Donald Trump
File image of US President Donald Trump | Photo: Carlos Barria | Bloomberg
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Conservatives join hands with Britain’s opposition in Parliament to oppose May’s ‘no-deal’ Brexit and Turkey’s Erdogan lashes out at US for Syria withdrawal ‘condition’.

In address to nation, Trump says situation at border a ‘humanitarian crisis’

US President Donald Trump sought to project the illegal immigration through the country’s border with Mexico as a humanitarian crisis as he made his first prime-time address from the White House Oval Office Tuesday.

His speech came as the US grapples with a partial government shutdown that has seen as many as 8 lakh government employees furloughed or working without pay, “in addition to hundreds of thousands of contractors”, The New York Times reported.

The shutdown came amid differences between Trump and the Democrats over the funding for his proposed wall at the border to hold back illegal immigrants, a campaign promise that won him many enthusiastic supporters during the 2016 presidential election. While he had earlier claimed that he would get Mexico to pay for the wall, Trump has now sought over $5 billion from the US treasury to get it up.

“This is a humanitarian crisis—a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Trump said of the situation at the country’s southern border, a claim dismissed by opponents and the media as an exaggeration.

“This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end,”  The Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying.

The President said more Americans would die of drug abuse this year than did during the two-decade-long Vietnam war, which reportedly killed over 58,000 Americans. The claim was meant to highlight what he describes as heavy drug trafficking through open areas of the border, an assertion that doesn’t hold up to a fact check.

His claim that the Democrats would “not fund border security” has also been questioned in the media’s fact-checks of his speech. You can read The Washington Post’s fact-check here and the NYT’s here.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, was among those who slammed Trump’s speech. “President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government,” she was quoted as saying by the WSJ.

Conservatives help pass obstacle to ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Some Conservative rebels joined hands with Britain’s opposition Labour in Parliament to win “a vote that created a new obstacle to a no-deal Brexit”, Reuters reported.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper tabled an amendment to the finance bill, passed 303 to 296, that will curb the government’s tax administration powers in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Sir Oliver Letwin, a former Tory minister who was among the 20 Conservative MPs who backed the amendment, said: “The majority tonight that is expressed in this house will sustain itself. We will not allow a no-deal exit to occur at the end of March.”

The EU Withdrawal Act has set the date of Brexit as 29 March. The BBC reported that “if the agreement the prime minister has negotiated with the EU fails to pass the House of Commons, the UK will leave with no deal at all unless something changes, because leaving the EU is written into UK law”.

Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to gain approval in Parliament for the Brexit deal she negotiated with Brussels.

According to an Al Jazeera report, “The main sticking point in May’s deal is the safety net ‘backstop’ measure – which would would keep open the border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, following Brexit by temporarily aligning Britain with EU trade rules.”

BBC explained that a no-deal Brexit means that the UK would leave the European Union immediately on 29 March and there would be no agreements in place about what their relationship would be like in future.

Turkey’s Erdogan hits out at US for Syria withdrawal ‘condition’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday lashed out at the US for asking Ankara to protect Syrian-Kurd fighters as a condition of Washington’s pullout from the troubled country.

The statement was made by US national security adviser John Bolton on a trip to the region to brief allies about the country’s plans to withdraw its forces from Syria.

The Syrian-Kurd People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been allies of the US in the latter’s offensive against the so-called Islamic State in Syria, but are seen as terrorists by Turkey.

“The message that Bolton gave in Israel is unacceptable. It is not possible for us to swallow,” a report in The Washington Post quoted Erdogan as saying in Parliament.

According to a report in Al Jazeera, Bolton held talks with Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin. The report said a joint conference scheduled to take place was called-off “and Bolton was set to depart Turkey without meeting Erdogan in a likely snub over disagreements about Kurdish fighters”.

However, aides to Bolton said that he did not feel snubbed by Erdogan’s statements, The New York Times reported.

China approves GM crop imports amid talks to ease trade war with US

China has approved the import of five genetically-modified crops from the US, 18 months after it last accepted a batch of such products. The move was described by a Chinese representative as a “goodwill gesture towards the resolution of the trade issue” with the US, The South China Morning Post reported.

According to the report, the approved crops include “RF3 canola, originally developed by Bayer and now owned by BASF; Monsanto’s glyphosate-tolerant MON 88302 canola; DuPont Pioneer DP4114 corn; Syngenta’s SYHT0H2 soybean; and Dow AgroSciences’ DAS-44406-6 soybean”.

The move came after Chinese and American officials met Monday for talks to end the ongoing trade war, which has seen both countries impose tariffs on each other’s products. Although a 90-day truce was imposed in December, talks are underway to further ease tensions.

China is the top importer of soybeans, and the US the biggest exporter.

Wall Street Journal report said this move will “open a new front in U.S. farmers’ long-running war against hard-to-kill weeds.”

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