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FSO Nabarima update: Stranded oil tanker in the Caribbean looks safe — for now - Vox.com
The FSO Nabarima’s precarious situation off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago has worried activists and governments for months.
A stranded oil tanker many feared was on the verge of spilling 1.3 million barrels of crude oil into the Caribbean no longer poses a major environmental risk, Trinidad and Tobagos government said Wednesday. But despite the positive assessment, environmental activists and local experts still want the dual-island nations government to take proactive measures in case the worst actually happens. The precarious situation of the Venezuela-flagged oil tanker, the FSO Nabarima, has concerned environmental activists and governments around the world for months. The ship has been stranded in the Gulf of Paria between Venezuela and the island of Trinidadsince January 2019, when President Donald Trump sanctioned Venezuelas state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). While the measure cut off revenue Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro uses to wield influence and stay in power, it also led PDVSA to abandon operations aboard the ship. That essentially left the tanker to rot, fueling fears the oil on board might eventually spill into the waters below. And if it did, the entire marine environment of the Caribbean and the Trinidad and Tobago fishing industry could be in danger. How the stranded vessel became a matter of international concern Concern for the status of the Nabarima began accelerating in mid-August. During a conversation with a PDVSA union representative, local environmental nonprofit group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) was alerted that the FSO Nabarima was dangerously tiltingand needed to be inspected, FFOS program directorLisa Premchand told me. At the time, PDVSA workers were protesting poor working conditions. FFOS immediately brought the issue to the attention of Trinidad and Tobagos government, including the prime minister. After receiving no response, the group started a social media campaign and gave interviews to local news outlets. Word of the distressed tanker spread. In September, the New York Times reported that the Nabarima was at risk of sinking due to poor maintenance. Ten days later, Trinidad and Tobagos government announced it was awaiting permission from Venezuela to have a delegation board the ship and assess the danger of an oil spill. Then, on October 16, FFOS corporate secretary Gary Aboud went to see the Nabarima for himself. After noticing the ship was titledat a 25-degree angle, Aboud called for swift action in a YouTube video that quickly gained global attention, including that of prominent environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Its unclear what direct impact the notoriety had on the governments of Trinidad and Tobago or Venezuela. But four days after Aboud posted his video, Trinidadian Foreign Minister Amery Browne and Energy Minister Franklin Khan confirmed their government could finally board the Nabarima. Somewhat surprisingly, what the three-person team found wasnt that dire. The Nabarima is upright and stable with no visible tilt and there is no imminent risk of tilting or sinking, Khan told the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian on Wednesday, adding that the vessel poses minimum risk of an oil spill at this time. So, problem solved, right? Not exactly. Local activists and experts emphasize a proactive approach On Tuesday, Argus Media reported that PDVSA had started pumping oil from the Nabarima into another one of its ships, the Icaro. But Khan, Trinidads energy minister, also told the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian the Icaro could transfer only 25 percent of Nabarimas 1.3 million barrels at a time. That means itll require several trips to rid the ship of all the oil on board, keeping the chances of an oil spill higher than zero until much of the load is gone. Thats a problem, as Frank Teelucksingh, a physical oceanographer and director of Coastal Dynamics, a company that oversees environmental projects across Trinidad and Tobago, determined while conducting an oil-spill analysis in September. If the vessel does turn over or crack or spill its contents, we do not know exactly how much will be spilled, Teelucksingh told me. Some might lie on the surface and be transferred away by surface currents and winds, whereas some might get into the water column, if the vessel sinks. That would constitute a different distribution, and the oil moves differently as well. Teelucksingh suggested the government of Trinidad and Tobago get an accurate model up and running to gain a better sense of what an oil spill would actually look like. Having that would make the nations response more effective; for example, it would have a better idea of where to position cleanup crews. Further, booms floating curtains made of plastic or other materials that serve as barriers to contain oil could be used to encircle the vessel before it sinks, he said. But because the Nabarima is a Venezuelan ship, Teelucksingh pointed out that placing a boom would be Venezuelas responsibility, not Trinidad and Tobagos. Being prepared for a potential massive oil spill, no matter how little the risk, is vital. The toxicity from an oil spill can kill many species due to a lack of oxygen. That would devastate Trinidad and Tobagos economy, which relies heavily on fishing, particularly in the exact waters the Nabarima is currently floating in. Thats why local activists, including FFOS, are calling upon CARICOM, a coalition of Caribbean countries, to hold an emergency meeting to determine a joint response to the looming crisis. Since the entire Caribbean Sea could be severely harmed, impacting coastal communities and tourism, they say the problem is one the entire region needs to solve together now. Rather than taking a reactive approach, take a proactive approach, said FFOSs Premchand. The fate of the FSO Nabarima and its remaining oil have yet to be determined. Its also unclear whether CARICOM will act, or if the situation will be left to Trinidad to handle. But one thing is for sure: The potential for danger remains while the ship holds oil in the Gulf of Paria. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Supreme Court hands Democrats a small victory. It’s likely to be a big defeat in the long run. - Vox.com
The Supreme Court ruling on Pennsylvania mail-in ballots is a blow to GOP — but the 4-4 vote should scare Democrats.
