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Bipartisan group of senators releases $908bn Covid relief bill proposal without funds for more stimulus checks

 by Oliver O’Connel

First US Covid vaccines should go to health workers and nursing home…Disney animation classics Blu-ray boxset is 15% off now

A bipartisan group of senators has unveiled a compromise $908bn (£677bn) coronavirus relief bill.

a group of people standing next to a person in a suit and tie

© Provided by The Independent

The Republican and Democrat lawmakers have been meeting every day for weeks, including during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, trying to break the impasse between the two parties.

As Covid-19 surges and spreads uncontrolled over much of the country, the Covid Emergency Relief Framework includes provisions to help small businesses, state and local governments, and to pay for unemployment insurance.

There are no funds designated for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals as with the first relief package earlier in the year.

It is believed that this is to keep the total price tag down to appease Republican lawmakers worried about too great an increase in the level of the national debt.

However, $560bn of the total funding would be repurposed from the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in March. The actual new money is $348bn (£260bn).

The new bill is unlikely to move forward in its current state, as the dollar amount is far less than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would like, and far more than Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell would want.

Mr McConnell has said $500bn would be more acceptable, while House Democrats have a figure in excess of $2 trillion in mind.

It is nonetheless a framework within which the leaders may be able to work, and lawmakers hope it could break the months-long stalemate.

Video: Foreign Secretary: UK’s aid budget is to be cut with regret (PA Media)PauseCurrent Time 1:03/Duration 1:18Loaded: 100.00%Unmute0HQCaptionFull screenForeign Secretary: UK’s aid budget is to be cut with regretClick to expand

At the launch of the bipartisan bill, Mitt Romney said: “I happen to be a deficit hawk. I don’t like borrowing money. I don’t like spending money we don’t have. But the time to borrow money … is when there’s a crisis, and this is a crisis.”

He continued: “We want to help people at this particular time. And so we’ve come together, and we’ve been very careful. This is not a $1.8 trillion stimulus bill. This is a relief measure – half that amount.”

Headline figures reveal $160bn earmarked for state, local, and tribal governments, $180bn for additional unemployment insurance, and $288bn to support small businesses and restaurants. A further $82bn would be for education, $45bn for transportation, and $35bn for the Healthcare Provider Relief Fund.

The bill will also provide short-term federal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits so that states have time to develop their own legislation on the matter – something that Republican lawmakers had been pushing for.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr McConnell said at a press conference that he had been speaking with Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about another new proposal.

While he did not outline any details when speaking to reporters, a copy of the new plan obtained by Axios includes a fresh round of funding and improvements for the small business Paycheck Protection Program, as well as the implementation of widespread liability protections.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance would be extended until 31 January 2021 and then phased out; a grant program for shuttered live venues and theatres would be introduced; and more assistance would be rolled out for the postal service, education, and the stockpiling of medical equipment.

If any bill is to move forward it has to move quickly, as lawmakers are scheduled to begin leaving for the year next week.

Democrat senator Joe Manchin said it would be “inexcusable” for politicians to clock off for the year without ensuring Americans had more relief funding to cope with the pandemic.

Mark Warner of Virginia echoed Mr. Manchin’s comments, saying it would be “stupidity on steroids” to do so.

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of Tuesday morning, there have been 13.55 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US and more than 268,000 officially recorded deaths. Read More

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Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Elections, Features, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

abc-NEWS

UK says Brexit trade talks with EU are in their ‘last week’

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TMR: What will be the outcome? It is coming down to the wire and there is still no certainty! Was this discussed at the just concluded JMC virtual meetings?

Britain’s foreign minister says there is only about a week left for the U.K. and the European Union to strike a post-Brexit trade deal, with fishing rights the major obstacle to agreement

By The Associated – 29 November 2020,

EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, centre, with his team as he walks to a conference centre in Westminster in London, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Teams from Britain and the European Union are continuing face-to-face talks on a post-Brexit trade deal in t
The Associated PressEU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, centre, with his team as he walks to a conference centre in…

LONDON — Britain’s foreign minister said Sunday there is only about a week left for the U.K. and the European Union to strike a post-Brexit trade deal, with fishing rights the major obstacle to an agreement.

As talks continued between the two sides in London, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “I think we are into the last week or so of substantive negotiations.”

The U.K. left the EU early this year, but remained part of the 27-nation bloc’s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect Jan. 1. Talks have already slipped past the mid-November date long set as a deadline for agreement to be reached if it is to be approved by lawmakers in Britain and the EU before year’s end.

Despite the stalemate, Raab told Sky News that “there’s a deal to be done.”

He said the two sides had made progress on “level playing field” issues — the standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU.

The biggest hurdle appears to be fish, a small part of the economy with an outsized symbolic importance for Europe’s maritime nations. EU countries want their boats to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while the U.K. insists it must control access and quotas.

