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Trump’s shapeless foreign policy

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] U [/yt_dropcap]S President Donald Trump is in his initial stage of his presidency, only trying fix his role in the committee of nations and in intentional politics where America always managed to play the lead role in whatever manner.

President Donald Trump has years of foreign policy decisions to go before he can comprehensively restore US prestige or make USA great. There exists not enough space to enumerate the ways Obama weakened American power made the world a distinctly more dangerous place by his own attacks on Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan and indirectly Syria. Genocides, destructions and destabilization were the hall mark of Bush-Obama foreign policy.

President Trump’s supporters claim that his decision to strike Syria was a strong and swift declaration of American values and the president’s rationale was refreshingly simple and clear. Last month the nascent Trump government chose to forego the now absurd “red line” but spoke through the US military, responding with a missile strike on Syria a mere two days after Assad’s latest chemical attack on civilians.

Weak legacy

When Trump took over the White House he in fact inherited a weak America which is clearly diminishing of its standing in the world owing to several reasons, mainly the Russian challenge, Iranian outmaneuvering ability and North Korean capacity to pursue its nuclear goals.

Syria, Russia and Iran remains the major thrust of concerns for the US strategists and the powerful Neocon elements, dominated by hard core Jews who control US foreign policy beyond West Asia.

Syrian leader Assad and has survived albeit with a great deal of destruction, genocides and destabilization thanks only to the open support extended by the Kremlin- a close military ally of Iran, the self proclaimed Shiite leader in West Asia that has taken the responsibility of protecting the Shiite regimes against the will of Sunni leader Saudi Arabia which still wants to see Persia also gets destabilized, possibly as the end process that began with the invasion and destabilization of an Islamizing Afghanistan.

Russian back up had made a fast falling Assad energetic and strong, bold. A year after President Barack Obama issued Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, Assad manifestly crossed the line with a chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians. Rather than acting decisively on his pledge, Obama first dithered and then demurred to Congress for approval of a strike on Syria. Of course, the strike never materialized, and Assad’s brutality went unchallenged and unpunished for years.

While the European Union faced its existential crisis with the Brexit, and NATO appeared confused about its own reasons for existence, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin continued to exert Moscow’s influence over weaker neighbors. Latest appointment of an Armenian Armed Forces General, Yuri Khachaturov, as head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, commonly known as “Putin’s NATO” illustrated the degree of the Kremlin’s sway over its neighbors. A former Soviet republic, Armenia is filled with Russian military bases and weapons, and its external borders are guarded by the Russian security officers. Khachaturov’s appointment proves that, even in the Moscow-dominated world of its Eurasian satellites, Armenia stands out as an ultra-loyal and dependent Russian vassal.

Russia last November strategically placed its nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad, right next to America’s NATO Baltic allies, and announced plans to do the same in its annexed territory of Crimea—essentially threatening the entire Black Sea region. In addition to areas Russia controls directly, Moscow placed the Iskander in two of its regional proxies and satellites: Armenia and Syria. Apparently for Russia, the difference between the territories it formally deems its own, and the failed states it effectively controls, is very symbolic.

These are a clear effort by Russia to deny military advantage to NATO forces and to assert geographic dominance. The first major test for President Trump came when Moscow-backed Assad carried out April’s chemical attack, defying the former Obama red line. Trump responded in force. Possibly Russia-Iran-Syria trio had not foreseen that.

Iran is now one of the biggest oil exporters to South Korea and has steadily increased its exports since the lifting of sanctions associated with its nuclear program in January 2016. Iran became the second largest oil exporter to South Korea in the first three months of 2017, delivering a record 18.54 million barrels. South Korea will be under pressure to import more oil and gas from the US, having ramped up Iranian imports in recent months to the displeasure of Washington.

The USA has sent the first batch of its heavy armaments to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG. Speaking to Sputnik Turkiye, former Turkish Ambassador to the US Faruk Logoglu reacted to the delivery, calling it a “diplomatic slap in the face of Turkey.” The armament and armed vehicles were sent by land from the Iraqi Kurdistan and then sent to Rojava autonomous region in northern Syria, he said. It was further sent to Kobani, a city in the Aleppo Governorate and the Tell Abyad District within the Raqqa Governorate. This weaponry, the source said, will be used in the ongoing offensive to liberate Raqqa from Daesh

Support for Ukraine government

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of US senators on May 8 sent a letter to President Donald Trump encouraging him to prioritize meeting with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 conference in July. Identifying the importance of engaging longstanding American allies as a priority for the foreign policy agenda of the new administration, the letter also recommends increased support for institutions and European governments that help preserve the international order. “As your Administration continues to formulate policies to promote American national security and foreign policy interests, we are writing to strongly encourage you to engage with our traditional allies and prioritize meeting with foreign leaders representing countries with whom we share historical ties, democratic values, and mutual interests,” wrote the senators. “Meeting with democratically elected representatives from Ukraine would send a strong signal that the United States continues to prioritize our relationship with longstanding allies, and will continue our commitments to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing aggression.”