The Supreme Court handed down a brief, unsigned order on Monday, which effectively rejected radical arguments by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania that sought to make it harder to vote in that state. This order, in other words, is a victory for voting rights but that victory may only last a matter of days. Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar involves a state Supreme Court order holding that many ballots received up to three days after Election Day must be counted. Mondays order means that this state Supreme Court decision will stand, for now. The Courts decision not to grant relief to the GOP in Republican Party is not especially surprising. What is surprising is the vote breakdown in this case. The Court voted 4-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts crossing over to vote with the three liberal justices. So in the almost certain event that Trump Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to join the Supreme Court, there could be five votes on the Supreme Court who support the GOPs effort to toss out many ballots in the state of Pennsylvania. Indeed, it is possible that Republicans will attempt to raise the same issue before the justices after Barrett is confirmed. The dissenting justices did not explain why they dissented The Supreme Courts order in Republican Party is only two sentences long. The first sentence states that the GOPs request to stay the state Supreme Court decision is denied. The second merely states that Justice Thomas, Justice Alito, Justice Gorsuch, and Justice Kavanaugh would grant the application. None of the four justices in dissent explained why they dissented. In its brief asking the Supreme Court to block the state courts decision, however, the GOP advanced two legally dubious theories. The first is that a federal law providing that the election shall take place on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November. Republicans argue that federal law requires the 2020 general election to be consummated on Election Day (November 3, 2020). So any ballots that may have been mailed after this date must be tossed. One serious problem with this argument, however, is that the provisions of federal law setting an election date should not be enforceable in federal court. As Ive previously explained, private parties are only allowed to bring a lawsuit seeking to enforce a federal statute if that statute contains particular language. And the federal law setting the date of the election does not contain such language. The GOPs other argument is potentially breathtaking in its implications. The Constitution provides that each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, members of the Electoral College. In their brief, the GOP hones in on the word Legislature, arguing that only the Pennsylvania state legislature may set the states rules for choosing presidential electors not the state Supreme Court. But theres a glaring problem with this argument. As the Supreme Court held in Marbury v. Madison (1803), it is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is. In Republican Party, two parties had a disagreement about what Pennsylvania law says about how ballots should be counted. Ultimately, the state supreme court resolved that disagreement in a manner that the GOP disagrees with. The GOP argues in its brief that the state Supreme Courts decision relied on reasoning that is tortured at best. But so what? There was a disagreement between two parties. Someone had to resolve that dispute. And, in questions of state law, the state Supreme Court is supposed to be the final word on such disputes. One of the most basic principles of American law is that the Supreme Court of the United States has the final word on questions of federal law, but state supreme courts have the final word on how to interpret the law of their own state. Indeed, if state supreme courts cannot interpret their states own election law, its unclear how that law is supposed to function. There will inevitably be legal disagreements between candidates, parties, and election officials during an election. Perhaps the Democratic Party believes that a particular ballot should be counted, and the Republican Party disagrees. But someone has to have the power to resolve such disagreements, and, in this country, disputes about the proper meaning of an existing law are resolved by the judiciary. If the judiciary cannot perform this function, we have no way of knowing what the law is and we may have no way of knowing who won a disputed election. In any event, because the four dissenting justices did not explain their reasoning, we do not know whether they voted with the GOP because they were moved by one or both of the GOPs arguments or maybe because they came up with their own reason to back their own political party in this case. What we do know is that four plus one equals five. Thus, in the likely event that Judge Barrett becomes Justice Barrett, there will probably be a majority on the Supreme Court to hand a victory to the GOP in cases like this one. Indeed, the GOP may be able to raise this issue again after Barrett is confirmed, potentially securing a Court order requiring states like Pennsylvania to toss out an unknown number of ballots that arrive after Election Day. If the election is close, that could be enough to change the result. Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. Its essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Thailand’s protest movement gains momentum amid a government crackdown - Vox.com
Thai protesters defied a ban on large gatherings to call for the prime minister’s resignation.
In Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, tens of thousands took part in continuing pro-democracy protests following a government crackdown Friday, which saw riot police unleash water cannons containing a chemical irritant on crowds calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Protests against the prime minister began in March this year, following the dissolution of a popular pro-democracy party, but have dramatically increased in size this week, with crowds numbering in the tens of thousands. The government responded to these growing protests with an emergency decree on Thursday, which banned groups of more than five people and gave police the authority to make areas of Bangkok off limits to protesters. Along with this new measure have come the arrests of protesters, including a human rights lawyer and several student activists. The protesters have released several demands, chief among them that the prime minister resign. A former general, Prayuth seized power in a 2014 military coup. A new constitution was put in place by military leaders three years later that sets aside parliament seats for military officials so many that protesters argue the prime minister will maintain power regardless of the outcome of elections. As Panu Wongcha-um reported for Reuters, protesters made three demands in July: the dissolution of parliament, an end to harassment of government critics, and amendments to the military-written constitution. Demonstrators are still working towards those goals, but increasingly, protesters are demanding changes to the countrys monarchy as well. As Richard Bernstein has explained for Vox, citizens of Thailand have traditionally avoided statements that could be seen as critical of the royal family, which is currently led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, due to the countrys lèse-majesté laws, which outlaw defaming, insulting, or threatening of a member of the royal family. That has changed: For example, at an August protest, a student protest leader gave a speech accusing the government of fooling us by saying that people born into the royal family are incarnations of gods and angels, and asking, Are you sure that angels or gods have this kind of personality? The king, who ascended to the throne four years ago, rules largely from Europe, but has nevertheless spent extravagantly and steadily amassed power in a way that harks back to the bygone days of Thailands absolute monarchy, according to the Economist. His support for the prime minister has frustrated Prayuths critics, and his successful efforts to bring royal wealth and military forces under his direct control have led some protesters to call for new limits on the monarchys powers. Arrests for breaching the countrys