President Joe Biden says he’s ‘happy to debate’ Donald Trump. Trump says he’s ready to go

President Joe Biden says he’s ‘happy to debate’ Donald Trump. Trump says he’s ready to go
In this photo taken on October 22, 2020, then US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their second 2020 presidential campaign debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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Updated 28 April 2024
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President Joe Biden says he’s ‘happy to debate’ Donald Trump. Trump says he’s ready to go

President Joe Biden says he’s ‘happy to debate’ Donald Trump. Trump says he’s ready to go
  • Biden had previously been vague, saying in March that whether he debated Trump “depends on his behavior”
  • During the 2020 general election, Biden was notably irritated by Trump’s antics in the chaotic first debate

NEW YORK: President Joe Biden said Friday that he is willing to debate his presumptive Republican opponent, Donald Trump, later this fall – his most definitive comment yet on the issue.

Trump said he was ready, though he questioned Bidens’s willingness.
Biden’s comment came during an interview with the Sirius XM radio host Howard Stern, who asked him whether he would participate in debates against Trump.
“I am, somewhere. I don’t know when,” Biden said. “But I’m happy to debate him.”
Until now, Biden’s reelection campaign had declined to commit to participating in the debates, a hallmark of every general election presidential campaign since 1976.
Biden himself had also been vague, saying in March that whether he debated Trump “depends on his behavior.” The two men debated twice during the 2020 general election — a campaign year constrained significantly by COVID-19 restrictions — and Biden was notably irritated by Trump’s antics in the chaotic first debate that year.
“Will you shut up?” Biden told Trump at one point during the first debate.
Trump campaign officials have said for some time that the former president is prepared to debate Biden anytime, and Chris LaCivita, Trump campaign senior adviser, quickly responded to Biden’s remarks on the social media site X: “OK let’s set it up!”
Later Friday, Trump reacted to Biden’s new public willingness to debate by saying “everyone knows he doesn’t really mean it” but suggested either next Monday evening, Tuesday evening or Wednesday evening, when Trump will be campaigning in Michigan. The former president is suggesting evenings because he is otherwise attending proceedings for his hush money criminal trial in New York.
Trump is required to be in court every day but Wednesdays. In a statement on his own social media platform, Trump also challenged Biden to debate at the Manhattan courthouse on Friday night, since both men were in New York at the same time. Biden has since returned to Washington.
Yet Friday is also Melania Trump’s birthday, and the former president had already said earlier in the day that he was flying back to Florida to spend the day with his wife once his trial had wrapped for the day.
As Trump left court for the day in New York on Friday afternoon, he repeated his challenge and said: “We’re ready. Just tell me where. I will do it at the White House. That would be very comfortable, actually.”
Trump did not participate in any of the Republican primary debates this cycle.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has already announced the dates and locations for the three general election debates between the presidential candidates: Sept. 16 in San Marcos, Texas; Oct. 1 in Petersburg, Virginia; and Oct. 9 in Salt Lake City. The lone vice presidential debate is slated for Sept. 25 in Easton, Pennsylvania.
A dozen news organizations, including The Associated Press, wrote to the Biden and Trump campaigns earlier this month to urge both candidates to participate in the debates.
Biden engages in relatively fewer press interviews than his predecessors, and his aides tend to choose outlets and media avenues outside the traditional press corps that covers the president in Washington. His interview with Stern on Friday, which ran well over an hour, took on an informal and introspective tone and spanned topics that included Biden’s upbringing, family, and his favorite president (Thomas Jefferson, Biden said).
The interview also occurred the day after The New York Times issued a statement criticizing Biden for shunning formal interviews and conducting fewer news conferences than his predecessors. The newspaper said that its publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, has urged senior Biden officials to agree to presidential interviews not just with the Times but with other news outlets.
Still, the timing of the Stern interview was coincidental; a person familiar with the plans said the White House has been working with the Sirius XM host for weeks to arrange the conversation. The person was granted anonymity to discuss internal planning processes.
Less the “shock jock” of old, Stern still commands a loyal audience. And he’s become known for his conversational interviewing skills. He can turn talks with celebrities into revealing discussions, often by asking things others might be afraid to, but not in confrontational ways.