A meeting in Washington, D.C., between President Trump and Ukraine’s President, they say, would be a critical sign of support for peace in the region, as US support for Ukraine now is imperative to its survival. Russia’s unrelenting hybrid warfare in Ukraine is destabilizing the international world order. The massive build-up of Russian troops along Ukraine’s eastern border and recent escalating attacks in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk are continuously threatening Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The USA must take definitive action to help stabilize the transnational, trans-Atlantic security framework, which clearly serves our national interests as Americans. Without U.S. support and a commitment to peace, the crisis in Ukraine is only likely to escalate,” they noted. They argued that, “As the bastion of democracy in the Free World, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geo-political stability,” and they urged Trump “to affirm the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” They cited security concerns that should be highlighted by the USA.

Trump to meet Putin

Recently, Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov met US President Donald Trump and praised his government as problem solvers, just as the White House drew criticism over the firing of the FBI director who was leading a probe into Moscow’s alleged interference in US politics. The talks with Foreign Minister were the highest-level public contact between Trump and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin since the Republican took office on January 20. While not unprecedented, it is a rare privilege for a foreign minister to be received by a US president for a bilateral meeting in the White House.

A meeting between Putin and Trump is likely to happen under the auspices of the G20 summit in Hamburg in Germany in July and that it was important that their meeting brought tangible results.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov raised the issue of the compounds during a Washington visit. Former US president Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of the 35 Russians in late December and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over what he said was their involvement in hacking political groups in the November 8 US presidential election. Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the time he would not retaliate immediately and would wait until at least US President-elect Donald Trump took office on January 20 before deciding what action to take.

Russia retaliates against the USA for the Obama government’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats it said were spies. Moscow is also waiting for the return of two diplomatic compounds seized in the USA during the same espionage scandal, Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin foreign policy aide, said. “We are waiting for the return of Russian diplomatic property illegally impounded before the New Year by the previous US authorities,” Ushakov told a news briefing. “We decided not to respond immediately to this escapade, but no-one has yet abolished the principle of reciprocity in diplomacy … Our patience is not without limits,” he said, saying Russian retaliation could not be ruled out.

Observation

Americans voted for Trump mainly because they wanted to punish Obama-Mrs. Clinton for their mishandling of the world, especially their crimes in West Asia.

Speculations were ripe about a possible collaboration between USA and Russia in Syria under Trump presidency. But the US attack on Syria put to end such speculative exercises.

Trump apparently is confused and he is confusing the world as well. He si trying to do exactly his predecessors Bush and Obama have done. Possibly the notorious Neocons with their regime change agenda in Arab world continue to mislead the new US president as well. In a stunning development, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, whose agency is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and the possibility Trump associates may have colluded with Moscow.

Trump has not formed any clear cut idea about how he would handle Israel. One is not sure if what he said about solving the Kashmir issue would be a sincere intent or just rhetoric to get maximum money from a badly stressed India through Indian corporate lords as service charges.

Trump should show the world that America will not blur its red lines. Flying in the face of concerns about his “support for Putin”, the president showed, by striking Syria, that he is willing to stand up to Russia.

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Americas

Maximizing Biden’s Plan to Combat Corruption and Promote Good Governance in Central America

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Authors: Lauren Mooney and Eguiar Lizundia*

To tackle enduring political, economic and security challenges in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the Biden administration is attempting to revitalize its commitment to the region, including through a four-year, $4 billion plan submitted in a bill to Congress.

In its plan, the White House has rightly identified the root causes of migration, including limited economic opportunity, climate change, inequality, and violence. Systemic corruption resulting from the weak rule of law connects and entrenches the root causes of migration, while the increased devastation brought about by climate change exacerbates economic hardship and citizen insecurity. 

The renewed investment holds promise: previous foreign assistance in the Northern Triangle has shown results, including by contributing to a reduction in the expected level of violence. As the Biden Administration finalizes and begins implementing its Central America strategy, it should include three pillars—rooted in lessons learned from within and outside the region—to maximize the probability that the proposed spending in U.S. taxpayer funds has its intended impact. 

