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Iran warns of ‘final step’ on nuclear deal

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Ali Khamenei

Tehran, Jan 20 Iran on Monday Iran said it could take a “final and more effective” step concerning its nuclear deal if the other parties remain in default of their contractual obligations towards Tehran.

“If this trend continues, Iran will take this effective step,” Press TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying at a press conference.

Since May 2019, Iran has been gradually reducing its commitments to the 2015 agreement, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The countermeasures came in response to the US’ withdrawal from the deal last year, its resumption of anti-Iranian sanctions, and refusal by Washington-aligned deal partners — the UK, France, and Germany — to guarantee Iran’s business interests under the JCPOA after the sanctions returned.

As part of the retaliatory steps, Iran stopped recognizing the limits set by the deal on the level of its enrichment activities and the volume of its heavy water reservoir.

On January 5, however, the country said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

The decision came two days after an American drone attack killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Mousavi on Monday said so far the countermeasures that have been taken by the Islamic Republic have been meant “to strike a balance” between the quality of Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA and the way others honour the accord.

Amid their continued violation of the JCPOA, the European trio even decided to formally trigger a dispute settlement mechanism featured in the deal that saw them accusing Iran of flouting the agreement.

Mousavi said, though, that despite the “betrayal” perpetrated by some European states, “the door to negotiation with them has not been closed yet”, adding” “The ball is in their court.”

World

Trump administration drops visa ban for online only students

Foreigners make up over 75 per cent of graduate students in electrical, computer, petroleum and industrial engineering fields, according to Inside Higher Ed.

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Donald Trump

New York, July 15 : In a victory for universities and foreign students, President Donald Trump’s administration has dropped its order to deny visa status to those taking only online cases because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Judge Allison Burroughs said on Tuesday that the government agreed to rescind the rule that would have required foreign students on F-1 or M-1 visas to leave the US or transfer to another university if they cannot take at least some in-person courses. Those staying on could have faced deportation.

The judge made the announcement about the government backtracking during an emergency hearing asked by the two institutions that was held by teleconference and lasted only a few minutes.

The case was brought in the federal court in Boston by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University on July 8 and it had snowballed with scores of colleges and tech companies backing them in court briefs and 18 state attorneys general filing another case against the order.

The Trump administration’s order issued last week reversed another issued in March that permitted students to take all their courses online because of the national COVID-19 emergency — which still continues.

Many universities, including Harvard, have announced plans to conduct only online classes in the Fall semester starting in August or September, while some like Columbia and Yale plan to offer a hybrid programme that combines online and in-person teaching if local authorities permit classroom attendance.

The administration’s order against online only teaching seemed to be a tactic to force educational institutions to comply with Trump’s agenda to open the nation fully before the November election.

When the case was filed, Harvard President Larry Summers said, “It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others.”

At least two other cases against the government’s order are pending before other federal courts: One is by Johns Hopkins University in Washington and the other is by the University of California in San Francisco.

Harvard and Yale said in court documents that although it may be argued that the students can continue their studies online from their home countries, “they may have their research and learning inhibited by time zone variations, unavailable, unreliable or state-managed Internet connections, and other barriers to online learning”.

They said that students can suffer irreparable harm from the order if they are forced out of the country.

Tech companies, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook said in their brief that “America’s future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students”.

According to the International Institute of Education, there are over one million foreign students in the US and of them about 200,00 are from India.

several US institutions are dependent on tuition from foreign students, many of whom pay full fees.

But another factor of importance to both the universities and the economy is the pre-ponderance of graduate students in engineering and science.

Foreigners make up over 75 per cent of graduate students in electrical, computer, petroleum and industrial engineering fields, according to Inside Higher Ed.

They not only back up the faculty as teaching assistants and researchers, but go on to work for or found tech companies.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

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Lifestyle

More people could slip into hunger as result of COVID-19: UN Chief

The COVID-19 pandemic is making things even worse. Many more people could slip into hunger this year, he said.

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, July 14 : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that many more people could slip into hunger this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He sounded the alarm in a video message on Monday during the launch of “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020” report, which says almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019, up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years, Xinhua news agency reported.