“On fisheries, there is a point of principle: As we leave the transition, we are an independent coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” Raab said.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who met through the weekend with U.K. counterpart David Frost, has said there are still “significant divergences.”

If there is no deal, New Year’s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to U.K.-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, International, Local, News, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

Devastation in the village of Harris’ Below is the same area two weeke before

25 years unforgotten memory of volcanic destruction – ‘fighting’? volcano destruct, now COVID-19

In a Government of Montserrat release, for what or any significance that may be attached, superstitiously or otherwise, it declared that July 15, 2020, was “declared a public holiday on Montserrat, in observance of 25 years since the start of volcanic activity.”

It almost evaded my attention until the very day, having not seen the promised “order of service” which, “with other details was to be published at a later date. Meantime the day July 15, would be “observed as a National Day of Prayer, Reflection, and Thanksgiving, under the theme ‘25 Years on, we are still here’.  The National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving service will be held at 5:00 p.m. at the Look Out Catholic Church.”

Yet to be forgotten as a time in history, with Montserrat is not yet near a place or time a quarter of a century (25 years) later that it can say the loss was for better days, as it has been for others with somewhat similar experience.

It is still confusing why that holiday was not given on the eve which was Friday.

As for the theme, which seemed an effort at expressing some pride by those saying it, but to me, it is quite empty. Giving God thanks, of course, but…

Five years ago, remembering this day from 20 years prior, in the article under a headline caption “Bringing 20 year volcanic crisis perspectives – Recapturing: THE VOLCANO and DEATH, we opened: “In this week’s issue we mostly feature articles and reports from first issues after July 18, 1995 and from immediately after June 25, 1997.

“This, especially in light of discussions that have taken place as a committee set up to plan the 20th-year anniversary of the beginning of what is still referred to as the eruption of Soufriere Hills volcano; “where we came from, where we ought to be, and where we want to go.”

There were some memorable times from that commemoration. It is that which makes us declare the theme of this year’s Thanksgiving seems wrong. Expect more on this.

At that time we also wrote referring to articles from 1995 on…, “… we still hope our readers may now, following, hearing or having heard or followed the debate and discussions, make their own determination as to where we are and know where we are going.

We wish the conversation now would be updated with real pride but we still find we must say, Really, as is said it is time for action. “Everyone”, they say, “has their part to play.” And isn’t odd though that those last words, we have heard them time and time again. Still more to come.

So like 20 years ago and often enough we present as we recapture for the benefit of going forward and for those who might now get a sense of then.

For Bishop Melroy’s references:

https://www.themontserratreporter.com/mdc-shut-down-montserrat-back-five-years/

It is fifteen years on and featured speaker Bishop Melroy Meade said that one day was not enough. In a passionate message, he called for a week of Thanksgiving during which time residents would give thanks to God for his protection, preservation, and faithfulness over the last fifteen years. The congregation that came together to give God thanks appeared to have agreed with him.

Bishop Meade likened the experience in Montserrat to that of Job when everything he had was taken away, but he pointed to a better day which is coming. He also referred to the determination, resoluteness, and pride of a people who have suffered greatly. Like Job, people don’t understand what Montserratians went through but when they become familiar with the island, the resilience of the people they too want to embrace it, he said.

According to Bishop Meade, “The truth is our trials come to make us strong and life cost what it cost and it never goes on sale.”

By Bennette Roach

Devastation in the village of Harris’ Below is the same area two weeke before
Devastation in the village of Harris’

One of the conditions the British Governor of Montserrat and the local Government never wanted to exist, is that they would ever have to report that lives were lost as a direct result of volcanic activity in Montserrat.

On the night of July 18, 1995, residents not far away from Soufriere Hills could hear what they later described as roaring sounds like those that come from jet planes, and it was soon realized by all that a volcano that lay in waiting at English Crater in Soufriere Hills had come alive.

Soon after from several and continuous radio broadcasts, and interviews from scientists, the Governor and the Chief Minister, his office and the offices of the Emergency Operating Centre (EOC), we were to learn that there has always been this volcano, that there have been activities at approximately 30 – 35-year intervals since the turn of this century; that there have been studies, one as recent as the mid-80s, which suggested that there will be serious activities around this time.

No attention whatever was paid to these facts and so here we were in July, less than a month under two years ago, with an erupting volcano and every resident as ignorant as ever to the dangers that this could pose for Montserrat. Since that time it has been a downhill battle, which may have not yet culminated, but which has now directly claimed the lives of at least 10 people with more almost certain to be confirmed when the ash becomes cool enough to be cleared in some way.

1997 6 24 pics
Home demolished by the power and volume of the flow

June 25, 1997, will be long remembered as the worst day of the volcano (I hope) because lives were lost. And the question that is being asked, “Could this have been avoided?” Amazingly, the homes in Long Ground are still standing untouched but for the September 17 last year’s eruption. It may well be that the Tar River valley is their protection or perhaps it is early yet.