First, the Biden administration should deliver on its promise to make the fight against corruption its number one priority in Central America by supporting local anti-graft actors. The sanctions against officials which the United States is considering  are a step in the right direction, but lasting reform is best accomplished through a partnership involving regional or multilateral organizations. Guatemala’s international commission against impunity (CICIG) model was relatively successful until internal pushback and dwindling U.S. advocacy resulted in its dismantlement in 2019. Though Honduras’ equivalent was largely ineffective, and El Salvador’s recently launched version is marred by President Bukele’s campaign against judicial independence, there is room for learning from past mistakes and propose a more robust and mutually beneficial arrangement. The experience of Ukraine shows that while external engagement is no silver bullet in eliminating corruption, the role of foreign actors can lead to tangible improvements in the anti-corruption ecosystem, including more transparent public procurement and increased accountability for corrupt politicians.

In tandem with direct diplomatic pressure and helping stand up CICIG-like structures, the U.S. can harness lessons from prior anticorruption efforts to fund programs that address other aspects of graft in each country. This should involve empowering civil society in each country to monitor government compliance with anti-corruption laws and putting pressure on elected officials to uphold their commitments. While reducing impunity and improving transparency might not automatically persuade Central Americans to stay, better democratic governance will allow the three Northern Triangle nations to pursue policies that will end up expanding economic opportunities for residents. As Vice President Harris recently noted, any progress on addressing violence or food insecurity would be undermined if the environment for enabling corruption remains unchanged.

Second, the United States should support local initiatives to help reverse the deterioration of the social fabric in the region by expanding access to community decision-making. Given the high levels of mistrust of government institutions, any efforts to support reform-minded actors and stamp out corruption at the national level must be paired with efforts to promote social cohesion and revitalize confidence in subnational leaders and opportunities. In the Northern Triangle countries, violence and economic deprivation erode social cohesion and undermine trust in democratic institutions. The U.S. government and practitioners should support civic efforts to build trust among community members and open opportunities for collective action, particularly in marginalized areas. A key component of this is expanding sociopolitical reintegration opportunities for returning migrants. In so doing, it is possible to help improve perceptions of quality of life, sense of belonging, and vision for the future. While evidence should underpin all elements of a U.S. Strategy for Central America, it is particularly important to ensure social cohesion initiatives are locally-owned, respond to the most salient issues, and are systematically evaluated in order to understand their effects on migration.

Lastly, the U.S. should take a human-rights based approach to managing migration and learn from the pitfalls associated with hardline approaches to stem migration. Policies rooted in a securitized vision have a demonstrable bad record. For example, since 2015, the European Union undertook significant measures to prevent irregular migration from Niger, including by criminalizing many previously legitimate businesses associated with migration and enforced the imposition of legal restrictions to dissuade open and legal migration. Not only did this violate freedom of movement and create adverse economic consequences, but it also pushed migration underground, with individuals still making the journey and encountering significant threats to their lives, security and human rights.

A welcome realignment

Acknowledging the role of push factors is key to responding to migration effectively. Most importantly, putting political inclusion and responsive governance at the center is critical for ensuring vulnerable populations feel rooted in their community. A more secure, prosperous, and democratic Central America will pay dividends to the United States not only in terms of border security, but also in the form of improved cooperation to tackle global challenges, from climate change to the rise of China. 

*Eguiar Lizundia is the Deputy Director for Technical Advancement and Governance Advisor at IRI

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Sinophobia grows in Argentina: The relations still the crucial one

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Since COVID-19 came up in Wuhan, China followed by the growth of anti-sentiment China especially in Argentina. In late November 2020, the crowds happened in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires that involved the two Chinese entrepreneurs who have a supermarket chain and the customers speak loudly if the owners spread COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent article, the slogan of ‘China out’ is available to speak up against the government.

At the same time, the Representative of the United States expressed similar concerns over the increasingly close relationship between China and Argentina, which come on top of attacks against Chinese immigrants whose country is blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic. The US also concerns that ‘the close relationship’ would limit Argentina’s economic autonomy.

Despite the troubles and the response from the US, the Argentine government still has incredible ties with China on several sides such as economic, military, and politics.

Economic side is crucial with Chinese government. Since President Xi introduced the ambitious project, Belt and Road Initiative, he imagined it can lift China’s economy. One of the developing countries and a member of G20, Argentina. During 2005-2019, Argentina received a maximum investment from China $ 30.6 billion, which accounted for 39 per cent of total Chinese investment in South America. Besides, the Chinese corporations also gave the proposal to build 25 industrial pig farms in Argentina, which will significantly increase pork exports to China. The project involving investment of $3.8 billion, is expected to generate annual production of 900,000 tons amounting to $2.5 million in annual exports.

