South Africans vote in a pivotal election as president says he has no doubt his ANC party will win

South Africans voted on Wednesday at schools, community centres, and in large white tents set up in open fields in an election seen as their country’s most important in 30 years. It could put the young democracy in unknown territory.

At stake is the three-decade dominance of the African National Congress party, which led South Africa out of apartheid’s brutal white minority rule in 1994. It is now the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people — half of whom are estimated to be living in poverty.

After casting his vote, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had no doubt his ANC would win with a majority and remain in government.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, accompanied by his wife Tshepo Motsepe, speaks to the media after casting his vote during the South African elections in Soweto, South Africa May 29, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

Africa’s most advanced economy has some of the world’s deepest socioeconomic problems, including one of the worst unemployment rates at 32%. The lingering inequality, with poverty and joblessness disproportionately affecting the Black majority, threatens to unseat the party that promised to end it by bringing down apartheid under the slogan of a better life for all.

“Our main issue here in our community is the lack of jobs,” said Samuel Ratshalingwa, who was near the front of the queue at the same school in the Johannesburg township of Soweto where Ramaphosa voted.

“We have to use the vote to make our voices heard about this problem,” said Ratshalingwa, who came out before 7 a.m. on a chilly winter morning.

After winning six successive national elections, several polls have the ANC’s support at less than 50% ahead of this one, an unprecedented drop. It might lose its majority in Parliament for the first time, although it’s widely expected to hold the most seats.

The ANC won 57.5% of the vote in the last national election in 2019, its worst result to date and down from a high of nearly 70% of the vote 20 years ago.

Mr. Ramaphosa, the leader of the ANC, has promised to “do better.” The ANC has asked for more time and patience.

The 71-year-old Mr. Ramaphosa sat alongside other voters in Soweto, where he was born, before shaking hands with two smiling officials who registered him and then voting.

“I have no doubt whatsoever in my heart of hearts that the people will once again invest confidence in the African National Congress to continue to lead this country,” Mr. Ramaphosa said. He said he was certain South Africans would give the ANC “a firm majority.”

Any change in the ANC’s hold on power could be monumental for South Africa. If it does lose its majority, the ANC will likely face the prospect of having to form a coalition with others to stay in government and keep Ramaphosa as president for a second term. The ANC having to co-govern has never happened before.

South Africans vote for parties, not directly for their president. The parties then get seats in Parliament according to their share of the vote and those lawmakers elect the president after the election. The ANC has always had a majority in Parliament since 1994.

The election was to be held on one day across South Africa’s nine provinces, with nearly 28 million people registered to vote at more than 23,000 polling stations. Final results are expected by Sunday.

The opposition to the ANC in this election is fierce, but fragmented. The two biggest opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, are not predicted to increase their vote by anything near enough to overtake the ANC. The DA is part of an agreement with other smaller parties to combine their vote in an effort to remove the ANC completely, but that’s not seen as likely.

Disgruntled South Africans are moving to an array of opposition parties; more than 50 will contest the national election, many of them new. One is led by South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma, who has turned against his former ANC allies. Mr. Zuma was disqualified from standing as a candidate for Parliament but his MK Party is still contesting and is the wild card.

The ANC says it is confident of retaining its majority and analysts have not ruled that out, given the party’s decades of experience in government and its unmatched grassroots campaigning machine. It still has wide support, especially among older voters and those in more rural areas.

“I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning, took a bath and made my way,” said 68-year-old Velaphi Banda, adding he has voted for the ANC since 1994 and would do so again. “I was never undecided about which party I will vote for. I have always known.”

Ramaphosa has pointed out how South Africa is a far better country now than under apartheid, when Black people were barred from voting, weren’t allowed to move around freely, had to live in certain areas and were oppressed in every way. This election is only South Africa’s seventh national vote in which people of all races are allowed to take part.

Memories of that era of apartheid, and the defining election that ended it in 1994, still frame much of everyday South Africa. But fewer remember it as time goes on, and this election might give voice to a younger generation who weren’t born when apartheid fell.

The vote will showcase the country’s contradictions, from the economic hub of Johannesburg — labelled Africa’s richest city — to the picturesque tourist destination of Cape Town, to the informal settlements of shacks in their outskirts.

There were delays in some polling stations opening, with voting due to start at 7 a.m. and end at 9 p.m. South Africa has held peaceful and credible elections since a violent buildup to the pivotal 1994 election. The independent electoral commission said two days of special early voting went smoothly on Monday and Tuesday, although two people were arrested for interfering with voting operations, it said.

South Africa will deploy nearly 3,000 soldiers across the country to ensure a peaceful election, authorities said.

While 80% of South Africans are Black, it’s a multiracial country with significant populations of white people, those of Indian descent, those with biracial heritage and others. There are 12 official languages.

It’s the diversity that Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first Black president, highlighted as a beautiful thing by referring to his country as a “Rainbow Nation.” It’s a diversity that, with the emergence of many new opposition parties, also might now be reflected in its politics.

Source link

#South #Africans #vote #pivotal #election #president #doubt #ANC #party #win

European Parliament’s rival hard-right groups will unite – Vistisen

Vistisen exclusively tells Euronews there is “no more political divide” between Meloni and Le Pen’s political factions than there is within other mainstream political groups.

The man who has been fronting the far-right Identity and Democracy’s European elections campaign is confident that the European Parliament’s two most right-wing factions will join to form a united bloc during the upcoming legislature.

In an interview on Tuesday, Anders Vistisen told Euronews he believes there is no substantial political rift between his Identity and Democracy (ID) party – which harbours Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, Italy’s Lega and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – and the nationalist European Reformists and Conservatives (ECR), considered slightly less hard-line than their ID counterparts.

ECR includes the likes of Spain’s Vox and Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS). It also includes Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s Civil Democratic Party (ODS), both of whom have controversially been touted as potential partners for Ursula von der Leyen’s centre-right EPP following June’s ballot, in a sign the firewall that has traditionally cordoned off far-right parties will be torn down.

“What is in my opinion wrong is that you have two groups to the right, and I think that has more to do (more) with big personalities in some of the bigger parties than it has to do with political differences,” Vistisen, who hails from the far-right Danish People’s Party, told Euronews.

“There is no more political divide between the ID and the ECR, than what you can see within the EPP, the S&D or the Renew parties, for instance.”

Asked whether he believes both groups could form a united bloc in the European Parliament, Vistisen replied: “I think we will see that someday (…) I think maybe not just after this election, but I think the French presidential elections that are coming up in a couple of years (in 2027) could be a point in time that is very interesting to look forward to.”

Vistisen spoke just hours before a crisis erupted in his party, as Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National indicated they would no longer sit with Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the European Parliament over damning Nazi comments made by AfD’s lead election candidate Maximilian Krah, prompting Krah’s sudden resignation from the party’s federal executive board.

After speaking to Euronews, Vistisen said on social media platform X that Krah, who will continue to be the AfD’s lead candidate in June’s ballot, had “shown with his statements and actions that he does not belong in the ID group.”

“If the AfD does not take advantage of the situation and get rid of Krah, the DF’s (Danish People’s Party) position is that the AfD must leave the ID group,” Vistisen added.

But when pressed by Euronews hours earlier about whether deep divisions within his ID party and mounting dissatisfaction with AfD’s increasingly extremist stances could prompt member parties to seek to move across to the ECR group, Vistisen defended his party’s unity.

