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US President Biden Tests Positive For Covid Again

WASHINGTON, July 30: Joe Biden has tested positive for Covid-19 for a second time and is returning to isolation, his White House doctor said Saturday, attributing the result to "rebound" positivity from treatment the US president received.

The 79-year-old Biden "tested positive late Saturday morning, by antigen testing," following four consecutive days of negative tests, and "will reinitiate strict isolation procedures," presidential physician Kevin O'Connor wrote in a memorandum.

"This in fact represents 'rebound' positivity," O'Connor wrote, referring to a situation in which patients treated with the drug Paxlovid -- as Biden was -- clear the virus but test positive after completing their course.

"The president has experienced no re-emergence of symptoms and continues to feel quite well. This being the case, there is no reason to reinitiate treatment at this time," he added.

The second positive test came just three days after O'Connor said Biden had tested negative for the disease and no longer needed to isolate, which he had been doing since receiving a first positive result on July 21.

US Accuses Beijing Of Increased South China Sea 'Provocations'

WASHINGTON, July 26: The United States on Tuesday accused China of increased "provocations" against rival claimants to territory in the South China Sea and other states operating there.

"There is a clear and upward trend of PRC provocations against South China Sea claimants and other states lawfully operating in the region," Jung Pak, deputy assistant secretary for East Asia at the US State Department, told a US think tank event, referring to the People's Republic of China.

Pak told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that Chinese aircraft had increasingly engaged in unsafe intercepts of Australian aircraft in international airspace above the South China Sea and in three separate incidents in the last few months had challenged marine research and energy exploration activities within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

US House Votes For India Sanctions Waiver Over Russian S-400 Missile Deal

WASHINGTON, July 15: The US House of Representatives has passed by voice vote a legislative amendment that approves waiver to India against the punitive CAATSA sanctions for its purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia to help deter aggressors like China.

The legislative amendment was passed on Thursday as part of an en bloc (all together as a single unit) amendment during floor consideration of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA).

Authored and introduced by Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, the amendment urges the Biden administration to use its authority to provide India with a Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) waiver to help deter aggressors like China.

CAATSA is a tough US law that authorises the US administration to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defence hardware from Russia in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

"The United States must stand with India in the face of escalating aggression from China. As Vice Chair of the India Caucus, I have been working to strengthen the partnership between our countries and ensure that India can defend itself along the Indian Chinese border," said Khanna, the US representative from California's 17th congressional district.

"This amendment is of the utmost importance, and I am proud to see it pass the House on a bipartisan basis," he said. The law was brought in 2017 and provides for punitive actions by the US government against any country engaged in transactions with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors.

In October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, despite a warning from the then-Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions. The S-400 is known as Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.The US has already imposed sanctions on Turkey under the CAATSA for the purchase of a batch of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia.

Following the US sanctions on Turkey over the procurement of S-400 missile systems, there were apprehensions that Washington may impose similar punitive measures on India.

The US has not yet made any decision on potential sanctions or waivers to India under CATSAA law for its purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in April.

The Ministry of External Affairs has said that India was pursuing an independent foreign policy and its defence acquisitions are guided by its national security interests.

In his remarks on the House floor, Khanna said there is no relationship of greater significance to US strategic interests than the US-India partnership.

"My bipartisan NDAA amendment marks the most significant piece of legislation for US-India relations out of Congress since the US-India nuclear deal," Khanna, a Democrat, said.

The legislation says that the United States-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET) is a welcome and essential step to developing closer partnerships between governments, academia, and industry in the two countries to address the latest advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, aerospace, and semiconductor manufacturing.

Such collaborations between engineers and computer scientists are vital to help ensure that the United States and India, as well as other democracies around the world, foster innovation and facilitate technological advances which continue to far outpace Russian and Chinese technology, it said.

