Connect with us

World News

Biden says he was ‘blunt’ with Xi on areas of tension but touts cooperation on November 16, 2023 at 2:36 am



President Biden on Wednesday announced that he had reached three key areas of cooperation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, even as the president said he pushed hard on some of the most fraught issues between Washington and Beijing. 

The president described Xi as a “dictator,” following what appeared to look like a friendly bilateral summit in San Francisco. Biden was earlier seen joking while sitting across from Xi at the start of the meeting, and showed a photo on his cellphone of Xi as a young man in San Francisco in 1985. 


Still, the president touted what he described as critically important breakthroughs in his meeting with Xi.

“I welcome the positive steps we’ve taken today,” Biden said at a press conference following his meeting with the Chinese leader. 

“We’re talking to our competitors and just talking, just being blunt with one another, so there’s no misunderstanding, as a key element to maintaining global stability and delivering for the American people.” 

That included reestablishing direct military-to-military contacts that were severed last year, a priority area for the president that he views as essential to avoid any potentially disastrous, accidental conflicts. 


“Vital miscalculations on either side can cause real trouble with a country like China, or any other major country, and so I think we’re making real progress there as well,” Biden said. 

The president’s meeting with Xi took place on the sidelines of the APEC business summit. It was the first contact between the two leaders in nearly a year, since they last met face-to-face on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. 

Biden said that Xi agreed to keep lines of communication open between the two leaders. 

“He and I agreed that if each one wants to pick up the phone, call directly, and will be heard immediately,” he said. 


The president said he had also reached agreement with Xi on restarting cooperation on counternarcotics, with the U.S. pushing for China to crackdown on the export of chemicals that are used to manufacture fentanyl, the deadly opioid responsible for tens of thousands of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. 

Another priority goal for the president was to get Xi to sign onto discussions about the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence.

“We’re going to get our experts together to discuss risk and safety issues associated with artificial intelligence,” Biden said. 

But Biden also clashed with Xi on the fate of Americans detained in China. Biden didn’t name the Americans detained but they some have earlier been identified as Mark Swidan, Kai Li and David Lin. The president also raised with the Chinese leader U.S. opposition to the practice of placing exit-bans on American citizens, a practice Beijing uses to prevent what it views as suspicious persons from leaving the country.  


“I gave him names of individuals we think are being held and hopefully we can get them released as well. No agreement on that. No agreement on that,” Biden said. 

The president also raised the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait, “Russia’s refusal to stop the brutal war of aggression against Ukraine,” where China has sided with Moscow; and Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, “human rights and coercive [Chinese] activities in the South China Sea.” 

Even as the areas of confrontation seemed to outnumber the points of cooperation, a senior administration official sought to stress Biden’s effort to connect with Xi personally, in particular wishing the Chinese leader’s wife a happy birthday, which she shares with the president. 

Xi said he was embarrassed, the senior administration official recounted, saying that he had been working so hard he had forgotten the date of her birthday is next week, and thanked Biden for reminding him.


Updated 9:53 p.m.

​ President Biden on Wednesday announced that he had reached three key areas of cooperation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, even as the president said he pushed hard on some of the most fraught issues between Washington and Beijing. The president described Xi as a “dictator,” following what appeared to look like a friendly bilateral summit… 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

World News

Telegram spruces up its channels with new discovery and customization features on December 1, 2023 at 1:18 pm




Telegram announced new features related to channels including better discovery of similar channels, emoji customization for reactions, and stats for stories to compete better with WhatsApp. The Meta-owned platform rolled out its broadcast channels feature globally in September. When a user joins a new Telegram channel, the app will now suggest similar channels they can […]

© 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.

​ Telegram announced new features related to channels including better discovery of similar channels, emoji customization for reactions, and stats for stories to compete better with WhatsApp. The Meta-owned platform rolled out its broadcast channels feature globally in September. When a user joins a new Telegram channel, the app will now suggest similar channels they can
© 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only. 


Continue Reading

World News

COP28 host faces scrutiny over oil ties, human rights as global climate talks kick off on December 1, 2023 at 10:30 am




As the 28th United Nations climate change conference (COP28) begins in Dubai, the venue itself is facing scrutiny over the influence of the United Arab Emirates’s (UAE) oil industry and reported human rights abuses in the country.

