscape of Afghanistan, Moscow realized, Pashto leaders were once again reasserting their influence, and not just as the Taliban. “This is all wrong to say ‘Taliban claims this or that,’” Krupnov said. “There are dozens of various Taliban groups among about 60 tribes, who each have their own ancient culture and history.” Russia planned to work on what it saw as this deeper, older level of Afghan power structures.  Two months after the forum, in July 2009, President Barack Obama visited Moscow to help launch the so-called reset of the U.S.-Russia relations. In the years to come Victor Ivanov on the Russian side and Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy would lead a joint anti-drug group and organize about 15 joint anti-narcotics operations in Afghanistan. The U.S. national security adviser at the time, Gen.James.L. Jones, addressed Nikolay Patrushev, as his “friend and counterpart” in fighting organized crime and terrorism in the country. As a correspondent for Newsweek, I interviewed Ivanov multiple times in 2010 and in 2011. He spoke about the huge volumes of drugs coming into Russia and financing terrorism in the North Caucasus. “A kilo of heroin,” he noted, “is worth $150,000 on the street in Russia and a Kalashnikov costs $1,000 on the Afghan market.”Ivanov traveled to Kabul in 2010. On the plane with some members of the press, Russia's drug tsar drank champagne and toasted his return to Afghanistan, two decades after he last was there during the war with Soviet army. Krupnov says he believes that Ivanov’s activity–trips to China, to Afghanistan, and Russian drug-fighting centers in Central America–annoyed Washington. The Obama administration’s special envoy for the region, the late Richard C. Holbrooke, said poppy eradication had alienated poor farmers and was driving people into the hands of the Taliban. “Washington’s special representative to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, told Viktor Ivanov to keep his hands off Afghanistan during their meeting at the State Department,” Krupnov says, citing that as a turning point in the relationships. Holbrooke died in 2010, and cooperation continued, but without the commitment that existed before. The last joint operation was in 2012, and meetings ended in 2014. ASSASSINS? REALLY?Today Krupnov denies outreach to the Afghans a decade ago was the beginning an anti-American campaign in the Middle East and South Asia, or that the Kremlin, brushed off so many times, was offended and seeking revenge in some fashion, much less paying Taliban to kill U.S. and coalition soldiers—which is something that many are perfectly willing to do on their own. “It would be ridiculous to imagine that any Russians in Afghanistan–there are about 300 Russian nationals there and thousands of U.S. military and private forces–would hire assassins to kill American soldiers.” (The element of the GRU cited by the New York Times as instrumental in the alleged bounty operation, Unit 29155, also has been blamed for destabilization operations in Europe and the attempted murder in Britain of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal.)In any case, outreach to the Taliban has continued. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov received a Talib leader, Sher Mohammed Abas, last year along with a group of other Taliban authorities to discuss the joint fight again Islamic State terrorism. The idea that Russia and the United States make a great team against ISIS is one that U.S. President Donald Trump has promoted for years. At the Helsinki summit with Putin in 2018, for instance, Trump noted his appreciation for Russian help against “the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism.”“Both Russia and the United States have suffered horrific terrorist attacks,” Trump said. “We have agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace.” That was the same summit where Trump said he doubted U.S. intelligence about Russian interference in the 2016 elections that made him president.Meanwhile the Russian foreign ministry has eagerly pointed out that the Trump White House, too, is questioning intelligence on Russian bounties for the deaths of American soldiers. But the sense Russia is inching back into Afghanistan, again in conflict with the United States, is not lost on those who know this relationship well. “I don’t like the idea of some bearded Taliban leaders, who previously tried to drag us back a thousand years, all of a sudden becoming legitimate,” Dr. Hasan said of Russia’s negotiations with the group. “It would be a big mistake to help people who everybody considered terrorists.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • Israeli police break up anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem

    Israeli police break up anti-Netanyahu protest in JerusalemIsraeli police and Jerusalem municipal officials scuffled with protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday as officers dismantled tents set up by the demonstrator's outside the premier's residence. The demonstrators have staged a sit-in outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem for the past month, calling on him to resign while facing corruption charges.

  • Families of Italy's virus dead seek answers, solace, justice

    Families of Italy's virus dead seek answers, solace, justiceIt started out as way for grief-struck families to mourn their coronavirus dead online: a Facebook group where relatives who were denied a funeral because of Italy’s stringent lockdowns could share photos, memories and sorrow that their loved ones had died all alone. Lawyers for the Noi Denunceremo (We Will Denounce) Facebook group and an affiliated non-profit committee are filing 100 new cases Monday with Bergamo prosecutors investigating the outbreak, on top of 50 complaints lodged last month. The case files and Facebook posts paint a visceral portrait of the people swept up in Italy’s devastating coronavirus outbreak, the first in the West: of mothers and fathers taken away by ambulance and never seen alive again by their children; of frantic efforts to locate vacant intensive care beds and impossible-to-find oxygen tanks; of hospitals so overwhelmed trying to save the living that relatives of the dead were often just an afterthought.

  • Millennials and boomers: Pandemic pain, by the generation

    Millennials and boomers: Pandemic pain, by the generationFor baby boomers, named for the post-World War II surge of births, that means those who are retired or are nearing retirement are seeing their 401(k) accounts and IRAs looking unreliable while their health is at high risk. Millennials, who became young adults in this century, are getting socked again just as they were beginning to recover after what a Census researcher found were the Great Recession's hardest hits to jobs and pay. “The long-lasting effects of the Great Recession on millennials, that was kind of scarring,” said Gray Kimbrough, a millennial and an economist at American University in Washington.

  • Iran’s Hard-Liners Give President Rouhani a Hard Time
  • Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

    Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in EgyptTheir accounts are similar. The girls and women describe meeting the young man — a former student at Egypt's most elite university — in person and online, followed by deceit, then escalating sexual harassment, assault, blackmail or rape. It's resulted in a new #MeToo firestorm on social media, and the arrest of the suspect last week from his home in a gated community outside Cairo.

