South Korean trainee doctors stop work to protest medical reforms

South Korean trainee doctors stop work to protest medical reforms
South Korea’s medical training reforms call for a 65 percent increase in the number of students admitted to medical schools, starting from 2025. (AP)
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Updated 20 February 2024
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South Korean trainee doctors stop work to protest medical reforms

South Korean trainee doctors stop work to protest medical reforms
  • Almost 6,500 doctors submitted their resignations – nearly half the junior workforce – with 1,600 walking off the job

SEOUL: South Korean hospitals turned away some patients and delayed surgeries on Tuesday as hundreds of trainee doctors stopped working in a protest against medical training reforms.
Almost 6,500 doctors submitted their resignations — nearly half the junior workforce — with 1,600 walking off the job, according to health ministry figures.
But South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol said the government would not back down over the “necessary” reforms, which he described as an essential measure to prepare for caring for the country’s fast-aging population.
The training reforms call for a 65 percent increase in the number of students admitted to medical schools — an additional 2,000 people a year — starting from 2025.
Seoul has been trying to increase medical school enrolments for 30 years to no avail, he said, adding that the country was at a point where “we can’t withstand another failure.”
“This increase is far short of necessary numbers to prepare the future of our nation,” he said, urging doctors not to “hold people’s lives and health hostage” with work stoppages.
The government has ordered the doctors back to work, and police have warned of arrests for instigators of the work stoppages. South Korean law limits the ability of medical staff to strike.
Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo told reporters that the walkouts had already resulted in cancelations of surgeries and disruptions in medical services.
The government’s top priority is to “maintain medical emergency services and treatment for serious cases at major hospitals,” he said, to “avoid situations in which patients with serious conditions are prevented from accessing treatment.”
The Asan Medical Center in Seoul, one of the biggest general hospitals in the country, said that its emergency room was operating as normal on Tuesday but “some adjustments” were being made.
“Some surgeries have been postponed due to the ongoing situation,” the hospital’s PR wing said.
South Korea says it has one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios among developed countries, and the government is pushing hard to increase the number of physicians.
Doctors have voiced fierce opposition to the government’s plan to sharply raise medical school admissions, claiming it would hurt the quality of service.
Proponents of the plan say doctors are mainly concerned reforms could erode their salaries and social status.
The plan is popular with the public, who experts suggest are tired of long wait times at hospitals, with a recent Korean Gallup poll showing over 75 percent of respondents in favor, regardless of political affiliation.
The Korean Medical Association said the government’s threats of legal action were akin to a “witch hunt” and claimed the plan would create a “Cuban-style socialist medical system.”
The Korea Association of Medical Colleges has called for a significantly lower admissions increase of 11 percent, a demand the government has rejected.
“I have submitted my resignation letter,” Park Dan, head of the Korea Interns and Residents Association, wrote Monday on Facebook.
“I am now able to abandon my dream of becoming a specialist in pediatric emergency medicine without any regrets. I have no intention of going back.”


Once a fringe ideology, Hindu nationalism is now mainstream in India

Once a fringe ideology, Hindu nationalism is now mainstream in India
Updated 18 April 2024
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Once a fringe ideology, Hindu nationalism is now mainstream in India

Once a fringe ideology, Hindu nationalism is now mainstream in India
  • Modi’s spiritual and political upbringing from the RSS group is the driving force, experts say
  • At the same time, his rule has seen brazen attacks against minorities, particularly Muslims

AHMEDABAD: Hindu nationalism, once a fringe ideology in India, is now mainstream. Nobody has done more to advance this cause than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one of India’s most beloved and polarizing political leaders.

And no entity has had more influence on his political philosophy and ambitions than a paramilitary, right-wing group founded nearly a century ago and known as the RSS.

“We never imagined that we would get power in such a way,” said Ambalal Koshti, 76, who says he first brought Modi into the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the late 1960s in their home state, Gujarat.

