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Pompeo worst secretary of state in history: U.S. media

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been widely denounced by domestic media for his egregious performance in office, most recently on Monday with The Washington Post calling him “the worst secretary of state in history”.

In an op-ed published Monday, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the newspaper Jackson Diehl pointed out that the top diplomat in Washington “has failed to fill dozens of senior positions at the State Department, and hundreds of career diplomats have left or been driven out in political purges.”

Diehl wrote that the State Department’s morale is at a historic, all-time low, citing surveys which showed that people who think senior leaders of the State Department” did not maintain high levels of honesty and integrity” grew by 34 percent between 2016 and 2019.

He noted the reason might be that Pompeo has defied legal mandates from Congress, ordered staffers to carry out errands for himself and his family, and fired the State Department’s inspector general who was investigating Pompeo’s violations, according to the report.

The article said “As secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has presided over the collapse of negotiations with North Korea, the failure of a pressure campaign against Iran and an abortive attempt to oust Venezuela’s authoritarian regime.”

Besides, Diehl also wrote in late March that “Pompeo’s pandemic performance will ensure his place among the worst ever.”

Earlier in May, the New York Times also published an article titled “Mike Pompeo Is the Worst Secretary of State Ever”, saying “he has been the worst secretary of state in American history, without a single diplomatic achievement” and “he was notorious for spending long hours at the White House sucking up to Trump.”

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Africa in the news: Zambia’s debt, Kenya’s parliament and trade, and politics in the Horn of Africa – Brookings Institution

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Zambia asks to defer its debt payments

On Tuesday, September 22, Zambia’s government announced that it was running out of cash to service its debt, and asked holders of its three eurobonds, worth a total of $3 billion, to defer interest payments worth almost $120 million until April. The deferment makes Zambia the first African country to default on its debt since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government placed blame for the default on a combination of declining revenues—partially driven by decreases in the price of copper, a natural resource that makes up 70 percent of Zambia’s export earnings—and increasing unbudgeted costs caused by the pandemic. As a result of the default, Fitch Ratings downgraded Zambia’s credit rating to “C” from “CC.”

Zambia is not the only African country to face COVID-induced difficulties with debt. Twenty-nine African countries have already participated in the G-20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative, enacted in April to allow low-income countries to concentrate their resources on fighting the pandemic. For more on this topic, see “The unfinished agenda of financing Africa’s COVID-19 response.”

Parliamentary and trade updates in Kenya

On Monday, September 21, Kenya’s chief justice David Maraga advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the country’s parliament, stating that parliament had failed to meet a constitutional provision that stipulates that one-third of seats be occupied by women. Currently, women hold 22 percent of seats in the Kenya’s lower house of parliament and 31 percent in the upper house. In a letter to Kenyatta, Maraga wrote that parliament had “blatantly failed, refused, and/or neglected” to implement the gender rule. However, on Thursday, High Court judge Weldon Korir granted temporary orders stopping the move to dissolve parliament, stating that it raised “substantial questions of law” and ordering a hearing on the issue.

Meanwhile, the United States has stipulated that Kenya support Israel’s political and commercial interests as a condition for a U.S.-Kenya bilateral trade deal currently under negotiation. U.S. objectives include for Kenya to commit to “discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel” and for the elimination of politically-motivated nontariff barriers on trade from Israel. Lobby groups in Nairobi, Kenya, including the East African Tax and Governance Network and the East African Trade Network, have argued that the inclusion of a third party in the negotiation agenda could make the agreement risky and undercut Kenya’s reputation.

In Kenya news, the country introduced its first licensed investment fund for citizens living overseas. The fund, managed by the African Diaspora Asset Managers investment firm, is expected to provide a safe and regulated means for Kenyans living overseas to invest in development projects across the country. The Kenyan diaspora sent an estimated $3 billion in remittances to Kenya last year, and remittances in the first half of 2020 exceeded those sent in the first half of 2019 despite volatility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Political updates in Somalia and Ethiopia

On Wednesday, September 23, Somalia’s parliament unanimously confirmed Mohamed Hussein Roble as the country’s new prime minister. Earlier this year, the parliament removed now-former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire from the position in a no-confidence vote, citing his inability to prepare for democratic elections and manage the unstable security situation posed by al-Shabaab militants. Roble, who previously worked at the International Labor Organization, was appointed as Somalia announced its plan for the upcoming elections.