lèse-majesté laws have continued, and Friday, two protesters were charged under an obscure law for an act of violence against the queens liberty, in this case, for yelling near Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhyas motorcade. The two protesters face a potential sentence of life in prison for endangering the royal family. These charges as well as threats from the prime minister have not deterred the protesters. After Fridays police offensive, the demonstrations that continued Saturday appear to have remained largely peaceful and were well-attended despite a shutdown of Bangkok public transit. As many as 23,000 people turned out at several locations around the city, according to a police estimate reported by the Bangkok Post. The goal is to change the whole political system, including the monarchy and the prime minister, one Bangkok student told the New York Times. A democratic legitimacy crisis As Voxs Zeeshan Aleem explained in August, Thailands protests hinge on the tenuous legitimacy of the current government. Though current prime minister Prayuth ostensibly won another mandate in 2019, the results of that election are disputed. Since then, a major opposition party has been disbanded by the courts, and pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit was reported as disappeared in Cambodia, possibly taken on the orders of the Thai government. Wanchalearm hasnt been seen since his abduction in June, and Jakrapob Penkair, another dissident living in exile, told the BBC in July that Wanchalearm, also known as Tar, was likely dead. I think the message is: Lets kill these folks. These are outsiders, these are people who are different from us and they should be killed in order to bring Thailand back to normalcy, Jakrapob said. But nothing could be more wrong in that interpretation. I believe their decision to kidnap and murder Tar, and others before him, has been subconsciously radicalizing the people. The protest movement has been fueled by student activism, but lacks defined leadership, according to the BBC. Thats by design activists have reportedly drawn inspiration from decentralized pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in order to maintain momentum amid arrests. In part in order to circumvent restrictions on speech, activists have also relied on pop culture symbolism at protests. According to Aleem, Protesters have used creative methods drawn from the world of popular fiction to veil their criticism of the government and mitigate charges for violating restrictions on political speech. For example, some protesters have dressed up as characters from Harry Potter in order to advance their arguments against the government and monarchy. Other pro-democracy protesters display three-finger salutes inspired by the Hunger Games series. The Thai governments crackdown on protesters has been condemned by multiple international organizations. Human Rights Watch, for instance, argued that the ban on protests, as well as other new restrictions, meant that rights to freedom of speech and holding peaceful, public assemblies are on the chopping block from a government that is now showing its truly dictatorial nature. Amnesty International has decried the arrests of protesters as an intimidation tactic. Its unlikely that the protest movement will stop soon, though even if the governments response begins to echo the violent anti-protest crackdowns Bangkok saw in the 1970s. The dictatorship must be confronted by the people, even under the threat of arrest, activist Panupong Jadnok told the Washington Post. We wont step back. We will fight until our death. Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. Its essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, hailed for Covid-19 response, wins historic reelection - Vox.com
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led her party to a landslide victory in Saturday’s election.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been hailed around the world for her governments quick action on Covid-19, which has helped New Zealand avoid the mass infections and deaths that have devastated the US and Europe. Now, voters in the country have responded to her leadership by handing Ardern and her Labour Party their biggest election victory in 50 years. Ardern, 40, gained international attention when she became prime minister in 2017, then one of the worlds youngest female leaders. At the beginning of this year, her center-left party looked set for a tight election due to a lack of progress on issues it had promised to prioritize, like housing and reducing child poverty, CNN reported. Then came Covid-19. Ardern responded swiftly, with an early lockdown that essentially eliminated spread of the virus. She also spoke directly to New Zealanders with a warmth and empathy thats been lacking in other world leaders, helping to soothe New Zealanders anxieties and getting them on board with coronavirus restrictions. To date, New Zealand has reported fewer than 2,000 cases and 25 deaths due to Covid-19. In Saturdays election, Arderns party is on track to win 64 of the 120 seats in the countrys parliament, according to Reuters. That would give the Labour Party decisive control of the government, allowing it to govern without having to form a coalition, and granting Ardern and her allies more power than ever to chart New Zealands course through the pandemic and beyond. We will build back better from the Covid crisis, Ardern said in her acceptance speech on Saturday, evoking a slogan also used by former US Vice President Joe Bidens presidential campaign. This is our opportunity. Ardern has always been popular abroad. Now she has a mandate at home. Ardern has maintained a high profile around the world since she was elected, as Damien Cave reports at the New York Times. It wasnt just her youth that drew attention she also became the first world leader in nearly 30 years to give birth while in office in 2018. Her six-week parental leave was hailed as groundbreaking, showing the importance of paid leave for parents at a time when many especially in the US struggle to access this benefit. (In New Zealand, new parents can access up to 26 weeks of paid leave funded by the government.) But Ardern hasnt always been as successful at home as she was popular abroad. Leading a coalition with the nationalist New Zealand First Party, she has struggled to deliver on progressive promises like making housing more affordable and tackling climate change, Cave reports. Covid-19 then changed everything. Ardern was praised not just around the world but in New Zealand, where her quick action meant that many children could go back to school, and adults could return to work, while countries like the US saw a surge in infections. Meanwhile, her personal addresses amid the pandemic to New Zealanders were lauded for their directness and warmth. In April, for example, she reassured the countrys children that both the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny were considered essential workers. Arderns response was in many ways the embodiment of one of her leadership mantras: Be strong, be kind. Arderns effectiveness, alongside strong responses by Germanys Angela Merkel, Taiwans Tsai Ing-Wen, and others, even led some to wonder if female leaders were better at handling the pandemic than male leaders. And now, her constituents have voted to keep her at the helm as New Zealand continues to weather Covid-19. With a majority in the countrys parliament, Labour will be able to form a single-party government that may give Ardern greater ability to deliver on her priorities than shes had in the past. Despite this mandate, Arderns second term will bring new challenges including repairing an economy weakened by successive lockdowns, and ensuring her majority is able to deliver on its campaign promises. She has significant political capital, Jennifer Curtin, director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland, told the Times. Shes going to have to fulfill her promises with more substance. But Ardern says shes ready to get to work. The campaign slogan that carried her to victory was simple: Lets keep moving. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
2020 vice presidential debate: A focus group of undecided voters wasn’t impressed by Kamala Harris - Vox.com
Her debate performance didn’t go over well with a mostly male focus group of 13 undecided voters.
