Sri Lanka wants people to grow food at home as shortage looms

People stand in line to buy domestic gas tanks near a distributor, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, June 1, 2022. (Reuters)
People stand in line to buy domestic gas tanks near a distributor, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, June 1, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 June 2022

Sri Lanka wants people to grow food at home as shortage looms

Sri Lanka wants people to grow food at home as shortage looms
  • Government looking for ways to boost local production as food crisis possible by August
  • Sri Lanka has so far sought help from India to import over 30,000 metric tons of rice

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s agriculture minister called on citizens on Friday to start growing food in their home gardens to help avert looming shortages, as the country’s debt crisis continues to worsen.

The island nation of 22 million people, which defaulted on international debts of more than $50 billion last month, has been facing a severe shortfall in imports of essential goods, which is also pushing inflation to new record highs. 

While the Colombo Consumer Price Index rose to nearly 40 percent year-on-year in May, up from almost 30 percent in April, food inflation surged to 57.4 percent, up from 46.6 percent, leaving many in Sri Lanka already unable to afford three meals a day. 

Officials have been looking for ways to boost domestic production since Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned of a food crisis by August.

“We are urging the people to grow their food at home: crops and cereals such as green gram; all types of yams, potatoes, cassava and sweet potatoes; cowpeas; condiments such as chilies, cardamom and curry leaves, and fruits,” Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told Arab News.

He said that if there is an emergency, the government will get food “from any part of the world,” and has so far sought help from India, with which Sri Lanka has a credit line facility, to import over 30,000 metric tons of rice — the country’s staple.

Local rice production has dropped in Sri Lanka, after last year’s decision by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilizer. Although the ban has been lifted, the country has been unable to secure fertilizer imports for the cultivation season.

“We have again reverted to carbonic fertilizer for cultivation, which will take some time to bring back the situation to normalcy,” Amaraweera said.

But urban gardening may not contribute much to surviving this period, according to Prof. Palitha Weerakkody from the Department of Crop Science of the University of Peradeniya.

“This is ideal for rural and semi-urban areas,” he told Arab News, adding that even there, constraints would be significant due to a lack of manpower, as Sri Lankan families are no longer big like they used to be in the past.

“With small families of three to four people, this type of cultivation has its own limitations,” Weerakkody said. “And they can’t grow paddy in home gardens.”

Hunger is looming as Sri Lanka is struggling with its worst economic crisis in memory and is now sliding from an upper-middle-income economy to one seeking international donations and emergency loans.

Sri Lanka needs at least $3 billion in emergency funds this year and its leaders have been trying to negotiate a deal with the International Monetary Fund.

In May, the IMF began technical discussions with Sri Lankan authorities, and a new round of talks is expected this month.


US Supreme Court lets Biden end Trump-era immigration rule

US Supreme Court lets Biden end Trump-era immigration rule
Updated 26 sec ago

US Supreme Court lets Biden end Trump-era immigration rule

US Supreme Court lets Biden end Trump-era immigration rule
  • Biden has been trying to wind down the policy as part of what he claims is a more humane take on immigration

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Thursday gave President Joe Biden’s administration the green light to end the so-called Remain in Mexico policy instituted by Donald Trump as part of his hard-line approach to immigration.
Under the policy, some non-Mexicans who entered the United States illegally across the southern border were sent back to Mexico to wait while their immigration cases played out in court, rather than being detained or provisionally released.
Since the beginning of his term, Biden has been trying to wind down the policy as part of what he claims is a more humane take on immigration.
Advocates for migrants said the policy exposed asylum-seekers to dangerous conditions in Mexico as overwhelmed US courts slowly work through a backlog of cases.
Thursday’s ruling in favor of the Biden administration was split 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining fellow conservative Brett Kavanaugh and the court’s three liberal justices in the majority.
Roberts, who authored the majority opinion, argued that federal immigration law allows the executive branch to return asylum seekers to Mexico, but does not force it to do so.
“Congress conferred contiguous-territory return authority in expressly discretionary terms,” the opinion states.
Biden’s attempt to terminate the policy, instituted by Trump in 2019, was challenged by a group of Republican-governed states led by Texas.
These states argued that his move violated US immigration law by forcing authorities to release migrants they had detained onto US territory. They also said that Biden officials had not followed proper administrative procedure.
A lower court in August 2021 ruled against the Biden administration and the case eventually ended up before the nation’s highest court.
At first, the Supreme Court simply refused to freeze the lower court ruling, forcing the administration to restart the policy, formally called Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), while it pressed ahead with its appeal.
From the start of the policy in January 2019 until its suspension under Biden, nearly 70,000 people were sent back to Mexico, according to the American Immigration Council.
During Biden’s tenure as president, more than 200,000 people attempting to enter the country illegally have been interdicted at the border each month and sent back, under MPP or a separate Covid-related policy blocking people at the border.
Illegal border crossings are often dangerous, both for the physical conditions in the region and mistreatment by human traffickers. This week 53 people died after being packed inside a tractor-trailer truck without air conditioning that was later abandoned in San Antonio, Texas.
The American Civil Liberties Union praised the court’s ruling on Thursday.
“The Supreme Court was right to reject the spurious argument that this cruel policy is statutorily required,” said Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.
In the Mexican town of Ciudad Juarez, which is just across the border from Texas, asylum seekers who had been returned from the United States as part of the Remain in Mexico policy cheered Thursday’s decision.
Nicaraguan Pedro Antonio Rizo, 41, who was staying at a local migrant shelter said the ruling gave him hope for his future and added that only extraordinary circumstances would force one to abandon his home and flee.
“One does not leave one’s house because one wants to leave,” he told AFP.


