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'Centrist' NYT Opinion Editor Bari Weiss resigns citing 'hostile work culture'


'Centrist' NYT Opinion Editor Bari Weiss resigns citing 'hostile work culture'

Bari Weiss, an opinion editor at The New York Times, quit her job on Tuesday with a public resignation letter that alleged harassment and a hostile work environment created by people who disagreed with her.

Andrew Sullivan, another prominent journalist who expressed concern that a "woke" culture is crowding out dissenting opinion, similarly announced his resignation from New York magazine.

Sullivan is a conservative columnist and Weiss is considered conservative by some, although she labels herself a centrist.

"Intellectual curiosity is now a liability at The Times," said Weiss, who was also a writer at the newspaper.

She was brought to the Times in 2017 by James Bennet, the opinion editor who lost his job in the aftermath of an op-ed published by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton that advocated using federal troops to quell unrest in the wake of George Floyd's death. Some Black reporters at The Times said they felt endangered by the piece and they were supported by dozens of colleagues.

She wrote that she was hired to attract new voices to the Times in the wake of President Donald Trump's election, but that lessons from that time hadn't been learned.

"Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else," she wrote.

She said she was openly smeared and demeaned by colleagues who didn't fear their behaviour would be checked.

"Showing up to work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery," Weiss wrote.

Kathleen Kingsbury, acting editorial page editor at the newspaper, said she wants to ensure that viewpoints from across the political spectrum are published.

The Times didn't address Weiss' specific harassment allegations.

"We're committed to fostering an environment of honest, searching and empathetic dialogue between colleagues, one where mutual respect is required of all," spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.

On Twitter, Sullivan wrote that "the mob" bullied Weiss for thought crimes "and her editors stood by and watched."

Later, he tweeted that he was resigning as a columnist at New York magazine for "reasons that are pretty self-evident." He didn't specify those reasons but said he'll have a farewell column later this week and will continue his work elsewhere.

In a June 12 column titled "Is There Still Room to Debate?" Sullivan wrote about an increasingly furious campaign to quell dissent from the central idea that society's evils stem from discrimination against Blacks.

"In these past two weeks, if you didn't put up on Instagram or Facebook some kind of slogan or symbol displaying your wokeness, you were instantly suspect," he wrote.

David Haskell, editor-in-chief of New York magazine, said he and Sullivan both agreed that his ideas and the magazine's were no longer a match.

"While I found myself often disagreeing with his politics, I also found it valuable to be publishing work that challenged my thinking," he said in a memo to staff members.

He said he'll continue to push work that challenges the liberal assumptions of much of New York's readership, while acknowledging that such commentary is difficult to get right in 2020.




Big win for international students in US, as Donald Trump administration rescinds F1 visa rule


Big win for international students in US, as Donald Trump administration rescinds F1 visa rule

The Trump administration has agreed to rescind its July 6 rule, which temporarily bared international students from staying in the United States unless they attend at least one in-person course, a federal district court judge said on Tuesday.

The U-turn by the Trump administration comes following a nationwide outrage against its July 6 order and a series of lawsuits filed by a large number of educational institutions, led by the prestigious Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), seeking a permanent injunctive relief to bar the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from enforcing the federal guidelines barring international students attending colleges and universities offering only online courses from staying in the country.

As many as 17 US states and the District of Columbia, along with top American IT companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, joined MIT and Harvard in the US District Court in Massachusetts against the DHS and the ICE in seeking an injunction to stop the entire rule from going into effect.

"I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution. They will return to the status quo," Judge Allison Burroughs, the federal district judge in Boston, said in a surprise statement at the top of the hearing on the lawsuit.

The announcement comes as a big relief to international students, including those from India. In the 2018-2019 academic year, there were over 10 lakh international students in the US. According to a recent report of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), 1,94,556 Indian students were enrolled in various academic institutions in the US in January.

Judge Burroughs said the policy would apply nationwide.

"Both the policy directive and the frequently asked questions would not be enforced anyplace," she said, referring to the agreement between the US government and MIT and Harvard.

Congressman Brad Scneider said this is a great win for international students, colleges and common sense.

"The Administration needs to give us a plan to tackle our public health crisis - it can't be recklessly creating rules one day and rescinding them the next," he said in a tweet.

Last week, more than 136 Congressmen and 30 senators wrote to the Trump administration to rescind its order on international students.

