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Advance Of Summit, NATO Pacify Trump

NATO also plans to consider a Franco-German proposal

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Flags of NATO member countries
Flags of NATO member countries are seen at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. VOA

As Britain prepares for the NATO leaders’ meeting outside London December 3-4, the alliance said Thursday it had agreed to redistribute costs and cut the U.S. contribution to its central budget.

NATO’s central budget is relatively small at around $2.5 billion a year, mostly covering headquarters operations and staff, and different than its defense budget. U.S. President Donald Trump often complains of inequitable burden-sharing, with only nine of the 29 member countries meeting the 2%  of gross domestic product target for the alliance’s defense spending.

Regarding the central budget, “The U.S. will pay less, Germany will pay more, so now the U.S. and Germany will pay the same,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Paris Thursday.

The United States currently pays about 22% of NATO’s central budget. Beginning 2021, both U.S. and Germany will contribute about 16%.

NATO also plans to consider a Franco-German proposal to create a working group of “respected figures” to discuss reform in the alliance and address concerns about its future.

The announcement to reduce the American contribution is seen as a move to placate Trump, who has considered withdrawing from the alliance but has since taken credit for its promised reforms.

“In 2016, only four allies spent 2%  of GDP on defense,” a senior administration official told reporters Friday, adding that there are now nine countries, including the U.S.,  meeting the 2% target, with 18 expected to do so by 2024.

“This is tremendous progress, and I think it is due to the president’s diplomatic work,” he said.

 U.S. forces from Syria, a move Trump made without consulting NATO
A convoy of U.S. vehicle is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq. VOA

Internal strife

Leaders of the 29 member states will attempt a show of unity during the summit but the alliance is facing questioning about its relevance and unity, particularly after the October withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, a move Trump made without consulting NATO.

“It’s exactly in the wake of that decision that you had [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron say what he said about the alliance being ‘brain-dead’ and referencing the lack of American leadership in the sense of leading in a community and not just going out on your own,” said Gary Schmitt, a NATO analyst with the American Enterprise Institute.

U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Syria prompted Turkey to launch an offensive against Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The move spurred Macron to vent his frustration over what French diplomats say is NATO’s lack of coordination at a political level, and triggered fear among allies that the assault will undermine the battle against Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, a simmering war between Russia and Ukraine has become the backdrop of Trump’s impeachment, with the American president allegedly having withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate running against Trump. Kyiv needs the aid to counter Moscow’s aggression.

The two conflicts in Europe’s eastern and southern flank further complicate Washington’s already-strained relations with other NATO members. Meanwhile, despite American efforts to reassure European leaders of Washington’s continuing commitment, anxiety about U.S. neglect of NATO under Trump persists, said Hans Kundnani, Senior Research Fellow in the Europe Program at Chatham House.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, welcomes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, left, welcomes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine. VOA

Kundnani noted a series of American officials who have come to reassure Europeans not to take Trump’s tweets too seriously and focus on what is happening on the ground, particularly the military reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank. Still, Kundnani said that in the last year Europeans have started to realize it’s “not really good enough” and they’re now facing the “reality of the of the crisis in NATO.”

“Some of them are hoping that Trump will be out of office in in a year’s time but the real fear is that Trump wins a second term,” said Kundnani, adding that some Europeans are hoping that “U.S. gradual withdrawal from Europe” might “snap back to the status quo ante if Trump is not re-elected.”

Diverging European responses

“The upcoming celebration of NATO’s 70th anniversary will be marked by important divisions within the alliance — not just across the Atlantic, but also within Europe,” said Karen Donfried, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

In Paris, the view is “strategic autonomy,” said Donfried, with many in France concluding that Washington’s security guarantee can no longer be relied on. Warsaw is promoting “strategic embrace”  developing close bilateral relationship with Trump to guarantee its own security, while Berlin is advocating “strategic patience.”

Germany in the middle is a little bit divided between the “Atlanticists” and the “post-Atlanticists,”   Kundani said, adding that “Europeans are very much arguing” about these approaches.

Donfried said that against this backdrop, NATO allies are approaching the London summit with a sense of foreboding, knowing that they carry the responsibility to articulate alliance’s common purpose and ongoing relevance.

“If they don’t, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will be raising a glass in Moscow to the fraught state of the alliance at 70,” she said.

Another summit goal for most European leaders, is to simply avoid a Trump flare-up, like those that have happened in past meetings.

NATO meetings
President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly, New York. VOA

Many have discovered this can be achieved through flattery. “They can talk about all the things that they’ve done and very smartly suggest that President Trump has generated the kind of pressure to make those things happen,” Schmitt said.

“They can actually praise President Trump, even though this is very hard for them to do because of the personality clashes.”

Many will be watching Trump’s encounters with Macron, including their bilateral meeting, as well as with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson has pleaded for Trump to stay out of the upcoming British election during his London trip.

The senior administration official said that Trump is “aware of this” and “absolutely cognizant of not wading into other countries’ elections.”

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Other potential clashes are simmering too. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Emmanuel Macron’s NATO “brain-death” warning reflects a “sick and shallow” understanding, telling the French president “you should check whether you are brain dead.”

