WASHINGTON, July 27 -- The US Supreme Court on Friday (July 26) handed President Donald Trump a victory by letting his administration redirect US$2.5 billion (S$3.4 billion) in money approved by Congress for the Pentagon to help build his promised wall along the US-Mexico border even though lawmakers refused to provide funding.
The conservative-majority court voted 5-4 - with the court's liberals in dissent - and blocked in full a ruling by a federal judge in California barring the Republican president from spending the money. The basis was that Congress did not specifically authorize the funds to be spent on the wall project fiercely opposed by Democrats and Mexico's government. "Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!" Trump tweeted just minutes after the court acted. A brief order explaining the court's decision said the government "made a sufficient showing" that the groups challenging the decision did not have grounds to bring a lawsuit. In a highly unusual move, Trump on Feb 15 declared a national emergency in a bid to fund the wall without congressional approval, an action Democrats said exceeded his powers under the US Constitution and usurped the authority of Congress. The administration has said it plans to redirect US$6.7 billion from the Departments of Defense and Treasury towards wall construction under the emergency declaration after failing to convince Congress to provide the money, including the US$2.5 billion in Pentagon funding. Congress earlier failed to provide US$5.7 billion in wall funding demanded by Trump in a showdown in which the president triggered a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended in January.
The case arose from a challenge to Trump's action brought by Sierra Club, a leading environmental group, and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a group advocating for people living in border areas. The challengers have said the wall would be disruptive to the environment in part because it could worsen flooding problems and have a negative impact on wildlife. US District Judge Haywood Gilliam ruled on May 30 in Oakland, California, that the administration's proposal to build parts of the border wall in California, New Mexico and Arizona with money appropriated for the Defense Department to use in the fight against illegal drugs was unlawful. The judge issued an injunction barring use of the Pentagon funds for a border wall. The administration asked that the injunction barring use of the reprogrammed funds be put on hold pending an appeal but the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals declined to do so.
WASHINGTON, February 15 -- Donald Trump is signing a federal funding bill to avoid another government shutdown and announcing a series of executive actions along the US-Mexico border.
It includes the declaration of a national emergency — setting the stage for a major legal showdown.
The border security compromise was approved by the US Congress on Thursday afternoon as the president threatened to declare a national emergency if the billions of dollars he requested to go towards building a wall was not included in the bill.
The measure reportedly includes just $1.4bn (£1bn) for “border barriers,” much less than what the president had previously demanded, and less than previous bipartisan measures had approved for barrier funding.
WASHINGTON, February 15 -- The Senate of the US Congress on Thursday approved a spending bill until September in a bid to avert the second government shutdown.
The legislation envisages the allocation of $1.37 billion for wall construction and other security measures along the border with Mexico, although US President Donald Trump initially insisted on $5.7 billion. The legislation is yet to be approved by the lower chamber of the US Congress. After that, the document will be submitted to the president for signing. It is to be signed into law by Friday night. The White House press service said about an hour before the congressional vote that the president was ready to sign the document to avert another government shutdown, but will also announce the state of emergency on the Mexican border, in order to obtain the necessary funds without congressional approval.
"President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action - including a national emergency - to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border," White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders said. "The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country." US government shutdown started on December 22 when Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on ways to finance the wall on the border with Mexico. The record 35-day closure ended on January 25, when the US president signed a bill to finance the government’s work until February 15.
LOS ANGELES, January 22 -- Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, an ode to his childhood in 1970s Mexico City, and offbeat royal romp The Favourite on Tuesday topped the Oscar nominations with 10 each.
Popular musical romance A Star Is Born and Dick Cheney biopic Vice finished with eight nominations each, while superhero blockbuster Black Panther finished with seven. So far, the awards season has been a bit surprising, with prizes sprayed among a variety of films. So Tuesday's announcement gives the race to the Academy Awards on Feb 24 a bit more clarity. The sweeping success of Roma is history-making for streaming giant Netflix, marking its first nomination for best picture, and also first in other top categories like best director and best actress. The black and white film snatched up nods for best supporting actress, best foreign film and a swirl of other nominations. But "The Favourite scored a bit of a surprise with its stellar haul. While nominations for its trio of stars -- Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz -- were a near-lock, its flight to the top of the list was not. Director Yorgos Lanthimos took a nod -- instead of Cooper.
