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Diplomacy & Crisis News

We won’t allow corruption to continue unchecked: UN Assembly president

UN News Centre - mer, 02/06/2021 - 20:08
The effects of corruption are “detrimental to all of society”, the President of the UN General Assembly said on Wednesday during the first day of a special session convened to galvanize political will to fight the scourge.  

Mali: Military must ‘scrupulously’ respect human rights and free civilian leaders  

UN News Centre - mer, 02/06/2021 - 17:35
A UN independent human rights expert said on Wednesday that Mali’s new military authorities should “scrupulously respect human rights” and release all leaders detained in last week’s coup. 

UN chief condemns deadly attacks targeting displaced people in DR Congo

UN News Centre - mer, 02/06/2021 - 16:38
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to investigate recent deadly attacks by insurgents in the east and bring the perpetrators to account. 

COVID crisis to push global unemployment over 200 million mark in 2022

UN News Centre - mer, 02/06/2021 - 16:20
The economic crisis caused by the COVID pandemic is expected to contribute to global unemployment of more than 200 million people next year, with women and youth workers worst-hit, UN labour experts said on Wednesday.

Amidst COVID surge, Asia-Pacific region needs ‘immediate and stronger support’ 

UN News Centre - mar, 01/06/2021 - 22:25
With the coronavirus still raging in many parts of the world, the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, warned on Tuesday of vaccine shortages, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, and urged “immediate and stronger support” for the global COVAX initiative for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, “including for refugees and asylum-seekers”. 

WFP feeds more than one million in Tigray, but needs support to reach more

UN News Centre - mar, 01/06/2021 - 22:17
More than one million people in two areas of the war-ravaged Tigray region in Ethiopia have received emergency food assistance since distributions began in March, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported on Tuesday. 

‘Simply no scenario’ where humanity can survive on an ocean-free planet

UN News Centre - mar, 01/06/2021 - 19:45
The world must harness “clear, transformative and actionable solutions” to address the ocean crisis, the President of the UN General Assembly said on Tuesday, opening a meeting to generate momentum towards the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, when public health safety measures allow. 

Vaccine equity at heart of new $50 billion plan to end pandemic, drive recovery

UN News Centre - mar, 01/06/2021 - 17:48
Governments are being urged to finance a new $50 billion roadmap to end the COVID-19 pandemic and drive a fast recovery, announced on Tuesday by the heads of the world’s predominant global financing, health and trade agencies. 

The COVID-19 pandemic motivates millions of tobacco users to quit, but they need support

UN News Centre - lun, 31/05/2021 - 20:54
“Quitters are the real winners in the case of tobacco”, says the World Health Organization as part of a campaign to help smokers that have decided to quit during the COVID-19 pandemic, but lack the support to do so. A new chatbot and even an AI assistant are ready to aid them in their quitting journey.  

Haiti: funding gap threatens the lives of nearly 86,000 children

UN News Centre - lun, 31/05/2021 - 19:10
In Haiti, the number of severely malnourished under-fives could more than double this year, UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Monday. Some could die if they do not receive timely treatment.

COVID danger has not passed, States must support pandemic treaty: Tedros

UN News Centre - lun, 31/05/2021 - 18:06
UN health agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged all countries on Monday to support a pandemic preparedness treaty, warning that it would be a “monumental error” to think the danger of COVID-19 has passed.

First Person: Learning a recipe for freedom in Nigeria

UN News Centre - lun, 31/05/2021 - 14:00
When Nigerian Blessing Ojukwu became pregnant after she was raped, her family disowned her. She was forced to live with her abuser, who continued to attack her. Now, a UN-backed initiative is giving her, and others in similar situations, a chance to become financially independent, and start new lives. 

FROM THE FIELD: Ghost in the seashell

UN News Centre - lun, 31/05/2021 - 06:40
“Ghost fishing” occurs when abandoned fishing gear dumped in the ocean traps and kills fish or other underwater life, and it is causing devastation to marine environments, warns the UN food agency, FAO.

Colombia: UN rights chief calls for an end to all forms of violence in Cali

UN News Centre - dim, 30/05/2021 - 15:27
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet voiced her “deep concern” at recent events in the Colombian city of Cali that include reports of several deaths and violence.

Drones deliver blood to prevent maternal death in Botswana

UN News Centre - dim, 30/05/2021 - 14:00
Drones are providing life-saving care to women in remote parts of the southern African country, Botswana, who otherwise may die in childbirth, thanks to support from the United Nations.   