Biden Aims To Restore Abortion Rights, Calls US Supreme Court 'Out Of Control'

WASHINGTON, July 10: President Joe Biden said Friday that federal legislation offered the fastest route to restoring US abortion rights and urged voters to elect pro-choice legislators in upcoming elections in defiance of an "out of control" Supreme Court.

Under pressure to take a tougher line on defending women's reproductive rights, Biden signed an executive order aimed at shoring up access to abortion after what he described as the court's "terrible, extreme" decision to remove the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

But the president, whose room for manoeuvre on the issue is limited, said the most effective response would be made through the ballot box in the November mid-term elections by handing him firm control of the legislature.

"Vote, vote, vote," he said in an appeal particularly aimed at American women.

"The fastest route to restore Roe is to pass a national law codifying Roe, which I will sign immediately upon its passage at my desk. We cannot wait," Biden said, referring to the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that established the right to abortion.

If Republicans were to take control of Congress, he also vowed to veto any effort to pass a federal ban on abortion.

"We cannot allow an out of control Supreme Court working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican Party to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy," he said.

Biden has been criticized from within his own Democratic Party for perceived inaction since the Supreme Court ruling on June 24.

After the ruling, several states have banned or severely restricted abortion and others are expected to follow suit.

Many Democrats, often speaking anonymously in the press, have complained that Biden and his team have failed to respond adequately to the bombshell judgment by the Supreme Court.

Seeking to recover, Biden on Friday signed an executive order designed to protect women's sensitive health-related data and "fight digital surveillance related to reproductive health care services."

Advocacy groups are warning of the risks posed by women's online data such as their geolocation and apps that monitor their menstrual cycles, which they say could be used to go after women who have had abortions.

Biden's order also seeks to protect mobile clinics deployed to the borders of states that have banned abortion.

The administration wants to guarantee access to contraception and abortion medication and set up a network of volunteer lawyers to help women on abortion issues, the White House said.

"The executive actions being undertaken are needed first steps, but it's not nearly enough," said Women's March director Rachel O'Leary Carmona in a statement.

"I call on the administration to recognize the true emergency we are in. Get creative. Get caught trying. Don't let norms, or decency, or 'tradition' stand in your way. Lives are on the line."

But Biden cannot do much to battle the Supreme Court, or the states hostile to him when he lacks a solid majority in Congress.

So he is calling on Americans to turn out in droves and vote Democrat in the midterm elections.

The goal is to codify the right to abortion as a federal law, which would nullify state decisions to ban the procedure.

Many Democrats fear this drive to get out the vote will flop. Biden is now an unpopular president and Americans' biggest worry these days is sky-high inflation.

And beyond the abortion issue some Democrats wonder if Biden, 79, a centrist who shuns headline-grabbing action, has the ability to take on an aggressively conservative American right in an era of acute political tension.

All he has to do is look at press editorials of recent days, including in news outlets seen as sympathetic.

"Is Joe Biden the wrong president at the wrong time?" read a headline Thursday in The Washington Post, while The Atlantic magazine asked "Is Biden a Man out of Time?"

Biden Signs Executive Order On Abortion, Contraception Access In US

WASHINGTON, July 8: US President Joe Biden said the Supreme Court decision overturning the right to an abortion was an exercise in "raw political power" and signed an executive order on Friday to help protect access to services to terminate pregnancies.

Biden, a Democrat, has been under pressure from his own party to take action after the landmark decision last month to overturn Roe v Wade, which upended roughly 50 years of protections for women's reproductive rights.

The president's powers are constrained because U.S. states can make laws restricting abortion and access to medication, and the executive order is expected to have a limited impact.

"What we're witnessing wasn't a constitutional judgment, it was an exercise in raw political power," Biden told reporters at the White House after quoting heavily from the dissenting opinion in the ruling.

"We cannot allow an out of control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy," he said.

The White House is not publicly entertaining the idea of reforming the court itself or expanding the nine-member panel, an option pushed by Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Representative Pramila Jayapal.

