Displaying items by tag: USA
On 5 December Volodymyr Zelensky called off a high-profile video briefing with US lawmakers amid an impasse over future funding for the country. This came after a top Ukrainian official warned they might lose the war against Russia if more US military aid is not approved. Despite a push by the White House, Congress is still not close to a deal on a compromise spending package that would help fund the war effort. Mike Johnson, the Republican Speaker, said, ‘The Administration has failed to substantively address any of my conference's legitimate concerns about the lack of a clear strategy in Ukraine, a path to resolving the conflict, or a plan for adequately ensuring accountability for aid provided by American taxpayers.’ This setback comes as fighting on the frontlines appears to have more or less reached a stalemate. Ukraine's much-anticipated counter-offensive in the south appears to have slowed down, and they are struggling to maintain a foothold they had established on the east bank of the Dnipro river.
The heads of three top US colleges, including Harvard's president Claudine Gay, have testified before the House of Representatives in response to accusations that their institutions were not doing enough to combat antisemitism on campus. Jewish students at these universities had reported facing antisemitic threats and assaults, particularly due to the conflict in Gaza. The college leaders acknowledged the rising tide of antisemitism and Islamophobia on campuses but highlighted the challenge of balancing freedom of speech and protest with protecting students from hate. A recent survey found that nearly 75% of Jewish college students had experienced some form of antisemitism during the school year. Muslim and pro-Palestinian students also faced challenges, with instances of doxxing (public identification of people without their consent) and bias incidents reported. The House committee questioned the colleges' response to these issues.
The USA, Japan, and the European Union have expressed their willingness to collaborate with Madagascar's re-elected president Andry Rajoelina, provided he ensures electoral reforms in the country. The country has a history of election crises; the most notable one, in 2009, ended in a coup that installed Rajoelina as president and led to violence between demonstrators and security forces. He has now been re-elected for a third term, with 59% of the vote, but there were numerous claims of irregularities and vote rigging, and ten of the candidates boycotted the election, leading to a low voter turnout. Rajoelina is being urged to implement electoral reforms that will foster transparency, fairness, and inclusivity in the electoral process - reforms which are crucial for restoring international confidence. Madagascar has one of the highest poverty rates in the world, reaching 75% in 2022. Before the elections, there were fears that social difficulties and the economy, battered by climate change and politics, would get worse if the outcome didn't reflect the will of the people.
On 5 December Joe Biden called Donald Trump an ‘existential threat to the country’s system of government’, in response to Trump’s recent comments claiming it is Biden who is really the ‘destroyer of American democracy’. This exchange reflects how the issue of protecting democracy and Trump's baseless attacks on the 2020 election could be key in the 2024 presidential election. Biden, who looks increasingly likely to be headers for a rematch against Trump, has sought to define the election in terms of protecting not just democracy but personal liberty. He noted that Trump has said he would give presidential pardons to many of the people charged or convicted in connection with the January 2021 attack on the Capitol. He also attacked Trump for appointing three Supreme Court justices who joined an opinion in 2022 that reversed Roe v Wade, the national guarantee for abortion access, and added, ‘He's running again to get rid of the Affordable Care Act’ (popularly known as Obamacare). Later that day, Biden said, ‘We cannot let him win’.
A 15-year-old high school student, Madison Atkinson, saved her 3-year-old cousin, Maxine, by performing CPR after the toddler drowned in a pool during a Thanksgiving family gathering in California. The incident unfolded when Maxine, unnoticed by adults, wandered outside and fell into the pool. Her uncle, Damien, found her floating and pulled her out, attempting the Heimlich manoeuvre. Madison, realising CPR was needed, took charge and successfully revived Maxine. The family was deeply grateful for her life-saving skills, which she had learned in school. This heroic act highlighted the critical importance and effectiveness of CPR, even in the hands of a teenager, in saving lives. Watch the video:
On 15 November, after concluding a four-hour meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Joe Biden expressed optimism about improving US-China relations. Key agreements were reached on reducing fentanyl production and restoring military communication. Biden described the talks as constructive and productive. The primary aim was to stabilise US-China relationships and prevent conflict through open communication, especially in the military domain. Biden emphasised the importance of China's commitment to control precursor chemicals for fentanyl, which has been causing a drug crisis in the US. Agreement on military communication and addressing potential miscalculations was seen as a significant step forward, a need highlighted by incidents like the Chinese ‘spy balloon’ over the USA in January. The talks were part of Biden's effort to make the relationship with China rational and manageable, avoiding conflict. However, he still maintains his opinion of Xi as a dictator.