Notably, in recent months, Somalia has been in talks to revise its electoral system, with initial moves to reform the system to one-person, one-vote as opposed to its current clan-based voting system. The proposed reforms for universal suffrage will not be enacted, however, as the authorities confirmed that the upcoming legislative election will see electoral delegates vote in the members of parliament, who will then elect the president in early 2021, a format similar to that of elections in recent years. Importantly, the upcoming elections will include double the number of delegates of previous ones. Meanwhile, attacks by al-Shabaab (and responding U.S.-led airstrikes) continue, which experts predict will only increase as the election moves closer as al-Shabaab seeks to exploit the fragility of governance institutions and thwart the election.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia continues to face domestic unrest. Spurred by the death of pop star and activist Hachalu Hundessa of the Oromo ethnic group earlier this summer, internet shutdowns, protests, and reactive violence have continued in recent months, leading to the deaths of hundreds. Already, about 2,000 people have been charged in the related violence, including prominent opposition figure Jawar Mohammed, who was charged with terrorism-related offenses, telecom fraud, and other crimes relating to the violence that erupted in July.

In Ethiopian economic news, in an effort to block illegal trade, illicit financial flows, and cash hoarding, the government announced a new set of bank notes earlier this month. Importantly, Ethiopians must replace their old notes in just three months. According to Quartz Africa, local banks have been calling for such a move in recent years, as over 113 billion Ethiopian birr circulates outside of the formal banking system, which creates liquidity problems for the banks.

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Amy Coney Barrett’s expected nomination to Supreme Court is a perfect reflection of the divisions in U.S. politics – The Globe and Mail

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This image provided by Rachel Malehorn shows Judge Amy Coney Barrett in Milwaukee, on Aug. 24, 2018. (Rachel Malehorn, rachelmalehorn.smugmug.com, via AP)

The Canadian Press

Now, the 2020 effort to fill the Supreme Court seat once held by a jurist famed for her love of the opera takes on the air if not the arias of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1867 Don Carlo: a mix of death and politics.

Already, Washington is braced for dramatics worthy of La Scala, created by a set of unlikely stage circumstances worthy of the most imaginative librettos.

A year ago, nobody expected the leitmotif of this U.S. election year to be a once-obscure respiratory ailment with the ungainly name COVID-19. Seven months ago, few expected former vice-president Joe Biden, three-quarters of a century old and looking every year of it, to be the designated saviour of the Democrats in the Donald Trump era.

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And only a week ago, nobody expected the election to turn on the destiny of Amy Coney Barrett.

Amy Coney Barrett? An Indiana jurist known to few Americans outside conservative legal circles until late last week, Justice Barrett, 48, was expected to be nominated Saturday by Mr. Trump to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death just more than a week ago of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And if the scales of justice require an elegant balance, then Mr. Trump’s selection fits comfortably opposite Justice Ginsburg on the weighing pan of U.S. jurisprudence.

Though both are women, Justice Barrett – like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Ginsburg’s opera companion, and the conservative jurist for whom Justice Barrett clerked – is a judicial originalist, the opposite of Justice Ginsburg’s profile as a judicial activist.

Justice Barrett was educated at tiny Rhodes College and the University of Notre Dame, and is a product of Memphis and the Midwest. Justice Ginsburg was educated at Cornell, Harvard and Columbia, the product of the Ivy League and the Eastern establishment. Justice Barrett has qualms about what she derided in a Notre Dame speech as abortion-on-demand and has an expansive view of the Second Amendment that is the basis of widespread gun ownership. Justice Ginsburg was a fervent supporter of abortion rights and didn’t believe the Second Amendment should be interpreted to permit widespread ownership of guns.

It is those differences – the positioning of Justice Barrett on the opposite side of virtually all the vital judicial issues of 21st-century America – that makes her “the nominee that social conservatives have been waiting and fighting for,” as John Yoo, deputy assistant attorney-general in the George W. Bush administration and law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, put it.

And that is what so energizes conservatives in the United States and so horrifies liberals.

It is, moreover, those differences that add definition, passion and perhaps direction to an election that, like virtually no other in U.S. history, could turn on the future of the Supreme Court.

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Already, Mr. Biden has tied the Supreme Court confirmation battle to the survival in the high court of the Obamacare health-insurance law, emphasizing the urgency that the issue possesses in the time of the coronavirus. And already, both sides in the abortion battle are stoking passions among their adherents, declaring that abortion rights, established in 1973, now could be in the balance.

