Displaying items by tag: USA
‘Operation Round-Up’ used undercover detectives to target criminals who attempted to prey upon minors, sought sex for themselves or exploited victims through human trafficking. 125 people were arrested in the trafficking sting and four females were rescued. Joel Velasco, 38, a schoolteacher and Pastor Samuel Phillips Jr of Be Limitless Church were among those arrested when detectives created undercover profiles online and chatted with men who believed they were speaking to minors. Velasco and Phillips were held in positions of trust and respect in the community but abused it as many others of the traffickers did. Police also created false advertisements for sex, and female detectives posed as streetwalkers to catch illegal activities.
On ‘National Coming Out Day’, America’s LGBT awareness day, DC Comics announced that their latest Superman, Clark Kent’s son Jon, will be bisexual. In previous issues Jon was friendly with Jay Nakamura - a bespectacled, pink-haired reporter. In the next issue their relationship will become romantic. The storyline follows Jon as he takes on the mantle of Superman from his father. He fights wildfires caused by climate change, scuppers a high school shooting, and protests against deporting refugees. DC Comics said the pair become romantically involved after Jon ‘mentally and physically burns out from trying to save everyone that he can’. Even though this issue has not yet been released, DC Comics say that reaction to the storyline has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’. They hope people who see this Superman will say, 'He is like me, he fights for things that concern me’.
An antiviral pill has cut the chances of Covid-19 patients being hospitalised or dying by 50% in late-stage trials, raising hopes of a new weapon in the arsenal against the virus. The pill, Molnupiravir, was initially developed to tackle influenza but is also effective at reducing deaths and hospitalisations from Covid, the data from human trials showed. The manufacturers will now seek emergency authorisation in the United States as soon as possible and submit their data to regulators worldwide. A simple pill that can be taken at home to stop the disease in its tracks has been a key aim throughout the pandemic. Until now, Remdesivir, another existing antiviral, was the only one licensed to treat Covid - but it has to be administered intravenously and results have been modest. Other antivirals are also in development, including some specifically targeted at Covid-19, such as a pill currently being tested by Pfizer.
Numerous factors are pointing to a presidential meltdown. At home, Biden’s handling of the pandemic attracted growing criticism during a summer Covid surge. There has been continuing mistreatment of Mexico border migrants, which he promised to end. A Biden-backed police reform bill, prompted by George Floyd’s death, was rejected in Congress. His reputation for foreign policy competence was shattered by the Afghan withdrawal and deaths of Americans and Afghans. The row with France over a US-UK-Australia defence pact deepened disillusion over his commitment to multilateralism. While international perceptions matter, it is Americans who will make or break this presidency. Before next year’s midterm elections, Mr Biden wishes to enact an extraordinarily ambitious legislative agenda including a $3.5tn social spending plan and a $1.1tn infrastructure package. A new survey gives Donald Trump a 48% favourability rating to Biden’s 46%.
Flights carrying Haitian migrants from the US back to their homeland continue daily. The ongoing mass expulsion comes in response to a growing humanitarian crisis at the US/Mexico border. Over 12,000 migrants, mainly from Haiti, camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after wading across the Rio Grande from Mexico. Activity at the border has increased significantly in recent years. Border agents stopped nearly 200,000 people last month, a significant increase from the 50,684 arrests in 2019. UN officials say almost a million people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras have fled to Mexico. Mexico may top 100,000 new asylum claims this year, breaking a new record. Recently a federal judge decided officials could not use Title 42 law to deport migrant families from the US to Mexico. Lawyers serving the Biden administration immediately appealed the ruling. Mission Cry is sending 25,000 Spanish Bibles to migrants all over Mexico and hope to reach 2 million people.
Many churches have either been destroyed or severely damaged by Hurricane Ida. The Baptist director of missions said that more than 80 Southern Baptist churches in Louisiana were damaged by the storm. ‘We have churches ranging from desperate to recovering, and the desperate ones need help now. Insurance rates are out of this world. It's going to be tough for them. But most of our churches will be okay in the long run. It's just right now, we have a crisis and need all the help we can get.’ Thirty of the most severely damaged churches were in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Methodist Bishop Swanson said it is too early to gather damage assessment. New York churches were also severely damaged. A parish pastor describes the damage as ‘ten times worse than the last hurricane.’
North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into waters off its eastern coast on 15 September. South Korea and US intelligence are analysing details about the launches. The missiles landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, in the waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula. Prime minister Yoshihide Suga called the firings absolutely outrageous, threatening the peace and safety of Japan and the region. He said, ‘Our government is determined to step up our vigilance and surveillance to be prepared for any contingencies.’ The firings came just two days after North Korea tested a newly developed missile capable of hitting targets 930 miles away. North Korea has ignored Washington’s offers to resume negotiations to abandon its nuclear programme.
The USA and Britain announced they would help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines (not nuclear-armed), taking a major step in challenging China’s broad territorial claims of its exclusive zone in the South China Sea. The announcement is a major step for Australia, which until recent years has been hesitant to push back directly at core Chinese interests. The decision to share technology for naval reactors, even with a close ally, is a major move for President Biden and bound to raise protests by the Chinese and questions from American allies.
One week after Hurricane Ida came ashore over half a million people are still without power. Some of the hardest-hit areas could be without power until 29th September. Mayor David Camardelle said, ‘It looks like a bomb went off. We have no water, we have no electricity, we have no food.’ Residents have been waiting in long queues for water, ice, food and fuel, and the situation has been made worse by extreme heat without air conditioning. On 9th September forecasters watched category 3 Hurricane Larry and Tropical Storm Mindy that are heading towards Bermuda and Canada causing ‘significant swells’ along America’s east coast. Louisiana’s Governor said, ‘We know there are a lot of people out there who are hurting. We're going to continue to work hard every single day to bring additional relief and to make progress.’ But Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy said residents need more help now.
Ida, the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in Louisiana, hit as Category 4 while the region's hospitals were under siege from rising Covid cases. Debbie and her family cowered on a stairway landing while four feet of muddy water rushed into her home. She and her son had earlier safely rescued her elderly parents from their home, but now they prayed the roof would not collapse on them all. ‘God blessed us that we all survived,’ she said after they were rescued. Her experience is just one of the tens of thousands rescued by crews in high-water trucks, helicopters and swamp boats desperately searching for survivors. Pray for Louisiana communities beginning the huge task of clearing debris and repairing damage. They are facing the depressing prospect of weeks without electricity in the stifling, late-summer heat because the region's power grid is down. On 2 September, New York City declared a state of emergency after flash flooding: see