  • Sabotage in Iran Is Preferable to a Deal With Iran

    Sabotage in Iran Is Preferable to a Deal With Iran(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Whoever wins the U.S. presidency in November, there is a good chance he will try to negotiate a stronger nuclear deal with Iran in 2021. But events of the last few weeks show that there are better ways to frustrate the regime’s nuclear ambitions.Both President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, favor talking with Iran. “I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it,” Biden told the New York Times last winter. Trump, meanwhile, was on Twitter last month urging Iran to “make the Big deal.”The logic of a deal goes like this: Except for war, the only sustainable way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is to reach an agreement with its leaders. That has been the basic assumption underlying U.S. nuclear policy on Iran for the last 20 years. With the right mix of carrots and sticks, the thinking goes, Iran will negotiate away a potential nuclear weapon.But a nuclear deal with Iran would have to rely on a partnership with a regime that oppresses its citizens, preys on its neighbors, supports terrorism on three continents and has shown contempt for international law. And the alternative to a deal is not necessarily a costly and dangerous war. The West can delay and foil Iran’s nuclear ambitions by other means.Since late June, explosions have rocked at least three Iranian military facilities. The latest appears to have targeted an underground research facility for chemical weapons. Earlier this month, a building at Iran’s Natanz centrifuge site burst into flames.Much remains unknown about this latest spate of explosions. A relatively new group calling itself “Homeland Panthers” has claimed credit for the attack on Natanz. Iranian officials have blamed it on Israel. David Albright, the former nuclear inspector and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, told me his organization — which has studied satellite imagery of the facility before and after the explosion — cannot rule out that it was an accident. But “it looks more like a deliberate act,” he said.There are several good reasons to think all of this was an act of Israeli sabotage. To start, the Israelis have done this kind of thing before. In the early 2010s, Israel’s Mossad conducted a series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. Before that, Israel and the U.S. cooperated on a cyberattack on Natanz that sped up its centrifuges, causing them to break down.More recently, Israeli spies broke into a Tehran warehouse and stole a technical archive of Iran’s nuclear program, demonstrating that they have “human networks that have penetrated Iran’s security structure,” said David Wurmser, a national security expert who most recently worked as an adviser to the National Security Council.Whoever is responsible for the attack — and to be clear, the Iranians say they are prepared to retaliate against Israel, though they have yet to do so — the damage at Natanz alone has significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program. The facility there was an assembly center for more advanced and efficient centrifuges, which Iran was allowed to produce under the flawed 2015 deal. “This was a crown jewel of their program,” Albright said.And the damage may be to more than just the centrifuges — it could also destabilize the Iranian regime itself. “The more Iran’s government looks impotent, and the impression is left the Israelis are everywhere, the more high-level Iranian officials will calibrate their survival by cooperating with Americans or Israelis, which itself creates an intelligence bonanza,” Wurmser said.The attacks could also undermine the regime’s legitimacy among the Iranian public more generally. Sabotage of this sort shows that Iran’s leaders are not nearly as powerful and all-knowing as they say.At the very least, the fact that someone was able to explode a “crown jewel” of Iran’s nuclear program should make clear that the civilized world can delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions without conferring legitimacy to the regime.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.For more articles like this, please visit us at now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Detained Chinese professor who criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping is freed

    Detained Chinese professor who criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping is freedA Chinese academic who penned an essay blaming the coronavirus pandemic on President Xi Jinping's authoritarianism and censorship has been released after nearly a week in detention, his friends have told AFP. Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, was taken from his home in the capital by a group of more than 20 people on July 6, according to associates. He returned home on Sunday and was well, two friends confirmed to AFP on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity. In an essay published on overseas websites, Xu had written that the leadership system under Xi - China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong - was "destroying the structure of governance". He said the lack of openness contributed to the outbreak of the coronavirus, which first appeared in China late last year and eventually spread globally after Communist Party officials tried to suppress initial news of the contagion. It was not immediately clear whether he would face further repercussions. Beijing police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

  • Ready or not: Election costs soar in prep for virus voting

    Ready or not: Election costs soar in prep for virus voting“Election officials don’t have nearly the resources to make the preparations and changes they need to make to run an election in a pandemic,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. The pandemic has sent state and local officials scrambling to prepare for an election like few others, an extraordinary endeavor during a presidential contest, as virus cases continue to rise across much of the U.S. There are also costs to ensure in-person voting is safe with personal protective equipment, or PPE, for poll workers, who tend to be older and more at risk of getting sick from the virus, and training for new workers.

  • Activists seek to decriminalize 'magic' mushrooms in DC

    Activists seek to decriminalize 'magic' mushrooms in DCThe posters started blanketing light posts just a few weeks after the city entered what would be a monthslong stay-at-home order. Vividly colored and bearing a three-headed mushroom, they asked Washingtonians to “reform laws for plant and fungi medicines” by making natural psychedelics “the lowest level police enforcement priority.” It was the start of an underdog campaign that just managed a truly improbable political feat: a successful grassroots petition drive conducted entirely under pandemic lockdown conditions.

  • Feds to execute 1st inmate in 17 years for Arkansas murders

    Feds to execute 1st inmate in 17 years for Arkansas murdersThe federal government is planning to carry out the first federal execution in nearly two decades on Monday, over the objection of the family of the victims and after a volley of legal proceedings over the coronavirus pandemic. Daniel Lewis Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 4 p.m. on Monday at a federal prison in Indiana. The execution, the first of a federal death row inmate since 2003, comes after a federal appeals court lifted an injunction on Sunday that had been put in place last week after the victims’ family argued they would be put at high risk for coronavirus if they had to travel to attend the execution.

  • Coronavirus: South Africa bans alcohol sales again to combat Covid-19

    Coronavirus: South Africa bans alcohol sales again to combat Covid-19It is one of several restrictions introduced by President Ramaphosa amid rising infection rates.

  • China Is Winning the Trillion-Dollar 5G War
  • 'Let's get going': UK tells businesses to prepare for Brexit crunch

    'Let's get going': UK tells businesses to prepare for Brexit crunchBritain is urging businesses and individuals to prepare for the Dec. 31 end of the Brexit transition period with an information campaign titled: "The UK's new start: let's get going." Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31, three and a half years after a referendum, but a transition period has delayed any major change in the relationship. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said on Sunday progress was being made in talks but there were still divisions.

  • 'Let's get going': UK tells businesses to prepare for Brexit crunch
  • 'Against the refugees': Aid groups condemn U.N. decision to limit Syrian aid crossings

    'Against the refugees': Aid groups condemn U.N. decision to limit Syrian aid crossingsThe United Nations Security Council on Saturday adopted a resolution that leaves only one of two border crossings open for aid deliveries from Turkey into Syria. “The veto is against us,” Mustafa Alkaser told NBC News from a refugee camp in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. “It’s against the refugees, against the free Syrians who once stood up against Bashar al-Assad and demanded their freedom and dignity," he said Sunday in a telephone interview.

