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Maldives Crisis: Protests in Male as President refused to follow SC’s ruling

Maldives protest

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Protests are being held in Male as President Abdulla Yameen refused to follow SC’s ruling to release key political prisoners and reinstate 12 MPs. Following which protesters opened the gate of Maafushi Prison in Male where the 12 MPs are detained.

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Maldives protestors forciably entering jail 

A Scuffle is reported between Police & protestors outside Chief Justice Abdullah Saeed’s residence in Male. Protests are being held in Male as President Abdulla Yameen refused to follow SC’s ruling to release key political prisoners and reinstate 12 MPs.

Absolute breakdown of law and order. The public is on the edge. I am very concerned as we are facing increased unrest. They have just used pepper spray & tear gas on crowd said Eva Abdulla, Member of Parliament.

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Protest for the release of former president Mohamed Nasheed

Supreme Court of Maldives on Thursday ordered the immediate release of all high-profile prisoners, including former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.

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Four years in, Donald Trump has plenty of unfinished business

Trump pushed through the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax system since President Ronald Reagan. Trump, as he said he would, tilted the Supreme Court further to the right with confirmation of two conservative justices and likely a third, Amy Coney Barrett, in the coming days.

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Donald Trump MSNBC

President Donald Trump swept into office nearly four years ago as an outsider who promised to get things done quickly on behalf of the American people through sheer force of will and unrivaled knowledge about the art of the deal.

He has checked off some items on his to-do list.

Trump pushed through the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax system since President Ronald Reagan. Trump, as he said he would, tilted the Supreme Court further to the right with confirmation of two conservative justices and likely a third, Amy Coney Barrett, in the coming days. His promise to get tough on illegal immigration has resulted in a surge in migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But Trump has also faced the same hard truth that each of his White House predecessors learned: Governing is rarely easy.

A look at some of the presidents unfinished business as he asks voters for a second term in the White House:

HEALTH CARE

Trump has managed to undermine President Barack Obamas health care law, but has fallen far short of his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

His administration has managed to dismantle parts of the law. Enrollment periods have been shortened, some subsidies were ended and the individual mandate — the fine for people without health insurance — has been eliminated.

Trump says he’s still focused on replacing the with something much better and much less expensive. He said in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes that it will be so good if the Supreme Court puts an end to Obamacare when the justices hear challenges to it next month.

The number of uninsured Americans has risen under Trump’s watch. According to Census Bureau data released last month, nearly 30 million people in the U.S. lacked coverage at some point during 2019, about 1 million more than in the previous year.

ENDLESS WARS

Trump has made only modest progress toward meeting his 2016 pledge to bring home all troops from what he calls Americas endless wars.

When Trump took over the White House, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan stood at about 8,400, and there were about 6,800 troops in Iraq.

Within a year, the number of troops in Afghanistan climbed to about 15,000. Trump approved commanders requests for additional troops to reverse setbacks in the training of Afghan forces, fight an increasingly dangerous Islamic State group and put enough pressure on the Taliban to force it to the peace table.

In February, the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement that calls for the eventual complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

With an eye toward the election, Trump has accelerated his push to bring troops home, teasing that all U.S. troops could be out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Pentagon officials said the number of troops in Afghanistan will drop to 4,500 in November. But defense officials insist there are no plans to have all troops home from Afghanistan by the end of the year. U.S. officials also say there currently is no approved plan to reduce the number to 2,500 by early next year. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

In Iraq, the number of U.S. troops has dipped from about 5,000 to roughly 3,000, although officials say the number fluctuates higher as units rotate in and out.

THE WALL

During his 2016 primary run, Trump sought to mark his ground as a hard-line immigration enforcer who would build a great, great wall on our southern border.

And I will make Mexico pay for that wall, Trump said as he launched his run for the White House in June 2015. Mark my words.

Nearly four years later, Trump still has work to do completing his wall and much that has been completed has been paid by U.S. taxpayers despite promises otherwise.

The presidents administration has promised to build 450 miles by the end of this year and has so far built 371. Trump has replaced hundreds of miles of old, worn-out barriers, meant only to stop cars, with tall, 30-foot fencing that is much harder to get over and impedes wildlife from crossing the border. Conservationists in Arizona, where a bulk of the building has taken place, say the new wall is detrimental to wildlife and the surrounding ecosystems.

Mexico has steadfastly refused to pay for the border wall, though Trump earlier this year suggested that the wall is being paid, in part, by remittances from Mexican immigrants working in the U.S.

To date, the money is coming from the U.S. Treasury, meaning todays taxpayers and the future ones who will inherit the federal debt. To the extent any people who came into the U.S. illegally are kicking in for the wall, its because theyre working and paying taxes like other workers.

