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Biden Says US ‘Must Change Laws That Enable Discrimination’

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – US President Joe Biden says American laws need to be changed in order to root out racial discrimination.

In a statement released on Sunday on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Biden said “systemic racism and white supremacy are ugly poisons that have long plagued the United States.”

The US president emphasized that racism and xenophobia are also global problems, but called specifically for domestic reforms.

“We must change the laws that enable discrimination in our country, and we must change our hearts,” Biden said, adding that his administration “will not shy away from engaging in the hard work to take on the damaging legacy of slavery and our treatment of Native Americans, or from doing the daily work of addressing systemic racism and violence against Black, Native, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color.”

Biden recalled that on his first day in office, he signed a presidential order establishing a whole of government approach to equity and racial justice.





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Countdown to the airstrike: the moment Israeli forces hit al-Jalaa tower, Gaza | Global development

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Countdown to destruction

During the 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in May 2021, Israeli airstrikes destroyed five multi-storey towers in the heart of Gaza City. The images of buildings crumbling to the ground flashed across TV channels around the world as Gaza faced the most intense Israeli offensive since 2014. At least 256 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children, and 13 in Israel, including two children. Israel claimed it was destroying the military capabilities of Hamas, who had fired rockets at Israel after weeks of tension in Jerusalem over the planned displacement of Palestinian residents and police raids on al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan.

Each time Israel said it was targeting Hamas and that it had warned the residents first. But what is it like to have only a few minutes to evacuate before watching your life collapse into rubble?

In conjunction with the civilian harm monitoring organisation Airwars, the Guardian spoke with dozens of residents and gathered footage and photos to piece together the story of one building, al-Jalaa tower, demolished by an Israeli airstrike on 15 May 2021. These are the stories from inside the tower, of the Mahdi clan, who owned and lived in the building, the Jarousha family and the Hussein family.

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza hit a 12-storey building in the early hours of 12 May 2021.
Clockwise from top left: Israeli airstrikes in Gaza hit a 12-storey building in the early hours of 12 May 2021; a 13-storey residential block collapses in the Gaza Strip on 11 May 2021; an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City, 14 May 2021; smoke rises following an Israeli strike on al-Shorouq tower in Gaza City, 12 May 2021.

The story of al-Jalaa tower

The upscale Rimal area of Gaza City and its multi-storey towers had suffered since the bombing began. Though al-Jalaa was thought to be safe, night-long bombing had terrified its residents, who struggled to sleep. Fearing the impact of blasts, families had been sleeping in hallways away from the windows.

Children from al-Jalaa tower get ready to sleep in the hallway of the building for safety. Photo: Issam Mahdi

Al-Jalaa tower was built in 1994 as part of a property boom sparked by the landmark Oslo peace agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis.

The first five floors were offices, with floors six to 10 inhabited by families. On floor 11, the top floor, were the Gaza offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, two of the world’s largest media companies. The ground floor had two levels of shops and beneath it was a car park.

Many of the residents came from the Mahdi family, including the building’s owner Jawad and his son Mohammed.

After each marriage in the Mahdi clan the new family settled into the tower. Jawad, 68, had traded in Israel before 2007 when the Jewish state blockaded Gaza after the Islamist group Hamas seized control of the territory. Since then he has run his clothes company in Gaza.

The whole family had huddled together into a few apartments on the sixth floor for safety, but were about to be scattered as they rushed to evacuate.


Timeline



The aftermath

As Jawad searches through the rubble he finds a single folder. It contains pictures of his wedding day.

Jawad Mahdi with a photograph of his wedding day, found amid the rubble of al-Jalaa tower. Photo: Mohammed Mahdi

Mohannad and Suzanne’s cats were never found. “I still don’t know their fate until today,” Mohannad says. “Every day from the moment it was destroyed I was going to the building listening for any sound.”

Suzanne says their lives will never be the same. “Everything you love is gone – it doesn’t matter about the cupboards and beds and things. There are things my kids had when they were babies, clothes that I had from when I was a child – these were memories. There was a box with all the things from my father, god rest his soul, his glasses and mobile and pictures. Where am I going to get things like that again?

“We have become people without memories or mementoes. What is a person without those? If you have no memories you feel like you never lived.”

Walid Hussein, the engineer who had returned with his family from years living in the US, has become like a ghost. He has not a single document to prove who he is. Sometimes he thinks about going back to the US for his children, but he has his elderly mother in Gaza to support. He doesn’t want to have to make a choice. He shares his hopes for a peaceful future in Gaza:

“This is all we are asking for, to live a peaceful life. Very peaceful life, it means security, it means no harm to anybody, it means don’t touch my kids – not because you have this technology and this kind of weapon you bomb all of us from the air.”

Main photo: NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock, Guardian composite; Satellite images ©2021 Maxar Tech/AFP/Getty Images, Google Earth

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UK in talks with US for travel corridor

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UK prime minister Boris Johnson has said his government is in talks with its US counterparts to ensure that American citizens can enter the UK “freely” and “in the way they normally do,” Reuters reported on Wednesday. The Financial Times reported earlier this week that the UK was expected to announced the reopening of England for fully-vaccinated travellers from the EU and US this week.

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Russian-US Strategic Stability Talks Open in Geneva Month After Putin-Biden Summit

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Roughly a month after Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden agreed on strategic dialogue during the landmark summit in Geneva, the US and Russian delegations are set to meet in the Swiss city to discuss strategic stability on 28 July.

