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Obama set to visit Cuba- first in 90 years by a US President

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President Obama is all set to visit Cuba next month on March 21.

VOA reports: “Barack Obama is set to become the first sitting American president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years. He and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to the island nation March 21 to build on what the White House says is progress in the normalisation of U.S.-Cuba ties.”

The USA had lifted the embargo on this communist nation a few months back, paving the way to the possibility of bilateral talks and commerce and diplomatic engagements.

However, there is a mixed response to Obama’s visit. Cuba is still a thoroughly communist country, once iron ruled by Fidel Castro, now by his brother Raul Castro. Its economy is a closed one, and the people do not enjoy the freedom of speech and democracy. Poverty, unemployment rule the roost.

IANS reports: But critics in the Republican Party and among the Cuban-American community have decried the move, saying the Obama administration would give Cuba what they called undeserved recognition and would get nothing in return.

In an online post after the trip’s announcement, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes wrote: “There is much more that can be done — by the US and by the Cuban government — to advance this opening in ways that will be good for Cubans, and good for the United States. That is why President Obama is travelling to Cuba.”

But many Republicans continue to view Cuba in an unfavourable light. Two of the biggest critics of Obama’s move are Republican presidential hopefuls Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio.

Experts said both of them have a shot at clinching the Republican nomination for the 2016 race to the White House.

Both senators, sons of Cuban immigrants, hold opinions that reflect a long-standing argument among the Cuban-American community — namely, Washington should not open up to full relations with Havana till certain stipulations are met on issues such as human rights.

In a Wednesday speech on his campaign trail, Rubio said Cuba is “anti-American”, reflecting the opinions of a large chunk of the Cuban-American community. Cruz has also slammed Obama’s Cuba policy as a kind of “weakness and appeasement”.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican, also criticised Obama’s visit, alleging on Thursday that “Cuban workers continue to be exploited”.

The US-based experts are split over whether re-establishing US-Cuban ties is a positive move.

Ana Rosa Quintana, Heritage Foundation’s Latin America analyst, said Cuba has made no concessions whatsoever to the US, reflecting a common argument that the island nation has given the US nothing in exchange for re-established ties with Washington.

She added that re-establishment of relations between the two countries without pre-conditions sends out wrong messages.

Although official ties have once again been established, it remains doubtful that the US trade embargo will be fully lifted anytime soon.

The embargo has been in effect since 1962 amid the Cold War, as the US worried that Cuba would be allied with the Soviet Union in its back yard.

In 1996, the embargo was codified into US law and put under Congressional control, with only the Congress having the full power to reverse it.

Though Obama has chipped away at some stipulations within the embargo, most of the sanctions still exist. It is unlikely that the Republican-led Congress will overturn the embargo.

The US Congress has been unwilling to work with Obama on lifting the embargo, according to Quintana.

“(Obama) is weakening the embargo. He says you know what, I disagree with it, I’m going to see what I can do to undermine it,” she said.

Brookings Institution’s senior fellow Darrell West said Obama wants to push along the relationship with Cuba so the next president can’t roll back his rapprochement.

“His goal is to open up trade and investment and put the policy back on a more normalised basis. Opening up trade will boost the Cuban economy and generate more trade and commerce between the two nations,” West said.

“There is likely to be a flood of American tourists to Cuba so that will encourage the construction of new hotels and restaurants. Cuba likely will be a popular destination for many American businesses,” he added.

Video report by Voice of America’s Aru Pande and Katherine Gypson brought to you by NewsGram in collaboration with VOA.

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US Lawmaker Proposes Bill in Congress to Recognise Tibet and Hong-Kong as Independent Nations

US and China ties may face further deterioration amid Coronavirus tension

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US lawmaker has introduced a bill in Congress to declare Tibet as an independent country. Pixabay

As tensions rise between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, a bill is proposed in the Congress by a US lawmaker, allowing American President to recognise Tibet as an independent nation, according to International News.

The bill was tabled by the US Congressman Scott Perry, who happens to be a military veteran and a Republican from Pennsylvania. He also introduced a similar bill, to declare Hong Kong, another Chinese-ruled region as an independent territory.

Both the bills could further escalate tensions between two countries.

The two bills introduced by the Republican from Pennsylvania have been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as published by Opindia.

Tibet is highest region on earth and is located in the south-west of China. The highest elevation in Tibet is Mount Everest. China invaded Tibet in 1949 and completely occupied the territory in 1959. Since then the Tibetan population has accused the Communist country of carrying out large scale human right violations and demographic changes.

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China invaded Tibet in 1949 and completely occupied the territory in 1959. Pixabay

The bill which has been welcomed by many Tibetan activists will have to be passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate before getting assent from the President to be an act.

US Senate to delist Chinese companies from American stock exchanges

A bill, introduced by Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, and Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland initiated to block Chinese firms from getting listed on the American stock exchanges which are not abiding by the US accounting laws.

Reportedly, the Chinese companies listed at the New York Stock Exchange do not report earnings just like American companies do as published by opindia.

There has been some controversy in the US Chinese companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc. amid increasingly tense relations between the world’s two largest economies.

In a major escalation, the Trump administration had issued a new rule on barring Huawei and its suppliers from using American technology and software according to the article published by opindia.

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There has been some controversy in the US regarding Chinese companies like Alibaba,etc. Pixabay

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement said that the rule change is to “prevent U.S. technologies from enabling malign activities contrary to US national security and foreign policy interests”. He also added that Huawei and its affiliates “have stepped-up efforts to undermine these national security-based restrictions.”