MVO Reports

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) report for that morning read as follows: The latest earthquake swarm has just reached a peak, with 4 or 5 earthquakes occurring every minute. At the time of the highest activity, the hybrid earthquakes could more accurately be described as continuous tremors. There have been several small pyroclastic flows in Mosquito Ghaut in the last hour. Observations of the dome last night showed that the top of Mosquito Ghaut is the only active area of the dome at the moment, as the focus of activity has switched from the eastern side to the north in the last few days.

Further pyroclastic flow activity is expected, and the high level of activity means that these flows could happen at any time and be larger than before. The current area of activity makes Mosquito Ghaut the most likely pathway, but further flows in Gages, Tuitt’s, or Tar River are probable as well.”

The following recently became a standard part of the report: Bramble Airport remains operational, but the public is reminded that it is open only for essential travel purposes. The sirens will be tested as usual this afternoon.”

Now following is the evening report following the disaster: “An intense swarm of hybrid earthquakes began at 11 a.m., and rapidly escalated to repetitive events which merged into continuous tremor after 12:15 p.m. At about 1 p.m. major pyroclastic flow activity began in Mosquito Ghaut, which generated an ash cloud to over 30,000 ft within minutes. The flow traveled into Farms River to Trants Bridge. Downriver of Bramble, the flows fanned out into Bethel and Spanish Point almost to the sea. On the northern side, Farms and Trants villages were affected, and the surge reached to Trants bridge. A total of at least 2 square kilometers of land was covered by the pyroclastic flow and surge.

The lower half of Harris village was also impacted, and an ash surge traveled from the Farrell’s area down to the west at least as far as Dyers, and into the upper reaches of Dyer’s Ghaut. There was no activity in the Gages valley during the afternoon.

During the time of the reported activities above, there were people tending their animals and gardens in the Farrell’s and surrounding areas, some of whom perished; there were people in Harris’ and areas way down to Trants, Bethel and Spanish Pointe, Bramble village, etc. who were either visiting their properties or living there. Except for those properties on the perimeter of Mosquito Ghaut in Harris’, individuals were able to avoid the fury of the ash surge from the flow by moving to even higher grounds, but not those in the other areas which were all on lower ground and not far from the ghaut which became more shallow as it nears the sea.

So that just as the report above described, confirmed by the eye witness account of Roy ‘Slim’ Daley from Bramble village who was in Harris’ at the time. He said: “I saw the surges coming back up the hill from the pyroclastic flows, which moved at incredible speed down towards Farms and Trants, breaking over the walls at Brambles and rushing down towards Spanish Pointe through Bethel.”

Fatalities

Soon we were to hear the calls of the authorities for persons to advise them of persons who were known to have been in the areas for one reason another. Both the Governor and the Chief Minister appeared on the radio to tell the nation about the rescue efforts that were underway, never admitting then that there might be fatalities following the activities.

But having seen the results of the forerunning pyroclastic flows, I was certain that the persons who I discovered were in their homes or in the area, had met an unfortunate end.

Other than the sketchy and well-monitored reports that came from Government Information Unit (GIU) and ZJB, the rest of the local media was reduced to press conferences which were cut short and severely limited by interviewees who gave much too long answers, having been denied views from the helicopter or access to the area other than the rest of the general public was entitled to.

By the end of the following day, the admission of fatalities was announced and the count grew each day from four to ten by Monday. It was on Saturday when the CM came close to saying that there may be more dead who are still difficult to get to because of the still searing hot ash that lay deposited on the ground.

THE DISASTER

1997 6 24 pics a
Helicopters involved in the search and rescue missions

I was finally afforded a trip to look at the damage done on Wednesday by EMAD, on a helicopter which is one of four helicopters brought in from different sources to aid the ‘search and rescue’ effort.

The trip was not like any I’ve had and did not afford me the opportunity for detail as I rode with David Brandt and 2 others, plus Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) cameraman and video cameras. with another from Trinidad. It was only a 20-minute trip, far too short.

However, the devastation is much greater than I imagined. The lands (forest) between Tuitts and Mosquito Ghauts is no more. Although not filled with material the pyroclastic was extremely powerful as it left the volcano and that’s when the surge immediately went over Farrells and down Streatham and across Windy Hill. The Farrells estate house is completely gone and so is Mandy’s garage on the corner below the graveyard. It went through the bottom of Windy Hill and well across and into the ghaut beyond.

Escapee

One eye witness woman who escaped and who eventually went back to collect money she left in a vehicle, found it but had walked via Water Works, retracing her steps to get to it. She said she had to go reap the carrots because she was under so much pressure from the government to supply vegetables to shelters.

She got the money but the vehicle she had to leave. She described the flow that she saw as “sweet oil” running down the hill, noting how the flow backed up when the heat.

Looking down on the Harris’ road Mosquito ghaut is next to it. The surge reached across the road to the Police Station and burnt all those houses including the Church. These were not completely demolished but nevertheless destroyed, from the Morgan’s house down the hill towards farm, then there is one mass of destruction down through Farms, Bethel, Spanish Pointe, Trants.