China not giving material support for Russia’s war in Ukraine — US Commerce Department

China not giving material support for Russia’s war in Ukraine — US Commerce Department
Updated 25 min 17 sec ago

China not giving material support for Russia’s war in Ukraine — US Commerce Department

China not giving material support for Russia’s war in Ukraine — US Commerce Department
  • While saying it has not provided military assistance to Russia, China vowed to take “necessary measures” to protect the rights of its companies

WASHINGTON: The United States has not seen China evade sanctions or provide military equipment to Russia, a senior US official said on Thursday, adding that enforcement measures taken earlier in the week targeted certain Chinese companies, not the government.
The Commerce Department added five companies in China to a trade blacklist on Tuesday for allegedly supporting Russia’s military and defense industrial base as Moscow carries out its war in Ukraine.
US officials have warned of consequences, including sanctions, should China offer material support for Russia’s war effort, but have consistently said they have yet to detect overt Chinese military and economic backing of Moscow.
“China is not providing material support. This is normal course-of-business enforcement action against entities that have been backfilling for Russia,” a senior Biden administration official told Reuters, referring to the Commerce blacklist.
“We have not seen the PRC (People’s Republic of China) engage in systematic evasion or provide military equipment to Russia,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The United States has set out with allies to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special operation,” by sanctioning a raft of Russian companies and oligarchs and adding others to a trade blacklist.
China has refused to condemn Russia’s actions and has criticized the sweeping Western sanctions on Moscow. Beijing also says that it has not provided military assistance to Russia or Ukraine, but that it would take “necessary measures” to protect the rights of its companies.
The Commerce Department action means US suppliers need a license before they can ship items to listed companies. But the department also targeted dozens of other entities, including some in allied countries, such as the United Kingdom and Lithuania. 

 

 


Russian missile strike kills 10 in Odesa, says Ukrainian official

Russian missile strike kills 10 in Odesa, says Ukrainian official
Updated 28 min 56 sec ago

Russian missile strike kills 10 in Odesa, says Ukrainian official

Russian missile strike kills 10 in Odesa, says Ukrainian official
  • Another missile hit a resort facility, wounding several people, says spokesman for the Odesa regional administration

A Russian missile struck a nine-story apartment building in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa early on Friday, killing at least 10 people, a local official said.
“The number of dead as a result of a strike on a multi-story apartment building has now risen to 10,” Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odesa regional administration said on his Telegram channel.
Bratchuk also told Ukrainian state television that seven people have been wounded, including three children.
A rescue operation was under way, he said, as some people remained buried under the rubble after a section of the building collapsed.
Another missile hit a resort facility, Bratchuk said, wounding several people.
Earlier reports said six people had died in the night-time incident, including three children. Reuters could not independently confirm details of the incident.


New Zealand designates 2 US far-right groups as terrorist organizations

New Zealand designates 2 US far-right groups as terrorist organizations
Updated 01 July 2022

New Zealand designates 2 US far-right groups as terrorist organizations

New Zealand designates 2 US far-right groups as terrorist organizations
  • The Proud Boys were last year named a terrorist group in Canada, while The Base has previously been declared a terrorist group in Britain, Canada and Australia

WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s government has declared that American far-right groups the Proud Boys and The Base are terrorist organizations.
The two groups join 18 others including the Daesh group that have been given an official terrorist designation, making it illegal in New Zealand to fund, recruit or participate in the groups, and obligating authorities to take action against them.
The US groups are not known to be active in New Zealand, although the South Pacific nation has become more attuned to threats from the far right after a white supremacist shot and killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two Christchurch mosques in 2019.
The New Zealand massacre inspired other white supremacists around the world, including a white gunman who killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May.
In the US, the State Department only lists foreign groups as terrorist entities. But the Proud Boys were last year named a terrorist group in Canada, while The Base has previously been declared a terrorist group in Britain, Canada and Australia.
In a 29-page explanation of the Proud Boys designation published Thursday, New Zealand authorities said the group’s involvement in the violent attack on the US Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021 amounted to an act of terrorism.