The French foreign ministry has summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Paris to protest the statement. (VOA)

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Why Violence In USA – No Basic Flaw

Any incident in the USA whether big or small gets worldwide publicity almost instantaneously, just like the current George Floyd issue

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The USA
Even after President Trump condemned the George Floyd incident, USA continues to burn. Pixabay

BY N.S.Venkataraman

Any incident in USA , particularly adverse incident, whether big or small, gets world wide publicity almost instantaneously. This is mainly due to the fact that USA is recognized as a rich country with super power status and known for significant advancement in variety of fields. Such news is followed by debates and discussions in the world media, with some pledged critics stating with glee that such adverse incidents clearly show that USA is a troubled society. Is that really so ?

Why shoot out incidents ?

In the recent years, many shoot outs have taken place in USA in universities, malls and other public places, when number of innocent lives have been lost. Shoot outs have been carried out by individuals for one reason or other and even due to psychic problems of individuals . These individuals hail from all background including young and old persons, white or black persons and there is no uniformity in the background, that point to any particular cause or reason. The detailed investigation that follow such shoot outs do not seem to explain the reasons adequately well with clarity .

It is generally said that the liberal gun policy and the prevailing gun culture in USA is the primary reason for such shoot outs and violence. Most of the Americans possess guns and rarely anyone amongst them indulge in such practices. If the violent prone person would not have a gun, he can use a knife or any other weapon. Are the causes for the violence as simple as gun culture ?

No evidence of widespread black-white conflict :

Now, the case of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed his knee into his neck has caused widespread anger across the country. Obviously, the white police officer is a cruel person and should be punished severely. Even while President Trump has condemned the incident, protestors burned businesses in Minneapollis. They smashed police cars and windows in Atlanta, broke into police headquarters in Portland and chanted curses at Donald Trump outside the White House.

Protest USA
This sad incident should not be misinterpreted as result of conflict of interest between the white and black citizens in USA. Pixabay

This sad incident should not be misinterpreted as result of conflict of interest between the white and black citizens in USA. While some protestors turned violent, there have been number of other protestors who conducted themselves peacefully and with dignity , holding placards and demanding justice for George Floyd. Of these protestors, many of them are white , brown or black Americans. Certainly, there is no racial conflict issue involved in the George Floyd murder but only the stupidity of a violent prone police officer was seen.

Is media playing responsible role?

While the sad incident happened, the media in USA played what seem to be a negative role by prominently showing the photograph of the crying George Floyd being attacked by the white police officer, which has whipped up passion and disgust all over USA causing widespread unrest. It is not the case that media should remain silent without revealing such bad news but the case is that media should be aware of the consequence of highlighting such negative photographs that could lead to greater violence and unrest. In USA, media claims that it has the liberty and right to show , speak or criticise any event as per the prejudices and priorities of the editors and journalists.

Can one say that the freedom of media is being abused and freedom without responsibility can only lead to violence, just as the George Floyd incident show. Many seem to think that the media sensationalise such violence issue, without counselling peace and harmony and discuss the causes in dispassionate and constructive manner. Such positive approach of media could have prevented the violence that followed George Floyd murder.

A tolerant country :

George Floyd incident has created an impression all over the world that USA is a country under the boil. This certainly is not so. There are many civilized and sane voices in USA who rarely get adequate coverage in the media and their civilized thoughts are not adequately publicized for the benefit of the country.

Today, one cannot but deny the fact that U S A is the most tolerant country in the world. People from countries with various background seek migration to USA and think that they would be privileged to get US citizenship. This is mainly due to their confidence that they would get fair deal in USA and the law would protect t their interests.

The USA
Any attempt to describe USA as a country under boil after the George Floyd issue is a mischievous and motivated attempt to discredit USA. Pixabay

Today, USA is essentially described as a migrant country with people visiting USA as students , job seekers or immigrants and most of them seeking to stay in USA life long by getting citizenship. Any attempt to describe USA as a country under boil after the George Floyd issue is a mischievous and motivated attempt to discredit USA. This is very unfair.

Violence everywhere in the world :

Animals try to over power other creatures for self protection and for their feed. Therefore, violence is an essential part of animal’s life. In the case of human beings ( who are supposed to have sixth sense, which animals do not have) ,violence and anger seem to be there in the mindset , which are revealed due to reasons such as prejudices , hatred etc. This is a common trend all over the world including USA. It calls for enormous efforts amongst individuals living anywhere in the world to silence the feelings of anger and violence in the mindset and this is what religions are supposed to aid individuals in achieving such state of mind.

Also Read: What Will Be The Future of Malls and Film Theatres In Post-Pandemic World

Like any other country, in USA too, it requires leaders and scholars advocating peace and harmony as way of life and they should get prominent place to mould the society. It is the duty of the media to identify persons of such ethical and moral stature and publicise their thoughts and preachings for overall betterment of the society. The recent violence in USA due to the death of George Floyd do not indicate any basic flaw in the American society.