  • Appeals court: 1st federal execution in 17 years can proceed

    Appeals court: 1st federal execution in 17 years can proceedA federal appeals court ruled Sunday that the first federal execution in nearly two decades may proceed as scheduled on Monday. The ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a lower court order that had put the execution of 47-year-old Daniel Lewis Lee on hold. Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday at a federal prison in Indiana.

  • Britons whose passports expire in next year should apply for new one now to prepare for post-Brexit travel

    Britons whose passports expire in next year should apply for new one now to prepare for post-Brexit travelMillions of Britons whose passports are due to expire in the next year are being urged to apply for a new one now, as part of a stepping up of efforts to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period. Holidaymakers travelling to popular European destinations from Jan 1 will be required to have six months validity on their travel documents, which is likely to cause a stampede of renewals at UK passport offices. It’s estimated that some five million UK citizens have passports which are valid for less than a year, meaning they should act now in order to travel in the new year. Those who do not renew in time will “not be able to travel to most EU countries” as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It comes as the Government today (Mon) launches a new £93 million public information campaign “The UK’s new start: let’s get going” to help Britons prepare for life outside the EU. Adverts will be launched across television, radio and online, with key information also relayed by text message. One such change means that those planning to go abroad with pets in January will need to act by September to ensure they are able travel.

  • 21 injured in fire aboard ship at Naval Base San Diego

    21 injured in fire aboard ship at Naval Base San DiegoTwenty-one people suffered minor injuries in an explosion and fire Sunday on board a ship at Naval Base San Diego, military officials said. The blaze was reported shortly before 9 a.m. on USS Bonhomme Richard, said Mike Raney, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the Navy thinks the fire began somewhere in a lower cargo hold where marine equipment and vehicles are stored.

  • Protests in Israel and record death toll in Iran as coronavirus cases surge across Middle East

    Protests in Israel and record death toll in Iran as coronavirus cases surge across Middle EastBenjamin Netanyahu has promised to provide financial support for Israelis who lost their livelihoods due to lockdown after more 80,000 people protested his government's economic response to the coronavirus over the weekend. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to voice their frustration with Mr Netanyahu, who won praise for his early response to the outbreak but has come under criticism amid a severe fresh outbreak in cases. Mr Netanyahu did not acknowledge the Tel Aviv protest ahead of his weekly cabinet meeting, but promised that financial help was on the way, starting with cash handouts of up to 7,500 shekels (£1,700) to the self-employed. "This support, this grant, is not dependent on legislation and we have instructed that it be put into effect today. The button will be pressed and the money will reach accounts in the coming days," he said. Unemployment surged to a record 20 per cent in Israel after the economy was shut down to help tackle the coronavirus, while some business owners complained they did not receive enough financial support from the government and as a result could still go bankrupt. According to Israeli media reports, at least six per cent of the Israeli population has caught coronavirus but the true proportion could be much higher. The infection rate currently stands at around 1,000 cases per day, far higher than the previous peak of 700 in March. Israeli officials are said to be considering a second lockdown if the number of daily cases exceeds 2,000 this week. It came as coronavirus infections surged across the Middle East and the economic damage caused by the pandemic began to become clear. Iraq, Lebanon and Iran are also struggling with severe economic crises and record infection rates, with Iran reporting 221 deaths in just 24 hours, marking a new record death roll.

  • Mali opposition rejects President Keïta's concessions amid unrest

    Mali opposition rejects President Keïta's concessions amid unrestOpposition leaders reject President Keïta's "nonsense" concessions as political unrest grows.

  • Michael Gove rules out compulsory masks in shops - but Downing Street says policy could still change

    Michael Gove rules out compulsory masks in shops - but Downing Street says policy could still changeFace masks should not be made mandatory in shops, Michael Gove has said, despite Downing Street’s insistence the policy is still under review and could be introduced. Mr Gove warned against introducing a “binary divide” by making masks obligatory in public, stressing that face masks are “significantly less important outdoors...than indoors”. People should be allowed to use their own judgement to decide whether a mask is appropriate in different situations, he said, warning that some people could think they are invincible while wearing a mask. “I think people are intelligent, I think people can understand that this is a novel virus with specific challenges,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme. “I think it’s quite right to treat people with the respect that their intelligence and judgment deserves.” “It mustn’t be the case that anyone thinks that wearing a face mask would make you invulnerable.” Mr Gove said the masks should be worn out of consideration for others, even if they are not made mandatory. But Downing Street said the option to make masks compulsory was still on the table, suggesting the Prime Minister may think it will soon become necessary to force people to wear them. The risk of transmission of the virus indoors is reduced between people who are wearing face coverings, evidence suggests. “It is something which is under review and if the decision to make it mandatory is taken that will be announced in due course,” a No10 source said. Speaking in a Facebook video on Friday, Boris Johnson suggested the Government had plans to increase the proportion of people wearing masks in public. "We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops,” he said. “The balance of scientific opinion seems to have shifted more in favour of them than it was, and we're very keen to follow that". "We need to be stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don't usually meet.” Face coverings have been compulsory in shops in Scotland since July 10. The masks are also compulsory on trains, buses and the London Underground, but the British Transport Police said it preferred to enforce the rules by “engaging with the public and explain the reasons why the protections are necessary and a lawful requirement”. Fines have been issued to repeat offenders and some arrests have been made, a spokeswoman said. The Labour Party signalled its support for masks to become compulsory in shops, but not in bars and restaurants, which it said would be impractical. Lucy Powell, a shadow business minister, accused the Government of “showing a bit of leg” by suggesting it would enforce face mask guidelines, but not announcing any change of policy. "We do need to get a lot more confidence back in the system and if the mandatory wearing of face masks in shops will help to do that then we absolutely support it,” she said. "We think the Government - instead of just showing a bit of leg occasionally on these things by briefing newspapers or saying things that are not clear guidance in press conferences as the Prime Minister did on Friday - [should] get some clarity. "That's really something that would get confidence back into the system and get people feeling that they can go to the shops, they can go to restaurants and go to bars." On Saturday, Mr Johnson was pictured wearing a mask during a visit to a pub and barber in his constituency. The Prime Minister chose to wear a light blue cloth mask that matched his party’s branding. It was the first time Mr Johnson has been photographed wearing a mask, following concern that Government ministers were discouraging mask usage by not wearing them in public. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, was criticised for not wearing one while serving food at Wagamama in a photo opportunity following last week’s budget announcement, while Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, did not cover his face while being photographed at a Brewdog pub. Donald Trump, the US President, was pictured in a face mask on an official visit for the first time over the weekend, while Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has been seen wearing a Government-branded face covering.

