Biden Administration: Homeland Security Will Decide Whether to Extend TPS for Haitians

The Biden administration has declined to comment on whether Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will be extended for Haitians. “By law, TPS designations are made by the Department of Homeland Security after consultation with the appropriate agencies,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told VOA. “So, we wouldn’t want to comment on any sort of internal deliberations when it comes to TPS.” TPS is a designation made by the secretary of homeland security to individuals from countries severely impacted by natural disasters or armed conflicts. It allows beneficiaries to live and work in the United States for a period of time. The TPS status Haitians currently hold was enacted by the Obama administration on January 21, 2010, nine days after a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the island nation, killing at least 250,000 people and displacing 5 million others. In October 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden made a campaign stop in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Florida, where he courted the Haitian-American vote and promised to act on an immigration issue high on their list of priorities, the TPS program. More than 55,000 Haitians are enrolled in the program, according to the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder Kerlyne Paraison, foreground, of Haiti, holds up a sign as she demonstrates during a rally for a permanent solution for TPS holders in front of the Citizenship And Immigration Services Field Office.Prominent Haitian immigration advocate reaction   Reacting to the State Department’s stance on TPS, the Miami-based Family Action Network Movement (FANM), a grassroots immigration advocacy group, called on the Biden administration to act quickly. “This is something FANM has been advocating for, along with other immigrant rights organizations. The time to do this is now,” Marleine Bastien, executive director of FANM, told VOA. What’s happening in Haiti?Haiti has battled political turmoil and a spike in violent crime over the past year. President Jovenel Moise is at odds with members of the opposition about when his term expires. He plans to step down on February 7, 2022, when a newly elected president takes power. But the opposition cites an article in the Haitian constitution that states Moise’s term should have ended on February 7, 2021. Moise was sworn in on February 7, 2017, for a five-year term after winning a 2016 presidential election. That vote was a re-do after the 2015 election results were annulled over fraud allegations. The U.S. and much of the international community back Moise’s claim that his term will end next year. However, both the Trump and Biden administrations have repeatedly criticized Moise for ruling by decree since January 2020, when two-thirds of the parliament’s terms expired. They have also called on him to organize elections as soon as possible. The United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union have expressed the same concerns. Moise defended his decision not to organize elections last year, citing the pandemic, a crippling economic crisis, a spike in violent crimes and “peyi lok,” a series of massive anti-government protests that halted operations of businesses, schools and transportation. Moise announced in February that a constitutional referendum was planned for April and legislative and presidential elections would be held in September. New wave of asylum seekers?Asked by VOA if the current political instability in Haiti could cause more Haitians to seek asylum in the U.S., the State Department’s Price did not give a direct answer.“What I would say is that it is the responsibility of Haiti’s government to organize elections in 2021 that are free, that are fair, that are credible,” Price told VOA. “We join the international community in calling Haitian stakeholders to come together to find a way forward. What we have said is that the Haitian people deserve the opportunity to elect their leaders and to restore Haiti’s democratic institutions.”