In Friday's speech, Biden instead laid out how abortion rights could be secured by voters if they elected more pro-choice senators, and noted the Supreme Court majority opinion referred to women's "political power."

"I don't think the court, or for that matter Republicans ... have a clue about the power of American women," he said, adding he believed women would turn out in record numbers in November's election to restore women's rights.

He also cited recent reports that a 10-year-old girl in Ohio was forced to travel to Indiana to have an abortion after she was raped.

"Imagine being a little girl. Just imagine being a little girl, 10 years old. Does anyone believe that?," he said.

Asked what, exactly could change for women immediately after the order was signed, Jen Klein, director of the president's Gender Policy Council at the White House afterwards, did not name any specifics.

"You can't solve by executive action what the Supreme Court has done," she said.

Still, progressive lawmakers and abortion rights groups welcomed the executive order. Senator Elizabeth Warren called it "important first steps," and asked the administration to explore every available option to protect abortion rights.

Protecting abortion rights is a top issue for women Democrats, Reuters polling shows, and more than 70% of Americans think the issue should be left to a woman and her doctor.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said "Democrats are out of touch with the American people" after Biden's remarks.

In June, Biden condemned the court's ruling and proposed that U.S. senators remove a legislative roadblock by temporarily lifting the Senate "filibuster" to restore abortion rights. The suggestion was shot down by aides to key Democratic senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

Earlier in June, the White House was unlikely to take the bold steps on abortion access that Democratic lawmakers have called for, such as court reform or offering reproductive services on federal lands.

On Friday, Biden directed the Health and Human Services Department to protect and expand access to "medication abortion" approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Experts have said a pill used to terminate early pregnancies is unlikely to become available without a prescription for years.

He also directed the department to ensure women have access to emergency medical care, family planning services, and contraception, including intrauterine devices (IUDs).

The Supreme Court's ruling restored states' ability to ban abortion. As a result, women with unwanted pregnancies face the choice of traveling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, buying abortion pills online, or having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion.

The issue may help drive Democrats to the polls in the November midterm elections, when Republicans have a chance of taking control of Congress.

Biden's executive order also aims to protect patients' privacy and ensuring safety for mobile abortion clinics at state borders, and directs the establishment of a task force to coordinate the administration's response on reproductive health care access.

The ruling is expected to have a disproportionate impact on Black women and other women of color, who have traditionally faced overwhelming costs and logistical obstacles in obtaining reproductive healthcare, experts said.

6 Killed In Shooting At A Fourth Of July Parade In A Chicago Suburb

CHICAGO, July 4: Six people were killed and at least 24 wounded after gunfire erupted at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb today, authorities said. A gunman began firing from the roof of a retail store into the parade below just minutes after the celebrations began, as per local reports.

A video on social media shows parade participants suddenly fleeing in panic as shots were fired in the streets of Highland Park, an affluent suburban city. Families are seen sitting on a sidewalk watching the parade. In the next frame, they are seen leaping up from the ground and running, a voice yelling "gunshots" can be heard in the background.

The shooting happened "in the area of the Independence Day parade route," the Lake County Sheriff's Office, which is responsible for the area that includes Highland Park.

The city of Highland Park announced that all July 4 festivities had been canceled as a result. "Highland Park Police are responding to an incident in downtown Highland Park. All 4th of July events have been canceled. Please avoid downtown Highland Park. Take shelter if in downtown HP. More information will be shared as it becomes available," its post on Facebook read.

Firearms cause approximately 40,000 deaths a year in the United States, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.

The debate over gun control -- a deeply divisive issue in the country -- was reignited by two massacres in May that saw 10 Black supermarket shoppers gunned down in upstate New York and 21 people, mostly young children, killed at an elementary school in Texas.

Congress passed the first significant bill on gun safety in decades in the wake of those killings. President Joe Biden signed it into law in late June, saying that while it falls short of what is really needed, it will still save lives.

 

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