Since that of course more flows and reports have stated that more damage was done in Harris’. I could see the walls of some of the houses in Farms, Bramble village, and Spanish Pointe, but it is obvious that truly there may be about 10 feet of material lying on the lands.

Trants village was completely demolished, hardly recognised any walls standing and it did seem such a vast area.

I saw how the flow over Farrells ran down and into the top of Belham.

I can now report that for Plymouth, we can expect worse to come along, it already looks a disaster. The flows that have been going down Gages and Fort Ghaut seemed to have damaged houses high up on the Gages corner and down the fringes of the ghaut. The Catholic convent and infant school and even the Church are now like the rest of the property in that vicinity are now in line for certain disaster as long as flows continue. At the foot of Gage’s mountain, the ghauts as I can remember are somewhat shallow, so that serious flows are likely to spread early over to Amersham as it has reportedly done.

I hardly had time for any detail or even good photographs as I was shooting through the helicopter sealed windows. Looking at the photographs, I do not remember where the various scenes are, and I was unable to make notes.

The helicopters are being operated from Geralds and joining them is that from the British navy ship.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, COVID-19, Environment, Featured, International, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

BBC-1

US election: Trump signals he is prepared to leave White House

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p08zrrmz/55096851

“It’s going to be a very hard thing to concede,” said President Trump

Donald Trump has said he will leave the White House if Joe Biden is formally confirmed as the next US president.

Answering reporters’ questions for the first time since losing the 3 November vote, Mr. Trump insisted, however, that “this race is far from over”.

He has refused to concede, citing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Individual states are currently certifying their results, after Mr. Biden was projected as the winner with an unassailable lead.

The Democrat leads Mr. Trump 306 votes to 232 under the electoral college system used to pick US presidents.

The tally is far more than the 270 needed to win, and Mr. Biden also leads the popular vote by more than six million.

Electors will meet to formalise the result on 14 December, with Mr. Biden due to be sworn in as president on 20 January.

The president and his supporters have lodged a number of legal challenges over the election, but most have been dismissed.

Earlier this week, Mr. Trump finally agreed to allow the formal transition to President-elect Biden’s team to begin, following several weeks of uncertainty.

The decision means Mr. Biden is able to receive top security briefings and access key government officials and millions of dollars in funds as he prepares to take over on 20 January.

Why is Trump refusing to admit defeat?

Following a video call with military personnel on the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, Mr. Trump faced questions from reporters at the White House.

US President Donald Trump participates in a Thanksgiving video teleconference with members of the military forces at the White House in Washington, 26 November 2020
Mr. Trump spoke with members of the US military – at home and abroad – via video link for the Thanksgiving holiday

He was asked whether he would agree to leave the White House if he lost the electoral college vote. “Certainly I will, certainly I will and you know that,” he said.

However, the president went on to say that “if they do [elect Joe Biden], they made a mistake”, and suggested he may never accept defeat.

“It’s going to be a very hard thing to concede because we know there was massive fraud,” he said, an allegation he has stood by without offering proof.

Mr. Trump did not say whether he would run for president again in 2024, or whether he would attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration.

The normally routine process of transitioning from one president to another and confirming the result has been derailed by President Trump’s refusal to concede.

Under the US electoral system, voters do not directly choose the next president. Instead, they vote for 538 officials, who are allocated to American states based on their population size.

The electors almost always vote for the candidate that won the most votes in their states, and although it is possible for some to disregard the voters’ pick, no result has ever been changed this way.

Mr. Trump also said that he was planning to hold a rally in Georgia on Saturday in support of two Republicans in key runoff elections that will decide which party controls the Senate.

What’s the latest from Biden?

The president-elect celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving on Thursday, as coronavirus cases in the US continue to rise.

“This year, our turkey will be smaller and the clatter of cooking a little quieter,” Mr. Biden and his wife Jill said in an op-ed published by CNN. “Like millions of Americans, we are temporarily letting go of the traditions we can’t do safely.”

“It is not a small sacrifice. These moments with our loved ones – time that’s lost – can’t be returned. Yet, we know it’s the price of protecting each other and one we don’t pay alone.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p08zmkyp/55096851

“We’re at war with a virus, not with one another”: President-elect Biden calls on Americans to unite against Covid-19

Earlier this week, Mr. Biden urged Americans to hold smaller Thanksgiving celebrations, saying that “I know that we can and will beat this virus”. He has said that tackling the pandemic would be his main priority when he takes office.

Mr. Biden has already announced his choice of top officials for when he takes over from Donald Trump in January and said that co-operation from the White House over the transition had been “sincere”.

Speaking in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday, he said that America “won’t stand” for any attempt to derail the election. Americans “have full and fair and free elections, and then we honour the results,” he said.