Polling expert Frank Luntz convened a focus group of undecided voters after Tuesday nights vice presidential debate, and all but one of the participants declared Vice President Mike Pence the winner. Nine of the 13 voters were men. But many of them, both women and men, described Pence in positive terms, such as presidential, and calm, cool, and collected. When asked to sum up Sen. Kamala Harriss performance on the debate stage, however, the voters said she seemed evasive, nervous, snarky, rehearsed, abrasive, unsteady, rigid, and unpresidential. Their reviews, however, dont jibe with the perceptions of most voters who tuned in: A post-debate poll conducted by FiveThirtyEight found that voters preferred Harriss performance by a margin of 19% and her policies by a margin of 35% against Pence. Some partisans are often skeptical that the voters in such focus groups actually are undecided. Though America is more polarized than ever, a relatively small number of last-minute deciders could indeed swing the outcome of the election. Pence dodged almost every question, instead deftly redirecting the conversation to Republican talking points on subjects ranging from religious freedom to support for law enforcement, and sought to falsely portray the president as a moderate. It was about as good of a performance as he could have delivered, considering that President Trumps path to reelection appears to be narrowing, and the sentiments in the focus group reflected that. Harriss biggest success was in landing blows against the Trump administrations botched response to the coronavirus pandemic. She evaded a question about whether a Biden administration would pack the Supreme Court with more justices but unlike in Pences case, her attempt to change the subject raised a red flag in the focus group. Several voters said they were frustrated that she didnt answer the question. I didnt really get answers, John, an Ohio voter, said. Packing the Supreme Court these are all issues you want to know what theyre going to do. So, yes, it is very important to me. Another voter, Tom from Nevada, said he had an open mind about the candidates going into the debate, but Harriss refusal to take a position on court-packing was a big reason hes now leaning toward casting his ballot for Trump. Both Democrats and Republicans have been pressuring the Biden campaign to take a stance on the subject of court-packing. But the disproportionate criticism of Harriss attempt to evade the question suggests that, as the first woman of color on the debate stage in a general presidential election, sexism may have played a role. Harriss team had tried to prepare for the possibility that she would be perceived differently as a Black woman. They researched the trope of the angry Black woman, which, my colleague Li Zhou predicted, might be something that media outlets and President Donald Trump may attempt to project onto the vice presidential candidate. Trump, for his part, has called Harris nasty in the past in reference to her question of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings. An Ohio voter named Kimberly, the lone Black woman in the group, pointed out the discrepancy in how the participants were talking about Harris as compared to Biden and Trump in another meeting after last weeks debate. I think we have to understand the difference of how we equate male and female, she said. Last week, we saw Mr. Biden and President Trump make all types of facial expressions and that was never an issue on last weeks call. Now that we have a woman, I believe that people are inadvertently looking at her a certain way. She added, But as far as [whether she seemed presidential,] it all depends on who youre asking and why youre asking, especially when youre asking males. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Armenia and Azerbaijan’s fight over Nagorno-Karabakh, in 500 words - Vox.com
Armenia and Azerbaijan are fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict could drag in Turkey and Russia.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have reignited their 32-year struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous territory of 150,000 people about the size of Delaware. The latest round of fighting has killed over 350 people, and may soon encourage world powers to enter the fray. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but its claimed and governed by ethnic Armenians. The two sides havent reached a lasting diplomatic resolution to the dispute since a war that killed at least 30,000 people ended in a 1994 ceasefire, leaving open the possibility of renewed fighting. That worst-case scenario proved a reality last week after the former Soviet territories accused each other of unprovoked attacks. On September 27, Armenia said Azerbaijans military bombed civilian settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh, including the regional capital of Stepanakert. In response, Armenias defense ministry claimed it downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones. Then Azerbaijans defense ministry announced it had launched a counteroffensive with tanks, war planes, artillery missiles, and drones. Past skirmishes typically lasted just a few days, but this one has continued and intensified. Stepanakert, a city of over 50,000, has experienced heavy artillery fire from Azerbaijan since October 2, while Azerbaijan says Armenia has shelled the countrys second-largest city, Ganja, and shot missiles at other towns each assault putting civilians in grave danger. Turkey, a NATO member, has only made matters worse. Seeking more influence in the region, it has fully backed its longtime ally Azerbaijan, with which it shares a common ethnic and linguistic heritage. Observers say Turkey has sent at least 1,000 Syrian fighters to aid Azerbaijan and given the countrys forces weapons and training. Thats not only fanning the flames of war, but also threatening the control and calming influence Russia has had over the conflict. Russia has a formal military alliance with Armenia, but also has close ties to Azerbaijan, as all were once part of the Soviet Union. In previous flare-ups, Russia played a key role in pushing both sides to back down. Russia has also, along with France and the United States, overseen the sputtering two-decade diplomatic process between the two sides. All three have called for restraint in this latest round of fighting. But experts worry Moscow could eventually decide to intervene on Armenias behalf, a decision that would escalate the situation by pitting a US NATO ally against Russia. And while experts hope for a diplomatic solution to the decades-old conflict, or at the very least another ceasefire, many fear the fighting this time will continue until either Armenia deals Azerbaijan a militarily decisive blow or Azerbaijan reclaims much or all of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding regions. Statements from both leaders dont provide much hope for a resolution. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Tuesday that Nagorno-Karabakh is ready, and Armenia is ready, to mirror the concessions that Azerbaijan is ready to make. But Azerbaijans President Ilham Aliyev doesnt want to make concessions. Azerbaijan has one condition, and that is the liberation of its territories, he said on Sunday. For more on the conflict, read Voxs full explainer. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Facebook removes a Trump post that falsely claimed the flu can be more deadly than Covid-19 - Vox.com
Twitter put up a warning label for misleading information on an identical Trump post.