Four in five people want more climate action: UN survey

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Four in five people want more climate action: UN survey

Four in five people want more climate action: UN survey
  • Majority of respondents in 62 of the 77 countries surveyed said they supported a quick transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy.
  • 80 percent of respondents want their governments to increase efforts to fight against global warming
United Nations: Four in every five people want their country to strengthen its commitments to addressing climate change, according to a global poll of 75,000 participants published on Thursday.
The survey by the UN Development Program, Oxford University and GeoPoll posed 15 questions by randomized telephone calls to people in 77 countries representing 87 percent of the world’s population.
The key finding was that 80 percent of respondents want their governments to increase efforts to fight against global warming.
Poorer countries beat this drum the loudest, with 89 percent in favor, though appetite is also high in the wealthy G20 nations (76 percent), according to the survey.
China (73 percent) and the United States (66 percent) — the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters — also saw a majority of respondents in favor of climate action.
“As world leaders decide on the next round of pledges under the Paris Agreement by 2025, these results are undeniable evidence that people everywhere support bold climate action,” said Cassie Flynn, UNDP global climate director.
A majority of respondents in 62 of the 77 countries surveyed said they supported a quick transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy.
These included China (80 percent) and the United States (54 percent), but in Russia just 16 percent of poll participants were in favor.
Worries about global warming have also increased, the survey found, with 56 percent saying they think about climate change at least once a week.
Over half (53 percent) of those surveyed said they were more worried about climate change than last year, compared with 15 percent who said they were less worried.
Leading the rise in climate anxiety is Fiji, where 80 percent are more concerned compared to a year ago, followed by Afghanistan (78 percent) and Turkiye (77 percent).
Saudi Arabia saw the lowest increase in climate fears, with 25 percent more worried, followed by Russia (34 percent), Czech Republic (36 percent) and China (39 percent).
More than two-thirds of survey respondents (69 percent) said that global warming had impacted their life decisions, such as where to live or work and what to buy.
But Achim Steiner, head of the UNDP, said these concerns do not necessarily translate into electoral and consumer decisions.
“I would do more. But the others won’t. So I will not do anything,” Steiner said of what he called people’s “perception gap” on climate action.

India economic inequality to persist despite roaring GDP growth

India economic inequality to persist despite roaring GDP growth
Updated 55 min 49 sec ago
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India economic inequality to persist despite roaring GDP growth

India economic inequality to persist despite roaring GDP growth
  • Despite over 8 percent economic growth last fiscal year, New Delhi still distributes free food grains to more than 800 million of its 1.4 billion people

BENGALURU, India: The Indian economy is likely to remain the fastest-growing major one in coming years, but a majority of independent economists and policy experts polled by Reuters are not confident it will make any difference in narrowing stark economic inequality.
Despite over 8 percent economic growth last fiscal year and a roaring stock market in Mumbai that is easily one of the world’s most expensive, New Delhi still distributes free food grains to more than 800 million of its 1.4 billion people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sworn in for a third term with the support of regional parties after a shock election where his Bharatiya Janata Party lost its sizeable majority in parliament, has retained most ministers from his second one.
Yet rising economic inequality — around its highest in decades — and high youth unemployment were widely reported as reasons for the electoral drubbing after securing sweeping victories in 2014 and 2019 on development and economic reform platforms.
A nearly 85 percent majority of development economists and policy experts, 43 out of 51, in a May 15-June 18 Reuters poll, said they were not confident economic inequality would significantly reduce over the next five years, including 21 who said they had no confidence at all.
Only six said they were confident and two said very confident. These are separate from private economists who regularly forecast economic data and interest rates.
“Acknowledging that it is a problem will be a good first step ... Currently, reduction of economic inequality is not a policy objective of decision-makers,” said Reetika Khera, a development economist at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi.
“Inequality is not something that will go away on its own ... it needs proactive government interventions.”

Even for a developing economy, income inequality in India is too extreme, according to a March report from the World Inequality Lab.
However, not everyone agrees.
“I don’t think the inequality metrics are meaningful for India. The key issue is not inequality but how the bottom of the pyramid fares economically. This is not a function of how the top does,” said Nagpurnanand Prabhala, finance professor at Johns Hopkins University.
India has the second-highest number of billionaires in Asia but has tens of millions who depend on the government’s 100 days minimum guaranteed wage employment program, digging wells, building roads, and filling potholes for about $4 a day.
“The present government has created an economic system that shrunk the middle-income group considerably. The poor are on public dole ... the rich are on public cross-subsidy using crony capitalism,” said Saibal Kar, professor of industrial economics at the Center for Studies in Social Sciences.
“The economic and social freedoms are low owing to repressive public policies. This has to change. Unless it changes, inequality will rise further.”