“No, I don’t really see that. I think it’s a bit of a false narrative put out there,” he said.

Vistisen claimed deeper divisions can be seen in the competing hard-right ECR group, especially when it comes to their stance on Ukraine, adding that Poland’s PiS – who staunchly back unhindered EU support to Ukraine – had invited both Rassemblement National and Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán into their European party despite their scepticism towards military support to Ukraine.

A source from Rassemblement National told Euronews that Le Pen’s party favours joining the same group as Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, which currently does not belong to any European political group after it was forced to quit the centre-right EPP in 2021.

Vistisen ‘not paid’ by sanctioned Voice of Europe

The latest debacle follows multiple controversies surrounding AfD that have ruffled feathers in the ID party. In January, senior AfD figures were reported to have met with neo-Nazi groups to discuss plans to deport millions of immigrants, including some with German citizenship, prompting discomfort within their European family according to Euronews sources.

The two names topping the AfD’s electoral lists for June’s elections are also connected to ongoing investigations into foreign interference within the European Parliament, including an alleged pro-Kremlin operation suspected of paying sitting MEPs to spread Russian propaganda.

The aide of Maximilian Krah was arrested last month on suspicion of spying for China, while Petr Bystron is accused of receiving as much as €20,000 in cash from Russia, as part of a sprawling investigation into a suspected pro-Kremlin influence operation.

Vistisen admitted he is “always concerned about outside influence,” and vowed that should investigations find candidates guilty and the AfD failed to suspend their membership, then his European party’s bureau would take the matter into their own hands.

But he defended the decision not to take immediate action in response to the damaging allegations of foreign interference within his party.

“Mr. Krah was through the ethics body of the European Parliament, and they didn’t recommend one of the sanctions available to them,” Vistisen claimed.

“So if his political opponents didn’t recommend a sanction, it’s very difficult for us as a political group to sanction on this background, but I’m very glad that the AfD already stipulated that if these allegations have truth to them, then they single-handedly would suspend his membership of the AfD and thereby he would not be a member of the ID group either.”

The company at the heart of the investigation, led by the Belgian prosecutor, is Voice of Europe, now blacklisted in the European Union.

Asked whether he was paid for a one-on-one interview he gave to Voice of Europe earlier this year, Vistisen emphatically denied.

“No, of course not. That interview was set up at the same premise as this interview. I was asked to give an interview and I obliged. That’s my job as a politician,” Vistisen responded.

” I have an impeccable record when it comes to being firm on Russia, firm on China. Has nobody ever doubted that? So, sometimes these allegations are, of course, also used politically (…) I think you can easily be your to without spreading fake news.”

Lack of EU support leaves Ukraine without a ‘fighting chance’

Vistisen also sharply criticised the European Union for what he called its failure to “step up to the plate” when providing Kyiv with the military aid and equipment it needs to withstand Russia’s invasion.

“I would challenge the perception that Europe has been very pro-Ukrainian,” he explained.

“When it comes to concrete action, it lags behind. So no, if the Americans were not in it to help the Ukrainians, the war would be lost for them because Europe has not stepped up to the plate,” he added.

“I think if Ukraine should have a fighting chance to push back Russia, through the borders from before the Russian invasion of Crimea, the military aid is falling far too short and far too late, unfortunately.”

He also claimed that the EU had committed less military support to Ukraine than the United Kingdom, despite the bloc’s military aid amounting to a staggering €33 billion, compared to the UK’s £7.6 billion (€8.9 billion) in military assistance.

He nonetheless spurned the prospect of Ukraine joining the bloc as a full-fledged member state, claiming that EU leaders were trying to impose timelines to fast-track Kyiv’s accession.

“It’s the same forces that are complaining about rule of law in Hungary (…) who are now saying let’s speed up a procedure where we are letting countries in with a far worse track record when it comes to a lot of these benchmarks than what you have seen in Orbán’s Hungary,” Vistisen claimed.

Source link

#European #Parliaments #rival #hardright #groups #unite #Vistisen

Israel expects Gaza war to continue for seven months, says PM’s adviser

Anadolu Palestinians look at smoke as they flee the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)Anadolu

More than a million Palestinians have fled Rafah since the start of the Israeli military operation in the city three weeks ago

A senior Israeli official has said he expects the war against Hamas in Gaza to continue for at least the rest of this year.

“We are expecting another seven months of fighting,” the prime minister’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, told Israel’s Kan public radio.

He also said Israel’s military had taken control of 75% of the buffer zone along the Gaza-Egypt border, as it pressed ahead with an assault on the southern city of Rafah.

Residents of Rafah meanwhile reported that there had been more Israeli air strikes and that tanks had mounted raids in central and western areas before retreating.

A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official also warned that Rafah’s last hospital was barely functional and that a “full incursion” by Israeli troops could lead to its closure and a “substantial” number of deaths.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Tuesday that troops were operating in a “very targeted” way against Hamas’s remaining battalions in Rafah, from which more than one million Palestinians have fled over the past three weeks.

The US government also said it did not believe “a major ground operation” was under way, which could trigger a change in its policy on military aid to Israel.

Israel has insisted that it must take Rafah to achieve victory in the war triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on the country on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

At least 36,170 people have been killed across Gaza since the start of the conflict, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The suggestion from Mr Hanegbi – seen as a close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – that the conflict could go on for at least another seven months will worry many in Israel and outside.

There has been growing international pressure on Israeli leaders to outline a full strategy to end the fighting and a convincing post-war vision for the Palestinian territory.

In his interview, Mr Hanegbi also suggested that Israel would soon take full control of the Philadelphi Corridor – a buffer zone, only about 100m (330ft) deep in parts, which runs along the Gaza side of the 13km (8-mile) border with Egypt.

“Inside Gaza, the IDF is now in control of 75% of the Philadelphi Corridor and I believe it will be in control of it all with time,” he said.

The plan, he added, was to work with the Egyptians to “ensure weapon smuggling is prevented”.

Egypt has denied weapons are still being smuggled under the border. But the IDF said on Tuesday that it was demolishing tunnels that led to the Sinai peninsula.

Residents have said that troops have seized about 9km of the Philadelphi Corridor, including the Rafah border crossing, since the start of the ground operation in Rafah on 6 May.

The troops have also gradually pushed into built-up neighbourhoods of Rafah city from the east and south, and reportedly reached the central al-Awda roundabout on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, residents told Reuters news agency that tanks advanced into western Tal al-Sultan and central Yibna and Shaboura areas before pulling back towards positions on the border.

The IDF also announced that three Israeli soldiers were killed in combat in Rafah on Tuesday.

Reuters Israeli tanks wait near the Gaza border (29 May 2024)Reuters

Israel is under growing international pressure to outline a full strategy to end the fighting

Meanwhile, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry warned the Israeli bombardment of Rafah was making it increasingly difficult for patients and health teams to reach the Emirati maternity hospital in Tal al-Sultan.

It came a day after the WHO said the hospital was barely functional and could no longer accept patients.

“If the incursion would continue, we would lose that last hospital in Rafah,” Dr Rik Peeperkorn, the agency’s representative for Gaza and the occupied West Bank, warned in an interview with Reuters and AFP news agencies in Geneva.