Facebook deleted one of Trumps posts today for violating the companys policies against harmful health misinformation. This was only the second time Facebook has taken down a post from the president for violating its misinformation policies. On Tuesday morning, President Trump fresh out of the hospital after contracting Covid-19 posted to his Facebook account, falsely stating that the flu can be more deadly than Covid-19. After several hours, Facebook took down the post for violating its health misinformation policies against Covid-19, as CNN first reported. Twitter left an identical post by Trump up on its platform but added a warning label on the tweet for spreading misleading information. Shortly after Facebook and Twitter moderated his posts, Trump posted REPEAL SECTION 230!!! on Facebook and Twitter. Thats a reference to an increasingly controversial piece of legislation, Section 230, which largely protects social media platforms from being sued for what people post on their platforms. Trump has repeatedly threatened to repeal Section 230 because he and some other Republicans claim, without any proof, that these firms have an anti-conservative bias. If Section 230s protections for web platforms are rolled back, it would severely restrict social media companies ability to operate as usual. This isnt the first time that Facebook has deleted a Trump post. In August, Facebook and Twitter deleted a post by Trump depicting a Fox News interview in which he falsely stated that children are almost immune to the coronavirus. That isnt true; children are not immune to the virus. But its notable that Facebook, which has been frequently criticized for not taking action against Trumps misleading posts about mail-in voting, or for his posts that seem to encourage violence at Black Lives Matter protests is at least in this instance holding firm on enforcing its Covid-19 misinformation policies. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has positioned Covid-19 as an area where his company will take stronger action against misinformation than it does on posts related to politics or other thornier topics. Part of the companys thinking is that health information is more clear-cut than other politically contested areas. But as todays episode is showing, everything even basic facts about Covid-19 after six months of a global pandemic is politically contested by President Trump. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
The case for Senate Democrats to boycott Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing - Vox.com
“The takeaway is that this is an illegitimate process.”
Multiple Senate Democrats are already refusing meetings with President Donald Trumps Supreme Court nominee, and theres now a growing call for them to take another step to question the legitimacy of the process: boycotting the confirmation hearing. I think that boycotting the hearing should continue to be on the table, Demand Justice chief counsel Chris Kang tells Vox. I think the takeaway is that this is an illegitimate process. Demand Justice, a progressive group dedicated to combating Trumps remaking of the federal judiciary, is among those urging Senate Democrats to consider this option as Republicans try to rush through a confirmation for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the coming weeks. As the Washington Posts Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane report, however, the move could also backfire and enable Republicans to simply advance her nomination even more quickly, with little fanfare. But much like lawmakers decisions not to meet with Barrett, the idea is that such an act would highlight how abnormal the current process is, particularly since a recent hearing with Justice Brett Kavanaugh didnt deter many Republicans from voting the same way they would have otherwise. If the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh did not change any votes, neither will these hearings, writes Adam Jentleson, who served as deputy chief of staff to then-Sen. Harry Reid, in a New York Times op-ed. Senate Republicans, after all, are moving ahead with this nomination despite the impending election and claims they made in 2016 about not confirming a judge during an election year. Demand Justice is dedicated to opposing Barrett and pushing Senate Democrats to consider a wide range of tactics as they navigate the Supreme Court fight in the short term and the long term. The procedural tactics available to Democrats, admittedly, are probably not as robust as people think in the near term, Kang said. In an interview with Vox, Kang laid out what these options include, how Demand Justice is pressing lawmakers before the hearings, and what Democrats should consider (court-packing) if they retake the upper chamber and White House. Read the conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, below. Li Zhou Lets start with the short term. Could you talk about the procedural tools that Senate Democrats have to oppose the Supreme Court nomination right now? Chris Kang So I think that the literal procedural tools are still to be determined and probably not as robust as people think. I do think that there are some things like objections to unanimous consent agreements that will be deployed closer to the time of a floor vote, and not something that necessarily make sense now. [Note: Because the Senate largely runs on unanimous consent, if one senator objects to an action thats taking place, they are able to delay it from happening and slow the chambers productivity.] But I think what were really looking for from Senate Democrats more than specific parliamentary tactics is how are Democrats going to show that this is an illegitimate process, that this is an illegitimate nominee. And so there are some things that theres no question Democrats can do, like not taking courtesy meetings. I think that boycotting the hearing should continue to be on the table. Li Zhou What do you see as the takeaway, if Democrats go that route of boycotting the hearing altogether? Chris Kang I think the takeaway is that this is an illegitimate process, its not a legitimate [nomination], and it shouldnt be dignified as such. I think there are some competing arguments for what Democrats could gain through a committee process or a committee hearing. But I think a lot of those run through the idea that this is business as usual. And so, again, I know that boycotting is a high bar to ask and ... candidly, I dont expect that to happen. But I think that it should continue to be on the table. I think all options should be on the table for how theyre going to think about highlighting this sham process and this illegitimate nominee. And so I think that has to be something; they have to show up in some way. I dont think the Democrats can just show up and question a nominee as if it were normal. So, you know, if youre not going to boycott the hearing, fine, but then show up in a different way. And lets highlight to the American people just whats at stake and how this is different. Li Zhou What is your response to concerns that Democrats would be missing an opportunity to question Judge Amy Coney Barrett and make their case against her if they boycott the hearing? Chris Kang A nomination so close to the election is simply illegitimate, and Democrats should consider all options to highlight that. For example, [Senate Minority] Leader [Chuck] Schumer is refusing to meet with Barrett. Others, including Senators [Jeff] Merkley, [Mazie] Hirono, [Richard] Blumenthal, and [Kirsten] Gillibrand, are refusing as well, and this is the kind of demonstration we need. Boycotting the hearing could cut either way, but if Democrats do