Skills needed, not just jobs
Asked to rate the quality of India’s economic growth over the past 10 years, a near-80 percent majority of economists surveyed, 42 of 53, said it was not inclusive, with 17 saying not at all. Eight said fairly inclusive and three said inclusive.
And yet 60 percent, 32 of 53, said India would maintain or exceed the current solid GDP growth rate over the next five years. The rest said it will fall short.
While the Modi government has set a target of turning India into a developed economy by 2047, several experts in the survey said the government should first improve workers’ skills, create more jobs and focus on inclusive growth.
In December, the government’s chief economic adviser said the subsidised grain distribution, as well as spending on education and health had helped to distribute income more equally.
During the election campaign, a government document showed Modi wanted to focus on 70 areas of improvement including workforce skills and vocational training.
Over 90 percent of experts polled, 49 of 54, who answered a separate question said unemployment would be the biggest economic challenge for the government over the next five years.
The unemployment rate was at 7.0 percent in May, according to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, a think-tank, up from around 6 percent before the pandemic.
“Most countries that have experienced more rapid growth did it on the basis of a farm-to-factory structural transformation,” said Parikshit Ghosh, professor at the Delhi School of Economics, adding manufacturing as a share of GDP has hovered around 15 percent for about 30 years.
“Of the multiple factors behind this, perhaps the most important is the failure to invest seriously in education.”
India spends around 3 percent of GDP on public education, half the 6 percent the government’s National Policy on Education recommends.
Other experts pointed out the ongoing challenges presented by a society still mired in caste and class divisions.
“We don’t even talk about the cleavage that has been ripping our society apart for thousands of years now in our living rooms — we still live in a world where Dalit families are cleaning toilets in urban and rural areas, generation after generation,” said Aditi Bhowmick, a public policy expert, who previously worked as India Director at Development Data Lab.


North Korea says deal between Putin and Kim requires immediate military assistance in event of war

North Korea says deal between Putin and Kim requires immediate military assistance in event of war
Updated 20 June 2024
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North Korea says deal between Putin and Kim requires immediate military assistance in event of war

North Korea says deal between Putin and Kim requires immediate military assistance in event of war
  • Kim and Putin described it as a major upgrade of their relations, covering security, trade, investment, cultural and humanitarian ties
  • A treaty in 1961 between North Korea and the former Soviet Union was discarded after the collapse of the USSR

SEOUL, South Korea: A new agreement between Russia and North Korea reached by their leaders requires the countries to use all available means to provide immediate military assistance in the event of war, North Korean state media said.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday reported the language of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement reached by its leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang on Wednesday. The agency said Article 4 of the agreement states that if one of the countries gets invaded and is pushed into a state of war, the other must deploy “all means at its disposal without delay” to provide “military and other assistance.”
The deal could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War. Both Kim and Putin described it as a major upgrade of their relations, covering security, trade, investment, cultural and humanitarian ties.
The summit came as the US and its allies expressed growing concerns over a possible arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its war in Ukraine, in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.
Following their summit, Kim said the two countries had a “fiery friendship,” and that the deal was their “strongest-ever treaty,” putting the relationship at the level of an alliance. He vowed full support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Putin called it a “breakthrough document” reflecting shared desires to move relations to a higher level.
North Korea and the former Soviet Union signed a treaty in 1961, which experts say necessitated Moscow’s military intervention if the North came under attack. The deal was discarded after the collapse of the USSR, replaced by one in 2000 that offered weaker security assurances.
South Korean officials said they were still interpreting the results of the summit, including what Russia’s response might be if the North comes under attack, and whether the new deal promises a similar level of protection with the 1961 treaty. South Korean officials didn’t immediately comment on the North Korean report about the details of the deal.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years, with the pace of both Kim’s weapons tests and combined military exercises involving the US, South Korea and Japan intensifying in a tit-for-tat cycle.
The Koreas also have engaged in Cold War-style psychological warfare that involved North Korea dropping tons of trash on the South with balloons, and the South broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda with its loudspeakers.


Climate protesters arrested over spraying orange paint on Stonehenge monument

Climate protesters arrested over spraying orange paint on Stonehenge monument
Updated 20 June 2024
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Climate protesters arrested over spraying orange paint on Stonehenge monument

Climate protesters arrested over spraying orange paint on Stonehenge monument
  • The incident came just a day before thousands are expected to gather at the roughtly 4,500-year-old stone circle to celebrate the summer solstice — the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere