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Canada Faces Sharpest Downturn in GDP Since 2009

Canadian economy sees worst quarterly performance since 2009

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flag-canada 2009
Canada witnesses worst quarterly performance since 2009 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Pixabay

Canada’s national statistical agency said that the country’s economy saw the worst quarterly performance since 2009 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statistics Canada said on Friday that it came as the GDP suffered a big drop in March as restrictions against the spread of COVID-19 began rolling out during the month, reports Xinhua news agency.

The downturn in GDP, the sharpest since the first quarter of 2009, reflects measures rolled out in March to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, such as closures of school and non-essential businesses, border shutdowns and travel restrictions, as well as events earlier in the quarter, mainly the Ontario teachers’ strike and rail blockades in February.

The country’s GDP fell 7.2 per cent in March from February, the most severe month-on-month fall, while annualized growth for the first quarter decreased by 8.2 per cent, the largest since the depths of the Great Recession.

financial 2009
The country’s GDP fell 7.2 per cent in March from February, the most severe month-on-month fall. Pixabay

Household spending was reduced by 2.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the steepest quarterly drop ever recorded.

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Spending reductions were influenced by substantial job losses, income uncertainty and limited opportunities to spend because of the mandatory closure of non-essential retail stores, restaurants and services, and restrictions on travel and tourism activities.

Real GDP plummeted by a record 11 per cent in April from March as most sections of the economy were shut down to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

The March and April falls are likely to be the largest consecutive monthly declines on record, said the country’s statistics agency. (IANS)

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“Unfair Practices Smack The Elections For Herricks Board of Education”, Claims Candidate Bhajan Ratra

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the elections will now be conducted exclusively by absentee ballot via US Mail

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Herricks
The Year 2020-21 School Budget Vote and its Board of Education Election is to be conducted on Tuesday, June 9th. Herricks.org

By Kashish Rai

The Herricks Board of Education is accredited by the New York State Board of Regents and the Middle School Association.

The Year 2020-21 School Budget Vote and its Board of Education Election is to be conducted on Tuesday, June 9th. Two seats in the board are being challenged. Henry R. Zanetti and James Gounaris are running for re-elections against challengers Bhajan S. Ratra and Tarantej S. Arora.

Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the vote was postponed from its original date scheduled in May and it will now be conducted exclusively by absentee ballot via US Mail.

Challenger Bhajan S. Ratra is an adjunct professor of Mathematics at Baruch College and SUNY Farmingdale. He is a panel member on the content advisory and bias review committees of New York State Teaching Certification Examination and has served in the past on the standards setting committee for the NYS Regents exams. He claims that unfair practices and inappropriate approach is smacking the election for the board.

The preceding position holders- Zanetti and James Gounaris have violated the code of conduct by doing undesirable posts through social media.

In the below given screenshot it can be observed that they are instigating the audience to vote for them by posting a picture of the ballot having their names marked. They can also be seen getting criticized by a user questioning the “appropriateness” of the post.

Post
Screenshot of the facebook post by Gounaris tagging Henry Zanetti.

According to the rules, it is illegal to take selfies/ post the picture of the ballot during the time of election in New York. Zanetti and James were seen violating the rules, thus, Ratra claims that their candidature should be disqualified.

In the above added screenshot, it can also be seen that the incumbents have pointed out “yes” To the budget vote. This can be considered as an act of misleading the public regardless of prior audits. According to the rules, an incumbent can not urge the public to vote “yes”. This raises some very serious questions- Does the incumbent(s) has/have their personal interest in voting “Yes”?

Screenshot
Screenshot of the discussion by the audience in comments on the Facebook post by Gounaris.

Mr. Ratra states that the reason for him contesting the election is because of his will to serve his community being an educator. As a member of the board of education he wants to use his experience to influence the decisions taken by the board that will help to move the Herricks School district from good to great. Bhajan aims to establish a transparent approach between students, families, Teachers and board members.

Bhajan Ratra
Challenger Bhajan S. Ratra is an adjunct professor of Mathematics at Baruch College and SUNY Farmingdale. He is a panel member on the content advisory and bias review committees of New York State Teaching Certification Examination and has served in the past on the standards setting committee for the NYS Regents exams.

There were many issues emerging earlier in the board, among them which was an inordinate approach with the board’s budget. The NY State Auditors concluded that The Herricks school district consistently overspent its budget for custodians’ overtime pay — thousands of dollars in expenditures that in many cases may not have been necessary. Bhajan aims to focus on solving these very core issues, he says that he aims to take a stand but every time he tries, his voice gets dominated.

Headline
This picture represents the headline of the news story published on newsday.com which highlights the plight of mismanagement in budget of the Herricks Board.

Despite these frustrations and pressures, Bhajan has refused to give up because his only aim is to establish a clean and fair approach. In his concludary words Bhajan told NewsGram- “It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, my only aim is to serve my community in any possible way, these frustrations and pressures doesn’t affect me as I continue to take stand for my role and responsibility as someone who wants to contribute to the society”.

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Now, it is to be think upon~ what best possible action would be taken as far as the code of conduct and the rules are concerned with due respect to the elections. Here position doesn’t matter, what matters is ethics and the truth.