"This is a major victory for the students, organisers and institutions of higher education in the #MA7 and all across the country that stood up and fought back against this racist and xenophobic rule," said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.


"Taking online classes shouldn't force international students out of our country," Congressman Mikie Sherrill said in a tweet.

In its July 6 notice, the ICE had said all student visa holders, whose university curricula were only offered online, "must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status".

"If not, they may face immigration consequences, including but not limited to the initiation of removal proceedings," it had said.

In their lawsuit, the 17 states and the District of Columbia said for many international students, remote learning in the countries and communities they come from would impede their studies or be simply impossible.

The lawsuit alleged that the new rule imposes a significant economic harm by precluding thousands of international students from coming to and residing in the US and finding employment in fields such as science, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, business and finance, and education, and contributing to the overall economy.

In a separate filing, companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, along with the US Chamber of Commerce and other IT advocacy groups, asserted that the July 6 ICE directive will disrupt their recruiting plans, making it impossible to bring on board international students that businesses, including the amici, had planned to hire, and disturb the recruiting process on which the firms have relied on to identify and train their future employees.

The July 6 directive will make it impossible for a large number of international students to participate in the CPT and OPT programmes. The US will "nonsensically be sending...these graduates away to work for our global competitors and compete against us...instead of capitalising on the investment in their education here in the US", they said.

 

 

 




China raises flood response to second-highest level


China raises flood response to second-highest level

BEIJING: China's Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) on Sunday raised the emergency response for flood control to Level II, the second-highest in the response system, as heavy downpours continued to lash vast stretches of the country.

Since July 4, alert-triggering floods have been observed in 212 rivers nationwide, among which 19 topped previous water level records, according to the MWR.

The water level in Taihu Lake, the country's second-largest freshwater lake, has risen above the alert level for 15 consecutive days, said the MWR.

China's State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters also lifted the emergency response to Level II later Sunday, following its last upgrade from Level IV to Level III on Tuesday.

The announcement came after Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake located in the eastern province of Jiangxi, saw its water level at the Hukou station nearing the guaranteed level of 22.5 meters at 4 p.m. on Sunday, indicating an extraordinary emergency of flood control.

Due to severe flooding, the headquarters, the Ministry of Emergency Management, and the National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration on Sunday allocated disaster-relief supplies like tents, blankets, and fold-up beds to the provinces of Jiangxi, Hunan, and Guizhou.

By noon on Sunday, floods in 27 provincial regions, including Jiangxi, Anhui, and Hubei had resulted in the deaths or disappearance of 141 people, and 2.25 million emergency relocations this year. Around 28,000 homes were flattened and 3.53 million hectares of crops affected, with the direct economic loss at 82.23 billion yuan (about 11.76 billion U.S. dollars).

China has a four-tier flood control emergency response system, with Level I representing the most severe.




Afghan government to build civilian airport in eastern Nangarhar province


Afghan government to build civilian airport in eastern Nangarhar province

The Afghan government has decided to build a civilian airport outside Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, a senior official of the country's Civil Aviation Qasim Wafizada said.

According to the official, the new airport would be constructed on 3,500 acres of land in Kozkunar area at a cost of 40 million U.S. dollars within two years.

The ground breaking ceremony of the airport was held with the participation of central and provincial government officials on Friday and the ranking officials laid the foundation stone of the planned airport.

Nangarhar province has already a military airport in Jalalabad city but also used by civilian planes when necessary especially during Hajj flights to take the intending Hajji to Mecca.




Amazon rainforest registers record deforestation in June


Amazon rainforest registers record deforestation in June

Brasilia: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has hit a monthly record of 1,034.4 square kilometres in June, the government reported.

The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation revealed in a report on Friday that deforestation in June was 10.6 per cent higher than in the same month of 2019, and 24.31 per cent higher than May this year, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to the report, the world's largest rainforest witnessed 2,248 fires in June, the highest level for the month of June in 13 years.

Additionally, areas totalling 3,069.57 square kilometres were deforested in the first half of the year, an increase of 25 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

The figures came at a time when the Brazilian government is receiving harsh criticism from the international community for its alleged lack of commitment in combating the destruction of the Amazon.

On Thursday, Vice President Hamilton Mourao led a meeting with a group of international investors, who publicly expressed their disagreement with the country's environmental policy.