attend, well be looking to them to show that this is not a normal hearing or business as usual. Li Zhou At this point, do you think that Senate Democrats should more explicitly commit to court-packing? Chris Kang I dont know if Senate Democrats as a caucus need to do that per se. I will say that they have to start looking ahead. I mean, right now, our focus is on stopping this nomination, and building the voice and the power to demonstrate to Senate Republicans what is at stake here for them. But at the end of the day, if we are not successful, I definitely think Democrats need to be thinking about what is the logical response when Republicans steal two Supreme Court seats in the span of four years and completely undermine our democracy and the legitimacy of the institution itself. And so from our perspective, we think that Supreme Court expansion is the only way to restore balance. And it absolutely should be on the table. I think that Leader Schumer has done a good job of making clear that all options are on the table. I think that that will continue to be the posture right now. But I understand if not every member wants to make this about this debate should not be about court expansion, this debate should be about the Republicans pushing through a nominee whos about to strike down the Affordable Care Act. So I think that just as that is Demand Justices message in this fight, I understand that that will likely be the Senate Democrats message in this fight. But I do think that the specter of court expansion has to be something that more and more Democrats will be forced to think about more seriously in the weeks to come. Li Zhou Could you talk a little bit more about some of the implications of court-packing? We talk about it a lot in terms of how it would change the makeup of the Court, but could you walk through some of the other potential benefits? Chris Kang I will say the part about the makeup of the Court is an important one, because I do think, at its core, were talking about restoring balance to the Court, and I realize balance may be in the eye of the beholder. But were at a point now where the Supreme Court looks like its an anti-democratic institution. The Democratic presidential candidates have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and yet Republican appointees have been the majority on the Supreme Court for more than 50 years now. But then also ... the caseload for the Supreme Court has gone down dramatically over time, and I do think that itll be important for the courts to think about, like, why is that? What is driving that? And would having additional justices help the Court resolve some of these important legal disputes that it currently isnt? I do think that adding more justices would be important. I also think theres nothing magical about nine [justices]. Ive never seen any study, any analysis, any theory about why nine is the right number. Look at the other appellate courts throughout the country. And, you know, all of them but one has more than nine members. I think that theres no reason not to have more justices who also could bring, I think the other thing I would say is bringing a diversity of perspectives to the Court I think is incredibly important. Like the number of prosecutors on the Supreme Court, I think, is four. But I do know that there has not been a Supreme Court justice whos represented criminal defendants since Thurgood Marshall retired. That is a critically important aspect of the Court as you think about this moment in criminal justice reform and police reform, as you think about how the Supreme Court refuses to take up issues like qualified immunity and how it considers other racial justice issues. Having more balanced professional experience would be important, and then also, obviously, the Supreme Court does not look anything like our country. And so I think having more seats will also provide an opportunity to bring more racial and gender diversity to the Court. And, again, the perspectives of more Americans on the Court. Its a democratic institution, and it should reflect the people that it serves. I think that that is one of the sort of undersold problems with President Trumps judicial nominees, that he is undermining the legitimacy of an entire branch of government when his appointees are the least racially diverse in a generation and still dont come anywhere close to gender parity. Li Zhou I know you said nine is not necessarily a magical number. If court-packing were to move forward, what number of justices do you think would be the right number? Chris Kang In my opinion, I think 13 is the right number if theyre going to move forward with essentially stealing another seat from the next Democratic president. I guess we could wait and see. I think this whole conversation is predicated, of course, on former Vice President Joe Biden becoming president. So if thats the case, then this is a seat that by all precedent should be filled by him, and so the idea that Republicans would have stolen two seats in four years I think requires two seats to be added for each of those. And so thats why I think the right answer is 13. Li Zhou What do you make of the argument that if Democrats move forward with this that, down the line, youre going to see Republicans effectively do the same? Chris Kang To that, I would say that Republicans already have done it. Republicans changed the size of the Supreme Court in 2016 to eight, and then they changed it again to nine in 2017, all in an exercise of raw political power. And so I do think its possible that Republicans might retaliate in turn. But I also dont know that the possible threat shouldnt be enough to stop Democrats from doing whats necessary now. And its sort of again, I mean, necessary in terms of restoring legitimacy to the Supreme Court. Especially injecting the raw partisan politics into the Supreme Court right now, I would suspect, makes Chief Justice Roberts very nervous, as somebody who tries to I dont think hes right in this but he projects that there are no Trump judges and no Obama judges. And yet here we are, in the midst of the closing weeks of an election season, I mean, votes are actually already being cast, watching Donald Trump and Republicans ram through a nominee to put on his Court. The whole specter of the legitimacy of the Court is under a cloud. And I think that Democrats have to respond, I think that the Democrats, if Republicans are going to cheat or steal, I dont think that Democrats can just let that go and hope it doesnt happen again. Its happened now twice in four years, and there has to be some response, there has to be something to deter, or else it will keep happening again. So I think that argument is somewhat overstated. I also will say, like, a big, big picture, as you think about what Supreme Court reform could look like, the other thing that weve talked about is term limits. And if you had term limits, that would have the potential of lowering the temperature on a lot of this, and really having a chance to sort of take away the politicization and sort of the political timing a lot of justices make when it comes to retiring, so that could be a longer-term solution. Li Zhou Between term limits and adding more justices to the Court, do you see one of those as being, just from a legislative perspective, more of a first step and more of an accessible thing for lawmakers to do? Chris Kang Well, I think that the one thing that is clear is that Congress has the power to change the number of seats on the Supreme Court. Its done it seven times in history. And so from that perspective, I think that its easier. I think that there are term-limit proposals that can be done in