To be sure, throughout the past 90 years, the composition of the Supreme Court has been an important issue: in the New Deal years, when the high court ruled on the Great Depression remedies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; in the Dwight Eisenhower years, when the first important racial-integration rulings were handed down; in the Richard Nixon years, when abortion was legalized and the President’s prerogatives were curtailed.

Polls show Mr. Biden holding as much as a 17-point advantage over the President among women, raising the prospect of a record gender gap. Choosing a jurist such as Thomas Hardiman – a moderate that Mr. Trump has considered in the past and whose ideological profile would be less onerous to conservative Democrats in the Senate – would only make it more difficult for Mr. Trump to narrow that gap.

If the very prospect of replacing Justice Ginsburg is a flashpoint in U.S. politics, the selection of Justice Barrett is a lightning strike – a perfect reflection of the divisions in U.S. politics today and of the tensions that define the struggle for the White House. In every way that this nomination mobilizes Democrats infuriated at the President’s selection and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s determination to hold a confirmation vote for Justice Barrett, it also galvanizes conservatives.

She is, in the characterization of conservative Hoover Institution scholar Peter Robinson, “committed to the originalist interpretation of the Constitution, with an extensive and brilliant written record, the correct gender, and has demonstrated the character, resolve and sheer cussed stubbornness to withstand the calumnies of the confirmation hearings.”

Justice Barrett also “helps Trump in the culture wars, especially on behalf of white Christians, and she’s based in the Midwest, where he needs to do well,” said Daniel Urman, a constitutional scholar at Boston’s Northeastern University. Indeed, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California helped ignite sympathy for Justice Barrett and for devout Catholics when she told Justice Barrett during her 2017 nomination hearings for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that “the dogma lives loudly within you.”

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Ms. Feinstein concluded that “dogma lives loudly” phrase with the words “and that’s a concern.” But that phrase – swiftly seized upon by Catholic and conservative groups, appearing on T-shirts and coffee mugs – is an enormous advantage on the American right.

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McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics and Economics announced at Mount Allison University – SaltWire Network

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SACKVILLE, NB — Mount Allison University’s philosophy, politics, and economics programs have received a significant boost from one of New Brunswick’s most accomplished political and business leaders.

Former premier Frank McKenna and the university jointly announced the establishment of the Frank McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics on Friday. It is expected to be officially launched in 2021.

“The world we live in today needs collaborative solutions. Our society needs more world-class ‘generalists,’ people who have some background in economics, a philosophical base, and an understanding of politics at large,” McKenna said in announcing a $1 million leadership gift in support of the initiative. “This program brings all of that together, along with exceptional teaching and experiential learning opportunities for students. My family and I are delighted to support this new initiative at Mount Allison University and look forward to seeing the paths students from the school will lead.”

To date, $5 million has been raised to support the Mount Allison school concept from a number of donors across Canada including McKenna and his family, which is inspiring others to give.

University president and vice-chancellor Jean-Paul Boudreau said the announcement represents a tremendous opportunity for Mount Allison students.

“The McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Mount Allison represents a fantastic opportunity to help lift our students from the launchpad of New Brunswick onto the global stage, offering an exceptional academic experience partnered with experiential and work-integrated learning opportunities in these key fields,” Boudreau said. “

The Frank McKenna School of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Mount Allison will advance the university’s capacity for new scholarly activity and supports for students in the program.

Honouring one of New Brunswick’s most accomplished individuals, Boudreau said the investment will enable new international and work-integrated learning opportunities and global internships for philosophy, politics, and economics students.

The gift will also fund the new McKenna Scholars program, providing scholarships and bursaries for students throughout their degree.

McKenna is currently the deputy chair, wholesale, TD Bank Group. He is a former Canadian ambassador to the United States and a former premier of New Brunswick — a position he held for 10 years.

Under his leadership, he brought thousands of jobs to the province and nurtured the growth of business and industry, universities and youth.

He is also a Mount Allison honorary degree recipient. McKenna double-majored in politics and economics in his undergraduate degree and also completed courses in philosophy.
The philosophy, politics and economics program was established at Mount Allison in 2013 and is the only PPE program in Canada east of Ontario, and only one of three in Canada.

It offers students the opportunity of a multidisciplinary immersion in these three academic areas, helping to prepare them for myriad of career paths. Courses in the PPE program are drawn from established courses in all three disciplines, with special topics courses offered in upper years.

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