  • Maryland governor says GOP needs 'bigger tent' after Trump

    Maryland governor says GOP needs 'bigger tent' after TrumpA Republican governor rumored to be eyeing a run for the White House in 2024 said Sunday that the GOP needs to be a “bigger tent party" after President Donald Trump leaves office. Maryland's Larry Hogan, who has been known to break with Trump, told NBC's “Meet the Press" that he doesn't “know what the future holds in November." “But I know that the Republican Party is going to be looking at what happens after President Trump and whether that’s in four months or four years,” Hogan said.

  • Bavarian governor emerges as the front-runner to succeed Merkel as Chancellor in Germany

    Bavarian governor emerges as the front-runner to succeed Merkel as Chancellor in GermanyA German politician until recently seen as a rank outsider to replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor is suddenly the frontrunner, according to a series of opinion polls. Markus Söder, state leader in Bavaria, is seen by the public as the best candidate for the job, with 64 percent of voters saying he is suited to the role, ahead of Social Democrat Olaf Scholz on 48 percent. Meanwhile a separate poll released over the weekend found that in a head-to-head against Mr Scholz or popular Green leader Robert Habeck, Mr Söder would come out on top. The other two leading conservative contenders, Friedrich Merz and Armin Laschet, both members of Ms Merkel’s CDU, would lose to left-wing opposition in next year’s election, the poll found. Mr Söder, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to the CDU, has been sending out mixed messages for weeks. While sticking to an insistence that his “place is always in Bavaria”, he has said that the next Chancellor “needs to have proved himself during the pandemic.” Mr Merz has had no official role during the crisis, while Mr Laschet is widely regarded to have botched the pandemic response in his state, North Rhine-Westphalia. The only conservative other than Mr Söder to have come out of the crisis well, Health Minister Jens Spahn, is supporting Mr Laschet’s candidacy. Despite Bavaria's prominence as the wealthiest federal state, a Bavarian has never held power in Berlin. Bavarian candidates have only run for the Chancellery twice - in 1980 and 2002 - but on both occasions young CDU leaders gave way in the belief that they faced likely defeat to a sitting Social Democrat Chancellor. In 1980 Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was able to defeat Franz Josef Strauß when Helmut Kohl sat out the race, and in 2002 Gerhard Schröder won against Edmund Stoiber, with a young Ms Merkel choosing not to run. The circumstances in 2021 would be markedly different. The next candidate would take over from a popular Chancellor, with the party on close to 40 percent approval, far ahead of the Greens on 20 percent and the Social Democrats in the doldrums on 16 percent. Reputedly fiercely ambitious, the 53-year-old Mr Söder manoeuvred himself to power in Bavaria in the wake of the refugee crisis by lambasting Berlin for failing to stem the number of refugees crossing the border. While previously a polarising figure with a low national approval rating, his handling of the corona epidemic has seemed decisive. He was the first state leader who announced a comprehensive lockdown, pushing the rest of the country to follow suit. He has also made national headlines by offering a coronavirus test to any Bavarian who wishes to have one, a break from the national policy of targeted testing. With the Chancellery there for the taking, CDU politicians have failed to impress. Mr Merz, a business friendly candidate who left frontline politics at the start of the century, has struggled for attention during the pandemic. Mr Laschet, whose state has faced repeated local outbreaks, is seen as having pushed too aggressively for an end to the lockdown. END

  • Iran's Khamenei urges fight against 'tragic' virus resurgence

    Iran's Khamenei urges fight against 'tragic' virus resurgenceIran's supreme leader Sunday called the resurgence of the novel coronavirus in the country "truly tragic" and urged all citizens to help stem what has been the region's deadliest outbreak. "Let everyone play their part in the best way to break the chain of transmission in the short term and save the country," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a video conference with lawmakers, according to his office. Iran has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases in February, and has reported more than 12,800 deaths since then.

  • UN: Libyan coast guard intercepts 83 Europe-bound migrants
  • In Commuting Stone's Sentence, Trump Goes Where Nixon Was Not Willing