LONDON: Two climate protesters who sprayed orange paint on the ancient Stonehenge monument in southern England were arrested Wednesday after two bystanders appeared to intervene and stop them.
The latest act by Just Stop Oil was quickly condemned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as a “disgraceful act of vandalism.” Labour leader Keir Starmer, his main opponent in the election next month, called the group “pathetic” and said the damage was “outrageous.”
The incident came just a day before thousands are expected to gather at the roughtly 4,500-year-old stone circle to celebrate the summer solstice — the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
English Heritage, which manages the site, said it was “extremely upsetting” and said curators were investigating the damage. Just Stop Oil said the paint was made of cornstarch and would dissolve in the rain.
Video released by the group showed a man it identified as Rajan Naidu, 73, unleash a fog of orange from a fire extinguisher-style paint sprayer at one of the vertical stones.
As voices can be heard yelling “stop,” a person wearing a ballcap and raincoat ran up and grabbed Naidu’s arm and tried to pull him away from the monument. A man in a blue shirt joined in and wrestled the paint sprayer away.
The second protester, identified as Niamh Lynch, 21, managed to spray three stones before the first bystander in the hat stopped her.
Wiltshire Police said the pair were arrested on suspicion of damaging one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stonehenge was built on the flat lands of Salisbury Plain in stages starting 5,000 years ago, with the unique stone circle erected in the late Neolithic period about 2,500 B.C.
Just Stop Oil is one of many environmental groups around Europe that have received attention — and blowback — for disrupting sporting events, splashing paint and food on famous works of art and interrupting traffic to draw attention to global warming.
The group said it acted in response to the Labour Party’s recent election manifesto. Labour has said that if it wins the election on July 4, it would not issue further licenses for oil and gas exploration. Just Stop Oil backs the moratorium but said it is not enough.
In a statement, the group said Labour, which is leading in polls and widely expected by pundits and politicians to lead the next government, needs to go further and sign a treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030.
“Continuing to burn coal, oil and gas will result in the death of millions,” the group said in a statement.

 


Defendant in Vatican trial takes case to UN, accuses pope of violating his rights with surveillance

Defendant in Vatican trial takes case to UN, accuses pope of violating his rights with surveillance
Updated 20 June 2024
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Defendant in Vatican trial takes case to UN, accuses pope of violating his rights with surveillance

Defendant in Vatican trial takes case to UN, accuses pope of violating his rights with surveillance
  • Mincione’s complaint to the UN focused on the role of the pope during the investigation, an area that was flagged as problematic by defense lawyers during the trial and external experts in its aftermath

NEW YORK: One of the defendants in the Vatican’s big financial trial has formally complained to the United Nations that Pope Francis violated his human rights by authorizing wide-ranging surveillance during the investigation.
A lawyer for Raffaele Mincione, a London-based financier, submitted a complaint last week to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights via a special procedure that allows individuals or groups to provide the UN with information about alleged rights violations in countries or institutions.
The filing marks the latest and highest-profile complaint about the Vatican trial, highlighting the peculiarity of the Vatican’s criminal justice system and its seeming incompatibility with European and democratic norms. The Vatican is an absolute monarchy where the pope wields supreme legislative, executive and judicial power.
The trial, which opened in 2021 and ended in December, focused on the Holy See’s money-losing 350 million euro investment in a London property but also included other tangents. Vatican prosecutors alleged brokers and Vatican officials fleeced the Holy See of tens of millions of euros in fees and commissions, and then extorted the Holy See for 15 million euros ($16.5 million) to cede control of the property.
The trial ended in December with convictions for nine of the 10 defendants, including Mincione and a once-powerful cardinal, Angelo Becciu. The court’s motivations for the sentence still haven’t been published, but both Vatican prosecutors and the nine convicted defendants have announced appeals.
Mincione’s complaint to the UN focused on the role of the pope during the investigation, an area that was flagged as problematic by defense lawyers during the trial and external experts in its aftermath.
The complaint cited four secret executive decrees Francis signed in 2019 and 2020 that gave Vatican prosecutors wide-ranging powers to investigate, including via unchecked wiretapping and to deviate from existing laws. The decrees only came to light right before trial, were never officially published, provided no rationale or timeframe for the surveillance, or oversight of the wiretapping by an independent judge.
The chief prosecutor argued Francis’ decrees provided unspecified “guarantees” for the suspects, and the judges rejected the defense motions at the time that argued they violated the fundamental right to a fair trial. In a somewhat convoluted decision, the judges ruled that no violation of the principle of legality had occurred since Francis had made the laws.
Mincione’s complaint also alleged the tribunal is not independent or impartial, a claim the Vatican has rejected previously. Francis can hire and fire judges and prosecutors, and recently decided such things such as their compensation, pension and term limits.
It is not clear what, if anything, the UN will do with the complaint. The Geneva-based office fields special rapporteurs, or experts, to monitor specific areas of human rights, including the judiciary and independence of judges and lawyers.
Previous complaints to the UN human rights office about the Vatican or Catholic Church, in the areas of child sexual abuse and LGBTQ+ discrimination, resulted in letters from the UN special rapporteur to the Vatican’s UN ambassador in Geneva listing problems and requesting responses and changes.
Mincione has also tried to engage the Council of Europe on the matter, given the Holy See is subject to periodic review as part of the COE’s Moneyval process to guard against money laundering. In January, a British representative asked if the COE would look into the Vatican’s human rights situation given the trial outcome.
The plenary assembly chairman dodged the question.
In ongoing litigation, Mincione has also sued the Vatican secretariat of state in a British court over the reputational harm he says he suffered as a result of the Vatican trial.