Biden wobbles under weight of multiple open fronts around the world

Biden wobbles under weight of multiple open fronts around the world
US President Joe Biden's likely Republican opponent, former president Donald Trump, has zeroed in on the global instability as an excuse to attack Biden as weak. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 25 January 2024
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Biden wobbles under weight of multiple open fronts around the world

Biden wobbles under weight of multiple open fronts around the world
  • The US is not at war, but entanglement in multiple military fronts — plus the ongoing migrant strife along the US-Mexico border — is not an ideal environment for Biden as he ramps up his campaign for reelection in November

WASHINGTON: Long gone is the Joe Biden of February 2023, strolling confidently through the streets of Kyiv, basking in the role as champion of the Ukrainian cause in the fight against Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Nearly one year after that triumphant appearance, the US president is instead facing the harsh realities of running for re-election while bogged down in one stagnant war and navigating the volatility of another, as the conflict in Gaza threatens at any moment to ignite the entire Middle East.
In fact, Israel’s war with Hamas has already boiled over into the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden as Yemen’s Tehran-backed Houthi rebels have attacked ships in the region and other pro-Iranian groups have targeted American troops in Iraq in Syria. Both have sparked retaliatory US strikes.
The United States is not at war, but entanglement in multiple military fronts — plus the ongoing migrant strife along the US-Mexico border — is not an ideal environment for Biden as he ramps up his campaign for reelection in November.
And even worse for the 81-year-old Democrat: his likely Republican opponent, former president Donald Trump, has zeroed in on this global instability as an excuse to attack Biden as weak.

For Democratic consultant Melissa DeRosa, “the feeling of instability caused by these conflicts, to say nothing of the border issues, will play a role in this election.”
“I do think it’s going to be a problem for Joe Biden,” she said, and “be something that Trump continues to play up” — especially the migration crisis, which she calls the president’s “Achilles’ heel” as record numbers of migrants have entered the United States in recent months.
Foreign policy has historically played only small roles in US presidential campaigns, and, barring major developments, those fundamentals are unlikely to change in 2024.
But Trump, well on his way to sewing up the Republican nomination, is spinning this anxiety around global uncertainty to his advantage — a message that lands well among his supporters.
“Foreign entities respect (Trump) more and fear him more than the present occupant of the White House,” New Hampshire Trump voter and 72-year-old architect Tony Ferrantello told AFP ahead of the state’s primary Tuesday.
Biden’s approval rating on foreign policy is underwater: 58 percent say they disapprove of his handling of international affairs, compared to 36 percent who approve, according to December-January poll average from the site RealClearPolitics.
It is an uncomfortable position for Biden, who presents himself as a foreign policy old hat, with eight years of dealing with world leaders as Barack Obama’s vice president and multiple terms as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Furthermore, Biden prides himself on having reinvigorated international alliances, including with NATO and in Asia, after having spent much of his 2020 campaign promising to bring America “back” to the world stage after the chaotic, isolationist Trump years.

But difficulties with the war in Ukraine loom large, as Biden has tried to position himself as leader of a vast multinational coalition supporting Kyiv after Russia’s 2022 invasion, all while avoiding direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow.
Now, two years on, he is dealing with fatigue from lawmakers and voters unsure about continuing to foot the bill for Ukraine’s defense without tangible returns on their investment.
In Congress, Republican opponents link these two issues together, offering their support for Ukraine aid in exchange for tougher immigration policies at the southern border.
Complicating matters further is Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s war against Hamas, which has exposed him to intense criticism from his own supporters and others on the left.
Pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted Biden several times Tuesday during a speech on abortion rights, an issue the president is making central to his reelection campaign.
That tension could come back to bite him in November in key election swing states like Michigan, where there is a large Arab and Muslim population, and among young voters — both groups that are more likely to take issue with Biden’s handling of the war.
And that is all without even mentioning the potential of yet another front: in North Korea, as tensions between the North and staunch US ally South Korea have steadily worsened.
“North Korea exhibits a tendency to ramp up provocations during US election years,” warned Victor Cha and Andy Lim at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
 


Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says

Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says
Updated 8 sec ago
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Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says

Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says
  • In 2022, an estimated 17.7 million people reported using marijuana daily or near-daily compared to 14.7 million daily or near-daily drinkers,
  • The number of daily users suggests that more people are at risk for developing problematic cannabis use or addiction, says researcher

For the first time, the number of Americans who use marijuana just about every day has surpassed the number who drink that often, a shift some 40 years in the making as recreational pot use became more mainstream and legal in nearly half of US states.

In 2022, an estimated 17.7 million people reported using marijuana daily or near-daily compared to 14.7 million daily or near-daily drinkers, according an analysis of national survey data. In 1992, when daily pot use hit a low point, less than 1 million people said they used marijuana nearly every day.
Alcohol is still more widely used, but 2022 was the first time this intensive level of marijuana use overtook daily and near-daily drinking, said the study’s author, Jonathan Caulkins, a cannabis policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.
“A good 40 percent of current cannabis users are using it daily or near daily, a pattern that is more associated with tobacco use than typical alcohol use,” Caulkins said.