The official stated that investors had demanded environmental policies that produced results, and he promised a stronger effort from the government in reducing high rates of deforestation.

Deforestation in the region has soared since President Jair Bolsonaro took office last year, according to conservation groups.

He has argued that more farming and mining in protected areas of the forest were the only way to lift the region out of poverty.

Bolsonaro's environmental policies have been widely condemned but he has rejected the criticism, saying Brazil remains an example for conservation.

 
 
 



Who is Pritam Singh, the Indian origin politician who is now Leader of Opposition in Singapore?


Who is Pritam Singh, the Indian origin politician who is now Leader of Opposition in Singapore?

Indian origin Pritam Singh was elected as the Leader of Opposition by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who won 83 out of the 93 seats in the recently concluded Singapore General Election.

Singh issued a statement on Facebook where he said, “I refer to PM Lee Hsien Loong’s press conference early this morning. I look forward to serving as the leader of the opposition and will carry out my duties to the best of my abilities. I will endeavour to ensure that The Workers' Party under my leadership will remain loyal to Singapore and all Singaporeans. On behalf of all WP candidates at GE2020, and on a more personal note, thank you to all our families and loved ones, who have marched in step with us, through all the highs and lows over many years.”

 
 

According the Workers’ Party website, Singh has been in active politics since 2011. “Pritam has spoken on a wide range of issues including foreign affairs and defence, and job disruption faced by PMET workers. In 2020, he called for giving seniors above 60 greater access to their Medisave to settle inpatient and outpatient bills,” the website says, adding that he assumed Chairmanship of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council and oversaw significant improvements in estate and compliance matters.

Singh joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1994, and served as an officer from 1997 to 2002 having achieved the commissioned rank of Major.

Earlier, Singapore’s Prime Minister assured it is "only right" that Workers' Party's Indian-origin secretary-general Pritam Singh be "formally designated" as the Leader of the Opposition, and that he will be provided with "appropriate staff support and resources to perform his duties".

Singh, whose Workers' Party team retained Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), will have 10 elected MPs now, up from six previously. His fellow member also retained the Hougang single member constituency seat.

 



Singapore elections: PAP wins 83 out of 93 seats in historic election amid pandemic; Indian-origin Pritam Singh is leader of opposition


Singapore elections: PAP wins 83 out of 93 seats in historic election amid pandemic; Indian-origin Pritam Singh is leader of opposition

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has secured a "clear mandate" with his ruling People's Action Party (PAP) winning 83 of the 93 contested parliamentary seats in the general election held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Opposition gaining ground by winning a record 10 seats.

The ruling party, in power since independence in 1965, secured 61.24 per cent of the total votes cast in the election, down from 69.9 per cent in 2015. About 2.6 million Singaporeans voted on Friday.

"We have a clear mandate, but the percentage of the popular vote is not as high as I had hoped for," 68-year old Lee told a PAP's post-results press conference on Saturday morning.

The opposition Workers' Party secured 10 seats and defeated a team in the Group Representation Constituency of Sengkang led by former Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng who is also the Secretary-General of the power National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

The Prime Minister assured it is "only right" that Workers' Party's Indian-origin secretary-general Pritam Singh be "formally designated" as the Leader of the Opposition, and that he will be provided with "appropriate staff support and resources to perform his duties".

Lee took the results in "these circumstances" as an "endorsement" of the party's policies and plans as he had called the elections amidst COVID-19 pandemic.

"We'll take this forward and work with Singapore to realise those plans and solve the problems which we have," Channel News Asia quoted the premier as saying.

Lee, who leads the PAP as secretary-general, said, "Singaporeans understand what's at stake and why we must come together to uphold our national interests." He pledged to use this mandate "responsibly" to deal with the COVID-19 situation and economic downturn, to take Singapore "safely through the crisis and beyond".

"The results reflect the pain and uncertainty that Singaporeans feel in this crisis, the loss of income, the anxiety about jobs, the disruption caused by the circuit breaker and the safe distancing restrictions," he said.

This was not a "feel-good" election, said Lee, Singapore's third prime minister who faces the city state's worst recession with economy projected to shrink between 7 and 4 per cent.

Lee acknowledged that the result also showed a "clear desire" for a diversity of voices in Parliament.

"Singaporeans want the PAP to form the government, but they, and especially the younger voters, also want to see more opposition presence in parliament," he noted.

Lee added that he looks forward to the participation and contribution of the Opposition in parliament.