Joe Biden's Nightmare: Chinese Submarines Can Destroy an Aircraft Carrier

The National Interest - ven, 28/05/2021 - 13:07

David Axe

Chinese Submarines, Asia

As far as its sub fleet goes, China has made great progress in the two decades since the 1996 crisis.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Of course, a chance to attack doesn’t guarantee a successful attack. And the U.S. Navy isn’t exactly standing still as Chinese forces improve, RAND pointed out.

In 1995 and 1996, Taiwanese politicians signaled greater support for declaring their island country officially independent of China. Beijing’s response was swift, forceful … and ultimately an embarrassment to China. The Chinese fired several missiles toward small, Taiwanese-held islands.

That’s when the United States intervened in a big way, sending two entire aircraft carrier battle groups into the waters around Taiwan — and even sailing one carrier through the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese military was powerless against this show of force. Beijing couldn’t even reliably track the American warships, and had no forces of its own capable of threatening the powerful U.S. vessels.

The Chinese backed down.

Years later, the situation has changed.

According to the California think tank RAND, if the same crises occurred today, Chinese submarines could target a U.S. flattop several times during a weeklong campaign. “China has rapidly improved its ability to reliably locate and to attack U.S. carrier strike groups at distances of up to 2,000 kilometers from its coast,” RAND warned.

Beijing’s ability to target carriers from below the sea depends on two related capabilities. First, China needs modern and reliable submarines. Second, these subs need some way of finding the flattops.

As far as its sub fleet goes, China has made great progress in the two decades since the 1996 crisis. “In 1996, China had taken delivery of only two submarines that could be described, by any reasonable definition, as modern,” RAND explained. “The remainder of its fleet consisted of legacy boats based on 1950s technology, lacking teardrop shaped hulls and armed only with torpedoes.”

By 2017, China will possess a smaller but more capable undersea fleet with 49 modern subs. “China’s recent submarine classes are armed with both sophisticated cruise missiles and torpedoes, greatly increasing the range from which they can attack,” according to the think tank. “Although most Chinese boats are diesel-powered and none is not up to U.S. standards, they could nevertheless threaten U.S. surface ships.”

Just how much Beijing’s subs could attack a single American carrier during a seven-day campaign depends on what RAND called “cueing.” In other words, the ability of Chinese satellites, drones, spy planes, land-based radars and other so-called “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” systems, or ISR, to detect the carrier and pass along the flattop’s location to the subs.

“Improvements to Chinese ISR have improved the chances that Chinese submarines will receive such information,” RAND reported.

In 1996, Chinese subs had basically zero chances to take a shot at a U.S. carrier, with or without cueing. By 2010 that was no longer the case. Without cueing, Beijing’s subs were still pretty much blind, but with help from ISR the undersea vessels would have gotten two or three chances to attack a carrier with missiles or torpedoes.

RAND projected that Chinese subs with no cueing probably still won’t be able to attack a carrier. But with cueing in the same timeframe, the undersea warships could get three, four or even five chances to attack.

Of course, a chance to attack doesn’t guarantee a successful attack. And the U.S. Navy isn’t exactly standing still as Chinese forces improve, RAND pointed out. “The United States will look to counter this growing threat by developing ways to degrade Chinese intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and by improving its own anti-missile, anti-submarine and defensive counterair capabilities.”

Image: Reuters.

Help, Please: Why the IRS Is So Slow to Send Unemployment Tax Refunds

The National Interest - ven, 28/05/2021 - 13:00

Ethen Kim Lieser

Unemployment Tax Refund,

With only a week left in the current month, millions of eligible Americans are still left on the sidelines—and the IRS has provided few updates on the matter.

Here's What You Need to Remember:

In the post-$1,400 coronavirus stimulus check world, it appears that there will be plenty of waiting for millions of cash-strapped Americans as they look forward to other government-issued payments.

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced that tax refunds on 2020 unemployment benefits—part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan—are slated to start landing in eligible bank accounts this month.

But with only a week left in the current month, millions of eligible Americans are still left on the sidelines—and the IRS has provided few updates on the matter.

Know that these potentially generous payments are from the waiving of federal tax on up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits—or $20,400 for married couples filing jointly—that were collected last year. Unemployment benefits are generally treated as taxable income, the IRS says.

The agency has noted that as many as ten million Americans likely overpaid on their unemployment taxes and could be in line for the refunds.

According to a recent Treasury report, more than seven million tax returns already processed by the IRS appear to qualify for the tax refunds. “Of the 7.4 million tax returns, nearly 7.3 million—or 98.6 percent—had modified adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 and would likely qualify for the exclusion,” the report’s authors wrote.

Current refund estimates are indicating that for single taxpayers who are eligible for the $10,200 tax break and fit into the 22 percent tax bracket, they could be potentially refunded more than $2,200. That monetary figure would double for eligible married couples.

