Trump’s triumph! | Daily News


 

Trump’s triumph!

US President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper with the headline that reads "ACQUITTED" at the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast, at the Washington Hilton on Thursday.
US President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper with the headline that reads "ACQUITTED" at the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast, at the Washington Hilton on Thursday.

President Donald Trump had one of his most successful 24 hours in politics and governance this week when he presented the State of the Union address to the US Congress and the US Senate acquitted him in the impeachment trial against him.

The State of the Union address where a President gives a statement of government policy and activities for wider consensus among rival political parties, was a clear campaign strategy by President Trump for his re-election poll in November this year. The acquittal in the impeachment mover cleared the way for his re-election campaign by enabling him to contest as a sitting president.

He became the third US president to avoid a final impeachment by the US Congress, following President Andrew Johnson (1869) and President Bill Clinton (1998). All three had articles of impeachment adopted by the US House of Representatives but not finally indicted by the US Senate, for alleged crimes and misdemeanours in violation of the US Constitution.

The State of the Union address was loaded with political campaigning, with the Republican members of the House standing up to applaud President Trump for the many claims he made on political, economic, government activities, while the Democratic members mostly sat in silence.

The antagonism in the Republican and Democratic rivalries were focused when President Trump refused to accept the hand of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when she offered to shake hands with the president before the address began, and Speaker Pelosi tearing up the text of the President’s address after it was over.

The State of the Union address carried a heavy re-election message with emphasis on the success of the current US economic policies, declaring “a great American comeback” and stating: “The state of our union is stronger than ever before”.

Much of the success of the Trump administration policies were announced to be beating and overcoming the policies of the previous President Barack Obama, drawing huge cheers from Republicans, while Democrats remained silent.

Political analysts saw a complete departure from and bipartisan outreach efforts or proportions, and instead were harsh and direct attacks on the rival Democrats, just the day after the Democrats held their first caucus in Iowa on selecting the rival to contest Trump at the next presidential election. There was strong opposition by President Trump to efforts by Democrats to widen medical benefits to US citizens, with him stating: “We will never let socialism take over health care” and also said: “If forcing American taxpayers to provide unlimited free healthcare to illegal aliens sounds fair to you, then stand with the radical left. But if you believe that we should defend American patients and American seniors, then stand with me and pass legislation to prohibit free government health care for illegal aliens!”

He also assured support for the Constitutional provision for US citizens to own and carry weapons, despite the increased public calls for weapons control laws as the gun killing continues to spread in the country.

Coronavirus spread

The spread of coronavirus in many parts of the world with fears of it leading to a global health calamity and rising concerns on international relations.

The national health commissions figures for China with regard to the virus released as this is written said there were 28,018 confirmed cases and 563 deaths in China, with 24,702 suspected cases. A total of 282,813 close contacts have been traced, and are still in medical observation.

There are also reports of a severe shortage of hospital beds in China, despite the opening of the 1000 bed hospital in Wuhan built within ten days, and another such hospital under construction. Global cases have now been reported in 20 countries, and the Tokyo’s Olympics chief executive said organisers were “extremely worried about how the virus could affect this year’s games.”

All arrivals to Hong Kong from mainland China will face “compulsory quarantine”, amidst growing differences between the Hong Kong public and the authorities on the handling of the situation. As the concern over the virus spreads, a senior official of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned about misinformation spread regarding the new coronavirus outbreak. Dr. Sylvie Biand, director of WHO’s pandemic and epidemic diseases department, in a briefing to media said “When there is an unknown, people try to fill the void”.

An example of the current misinformation is the erroneous belief of ‘a cloud of virus’ and the possibility of getting sick by simply breathing air. She said “This is not a situation”. And that coronavirus spreads primarily through contact with an infected person and is transmitted through respiratory droplets. She said the coronavirus outbreak does not constitute a pandemic, or the worldwide spread of a new disease, yet. Meanwhile China’s Xinhua state news agency reported that China’s President Xi Jingping has said China is in the middle of a ‘people’s war’ on the coronavirus that has claimed hundreds of lives, and that those who fail to implement and obey the government’s epidemic control measures, including Communist Party officials, will be held accountable.