Modi was a teenager. Like other young men — and even boys — who joined, he would learn to march in formation, fight, meditate and protect their Hindu homeland.

A few decades earlier, while Mahatma Gandhi preached Hindu-Muslim unity, the RSS advocated for transforming India — by force, if necessary — into a Hindu nation. (A former RSS worker would fire three bullets into Gandhi’s chest in 1948, killing him months after India gained independence.)

Modi’s spiritual and political upbringing from the RSS is the driving force, experts say, in everything he’s done as prime minister over the past 10 years, a period that has seen India become a global power and the world’s fifth-largest economy.

At the same time, his rule has seen brazen attacks against minorities — particularly Muslims — from hate speech to lynchings. India’s democracy, critics say, is faltering as the press, political opponents and courts face growing threats. And Modi has increasingly blurred the line between religion and state.

At 73, Modi is campaigning for a third term in a general election, which starts Friday. He and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party are expected to win. He’s challenged by a broad but divided alliance of regional parties.

Supporters and critics agree on one thing: Modi has achieved staying power by making Hindu nationalism acceptable — desirable, even — to a nation of 1.4 billion that for decades prided itself on pluralism and secularism. With that comes an immense vote bank: 80 percent of Indians are Hindu.

“He is 100 percent an ideological product of the RSS,“in said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, who wrote a Modi biography. “He has delivered their goals.”

Mohanlal Gupta, a scrap trader, worships a statue of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a temple he has built on the third floor of his residential building at Gadkhol village near Ankleshwar in Baruch district of Gujarat state, India, on February 5, 2024. (AP)

UNITING HINDUS

Between deep breaths under the night sky in western India a few weeks ago, a group of boys recited an RSS prayer in Sanskrit: “All Hindus are the children of Mother India ... we have taken a vow to be equals and a promise to save our religion.”

More than 65 years ago, Modi was one of them. Born in 1950 to a lower-caste family, his first exposure to the RSS was through shakhas — local units — that induct boys by combining religious education with self-defense skills and games.

By the 1970s, Modi was a full-time campaigner, canvassing neighborhoods on bicycle to raise RSS support.

“At that time, Hindus were scared to come together,” Koshti said. “We were trying to unite them.”

Supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wear Indian prime Minister Narendra Modi masks during an election campaign in Ghaziabad, India, on April 6, 2024. (AP)

The RSS — formed in 1925, with the stated intent to strengthen the Hindu community — was hardly mainstream. It was tainted by links to Gandhi’s assassination and accused of stoking hatred against Muslims as periodic riots roiled India.

For the group, Indian civilization is inseparable from Hinduism, while critics say its philosophy is rooted in Hindu supremacy.

Today, the RSS has spawned a network of affiliated groups, from student and farmer unions to nonprofits and vigilante organizations often accused of violence. Their power — and legitimacy — ultimately comes from the BJP, which emerged from the RSS.

“Until Modi, the BJP had never won a majority on their own in India’s Parliament,” said Christophe Jaffrelot, an expert on Modi and the Hindu right. “For the RSS, it is unprecedented.”

SCALING HIS POLITICS

Modi got his first big political break in 2001, becoming chief minister of home state Gujarat. A few months in, anti-Muslim riots ripped through the region, killing at least 1,000 people.

There were suspicions that Modi quietly supported the riots, but he denied the allegations and India’s top court absolved him over lack of evidence.

Instead of crushing his political career, the riots boosted it.

Modi doubled down on Hindu nationalism, Jaffrelot said, capitalizing on religious tensions for political gain. Gujarat’s reputation suffered from the riots, so he turned to big businesses to build factories, create jobs and spur development.

“This created a political economy — he built close relations with capitalists who in turn backed him,” Jaffrelot said.

Modi became increasingly authoritarian, Jaffrelot described, consolidating power over police and courts and bypassing the media to connect directly with voters.

The “Gujarat Model,” as Modi coined it, portended what he would do as a prime minister.