A Star Is Born, the latest iteration of the classic musical romance, scored in most big categories, with nominations for three of the four acting prizes -- Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and their co-star Sam Elliott. Surprisingly, Cooper was denied a nod for his directing debut, despite earning nominations at the Golden Globes and from the Directors Guild. In all, there are eight films vying for best picture: "Roma," "The Favourite," "A Star Is Born," Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman," Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody," satirical Dick Cheney biopic "Vice," civil rights dramedy "Green Book" and "Black Panther."
"Panther" also made a bit of history, as the first superhero flick ever nominated in the category. Green Book earned five Oscar nominations and moved up in the Academy Award conversation at the weekend when it won best film at the Producers Guild of America awards. Twenty times out of 29, the PGA award winner has gone on to take the best picture Oscar, including The Shape of Water last year.
Controversy. Last year, the awards season was marked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and the birth of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements against sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace. This year, multiple controversies are plaguing the Oscars -- none of them related to last year's bombshell. In August, the Academy -- under fire for being too elitist -- announced it would add a "best popular film" award. But many saw the new category as a booby prize for blockbusters like Black Panther that would keep them out of contention for top honors. The plan was scrapped a month later.
Then actor-comedian Kevin Hart had perhaps the briefest tenure ever as Oscars host -- a few days. He withdrew after homophobic tweets he had written years ago sparked a crippling backlash on social media. By all accounts, with many stars reportedly unwilling to grasp the poisoned chalice, the Academy has opted to go forward without a host. Of course, on Oscars night, the focus will revert to the nominees, and the red carpet glamour. In the best actor category, Christian Bale looks to be the frontrunner for his uncanny portrayal of Cheney in Vice. But Rami Malek's Golden Globe win for his work as Freddie Mercury in Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody put him into the conversation. Viggo Mortensen ("Green Book") and Cooper ("Star") are also contenders, with Willem Dafoe ("At Eternity's Gate") rounding out the field as a dark horse.
For best actress, Glenn Close's momentum is soaring after her twin Globe and Critics' Choice wins for The Wife, in which she plays a woman author whose marriage boils over when her writer husband wins the Nobel Prize. But Gaga and Olivia Colman, who plays Queen Anne in The Favourite, are expected to give her a fight, along with breakout Roma star Yalitza Aparicio and dark house Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).
In the supporting actor category, Elliott will go head-to-head with Green Book star Mahershala Ali, who took home a Golden Globe. For best supporting actress, Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) will battle with Stone and Weisz.
Roma is the pre-emptive favorite for best foreign language film. It will compete with Capernaum (Lebanon), Cold War (Poland), Never Look Away (Germany) and Shoplifters (Japan).
The nominations were announced on Tuesday in the pre-dawn hours in Hollywood by actors Tracee Ellis Ross and Kumail Nanjiani.
MEXICO CITY, January 18 -- At least 60 people have been killed and 71 more injured after a pipeline exploded in central Mexico.
The pipeline was ruptured by suspected fuel thieves in the town of Tlahuelilpan in Hidalgo state, around 62 miles north of Mexico City, according to state and federal authorities. Dozens of people had been trying to fill up buckets, plastic jugs and garbage cans with spilling petrol when the fire broke out on Friday evening, officials said.
Mexican television footage showed large flames and screaming people running away from the blaze.
Images showed people at the scene with severe burns as the government sent in ambulances and doctors to treat the victims. It came just weeks after new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a major crackdown on fuel theft, which the government has said cost the country more than $3bn (£2.3bn) last year. Hidalgo state police said the leak was first reported at about 5pm local time."There was a report that residents were on the scene trying to obtain fuel," according to a police report. Two hours later, the pipeline burst into flames.