Even captured by COVID-19 that caused an economic and health crisis, the government has several agreements within China. At least, Argentina has 15 infrastructure projects on the list that can be presented to Chinese corporations. The projects that Argentina prioritizes for investment from China are the rehabilitation plan of the San Martín Railway system, improvements to the Roca Railway line, infrastructure works on the Miter and Urquiza railway, and the redefinition of the Belgrano Cargas railway network.

A Marco Press reported Chinese government and Argentine government discussed the possibility of selling to Argentina the Sino-Pakistan’s resultant force, JF-17 fighter jets. In the history of both countries noted it was not the first time to have an arms deal. In 2015, the two countries signed a deal for Argentina’s purchase of several weapons systems. Estimated at US$1 billion, the deal included warships, armoured vehicles and fighter jets. These agreements were signed during the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (2008–2015), the left-wing and Peronist leader who built close ties with China. Despite, the retired right-leaning, Mauricio Macri in 2015 having cancelled these projects, the Peronist government in 2019 tried to revive it.

In late May 2021, The Argentinian government have announced an Ascention Technologies SA will have a collaboration with China’s counterpart, Satellite Hard to install a satellite ground station at an industrial park, The Southern city of Rio Gallegos. But before, since 2017, Argentina also hosted a Chinese military-run space station in Neuquen province. The facility signed between the PRC and the prior government of Cristina Fernandez, is largely operated by Chinese military personnel.

The station’s location and known dish characteristics appear consistent with China’s need for facilities in the hemisphere capable of continuously tracking objects in space, in support of its lunar and planetary space program. While the telescope facility does not have an overtly military purpose, the head of the U.S. Southern Command has mentioned it as an item of concern, as it is conceivably capable of intercepting signals from American or other overflying satellites, or supporting other Chinese strategic missions.

The Chinese space radar telescope is not, however, the only instance of China collaboration with Argentina on issues related to space. Great Wall Industrial Corporation has helped to build and launch 13 satellites for the commercial Argentine company Satellogic. Additionally, the state satellite company ARSAT also maintains commercial service contract relations with Chinese-based firms.

The several relations led by the Argentine government depend on China’s potensial. Instead of the protests that have grown up in Argentina, the government needs to upgrade their economic growth. But, for some reasons, the government should set an alarm if China steps up their acceleration. Besides, the government should be careful and must have more consideration to Chinese firms because the West analysts have stated that China’s foreign policy has an unseen reciprocal, the debt-trap. It had been proven that Sri-Lanka’s port, the Hambantota, went to the China side.

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The Gendered Effects of COVID-19 in Mexico

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Authors: Andi Dahmer, Kerby Gilstrap, Timothy S. Rich*

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many existing problems and inequalities in societies around the world. Informal labor, loosely defined as “productive activities that are not taxed or registered by the government” has suffered more job losses due to the pandemic. These jobs, such as fruit market vendors or hospitality workers among other lower-paying professions, are less likely to have remote working options which increases the exposure of their employees to COVID-19. According to the International Labor Organization, Latin America and the Caribbean region saw the largest reduction in hours worked in the labor market, estimated at a 20.9% loss in hours. In Mexico, women have experienced unemployment at higher rates than men. In March 2020, the unemployment rate was just under 3 percent, but due to shutdowns during the course of the pandemic, the unemployment rate has fluctuated between 4 and 5.5 percent since then. COVID-19 also largely accounts for a GDP decline of 8% in 2020.

Due to the pandemic and the rise of working remotely from home, many workers have found the lines between work and home blurred. According to Pew Research Center, in a survey about how Covid-19 has impacted working Americans, one third of respondents who work from home all or most of the time now work longer hours than before the pandemic. Results are similar for those who rarely or never work from home (23%) and for those whose work cannot be done from home (21%). In total, 24% of respondents said they are working more hours, 59% said about the same or did not know, and 17% said they are working fewer hours than before the pandemic.

This disparity is also true in Latin America, where women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Already, men were more likely than women to both participate in the labor market and hold jobs in “high-paying sectors”; however, even before the pandemic, women in Latin America and the Caribbean faced high levels of unemployment.

Women who did work often did so in sectors most affected by the pandemic (e.g. tourism, restaurants) and in which one could not work remotely, which exacerbated already high levels of unemployment across the region.