“He gave Hindu nationalism a populist flavor,” Jaffrelot said. “Modi invented it in Gujarat, and today he has scaled it across the country.”

BIG PLANS

In June, Modi aims not just to win a third time — he’s set a target of receiving two-thirds of the vote. And he’s touted big plans.

“I’m working every moment to make India a developed nation by 2047,” Modi said at a rally. He also wants to abolish poverty and make the economy the world’s third-largest.

If Modi wins, he’ll be the second Indian leader, after Jawaharlal Nehru, to retain power for a third term.

With approval ratings over 70 percent, Modi’s popularity has eclipsed that of his party. Supporters see him as a strongman leader, unafraid to take on India’s enemies, from Pakistan to the liberal elite. He’s backed by the rich, whose wealth has surged under him. For the poor, a slew of free programs, from food to housing, deflect the pain of high unemployment and inflation. Western leaders and companies line up to court him, turning to India as a counterweight against China.

He’s meticulously built his reputation. In a nod to his Hinduism, he practices yoga in front of TV crews and the UN, extols the virtues of a vegetarian diet, and preaches about reclaiming India’s glory. He refers to himself in the third person.

P.K. Laheri, a former senior bureaucrat in Gujarat, said Modi “does not risk anything” when it comes to winning — he goes into the election thinking the party won’t miss a single seat.

The common thread of Modi’s rise, analysts say, is that his most consequential policies are ambitions of the RSS.

In 2019, his government revoked the special status of disputed Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority region. His government passed a citizenship law excluding Muslim migrants. In January, Modi delivered on a longstanding demand from the RSS — and millions of Hindus — when he opened a temple on the site of a razed mosque.

The BJP has denied enacting discriminatory policies and says its work benefits all Indians.

Last week, the BJP said it would pass a common legal code for all Indians — another RSS desire — to replace religious personal laws. Muslim leaders and others oppose it.

But Modi’s politics are appealing to those well beyond right-wing nationalists — the issues have resonated deeply with regular Hindus. Unlike those before him, Modi paints a picture of a rising India as a Hindu one.

Satish Ahlani, a school principal, said he’ll vote for Modi. Today, Ahlani said, Gujarat is thriving — as is India.

“Wherever our name hadn’t reached, it is now there,” he said. “Being Hindu is our identity; that is why we want a Hindu country. ... For the progress of the country, Muslims will have to be with us. They should accept this and come along.”


EU, US reindustrialization accelerates: study

EU, US reindustrialization accelerates: study
Updated 18 April 2024
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EU, US reindustrialization accelerates: study

EU, US reindustrialization accelerates: study
  • Report: ‘The rapidity with which reindustrialization has taken hold is remarkable’
  • COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's brought to the fore the national security aspect of having control over essential supplies and the necessary manufacturing capacity

