Displaying items by tag: Joe Biden

Thursday, 05 August 2021 21:05

USA: international religious freedom roles

On 30 July President Joe Biden announced his intention to create four key international religious freedom roles in his administration. Rashad Hussain will become ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom; he previously served in the Obama administration countering anti-Semitism and protecting religious minorities. Khizr Khan and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum will be commissioners on international religious freedom. Both have a background in human rights advocacy. Biden’s nominee for special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism is Deborah Lipstadt, who also has a strong background in advocacy against persecution and founded the Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University.

Published in Worldwide

As US troops withdraw and Taliban fighters gain ground, President Biden said, ‘The partnership between Afghanistan and the USA will be sustained. Our troops are leaving, but our support for Afghanistan is not ending.’ The bulk of the 4,000 US soldiers now in Afghanistan will be moved out in the next two weeks, and the US expects to remove American and coalition commanders by 4 July. Biden praised Afghans for their ‘difficult jobs’ and efforts to bring unity among the leaders, saying, ‘The Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want. And it won’t be for a lack of us providing help.’ The Taliban said they have the right to react if US troops stay in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the government is arming local volunteers and suggests that the war-torn country now stands on the precipice of civil war.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 24 June 2021 22:36

USA: spike in violent crime

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.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 17 June 2021 21:25

USA / Russia: relations warming

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.

Published in Worldwide

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.

Published in British Isles
Friday, 11 June 2021 09:16

Putin and Biden meet next week

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.

Published in Worldwide

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’.

Published in Europe
Thursday, 29 April 2021 20:26

USA: Biden’s 100 days speech to Congress

President Biden marked 100 days in office with a speech that put into focus his domestic agenda, the most dramatic shift in federal economic and social welfare policies since Ronald Reagan forty years ago. Reagan’s philosophy resulted in decades-long squeezes on domestic spending and tax policies that benefit the wealthiest. If Biden gets his way Reagan’s policies will be replaced by ones directly addressing long-standing economic, racial and gender inequities. His speech reflected his presidency to date, appealing for bold action by a leader whose demeanour is opposite to that of Donald Trump. Biden believes there is an urgent need to act, an opportunity to do so, but limited time to get it done. He said the nation needs ‘a once-in-generation investment in families and children.’ But because of the Democrats’ narrow majorities and a nation still divided over the president’s performance, Biden’s agenda represents a political gamble.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 01 April 2021 21:35

Brazil: who controls the ‘lungs of Earth’?

Those fighting to halt climate change call the Amazon rainforest the ‘lungs of Earth,’ and Brazil's current president has made his country a chain-smoker. A healthy Amazon is crucial for the fight against climate change. Human activity is pumping unsustainable amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, trapping enough heat to warm the planet and profoundly disrupt the climate. Trees, and the soils they grow in, store carbon that might otherwise reach the atmosphere, but cutting down or burning them releases more carbon into the air, making Amazon deforestation a problem for the entire planet. President Jair Bolsonaro has made matters much worse for the remaining 60% of Amazon tree cover. He deprived environmental protection agencies of funding and manpower, allowing farmers to cut and burn trees to open land for farms and cattle ranches. But now Joe Biden’s climate envoy is engaged in an international effort to raise $20 billion for Brazil's environmental protection agency, only to be given if deforestation is reduced.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 18 February 2021 20:20

USA: prayer for politics

The current president's strategy for handling the former president's impeachment trial has been to keep the whole ordeal at arm's length. The Biden administration's long-term political fortunes rest on success in dealing with the pandemic, the economy and the American public's other concerns. In the end, the trial lasted only three days. The chamber can’t take up Biden's Covid relief bill until the House passes the version that they have spent the week working on. Pray that the much-needed relief is released swiftly. With the trial concluded, the Senate can now resume confirming Biden's administration appointments, after it returns from a week recess. Pray for wisdom to flow through all appointments yet to be made, and that the price of a speedy trial without witnesses will not mean a political price being paid later.

Published in Worldwide
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