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Express

Disaster for Boris as furious Tory rebels could BLOCK foreign aid spending cut

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REBEL Tories are plotting to block the Government’s bid to cut foreign aid spending from 0.7 percent of GDP a year to 0.5 percent, according to reports.

By Alex Shipman PUBLISHED: Thu, Nov 26, 2020 | UPDATED: Nov 26, 2020 114

Angry Conservative MPs, predominantly from the party’s liberal wing, are understood to be organising ahead of a vote in Parliament on the proposal. Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defense committee, have criticised the budget cut, which amounts to around £4bn less for aid spending.

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Mr. Hunt said: “To cut our aid budget by a third, in a year when millions more will fall into extreme poverty, will make not just them poorer but us poorer in the eyes of the world because people will worry that we are abandoning a noble idea that we in this country have done more to champion than anyone else.

Mr. Ellwood warned cutting the budget will “leave vacuums in some of the poorest parts of the world that will further poverty and instability”.

Andrew Mitchell, a former international development secretary, said the reduction in foreign aid “will be the cause of 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children”.

He added: “This is a choice I for one am not prepared to make and none of us in this house will be able to look our children in the eye and claim we did not know what we were voting for.”

Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the spending cut on Wednesday (Image: Getty)

Hunt

Jeremy Hunt is among MPs to criticise the move (Image: Getty)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the reduction in foreign aid on Wednesday.

He said the budget would be reduced to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product from 0.7 percent, prompting the resignation of Baroness Sugg, minister for sustainable development.

Mr. Sunak said: “During a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services, sticking rigidly to spending 0.7 percent of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people, especially when we’re seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record.

“At a time of unprecedented crisis, the Government must make tough choices.”

READ MORE: Foreign aid budget cut was right thing to do, say Express readers (TMR: Not surprising from Montserrat)

mitchell

Andrew Mitchell also voiced disapproval of the cuts (Image: Getty) TMR: Visited Montserrat in 2011 with Sue Wardel and laid the ground-work for the eventual May 1, 2012, MOU with Montserrat

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The Government plans to increase the figure to 0.7% “when the fiscal situation allows”, Mr. Sunak said

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Baroness Sugg, who served as Number 10’s director of operations under David Cameron, described plans to abandon the 0.7 percent spend commitment as “fundamentally wrong”.

She wrote: “This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good.

“Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crisis.”

DON’T MISS:
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Well done, Boris! Brexiteer celebrates foreign aid cut – ‘Ignore them’
[LATEST]

Tobias Ellwood

Tobisa Ellwood said cuts will “leave vacuums in some of the poorest parts of the world” (Image: Getty)

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a rare political intervention branding the move “shameful and wrong”

The Archbishop of Canterbury branded the move “shameful and wrong” (Image: Getty)

Backbenchers Pauline Latham and Peter Bottomley have also criticised the move.

Miss Latham said it could cause “more child marriages, more instances of early childbirth, more FGM, more domestic violence”.

However other Tory MPs, including the Conservative Party deputy chair Lee Rowley, supported the move.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight he commented: “0.5% remains a substantial amount of money, supporting the poorest around the world and helping them to grow.”

Baroness Sugg resigns after announcement of cut to foreign aid

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a rare political intervention branding the move, “shameful and wrong”.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said: “The cut in the aid budget – made worse by no set date for restoration – is shameful and wrong. It’s contrary to numerous Government promises and its manifesto.

“I join others in urging MPs to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest.”

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has described the cut as a “very sad moment” for Britain.

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Rishi SunakBoris JohnsonDavid Cameron

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, COVID-19, Elections, Featured, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

image

Foreign aid backlash: Minister resigns after Boris announces major cut

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FOREIGN Office minister Baroness Liz Sugg has resigned over the Government’s plan to cut foreign aid.

By Steven Brown PUBLISHED: Wed, Nov 25, 2020 | UPDATED: 17:42, Wed, Nov 25, 2020 563

Christmas grinch caught during festive rampage

Baroness Liz Sugg has resigned from her junior ministerial role after the Government announced plans to abandon a Conservative manifesto commitment to fund the foreign aid budget. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced he would cut the budget from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent.

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In a lengthy letter to the Prime Minister, she said it was “fundamentally wrong” to abandon the commitment to spend 0.7 percent of “gross national income” on development. 

She wrote: “This promise should be kept in the tough times as well as the good.

“Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crisis.

“For me, as for many in our Party and the country, it is a source of great pride that the United Kingdom has been a development superpower and contributed so much to the world.

Baroness Liz Sugg resigns from Foreign Office

Baroness Liz Sugg resigns from Foreign Office (Image: Getty)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces foreign aid cut

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces foreign aid cut (Image: PA)

“Our support and leadership in development have saved and changed millions of lives.

“It has also been firmly in our national interest as we tackle global issues, such as the pandemic, climate change, and conflict.

“Cutting UK aid risks undermining your efforts to promote a Global Britain and will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right.