“This year’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report sends a sobering message. In much of the world, hunger remains deeply entrenched and is rising,” said Guterres in the video message.

The COVID-19 pandemic is making things even worse. Many more people could slip into hunger this year, he said.

“The report is clear: if the current trend continues, we will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 — zero hunger — by 2030.”

Guterres said transformation can begin now. Investments in COVID-19 response and recovery need to help deliver on the longer-term goal of a more inclusive and sustainable world.

“We must make food systems more sustainable, resilient and inclusive — for people and the planet.”

He said he will convene a Food Systems Summit next year. “We must make healthy diets affordable and accessible for everyone.”

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Politics

Indian-origin leader elected Suriname President

Suriname has had a chequered history after its independence in 1975 marked by ethnic polarisation, a coup and a civil war.

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Chandrikapersad Santokhi

New York, Jul 14 : Chandrikapersad Santokhi has been elected the President of Suriname by the Latin American country’s National Assembly, according to media reports.

A former Justice Minister, Santokhi of the Progressive Reform Party (PRP) was elected unopposed on Monday, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported on Monday.

He will succeed Desi Bouterse, a former military strongman, whose National Party of Suriname (NPS) lost the election in May as he sent the country to an economic precipice.

Suriname is a former Dutch colony where people of Indian descent make up the largest ethnic group comprising 27.4 per cent of the population of 587,000.

The PRP, known in the Dutch language as Vooruitstrevende Hervormingspartij or VHP by its initials, largely represents the Indian community and had originally been called the United Hindustani Party.

Santokhi inherits an economy run to the ground by the populist Bouterse, who mismanaged the country while forging closer ties with China and Venezuela.

Speaking at the National Assembly on Monday, Santokhi acknowledged that the country faced an economic collapse and said his government will reorient policies to work for Suriname’s recovery.

Suriname had depended on bauxite exports but recently vast oil reserves have been found in its territorial waters and they could help the country tide over the economic crisis when they eventually come on line.

Till then it may need bailouts from international financial institutions and the Netherlands, whose colony it once was.

Relations with the Netherlands and other western countries had deteriorated under Bouterse, first because of the coup and after his election due to his convictions and his drift to Venezuela and China.

Sanotokhi will have to try to repair relations with the west.

He also faces the strange task of having to deal with Bouterse’s conviction by a Suriname court for the killing of 15 opponents after the 1980 coup in which he overthrew the elected government and seized power.

Sentenced to 20 years, Bouterse had appealed the conviction while he was President. Santokhi had investigated the case while he was with the police.

Suriname’s economy depended on bauxite exports but recent oil finds

Santokhi, 61, was trained in a police academy in the Netherlands and rose to be the chief police commissioner of Suriname.

He later served as the Justice Minister in an earlier administration in 2005.

After Santokhi became Pts president in 2011, the PRP began to broaden its base reaching out to people of other ethnicities with its centre-left policies.

The PRP is in a coalitition with the General Liberation and Development Party (GLDP) and its head Ronnie Brunswijk, who is of African descent was elected Vice President, CMC reported..

Suriname has had a chequered history after its independence in 1975 marked by ethnic polarisation, a coup and a civil war.

After a brief return to democracy in 1987 following the 1980 coup, Surinam had another coup 1990, but democracy was restored a year later.

Meanwhile, a brutal civil war took place between the government and rebels led by Brunswijk known as the Surinamese Liberation Army from 1986 to 1992.

Bouterse’s army brutally suppressed Brunswijk’s forces.

In a strange twist, Bouterse became President in a democratic election in 2010 with the support of Brunswijk and was re-elected in 2015.

Both of them have been convicted in the Netherlands on drug-smuggling charges but remain free in Suriname.

The NPS is dominated by Surinamese of African and mixed ancestry, while the GLDP is mostly made up of people of African ethnicity who are descendants of runaway slaves who settled in the interior and are known as Maroons.

Indians were brought over by the Dutch as indentured labourers after slavery was abolished in the colony in 1863 in an arrangement similar to that in neighbouring Guyana, a former British colony.

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