With the European Gaza Hospital in the city of Khan Younis inaccessible because of Israeli evacuation orders and fighting on the ground, the estimated 1.9 million people in southern Gaza would be left “dependent on a string of field hospitals along the coast”, he said.

Dr Peeperkorn said there was a contingency plan to refer patients to al-Aqsa hospital in the central town of Deir al-Balah and to restore services to two other hospitals in Khan Younis which were raided by Israeli forces. But, he added, if there was a “full incursion”, the plan would “not prevent what we expect substantial additional mortality and morbidity”.

All the field hospitals still functioning in the Rafah area are overwhelmed by casualties and undersupplied, according to the WHO.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said on Wednesday that it had evacuated the al-Quds field hospital in al-Mawasi, a coastal area just to the north-west of Rafah.

“This action was taken due to the increased threat level from the Israeli occupation, continued artillery and air bombardments in its vicinity, and the complete evacuation of residents from the surrounding area,” a statement explained.

On Tuesday, Gaza’s health ministry said six other medical facilities in Rafah – al-Najjar hospital, the Kuwaiti Specialist hospital, the two Rafah field hospitals, the Indonesian field hospital, and the Abu al-Walid Central Clinic – had been forced out of service.

Al-Najjar hospital, Rafah’s largest, was evacuated at the start of the Israeli operation, while the Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) said the smaller Kuwaiti hospital closed “after an Israeli tank attack outside the hospital killed two medical staff” on Monday.

Reuters An injured man is treated at the Emirati hospital in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (29 May 2024)Reuters

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said on Wednesday that patients were struggling to reach the barely functional Emirati hospital in Rafah

Separately, WHO spokeswoman Dr Margaret Harris said the casualties from an Israeli air strike and resulting fire at a camp for displaced people in the Tal al-Sultan on Sunday had “absolutely overwhelmed” field hospitals in southern Gaza.

The health ministry said at least 45 people were killed in the incident. Hundreds more were treated for severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds.

IDF spokesman Rear Adm Hagari said on Tuesday that aircraft had targeted two senior Hamas officials inside a structure that was away from any tents, using “two munitions with small warheads”.

“Our munitions alone could not have ignited a fire of this size,” he said, adding that the military was looking into the possibility that weapons stored by Hamas nearby could have caused a secondary explosion.

On Tuesday, Palestinians accused Israel of shelling tents at al-Mawasi, where it had advised civilians in Rafah to go for safety. But the IDF said it “did not strike in the humanitarian area in al-Mawasi”.

Last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

Source link

#Israel #expects #Gaza #war #continue #months #PMs #adviser

Is Italy’s new Africa strategy a blueprint for Europe?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The Italian-made Mattei Plan signifies not just a policy initiative but a window of opportunity to redefine Europe’s role in Africa and globally, Maddalena Procopio writes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her cabinet’s recent visits to Libya, following migration agreements between the European Union, Tunisia, and Egypt — largely championed by Meloni herself — have led to a perception that Italy’s new Africa strategy, known as the Mattei Plan, is focused solely on migration.

However, this view is misleading and overlooks the plan’s comprehensive scope and broader implications for both Italy and Europe. 

While addressing irregular migration by improving local socio-economic conditions is crucial, the Mattei Plan transcends mere migration concerns, potentially representing a pivotal shift in Europe’s approach towards Africa.

The plan embodies an attempt at a strategic recalibration of Italy’s relations with Africa, attuned to the evolving geopolitical landscape characterised by heightened competition for markets and energy resources. 

The Mattei Plan is what Europe needs for three key reasons.

Collaborative partnerships and benefits to local communities

Firstly, the plan hints at a reconceptualisation of ‘development cooperation’ linking development objectives with industry interests and should remain well focused on this without dispersing funds. 

Development funds would be used not only to address Africans’ social needs but also to enhance the investment climate, laying essential groundwork for sustained economic engagement. 

For instance, water system improvements should aim to benefit local communities while supporting agribusiness demands. Likewise, technical education programmes respond to local education needs while catering to industry-relevant skill development. 

This approach potentially translates into a collaborative public-private partnership that mitigates investment risks, moving away from traditional donor-centric methods and acknowledging shared interests between Italy and African nations. 

It challenges the paternalistic development aid narrative in Europe-Africa relations, which has faced criticism with the rise of more transactional international players like China and Russia.

Rome should pave the way

Secondly, the Mattei Plan hints at a crucial reality check on Europe’s actual capacity to effectively engage with Africa, emphasising pragmatic and competence-based approaches rooted in the established strengths of the Italian private sector and civil society. 

By prioritising sectors where Italy excels, such as agriculture and energy, the plan mitigates the risk of gaps between policy aspirations and on-the-ground implementation. 

This allows Italian players to compete more effectively amid growing international competition for Africa’s resources, avoiding the pitfalls of broader, less grounded strategies like the EU’s Global Gateway. 

A grand strategy largely decided upon in Brussels, which struggles to align with market realities. However, the Mattei Plan’s lack of a grand strategy makes it highly complementary to initiatives like the Global Gateway.

Thirdly, Italy’s approach could pave the way for a different European modus operandi in Africa, moving away from the dominance of a single great power like France towards a collaborative framework led by European middle powers such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Nordic and Eastern European countries. 

These middle powers can pool their expertise within initiatives like the Global Gateway, recognising the potential for collective action to achieve greater impact. 

Italy’s relatively less controversial image in Africa positions it to lead this new approach, potentially acting as a bridge between Europe and other international actors, such as the Gulf monarchies, which have shown interest in supporting the Mattei Plan.

A window of opportunity is wide open

The success of the Mattei Plan for Italy and Europe hinges on robust multi-level engagement strategies. Effective communication must be prioritised across Italy, Europe, and Africa. The forthcoming progress report from the Mattei Plan steering committee, due by 30 June, should demonstrate initial results.

ADVERTISEMENT

Domestically, centralising the plan’s management within the prime minister’s office was a strategic move to align domestic interests with foreign policy objectives. However, inclusive governance is crucial, as is harnessing expertise from diverse stakeholders. 

Europe is where the fortunes of the Mattei Plan reside more than anywhere else. Proactive dialogue with EU institutions and member states is essential to garner support and foster cooperation. 

The Italian government should actively promote the creation of a European coalition to identify synergies among Africa strategies and with the Global Gateway. 

Without a European collective approach, the Mattei Plan may take a few steps, but it will not win the marathon. With Africa, comprehensive and clear communication about the plan’s objectives is crucial at national, sub-regional, and continental levels.

Internationally, Italy should continue to pursue cooperation with global partners, leveraging its less imposing presence in Africa to reconcile Europe with players in the Global South. Using its G7 presidency, Italy can further cooperate on mutual interests in Africa, such as infrastructure development and green energy.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ultimately, the Mattei Plan signifies not just a policy initiative but a window of opportunity to redefine Europe’s role in Africa and globally.

Maddalena Procopio is a Senior Policy Fellow in the Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

Source link

#Italys #Africa #strategy #blueprint #Europe

The Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2023


The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China on Wednesday released a report on human rights violations in the United States in 2023.

The following is an abstract of the report. The full text is in the attached file.

The Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2023

Abstract

The human rights situation in the United States continued to deteriorate in 2023. In the United States, human rights are becoming increasingly polarized. While a ruling minority holds political, economic, and social dominance, the majority of ordinary people are increasingly marginalized, with their basic rights and freedoms being disregarded.