“I cannot support or defend this decision, it is therefore right that I tender my resignation.”

READ MORE: Well done, Boris! Brexiteer celebrates foreign aid cut – ‘Ignore them’

Boris thanks Baroness Sugg for her work

Boris thanks Baroness Sugg for her work (Image: Getty)

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “extremely grateful” for her service as a Government minister.

He wrote: “Your work has made a difference to millions of girls around the world, and will stand us in good stead for the Global Partnership for Education replenishment event next year.

“In addition, your leadership and rigor in the lead up to and during the Africa Investment Summit made it the enormous success it was.

“Your passion and commitment to your work have been clear to civil servants and ministerial colleagues, and I know that the FCDO will miss you.”

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‘Still spending more than Macron!’ Stephen Barclay shuts down Sky host [COMMENT] 
Sturgeon rages at Boris Johnson’s ‘deplorable’ foreign aid cut  [REVEAL] 
Why Rishi is RIGHT to cut overseas aid in time of national crisis  [INSIGHT]

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on foreign aid

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on foreign aid (Image: Getty)

Her resignation comes after the Chancellor told the Commons the economic crisis caused by the COVID pandemic meant “sticking rigidly to spending 0.7 percent of our national income on overseas aid is difficult to justify to the British people”.

Under legislation passed by former Prime Minister David Cameron, the UK is committed in law to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on foreign aid every year.

Last month, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the foreign aid should be “anchored” to the UK national interest.

Speaking to The Times, Mr. Raab said: “It’s right to say that when you invest in large sums of money in order to pursue a sustainable partnership, there needs to be something anchored to the UK national interest.

Rishi Sunak cuts foreign aid budget

Rishi Sunak cuts foreign aid budget (Image: Downing Street)

“So, we’ll look at all of the areas, whether it’s trade, whether it’s the military assets that were deployed, and see how we can effectively synergise all of those strains with the aid money going in.

“They’re not siloed, they shouldn’t be, whether it’s pursuing our moral interest or our national interest.

“We think that’s the right thing to do.”

In July, it was revealed a staggering £71million of taxpayers’ money was given to Beijing in just one year, despite China having the second-largest economy in the world.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron

Former Prime Minister David Cameron (Image: Getty)

The staggering figure was buried in the Department for International Development’s annual report.

The report found the £71.6million payment to China was sent via a combination of direct British aid and a share of funding the UK gives to the likes of the United Nations and EU, who then distribute it.

Mr. Raab said £3billion would be cut from the aid budget next year, with the axe falling on countries such as China.

Baroness Sugg’s resignation comes after several high-profile civil servants and senior aides have left their position.

Earlier this month, Mr. Johnson’s most senior aide Dominic Cummings announced he was stepping down from his position just days after ally Lee Cain also resigned.

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US agency ascertains Biden as winner of US 2020 elections, lets transition begin

Reprint

Biden transition gets govt OK after Trump out of options

By MATTHEW DALY, ZEKE MILLER and MARY CLARE JALONICKtoday

1 of 2 FILE – In this June 21, 2019 file photo, General Services Administration Administrator, Emily Murphy speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Department of Homeland Security’s St. Elizabeths Campus Center Building in Washington. The head of the obscure federal government agency that is holding up Joe Biden’s presidential transition knew well before Election Day she might have a messy situation on her hands well. Prior to Nov. 3, GSA administrator Emily Murphy held a Zoom call with Dave Barram, 77, a man who was in her shoes 20 years earlier during the contested 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Barram said he gave her some simple advice, “If you do the right thing, then all you have to do is live with the consequences of it.’”(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The General Services Administration ascertained Monday that President-elect Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from President Donald Trump’s administration and allowing Biden to coordinate with federal agencies on plans for taking over on Jan. 20.

Trump, who had refused to concede the election, said in a tweet that he is directing his team to cooperate on the transition but is vowing to keep up the fight.

Administrator Emily Murphy made the determination after Trump’s efforts to subvert the vote failed across battleground states, citing, “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results.” Michigan certified Biden’s victory Monday, and a federal judge in Pennsylvania tossed a Trump campaign lawsuit on Saturday seeking to prevent certification in that state.

Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said in a statement that the decision “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”

He added: “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain a complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”

Murphy, a Trump appointee, had faced bipartisan criticism for failing to begin the transition process sooner, preventing Biden’s team from working with career agency officials on plans for his administration, including in critical national security and public health areas.

“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official—including those who work at the White House or GSA—with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” Murphy wrote in a letter to Biden.

Trump tweeted shortly after her letter was made public: “We will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Pressure had been mounting on Murphy as an increasing number of Republicans, national security experts, and business leaders said it was time for that process to move forward.

Retiring Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has repeatedly called for the transition to begin, released a new statement Monday saying that Trump should “put the country first” and help Biden’s administration succeed.

“When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do,” Alexander said.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio on Monday called for Murphy to release money and staffing needed for the transition. Portman, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also said Biden should receive high-level briefings on national security and the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.

