Trump authorizes sanctions against Turkey over military offensive in Syria

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2019   •   166

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed an order authorizing sanctions against Turkey and raised tariffs on steel imports from the country in response to its military operations in Syria.

Trump said in a statement released on Monday afternoon that the United States will immediately stop negotiations for a 100-billion-U.S.-dollar trade deal with Turkey and raise tariffs on steel imports from Turkey to 50 percent.

The Trump administration’s new move came days after Turkey launched military operations targeting the Kurdish forces in several parts of northeast Syria and also followed Trump’s order over the weekend to withdraw around 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Monday evening that Trump spoke with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier in the day and called for an immediate end to Turkey’s moves against the Kurdish forces in Syria.

Pence also said that he will soon visit the Middle East to meditate the crisis.

Trump previewed the executive order he was to sign in a statement first posted in his Monday afternoon tweet, saying that the order will also enable Washington to impose powerful additional sanctions against those involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home among other issues regarding Turkey’s action in Syria.

The blacklisted persons will face a broad range of consequences, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the United States, the statement added.

Trump also noted that the U.S. troops leaving Syria will remain in the Middle East region to monitor the situation, while a small number of U.S. forces will remain at the At Tanf Garrison in southern Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State (IS).

The tariff hike announced on Monday is expected to put Ankara in a tougher economic situation after a reduction months ago.

The U.S. in May cut its tariffs on imports of Turkish steel from 50 percent to 25 percent, while terminating the preferential trade treatment for Turkey. (Reuters)

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US launches P92.3-M literacy program for blind, deaf children in PH

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 13, 2019

USAID Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II leads the signing of the pledge of commitment during the launch of USAID’s new education project, Gabay.  (Courtesy: U.S. Embassy in the Philippines)

The United States (US) government has launched a literacy program for the blind and deaf children in the Philippines.

Gabay is the program launched by the US through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

It is is a three-year project for blind and deaf children in the country to have access to quality education.

USAID is in partnership with the Department of Education and Resources for Blind, Inc. 

They will work with local governments in the provinces of Batangas, Sorsogon, and Southern Leyte, to identify children from kindergarten to grade three with vision and hearing impairments.

“The United States is a strong advocate of disability policies and programs.  We believe that people with disabilities have and should have all the same rights as others,” said USAID Mission Director Lawrence Hardy during the launching of the new project.

The project aims to increase the capacity of service providers and health workers to detect the needs of children with visual and hearing impairments.

“[To] improve teachers’ abilities to prepare and deliver appropriate learning plans, and enhance local government and communities’ responsiveness to the needs of people with disabilities,” according to the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.—AAC

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Walmart to stop selling ammunition for handguns, assault-style weapons

Jeck Deocampo   •   September 4, 2019

 Walmart Inc said on Tuesday (September 3) it would discontinue sales of ammunition for handguns and some assault-style rifles in stores across the United States, in response to the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

The largest U.S. arms retailer, which has been under pressure to change its policies on gun sales, also said it would discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where it still sells these guns.

Walmart has already ended sales of assault rifles and raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21. The latest move will leave it focused on weapons for hunting, including deer rifles, shotguns, and related ammunition.

The company will stop selling all handgun ammunition and some short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber after clearing current stock.

While short-barrel ammunition is commonly used in some hunting rifles for small animals such as prairie dogs, they can also be used in military-style weapons with high-capacity magazines.

The retailer said it took the action following the death of 22 people in a mass shooting in a Walmart store in Texas as well as deadly shootings in Ohio and Saturday’s incident in Midland and Odessa, Texas.

Just last month, the company said it would not change its policy on selling firearms even as it took down signs and playable demos of violent video games.

“As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,” Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said in a letter to Walmart’s associates. (REUTERS)

China-US trade dispute burdens heavily on American farmers

UNTV News   •   August 29, 2019

Farmers around the United States said they are deeply concerned over President Donald Trump’s plan to impose additional tariffs on a list of 300 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese imports.

They expressed their concern also at the three-day largest-outdoor Farm Progress Show which started in the state of Illinois on Tuesday; not even Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s emergency aid funding could soothe them.

“Farmers are at the point of the spear. They are more productive. They have an export surplus and the President understands that. That is why he has authorized us to use the CCC (cash conversion cycle) dollars to help fill in the gaps until we can get China to come to the table to resolve the trade issues that have been there for years,” said Perdue.

For farmers, there appeared to be frustrated with the apparent lack of progress in lessening their burden as retaliatory tariffs from both sides are on the way.

“As you saw over the weekend with the five percent increase in tariffs on soybeans, that doesn’t move our pile, that doesn’t get our deal done. And to hear the secretary say that there is not really any real news coming out, was a little disappointing,” said Bill Gordon, vice president of the American Soybean Association.

The Farm Progress Show of new farming technologies is taking place in Illinois, the largest producer of soybeans in all the U.S. and the trade dispute has already had a dramatical impact on Illinois’ exports to China.

Total American agricultural exports to China dropped from 24 billion dollars in 2014 to 9.1 billion dollars last year, according to the American Farm Bureau. A further fall appears likely with exports down 1.3 billion dollars during the first half of 2019.

Adam Nielsen is the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Director of National Legislation and Policy Development. He has this message for the U.S. farmers: “You are going to have to make long term plans based on the fact that you have lost this enormous market. And that’s not a happy thought right now.”

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