    In Commuting Stone's Sentence, Trump Goes Where Nixon Was Not WillingWASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has said he learned lessons from President Richard Nixon's fall from grace, but in using the power of his office to keep his friend and adviser Roger Stone out of prison he has now crossed a line that even Nixon in the depths of Watergate dared not cross.For months, senior advisers warned Trump that it would be politically self-destructive if not ethically inappropriate to grant clemency to Stone, who was convicted of lying to protect the president. Even Attorney General William Barr, who had already overruled career prosecutors to reduce Stone's sentence, argued against commutation in recent weeks, officials said.But in casting aside their counsel on Friday, Trump indulged his own sense of grievance over precedent to reward an ally who kept silent. Once again, he challenged convention by intervening in the justice system undermining investigators looking into him and his associates, just days after the Supreme Court ruled that he went too far in claiming "absolute immunity" in two other inquiries.Democrats condemned the commutation of Stone's 40-month prison term and vowed to investigate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling the move an act of "staggering corruption," said she would pursue legislation to prevent the president from using his power to protect those convicted of a cover-up on his own behalf, although that would face serious constitutional hurdles and never be signed into law by Trump.Still, Trump's action was too much even for some Republican critics of the president, who called it an abuse of power intended to subvert justice. "Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president," Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah wrote on Twitter.Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania objected too, noting that Stone was "duly convicted" of obstructing a Republican-led congressional inquiry. "While I understand the frustration with the badly flawed Russia-collusion investigation, in my view, commuting Roger Stone's sentence is a mistake," he said. Any objections to his prosecution, he added, "should be resolved through the appeals process."Trump defended his decision after a day at his golf club Saturday. "Roger Stone was treated horribly," he told reporters. "Roger Stone was treated very unfairly." He would not say if he would pardon other campaign advisers, but said the investigators should be prosecuted. "Those are the people that should be in trouble."Trump had long publicly floated the possibility of clemency for allies targeted by prosecutors, including Stone, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. That by itself was interpreted by critics as witness tampering, in effect promising intervention to allies if they refused to cooperate with investigators against him.By contrast, one associate who did cooperate, Michael Cohen, his former lawyer who arranged hush money for women claiming extramarital affairs with Trump, was locked up again on Thursday after federal authorities demanded that he agree not to publish a tell-all book in September, deeming it a violation of the terms of his early release.While Trump has granted clemency to political allies and others with ties to his White House, he had until now deferred to advisers urging him not to use it for Stone or others caught up in investigations of the president's campaign ties to Russia.Barr, who has assailed the Russia investigation and moved to drop the case against Flynn even though he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, nonetheless objected privately to a commutation for Stone, officials said. In an interview with ABC News this past week, Barr said clemency was "the president's prerogative" but called Stone's prosecution "righteous" and the final sentence "fair." Trump, who lately has styled himself as a "law and order" president, cut the Justice Department out of his decision, officials said.While Republican leaders kept quiet, some of the president's staunch supporters cheered him on, saying Trump was properly countering the excesses of overzealous prosecutors."In my view it would be justified if President @realDonaldTrump decided to commute Roger Stone's prison sentence," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote on Twitter. "Mr. Stone is in his 70s and this was a nonviolent, first-time offense." (Stone is actually 67.)Under the Constitution, the president's pardon power is expansive, explicitly limited only in that it applies to federal crimes, not to state prosecutions or impeachments. As far back as the 19th century, the Supreme Court ruled that "Congress can neither limit the effect of his pardon nor exclude from its exercise any class of offenders" and as recently as 1974 said the president had "unfettered executive discretion" in granting clemency.While House Democrats vowed to investigate Trump's decision, some lawyers said Congress had no authority to. "I understand the implications for the justice system, but just as a matter of constitutional law, I don't see how they get into this," said Stanley Brand, a former House counsel under a Democratic speaker.Still, Brand and other lawyers said Stone's commutation could theoretically be interpreted as an impeachable offense if granted out of corrupt self-interest, although it seemed unlikely that the House would impeach Trump a second time."The president's pardon power does not extend to nullifying the rule of law for his own cronies to shield from public scrutiny his own obstruction of justice," said Harold Hongju Koh, a Yale Law School professor and lawyer in President Barack Obama's administration.The history of presidential clemency is replete with disputes over the propriety of relief from the nation's highest office.Just days before the 1992 election, Lawrence E. Walsh, the independent counsel investigating the Iran-Contra affair, filed a new indictment against former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger revealing notes contradicting President George H.W. Bush's account of his involvement. Bush considered that a dirty trick by Walsh to influence the election and indeed he was defeated days later.Bush responded the next month to what he considered an illegitimate prosecution by pardoning Weinberger and five others, prompting Walsh to complain that "the Iran-Contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed."President Bill Clinton issued a raft of more than 175 pardons or commutations on his last day in office in 2001, including for his own half brother Roger Clinton and several former administration officials. Also pardoned was Susan McDougal, a former business partner from Arkansas who spent 21 months behind bars for refusing to cooperate with the independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation of the Whitewater land venture.Unlike the case with Stone, Clinton acted only after McDougal had already served her sentence and been released. With the Whitewater investigation wrapped up, Clinton faced no legal risk at that point.The bigger furor arose over his pardon of financier Marc Rich, who had fled the country to avoid charges of evading $48 million in taxes and obtained clemency after his ex-wife, Denise Rich, a Democratic donor, contributed money to Clinton's presidential library. Democrats joined Republicans in condemning the pardon and Clinton later expressed regret because of "the terrible politics."Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor and Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, said those cases could be seen as parallels to Stone's commutation but pointed to the larger pattern under Trump. In 31 of his 36 pardons or commutations, he noted, Trump advanced his political goals or benefited someone with a personal connection, whose case had been brought to his attention by television or was someone he admired for their celebrity."This has happened before in a way," Goldsmith said. "But there has been nothing like Trump from a systematic perspective."John Q. Barrett, a former Iran-Contra prosecutor, said Trump's action was more objectionable than Bush's. "This is much, much more brazen and almost transactionally criminal," he said in an email. "Deferred payment for toughing it out/silence."One president who dared not use his pardon power in such a way was Nixon, although he considered it. Nixon's associates paid hush money and dangled the prospect of clemency to the Watergate burglars to buy their silence but that was off the table once the Watergate story broke open.Likewise, Nixon secretly promised to pardon three lieutenants, H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and John Mitchell, the day after Senate hearings opened in 1973."I don't give a shit what comes out on you or John, even that poor, damn, dumb John Mitchell," he told Haldeman in a conversation captured on his taping system. "There is going to be a total pardon."Haldeman sensed danger. "Don't even say that," he warned."Forget you ever heard it," Nixon replied.He never followed through. Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Mitchell were indicted in 1974 and accused of making "offers of leniency, executive clemency, and other benefits" to obstruct justice. All three went to prison.Nixon resigned that August without using his pardon pen. But he received one himself a month later from President Gerald Ford, who wanted to spare the country the spectacle of a former president on trial, only to trigger a backlash that helped cost him the 1976 election."I think Nixon understood the power of the public and did his crimes in private, not in public, to avoid political consequences," said Jill Wine-Banks, a Watergate prosecutor. "He was right then. Look what happened to Ford. But Trump sees no consequences."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

  • Florida reports largest, single-day increase in COVID cases

    Florida reports largest, single-day increase in COVID casesFlorida shattered the national record Sunday for the largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases in any state since the beginning of the pandemic, adding more than 15,000 cases as its daily average death toll continued to also rise. According to state Department of Health statistics, 15,299 people tested positive, for a total of 269,811 cases, and 45 deaths were recorded. California had the previous record of daily positive cases — 11,694, set on Wednesday.

  • Sudan scraps apostasy law and alcohol ban for non-Muslims

    Sudan scraps apostasy law and alcohol ban for non-MuslimsThe ban on alcohol is lifted for non-Muslims, while the apostasy law and public flogging are scrapped.

  • Mali's President Keïta dissolves constitutional court amid unrest

    Mali's President Keïta dissolves constitutional court amid unrestPresident Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is attempting to calm unrest that saw four people killed on Friday.

  • City mulls razing site where 1st Alaska flag flew

    City mulls razing site where 1st Alaska flag flewThe fate of one of Alaska’s most historic yet neglected structures could be decided Monday as city officials in Seward weigh whether to demolish a former Methodist boarding school where the Alaska territorial flag was first flown almost a century ago and where its Alaska Native designer lived. Benny Benson was among the orphans and displaced children who lived at the Jesse Lee Home, many of whom were sent there after the Spanish flu devastated Alaska Native villages.