Singh, whose Workers' Party team retained Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), will have 10 elected MPs now, up from six previously. His fellow member also retained the Hougang single member constituency seat.

"Whether it works out. and whether it's seen as a strengthening of Singapore will depend not only on what the PAP does, but also on what the Opposition does because the Opposition now has 10 MPs elected from constituencies," said Lee.

He assured that the ruling party will listen to Singaporeans and do its best to address their concerns, and "try to win" their support, whether or not they voted for the PAP.

When asked by the media if the party had lost the youth vote, he noted that different generations have different life experiences, and the young have significantly different life aspirations and priorities compared to the older generations.

"That'll have to be reflected in our political process and in the government's policies, because in the end, the government's policies must be to achieve the aspirations of every generation of Singaporeans," Lee said, assuring Singaporeans.

He hoped that the new generations of Singaporeans "look critically, but with an open mind" at what previous generations have done, "examine what's relevant and what continues to make sense to them in a new environment" and "learn from these experiences hard won by their parents and grandparents".

This is so that they do not have to "learn them all over again and pay a high price which has already been paid".

Lee added that he was, naturally, disappointed at the loss of the newly formed Sengkang GRC, which the Workers' Party won with 52.13 per cent of the valid votes.

"Ng Chee Meng and his team -- Lam Pin Min, Amrin Amin and Raymond Lye -- always knew it was going to be a tough fight," he said.

"They gave it their all, but Sengkang voters have spoken, and we respect their decision." Lee described it as a "major loss to my team" and to the fourth-generation leaders, especially as Ng is the secretary-general of the Labour Movement, the NTUC.

Singh, 43, told a press conference following the results that his team would "continue to endeavor for good outcomes on the ground" and to represent voters "faithfully in parliament".

"Today's results are positive, but we have to hit the ground running. We should not get over our head with the results. There's much work to do. And I can assure you this Workers' Party team is committed to serve Singapore," he stressed.

The PAP contested all 93 seat and the Workers' Party 21 seats. Nine other political parties also contested the elections.

A total of 192 candidates contested for seats through 17 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

 
 
 



China stresses flood control, advancing water conservancy projects


China stresses flood control, advancing water conservancy projects

BEIJING: China will make all-out efforts in flood control and disaster relief work while advancing the construction of major water conservancy projects, according to an executive meeting of the State Council Wednesday.

The meeting, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang, stressed that people's lives are the top priority, and decided to increase material and funding support to help local authorities relocate disaster-hit residents. The meeting also decided to repair damaged projects, and restore production to the parts of the country most severely affected by floods.

Since the beginning of this year, accumulated precipitation in China has been higher and more intensive than the same period in normal years, causing severe damage to parts of the country, according to the meeting.

The meeting urged readying needed flood-prevention materials, strengthening patrolling of reservoirs and dikes, as well as rolling out personnel evacuation plans.

It also studied the arrangements for 150 major water conservancy projects, calling for advancing construction and enhancing the capabilities of preventing floods, droughts, and other disasters.

Efforts should be made to deepen reforms on investment and financing mechanisms, expand equity and bond financing, and quicken the construction of water conservancy projects by leveraging market-oriented reforms.

To secure hundreds of millions of market entities, supportive fiscal, financial, and social insurance policies which have already been unveiled, should be well implemented. Efforts should also be made to establish a market-oriented, law-based, and internationalized business environment.

The meeting underlined strengthening services for market entities, providing more convenience for employment and entrepreneurship, and optimizing the environment for foreign investment and foreign trade.




Chinese FM makes suggestions on bringing China-U.S. relations back to right track


Chinese FM makes suggestions on bringing China-U.S. relations back to right track

BEIJING: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday made three suggestions on bringing China-U.S. relations back to the right track when addressing the China-U.S. Think Tanks Media Forum.

"First, activate and open all the channels of dialogue," Wang said.

Only communication can dispel falsehoods, and only dialogue can prevent miscalculation, Wang said, reaffirming that China's door to dialogue remains open.

As long as the U.S. side is ready, China can restore and restart the dialogue mechanisms at all levels and in all areas. All issues can be put on the table. All differences can be addressed properly through dialogue, Wang said.

In the meantime, as long as the United States does not set restrictions, China is also ready to promote exchanges and interactions between government departments, localities and social sectors, so as to enable the two peoples to know and understand more of each other, Wang said.