The agency also recently confirmed that it will automatically adjust tax returns if individuals qualify for a refund.

“Because the change occurred after some people filed their taxes, the IRS will take steps in the spring and summer to make the appropriate change to their return, which may result in a refund,” the IRS stated.

“The first refunds are expected to be made in May and will continue into the summer. Any resulting overpayment of tax will be either refunded or applied to other outstanding taxes owed,” the agency added.

For those who are still waiting for these funds to arrive, perhaps late summer is the better timeline for getting their hands on the checks. Do also take note that married couples who file a joint tax return may have to wait longer than individual taxpayers due to the higher complexity of calculating their respective refunds.

The IRS is expected to disburse the refunds in two separate phases—and currently, it appears that most married couples who filed jointly will be part of the second phase. No details have been released regarding when the second phase will start.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn. This article first appeared earlier this year.

Image: Reuters.

$3,600 'Stimulus Check' On The Way? Joe Biden Has More Money For You.

The National Interest - ven, 28/05/2021 - 12:59

Ethen Kim Lieser

Stimulus Check,

Do take note that the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill enabled the expansion of child tax credits that generally allowed families to claim a credit of up to $2,000 for children under the age of seventeen. But they now qualify to collect as much as $3,600 per year for a child under the age of six and up to $3,000 for children between ages six and seventeen.

Child Tax Credit Looks to Take Sting Out of States Ending Enhanced Unemployment

 

With the Internal Revenue Service in the final weeks of disbursing coronavirus stimulus checks and two dozen states announcing that they will end their participation in an enhanced unemployment program that pays an extra $300 a week, it appears that those Americans who are still struggling financially amid the ongoing pandemic can’t catch a break.

But thanks to President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, they can take comfort knowing that more help is indeed on the way via the expanded child tax credit

Do take note that the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill enabled the expansion of child tax credits that generally allowed families to claim a credit of up to $2,000 for children under the age of seventeen. But they now qualify to collect as much as $3,600 per year for a child under the age of six and up to $3,000 for children between ages six and seventeen.

This all means that eligible parents can receive a $250 or a $300 direct payment each month through the end of this year. In addition, eighteen-year-olds and full-time college students who are aged twenty-four and under can give parents a one-time $500 payment.

“The American Rescue Plan is delivering critical tax relief to middle class and hard-pressed working families with children. With today’s announcement, about 90 percent of families with children will get this new tax relief automatically, starting in July,” Biden said in a statement.

“While the American Rescue Plan provides for this vital tax relief to hard working families for this year, Congress must pass the American Families Plan to ensure that working families will be able to count on this relief for years to come. For working families with children, this tax cut sends a clear message: help is here,” the president added.

If the nearly $2 trillion American Families Plan ever gets green-lighted, know that the child tax credit could be extended four more years through 2025. In a recent press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki touted the bill’s potential reach.  

“If passed, the families of tens of millions of children will continue to get regular payments … we think that’s a proposal with a long-term benefit,” she said.

Meanwhile, some states that are withdrawing from the enhanced unemployment program are offering financial incentives to unemployed workers who eventually accept a job. For example, in Arizona, the state’s Back to Work program is giving a one-time $1,000 cash payment to unemployment recipients who accept part-time employment and $2,000 to full-timers.

“In Arizona, we’re going to use federal money to encourage people to work instead of paying people not to work,” Gov. Doug Ducey recently said in a press conference.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Never Give Up: Democrats in Congress Want More Stimulus Payments

The National Interest - ven, 28/05/2021 - 12:33

Trevor Filseth

Stimulus Stimulus Update,

The logic for such payments, on one level, is sound. Despite general improvements in the economy, the pandemic has had profoundly negative effects on blue-collar workers, whose jobs cannot easily be done from home.

Here's What You Need to Remember: While some polls anecdotally suggest support for additional stimulus measures among Americans, perhaps the most striking sign of support for further payments has been a Change.org petition for $2000 monthly stimulus checks – which has exceeded 2 million signatures since 2020.

By the end of May, it is estimated that most of the nation’s third stimulus checks, authorized in March 2021, will have been sent out. The IRS has claimed that roughly 90% of the payments have already been mailed, with a total of over $380 billion deposited in Americans’ accounts. While there is not likely to be a firm end date after which stimulus payments will be finished – invariably, some will be lost in the mail, while others will remain uncashed for months – the IRS has provided ways for concerned Americans to request their payments more quickly, meaning that anyone urgently waiting for a stimulus check will probably have it by mid-summer.