  • Trump rips private Texas border wall built by his supporters

    Trump rips private Texas border wall built by his supportersPresident Donald Trump on Sunday criticized a privately built border wall in South Texas that’s showing signs of erosion months after going up, saying it was “only done to make me look bad,” even though the wall was built after a months-long campaign by his supporters. The group that raised money online for the wall promoted itself as supporting Trump during a government shutdown that started in December 2018 because Congress wouldn’t fund Trump's demands for a border wall. Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon joined the group’s board and Trump ally Kris Kobach became its general counsel.

  • As virus rages in US, New York guards against another rise

    As virus rages in US, New York guards against another riseAs coronavirus rages out of control in other parts of the U.S., New York is offering an example after taming the nation's deadliest outbreak this spring — while also trying to prepare in case another surge comes. New York’s early experience is a ready-made blueprint for states now finding themselves swamped by the disease. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered advice, ventilators, masks, gowns and medicine to states dealing with spikes in cases and hospitalizations and, in some places, rising deaths.

  • Virus spread, not politics should guide schools, doctors say

    Virus spread, not politics should guide schools, doctors say“There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” she told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." Do students live with aged grandparents? Do infected children easily spread COVID-19 to each other and to adults?

  • 'Moving target': Schools deal with new plans, Trump demands

    'Moving target': Schools deal with new plans, Trump demandsLast week, President Donald Trump and his administration demanded schools fully reopen right away, calling for new guidance from federal health officials and slamming schools that want to bring students back for only a few days a week. Here is a look at what several school districts are planning and discussing. Like many schools, the Forth Worth Independent School District in Texas will give parents a choice between in-person and remote learning.

  • It's Trump's call on what the GOP convention will look like

    It's Trump's call on what the GOP convention will look likeAfter months of insisting that the Republican National Convention go off as scheduled despite the pandemic, President Donald Trump is slowly coming to accept that the late August event will not be the four-night infomercial for his reelection that he had anticipated. After a venue change, spiking coronavirus cases and a sharp recession, Trump aides and allies are increasingly questioning whether it’s worth the trouble, and some are advocating that the convention be scrapped altogether. Already the 2020 event has seen a venue change –- to more Trump-friendly territory in Jacksonville, Florida, from Charlotte, North Carolina -- and it has been drastically reduced in scope.

  • As US grapples with virus, Florida hits record case increase

    As US grapples with virus, Florida hits record case increaseWith the United States grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, Florida hit a grim milestone Sunday, shattering the national record for a state's largest single-day increase in positive cases. Deaths from the virus have also been rising in the U.S., especially in the South and West, though still well below the heights hit in April, according to a recent Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

  • Lebanese Christian cleric seen to criticise Hezbollah, allies over crisis
  • Trump, Biden try to outdo each other on tough talk on China

    Trump, Biden try to outdo each other on tough talk on ChinaChina has fast become a top election issue as President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden engage in a verbal brawl over who's better at playing the tough guy against Beijing. The Trump campaign put out ads showing Biden toasting China's Xi Jinping, even though Trump did just that with Xi in Asia and hosted the Chinese leader at his Florida club. Spots from the Biden campaign feature Trump playing down the coronavirus and praising Xi for being transparent about the pandemic, even though it's clear China hid details of the outbreak from the world.

  • Churches amid the pandemic: Some outbreaks, many challenges

    Churches amid the pandemic: Some outbreaks, many challengesMeat packing plants, prisons and nursing homes are known hot spots. The vast majority of these churches have cooperated with health authorities and successfully protected their congregations. “If we wanted to have zero risks, the safest thing would be to never open our doors,” said prominent Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress.

  • Iran blames bad communication, alignment for jet shootdown

    Iran blames bad communication, alignment for jet shootdownA misaligned missile battery, miscommunication between troops and their commanders and a decision to fire without authorization all led to Iran's Revolutionary Guard shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner in January, killing all 176 people on board, a new report says. The report released late Saturday by Iran's Civil Aviation Organization comes months after the Jan. 8 crash near Tehran. Authorities had initially denied responsibility, only changing course days later after Western nations presented extensive evidence that Iran had shot down the plane.

  • Iran says misaligned radar led to Ukrainian jet downing

    Iran says misaligned radar led to Ukrainian jet downingIran said that the misalignment of an air defence unit's radar system was the key "human error" that led to the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January. "A failure occurred due to a human error in following the procedure" for aligning the radar, causing a "107-degree error" in the system, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation (CAO) said in a report late Saturday. This error "initiated a hazard chain" that saw further errors committed in the minutes before the plane was shot down, said the CAO document, presented as a "factual report" and not as the final report on the accident investigation.