"Second, review and agree on the lists of interactions," Wang said.

Given the inter-connectedness and complexity of issues, it is useful for the two sides to sit down together, run over them and draw up lists of cooperation areas, dialogues, and issues that need proper management, Wang said.

"Third, focus and cooperate on COVID-19 response," Wang said.

Photo taken on April 27, 2020 shows boxes containing face masks donated by China's Fujian Province in Oregon, the United States. Governor of the U.S. state of Oregon Kate Brown on Tuesday expressed her heartfelt thanks to China for its donation of 50,000 medical face masks from Oregon's sister province Fujian. 
Photo taken on April 27, 2020 shows boxes containing face masks donated by China's Fujian Province in Oregon, the United States. Governor of the U.S. state of Oregon Kate Brown on Tuesday expressed her heartfelt thanks to China for its donation of 50,000 medical face masks from Oregon's sister province Fujian. Photo: Xinhua
Noting that in the face of the virus, cooperation should be the first-order priority, Wang said China is ready to share with the United States information about COVID-19 prevention and containment as well as response experience.

"We are also ready to have closer exchanges with the U.S. on diagnostics and therapeutics, vaccines, and economic recovery," Wang said.

The United States, for its part, should immediately stop its acts of politicization and stigmatization, Wang said, adding that it should work with China to promote a global response to save more lives and live up to the international responsibility as two major countries.

China-U.S. relations is faced with the most severe challenge since the establishment of diplomatic ties, Wang said, adding that some in the United States with ideological biases are resorting to all possible means to portray China as an adversary, and even an enemy.

China and the United States should not seek to remodel each other. Instead, they must work together to find ways to peaceful coexistence of different systems and civilizations, he said.

"China does not replicate any model of other countries, nor does it export its own to others," Wang said.

Wang stressed that China never intends to challenge or replace the United States, or have full confrontation with it.

China has maintained a highly stable and consistent policy toward the United States, and is willing to grow the bilateral relations with goodwill and sincerity. However, to achieve that goal, the two sides must work in the same direction, respect international law and international rules, and engage in equal dialogue and consultation, he said.

"China has every right to uphold its sovereignty, security and development interests, safeguard the achievements that the Chinese people have made through hard work, and reject any bullying and injustice imposed on it," he said.

Recalling past decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations, Wang said China and the United States have made the best use of their complementarity, and their interests have become highly integrated.

The two sides should build on past achievements, keep pace with the times, and stay committed to dialogue and cooperation, Wang said.




Market update: Sensex jumps; Infosys, HCL Tech, UltraTech Cement, Maruti were among the laggards


Market update: Sensex jumps; Infosys, HCL Tech, UltraTech Cement, Maruti were among the laggards

Equity benchmark Sensex advanced over 100 points in early trade on Wednesday led by gains in HDFC twins, Reliance Industries and ITC amid sustained foreign fund inflow.

The 30-share index was trading 101.08 points, or 0.28 per cent, higher at 36,775.60. The NSE Nifty was up 34.60 points, or 0.32 per cent, at 10,834.25.

IndusInd Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rallying around 4 per cent, followed by SBI, Tata Steel, Bajaj Auto, ITC, HDFC duo and Reliance Industries. On the other hand, Infosys, HCL Tech, UltraTech Cement, Maruti and Axis Bank were among the laggards.

In the previous session, the BSE barometer ended 187.24 points or 0.51 per cent higher at 36,674.52; while the NSE Nifty settled with 36 points or 0.33 per cent gains at 10,799.65.

Foreign institutional investors were net buyers in the capital market on Tuesday, purchasing equities worth Rs 829.90 crore, provisional exchange data showed.

According to traders, stock-specific gains and sustained foreign fund inflow buoyed domestic investor sentiment. However, weakness in global equities amid rising number of COVID-19 cases capped the gains, they said.

The number of cases around the world linked to the disease has crossed 1.17 crore and the death toll has topped 5.43 lakh.

In India, the number of infections spiked to 7.42 lakh and the death toll rose to 20,642.

Bourses in Shanghai and Hong Kong were trading with gains, while those in Tokyo and Seoul were in the red.

Stock exchanges on Wall Street ended on a negative note in overnight session. Meanwhile, international oil benchmark Brent crude futures fell 0.16 per cent to USD 43.01 per barrel.




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