Trump also freed up $3.6 billion for the wall last year by diverting money from military construction projects as well as $2.5 billion from approved counterdrug spending.

MIDEAST PEACE

Early in his presidency, Trump expressed confidence that his administration could broker a long-term peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done, Trump declared in May 2017. He put his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner in charge.

Trump moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that was cheered by Israelis and the presidents evangelical Christian supporters in the U.S. but angered Palestinian leaders. He scored a big win in recent weeks with the U.S. nudging Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates three Arab states to normalize relations with Israel.

The normalization of relations between Israel and the three Arab nations is certainly an important achievement. But the agreements between nations that have never been in direct conflict don’t meaningfully move the ball in achieving the large and long elusive goal of achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

INFRASTRUCTURE

The White House’s multiple attempts to designate an infrastructure week each effort quickly eclipsed by other issues have become something of a running punchline in the administration.

In his 2016 victory speech, Trump said he would rebuild the nations highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools and hospitals, making American infrastructure second to none and putting millions to work in the process.

Nearly four years later, Trumps soaring rhetoric has failed to produce legislation.

In April 2019, Trump reached an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to pursue a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. This March, he resurrected the idea for a VERY BIG & BOLD plan for infrastructure spending to help jolt the staggering economy after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

While Pelosi and Schumer again threw their support behind big infrastructure spending, Senate Republicans have bristled at deficit spending, and Trumps sales pitch has gone nowhere with his own party.

TRUMP’S TAXES

On the debate stage four year ago, Trump said his federal income taxes were under a routine audit but promised they would be released as soon as the IRS finished.

Four years later, Trump says the IRS still hasnt completed its work, and the president has yet to fulfill his promise to release his tax returns. No law prevents Trump from making his tax filings public while under audit.

Questions about Trump’s tax returns and his broader financial situation have only grown following revelations that he is personally liable for more than $400 million in debt. That sort of debt load, ethics experts say, raises concerns he could be manipulated to sway U.S. policy by those to whom he’s indebted.

The New York Times reported last month that Trump’s debt includes more than $300 million in loans that will come due in the next four years.

Trump dismisses his debt load as a peanut compared with his assets.

The president is the only post-Watergate president not to release his tax returns.

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FATF keeps Pakistan off blacklist for now, warns that it can’t take forever

Once FATF’s plenary agrees that all 27 items had been completed, there will be an on-site visit by an assessment team to verify information given by Pakistan and see that all measures are working effectively.

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Imran Khan at UNGA

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Friday decided to retain Pakistan on its “grey list”, giving it time till February next year to address what the multilateral watchdog said were “very serious deficiencies” in its efforts to counter terror financing.

The decision was announced at the end of FATF’s three-day virtual plenary meeting, and the body’s president, Marcus Pleyer, cautioned that Pakistan would not be given a chance “forever” to address outstanding issues. Repeated failure to deliver on FATF’s action plan would result in a country being put in the “black list”, he said.

Pakistan was placed in FATF’s list of “jurisdictions under increased monitoring” or grey list in 2018 for failing to control terror financing and money laundering. In a virtual repeat of the warning issued to Pakistan in February, FATF said in a statement: “As all action plan deadlines have expired, the FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2021.”

Pleyer, at a virtual news conference, said Pakistan had “largely addressed” 21 of 27 items in its action plan and the government had signalled its commitment to complete the rest.

“But it is clear [that] even though Pakistan has made progress, it needs to do more. Pakistan cannot stop, it needs to continue to carry out reforms, particularly to implement targeted financial sanctions and prosecute and sanction those financing terrorism,” he said.

The work done by Pakistan “definitely means the world has become safer but the six outstanding items are very serious deficiencies that still have to be repaired, and for that reason, the risks [have not been overcome]”, Pleyer added.

In an apparent reference to Pakistan’s repeated failures to meet deadlines for the action plan, Pleyer said: “As long as we see that the country is progressing with the action items, and we have seen progress with Pakistan, we give them a chance to repair the outstanding issues but we don’t do this forever.”

He added, “You can look at other countries where after a while, we have seen there is no longer progress on the action plan and the action plan has not been completed, then the countries are pushed to the black list.”

Pleyer made it clear Pakistan wouldn’t be out of the woods with mere completion of the action plan. Once FATF’s plenary agrees that all 27 items had been completed, there will be an on-site visit by an assessment team to verify information given by Pakistan and see that all measures are working effectively.

“After that on-site visit, the next plenary will then decide whether Pakistan has indeed fully and effectively completed the action plan and then there is a decision on whether Pakistan would leave the grey list or not,” he said.