Alexander and Portman, who have both aligned themselves with Trump, joined a growing number of Republican officials who in recent days have urged Trump to begin the transition immediately. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also urged a smooth transition, saying in a statement Monday that “at some point, the 2020 election must end.”

Meanwhile, more than 160 business leaders asked Murphy to immediately acknowledge Biden as president-elect and begin the transition to a new administration. “Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk,″ the business leaders said in an open letter to Murphy.

Separately, more than 100 Republican former national security officials — including former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, and former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte — said in a statement that Trump’s refusal to concede and allow for an orderly transition “constitutes a serious threat” to America’s democratic process. The officials signing the letter worked under four Republican presidents, including Trump.

The statement called on “Republican leaders — especially those in Congress — to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election.”

Trump had publicly refused to accept defeat and launched a series of losing court battles across the country making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and seeking to overturn the election results.

Murphy missed a deadline on Monday set by House Democrats to brief lawmakers about the delay in beginning the transition, which is usually a routine step between the election and the inauguration. A spokeswoman for the GSA said that a deputy administrator would instead hold two separate briefings for House and Senate committees on Nov. 30.

In response, the Democratic chairs of four committees and subcommittees said they could reschedule the meeting for Tuesday, but no later.

“We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination,” the Democrats said in a letter to Murphy. “Every additional day that is wasted is a day that the safety, health, and well-being of the American people is imperiled as the incoming Biden-Harris administration is blocked from fully preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, our nation’s dire economic crisis, and our national security.”

Portman said it was “only prudent” for GSA to begin the transition process immediately.

“Donald Trump is our president until Jan. 20, 2021, but in the likely event that Joe Biden becomes our next president, it is in the national interest that the transition is seamless and that America is ready on Day One of a new administration for the challenges we face,″ Portman wrote in an op-ed calling for the transition to begin.

Murphy’s ascertainment will free up money for the transition and clear the way for Biden’s team to begin placing transition personnel at federal agencies. Trump administration officials had said they would not give Biden the classified presidential daily briefing on intelligence matters until the GSA makes the ascertainment official.

“Now that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy has fulfilled her duty and ascertained the election results, the formal presidential transition can begin in full force,” said Max Stier, president, and CEO of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. “Unfortunately, every day lost to the delayed ascertainment was a missed opportunity for the outgoing administration to help President-elect Joe Biden prepare to meet our country’s greatest challenges. The good news is that the president-elect and his team are the most prepared and best equipped of any incoming administration in recent memory.”

Among those signing the letter from business leaders were Jon Gray, president of the Blackstone private equity firm; Robert Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Inc.; Henry Kravis, the co-chief executive of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., another private equity giant; David Solomon, CEO at Goldman Sachs; and George H. Walker, CEO of the investment firm Neuberger Berman and a second cousin to former President George W. Bush.

https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-joe-biden-donald-trump-ap-top-news-coronavirus-pandemic-04f44843e63aad2820bc72640cca2e83

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Court, Elections, Featured, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Participate in the First Virtual Student Fair of the Caribbean!

Participate in the First Virtual Student Fair of the Caribbean!

Participate in the First Virtual Student Fair of the Caribbean!

https://pressroom.oecs.org/participate-in-the-first-virtual-student-fair-of-the-caribbean

Register now!

Thursday, November 19, 2020 — This fair hosted on December 2-3, 2020 will enable participants to learn about study and training opportunities in the Caribbean region as well as to interact with exhibitors and guest experts.

Partners of the ELAN project are pleased to announce the very first edition of the Virtual Student Fair, dedicated to vocational training and higher education, organized on December 2nd and 3rd 2020 with the support of Campus France, the French National Agency for the Promotion of Higher Education, International Student Services and International Mobility.

This fair is free and designed for students (high school and tertiary level), parents, teachers, and also technical vocational trainees and trainers from the cooperation zone of the project (English-speaking Caribbean, Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe).

With this event, the ELAN project team wishes to promote exchange, and cooperation between 70 exhibitors and visitors, allowing them to learn about the regional offer of studies and vocational training, and also to exchange with participating institutions and specialists on common regional hot topics during webinars. Visitors will also have the opportunity to consult internship offers, attend workshops to prepare their study experience abroad, assess their level in a foreign language (French or English), and, above all, try to win a prize in the great ELAN contest.

Registrations are open on https://www.elan-virtualforum.org.
For more information, visit the ELAN project website or social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter).

Promo flyer of the INTERREG ELAN project

Posted in Advertisements, Announcements/Greetings, Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Classified, Education, Local, News, OECS, Regional, Youth0 Comments

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Royal Bank of Canada

Abandoned Property

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BBC-News

Covid: Vaccine or no vaccine, we have to get through this first

Nick Triggle, Health correspondent @nicktriggleon Twitter

Bus in Liverpool

After the euphoria of a vaccine breakthrough, it did not take long for the virus to provide a reality check. Within days of the news that an effective vaccine may have been found, it was being announced the UK was the first European country to pass the grim milestone of 50,000 deaths. This was quickly followed by a record rise in new cases with 33,400 reported on Thursday.