  • The World Looks at an America That Lost Its Way

    The World Looks at an America That Lost Its WayI have spent most of my life as an attorney traveling to scores of countries around the world, but only recently did I set about systematically asking people what they thought of my country, the United States.It was just after the midterm elections in 2018, when a great many voters showed that they desperately wanted to move America in directions different from the ones the Trump administration had charted for them. Opinions were so divergent and so bitterly divided. It struck me that by posing a series of questions to thoughtful people in dozens of countries—people who had some experience of America—one might gain perspectives useful to us here at home. Over time, 100 individuals from 32 countries volunteered to answer 15 questions. But, over time, cataclysmic events affected perceptions. I had to go back to my respondents after the onset of the COVID pandemic with a new set of questions. I may ask them still more about the impact of George Floyd’s killing and the outrage that followed.But even before the plague, even before the protests, some trends had become clear and it is doubtful basic perceptions will change dramatically. This was not a random survey. The people I talked to are known to me and I to them, and when I told them I wouldn’t be publishing their names I think it’s pretty clear they were leveling with me—which is to say, with us.I think we Americans would do well to listen.  FIRST IMPRESSIONSOne of the questions I asked was about first impressions of the United States, and one of the most thoughtful responses was from a British business consultant who grew up in Liverpool but now lives between Greece and Belgium. As a child he had traveled often to New York, but only as an adult did he have business that took him more deeply into the United States.“A degree of disillusion set in,” he wrote. “American cities of the Midwest seemed ‘unfinished,’ ugly and uniform in their 1980s downtown architecture and desolate once the working day ended. Each city center I visited—Minneapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, even LA—seemed brutally anonymous and visually identical and paradoxically ‘poor’ despite conspicuous consumption. Much middle-class suburban housing surprised me in its poor building quality and slightly ‘temporary’ feel. “I learned that there are many Americas,” this Englishman continued, “and that the promised land of my childhood also had its banal side. What endured? The everyday kindness of people I met. Americans are ritually polite to strangers—far more so than Europeans—and that experience has endured. But my greatest shock was the slow realization that Americans are truly foreign and, culturally, very different from Europeans, including the British. ‘Separated by a common language,’ as one wit wrote.“I was often wrong-footed in everyday conversation: my kind, open, lovable, and thoroughly decent friends in Austin, Texas, were deeply supportive of the death penalty; to my bewilderment ‘social/Scandinavia’ Minneapolis had middle-class neighborhoods that were entirely Black (not an integrated society), and educated people whose understanding and view of other countries and cultures were in many respects isolated and uninformed. ‘The city on the hill’ was, I realized, more complex, more varied, and much harder to understand.”How the Virus Is Pushing America Toward a Better FutureWhatever their troubles, however, Americans were credited with extraordinary resilience. As a Peruvian managing partner wrote after the COVID pandemic hit, “This is a ‘war,’ but a strange one where the industries had not been bombed; they are there and will restart easily once the virus is gone or the vaccine discovered. In addition, I think that, at least for a while, there will be a ‘buy American only’ feeling among consumers that will help get the economy back on track.”Some of that same positive outlook carried over into responses about America’s future—the last question—but even before the pandemic and before the death of George Floyd, that optimism was cautious, and nuanced.After spending many, many hours reviewing interviews and responses, I believe America faces six critical challenges in the future, three external and three internal.  They exist now and will remain after COVID-19 passes, whenever that might be. EXTERNAL THREATSNumber 1: ChinaThe number one threat to America’s global position as a military and economic power was summarized by respondents in one word:  China.  This was the same in both the pre- and post-COVID-19 surveys.  Here is a fact:  With more than four times as many people living in China as the United States, China’s economy should surpass the size of the U.S. economy sometime within the next decade.  There is really no reason for Americans to panic about that.  When (not if) that occurs, the average Chinese citizen will not be wealthier than the average American, even if China’s the pie gets bigger than America’s there are so many more people who have to share it. But  the United States must face the reality that at some point in the near future it will no longer be the world’s largest economy, and that raises questions.  Will the U.S. dollar continue as the accepted global reserve currency for world trade, or will it eventually be replaced by the renminbi or yuan?  How will China’s leadership seek to deploy its expanding economic strength in order to advance its own foreign policy objectives?  Will China exert its growing military power more aggressively outside the South China Sea?  When commenting on the major external threats to American dominance, an engineer from Nigeria put it simply:“While America is too busy fighting the rest of the world, China is quietly, sometimes overtly ‘conquering’ the rest of the world through the deployment of its financial and human resources to ‘assist’ poor and mid-economically strong countries through one-sided economic assistance that eventually allows China to take over not just the resources of these countries but the directions as well once they default, which is generally the case.”Another respondent holds a similarly stark view of China, the country where he was born: “The ideological difference will make the USA and China irreconcilable…. China is taking the opposite position in every US policy from Iran to North Korea, from Cuba to Venezuela, from Palestine to Israel.” A British citizen who has advised clients throughout Asia for decades offered a colorful metaphor: “China and the United States are like two elephants dancing. All of the other countries in the world have to stay out of the way not to be stepped on.” Dozens of respondents shared the same view:  China is up-and-coming and America is its target. The question is not whether China is a threat to the United States over the long run, there is no doubt about its potential to become one. A better question is how it manages to achieve its political and economic goals so much more quickly than America. And the answer is simple: because China is a totally centrally controlled government, it is not encumbered by the inherently complex processes which every democratic country faces when trying to make fundamental changes.  This means the Chinese government can, to the extent it possesses the financial resources and the will, challenge America’s current economic and military dominance in any number of ways.Anyone who lives in a democratic nation knows democracy is messy.  There are so many conflicting economic and political interests, and consensus must be achieved before any significant action is possible.  This is not the case in China.To take one example: about a decade ago the Chinese government decided it needed to build a high-speed rail network connecting major population centers throughout China.  It succeeded, and today an efficient network of modern trains crisscross China.  To accomplish the same thing in the United States would take years of proposals and never-ending debates and voter referendums, and even then, action is not guaranteed.  This is the key advantage to any centrally run, nondemocratic system.  America needs to become more focused on how to respond to China.  Will America as a nation continue to possess the most innovative and dynamic economy during the 21st century?  The jury is out at this point. Early in his administration, President Trump zeroed in on China as a target for American foreign policy.  While some harshly criticized his stand, Trump did receive some support from overseas.  A high-level Japanese executive put it this way: “President Trump is very rough, but he says no to China. I like the U.S. pushing back against China. President Obama was a gentleman and did not push hard enough against China. Trump is no gentleman.”As many respondents noted, America’s tendency to prefer isolationism is a concern in 2020 and beyond.  A large number expressed their hope that America ultimately will reassert its traditional role as a world leader.  Here are the insights of a South African executive, a woman whose parents were from Poland and Lithuania: “Despite all its warts, [the United States] still remains a beacon of positivity and freedom in a world that is rapidly approaching its Armageddon. Yes, the Armageddon is closer than we think thanks to extremism, radicalism, authoritarianism, the backtracking to communism skillfully dressed up as socialism.”  Number 2: Losing the Edge of Technological InnovationThe second major external threat facing America is much different than the first.  Simply put, many fear that the United Staes will carelessly relinquish its dominant lead in innovating and commercially exploiting advanced technologies.  Many of America’s biggest technology companies today (Apple, Cisco, SpaceX and Google) are global leaders in their fields.  This has given the U.S. a great competitive advantage over the last three decades, but things are changing.  In the race to identify and harness new technologies, Americans now face strong competition from many innovative companies around the world, not just from China. "Technology is international and no country has a monopoly over it," says a friend from Costa Rica. "It is no longer an industrial world where capital is the main source for richness.  