Gun violence spills over, while the government’s control policies are ineffective. There were at least 654 mass shootings in the United States in 2023. Approximately 43,000 people were killed by gun violence in 2023, averaging 117 deaths per day. Driven by partisan polarization and interest groups, a growing number of state governments have taken the initiative to push legislation to expand residents’ rights to own and bear arms. In 2023, at least 27 states did not require a license to carry a handgun.

The government has abused its power to monitor citizens’ privacy, suppressing freedom of speech and expression. The FBI redirected Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to conduct domestic surveillance, “persistent and widespread” monitoring of the communications of members of the Congress, congressional campaign donors, and anti-racist protesters. A growing number of states have passed legislation banning public schools from using educational materials and books that address specific topics such as race, history and gender. The number of faculty members punished or fired for speech and expression on U.S. college campuses has reached a 20-year high.

Deaths from police brutality hit a record high, rendering the police enforcement accountability system virtually non-existent. Police brutality persisted and at least 1,247 deaths were attributed to police violence, an average of roughly three people killed by officers each day. Internal-affairs departments are often more interested in exonerating colleagues than investigating misconduct, making it difficult for police to be held accountable, and more than half of police killings were incorrectly labeled as “general homicide or suicide” in CDC’s official death statistics database.

The prominent issues of mass incarceration and forced labor make it a “prison nation.” The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, making it the country with the highest incarceration rate and the largest number of incarcerated individuals globally. Prisons force inmates to work for low or no pay, without benefits, while generating billions of dollars’ worth of goods and services annually.

The two parties continue to manipulate the election. On the opening day of the 118th U.S. Congress in January 2023, the House of Representatives faced a “Speaker crisis,” and 2023 was the lowest water mark for Congress’ productivity ever since the American Civil War. The two parties continue to change their ways to manipulate the redistricting and distort public opinion for the sake of party self-interest. There are 16 states that have significant manipulation of congressional district boundaries, and 12 of them are states with serious manipulation of districts as a whole. The general public in the United States is extremely disappointed with the federal government and politics at all levels. A staggering 76 percent of Americans believe that their nation is in the wrong direction.

Ethnic minorities in the United States face systematic racial discrimination, as the chronic disease of racism persists. African American are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites, and 4.5 times more likely to be incarcerated. Nearly three quarters of Chinese Americans had experienced racial discrimination in the past year, and 55 percent feared that hate crimes or harassment would jeopardize their personal safety. Native Americans have lived in a constant state of cultural oppression, with their religious beliefs and traditional practices ruthlessly stifled. Racist ideology is spreading virulently in the United States and spilling across borders.

Growing economic and social inequality makes life extremely difficult for the poor. The United States has been refusing to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The wealth gap has hit a record high since the Great Depression of 1929 under systematic designs to exploit the poor, subsidize the rich, and segregate the classes. The “working poor” caught in structural poverty lack equal opportunities and are difficult to move upwards. The number of homeless people in the United States exceeds 650,000, the highest since reporting began in 2007. Drug and substance abuse keeps raging. Suicide rates continue to rise.

The United States has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and remains the only UN member state which has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S. Constitution does not prohibit gender-based discrimination. It is also the only country in the world that sentences children to life in prison without parole. The number of people dying from pregnancy-related causes in the United States has more than doubled in the last 20 years. More than 2.2 million U.S. women of childbearing age do not have access to obstetric care. At least 21 states in the United States ban or severely restrict abortion, where safe abortion is largely unavailable. Pregnancy discrimination is widespread, forcing nearly 54,000 women in the United States to leave their jobs every year. Millions of children have been excluded from the federal government’s Medicaid health insurance program. Thousands of foster children go missing every year. Audits found state agencies failed to report an estimated 34,800 cases of missing foster kids across 46 states.

The humanitarian crisis along the border has escalated, causing heart-wrenching struggles of undocumented migrants. The U.S.-Mexico border is the world’s deadliest land migration route, according to the United Nations migration agency. At least 149 migrants perished in the El Paso border patrol region in the 12 months ending on Sep. 30, 2023. In the fiscal year 2023, the number of immigrants apprehended or deported at the U.S. southern border reached more than 2.4 million, another record high. Migrants are also subjected to torture and other forms of inhuman treatment. U.S. border policies facilitate modern slavery. The U.S. government’s border policies exacerbate the problem of human trafficking. Unaccompanied migrant children suffer from brutal forced labor and exploitation.

The United States has long pursued hegemonism, practiced power politics, and created humanitarian crises. In the theaters of war where the United States conducted overseas “counter-terrorism” operations following the 9/11 attacks, the total death toll ranges from at least 4.5 to 4.7 million people. The U.S. military violates the sovereignty and human rights of other nations via “proxy forces” programs and continued providing arms to conflict zones, resulting in massive civilian casualties. The notorious Guantanamo prison which severely violates human rights is still in operation. Prolonged and indiscriminate use of unilateral sanctions has caused serious humanitarian consequences. The United States has used more sanctions than any other country in the world.

In the United States, human rights is essentially a privilege enjoyed only by a few. The country’s various human rights problems seriously threaten and hinder the healthy development of the world human rights cause. 

Full text: The Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2023




Source link

#Report #Human #Rights #Violations #United #States

Judgment day looms for Donald Trump in New York – Egypt Independent

CNN  — 

Donald Trump, who built a mystique as the brash epitome of power, has never been more powerless to dictate his own fate.

His reputation, future, and even perhaps the White House’s destiny, will on Wednesday be placed in the hands of 12 citizens of his native New York City, proving that not even once-and-possibly future commanders in chief are above the law.

Seven men and five women jurors will retire for deliberations on Trump’s six-week hush money trial after Judge Juan Merchan instructs them on the law and their duties. No jury in American history has faced such a task — deciding whether a former president and presumptive major party nominee will be convicted of a crime. And while the jury, which can deliberate for as long as it needs, is bound to decide its verdict on 34 felony charges on the testimony and evidence in the case alone, its decision will reverberate across the nation and the world at a critical moment of the 2024 presidential election.

The trial slogged toward its end on Tuesday in nearly 10 hours of closing arguments that burst into open hostility between rival lawyers.

“You have to put aside the distractions, the press, the politics, the noise. Focus on the evidence and the logical inference that can be drawn from that evidence,” prosecution lawyer Joshua Steinglass told the jury.

“In the interest of justice and in the name of the people of the state of the New York, I ask you to find the defendant guilty. Thank you.”

Prosecutors accused the ex-president of “a conspiracy and a cover-up” and of betraying 2016 voters by illegally falsifying financial records to hide a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the election. Trump denies having an affair with Daniels and has pleaded not guilty in this first of four looming criminal cases — which may be the only one to go to trial before November’s election. In order to convict Trump, jurors must first decide that he falsified financial documents and did so with the express purpose of committing another crime.

The ex-president watched quietly but intently in court Tuesday after days of firing off furious rhetorical assaults on the judge, prosecutors and the legal system.

His lead defense counsel, Todd Blanche, tried to eviscerate the credibility of the case’s central witness, Michael Cohen, branding the self-described former Trump “thug” as the “GLOAT” — “the Greatest Liar of All Time,” while insisting there was no crime and no proof Trump orchestrated the plan to pay off Daniels. And conjuring a dark image that seemed to capture his client’s cynical view of democracy, Blanche said: “Every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate, a group of people who are working together to help somebody win.”