legislation. But I think theres some people who dont. I think that may be a different question that Congress will have to consider as it figures out which proposal to implement and how to proceed with that. Li Zhou On either of those, Im wondering if you think ultimately that Senate Democrats will have the political will to get something done and the numbers to do it, given the fact that some of the potential newcomers might end up taking more moderate stances. Chris Kang I will say that I think its far too early to consider the political feasibility of this. We havent seen just how badly this could turn out for Republicans going so far against the will and the views of their constituents. So one, this could have a bigger difference in terms of the outcome in November. But two, were talking about all of this in a hypothetical. I think that if a nominee actually were rammed through, I think the politics start to change. If that justice then becomes the deciding vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act, I think the politics change. I think that we cant project too much based on the sentiment right now, about whats possible. But I do think this conversation is already sort of taking off in a different direction. We have the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee talking about this as the next step, and hes somebody who has the power to set the agenda and legislation. I think that this political conversation is only beginning. Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. Its essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. 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Joe Biden maintains his lead over Donald Trump in national polling - Vox.com
Joe Biden is leading the polls in September. That puts him in historically good company.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Bidens lead over President Donald Trump in national polling now stands at a 10 percentage point margin in new polling of registered voters conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News. That lead was reflected in additional polls reported over the weekend in an Emerson College/NewsNation poll of likely voters, Biden led Trump by 4 percentage points, a slight jump from an August Emerson poll that showed Trump behind by just 2 percentage points. Bidens lead over Trump has been remarkably consistent he held a lead in head-to-head polling over Trump during the Democratic nomination process back in 2019, and the consistency of his polling margins over Trump was being discussed in historic terms in May of this year. Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting shutdown measures on the local and state level, unrest sparked by police misconduct, wildfires and hurricanes, the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (and the announcement of her likely replacement, Judge Amy Coney Barrett) Biden has stayed ahead of Trump. Biden leads with critical constituencies (and in a big way) Its important to remember that polls arent predictions. Rather, polls are snapshots in time, indicating what a group of Americans whether registered voters, likely voters, or simply adults are thinking at a particular point during a race. But its also worth noting that Bidens current lead comes from a number of critical voting constituencies, including older Americans and white college graduates. For example, according to the Washington Post/ABC News poll, political moderates favor Biden by a 47 percentage point margin in comparison to Hillary Clintons 12 percentage point margin in exit polls back in 2016. Independent-voting women favor Biden by a 57 point margin, compared to Clintons 4 points four years ago. White women a group that Trump won by 9 points back in 2016 now favor Biden by a 15 point margin. All of these groups are key to victory senior citizens are among Americas most reliable voting cohorts, as are, according to exit polling from 2016, white women. In 2016, 67 percent of white women said they voted, compared to 64 percent of white men, 50 percent of Hispanic women, and 64 percent of Black women. A shift among any of these groups particularly in swing states with large populations of older voters, like Florida and Texas could help shape the results of the 2020 election. But Trump has held onto the majority of his 2016 supporters 91 percent of likely 2020 voters who voted for him four years ago plan to do so again. And importantly, Trump now has support from 87 percent of voters who consider themselves to be conservative, more than the 82 percent of conservative voters who supported Mitt Romney back in 2012 (or Reagan in 1984) and the 84 percent of conservative voters who supported George W. Bush in 2004. Putting the polls into context To put these polling results into historical context, I wanted to take a look at past September polls during election years, particularly during presidential races taking place between an incumbent president and a challenger. So I went back to the Septembers of 1984, 1992, 1996, 2004, and 2012, and found that September polling has been a crucial indicator for incumbents, win or lose. In September of 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan held a strong lead over Democratic nominee Walter Mondale, leading in Gallup polling conducted that month by a near-20 percentage point margin. A New York Times/CBS News poll from September 19, 1984, found Reagan and his vice president, George H.W. Bush, led Mondale and Rep. Geraldine Ferraro 54 percent to 33 percent. Reagan would go on to win a landslide victory, carrying 49 of the 50 states that November. But in 1992, it was the Democratic challenger, then-Gov. Bill Clinton, who led the incumbent, then-President George H.W. Bush, in September, with a 49 to 37 percent lead in the New York Times/CBS Poll from September 16, 1992. And in September 1996, Clinton held a 53 to 36 percent advantage with likely voters against Republican nominee Bob Dole. In 2004, polling seemed to vary widely, with some polls taken in September of that year showing then-President George W. Bush with a 13-point lead over Democratic nominee John Kerry, but others showing a more even contest (Bush would go on to win 31 states and 50 percent of the popular vote.) And 2012 was a remarkably close contest in September, with then-President Barack Obama leading Republican nominee Mitt Romney by just 2 percentage points in a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted from September 26-29. I reached out to Steve Kornacki, a political correspondent for NBC News, who told me that Trump is in measurably worse political shape than any incumbent who won reelection since 1980, a list that would include Presidents Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. But, Kornacki added, his position isnt as weak as the two who lost. Bush 92 and Carter 80 both had approval ratings in the 30s at this point, while Trump is in the mid-40s. (Carter was able to defy gravity for much of the 80 race because of doubts about Reagan, but those melted away late, possibly because of that late October debate.) Altogether, the national polls may not be as dire for the president as they appear, Kornacki said: Id say Trumps behind, but only needs a few points of movement to have a real shot. Of course, with public opinion so entrenched, even a few points of positive movement may be asking too much for him. Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. Its essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Read Trump’s full 2020 UN speech on the coronavirus and China - Vox.com
The full text of Trump’s 2020 UNGA speech shows him portraying the US as good on the coronavirus and China as evil.