Critics have pointed out the irony of holding a climate summit in a nation heavily reliant on the production and burning of fossil fuels — which drive the climate crisis. 

The UAE is the seventh largest producer of oil worldwide and is a member of a group of oil-producing countries called OPEC. 


And the leadership of the conference by Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber — head of the UAE’s national oil and gas company — has invited skepticism about the sincerity of the discussions.

When al-Jaber’s appointment as the head of the conference was announced, environmental activists criticized the decision as hypocritical.

He faces fresh scrutiny after documents published by the Centre for Climate Reporting and the BBC this week appeared to show the UAE COP team’s plans to further the interests of the national oil company during the conference. 

The news outlets described these documents as including briefings prepared by the COP28 team for meetings held by al-Jaber.


Some of the documents were posted online and list “potential discussion areas” relating to the oil company.

On Wednesday, al-Jaber pushed back against the reports, which he said were “false, not true, incorrect and not accurate.”

“I promise you never ever did I see these talking points that they refer to or that I ever even used such talking points in my discussions,” he said, arguing that the UAE didn’t need to use its position as COP leader to make oil deals.

Al-Jaber received significant condemnation over the reporting, including from a group of U.S. senators who said it “raises alarms about the integrity of the entire summit.”


“COPs are the world’s best shot to address the global climate crisis. We can’t let COP28 fall victim to fossil fuel industry malfeasance and greed before the summit even starts,” Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said in a statement

The reports are also emboldening some critics of the COP summits. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in response, saying that “everyone knows that global ‘climate goals’ are a joke except the Biden administration.”

Rubio also said that the UAE intends to expand its oil and gas industry and “is using the climate conference to do it.” The government last year announced plans to spend $150 billion to produce new oil and gas developments that would turn out 10 times as much of the fuels as what the International Energy Agency has calculated would keep the climate at a safe level.

Some experts have made the counterargument that the UAE’s position as an unabashed stronghold of fossil fuels — and al-Jaber’s recent embarrassment — makes the country the ideal venue to secure an endgame for fossil fuels.


After the allegations, “the UAE now has even more reason to push for a fossil fuel phase-down agreement to show the world that it is serious about becoming the first post-petroleum OPEC country,” former U.S. State Department climate lawyer Nigel Purvis, CEO of Climate Advisers, told The Associated Press.

Debate at COP28 is likely to focus on the question of whether fossil fuel extraction and use — which last year hit record levels — should ultimately be ended or simply reduced.

In conference terms, the debate will be between whether the world should pursue a “phaseout” — the ultimate end of global dependence on the fuels — or a “phasedown,” in which their use continues at lower levels.

In a July interview with The Guardian, al-Jaber, signaled support for the second option, at least in the short term. “Phasing down fossil fuels is inevitable and it is essential — it’s going to happen,” he said.


“What I’m trying to say is you can’t unplug the world from the current energy system before you build the new energy system. It’s a transition: Transitions don’t happen overnight, transition takes time.”

The leaked news of oil deals potentially being pursued COP are “a real big cause for concern,” said Gillian Cooper of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty — a movement to create a binding treaty to end fossil fuel expansion whose signatories include the European Union.

But Cooper noted that al-Jaber “has made some really important statements on the necessity and the inevitability of phase out, and he seems to be considering this as a really historic moment for COP28.”

She also noted, however, that the risk remained of “loophole” terms being inserted into a final deal: “terms like ‘unabated fossil fuels,’ or ‘inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,’ which are politically expedient but meaningless terms. Because there are no effective approaches for abating emissions. And, you know, there’s no such thing as an efficient subsidy.”


“So we are hoping that there’s clear language that is unequivocal about the need for the phase out of fossil fuels,” she added.

On the other hand, Sarang Shidore, director of the Global South Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, called concerns about the UAE’s oil production “a bit of a distraction from getting to solutions.”

“It’s one of those things where the public can get distracted if it focuses on these micro questions of [the] UAE’s worthiness,” said Shidore, whose think tank is anti-war. “The problem is so much bigger than that.”

The climate concerns have been amplified by the issue of human rights — also a big factor in last year’s COP27, which took place in Egypt under the repressive regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.