The former president, who chose not to testify in his own defense, looked on, often with his arm draped across a chair, in the unusual position of having to leave others to speak for him. Trump has now spent six ignominious weeks breathing the stale air of a foreboding tower block of a courthouse that has dispensed justice to some of New York’s most storied murderers, crooks and Mafia dons. The yellowing white-wash, austere furniture and florescent lights that form the soulless abyss of America’s criminal justice system may have been an insult to the eyes of a developer who frequently boasts about the splendor of his buildings and is more at home under the glistening chandeliers and gold-leafed opulence of his multiple residencies.

The final stages of any criminal trial reach a somber register as the gravity of the moment for the accused begins to come into view. In this case, which is entwined with a presidential election that will decide the country’s future, the consequences are even more profound. And there’s also a poignant personal dimension. The city where Trump made his name and reshaped the skyline while romping through the tabloid era of the 1980s is about to judge its estranged son.

Events outside the courtroom highlighted the rising stakes of the eventual verdict just five months from a currently tight election between Trump and President Joe Biden. Hollywood legend Robert De Niro showed up on behalf of the Biden campaign to blast “the loser Trump,” accompanied by some of the police officers beaten up by the ex-president’s mob in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The star of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” — a New York City icon in his own right — got into a quintessential finger-pointing standoff with a heckling bystander spreading misinformation about the assault on the Capitol.

Moments later, Trump’s adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, showed up for their father, who has come perilously close to incurring a jail spell for repeatedly violating a gag order. “We understand that this is a political persecution. That was evidenced, today by the Biden campaign themselves holding a rally here,” Don Trump Jr. said. “They bring in Robert De Niro … but apparently he needs attention because it’s been a while since he’s cranked out a good movie.”

The Biden campaign has tried to keep its distance from Trump’s criminal tribulations, partly to avoid accusations like those from the ex-president’s camp on Tuesday. But its decision to engage as the presumptive GOP nominee’s trial reached a pivotal point began to answer the question of how Biden’s team will react to the end of the trial — and Trump’s emergence from weeks of the campaign trail being diverted through the courtroom.

Despite the circus unfolding outside the court, there is no sign that the trial has gripped the national imagination like previous celebrity cases — such as the O.J. Simpson saga or the trial of the late King of Pop Michael Jackson. That’s partly to do with the lack of television cameras in Merchan’s courtroom. Some polls have, however, suggested that a guilty verdict could give some Republican voters pause about choosing a convicted felon in November, despite the way Trump weaponized his legal woes as an asset in the GOP primary and his strategy of portraying himself as a persecuted victim in the general election. In a close White House race, only a few thousand defections from the former president could have an outsize effect since the result is likely to be decided in only a handful of swing states by tens of thousands of votes.

If Trump is convicted, he’s sure to lash out and redouble his vow to dedicate any second presidency to personal and political “retribution” in a way that could play into Biden’s dominant campaign theme that US democracy is in mortal peril. An acquittal, on the other hand, could validate for Trump’s supporters his claims that all his legal woes are a witch-hunt.

Trump bitterly complained on Tuesday that the defense got the right to deliver the first summation, meaning that the prosecution argument could be freshest in the jurors’ minds when they come to deliberate. But he didn’t mention that is how the law works in New York state.

On one of the most critical days of Trump’s life, Blanche set out about methodically dismantling the prosecution case, seeking to cast reasonable doubt on multiple examples of testimony and evidence. To begin, as Blanche spoke calmly and conversationally, there were none of the often self-defeating histrionics that the ex-president sometimes demands of his lawyers. All Blanche had to do was to cast doubt in the mind of one juror, which could force the judge to declare a mistrial if the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict. “We have no burden to prove anything,” Blanche told the jury. “The burden is always on the government.”

Blanche insisted that Cohen did considerable legal work for Trump as his private attorney, countering prosecution arguments that payments made to him once Trump became president were disguised reimbursements for the $130,000 that Cohen paid to Daniels. He told jurors that there was no proof that Trump orchestrated a scheme to subvert the 2016 election or that he even knew what staffers were doing in his name. The attorney returned time and time again to the credibility of Cohen, the most important prosecution witness, portraying him as a serial liar who was caught “red handed” not telling the truth on the stand and who was making millions of dollars on the back of Trump’s legal storm.

“You cannot convict President Trump,” Blanche said, before repeating himself for emphasis while impressing on the jury the gravity of the historic deliberation that lies before them. “You cannot convict President Trump of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on the words of Michael Cohen.” At the end of his summation, Blanche listed 10 reasons why jurors should have reasonable doubt — including that there was no intent to falsify documents on Trump’s part and no evidence of an orchestrated attempt to meddle in the 2016 election, while arguing that Trump’s intent was to keep stories about Daniels from embarrassing his family.

Blanche kept his Trumpiest flourish for his last moments with the jury — pleading with them not to send the ex-president to prison, in an infringement of legal etiquette and incurring the fury of Merchan. After the jurors returned from a break, the judge warned that their job was to judge the evidence, not to speculate on what punishments Trump might face if he is found guilty.

Prosecution expands its case on election interference

Steinglass opened his final argument with a long rebuttal of Blanche’s summation, as he sought to show that Cohen’s credibility was not a deal breaker and that in any case the charges were carried by other testimony.

Steinglass repeatedly billed the alleged crime not as a seedy attempt to hide a personal transgression but a threat to the integrity of the electoral system. “You may say, who cares if Mr. Trump slept with a porn star 10 years before the 2016 election? Many people feel that way. It’s harder to say the American people don’t have the right to decide for themselves whether they care or not,” he said.

Some observers have suggested that the extraordinary precedent of indicting and trying an ex-president should stem from an alleged offense that threatens the integrity of the republic itself. Trump’s other looming trials — including over the attempt to subvert the 2020 election and his alleged mishandling of classified documents — might come closer to reaching this bar. But Steinglass dismissed the notion that the current case is relatively trivial.

He said the value of the “corrupt bargain” involved “cannot be overstated.” He continued: “It turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions anyone ever made to the Trump campaign,” adding that “this scheme cooked up by these men at this time could very well be what got President Trump elected.”

Source link

#Judgment #day #looms #Donald #Trump #York #Egypt #Independent

Israeli tanks seen advancing further into Rafah despite international calls to halt offensive – Egypt Independent

CNN  — 

Israel’s tanks were seen in central Rafah on Tuesday for the first time since its military entered Gaza’s southernmost city earlier this month, two eyewitnesses told CNN, signaling a new phase in its offensive despite mounting global pressure.

They arrive two days after a strike on a Rafah camp killed dozens of displaced Palestinians on Sunday and as the international community urges Israel to stop its assault on the city.

Israeli strikes over the past two days in Rafah have forced more displaced people to flee. Two further attacks in Rafah killed at least 29 Palestinians on Tuesday, according to authorities in Gaza.

The first hit a displacement camp just 150 meters from the site of Sunday’s strike. The second hit a displacement camp in the southern coastal town of Al-Mawasi, an area designated by Israel as a “safe zone” where it had earlier ordered thousands of people to evacuate to.