The passing of the third check, however, has led to requests for a fourth. In the two months since the beginning of the third stimulus check, more than eighty members of Congress – all Democrats – have publicly come out in support for a fourth measure. Of the eighty, the majority support further stimulus proposals that advocate for recurring, rather than one-time, checks for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

The logic for such payments, on one level, is sound. Despite general improvements in the economy, the pandemic has had profoundly negative effects on blue-collar workers, whose jobs cannot easily be done from home. Unemployment in these sectors remains high, and it is clear that another stimulus payment would go a long way towards covering their bills.

While President Biden has not indicated his support for a fourth stimulus measure, he has been the recipient of at least three letters urging him to consider it. The most recent of these was sent last week by Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA). Gomez’s letter highlights the fact that, so far, most stimulus money has been spent on urgent necessities, such as food and housing, rather than more discretionary items.

In the letter, Gomez indicates his support for a fourth stimulus check. He also suggests a novel approach, designed to allay concerns over whether the measure would actually be needed, by tying the issuance of the check to economic factors such as the unemployment rate. In this way, if the economy took another downturn, the stimulus measure could kick in, providing economic relief as needed.

While some polls anecdotally suggest support for additional stimulus measures among Americans, perhaps the most striking sign of support for further payments has been a Change.org petition for $2000 monthly stimulus checks – which has exceeded 2 million signatures since 2020.

Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest. This article first appeared earlier this year.

Image: Reuters.

Forget Aircraft Carriers, the Marines are Crazy for Amphibious Assault Ships

The National Interest - ven, 28/05/2021 - 12:00

Peter Suciu

Amphibious Assault Ships,

With its long flight deck and the ability for aircraft to take off and land, it would be easy to think that vessels such as the USS America (LHA-6) are "aircraft carriers."

Here's What You Need To Remember: However, while these warships are similar – similar doesn't mean the same. There are jobs that only a carrier can do, and there are jobs that the LHA can do. That is why both will likely remain floating runways for the foreseeable future and likely beyond.

With its long flight deck and the ability for aircraft to take off and land, it would be easy to think that vessels such as the USS America (LHA-6) are "aircraft carriers." However, looks can be deceiving and there is far more than meets the eye to these warships. USS America is an amphibious assault ship – concept that dates back to the Second World War, when escort carriers wouldn't "escort" just the larger carriers but rather the landing ships and troop carriers.

The Imperial Japanese Navy's Shinshū Maru was the first to be designated a landing craft carrier and served as a proto-amphibious assault ship. Unlike the modern version of the LHA, the Shinshū Maru could only launch aircraft via a catapult to support an amphibious assault, and aircraft had to (hopefully) land on captured airfields!

During the Cold War, the British Royal Navy was the first to transform a small carrier, the HMS Ocean (R68), into an assault ship. The Colossus­­-class carrier saw service during the Suez Crisis when it was used in the first-ever large-scale helicopter-borne assault.

The United States Navy built on this concept with a special class of ships specifically built to carry up to 20 helicopters. This was the Iwo Jima-class, which bore the hull classification LPH, referred to as "Landing Platform Helicopter. These vessels could transport more than 1,700 fully equipped Marine Assault Troops into combat areas and land them by helicopter at designated inland positions.

The subsequent Tawara-class Landing Helicopter Assault, which is why even today Amphibious Assault Ships are designated LHA and not AAS. Five of the planned nine Tawara-class LHA were built from 1971 and 1980, before it was succeeded by the Wasp-class, which first entered service in the late 1980s. These LHA's have provided the Marine Corps with a means of ship-to-shore movement by helicopter in addition to movement by landing craft. 

All eight of these ships are still active today, along with two of the America-class, and while the primary role is to carry about a battalion's worth of Marines, the LHA is far more versatile. But the LHA has shortcomings. All U.S. Navy Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft are catapult-launched, which the LHA can't perform, and it can't project airpower ashore utilizing organic electronic warfare assets such as the F/A-18G.

The development of vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft such as the AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft and the F-35B Lightning II have further changed the way these smaller flattops could be used.

The USS America operates with at least five Marine F-35B Lightning II fighters as well as MV-22Bs tiltrotors and CH-53 helicopters as part of a typical Maine air combat element. But it can be reconfigured as needed, carrying 16 of the F-35Bs instead – which would provide an air group on board that is essentially on par with almost any actual aircraft carrier in the world, apart the U.S. Navy's Nimitz­-class and Ford­-class or the French Navy's Charles de Gaulle.

However, while these warships are similar – similar doesn't mean the same. There are jobs that only a carrier can do, and there are jobs that the LHA can do. That is why both will likely remain floating runways for the foreseeable future and likely beyond.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. This article first appeared last year.

Image: Flickr.

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