Proud Boys gather in front of the Oregon state capitol on Jan. 8, 2022 during a protest in support of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. (Getty Images via AFP)

The statement said that while several militia groups were involved, it was the Proud Boys who incited crowds, coordinated attacks on law enforcement officers and led other rioters to where they could break into the building.
The statement said there are unlinked but ideologically affiliated chapters of the Proud Boys operating in Canada and Australia.
New Zealand authorities argued that before the Capitol attack, the Proud Boys had a history of using street rallies and social media to intimidate opponents and recruit young men through demonstrations of violence. It said the group had put up various smoke screens to hide its extremism.
Earlier this month, the former leader of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, and four others linked to the group were charged in the US with seditious conspiracy for what federal prosecutors say was a coordinated attack on the Capitol.
The indictment alleges that the Proud Boys conspired to forcibly oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power. The five are scheduled to stand trial in August in Washington, D.C.’s federal court.
Asked by media Thursday in New Zealand if the Proud Boys weren’t better known for protest actions rather than extreme violence, New Zealand Police Minister Chris Hipkins said: “Well, violent protests attempting to overthrow the government, clearly there is evidence of that.”
In making its case against The Base, New Zealand authorities said a key goal of the group was to “train a cadre of extremists capable of accelerationist violence.”
The statement said founder Rinaldo Nazzaro “has repetitively counselled members online about violence, the acquisition of weapons, and actions to accelerate the collapse of the US government and survive the consequent period of chaos and violence.”


US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy
Updated 30 June 2022

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy
  • Supreme Court overturns decision requiring Biden to restart Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy after the Republican-led states sued to maintain the program

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Thursday gave a major boost to President Joe Biden’s drive to end a hard-line immigration policy begun under his predecessor Donald Trump that forced tens of thousands of migrants to stay in Mexico to await US hearings on their asylum claims.
The justices, in a 5-4 ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, overturned a lower court’s decision requiring Biden to restart Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy after the Republican-led states of Texas and Missouri sued to maintain the program.
The ruling bolsters Biden as he pursues what he calls a more “humane” approach at the southern border even as Republicans blame him for what they portray as an immigration crisis.
The justices concluded that the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals erred in finding that federal immigration law required sending migrants back to Mexico so long as there was not enough space to detain them in the United States.
“The problem is that the statute does not say anything like that,” Roberts wrote, adding that the 5th Circuit’s decision also mistakenly imposed a “significant burden” upon the US government’s ability to conduct diplomatic relations with Mexico.
Trump’s administration adopted the policy, formally called the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” in 2018 in response to an increase in migration along the US-Mexican border, changing longstanding US practice. It prevented certain non-Mexican migrants, including asylum seekers fearing persecution in their home countries, from being released into the United States to await immigration proceedings, instead returning them to Mexico.
Biden’s fellow Democrats and immigration advocates have criticized Trump’s policy, saying migrants stuck in Mexican border cities have faced kidnappings and other hazards.
Roberts was joined by fellow conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the three liberal justices in the ruling. In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito — joined by fellow conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — said Congress never meant for the government to release immigrants and simply hope they “will show up for the hearing.”
The ruling also faulted the 5th Circuit for voiding the administration’s June 2021 decision to end Trump’s program. The 5th Circuit found that Biden’s administration had failed to properly explain its rescinding of Trump’s policy in violation of federal administrative law. But the Supreme Court found that the June 2021 decision was superseded by a new, more detailed one issued by the administration four months later.
Biden suspended the “remain in Mexico” policy in January 2021 shortly after taking office and acted to rescind it five months later. Roughly 68,000 people fell under the policy from the time it took effect in 2019 until Biden suspended it.
At issue in the case was the meaning of a provision of a 1996 US immigration law that stated that US officials “may return” certain immigrants to Mexican territory pending immigration proceedings. Texas and Missouri have said this provision must be used because the United States lacks detention space for migrants. Biden’s administration said the provision was clearly discretionary.
For migrants not posing a security risk, immigration law separately allows their release into the United States for humanitarian reasons or “significant public benefit” pending a hearing, a practice officials have followed for decades.
Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, said that every president since the late 1990s has allowed immigrants into the United States to await their proceedings.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, criticized the ruling, saying it “will only embolden the Biden administration’s open border policies.”
Immigrant rights groups called the ruling a victory.
“The US for generations has been a refuge for those fleeing danger and persecution,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, urging Biden’s administration to “move swiftly to permanently end every facet of the human rights disaster that is ‘remain in Mexico.’“
The number of migrants caught crossing the US-Mexico border has reached record highs recently. Republicans contend that the “remain in Mexico” policy effectively deterred unlawful migration.
After a judge ruled in favor of Texas and Missouri, reinstating the program, the Supreme Court last August refused the Biden administration’s request to block that decision while it appealed. The 5th Circuit ruled in December that because the government lacks the capacity to detain all migrants eligible for admission pending a hearing, it must maintain “remain in Mexico.”
Thursday’s decision came on the final day of rulings for the court’s current nine-month term.