Both are a clear reminder, if we needed one, that there are many more difficult days to come. So what’s in store?

The vaccine is no magic wand

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised the NHS will be ready to start rolling out the vaccine from 1 December if its passes its final regulatory hurdles.

But that doesn’t mean the epidemic will be brought to a sudden halt. There is a huge logistical exercise in vaccinating large numbers of people – the UK has bought enough for 20 million people. And don’t forget, unlike the flu vaccine, this one requires two doses.

Health and care workers along with older age groups will be prioritised. But given it takes a month from the first dose for an individual to get the full protection and the fact there are 12 million over 65s – nine in 10 deaths have been in this age group – winter is likely to be well gone by the time significant numbers are protected.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam was unequivocal this week when he said he didn’t see the vaccine “making any difference” this winter.

Infection rates are high

In the meantime, infection rates remain high. Despite seeing over 30,000 cases on Thursday, the UK is averaging over 20,000 confirmed infections a day.

However, estimates from the government’s surveillance run by the Office for National Statistics suggests the true figure may be double that.

Chart tracking daily cases and seven-day average

The situation has left hospitals dangerously close to capacity in the most hard-hit regions. NHS trusts in Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham and Bradford have all announced the cancellation of non-urgent work to free up beds.

Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, which represents hospital managers, warns staff are “exhausted” and “traumatised”. If hospital cases keep rising it will quickly begin to affect non-Covid work even more, he says.

Lockdown may be followed by… lockdown

We were always warned lockdown, which is underway in England, would take time to have an impact. The good news is that cases had started to stabilise before it came in, with strong evidence the regional tiers had begun to have an impact.

If the rise in cases on Thursday is a blip – there are suggestions it may be linked to a last bout of socialising before lockdown came in – the expectation is the number of infections will soon start to drop. Friday’s figures were 6,000 cases down on the day before,

Prof Tim Spector, who runs the Covid Symptom Study, an app which one million people use, believes the crucial R number – the measure of how many people an infected person passes the virus on to on average – is now below one. This would mean the epidemic should start to shrink.

But no-one knows exactly what sort of impact lockdown will have. There have been suggestions the number of infections could be reduced by three-quarters.

But the early evidence from Wales’ 17-day fire-break is that it stemmed the rise in cases rather than significantly shrinking it. There could be a delayed impact and England’s lockdown is longer, but clearly, nothing is guaranteed. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, has just extended some of its national restrictions because of concern about infection levels.

And the problem is that once lockdown is lifted in England, cases are likely to take off again. It is, after all, winter, when respiratory viruses tend to thrive.

Does that mean another lockdown in a few months? This is the nagging fear.

Ministers are just “deferring the problem”, says Prof Mark Woolhouse, an expert in infectious diseases at Edinburgh University, who sits on the government’s committee on modelling. Even if we had had the lockdown earlier, as some scientists had argued, we would have already been talking about the next one.

More testing, more tracing, but enough isolating?

Those backing lockdown argued it could be used to fix the test-and-trace system, which identifies close contacts of infected individuals and asks them to isolate. Each nation runs its own tracing service, but all have faced the same problem – such high rates of infection make test-and-trace more difficult and less effective.

In England, councils are working hard to set up local teams to support the national system. But most of these are in their infancy and will take some time to bed in. The government has started piloting mass testing in the hope it could be a way of containing the virus given significant numbers of infected people show very mild, or even no, symptoms. The first pilot in Liverpool has been followed by others being set up in more than 60 local authority areas.

Soldiers talk to people at The Exhibition Centre, in Liverpool, which has been set up as a testing centre as part of the mass coronavirus disease
Soldiers have been brought in to help with the mass testing programme in Liverpool

But some question how effective this approach will be.

The rapid tests being used are “not fit for purpose” says Prof John Deeks, an expert in testing at Birmingham University. He points to evidence suggesting they may miss up to half of Covid cases.

He also says identifying previously undetected cases only works if those that test positive isolate. Evidence on those going through the standard testing process is that they are not always doing this. A need to work and earn money is, understandably, a key issue.

The virus isn’t going away

This brings us back to vaccination. While the breakthrough is great news, the jury is still out as to how much impact it will have. For example, we don’t know how well it works in the elderly, whether it stops people passing it on or simply stops them getting ill or how long immunity lasts.

Even with the vaccine the virus is “not going away”, says Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s Sage advisory group.

Graph of deaths by age

It is, he says, now part of humanity and here to stay. Instead, the most we can hope for is providing some protection to those who are most at risk.

The sad reality is that, despite the vaccine breakthrough, we are still going to have to learn to live with Covid this winter – and beyond.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Health, International, News, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

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