your ad here

US, EU Remain Wary of Erdogan’s Diplomatic Charm Offensive

Since U.S. President Joe Biden’s election, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been making diplomatic overtures to the West, pledging democratic reforms at home and promising a serious effort to improve ties with Turkey’s NATO partners.The Turkish leader told France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, in a video call Tuesday that cooperation has “very serious potential,” and he added that dialogue has an important role to play.“As two strong NATO allies, we can make significant contributions to peace, stability, and peace efforts in a wide geography — from Europe to the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Africa,” Erdogan said in a statement following the conversation.Also Tuesday, Erdogan unveiled a long-awaited action plan he has trailed heavily since Biden’s election win last November, which he says is aimed at improving human and civil rights in Turkey.“The ultimate aim of Turkey’s action plan is a new civilian constitution,” the Turkish president highlighted in his speech. The plan originates from the state’s “obligation to protect, in all of its affairs and acts and with all of the state institutions and organizations, the physical and moral integrity and the honor and dignity of individuals,” he announced.FILE – Members of Reporters Without Borders hold stencils representing portraits of imprisoned Turkish journalists, during a demonstration in front of the Turkish Embassy, in Paris, Jan. 5, 2018.But Erdogan’s critics say the action plan sits oddly with his government’s quashing of dissent — Turkey jails more journalists than any other country in the world — and the imprisoning of the Turkish leader’s political opponents, as well as a rolling crackdown on dissident groups, which became more expansive after a 2016 coup attempt failed to topple the Islamist populist leader.Wariness, skepticismDespite the overtures to Biden and Brussels, which have included the appointment of a new Turkish ambassador to the U.S. and Erdogan’s stated hopes to turn a new page in relations with the West after years of strained relations, the diplomatic charm offensive has been received so far in Washington with wariness and skepticism.U.S. officials say only last year Erdogan was engineering a dangerous standoff in the eastern Mediterranean with Greece and Cyprus over lucrative gas and oil drilling rights. Western Europeans and Turkey’s other regional neighbors accused Ankara of brinkmanship in a deadlock that saw opposing warships come close to clashing. And even in December, the Turkish president was continuing to complain about a Western conspiracy being formed against Turkey aimed at frustrating the projection of Turkish power and influence abroad.FILE – A handout photograph released by the Turkish Defense Ministry Aug. 12, 2020, shows Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis, center, as it is escorted by Turkish Naval ships in the Mediterranean Sea, off Antalya, Aug. 10, 2020.“There are few signs that the leopard really has changed its spots,” an American official told VOA on Wednesday. He was speaking just hours after Turkey said it is considering purchasing a second S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia, despite strong disapproval from the U.S. and NATO.FILE – The first parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.Ankara’s original purchase last year of the Russian air defense system, which NATO members say is incompatible with membership in the Western alliance, prompted even the more forbearing Trump administration to impose sanctions on Turkey.U.S. and Western officials say it is hardly surprising they remain skeptical about Erdogan’s intentions. “It is hard not to conclude that he is talking from both sides of his mouth,” said a Western diplomat. “There are no signs of him easing his crackdown on domestic dissent nor turning aside from a marriage of convenience with Russia.”Biden has taken an even harder line on Turkey than his White House predecessor, Donald Trump. Before being elected, Biden tagged Erdogan as an autocrat, and the new administration has rebuked Ankara for rights abuses and urged the release of prominent activist Osman Kavala.FILE – A journalist stands in front of a poster featuring jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala, during a press conference given by his lawyers, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 31, 2018.Biden and Erdogan have yet to speak. The only high-level contact so far featured a phone conversation between Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, and Ibrahim Kalin, a security adviser to the Turkish leader.  EU, Turkish relationsLater this month, European Union heads of state and government are scheduled to review the bloc’s relations with Turkey. “There is no doubt that EU governments want a calmer, more predictable relationship with Ankara,” according to Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Europe research organization.He says they want to see improved relations with Turkey for economic reasons and because they fear that any further deterioration could prompt Erdogan to break his deal with the EU to block refugees from using Turkey again as a gateway to Europe.But in a commentary for Carnegie Europe, Pierini notes that Erdogan’s diplomatic charm offensive places the Europeans in a tricky spot. They don’t want to be seen “giving a blessing to Turkey’s autocratic leanings at a time when the country blatantly disregards and mocks Europe’s fundamental values,” he said. “Ankara is striving to dodge punitive measures and fill the agenda with reforms that are palatable to the Europeans. Yet, domestic developments in Turkey keep pointing in the opposite direction.” Rights issuesWestern diplomats say Ankara wants to limit any dialogue with the U.S. and Europe just to trade and economic matters with rights issues and Erdogan’s adventurism in Syria, Libya and Central Asia off the agenda.So far, that doesn’t seem to be working.FILE – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington, Feb. 4, 2021.On Monday, 170 U.S. lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Biden administration to address “troubling” human rights issues as it shapes its policy toward Turkey.Lawmakers noted in the letter that Turkey has long been an important partner, but they say Erdogan is responsible for the strains in the relationship.“Strategic issues have rightfully received significant attention in our bilateral relationship, but the gross violation of human rights and democratic backsliding taking place in Turkey are also of significant concern,” the lawmakers said, pointing to the weakening of Turkey’s judiciary, the appointment of Erdogan’s political allies to key military and intelligence positions, and the wrongful imprisonment of political opponents, journalists and members of minority groups. 
 

your ad here

Suspect in 2018 Toronto Van Attack Convicted

An Ontario Superior Court justice Wednesday found a man who allegedly used his rental van nearly three years ago as a weapon guilty of murder and attempted murder.  
 
Alek Minassian, who was accused of using his rental van to deliberately drive though crowds of people on Toronto’s Yonge Street, killing 10 and injuring 16 others, has been found guilty on 10 counts of murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.  
 
Justice Anne Molloy rejected Minassian’s argument that his autism spectrum disorder rendered him “incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act” or of “knowing that it was wrong.” Malloy ruled that Minassian understood what he was doing, despite the conclusion of experts who said he was incapable of feeling empathy.  
 
“This was the exercise of free will by a rational brain, capable of choosing between right and wrong. He freely chose the option that was morally wrong, knowing what the consequences would be for himself, and for everybody else,” said Molloy.  
 
Molloy added that when Minassian was asked after the attack how he felt about killing and injuring those in the attack, he replied: “I feel like I accomplished my mission.”
 