Israel has denied striking a humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi.

Staunch ally the United States said President Joe Biden is not altering his policy toward Israel, suggesting the strikes had not yet crossed a red line that would force changes in American support. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby asserted on Tuesday there were no indications yet that Israel had waged a military campaign that would prompt Biden to withhold aid or weapons.

Biden had said in a CNN interview earlier this month that he wouldn’t allow certain US weapons to be used in a major offensive in Rafah.

His administration has warned against a large-scale ground invasion in Rafah unless the well-being of civilians can be guaranteed.

Some 1.3 million Palestinians were sheltering in Rafah before Israel began its operation there, having fled from other parts of Gaza since the conflict began seven months ago. Around 1 million have fled the city since, according to UN figures.

Israel’s advance deeper into Rafah comes despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering it to “immediately halt” its military operation there. The UN and some of Israel’s European allies have called on it to abide by the ICJ’s order, saying it is binding.

In Khan Younis, north of Rafah, people attempting to evacuate told CNN they do not know where else to go as they try to head north toward Deir El-Balah in central Gaza. Video shows mattresses, wooden panels, chairs, and various other belongings piled on top of vehicles and donkey carts.

“What’s happening now, whether in Rafah, Khan Younis or Gaza in general, is the disastrous displacement of people. There is no shelter, no life, no future,” said Ansar Mahdi, a Palestinian who said she has now been displaced four times.

Walking on crutches, Mohamed Jarbou, said: “The elderly have been humiliated. Children humiliated. What’s wrong? They are all civilians.”

Alaa Abu Ibrahim, a Rafah resident, told CNN that Israeli tanks were seen at the Al Awda roundabout in the center of the city. Another resident, Salma AlKadoomi, said she saw armored vehicles in the downtown area.

“These vehicles advanced in the middle of the night,” AlKadoomi told CNN.

Asked about reports of tanks advancing in the city, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a media briefing on Tuesday that the military is operating in Rafah in a “targeted” and “precise” way.

“There are still Hamas battalions in Rafah. A couple of days ago launchers from Rafah fired (rockets) to Tel Aviv. Millions of people went into bomb shelters,” he said.

Israel began a limited ground operation in Rafah on May 7, crossing the Philadelphi Corridor – a 14-kilometer (about 8.7-mile) buffer zone on the Egypt-Gaza border – and seizing the Palestinian side of the border with Egypt.

Egypt has strongly opposed the operation at its border. On Monday, an Egyptian security worker was killed on the border with Gaza in a shooting that involved Egyptian and Israeli soldiers. Egypt’s state-affiliated Al-Qahera News outlet said “Palestinian resistance” fighters were also involved.

Palestinian officials said Tuesday’s fresh Israeli strikes had killed 29 people – at least eight at the Tal al-Sultan camp and 21 at a camp in Al-Mawasi, though the IDF has denied striking a humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi.

CNN has followed up, asking if the IDF has struck elsewhere in Al-Mawasi, such as the UN warehouse that is in the vicinity of the camp, but has not received a reply.

The first strike hit three tents at Tal al-Sultan at around 3 a.m. local time, according to residents and a CNN stringer in Rafah. At least eight people were killed and transferred to a field hospital in Tal al-Sultan, according to the Emergency Committee of the Rafah Governorate. CNN has reached out to the IDF for comment on the strike at Tal al-Sultan.

The camp hit on Tuesday is approximately 150 meters from another displacement camp where an Israeli strike and ensuing fire on Sunday killed at least 45 people.

Video from CNN’s stringer in Tal al-Sultan shows displaced people dismantling their makeshift living arrangements, gathering their belongings and evacuating the area on trucks and donkey carts.

Al-Mawasi, north of Rafah, is supposedly a “safe zone.” In early May, the Israeli military ordered people in eastern Rafah to “immediately head to the expanded humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi,” as it stepped up its operations in the area. The Al-Mawasi camp was already crowded with displaced people before civilians in Rafah were ordered to move there. The UN has said it is not “quite suitable” for habitation.

Videos obtained by CNN show several dead bodies lying on sand covered in bloodied blankets with dozens of people shrieking and gathering around them. Children are seen crying next to the bodies of women whose faces are covered in blood.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said the civilian casualties caused by Sunday’s strike on the camp in Rafah were “a tragic error.”

Israel launched an investigation into the event, and on Tuesday the IDF claimed the deadly fire at the camp could not have been caused solely by the weaponry used by Israel.

“Our munitions alone could not have ignited a fire of this size. Our investigation seeks to determine what may have caused such a large fire to ignite,” Hagari said. “We are looking into all possibilities, including the option that weapons stored in a compound next to our target, which we did not know of, may have ignited as a result of this strike.”

He showed aerial footage of a strike on a structure in which he said senior Hamas commanders were meeting and said that the military used two munitions with 17-kilogram (37 lbs) warheads. “This is the smallest munitions that our jets could use.”

“We are working to verify the cause of the fire, it is still too early to be determined,” Hagari said. “Even when we do find the cause of the fire that erupted it won’t make this situation any less tragic.”

Source link

#Israeli #tanks #advancing #Rafah #international #calls #halt #offensive #Egypt #Independent

Sparks fly in tense closing arguments in Trump’s hush money trial

The jury will soon begin deliberating to decide whether the former US president is guilty of falsifying business records to cover up payments to an adult actress with whom he had an affair.

ADVERTISEMENT

Closing arguments in Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial concluded on Tuesday in a Manhattan courtroom, marking the final opportunity for prosecutors and defence lawyers to convince the jury of their respective cases before deliberations began.

Jurors will undertake the unprecedented task of deciding whether to convict the former US president of felony criminal charges stemming from hush money payments tied to an alleged scheme to buy and bury stories that might have threatened Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

At the heart of the charges are reimbursements paid to Trump fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen to cover a $130,000 (about €120,000) payment that was given to adult actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for not going public with her claim about a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Prosecutors say the payments to Cohen, Trump’s then-lawyer, were falsely logged as “legal expenses” to hide the true nature of the transactions.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing. He pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records — charges which are punishable by up to four years in prison.

Closing arguments lasted all day on Tuesday, with jury deliberations set to begin as soon as Wednesday.

All about Cohen

Trump attorney Todd Blanche had a clear message for jurors: the prosecution’s case rests on the testimony of Cohen, and he can’t be believed.

Cohen is a crucial witness because he was the one who made the hush money payment to Daniels. It is the reimbursements to Cohen that prosecutors say were falsely and unlawfully logged as legal expenses.

As the defence has done throughout the case, Blanche attacked Cohen as a liar with a personal vendetta against his former boss. While Blanche tried to chip away at Cohen’s credibility, the defence showed jurors a PowerPoint slide that read: “Case Turns on Cohen”.

Blanche repeatedly reminded jurors of Cohen’s past lies, including his 2018 guilty plea for lying to the US Congress. Trump’s defence also played the jury clips of Cohen’s podcast in which the now-disbarred attorney said seeing the former president booked on criminal charges “fills me with delight”.

The case against Trump is built around testimony from “a witness that outright hates the defendant, wants him in jail, is actively making money off that hatred,” Blanche said.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass acknowledged that Cohen is a challenging witness. But prosecutors did not choose him, Steinglass argued; Trump did.

