Ethiopia unhappy as U.S. ends its duty-free access. Ethiopia says it is unhappy with the U.S. decision to revoke duty-free access for the East African country’s exports. The statement by Ethiopia’s trade ministry on Monday came after the Biden administration on Dec. 23 terminated Ethiopia’s eligibility for benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The U.S cited its disapproval of the war in the Tigray region for the action.

“The Ethiopian government is saddened over the decision by the U.S. to remove it,“ from the preferential trade benefits, the ministry said. It asked the U.S. to reconsider its decision.

“Ethiopia is carrying out various initiatives aimed at bringing peace and stability, political consensus and economic development in addition to conducting reforms in line with the longstanding relationship between the two countries,” the statement said.

The U.S. stopped Ethiopia’s eligibility for the trade benefits despite pleas by a few U.S. legislators and Ethiopian lobby groups who asked the Biden administration to give the country more time to comply with U.S. demands.

The decision against the African nation was made over its failure to end a nearly yearlong war in the Tigray region that has led to “gross violations” of human rights, said the Biden statement. The action also stops Guinea and Mali from receiving the trade benefits as of January 1.

The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act provides sub-Saharan African nations duty-free access to the United States on the condition they meet certain requirements, including eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism.

The U.S. and the United Nations say Ethiopian authorities have prevented trucks from delivering desperately needed food and other aid into Tigray. Scores of people have starved to death, The Associated Press has reported.

In September Biden warned that his administration would levy sanctions if Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not take steps to wind down the war in Tigray and other regions.

On November 3, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry labeled the move as “misguided” and “unjustified intimidation” and said the decision could affect the livelihoods of more than 200,000 low-income Ethiopians who work for companies that benefit from the preferential trade access.

Some Ethiopian companies are already showing signs of a downturn in their export business.

“Several companies have already started leaving and we don’t know what is next,” a textile worker at the Hawassa Industrial Park, some 270 kilometers (168 miles) south of the capital, Addis Ababa, told the AP by phone on condition of anonymity fearing for his workplace safety.

Ethiopia in recent years had one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, but the war in Tigray has dampened that momentum.

The British socialite is charged with recruiting and grooming teenagers as young as 14 to be sexually assaulted by financier Jeffrey Epstein. Maxwell’s lawyers say she was a U.S. government scapegoat after Epstein killed himself in 2019 in a Manhattan federal jail cell while awaiting a sex trafficking trial.

Maxwell, who was behind bars for her 60th birthday Saturday, was described as a central component to Epstein’s plans by four women who testified they were sexually abused as teenagers by Epstein with help from Maxwell when she was his girlfriend and afterward.

Maxwell’s lawyers said the memories of her accusers were corrupted by the passage of time and the influence of lawyers steering them toward multimillion-dollar payouts from a fund set up to compensate Epstein victims.

U.S. President Biden signs US$770 billion defence bill

The bill includes a 2.7 per cent pay increase for the troops, and more aircraft and Navy ship purchases

U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for fiscal year 2022, which authorizes US$770 billion in defence spending, the White House said on Monday.

Earlier this month, the Senate and the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for the defence bill with strong support from both Democrats and Republicans for the annual legislation setting policy for the Department of Defense.

The NDAA is closely watched by a broad swath of industry and other interests because it is one of the only major pieces of legislation that becomes law every year and because it addresses a wide range of issues. The NDAA has become law every year for six decades.

Authorizing about 5 per cent more military spending than last year, the fiscal 2022 NDAA is a compromise after intense negotiations between House and Senate Democrats and Republicans after being stalled by disputes over China and Russia policy.

It includes a 2.7 per cent pay increase for the troops, and more aircraft and Navy ship purchases, in addition to strategies for dealing with geopolitical threats, especially Russia and China.

The NDAA includes US$300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides support to Ukraine’s armed forces, US$4 billion for the European Defense Initiative and US$150 million for Baltic security cooperation.

On China, the bill includes US$7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and a statement of congressional support for the defence of Taiwan, as well as a ban on the Department of Defense procuring products produced with forced labor from China’s Xinjiang region.

It creates a 16-member commission to study the war in Afghanistan. Biden ended the conflict – by far the country’s longest war – in August.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Porter and Matthew Lewis

This decision was made by Polish President Andrzej Duda on Monday after he vetoed a bill that would force the deal to take place. The bill’s unpopularity with citizens was cited as the primary reason for the veto.

“Contracts have to be kept,” Duda told reporters at a press conference. “For us Poles it is a matter of honor.”

Without the veto, the bill would have forced Discovery to sell its stake in TVN due to non-European entities being prohibited from owning more than a 49 percent stake in broadcasters. While politicians argued that the bill would help European companies have more control over its messaging, many citizens were concerned that it would be a push towards censorship. TVN helps to broadcast an all-news television station and an influential evening news program on its main channel.

Discovery issued a statement on the ruling on Monday. “We commend the president for doing the right thing and standing up for core democratic values of a free press and the rule of law,” the company said, “and we want to thank all the viewers and everyone that has supported this important issue.”

Mass nationwide protests were recently held in support of the station and of freedom of speech more broadly. Donald Tusk, the leader of the centrist Civic Platform opposition party who spoke at that demonstration, said Duda’s decision showed the importance of pressure from the U.S.—and pressure from the street.

“Let no one say anymore that it is not worth it, that it is impossible, that we cannot do anything. We can and we must,” Tusk said on Twitter.

Discovery had threatened to sue Poland in an international arbitration court, saying it would fight for its investment. The network was first bought by another U.S. company, Scripps Networks Interactive, for $2 billion and later sold to Discovery.

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