The concerns on both counts — and what critics point to as the contradictions of COP28 — come together in the conference’s location, Dubai’s Expo City. 

The city is powered entirely by a new fleet of renewable energy projects. But recent reporting by rights group Equidem has suggested that these very projects — which were funded by fossil fuel money — were built on the backs of migrant workers subjected to poor working conditions and inadequate rights protections.

Expo City has not responded to requests for comment from The Hill.

Public works projects across the Gulf States are largely built under the “kafala” labor system — Arabic for “sponsorship” — in which migrants are brought in directly by corporations, which maintain a great deal of control over their movements. Unions are illegal in the country.


The labor that went into building Expo City is characterized by “deep-rooted labor abuses and inadequate heat protections [that] contribute to climate injustice in multiple ways,” said Michael Page of Human Rights Watch, which noted earlier this month that workers building the city are often entrapped by debt.

In 2016, the UAE passed reforms to the kafala labor that in theory allow the 9 million migrant workers in the country — 90 percent of the population — to leave it without their bosses’ permission and to more easily change jobs. 

But reports of abuses remain widespread. Several Equidem interviewees, for instance, told investigators that workers were unable to change jobs or retrieve their passports from employers until they worked off the debt they had incurred to come to the UAE.

“The company insists on deducting [about $2,400] in expenses from my monthly salary, and I can only reclaim my passport after these costs have been completely covered,” one worker said.


One worker told reporters of wage theft — which he said led to something like debt peonage.

“I did not get paid according to my written agreement. I submitted a complaint to the HR manager and supervisor. I complained but nothing happened,” he said. 

“Since I paid a lot of money to come here, I have no choice but to keep working,” he added.

Equidem reporting also found that 57 percent of the migrant workers in Dubai — particularly those involved in the construction of the city’s infrastructure and renewable energy projects — were migrants from nations ravaged by the planetary heating caused by fossil fuels.


“Every year in my area, there is flooding during the rainy season due to which there is a lot of damage to agriculture and crops,” one Indian now working as a solar panel installer told Equidem reporters.

Back home, he said, that flooding meant that “there is no use in farming. That’s why I have come here to work.”

Many of these workers reported being made to work unpaid overtime in unsafe heat, while the vast majority said they couldn’t afford healthy food and had to sleep in dormitories stuffed to more than three times their intended capacity. About 40 percent said they were skipping meals.

Asked for comment by Equidem, Expo City asked for “details of the companies and, where possible, the workers, in order for us to fully investigate and rectify any issues.”


All this casts a grim pall over the negotiations, critics say: A principality that made its wealth heating up the planet is now using that money to build a glittering mirage of future progress — on the backs of the very people that heating has displaced.

That is a risky charge, however, to make from the conference itself. Because UAE law makes it illegal to criticize either the government or the countries attending it, “we are avoiding speaking publicly on anything that could be interpreted as criticism of the COP presidency or UAE as the host,” one leader of a U.S.-based Indigenous rights group told The Hill.

“We are waiting to publish our opinion on that until we have returned stateside safely,” they added.

​ As the 28th United Nations climate change conference (COP28) begins in Dubai, the venue itself is facing scrutiny over the influence of the United Arab Emirates’s (UAE) oil industry and reported human rights abuses in the country. Critics have pointed out the irony of holding a climate summit in a nation heavily reliant on the production and burning of… 


Continue Reading

World News

Why Israel and Ukraine are forcing a 2024 reckoning in both parties on December 1, 2023 at 10:30 am




This article is the second in The Hill’s three-part “World at War” series this week, which also explores public sentiment around the Russia-Ukraine war and simmering tensions with China. 

A broad coalition of progressives and minority voters furious about Israel’s war in Gaza have thrust the Democratic party into a bitter fight — spurring an internal clash with echoes of the GOP’s growing divide over Ukraine.

While voters remain largely focused on domestic issues and the economy, both wars have forced 2024 candidates to publicly navigate vexing questions about U.S. foreign policy and military posture, with potential consequences to their support. 


President Biden and former President Trump, the most likely 2024 nominees in their respective parties, must now contend with these global conflicts in their own vision for America’s role in the world. 