Also Read: 40.7 Million American Workers Seek Unemployment Benefits

“We Could Cut Off The Whole Relationship”, Says Trump on China

US President Donald Trump had earlier said that he had lost all interest in speaking to his chinese counterpart Chinese President Xi Jinping. He also said that US could even cut ties with China following the outbreak of deadly pandemic of the Wuhan Coronavirus.

Donald Trump had said he was very disappointed with China’s failure to contain the disease and that the pandemic had cast a shadow over the US-China trade deal in his conversation with Fox News on Thursday.

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New York Times Devotes Entire Front Page to COVID-19 Victims

The names of 1,000 of the COVID-19 victims were published on the front page of New York Times

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New York Times
The New York Times dedicated its front page to the names of COVID-19 victims. Pixabay

The New York Times has devoted its entire front page to the names of 1,000 of the COVID-19 victims as the US approaches nearly 100,000 virus deaths, the current highest in the world as suggested by COVID-19 Information & Resources.

The Sunday edition’s front page comprises a simple list of names and personal details taken from obituaries around the US, the BBC reported.

The headline is “US deaths near 100,000, an incalculable loss”, with a sub-heading that reads: “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

New York state, the epicentre of the US coronavirus pandemic, has recorded 385,000 confirmed cases, with 23,195 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

New York Times
Newspaper article titled “A New Physics Based on Einstein” published in ”The New York Times” on November 25, 1919. Wikimedia Commons

Also Read: New York State Allows Gatherings of up to 10 People

New York City accounts for 197,000 infections and 16,149 fatalities.

As of Sunday, the US registered the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 1,622,670 and 97,087, respectively. (IANS)

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US White House Releases Report Announcing Onset of Cold War With China

US has formally announced the onset of Cold War with China

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US has officially announced Cold war with China. Wikimedia Commons

By Aarti Tikoo Singh

With its new vision document on China, the US has formally announced the onset of its Cold War with the Asian giant, accusing it of exploiting rule-based world order and re-shaping international system in favour of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideology and interests.

Just short of calling it Cold War, the US in its latest report titled, ‘United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China’, released by the White House, has announced that it is “responding to the CCP’s direct challenge by acknowledginga that the two major powers are in a “strategic competition and protecting” their “interests appropriately”.

Until now, the US policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the report said, was “largely premised on a hope that deepening engagement would spur fundamental economic and political opening” in China and make it a “responsible global stakeholder, with a more open society”.

However, after over 40 years, “it has become evident that this approach underestimated the will of the CCP to constrain the scope of economic and political reform”.

Over the past two decades, reforms have slowed, stalled, or reversed, the report said.

“The PRC’s rapid economic development and increased engagement with the world did not lead to convergence with the citizen-centric, free and open order as the US had hoped. The CCP has chosen instead to exploit the free and open rules- based order and attempt to reshape the international system in its favour.”

Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. “The CCP’s expanding use of economic, political, and military power to compel acquiescence from nation states harms vital American interests and undermines the sovereignty and dignity of countries and individuals around the world.”

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Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. Pixabay

The White House pointed out that Beijing in its neighborhood, engages “in provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities in the Yellow Sea, the East and South China Seas, the Taiwan Strait, and Sino-Indian border areas”.

Just a day ago, US diplomat and acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Alice Wells had called out the CCP regime for ratcheting up tensions with India along its borders. Chinese soldiers in the last few months has engaged in several violent faceoffs with Indian soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh over boundary issues.

Announcing its approach, the US report said that it is “working in concert with mutually aligned partnersa”Southeast Asian nations, Japan, India, Australia, Republic of Korea and Taiwan on their outlook on the free, open and secure Indo-Pacific region”.

Guided by a return to principled realism, the report said thatA given the strategic choices China’s leadership is making, “the United States now acknowledges and accepts the relationship with the PRC as the CCP has always framed it internally: one of great power competition”.

The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model but at the same time said that it won’t make “concessions to the CCP’s narratives of exceptionalism and victimhood” .

The US policies, the report said, are designed to protect its interests and empower its institutions to withstand the CCP’s malign behaviour and collateral damage from the PRC’s internal governance problems.

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The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model. Wikimedia Commons

Accusing the CCP of running propaganda and false narratives, the White House declared that it will continue to challenge Beijing’s attempts at false equivalency between rule-of-law and rule- by-law; counterterrorism and oppression; representative governance and autocracy; and market-based competition and state-directed mercantilism.

The US will not accommodate Beijing’s actions that weaken a free, open, and rules-based international order, the report said, adding that it will continue to refute the CCP’s narrative that the the US is in strategic retreat.

Also Read: Smartly Manage Your Sweet Cravings Amid the Lockdown

Using the Cold War terminology, the White House announced that it will work with its robust network of allies and like- minded partners to resist attacks on shared norms and values, within their own governance institutions, around the world, and in international organizations.

The US government said it does not cater to CCP’s demands to create a proper “atmosphere” or “conditions” for dialogue because it sees no value in engaging with Beijing for symbolism and pageantry.

“We instead demand tangible results and constructive outcomes. We acknowledge and respond in kind to Beijing’s transactional approach with timely incentives and costs, or credible threats thereof. When quiet diplomacy proves futile, the United States will increase public pressure on the PRC government and take action to protect United States interests by leveraging proportional costs when necessary,” the report said. (IANS)