Displaying items by tag: USA
As temperatures reached 106F (41C) in Montana and Arizona, animals scorched their paws on blistering asphalt. Texas residents must limit cooking and cleaning to preserve the power grid in one of the most excruciating heat waves to hit the USA this early in the year. 40 million people are experiencing 100F (38C) temperatures, and 50 million are under excessive heat warnings. Across the south-west wildfires have spread, with lightning and gusty winds threatening to spark more. The extreme heat and drought complicate firefighters’ efforts to contain the blazes. Arizona’s large aerial firefighting tankers couldn’t fly due to high temperatures and diminished water supplies. Cooling and hydration stations have opened across the American west and the hottest months of the year are yet to come. Scientists say, ‘Climate change is a human engineered change; fire suppression is a human thing too. It is a result of our activities and decisions.’
President Joe Biden is launching a renewed effort to tackle crime in the US, as a series of major cities experience spikes in violent offences. Police departments define violent crime in slightly different ways, but the data usually includes murder, robbery, assault and rape. There were 25% more murders recorded in 2020 than the previous year. Major US cities have tended to follow the national trend in becoming safer since the 1990s, but some have recently seen a sharp rise in murders. Spikes in the biggest cities are a considerable concern to Biden's administration, with Chicago having the worst records for murders and a continuing upward trend in 2021. A rise in the number of shootings in many major cities runs parallel with the president's attempts to strengthen firearm regulations to combat gun violence. The administration hopes strong action now can stem the violence and prevent murders increasing further this summer.
Before talking in Geneva relations between the USA and Russia were at rock bottom. After talking, both presidents praised their talks but have made little concrete progress at the first such meeting since 2018. Disagreements were stated, said Joe Biden, but not in a hyperbolic way, and he said Russia did not want a new cold war. Vladimir Putin said Mr Biden was an experienced statesman and the two ‘spoke the same language’. They agreed to begin a dialogue on nuclear arms control and said they would return ambassadors to each other's capitals. However, there was little sign of agreement on cyber-security, Ukraine, or the fate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a penal colony. Mr Biden said there would be ‘devastating consequences’ for Russia if Navalny died in prison. Mr Putin hinted at a possible deal on exchanging prisoners, saying he believed compromises could be found.
Boris Johnson and Joe Biden met on 10 June. Joe Biden has Irish roots, and many believe Britain should not underestimate the strength of his feelings against tinkering with the Northern Ireland Protocol if it puts the Good Friday agreement in jeopardy. Boris Johnson wants to ‘tinker’, putting the agreement at risk. He was seen by many Americans as Britain's equivalent of Donald Trump, and indeed he was lavish in his praise of the former president. But British PMs need to get on with whoever is America’s president. Boris, from a privileged background, needs to get on with Joe, who is from a poor working-class background. The one thing the two men do have in common is that they both are Catholics: one is a practising believer, the other needs more practice.
US president Joe Biden and Russian president Putin will meet in Geneva on 16 June. They first met in 2011, when vice-president Biden told Putin, ‘I don’t think you have a soul.’ They clashed again in 2014, when Biden was tasked with bolstering Ukraine in the wake of its protests and pressuring Russia to scale back military interference in eastern Ukraine. Putin then pushed back against Biden and the strain of US policy he represented. In 2016 Putin had his intelligence services interfere with the US presidential election, hoping Donald Trump, once elected, might reverse Obama’s administration stance on Russia. In the ensuing years, Putin’s minions likely passed information or misinformation to Biden’s son Hunter, which Trump’s supporters eagerly received and did their best to deploy in the 2020 campaign. With so much jagged history between them, the meeting will be awkward at a personal level.
New satellite images show vehicles, a fresh access road and excavation at an Iranian nuclear site that was covered up in March. This raised alarms as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met in Vienna. The IAEA seeks to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. During a crucial board meeting, the US accused Iran of violating the very nuclear deal that US negotiators are trying to reinstate. ‘Since this board last met, Iran has also exceeded constraints by enriching uranium to 60% U-235,’ the delegation said. The head of the UN nuclear watchdog issued a similar warning. ‘My expectations about this process, of course, were not met,’ the IAEA director said. ‘We have a country that has a very developed and ambitious nuclear programme, which is enriching uranium at very high levels, very close to weapons-grade.’
An international group of scientists has ditched ethical guidelines so that they can grow babies for forty days, for the sole purpose of killing them for research. The International Society for Stem Cell Research issued new guidelines that lift restrictions on certain types of unethical research that manipulate, alter, or destroy human embryos. It wants to remove a 14-day rule for research on human embryos, established in 1979, which stated scientists may only experiment on human embryos up to 14 days after fertilisation. This rule has been the current policy in the United States and generally a scientific standard throughout the world. The new guidelines have removed all restraint, creating the potential for ‘baby in a bottle’ experiments. It also wants to use three-parent human embryos (human embryo with DNA from three individuals), which is currently prohibited, and to allow creating a cell from animal and human cells, characteristic, or tissues.
US president Joe Biden and Russia's president Vladimir Putin will hold their first summit on 16 June in Geneva, setting the stage for a new chapter in their fraught relationship. The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, seeking to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship. The Kremlin said that Putin and Biden would be discussing ‘issues of strategic stability,’ as well as ‘resolving regional conflicts’ and the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden, making his first international trip as president, will go to Geneva immediately after separate summits with his key Western allies in the G7, NATO, and the EU. To prepare the ground, US secretary of state Antony Blinken and veteran Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met last week in Reykjavik. After their meeting, a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that repairing ties ‘will not be easy’, but he saw ‘a positive signal’.
At least 1,068 people have been killed by police since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minnesota on 25 May 2020. His killing triggered worldwide protests demanding justice and an end to systemic racism. In April 2021 Floyd’s killer was found guilty of murder and manslaughter; sentencing is on 25 June. Between January 2013 and May 2021, US police killed at least 9,179 people, according to data compiled by Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. Since Floyd’s death, the group has recorded at least 1,068 police killings across the country – an average of three killings every day. Despite being 13% of the population, black Americans are three times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police. The group also found that ‘levels of violent crimes in US cities do not determine rates of police violence’.
6 May is the National Day of Prayer in the USA. It comes at a complex time in American history, with political division, racial tension and violence, and a global pandemic and its devastating consequences. The deep divisions feel insurmountable. The hurts and griefs seem unresolvable. Many Americans feel powerless. But we serve an all-powerful God. With one word from His mouth, America’s entire spiritual trajectory can be reversed. If a move of God is America’s only hope, then prayer is the most important thing we can do. Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit that replaces national indifference with widespread repentance. Pray for radical love for God and people to heal and unite a divided Church. Pray for godly men and women to take courageous and humble leadership. Pray for vast resources to be leveraged for God’s glory among all nations.