PARIS: Companies in Europe and the United States are set to plow more money into bringing manufacturing home after the Covid-19 pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupted the global economy, a study published Thursday found.
The report by consulting firm Capgemini found that companies in 13 industrial sectors in 11 countries in Europe and the United States plan to invest $3.4 trillion over the next three years on bringing manufacturing home or to a nearby country.
That is up from $2.4 trillion in the past three years.
“The rapidity with which reindustrialization has taken hold is remarkable,” said the report.
“Driving this is the imperative to promote supply chain resilience and flexibility; increase both the availability and appeal of skilled manufacturing jobs; meet climate targets; re-establish national security in strategic sectors, and regain the manufacturing might that the industrial powerhouses of Europe and North America once enjoyed,” it added.
The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted global supply chains, making many companies want to regain greater control over raw materials and components.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine brought to the fore the national security aspect of having control over essential supplies and the necessary manufacturing capacity.
“We were surprised by the magnitude of the phenomenon” of relocalization of manufacturing, one of the report’s authors, Etienne Grass, said.
He noted that the investment represents an average allocation of around 8.7 percent of revenue of the companies it surveyed.
“That’s really a considerable” amount, Grass said.
Some 1,300 senior executives of industrial firms with more than a $1 billion in annual revenue were interviewed for the survey in February.
The companies were located in Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United States.
The top reason cited by companies for reindustrialization was to strengthen their supply chains, followed by the importance of establishing a domestic manufacturing infrastructure to ensure national security.
In third place was reducing greenhouse gas emissions, followed by taking advantage of financial incentives to reindustrialize offered by their governments.
While US companies have the largest reinvestment plans in absolute terms at $1.4 trillion, it trails companies in other nations in terms of percentage of gross domestic product, said Grass.
The German reindustrialization effort is equivalent to 20 percent of GDP and the French effort is 13 percent, compared to five percent for the United States despite the generous subsidies offered under the Inflation Reduction Act.
In addition to bringing production back or near home, companies are also reducing their dependence on China by investing in other emerging market nations, the report found.
“To this end, businesses are distributing their critical assets (such as production facilities, warehouses, and logistics centers) across geographies such as India, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Mexico,” it said.


Ukraine, Israel aid package gains Biden’s support as US House Speaker Johnson fights to keep his job

Ukraine, Israel aid package gains Biden’s support as US House Speaker Johnson fights to keep his job
Updated 18 April 2024
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Ukraine, Israel aid package gains Biden’s support as US House Speaker Johnson fights to keep his job

Ukraine, Israel aid package gains Biden’s support as US House Speaker Johnson fights to keep his job
  • Aid package to provide $61 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion to allies in the Indo-Pacific
  • Republican hardliners have moved to oust Johnson, but are expected to fail without support from Democrats

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden said Wednesday he strongly supports a proposal from Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson to provide aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, sending crucial bipartisan support to the precarious effort to approve $95 billion in funding for the US allies this week.