'Duck Dynasty' star Miss Kay Robertson is overwhelmed with emotion as she discusses the astounding success of 'The Blind’, a Christian feature film that tells the real-life story of her life with husband Phil Robertson. The film has become the most successful in Fathom Events history, earning over $16.8 million. Miss Kay tearfully expresses her joy in sharing the story of God changing her husband's heart. The film delves into the struggles the Robertsons faced before their fame, including Phil's past of addiction and disconnection. It portrays Phil's transformation as he embraces faith, and Kay's journey of forgiveness. Miss Kay shares stories of marriages being mended and individuals turning to Jesus after watching the film. She emphasises the importance of sharing one's truth and believes it can provide hope to others. The success of 'The Blind', which reflects God's transformative power, has led to numerous positive outcomes, including baptisms among recovering addicts. Miss Kay sees God's hand at work through the film, and she encourages fans to trust in God's timing. 'The Blind' was released digitally on 3 November and will be available on DVD/Blu-ray on 14 November, continuing to inspire and touch hearts.
On 7 November, sixteen alleged leaders and associates of the Gambino crime family were arrested in the US and Italy. The charges against them include racketeering, extortion, witness retaliation, conspiracy and fraud. Another suspect is still at large. The US-based suspects were due to appear in court in New York on Wednesday. Prosecutors have outlined a pattern of intimidation and violent assaults intended to embezzle funds and defraud unions and employee benefit plans. The defendants were also charged with threatening witnesses, money laundering and firearms offences. The Gambino family is one of the five prominent New York-area mafia syndicates collectively known as La Cosa Nostra. The defendants face maximum sentences of between twenty and 180 years in prison.
The Democratic Party's strong showing in off-year elections has encouraged Joe Biden and his supporters, although his popularity is low (it is now 39%, the lowest since April). Some segments of the party have lost faith in Biden, frustrated by his Israel stance, the lack of movement on climate change, or high prices. However, encouraging signs included a victory by Democratic incumbent governor Andy Beshear in Kentucky over a well-regarded Republican opponent, the passage in Republican-voting Ohio of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights, and Democratic wins in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. The Ohio result shows abortion rights remain a winning political issue for Democrats after the conservative majority on the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to an abortion, overriding public opinion. Whether victories for Democrats this week are a definitive sign of strength for Biden's re-election is unclear. Biden, who turns 81 this month, currently faces no serious primary challengers and has raised tens of millions of dollars for his re-election campaign. His fundraising has surpassed that of Donald Trump, 77, who backed the losing Kentucky governor candidate.
Florida resident Yamisbel Garcia has shared her remarkable journey from involvement in the occult to finding faith in Christ. Raised in a nominally Catholic home, she ended up in a relationship with a warlock and even unknowingly ‘baptised’ her son in a satanic temple. It wasn't until she moved to Puerto Rico and began working at a Colombian bakery owned by a devout Christian that she encountered Jesus. Concerned for her son's well-being, who was not developing as expected, she turned to prayer. Her son's improvement after consistent prayer amazed her. However, Yamisbel's life took a dark turn as she faced an abusive relationship. Her prayer life weakened, and she contemplated suicide. Desperate for change, she turned to God, ordered a Bible, and began reading it. Her life was transformed, and after moving to Florida, she found a welcoming church and a female pastor who provided the discipleship she needed. God began working not only in her life but also in the lives of those around her, including her children and friends, who were drawn to her faith. Yamisbel's journey exemplifies the transformative power of faith and the hope found in Christ's redemption.