“Trump and Biden are trying to replace the old Cold War mentality with a new one,” said Michael Genovese, who heads the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. “Trump’s was America first, that was kind of an isolation glove, and Biden’s is democracy — and that hasn’t developed legs among voters.” 

While the two presidents are largely aligned in backing Israel’s retaliatory war against Hamas over the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, they are deeply split on Ukraine in its war against Russia’s invading forces. 

Genovese said the U.S. is still struggling to find its foreign policy direction after the cold war. And he said the debate playing out over Gaza and Ukraine today could have a major impact on long-term U.S. national security — especially when the U.S. has designated China as its biggest threat. 


“Today, we’re all over the map and we have no coherent foreign policy,” he said. “That can open the door for others — fill in the blank with China — to exploit that.” 

While Ukraine has seen a slow buildup of GOP resistance, the Israel-Hamas war is quickly escalating tensions among Democrats. 

A broad section of younger Democrats, progressives, Arab Americans and other minority groups say there is a double standard between supporting Ukraine against Russia and backing Israel in a destructive campaign to destroy Hamas. 

“Americans have become highly polarized on Israel,” said Shibley Telhami, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “Palestine used to be one of the issues that escaped polarization in America. But it no longer is.”  


Telhami said the divisions are growing wide enough to endanger Biden’s support in his own party — even among constituents united against Trump, his likely Republican opponent in 2024.  

“This is what I call an image-shaping problem. People are making an assessment.  Who is Joe Biden, and is Joe Biden someone we trust? Is Joe Biden someone we want to lead?” he said. “That’s a big question. And I think [the war] has reshaped people’s views of Biden.”  

Biden faced an internal revolt, in which more than 500 government employees across the administration signed a letter protesting the president’s policy on the war.   

And more broadly, about 55 percent of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas war, according to a November Marist poll. An NBC poll recorded a similar disapproval of the president’s handling of the war, while Biden’s approval ratings sunk to 40 percent, the lowest level of his presidency.   


Leading GOP candidates, including Trump, are very pro-Israel as well, further complicating predictions about how the issue might impact the 2024 elections.  

But warning signs for Biden have already sounded. In Michigan, a swing state home to a large number of Arab American voters, early polling showed Trump is leading Biden in a key state the Democrat won in 2020.  

Hanna Hanania, a former board member with the U.S. Palestinian Council, said Democrats should beware of Arab Americans voting for alternatives to both Trump and Biden.  

“They feel they have to send a message to the Democratic establishment,” Hanania said. “This is going to be more of a protest vote.”  


While Biden has firmly backed continuing support to both Ukraine and Israel, despite the rising criticism, more Republicans are trying to meet voters where they are on Ukraine. 

A Reuters/Ipsos poll in October revealed that just 41 percent of Americans support arming Ukraine, down from 65 percent in a June survey. Among Republicans, support dropped from 56 percent to 35 percent in the same period.

While most Republicans have continued to support Ukraine aid, ‘no’ votes have steadily increased over the past year, and there is significant GOP resistance to Biden’s request for $60 billion in additional support for Kyiv. 

In the Republican presidential race, just two of the leading GOP candidates enthusiastically back Ukraine: former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Both Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have largely focused on their desire to end the war, without getting into details of a peace deal, while entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is the race’s leading Ukraine skeptic. 


Alp Sevimlisoy, a millennium fellow at the Atlantic Council and Western security expert, said how Americans ultimately move on both Israel and Ukraine is key to U.S. international interests and standing with allies.

He characterized the Democratic fight over Israel as a “battle between moderates and progressives” on social policies that have been “extrapolated onto foreign policy,” which is at the same time meeting isolationist Republican skepticism of U.S. interests overseas. 

“The similarity here is that both of these positions are of no benefit to the strength of the U.S. and the strength of NATO, as well as our allies abroad,” Sevimlisoy said. 

Public polling this month laid bare the extent of the divide in the Democratic party as well as the overall decline of American support for Israel — and Biden — since the war began in October.  


After the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched its deadly surprise attack that killed 1,200 Israelis, American public support was strong. Hamas also kidnapped about 240 people, about 10 of whom were Americans.  

The October Ipsos poll showed that 41 percent of Americans said the U.S. should support Israel. But after an unprecedented Israeli bombing campaign on Gaza, the blockade of humanitarian aid to the strip and a ground invasion that has left more than 13,000 Palestinians dead, support has declined significantly. 