Marijuana plants are displayed at a shop in San Francisco on March 20, 2023. (AP Photo/File)

The research, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, was published Wednesday in the journal Addiction. The survey is a highly regarded source of self-reported estimates of tobacco, alcohol and drug use in the United States.
From 1992 to 2022, the per capita rate of reporting daily or near-daily marijuana use increased 15-fold. Caulkins acknowledged in the study that people may be more willing to report marijuana use as public acceptance grows, which could boost the increase.
Most states now allow medical or recreational marijuana, though it remains illegal at the federal level. In November, Florida voters will decide on a constitutional amendment allowing recreational cannabis, and the federal government is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.
Research shows that high-frequency users are more likely to become addicted to marijuana, said Dr. David A. Gorelick, a psychiatry professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.
The number of daily users suggests that more people are at risk for developing problematic cannabis use or addiction, Gorelick said.
“High frequency use also increases the risk of developing cannabis-associated psychosis,” a severe condition where a person loses touch with reality, he said.
 


UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war
Updated 23 May 2024
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UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

LONDON: China is sending “lethal aid” to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, Britain’s defense minister Grant Shapps said on Wednesday.
“Today I can reveal that we have evidence that Russia and China are collaborating on combat equipment for use in Ukraine,” he said in a speech at a London conference.
Shapps warned that NATO needed to “wake up” and bolster defense spending across the alliance.
“US and British defense intelligence can reveal that lethal aid is now flowing from China to Russia and into Ukraine.”
He argued that democratic states should make a “full-throated case” for freedoms that are dependent on the international order, meaning “we need more allies and partners” worldwide.
“It’s time for the world to wake up. And that means translating this moment to concrete plans and capabilities. And that starts with laying the foundations for an alliance-wide increase in spending on our collective deterrent,” he said.
China and Russia’s strategic partnership has only grown closer since the invasion of Ukraine, but Beijing has rebuffed Western claims that it is aiding Moscow’s war effort.
China has also offered a critical lifeline to Russia’s isolated economy, with trade booming since the invasion and hitting $240 billion in 2023, according to Chinese customs figures.
US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, however, appeared to take issue with some of Shapps’s comments.
He said the possibility that China might “provide weapons directly — lethal assistance — to Russia” had been a concern earlier, but that “we have not seen that to date.”
The United States did though have a “concern about what China’s doing to fuel Russia’s war machine, not giving weapons directly, but providing inputs to Russia’s defense industrial base,” he added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin put on a strong show of unity during a meeting in Beijing earlier this month.
Xi said in a statement following talks with Putin during his visit that the two sides agreed on the need for a “political solution” to resolve the war.


Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah
Updated 23 May 2024
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Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

BOGOTA: Colombia, whose president has described Israel’s campaign in Gaza as “genocidal,” said Wednesday it will open an embassy in Ramallah in the Palestinian territories.

Foreign Minister Luis Murillo told reporters that President Gustavo Petro — an ardent critic of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu — had given instructions “that we install the embassy of Colombia in Ramallah” in the West Bank.

The announcement came on the same day Ireland, Norway and Spain announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, more than seven months into the devastating Gaza war.

An unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,709 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Colombia severed ties with Israel as Petro called Netanyahu “genocidal.”

Earlier this month, he called for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for the Israeli leader.

On Monday, the prosecutor of that court said he has requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense minister and top Hamas leaders.


UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations

UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations
Updated 23 May 2024
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UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations

UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations
  • The reassignment of Thomas follows UCLA’s May 5 announcement of the creation of a new chief safety officer position

LOS ANGELES: The police chief at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been reassigned following criticism over his handling of recent campus demonstrations that included a mob attacking a pro-Palestinian encampment.
Chief John Thomas was temporarily reassigned Tuesday “pending an examination of our security processes,” said Mary Osako, UCLA vice chancellor for strategic communications, in a statement released Wednesday.
The Daily Bruin reported late Tuesday that Thomas said in a text to the campus newspaper, “There’s been a lot going on and, I learned late yesterday that I’m temporarily reassigned from my duties as chief.”
Neither Osako nor Thomas identified his reassigned role.
The reassignment of Thomas follows UCLA’s May 5 announcement of the creation of a new chief safety officer position to oversee campus security operations.
On April 30, counterdemonstrators attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment, throwing traffic cones, releasing pepper spray and tearing down barriers. Fighting continued for several hours before police stepped in, and no one was arrested. At least 15 protesters suffered injuries.
Thomas told the Los Angeles Times in early May that he did “everything I could” to provide security and keep students safe during days of strife that left UCLA shaken.
But his response was roundly criticized and prompted Chancellor Gene Block to order a review of campus security procedures. Block then announced that Rick Braziel, a former Sacramento police chief, would lead a new Office of Campus Safety that will oversee the UCLA Police Department.
“To best protect our community moving forward, urgent changes are needed in how we administer safety operations,” Block said in the May 5 statement.
Sporadic disruptions continued following the dismantling of a pro-Palestinian encampment and some 200 arrests on April 30.
Block has been summoned to Washington by a Republican-led House committee to testify Thursday about the protests on the Los Angeles campus.
The union that represents more than 250 officers who police the 10 UC campuses criticized Thomas’ reassignment.
“The UCLA administration owns the failure of any protest response, and the public should reject their attempts to shift blame to law enforcement,” Wade Stern, president of the Federated University Peace Officers’ Association, said in a statement Wednesday. “The response to protests appears ad hoc and devoid of the structured planning mandated by the UC system.”


Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations
Updated 23 May 2024
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Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant in a call on Wednesday of the need for an effective mechanism to coordinate humanitarian and military operations in Gaza, the Pentagon said.