According to the LAC COVID-19 High Frequency Monitoring project, 56 percent of women lost their jobs either temporarily or permanently between May and August 2020, a rate 44 percent higher than that of men. Even as men began returning to the workforce in 2021, the gap in job losses by gender remained. Two of the largest factors to blame for this include: childcare and household responsibilities in combination with gender norms, and reliance on work in industries that require face-to-face interaction and are thus vulnerable to social distancing measures. Many could not transition to work from home, and those who could often did so while balancing traditional caregiving responsibilities for children and family members which ultimately became too burdensome to successfully balance, and contributed to an exit from the workforce.

To assess both views of the government’s response to COVID-19, but more importantly the shifts in work and household responsibilities due to the pandemic, we conducted an original web survey June 22-24 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. First, we asked respondents to evaluate the statement “I am satisfied with the national government’s response to COVID-19”. Overall, 45.44% agreed with the statement, compared to 42.4% disagreeing. Men were slightly more likely than women to state they were satisfied with the response. Broken down by party, only supporters of the ruling MORENA party had a majority of respondents satisfied, consistent with the broader public opinion literature on the role of partisan lenses.

Next, we randomly assigned respondents to one of two prompts regarding responsibilities since COVID-19.

Version 1: Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, would you say that your work responsibilities have decreased, increased, or stayed about the same?

Version 2: Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, would you say that your household responsibilities have decreased, increased, or stayed about the same?

In terms of the work responsibilities version, we see that men were far more likely to say responsibilities had increased rather than decreased (41.52% vs. 16.96%), whereas women were more evenly divided (36.05% vs. 34.01%) However, when asked to evaluate the increase of household responsibilities, we see almost identical responses between men and women, with nearly two thirds of both (64.71% of men, 66.27% of women) stating responses increased.

These findings on their face may seem odd at first glance, when considering that household responsibilities, especially childcare, tend to fall disproportionately on women. However, this may be a case of men overestimating the time spent on housework, as seen elsewhere prior to the pandemic. Likewise, our survey cannot capture the extent to which household responsibilities increased, only that male and female respondents claimed increases. For example, according to a 2015 study, after the birth of their first child, a woman’s total house work (including unpaid labor and childcare) increases 21 hours per week whereas men’s increases to slightly more than 12 hours. It is not unreasonable to assume similar differential increases due to the pandemic, especially in light of gender role expectations in Mexico.

Finally, this analysis does not take into account the single mothers who are barred from re-entering the workforce as they are unable to find sufficient childcare to monitor their children when they work outside of the home. This is especially true of the gig economy and informal labor sectors which cannot be completed virtually. For example, according to the United Nations, women in Mexico before the pandemic performed 39 hours per week of unpaid labor (nearly the same amount as a full-time job) and the number is increasing due to COVID. This does not include increased homeschooling responsibilities as public schools In Mexico closed. Men, by contrast, performed only 13 hours of unpaid labor, and the inequity was especially stark for single mothers. In Mexico City, for example, record numbers of women have been forced to enter the sex trade in order to afford food, rent, and provisions for their families. The Associated Press estimates that nearly 40 % of the women new to sex work are single mothers who lack any other alternative.

How to reintegrate millions of women forced to exit the workforce during the pandemic will be a challenge to Mexico, but one faced by most developing and developed countries alike. The New York Times has labeled this mass exodus of women as a “shecession” and foreshadows long term implications of women’s exit throughout the global economy. There are many possible policy solutions to the inclusion of women in the workforce but none of them are short-term fixes. A simple start would be ensuring that women have access to childcare. If children are home alone, it is impossible for low-wage workers to return to informal labor sectors outside of the home. The second and third are increasing access to higher education for women around the world and closing the gender pay gap so that women’s rates of unemployment and employment in low-wage sectors are not substantially higher than men’s. While, during the 2010’s, Mexico implemented a Federal Daycare Program for working mothers, this program still did not have the capacity to address the rampant need in all parts of the country. Then, in February of 2019, citing austerity measures, President López Obrador permanently ended the program, resulting in more than 1.8 million parents living without access to childcare. Moreover, Mexico has one of the largest gender employment gaps as well as gender pay gaps in the OECD. Though policies are enacted to alleviate these economic stressors, policy rollbacks, like those listed above, have consistently communicated to women and indigienous women that their needs are not prioritized. The pandemic has exacerbated this gap and it is unclear to what extent the government will act to offer solutions.

Andi Dahmer is the Exchange Program Manager at the World Affairs Council of Kentucky. She is a 2019 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University and a 2018 Truman Scholar.

Kerby Gilstrap is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University. She is majoring in International Affairs, Arabic, and Sustainable Development

Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL) at Western Kentucky University.

Funding for this survey work was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.

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