Besides, Pleyer cautioned that Pakistan is also subject to an evaluation by FATF’s regional affiliate, the Australia-based Asia Pacific Group.

In its latest report issued in September, APG concluded Pakistan has fully complied with only two of 40 recommendations to counter terror financing and money laundering, and that it was “non-compliant” on four recommendations, “partially compliant” on 25 and “largely compliant” on nine.

FATF’s statement said Pakistan should continue addressing its “strategic deficiencies”, including demonstrating that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of terror financing activity and that investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities.

Pakistan should demonstrate that terror financing prosecutions result in “effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions”, and it should show “effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions” against terrorists designated by the UN Security Council and those acting on their behalf by preventing the raising and transferring of funds, identifying and freezing assets, and prohibiting access to funds and financial services.

Islamabad should also demonstrate enforcement and action against non-profit organisations, which are often used as fronts by Pakistan-based terror groups, the statement said.

Pleyer brushed aside a question on whether Pakistan is being discriminated against by saying the country is being treated in line with the same rules that have been accepted by 205 countries globally. He also dismissed a question from a Pakistani body about the alleged involvement of Indian banks in terror financing, saying FATF isn’t an investigative body.

Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said the six action items FATF is pressuring Pakistan to implement are the “most crucial ones that will help finish off the terror groups”.

“Pakistan has was hoping to convince the watchdog to remove it from the grey list but FATF has taken a more serious view and asked Pakistan to go full throttle and terminate the state’s support to terror groups, which Pakistan will find difficult to do given the history of these groups being used as proxies by the army,” he said.

“Implementing the full action plan won’t be easy because of the fear of retribution from these terror groups. We can expect Pakistan to enact more dramas, such as a crackdown and prosecution of terrorists, before the next FATF meeting,” he added.

There was no immediate reaction to FATF’s decision from Indian officials.

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Covid cases shatter record in US, Trump and Fauci haven’t met for ‘months’

In recent days, Trump has called Fauci and his ilk “idiots” and claimed that Americans are tired of “Covid, Covid, Covid” all the time.

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Fauci over Trump

New York, Oct 24 : US president Donald Trump and his top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci have not met in “several months” and White House virus task force meetings have been reduced to once a week, according to new revelations into the inner workings of a disastrous coronavirus response in the world’s wealthiest country.

The US recorded 71,671 new cases Thursday, with several states setting records across the Midwest and West. This is the single highest daily tally since the pandemic began. Texas leads with maximum new cases. The seven-day rolling average for new daily Covid-19 cases in the US was 44,647 two weeks ago.

The virus has killed more than 223,000 people in the US and sickened more than 8 million.

Less than 24 hours after the final presidential debate on October 22, US President Donald Trump was back at the White House holding a mini superspreader event while the country’s top infectious diseases expert is urging the government to see the logic of a “golden mean” that factors common sense public health guidelines to reopen the economy. Trump had 30 people huddled around him in the Oval Office on Friday and only one woman in that group was wearing a mask.

“Every time I talk about these things, people get concerned about shutting down. We’re not talking about shutting down, but we’re talking about doubling down on some of the fundamental public health measures that we need to adhere to – the universal wearing of masks,” Fauci said during a television interview on Friday.

During the same interview, Fauci revealed that Trump hasn’t attended a coronavirus task force meeting for months.

Days ahead of the US 2020 election, the coronavirus pandemic continues to haunt incumbent Donald Trump both in debates and his poll numbers. He trails Biden in both national and battleground polling.

In recent days, Trump has called Fauci and his ilk “idiots” and claimed that Americans are tired of “Covid, Covid, Covid” all the time.

Trump has mocked Biden for wearing masks and for adhering to public health guidance. “We can’t live like that,” Trump has said often, and continues to hold superspreader rallies and aggressively push the idea of herd immunity.

Fauci has pinned America’s failure to contain the virus on the lack of a uniform guidance from the top, without mentioning Trump. “I’ve always felt that uniformity of response and consistency of response is always a good thing. People know where they stand, know what they need to do and it was certain fundamental things that have not been adhered to consistently,” he said on Friday.

In the US, at least 5 vaccine candidates are in Phase 3 trials. The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is among several leading candidates in final testing. Two studies which started trials on July 27 are fully enrolled and ready to start collecting data.

Fauci said we’ll likely know about vaccine efficacy and safety latest by early December and that vaccine doses will be made and ready to go by the end of the year for frontline workers and the most vulnerable. The vaccine will be available widely only by the summer of 2021, according to US public health officials.

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