Calling it “one of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured,” Molloy read out the names and listed the injuries of all 26 victims, adding that Minassian planned and carried out the attack purposely to achieve fame.  
 
Throughout her verdict, Molloy refused to address the defendant by name, opting to call him “John Doe.”
 
The attack in April of 2018 lasted four minutes and reportedly threw bodies as far as 26 feet into the air, while dragging others under the vehicle.
 

your ad here

German Intel Agency Puts Far-Right AfD Under Surveillance

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency recently put the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party under surveillance for suspected extremist links that pose a potential threat to democracy, German media outlets report. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV) would not comment on the reports because of ongoing legal action by the AfD.  The Interior Ministry, which oversees the BfV, would neither confirm nor deny the news reports, but multiple German media organizations confirmed the surveillance through government sources close to the situation. On Wednesday, AfD’s parliamentary leadership, which controls 88 of 709 seats in the legislative body, described the surveillance as “completely unjustified” and vowed to fight it in court. The co-leader of the Alternative for Germany far-right party Alexander Gauland and the vice-leader of the parliamentary group Tino Chrupalla, left, address a press conference, in the parliamentary compound of the Bundestag in Berlin, March 3, 2021.BfV’s February 24 decision to classify AfD as a potential security threat is the first time in Germany’s post-war history that a political party represented in Parliament has been put under such scrutiny. The designation gives the intelligence agency additional surveillance powers, including tapping phones and other communications, and monitoring the movements of AfD members.  The AfD has become the main opposition in the German Parliament, which is entrenched in politics at all levels across the nation. The move also comes ahead of the September election that will choose Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor.  Alexander Gauland, AfD’s parliamentary floor leader, told reporters the designation is clearly an effort to ruin the party’s chances in the election, and the matter will be decided in the courts. The AfD is currently the largest of four opposition parties in the national Parliament and has lawmakers in all 16 state assemblies. The party has moved steadily to the right since it was founded in 2013 for critics of the shared euro currency. It has been strongly denounced in recent years for its anti-immigrant rhetoric and ties to neo-Nazis. Several AfD members sympathized with the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  Several senior figures have quit in recent years, warning that the party was being taken over by far-right extremists. Recent polls have shown support for AfD sagging as low as 9% after winning 12.6% of the vote in 2017. 
 

your ad here

Variant First Detected in Brazil Could Reinfect People Recovering from COVID-19

Scientists are warning that a variant of the novel coronavirus that was first detected in Brazil could reinfect people already recovering from COVID-19.  The P.1 variant has spread to more than 20 countries since it was first detected last November in the Amazonian region city of Manaus.  A joint study by scientists in Britain and Brazil says the variant is 1.4 to 2.4 times more transmissible than the original version of the coronavirus.  Manaus was struck by an initial wave of COVID-19 infections in April and May of last year.  According to researchers, by October almost 80% of recovering coronavirus patients should have developed antibodies that would have made them immune to the virus. Peru will Receive a Second Vaccine Wednesday to Battle COVID-19Peru to receive the first batch of 50,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine Wednesday    But 25% to 61% of those who had recovered from a first bout of COVID-19 were reinfected with the P.1 variant, according to the study, which has not been peer-reviewed.Scientists are worried that new and more infectious variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be resistant to vaccine now being distributed around the world.  But Nuno Faria, a virologist at Imperial College London who co-led the study, says it is too early to determine if the situation in Brazil with the P.1 variant will also occur elsewhere.  The release of the study on the P.1 variant coincided with official data from Brazil showing it had recorded its highest single-day number of COVID-19 deaths with 1,641.The COVID-19 pandemic has sickened more than 114.8 million people around the globe since it was first detected in central China in late 2019, including 2.5 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.The pandemic has also led to what the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has described as an “education emergency,” with more than 168 million children around the world locked out of the classroom for nearly a year.   UNICEF says 98 million children across Latin America and the Caribbean account for the majority of students who have missed in-person learning.  U.S. country music superstar Dolly Parton tried to inject hope and encouragement Tuesday as she was injected with her first dose of the Moderna vaccine. In a short video she posted on Twitter, the 75-year-old singer-songwriter received the vaccine at Vanderbilt University Health Center in Nashville, Tennessee.Dolly gets a dose of her own medicine. @VUMChealthpic.twitter.com/38kJrDzLqC— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) March 2, 2021Before getting the shot, Parton revamped one of her most famous songs, “Jolene,” to encourage viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

your ad here

Toronto Van Attack Suspect Convicted of Murder and Attempted Murder

An Ontario Superior Court justice Wednesday found a man who allegedly used his rental van as a weapon guilty of murder and attempted murder.  
 
Alek Minassian, who was accused of using his rental van to deliberately drive though crowds of people on Toronto’s Yonge Street, killing 10 and injuring 16 others, has been found guilty on 10 counts of murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.  
 