Intellectual power is far more important today and such power is spread throughout the globe even in the poorest and least powerful countries."The race to remain a world leader in robotics, aerospace, nanotechnologies, and genetic manipulation is where America finds its current leads being chipped away.  The U.S. government and leading American technology companies must devote more public and private resources to fund both basic and applied technological research if the United States hopes to maintain its current favored position.  This is a challenge America cannot afford to lose.Number 3: ImmigrationI was surprised to discover during my research that outsiders view the issue of immigration as the third major external challenge facing America, but not in the way it’s been portrayed by the U.S. administration.  For years, a devoted and vocal “pro-America” faction within the U.S. Congress has attacked immigration as one of the greatest threats facing America.  Then presidential candidate Donald Trump picked up the charge and made it into a core element of his campaign.  Trump and his Congressional supporters have succeeded in making immigration a dirty word for many Americans."I think this has changed significantly in the last five to 10 years," says an Argentine business executive now resident in the United States. "When I came to the U.S. six years ago the word immigrant was almost a badge of honor and everyone seemed to agree that most Americans were either immigrants or descendants of them.  In New York and other big cities I did see a true melting pot and opportunities opened to all immigrants."But, she continued, "Things have changed drastically, to the point that being an immigrant today seems almost unlawful or questionable.  Although this is clearly a reflection of this administration's political discourse, how much it is embraced varies around the country.  In larger cities where cultural diversity is a reality, people embrace immigrants. In smaller cities where there are less immigrants, this new perception of foreign born people taking away something (jobs, wealth, culture, religion, whatever) that defines the U.S. and should be stopped is a real issue."If these anti-immigration zealots are ultimately successful, legal immigration to the United States will become infinitely more difficult, and this will have two unfortunate consequences. First, immigrants with their diverse backgrounds will be greatly reduced in numbers, thus robbing America of their unique talents.  And because ethnic diversity has historically been one of America’s strengths, closing the door to all types of immigrants will damage the U.S. economy in the long run.  A second consequence is that bright young minds and entrepreneurs from around the world who might still be able to immigrate legally to the United States will view America as a less welcoming place and are likely to explore options in other countries.  These highly skilled individuals are exactly the type of immigrant the U.S. economy desperately needs, but why should they come to America for a technical education and remain here to work if they are not wanted?  The answer is obvious. INTERNAL THREATSAmerica needs to worry about more than external threats.  Many interviewed believe the most critical challenges facing America today are internal.  A friend from Montreal who visits the United States frequently for business and holidays summarized his thoughts on internal pressures in the United States: “Isolationism and the illusion of a return to the era of manufacturing will not last and the economical unfairness that has increased over the years and the fact that social inequities seem to correlate with racial origin are bound to create the kind of tension that has erupted.” Number 1:  Economic Disparity  In the view of many people that I contacted, America’s biggest internal threat is the rapidly growing economic disparity among its citizens.  This gap has become much more pronounced over the last two decades.  The fact is America’s traditional middle class continues to contract while the disparity in wealth between the top 1 percent and the rest of the country continues to widen.  The statistics are sobering and so is the spectacle on the streets for those who allow themselves to see it. As one Japanese executive wrote after visits  to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle in 2017 and 2018, “I saw many homeless people on streets. High-rise buildings and luxurious houses were booming because of the strong economy, but there were people who could not afford a place to live because the booming demand in the area drove the cost of living up. If inequality grows and no measures are taken, it will lead to very serious social unrest.” And that was written before the pandemic, before the George Floyd tragedy.An American who lived in Australia for years offered this perspective: “America is a great place to get ahead, but it’s a really bad place to be left behind. For all the opportunities there are to make something of yourself in America, there are also many opportunities to be marginalized and forgotten about.” Number 2:  Gun Violence  The second internal threat most often mentioned by respondents outside America is gun violence, and the reactions, while uniformly negative, range from befuddlement to horror to contempt.“I do not get it. Why are there so many guns in America?” asks a Singaporean woman who is a senior partner in her business. A highly successful entrepreneur originally from India talks of gun violence as “a cancer” that “has spread throughout the country and it cannot be controlled anymore.” A West Point graduate who travels to the Far East several times a year offered this surprisingly strong reaction: “Europeans and others basically think of America as a two-year-old holding a gun. The toddler is easily distracted and is the most dangerous thing in the room. This attitude is heightened by the fact that America is quick to anger and to react when something happens.”Without question, Americans will never voluntarily surrender their guns.  Gun ownership is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  Even more fundamentally, the right to own firearms is deeply entrenched in the history and culture of this nation. But, possessing automatic and semi-automatic rifles, which are designed as weapons of war, cannot be a right the original framers of the U.S. Constitution intended to protect. America is no longer a nation where militia are necessary, with each citizen toting his own gun to fight off foreign oppressors or a government with which he disagrees.  The general consensus of those I contacted is that, as a first step, America should immediately re-institute a ban on assault weapons and revisit sensible gun laws.  It is illegal for the average American to own a machine gun or a bazooka or a flamethrower—those are weapons of war and only belong in the hands of the military.  Fully automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons should fall into the same category.  Enough is enough.Number 3:  Racism  Finally, the third internal threat most mentioned by respondents, which has been part of America since its inception, is racism.  Most of their comments were gathered before George Floyd was killed by a policeman in Minneapolis, but they still apply.“When the economy in America does well, the rich seem to get richer and the poor still suffer,” says an engineer from Scotland. “This seems to follow racial lines with the Hispanics and black people generally filling up the prisons and standing in the food lines.  It is difficult to see any progress in this area with legislation or community projects to help redistribute the wealth to give the people lower down the wealth ladder any hope of a brighter future, which is the only way to alleviate some of the social problems.”Despite the many lofty ideals of America’s founding fathers promoting  “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for “all men” who are “created equal,” slavery was an integral part of America for almost 90 years.  Some early U.S. presidents owned slaves.  Only after the end of America’s bloody Civil War was slavery abolished in law. But even then, quasi-slavery carried on in the form of Jim Crow, and even when that was ended by legislation in the middle of the 20th century, and even as many Blacks shared in the country’s prosperity, very many did not. Racism persisted, and the killing of Blacks in police custody when picked up for extremely small offenses (selling cigarettes, a counterfeit 20 dollar bill), or no offense at all, finally made that fact inescapable. THE TAKEAWAYChina is and will remain America’s leading global economic challenger as it pursues its efforts to surpass the U.S. innovating and commercializing 21st century technologies. Just this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray felt compelled to tell the Hudson Institute, "The stakes could not be higher. China is engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world's only superpower by any means necessary." But Wray's focus was on espionage. The issue is so much bigger than that.China will flex its growing economic muscle in global trade through expansive projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative.  That pressure combined with America’s tendency toward isolationism, which rejects a rational immigration policy, could further weaken the underpinnings of the American economy over the long run if unchecked.  At the same time, the rapidly growing disparity in wealth is creating social divisions that undercut America’s sense of itself as a place where anything is possible. Racism and guns will remain enormous challenges.  In short, America needs to wake up. It needs to address these critical issues.  The United States in 2020 is still at the apex of its military power and economic influence.  Is America in decline?  Not yet.  But if Americans fail to resolve the issues seen clearly—and described bluntly—by the rest of the world, then the decline and fall of what used to be the world’s idea of America is not far off.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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