Before potential weekend voting, Johnson was facing a choice between potentially losing his job and aiding Ukraine. He notified lawmakers earlier Wednesday that he would forge ahead despite growing anger from his right flank. Shortly after Johnson released the aid proposals, the Democratic president offered his emphatic support for the package.
“The House must pass the package this week, and the Senate should quickly follow,” Biden said. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”
After agonizing for days over how to proceed on the package, Johnson pushed ahead on a plan to hold votes on three funding packages — to provide about $61 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion to allies in the Indo-Pacific — as well as several other foreign policy proposals in a fourth bill. The plan roughly matches the amounts that the Senate has already approved.
The bulk of the money for Ukraine would go to purchasing weapons and ammunitions from US defense manufacturers. Johnson is also proposing that $9 billion of economic assistance for Kyiv be structured as forgivable loans, along with greater oversight on military aid, but the decision to support Ukraine at all has angered populist conservatives in the House and given new energy to a threat to remove him from the speaker’s office.
Casting himself as a “Reagan Republican,” Johnson told reporters, “Look, history judges us for what we do. This is a critical time right now.”
The votes on the package are expected Saturday evening, Johnson said. But he faces a treacherous path to get there.
The speaker needs Democratic support on the procedural maneuvers to advance his complex plan of holding separate votes on each part of the aid package. Johnson is trying to squeeze the aid through the House’s political divisions on foreign policy by forming unique voting blocs for each issue, then sewing the package back together.
Under the plan, the House would also vote on bill that is a raft of foreign policy proposals. It includes legislation to allow the US to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine; to place sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl; and to potentially ban the video app TikTok if its China-based owner doesn’t sell its stake within a year.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said he planned to gather Democrats for a meeting Thursday morning to discuss the package “as a caucus, as a family, as a team.”
“Our topline commitment is iron-clad,” he told reporters. “We are going to make sure we stand by our democratic allies in Ukraine, in Israel, in the Indo-Pacific and make sure we secure the humanitarian assistance necessary to surge into Gaza and other theaters of war throughout the world.”
The House proposal keeps intact roughly $9 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza and other conflict zones. However, progressive Democrats are opposed to providing Israel with money that could be used for its campaign into Gaza that has killed thousands of civilians.
“If they condition the offensive portion of the aid, that would be a conversation, but I can’t vote for more aid to go into Gaza and continue to kill people,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Meanwhile, the threat to oust Johnson from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican of Georgia, gained steam this week. One other Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, said he was joining Greene and called for Johnson to resign. Other GOP lawmakers have openly defied Johnson’s leadership.
“I want someone that will actually pursue a Republican agenda and knows how to walk in the room and negotiate and not get tossed around the room like some kind of party toy,” Greene said. But she added that she would not move on the motion to vacate Johnson as speaker before the vote on foreign aid.
In an effort to satisfy conservatives, Johnson offered to hold a separate vote on a border security bill, but conservatives rejected that as insufficient. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas called the strategy a “complete failure.”
“We’re going to borrow money that we don’t have — not to defend America, but to defend other nations. We’re going to do nothing to secure our border,” said Rep. Bob Good, the chair of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus.
With the speaker fighting for his job, his office went into overdrive trumpeting the support rolling in from Republican governors and conservative and religious leaders for keeping Johnson in office.
“Enough is enough,” said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on social media. He said “instead of bickering among themselves” the House Republicans should do their “job and vote on the important issues facing our nation.”
At the same time, the speaker’s office was tidying up after Johnson said on Fox News that he and Trump were “100 percent united” on the big agenda items, when in fact the Republican presidential nominee, who had just hosted the House leader in a show of support, opposes much overseas aid as well as a separate national security surveillance bill.
Johnson told CNN on Wednesday that he thought Trump, if elected president, would be “strong enough that he could enter the world stage to broker a peace deal” between Ukraine and Russia.
Yet Johnson’s push to pass the foreign aid comes as alarm grows in Washington at the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. Johnson, delaying an excruciating process, had waited for over two months to bring up the measure since the Senate passed it in February.
“Ukraine is on the verge of collapsing,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In a hearing on Wednesday, Pentagon leaders testified that Ukraine and Israel both desperately need military weapons.
“We’re already seeing things on the battlefield begin to shift a bit in Russia’s favor,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The House’s version of the aid bill pushes the Biden administration to provide long-range ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) to Ukraine, which could be used to target Russian supply lines.
The US has resisted sending those weapons out of concerns Moscow would consider them escalatory, since they could reach deeper into Russia and Russian-held territory. The House legislation would also allow the president to decline to send the ATACMS if it is against national security interests, but Congress would have to be notified.
Still, there was acknowledgement in Washington that Johnson could soon be out as speaker — a job he has held less than five months since Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the office.
Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican, said this week that if Johnson is ousted, he would “be known in history as the man who did the right thing even though it cost him a job.”


Poland’s president becomes the latest leader to visit Donald Trump as allies eye a possible return

Poland’s president becomes the latest leader to visit Donald Trump as allies eye a possible return
Updated 18 April 2024
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Poland’s president becomes the latest leader to visit Donald Trump as allies eye a possible return

Poland’s president becomes the latest leader to visit Donald Trump as allies eye a possible return
  • Andrzej Duda, who has long expressed admiration for Trump, is also a staunch supporter of Ukraine in its war against Russia
  • He has encouraged the US to provide more aid to Kyiv. That funding has been held up by Trump allies in Congress

NEW YORK: Former President Donald Trump met Wednesday in New York with Polish President Andrzej Duda, the latest in a series of meetings with foreign leaders as Europe braces for the possibility of a second Trump term.