President Donald Trump used his fourth, and perhaps final, United Nations General Assembly speech to portray himself as a benevolent, responsible world leader and China as the worlds aggressor. America is fulfilling our destiny as peacemaker, he said in a prerecorded address, touting US-brokered normalization-of-relations deals between Israel and two Arab nations, ongoing talks to end the Afghanistan War, and a Serbia and Kosovo pact signed at the White House. As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China, Trump added, referring to the coronavirus. In many ways, the speech was vintage Trump. He boasted that his America First approach to foreign policy anathema to the UNs multilateral ethos is the best way forward for the US and the world. He beamed about US economic and military strength. And he bragged about his administrations handling of the coronavirus, even though nearly 200,000 Americans have died of the disease, while expressing hopes for a better, pandemic-less world. But the key takeaway is Trumps framing of China as the nation most responsible for the Covid-19 outbreak, and therefore the country most deserving of the worlds scorn. It continues the administrations preference to speak of China as a Cold War-like enemy, with the US leading the way to rid the globe of its evil. The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions, Trump declared. Many expected Trump to say these things, partly because hes been saying them for months. He at first praised Chinas handling of the coronavirus, and only started to speak belligerently about Beijing as his failure to control Americas outbreak became too big to ignore. Now hes taken that message, at first geared toward a domestic audience, to the global stage. Of course, Trump did not vow to distribute a coronavirus vaccine around the world, nor did he swear to tackle key global problems like climate change. Such failures may lead much of the speech to be disregarded. But in terms of getting his main point across US good, China bad the short, virtually delivered speech likely did the trick. A rush transcript of Trumps UNGA speech is below: It is my profound honor to address the United Nations General Assembly, 75 years after the end of World War II and the founding of the United Nations. We are once again engaged in a great global struggle. We have waged a fierce battle against the invisible enemy the China virus which has claimed countless lives in 188 countries. In the United States, we launched the most aggressive mobilization, since the Second World War. We rapidly produced a record supply of ventilators creating a surplus that allowed us to share them with friends and partners all around the globe. We pioneered lifesaving treatments, reducing our fatality rate 85 percent since April. Thanks to our efforts, three vaccines are in the final stage of clinical trials. We are mass producing them in advance so they can be delivered immediately upon arrival. We will distribute a vaccine. We will defeat the virus. We will end the pandemic. And we will enter a new era of unprecedented prosperity, cooperation, and peace. As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China. In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world. China condemned my travel ban on their country, even as they canceled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes. The Chinese government and the World Health Organization, which is virtually controlled by China, falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Later they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease. The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions. In addition, every year China dumps millions and millions of tonnes of plastic and trash into the oceans, overfishes other countries waters, destroys vast swaths of coral reef, and emits more toxic mercury into the atmosphere than any country anywhere in the world. Chinas carbon emissions are nearly twice what the US has, and its rising fast. By contrast, after I withdrew from the one-sided Paris climate accord, last year America reduced its carbon emissions by more than any country in the agreement. Those who attack Americas exceptional environmental record while ignoring Chinas rampant pollution are not interested in the environment. They only want to punish America, and I will not stand for it. If the United Nations is to be an effective organization, it must focus on the real problems of the world. This includes terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities. America will always be a leader in human rights. My administration is advancing religious liberty, opportunity for women, the decriminalization of homosexuality, combating human trafficking, and protecting unborn children. We also know that American prosperity is the bedrock of freedom and security all over the world. In three short years, we built the greatest economy in history, and we are quickly doing it again. Our military has increased substantially in size: We spent $2.5 trillion over the last four years on our military. We have the most powerful military anywhere in the world and its not even close. We stood up two decades of Chinas trade abuses. We revitalized the NATO alliance, where other countries are now paying a much more fair share. We forged historic partnerships with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to stop human smuggling. We are standing with the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, in their righteous struggle for freedom. We withdrew from the terrible Iran nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the worlds leading state sponsor of terror. We obliterated the ISIS Caliphate 100 percent, killed its founder and leader, al-Baghdadi, and eliminated the worlds top terrorist, Qassem Soleimani. This month, we achieved a peace deal between Serbia and Kosovo. We reached a landmark breakthrough with two peace deals in the Middle East after decades of no progress. Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain all signed a historic peace agreement in the White House with many other Middle Eastern countries to come. They are coming fast, and they know its great for them and its great for the world. These groundbreaking peace deals at the dawn of the new Middle East, by taking a different approach, we have achieved different outcomes far superior outcomes. We took an approach, and the approach worked. We intend to deliver more peace agreements shortly, and I have never been more optimistic for the future of the region. There is no blood in the sand. Those days are hopefully over. As we speak, the United States is also working to end the war in Afghanistan, and we are bringing our troops home. America is fulfilling our destiny as peacemaker, but it is peace through strength. We are stronger now than ever before. Our weapons are at an advanced level, like weve never had before, like, frankly, weve never even thought of having before, and I only pray to God that we never have to use them. For decades, the same tired voices propose the same failed solutions, pursuing global ambitions at the expense of their own people. But only when you take care of your own citizens will you find a true basis for cooperation. As president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past, and I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first. Thats okay. Thats what you should be doing. I am supremely confident that next year, when we gather in person, we will be in the midst of one of the greatest years in our history. And frankly, hopefully, in the history of the world. Thank you, God bless you all. God bless America. And God bless the United Nations. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.