“It’s not about whether you like Michael Cohen,” he told the jury. “It’s not about whether you want to go into business with Michael Cohen. It’s whether he has useful, reliable information to give you about what went down in this case, and the truth is that he was in the best position to know.”

‘Conspiracy and cover-up’

The prosecutor used his closing argument to bring jurors back to what District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office alleges is the crux of the case: a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by keeping Daniels’ story from surfacing. The case, “at its core, is about a conspiracy and a cover-up,” Steinglass said.

The purpose of the effort, Steinglass argued, was “to manipulate and defraud the voters, to pull the wool over their eyes in a coordinated fashion.”

It’s impossible to know whether Trump’s effort to “hoodwink voters” made a difference in the 2016 election, Steinglass said, but that’s not something prosecutors have to prove.

Steinglass pushed back against the defence’s contention that the former president was trying to protect his reputation and family – not his campaign – by shielding them from embarrassing stories about his personal life. 

The prosecutor said it’s “no coincidence” that while Daniels’ alleged sexual encounter with Trump happened in 2006, she wasn’t paid for her silence until right before the 2016 election.

ADVERTISEMENT

The defence, meanwhile, told jurors that “every campaign in this country is a conspiracy to promote a candidate, a group of people who are working together to help somebody win.” Trump’s alleged efforts to suppress negative stories were no different, Blanche said.

“The government wants you to believe that President Trump did these things with his records to conceal efforts to promote his successful candidacy in 2016, the year before,” Blanche said. “Even if you find that is true, that is not enough…it doesn’t matter if there’s a conspiracy to win an election.”

Campaigning at the courthouse

Outside the courthouse, there were duelling press conferences from the Trump and Biden campaigns, which sought to capitalise on the gathering of reporters and cameras to attack their respective opponents and score political points.

While the defence was delivering its closing argument, the Biden campaign deployed outside the courthouse actor Robert De Niro and a pair of police officers who defended the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. It was a sharp about-face for Biden’s team, which had largely ignored the trial since it began six weeks ago.

De Niro and the officers didn’t reference Trump’s criminal case directly but slammed the former president as a threat to the country. De Niro told reporters that if Trump returns to the White House, Americans can “kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump’s campaign staffers followed with their own news conference at the same spot. Trump’s senior campaign adviser Jason Miller told reporters that the Biden campaign’s press event showed that the trial was political.

“After months of saying politics had nothing to do with this trial, they showed up and made a campaign event out of a lower Manhattan trial day for President Trump,” Miller said. Karoline Leavitt, the campaign press secretary, said the event was “a full blown concession that this trial is a witch hunt that comes from the top.”

Politicised language

The defence repeatedly referred to the prosecution as “the government”. The prosecution invoked the phrase “big lie”. Closing arguments on both sides were peppered with words and phrases that have become politicised.

Blanche called the prosecution “the government” — a term typically used for federal prosecutors, not the state-level team trying Trump’s case. 

While Trump’s two main attorneys are former federal prosecutors who are used to arguing in federal courtrooms, in New York, state prosecutors are typically referred to in court as “the people,” short for “the people of the State of New York”.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Trump has also been trying to cast the case — and the separate federal cases brought by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith — as a politically motivated effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to tank his re-election campaign.

However, the hush money case was filed by local prosecutors in Manhattan who do not work for the Justice Department, and the Justice Department has said the White House has had no involvement in the two Trump cases brought by Smith.

But by referring to the prosecution as the “government,” the defence is evoking images of a “deep state” conspiracy. Trump and many of his supporters have long claimed that a nefarious cabal is hellbent on illegitimately putting him behind bars and preventing him from retaking the White House.

Source link

#Sparks #fly #tense #closing #arguments #Trumps #hush #money #trial

Efforts to save water ramped up


China has further intensified policy incentives and constraints to continuously promote water conservation and enhance water use efficiency across various sectors, according to a series of newly adopted regulations.

The State Council, China’s Cabinet, recently issued the first national-level regulations on water conservation, which took effect on May 1, to shift from extensive to efficient and intensive water usage practices.

The regulations, comprising six chapters and 52 articles, introduced a rigid water resource constraint system and created a water conservation mechanism led by the government with cooperation from the public, market regulator and various parties.

The regulations require improved management of water use, the development of water-saving agriculture, the adoption of suitable water-saving technologies and enhanced guarantees through subsidies, incentive mechanisms and supervision in the evaluation of water-saving policies.

Zhang Yaobo, director of the Ministry of Justice’s Fourth Bureau of Legislation, stressed that the regulations aim to promote water conservation across society, ensure national water security, advance the nation’s goals to create an ecological civilization and drive high-quality development.

“The core focus of the regulations is to enhance rigid constraints on water resources, ensuring that population and urban and industrial development align with the capacity of water resources,” Zhang said.

The regulations also aim to build a scientifically sound and comprehensive water-saving institutional system, aligning with existing laws such as the Water Law, the Yangtze River Protection Law and the Yellow River Protection Law to form a synergy for water conservation, he said.

Progress made

Li Liangsheng, vice-minister of water resources, noted that China faces a basic water scarcity challenge due to its large population and uneven water resource distribution. Although China ranks sixth globally in total water resources, its per capita water resources are only 35 percent of the world average, with nearly two-thirds of its cities experiencing water shortages. Water conservation is the fundamental solution to this scarcity.

Though China’s GDP last year was double what it was in 2014, its total water consumption remained stable at around 610 billion cubic meters. Also last year, water consumption per unit of GDP and per unit of industrial added value decreased by 41.7 percent and 55.1 percent, respectively, compared to 2014.

However, challenges remain, including inefficient and wasteful water use and the need for improved water management, conservation measures, incentive policies and supervision, Li said.

In 2019, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Water Resources issued the National Water Conservation Action Plan, setting control targets for national water consumption, water consumption per unit of GDP and water consumption per unit of industrial added value for 2022, with long-term goals for 2035. The targets were achieved by 2022.

“Progress has been made in agricultural, industrial and urban water-saving and loss reduction. For example, the water reuse rate in industries above a designated size has reached over 93 percent,” Li said.

The Ministry of Water Resources, in collaboration with 20 other departments, has established an inter-ministerial coordination mechanism for water conservation, has implemented and improved water-saving tax incentive policies and has encouraged financial institutions to support water-saving projects, he said.

Urban use

Hu Zijian, head of the urban construction department of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, noted significant achievements in promoting water-saving cities and improving urban water use efficiency. A series of systems, including urban water-saving planning, planned water use, quota management and water-saving statistics, has been formulated.

A total of 145 national water-saving cities have been established, with urban wastewater reuse promoted, pilot projects for reclaimed water utilization carried out in 116 cities and a reuse rate of 29 percent.

In addition, “sponge city” construction — which emphasizes flood management through green infrastructure rather than just relying on drainage systems — has been promoted in 90 cities since 2015, achieving natural purification of rainwater and enhancing local rainwater resource utilization, he said.

Hu noted that many water-scarce cities have now adopted reclaimed water as a critical secondary water source. Apart from urban drainage and sewage treatment regulations issued in 2013, the new regulations also include provisions for wastewater reuse, providing legal support for the development of wastewater reuse.

Industry development

Niu Bo, an official from the NDRC, said the commission is continuously promoting the efficient and intensive use of water resources.