Calls for the U.S. to be a neutral mediator rose from 27 percent In October to 39 percent in November. And roughly two-thirds of Americans now back a cease-fire, which Biden has refused to support, instead seeking targeted pauses in fighting to protect civilians and provide aid. 

The conflict is highly partisan. A plurality of Democrats say Israel has overreached in the war against Hamas, the opposite of GOP voters, and Democrats are less likely to view Israel favorably than Republicans.


Chris Jackson, senior vice president of U.S. public affairs at Ipsos, said Americans have quickly consumed more information about the war and have moved into a “stop the conflict” position after seeing images of the brutality and suffering in Gaza.  

“And I think it links to a larger trend that we’ve seen since last year, where Americans have been sort of pulling inward a little bit, getting a little bit more isolationist,” he said, mentioning Republicans softening on Ukraine. 

Public policy analysts say the Ukraine-splintering in the GOP stems from the “America First” view that was championed by Trump, which contrasts with Reagan-era assertions of U.S. strength overseas, while Democrats are breaking apart over Israel because of an existing divide that has now magnified between progressives and moderates.  

Both are symptomatic of a more dynamic and challenging world that has no “one common enemy we can all unite around,” even China, said Matt Zierler, a foreign policy professor at James Madison College.  


“We’re in a much more complex world today,” Zierler said. “That’s making it harder for politicians to craft a message … [and] to have a clear, simple way of describing their worldview.” 

Zierler pointed to the Israel-Hamas war as an example, which he said is “complicated in its roots” and complex in the “possible solutions” to end the war. 

The widening disagreements on the U.S.’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict have played out in a more dramatic fashion than those over Ukraine, with protests unfolding across American cities and suburbs. Pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel marchers have clashed in some places, and they have even accidentally killed one another.  

Israel has enjoyed broad support in the U.S. as a major ally in the Middle East since the state was created in 1948 and displaced the Palestinian people. But over time, Democrats have grown more sympathetic to Palestinians.  


Forty-one percent of Democrats said their sympathies lie more with the Palestinians in the current conflict, according to a November Quinnipiac poll. That’s a complete reversal from a majority supporting Israel in October.  

Among Democrats aged 18 to 34 years old, that number is even higher: 52 percent say their sympathies lie more with the Palestinians, and a strong majority of younger Democratic voters also disapprove of Israel’s response in Gaza and say the U.S. should not support the country in its fight against Hamas.  

Tim Malloy, a polling analyst at Quinnipiac, attributed the decline of Israel support among younger Democrats partly to social media, where many of them get their information and where they are finding videos and images highlighting the destruction of Gaza.  

“They’ve taken an even deeper dive backwards,” he said, referring to young voters’ opinions since the war started. “It’s there and it’s glaring. Younger voters have more sympathy for people in Gaza than they do for Israelis.” 


The current spending battle playing out in Congress is likely to show whether party leaders are still able to summon majority support for both Ukraine and Israel. 

Over the summer, about 70 Republicans in the House voted against a Ukraine aid amendment. That went up to 100 in September on a similar vote.

Democrats have maintained near unity over Ukraine, and so far only a few dozen have departed from Biden’s position on Israel. So far, just 33 lawmakers in the House have pushed for a cease-fire, most of them progressives, along with three senators. 

Michael Koplow, senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and chief policy officer at the Israel Policy Forum, said he was not concerned about a “big exodus” in the Democratic party over the war in Gaza — at least not immediately.  


“If I am the Israeli government, I would be worried in the long term of what U.S. policy is going to look like 20 or 30 years from now, if these trends continue,” he said.  

“It would be foolish not to expect some sort of changes in U.S. policy as a result down the road. But I also think that that type of polling question, asked in the middle of an Israeli operation in Gaza, is going to yield different results than if you ask that question a year from now, or five years from now.” 

​ This article is the second in The Hill’s three-part “World at War” series this week, which also explores public sentiment around the Russia-Ukraine war and simmering tensions with China. A broad coalition of progressives and minority voters furious about Israel’s war in Gaza have thrust the Democratic party into a bitter fight — spurring an… 

Continue Reading