The presumptive Republican nominee hosted Duda for dinner at Trump Tower, where the two were expected to discuss Ukraine, among other topics. Duda, who has long expressed admiration for Trump, is also a staunch supporter of Ukraine and has encouraged Washington to provide more aid to Kyiv amid Russian’s ongoing invasion. That funding has been held up by Trump allies in Congress.
As he arrived, Trump praised the Polish president, saying, “He’s done a fantastic job and he’s my friend.”
“We had four great years together,” Trump added. “We’re behind Poland all the way.”
US allies across the world were caught off guard by Trump’s surprise 2016 win, forcing them to scramble to build relationships with a president who often attacked longstanding treaties and alliances they valued. Setting up meetings with him during the 2024 campaign suggests they don’t want to be behind again.
Even as he goes on trial for one of the four criminal indictments against him, Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden are locked in a rematch that most observers expect will be exceedingly close in November.
“The polls are close,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, a Biden ally and a major voice in his party on foreign affairs. “If I were a foreign leader — and there’s a precedent attached to meeting with candidates who are nominated or on the path to being nominated — I’d probably do it too.”
Murphy noted that former President Barack Obama did a lengthy international tour and met with foreign leaders when he first ran for the White House. So did Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who challenged Obama in 2012 and whose trip included a stop in Poland’s capital, Warsaw.
Duda’s visit comes a week after Trump met with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, another NATO member and key proponent of supporting Ukraine, at the former president’s Florida estate.
And last month, Trump hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, an autocrat who has maintained the closest relationship with Russia among European Union countries. Orban shared a montage of footage of the visit on his Instagram feed, with included an image of him and his staff meeting with Trump and the former president’s aides in a scene that looked like an official bilateral meeting.
Trump also met briefly in February with Javier Milei, the fiery, right-wing populist president of Argentina who ran a campaign inspired by Trump, complete with red “Make Argentina Great Again” hats. Milei gave Trump an excited hug backstage at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, according to video posted by a Trump campaign aide.
Biden administration officials have been careful not to weigh in publicly on foreign leaders’ meetings with Trump, who they acknowledge has a real chance of winning the race.
While some officials have privately expressed frustration with such meetings, they are mindful that any criticism would open the US to charges of hypocrisy because senior American officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meet frequently with foreign opposition figures at various forums in the United States and abroad.
Security and policy officials monitor the travel plans of foreign officials visiting the US, but generally don’t have a say in where they go or with whom they meet, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss protocol.
Trump has been back in his hometown this week for the start of his criminal hush money trial, which has dramatically limited his ability to travel and campaign. While in town, aides have been planning a series of events that began Tuesday night when Trump, after court adjourned, stopped by a Harlem bodega where a man was killed to rail against crime and blast the district attorney who made him the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial.
Duda, a right-wing populist who once proposed naming a military base in his country “Fort Trump,” described the dinner earlier Wednesday as a private get-together between friends at Trump’s former residence while he is in town for meetings at the United Nations.
“I have been invited by Mr. Donald Trump to his private apartment,” Duda told reporters, saying it was “a normal practice when one country has good relations with another country” to want those relations to be as strong as “possible with the representatives of various sides of the political stage.”
He described a friendly relationship with Trump built over years of working together.
“We know each other as people. Like two, I can say in some way, friends,” said Duda, whose term ends in 2025.
Duda’s visit comes as House Republicans wrangle over a $95 billion foreign aid bill that would provide new funding to Ukraine, including money for the US military to replace depleting weapon supplies.
Many Trump allies in the House are fiercely opposed to aiding Ukraine, even as the country warns that it is struggling amid a fresh Russian offensive. Trump has said he might be open to aid in the form of a loan.
Like Cameron, Duda’s efforts to push the US to approve additional aid put him in common cause with Biden, who has struggled for six months to unlock additional congressional funding.
One area where Trump and Duda agree when it comes to the conflict are their efforts to push NATO members to increase their defense spending. Duda has called on fellow members of the alliance to raise their spending to 3 percent of gross domestic product as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. That would represent a significant increase from the current commitment of 2 percent by 2024.
Trump, in a stunning break from past US precedent, has long been critical of the Western alliance and has threatened not to defend member nations that do not hit that spending goal. That threat strikes at the heart of the alliance’s Article 5, which states that any attack against one NATO member will be considered an attack against all.
In February, Trump went even further, recounting that he’d once told leaders that he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to members that are — in his words — “delinquent.”
Duda suggested he intended to raise his proposal at the dinner.
“I have never talked with President Donald Trump about my proposal of raising the spending on defense of NATO countries from 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP, but I think that his approach to it will be positive,” he said.
The visit was met with mixed reaction in Poland, where fears of Russia run high and Duda’s friendly relationship with Trump has been a source of controversy.
Poland’s centrist Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a political opponent of Duda, was critical of the dinner but expressed hope that Duda would use it as an opportunity “to raise the issue of clearly siding with the Western world, democracy and Europe in this Ukrainian-Russian conflict.”
Duda, for his part, said he wasn’t worried since presidents regularly meet with various politicians during foreign trips.
“No, I am not worried because presidents meet with their colleagues, especially with those who had held presidential offices in their respective countries,” he said. “This is regular practice, there is nothing extraordinary here.”
 