“Those who fail to perform their duties shall be punished according to discipline and law,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has accused the US of causing panic in its response to the coronavirus outbreak, following the US decision to declare a public health emergency and deny entry to foreign nationals who had visited China and other restrictive measures on US citizens in China. There are also concerns in China about the similar restrictive measures imposed by Australia, especially on Chinese students returning after the Chinese New Year holidays.

Post-Brexit

With the UK now out of the European Union there is a gulf emerging between the two on trade talks, similar to when Boris Johnson earlier threatened to walk away from the EU with no deal, that sign up to the EU rules on competition and state aid.

Prime Minister Johnson has said his preference was for a Canada-style deal with the EU with no tariffs, but he would also consider a loose ‘Australia style’ relationship with the EU that involved tariffs, than accept alignments with any Brussels regulation or oversight by the European courts. He has pledged to use the UK’s “newly recaptured powers” after Brexit to head “out into the world”, and that the country must now move on.

Johnson made the case that the UK should not abide by Brussels rules any more than the EU should have to follow Britain’s regulations after Brexit.

“There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules,” Johnson said.

Earlier in Brussels, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief trade negotiator, set out the EU’s negotiating goals, involving a contrasting vision in which the UK and EU maintain a level playing field.

He reminded Johnson of the UK’s “very important” pledge that it would stay true to EU rules on subsidies and standards, as Brussels staked out its opening position for the negotiations ahead. Barnier has reminded Boris Johnson that he has already agreed in a “very important” declaration to stay true to EU rules on subsidies and standards, as Brussels staked out its opening position on the EU’s future relationship with the UK.

Responding to the prime minister’s claim “that there would be no need for Britain to continue to respect EU regulations under a trade deal, the EU’s chief negotiator pointed to the “political declaration” agreed last year with Johnson, while admitting that alignment was a “red rag” to Westminster.

Brussels is demanding that the UK “dynamically aligns” on state aid and competition regulations to prevent the British government from subsidising elements of the economy, such as the steel, aerospace or car industries.

The European court of justice would act as the final arbiter of EU law. The EU is seeking “non-regression” on current environmental, workers and social standards.

Barnier said a level playing field had to be a condition for a “zero-tariffs, zero-quota” deal. “We are in favour of free trade but we are not going to be naive,” he said.

The UK left the EU on January 31 and negotiations over the future relationship are expected to start on March 3, with talks in both London and Brussels. The current UK position shows there will be much disagreement with the EU, and the possibility of the negotiations going beyond December 31, as called for by the UK.

India protests

The protests by Indian women in Shaheen Bagh, in southern Delhi, is the ongoing 24/7 protest against the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act passed in December 2019, and also against police intervention against students at universities, opposing the new law.

It is a law seen as unfair by and restrictive to the Muslim population, which gives citizenship to refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, and Buddhists, but excludes Muslims. The law came just months after the Narendra Modi-led government renewed a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to identify immigrants living illegally in the state of Assam, promising to soon implement it across the country.

Standing out in the protests are the women of Shaheen Bagh, who have become the face of resistance and also face the uncertainty that women across India have felt since the Modi government began updating the NRC. After the implementation of the NRC in Assam, 1.9 million people were found to be lacking papers for citizenship and, according to activists, 69 per cent of them were women. These protests have brought usually conservative women to stand with men in the continuing protests giving a new strength to the protest movement.

UK journalists walk-out

Political journalists boycotted a Downing Street briefing this week after one of Boris Johnson’s aides banned selected reporters from attending.

The confrontation took place inside No 10 after PM Boris Johnson’s most senior communications adviser, tried to exclude reporters from the Mirror, the i, HuffPost, PoliticsHome, the Independent and others from an official government briefing.

At a time of escalating tensions between Downing Street and the media, the Labour Party accused Johnson of deploying Donald Trump-like tactics to avoid scrutiny.

The incident happened in the foyer of No 10 when journalists on the invited list were asked to stand on one side of a rug, while those not allowed in were asked by security to stand on the other side.

When the advisor told the banned journalists to leave, the rest of the journalists decided to walk out collectively rather than allow Downing Street to choose who scrutinises and reports on the government.

Among those who refused the briefing on the UK’s trade negotiations with the EU were the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, ITV’s Robert Peston, and political journalists from Sky News, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Financial Times and the Guardian.

The briefing was due to be given by government officials, who are meant to be politically neutral, but did not happen because of the walkout.


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