In September last year, the NDRC and multiple departments issued the “Opinions on Further Strengthening the Conservation and Intensive Use of Water Resources”, outlining measures for enhancing water conservation in agriculture, industry, urban areas and ecological landscapes, promoting the use of unconventional water sources and developing the water-saving industry.

The industry focuses on manufacturing water conservation products, researching water-saving technologies, modifying conservation processes and providing water-saving consulting services. The NDRC is researching and formulating guidance on accelerating the development of the water-saving industry, he said.

Additionally, the NDRC considers the utilization of unconventional water sources as a vital measure for both conserving and augmenting water resources. Together with relevant departments, the NDRC has issued policies and guidelines to promote the resourceful use of wastewater, seawater desalination and the protection and utilization of mine water.

The NDRC, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the Ministry of Water Resources are organizing a three-year action plan to enhance the use of reclaimed water in key cities, aiming to gradually increase the utilization rate of reclaimed water.

“We will also support the ongoing large-scale equipment upgrading and the trade-in program for consumer goods, encouraging the renewal of equipment in water conservation and water treatment fields, promoting the trade-in of key water-using products to continuously improve water use efficiency in industry, agriculture and urban living,” he said.




Source link

#Efforts #save #water #ramped

As long as ‘Taiwan independence’ provocation continues, PLA’s actions to defend territorial integrity won’t stop: spokesperson


In response to the Taiwan regional leader Lai Ching-te’s speech on May 20, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said on Wednesday that those remarks are extremely arrogant and vile in nature, betray the national interest and run counter to the people’s will, constituting a blatant provocation against the one-China principle and a severe disruption to peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits.

If allowed to develop, this will inevitably lead to dangerous and turbulent conditions in the Straits, inflicting great harm on the people of Taiwan, Zhu said.

“We will not tolerate this, we will not condone it, and we will not stand idly by,” the spokesperson said, noting that countermeasures and sanctions may become necessary.

The more severe the provocation, the stronger the countermeasures. If the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities persist down the doomed path of “Taiwan independence,” they will inevitably bring disaster upon themselves and suffer the consequences, the spokesperson cautioned.

Lai’s speech openly promotes the “two states” theory, attempting to seek “independence” by relying on external forces and military means. His attitude is arrogant and the nature of his actions is vile, the spokesperson noted.

They severely undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, seriously risking the safety and well-being of Taiwan compatriots, and gravely impact Taiwan’s development prospects, Zhu noted. “Insightful individuals in Taiwan have expressed deep concerns about this, reflecting the shared sentiments of the majority of Taiwan compatriots.”

Following Lai’s so-called “inauguration,” the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held the Joint Sword-2024A exercises surrounding the island of Taiwan from Thursday to Friday in a move aiming to punish “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces and to send a warning to external interference forces.

In response to whether the joint drills surrounding the island will become normal in the future and whether there will be “Joint Sword-2024B”and “Joint Sword-2024C” following the latest Joint Sword-2024A, the spokesperson said on Wednesday that as long as the provocation of “Taiwan independence” continues, the PLA’s actions to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity will never stop.

The drills serve as a resolute punishment for the Taiwan regional leader’s “5.20” speech seeking “independence” and a stern warning to external forces that condone and support “Taiwan independence” and interfere in China’s internal affairs. It is a just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Zhu said.

A senior mainland official responsible for Taiwan affairs also urged the patriotic reunification forces in the island to resolutely oppose the provocations of Taiwan region leaders seeking “independence,” and firmly resist the countercurrent of “de-Sinicization” attempts when meeting with representatives of Taiwan guests including Hung Hsiu-chu, former chairperson of the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) party on Tuesday in Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province.

Our determination to resolve the Taiwan question and achieve national reunification is as solid as a rock. Our ability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is indestructible, and our actions to oppose “Taiwan independence” separatism and external interference are firm and forceful, Song Tao, head of both the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said during the meeting.

No matter how the situation on the island evolves and no matter who is in power, nothing could alter or hinder the direction of cross-Strait relations or the process of national reunification, Song added.

While the latest military exercises surrounding the island cover a wider area, which was closer to the island, involving larger forces, and had a more pronounced real-combat significance, the spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council said since taking office the leader of the Taiwan region has brazenly challenged the one-China principle, adding that the mainland “will leave no room for any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities.”

Zhu also emphasized that all our countermeasures are targeted at “Taiwan independence” separatist activities and external interference, not at the broad masses of Taiwan compatriots.

“We hope that the vast majority of Taiwan compatriots will stand on the right side of history, distinguish right from wrong, act with a sense of justice, and, together with compatriots on the mainland, resolutely oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ separatism and external interference,” the spokesperson added.

When commenting on the Joint Sword-2024A military exercises, the UN Secretary-General spokesperson quoted the UN Resolution 2758 lately saying that “Taiwan is a province of China.” In response to this remark, the spokesperson said on Wednesday that Taiwan is indeed a province of China, and we highly appreciate the UN’s statement on this matter.

In response to the U.S. State Department’s remarks on Lai’s speech, the spokesperson said the speech was a complete “Taiwan independence confession.” DPP authorities and external forces such as the U.S. are singing the same tune and “playing a double act,” reversing black and white, adding that people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits can see it very clearly.

If the U.S. sincerely hopes for peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, it should abide by the one-China principle and its commitments to China, and clearly oppose “Taiwan independence” with practical actions, the spokesperson said.

“No matter how the U.S. and Taiwan collude and make trouble, it cannot change the fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is a part of China, nor can it change the general trend that China will and will inevitably be unified,” Zhu said.

In recent days, many celebrities from the island have publicly stated that “both sides of the Taiwan Straits are part of the Chinese nation,” which were quickly criticized by “pro-independence” internet users, and the DPP authorities claim that “the mainland is forcing those celebrities to make such statements” and urged the mainland to stop pressuring them. Lai has also called for the public to “understand the celebrities.”

The spokesperson said some celebrities have shared a “reunification” poster, which has garnered over 1.8 billion views on social media platform Weibo and over 17 million shares.

“We hope those who claim that these statements are ‘forced’ can see this,” Zhu said.

Some have shared stories with their fans about their ancestral hometowns and the origins of their names learned from their elders. Others have expressed that both sides of the Straits are part of the Chinese nation and hope for deeper exchanges. “These are genuine expressions of emotion,” the spokesperson said.

Lai and some in the DPP, driven by political self-interest, are deliberately creating cross-Straits antagonism and have labeled these celebrities as being “forced to make statements.” This reveals that the DPP authorities are in fact very insecure and fear that compatriots on both sides of the Straits will come closer together, the spokesperson continued.

They not only deliberately ignore mainstream public opinion in Taiwan, which desires peace, development, exchange, and cooperation, but also go to great lengths to suppress and slander these voices. The DPP authorities are also escalating the creation of a “green terror,” leading to many Taiwanese residents becoming afraid to speak their minds, Zhu said.

We actively support celebrities from the island coming to the mainland to participate in various performance activities, jointly promoting the prosperity and development of the cross-Straits cultural market and fostering emotional resonance and spiritual connection between compatriots on both sides of the Straits, the spokesperson said.




Source link

#long #Taiwan #independence #provocation #continues #PLAs #actions #defend #territorial #integrity #wont #stop #spokesperson