Thousands protest in Georgia as parliament votes on so-called ‘Russian law’ targeting media

Thousands protest in Georgia as parliament votes on so-called ‘Russian law’ targeting media
Updated 18 April 2024
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Thousands protest in Georgia as parliament votes on so-called ‘Russian law’ targeting media

Thousands protest in Georgia as parliament votes on so-called ‘Russian law’ targeting media
  • Protesters denounce it as “the Russian law” because Moscow uses similar legislation to stigmatize independent news media
  • Opponents say the proposal would obstruct Georgia’s long-sought prospects of joining the European Union

TBILISI, Georgia: Georgia’s parliament has voted in the first reading to approve a proposed law that would require media and non-commercial organizations to register as being under foreign influence if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

Thousands gathered outside parliament to protest. Opponents say the proposal would obstruct Georgia’s long-sought prospects of joining the European Union. They denounce it as “the Russian law” because Moscow uses similar legislation to stigmatize independent news media and organizations seen as being at odds with the Kremlin.
“If it is adopted, it will bring Georgia in line with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus and those countries where human rights are trampled. It will destroy Georgia’s European path,” said Giorgi Rukhadze, founder of the Georgian Strategic Analysis Center.
In an online statement Wednesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described the parliament’s move as “a very concerning development” and warned that “the final adoption of this legislation would negatively impact Georgia’s progress on its EU path.”
“This law is not in line with EU core norms and values,” Borrell said.
Borrell said that “Georgia has a vibrant civil society” that is a key part of its EU membership quest.
“The proposed legislation would limit the capacity of civil society and media organizations to operate freely, could limit freedom of expression and unfairly stigmatize organizations that deliver benefits to the citizens of Georgia,” he added.
Although Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili would veto the law if it is passed by parliament in the third reading, the ruling party can override the veto by collecting 76 votes. Then the parliament speaker can sign it into law.
The bill is nearly identical to a proposal that the governing party was pressured to withdraw last year after large street protests. Police in the capital, Tbilisi, used tear gas Tuesday to break up a large demonstration outside the parliament.
Wednesday had an even larger rally. Speaking there, opposition parliament member Aleksandre Ellisashvili denounced lawmakers who voted for the bill as “traitors” and said the rest of Georgia will show them that “people are power, and not the traitor government.”
The only change in wording from the previous draft law says non-commercial organizations and news media that receive 20 percent or more of their funding from overseas would have to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.” The previous draft law said “agents of foreign influence.”
Zaza Bibilashvili with the civil society group Chavchavadze Center called the vote on the law an “existential choice.”
He suggested it would create an Iron Curtain between Georgia and the EU, calling it a way to keep Georgia “in the Russian sphere of influence and away from Europe.”
freedom of expression and unfairly stigmatize organizations that deliver benefits to the citizens of Georgia,” he added.