The Russian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov arrived in Geneva on Tuesday. Before the consultations, the foreign ministry stressed that the sides would discuss issues of maintaining and strengthening strategic stability, as well as prospects for arms control. The State Department, in its turn, added that such a dialogue with Russia should lay the foundation for the future arms control regime and measures to reduce risks.

The US will be represented by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. In addition, the American delegation will include Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Bonnie Jenkins.

There is every reason to believe that the upcoming consultations between Moscow and Washington will be serious, Nikolai Sokov, a senior fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, told Sputnik.

“Both sides feel the need to do something tangible to stabilize the strategic relationship and revive arms control keeping in mind that New START, the last arms control agreement in effect, will expire in less than five years. I must note here that last consultations, in the summer of 2020 still under Trump, were serious, too, and promised progress, but the Trump team got too greedy and wanted too much, so talks failed. I am a bit more optimistic now,” he told Sputnik.

In February, Washington officially extended New START, an agreement that limits each side’s nuclear arsenal to 700 missiles, 800 launchers and 1,550 deployed warheads, until 5 February, 2026. The US decision to revive the treaty, which was sealed by then-presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, was welcomed by Russia.


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Sputnik / Dmitriy Astakhov

The signing of the New START treaty in Prague, the Czech Republic by President Dmitry Medvedev and President Barack Obama on April 8, 2010.

The position of Moscow has not changed much as the country still calls for a “strategic equation,” while the US stance remains unclear, according to Sokov.

“That said, I believe there is a greater chance that the US will agree to discuss missile defense and long-range conventional weapons. Unfortunately, this will be the result of Russian advances in both fields, not because the US has accepted the logic of the Russian position. That is, arms racing keeps driving arms control, as was the case during the Cold War. I think that it is pretty certain that the US will also seek to capitalize on the success of the previous administration and raise a freeze on nuclear warhead stockpiles, to which Russia agreed in the fall of 2020 (without verification, though). Russia objects to that, so something else to discuss,” he said.

Much will depend on the format of the meeting — whether the sides will have only one or two days of talks or agree on the working process and permanent meeting, Sokov added.

“I also hope – not without reason – that they will ultimately seek to agree on a framework of full-scale negotiations which begin soon, hopefully at the end of this year or perhaps early next year,” the expert concluded.

Meanwhile, Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, doubts that much should be expected from the upcoming talks.

“It’s an opportunity to exchange views, not to conclude an agreement. The State Department’s announcement indicates as much,” he told Sputnik.

Miles Pomper, a senior fellow at the Washington DC office of the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, expressed hope that there will be some progress, noting that “if there is it probably won’t be visible.”

“At this point, the delegations can be expected to begin work on defining an agenda for strategic stability discussions and defining what might be included in possible negotiations over a New START agreement. The fact that they are meeting is an achievement in itself,” he told Sputnik.

TYPES OF WEAPONS

As the talks near, speculations emerge what types of weapons they will discuss. Russia has proposed a “security equation,” which would include all types of weapons that can affect strategic stability, including nuclear, non-nuclear, offensive and defensive.


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Sputnik / POOL

Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre right, and U.S. President Joe Biden, centre left, attend a meeting at the Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is at left, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, is at right.

Marc Finaud, the head of arms proliferation at the Geneva Center for Security Policy, recalled that it is true that, until now, constraints have been agreed only on strategic offensive deployed nuclear weapons on both sides for reasons related to verification.

“There is a large number of non-deployed and/or non-strategic nuclear weapons that need to be included into ceilings or reductions. Moreover, since the US withdrew from the ABM [the Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty in 2002, there are almost no constraints on defensive systems which may be seen as an incentive for a first strike. In addition, beyond nuclear weapons, there are strategic conventional systems such as the US Global Prompt Strike long-distance precision-guided system, that may also be perceived as facilitating a first strike,” he said.

On 13 December, 2002, then-US President George W. Bush announced that Washington would unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty that it concluded with the Soviet Union. The treaty barred the parties from deploying anti-ballistic missile systems that could cover the entire territory of their countries, or provide a base for such broad-range defense.

“Finally, the INF Treaty prohibited all intermediate-range missiles whether conventional or nuclear, precisely because of their dual nature and the impossibility to detect the character of an attack. There is thus a logic to include all systems into a final ‘package deal’ where both sides would be reassured that strategic stability is preserved,” he added.

SYMBOLIC VENUE

The venue of the talks — Geneva — is a good sign since it is the place where important agreements were negotiated in the past, Finaud told Sputnik.

“It is difficult to assess at this stage how much and how fast progress can be achieved. There is a need to share on both sides for an in-depth discussion about what is meant by ‘strategic stability’, usually implying the preservation, for each side, of its retaliation capacity in case of first strike by the other,” he continued.

Today, there is an urgent need to reduce the risk of nuclear war be it by escalation from conventional conflict, misperception, accident, or use of digital weapons, according to the expert.

“Indeed, the current arms race between defensive and offensive systems with the introduction of destabilizing weapons (low-yield warhead-tip or nuclear-powered cruise missiles, hypersonic missiles, etc.) and new technologies concur in lowering the threshold of use of nuclear weapons. In addition, the New START treaty expires definitively in 2026 and it needs to be replaced with a more comprehensive treaty and additional measures towards disarmament,” he said.



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