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Obama to deliver his last State of the Union on Jan 12

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US President Barack Obama would deliver his last State of the Union Address to the Congress on January 12.

Obama, who is currently on his year-end vacation in Hawaii, announced this in an email to his supporters yesterday. “I’ve got 12 months left to squeeze every ounce of change I can while I’m still in office. And that’s what I intend to do,” he wrote.

Sent through his ‘Obama for America’ organisation, Obama, the 44th US President, indicated that he would use the occasion to highlight the achievements of his presidency to a joint session of the US Congress.

“We’ve done a lot of remarkable things together this year, and it’s because of committed citizens like you that this country keeps moving forward. You keep proving the cynics wrong,” he said.

“When we took office, we were losing nearly 750,000 jobs a month. But over the last 69 months, our businesses have created more than 13.7 million new jobs — the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record — and the unemployment rate is down to 5 per cent,” Obama, who was first elected President in 2008 and then in 2012, wrote.

For the first time more than 90 per cent of Americans are now covered, and more than 17 million people have gained health insurance under Obamacare. Insurance companies can’t discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, or charge women more just for being women, he said.

Affordable healthcare reform is one of the key achievements of his presidency, which comes to end in January 2017.

Stating that America is now leading by example on climate change, Obama said, “The Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 per cent by 2030. We’ve cut our oil imports by more than half, while doubling clean energy production from wind, solar, and geothermal — creating steady sources of good jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

“Even as our economy is growing, America has cut our carbon pollution overall more than any other advanced nation on Earth. And we just helped secure the most ambitious global climate agreement in history,” said the US President.

“These are your accomplishments, and that’s what I want to celebrate with you on January 12. As long as you’re out there organising, on whatever issue you’re organising around, America has a bright future ahead,” Obama said

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Italian PM Giuseppe Conte wins crucial vote of confidence

Conte will now lead a minority administration in a country prone to political disputes.

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Giuseppe Conte Italy PM

Italy averted further political chaos on Tuesday after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte survived a confidence vote in the upper house of Parliament.

The country had been embroiled in fresh political uncertainty over the past week after a smaller party withdrew its support for the coalition government — thus stripping it off from having a majority in Parliament.

However, Italian lawmakers in the Senate supported Conte during a vote on Tuesday, by 156 to 140, allowing him to remain in office. He was also backed by the lower house of Parliament in a vote on Monday evening. Conte will now lead a minority administration in a country prone to political disputes.

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Joe Biden to propose eight-year citizenship path for immigrants

The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino and immigrant communities.

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Joe Biden

President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on day one of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the United States without legal status, in what would be a reversal from the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.

The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations.

It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favoured by many Republicans, putting passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.

Expected to run hundreds of pages, the bill is set to be introduced after Biden takes the oath of office on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the legislation who spoke to the Associated Press news agency anonymously.

As a candidate, Biden called Trump’s actions on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and said he would “undo the damage” while continuing to maintain border enforcement.

Under the legislation, those living in the US as of January 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other basic requirements. From there, it is a three-year path to naturalisation, if they decide to pursue citizenship.

For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the US without documentation as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status, could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.

The bill is not as comprehensive as the last major immigration overhaul proposed when Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.

For example, it does not include a robust border security element, but rather calls for coming up with strategies. Nor does it create any new guest worker or other visa programmes.

It does address some of the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States, and provides grants for workforce development and English language learning.

Biden is expected to take swift executive actions to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including an end to the prohibition on arrivals from several predominantly Muslim countries.

During the Democratic primary, Biden consistently named immigration action as one of his first-day priorities, pointing to the range of executive powers he could invoke to reverse Trump’s policies.
Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and enough other Republican senators to avoid the impasse that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades.

That kind of major win – even if it involves compromise – could be critical as Biden looks for legislative victories in a closely divided Congress, where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities that involve rolling back some of the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending.

As a candidate, Biden said the Obama administration went too far in its aggressive deportations.

SOURCE : AP

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Trump administration determines China committed Uighur ‘genocide’

The determination, issued on the last day of Trump’s term, has no immediate effects but likely to strain US-China ties.

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Uighur Muslim rights

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration has determined China has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” in its repression of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the [People’s Republic of China], under the direction and control of the [Chinese Communist Party], has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.

he statement claims “exhaustive documentation” of the events “confirms that since at least March 2017, local authorities dramatically escalated their decades-long campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, including ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz”.

The determination comes a day before US President-elect Joe Biden is to take office. Biden’s campaign declared genocide was occurring in Xinjiang before the president-elect’s victory.

“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo added.

The Reuters news agency reported that US officials briefing reporters on the move said in a call that “an exhaustive documentation of [China’s] own policies, practices and abuse in Xinjiang” viewed by Pompeo led him to make the determination that such acts had been committed since at least March 2017.

“This is a very serious and tragic set of actions that are taking place there in the western part of China,” Pompeo said in an interview on Tuesday on US TV station Fox News.

“This is forced sterilisation, forced abortions – the kind of things that we haven’t seen in an awfully long time in this world,” Pompeo said.

He said the designation is something they have been working on “for an awfully long time”.

The move is likely to place a further burden on the deteriorating ties between the world’s leading economies.

Washington has ramped up sanctions on Beijing over alleged abuses in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and military incursions in the disputed South China Sea.

The Trump administration has also sanctioned Huawei, one of China’s leading telecommunications companies, as it plans to expand throughout Europe and North America.

The rare determination comes after Congress passed legislation on December 27 requiring the US administration to determine within 90 days whether forced labour or other alleged crimes against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are crimes against humanity or genocide.

China has been widely criticised for complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centres” to stamp out “extremism” and give people new skills, but which others have called concentration camps.

Pompeo’s determination does not have immediate effects, though it places a spotlight on Xinjiang, one of the world’s leading regions for producing cotton.

Last week, the United States imposed a ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang.

Pompeo said on Tuesday “the threat from the Chinese Communist Party is real. It is existential to the United States”, and that he is “counting on the next administration continuing our work”.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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