Justice Anne Molloy rejected Minassian’s argument that his autism spectrum disorder rendered him “incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act” or of “knowing that it was wrong.” Malloy ruled that Minassian understood what he was doing, despite the conclusion of experts who said he was incapable of feeling empathy.  
 
“This was the exercise of free will by a rational brain, capable of choosing between right and wrong. He freely chose the option that was morally wrong, knowing what the consequences would be for himself, and for everybody else,” said Molloy.  
 
Molloy added that when Minassian was asked after the attack how he felt about killing and injuring those in the attack, he replied: “I feel like I accomplished my mission.”
 
Calling it “one of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured,” Molloy read out the names and listed the injuries of all 26 victims, adding that Minassian planned and carried out the attack purposely to achieve fame.  
 
Throughout her verdict, Molloy refused to address the defendant by name, opting to call him “John Doe.”
 
The attack in April of 2018 lasted four minutes and reportedly threw bodies as far as 26 feet into the air, while dragging others under the vehicle.

your ad here

Britain to Extend COVID-19 Emergency Aid by $91 Billion

British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak announced Wednesday the government is extending emergency economic aid by nearly $91 billion to boost economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In his annual budget speech to Parliament, Sunak said benefits to workers left unemployed by the pandemic will be extended until the end of September. He said the government will also allocate nearly $1 billion to support the arts, culture and sports impacted by the pandemic.  Sunak promised to do “whatever it takes” to support the British people and businesses through what he hopes will be the final months of pandemic restrictions. Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London, Britain, March 3, 2021.To help begin to pay for some of these programs, Sunak also announced that corporation taxes would rise from 19% to 25% beginning in 2023, by which time the economy should be past the pandemic crisis, he said. “Even after this change, the U.K. will still have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G-7,” Sunak said. The government will also freeze personal income tax thresholds, increasing revenue as inflation boosts incomes. The finance minister also announced the British Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting the economy will return to its pre-pandemic strength by the middle of 2022, six months earlier than was forecast in November.  The bad news, he said, is that the impact of the pandemic will be felt long term, as the five-year forecast for economic growth is 3% smaller than it was pre-pandemic. 
 

your ad here

France Could Ease COVID-19 Restrictions Next Month 

A French government spokesman said Wednesday officials are hoping to lift some of the nation’s COVID-19-related restrictions by the middle of next month, as vaccinations have, so far, proven effective at lowering infection rates. At a Paris news conference, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters that while the nation is still facing hard times, “For the first time in months, the return to more normal living conditions is in sight.”  Attal said infection rates are decreasing among groups that have been vaccinated — meaning the elderly. Attal said it is a sign the vaccination campaign is working, and that it should be sped up.  He said the goal of vaccinating the most fragile was to reduce hospitalizations and protect the health care system, which is key to easing restrictions. The spokesman said President Emmanuel Macron has asked government officials to submit proposals gearing up toward a “cautious reopening” of the country. FILE – A Nice resident and her dog go for a bike ride during virus-related confinement in Nice, southern France, Feb. 27, 2021.Earlier this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France will retain its current measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including a nighttime curfew, as a bare minimum for the next four to six weeks. Other measures now in force include the closure of bars, restaurants, museums, sports and music venues. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus. At more than 3.8 million infections, France has world’s sixth highest number of cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global outbreak. Reports say the number of new daily infections in France has been at more than 21,000 for six straight days. 
  

your ad here

Blast Damages Dutch COVID-19 Testing Site

Dutch police say an explosive device detonated at a COVID-19 testing site before dawn Wednesday in the town of Bovenkarspel, north of Amsterdam, shattering windows but causing no reported injuries.Police spokesman Menno Hartenberg told reporters that forensic officers investigating the site found the metal remains of the explosive device outside a building, which was damaged. Hartenberg said “it was not possible” the blast was an accident.The northern area surrounding Bovenskarspel is suffering one of the Netherlands’ worst COVID-19 outbreaks, with 181 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with about 27 per 100,000 nationally. At least one hospital has been forced to send patients to other provinces due to lack of space in its intensive care units.Forensic officers investigate the area at the scene of an explosion at a coronavirus testing location in Bovenkarspel, near Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 3, 2021.Resistance to COVID-19 restrictions in the Netherlands has turned violent in the past. In January, rioters torched a coronavirus test facility in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a 9 p.m.-to-4:30 a.m. nationwide curfew imposed as part of the government’s latest coronavirus lockdown.Attacks on health workers and facilities around the world have increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A report released this week by Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and facilities last year.Wednesday is the first day in several months when lockdown measures in the Netherlands have been slightly eased, with hairdressers reopening and non-essential stores accepting a small number of customers by appointment. 
 

your ad here
1 2 3 797