It came just weeks after new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a major crackdown on fuel theft, which the government has said cost the country more than $3bn (£2.3bn) last year. Hidalgo state police said the leak was first reported at about 5pm local time. "There was a report that residents were on the scene trying to obtain fuel," according to a police report. Two hours later, the pipeline burst into flames. The ruptured pipeline was near the Tula refinery of Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned company, which in a statement blamed the incident on illegal tapping. And another pipeline burst into flames in the neighbouring state of Queretaro on Friday, because of an illegal tap. However, Pemex said the fire near San Juan del Rio posed “no risk to human beings."
The explosion in Tlahuelilpan was one of the worst in recent history in a country that has suffered hundreds of illegal ruptures to its network of oil and gas pipelines. Omar Fayad, Hidalgo's governor, warned that the number of victims could still rise depending on what emergency services discovered where the blaze had been hottest. On Twitter, Mr Fayad said: "I urge the entire population not to be complicit in fuel theft. Apart from being illegal, it puts your life and those of your families at risk."
Mr Lopez Obrador tweeted: "I greatly lament the grave situation Tlahuelilpan is suffering because of the explosion of the duct.” He called on all branches of government to assist the victims.
WASHINGTON, December 27 -- America’s border security head warned Wednesday officials were overwhelmed by the “enormous flow” of families crossing from Mexico.
He is appealing for federal health care funding after the second child in a month died in custody. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the agency was unable to cope with the thousands of arrivals, as most facilities were built decades ago for men arriving alone.
Eight-year-old Felipe Gomez, who collapsed after running a fever, was among almost 25,000 migrant children in U.S. custody, according to McAleenan – the greatest number ever recorded. “That’s an enormous flow, that’s very different from what we’ve seen before,” he said, adding that the onset of the flu season was putting further pressure on health care services. The Department of Homeland Security said 60 percent of the population crossing the border are children or family units, a relatively recent surge that the system has not been designed to cope with.
“Many of our facilities, especially in the very remote areas, were designed and built for apprehension, detention and transportation of this specific group of population, single adult male,” it said in a statement. DHS officials said all children in border control custody would be given a thorough medical screening, reaffirming McAleenan’s commitment to “secondary medical checks” with a focus on those under 10. Felipe was detained with his 47-year-old father at a crossing in El Paso, Texas on December 18 and had been transferred to a New Mexico medical center showing signs of sickness on Monday, the CBP said. Staff diagnosed him with a cold but later discovered a fever. He was discharged midday, with prescriptions for ibuprofen and the antibiotic amoxicillin. The boy was later sent back to the hospital suffering from nausea and vomiting. He died shortly before midnight on December 24.
The CBP said it had not established the cause of death but would “ensure an independent and thorough review of the circumstances.”
MEXICO CITY, December 26 -- Russian Ambassador to Caracas Vladimir Zaemsky told Sputnik Wednesday that more Russian jets may be sent to Venezuela as part of bilateral defense cooperation.
"Within Russian-Venezuelan cooperation in this area, such missions are not ruled out in the future, and, as before, in full compliance with international norms,"
Vladimir Zaemsky dismissed Wednesday reports on Moscow's alleged plans to create a Russian military base in Venezuela. "Information on the alleged negotiations on creating a military base in Venezuela, disseminated by some media, is pure speculation. To understand the situation, I would only note that the ban on any foreign military bases is enshrined in the current Venezuelan constitution," the diplomat said.
Earlier in the month, two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers, an An-124 military transport aircraft and an Il-62 plane flew to Venezuela for interoperability drills with the Venezuelan Air Force. Following a flight of several Russian strategic jets to Venezuela for joint drills earlier in December, several Latin American media alleged that Russia had plans to set up its base on the Venezuelan island of La Orchila in the Caribbean Sea.
MEXICO CITY, December 25 -- The governor of Mexico’s Puebla state, Martha Erika Alonso and her senator husband, Rafael Moreno, were killed in a helicopter crash near the city of Puebla on Monday, reported Reuters.
She took oath on December 14. Two pilots also died in the crash, while a fifth passenger was also presumed to be on board. The Agusta 109 helicopter crashed about 10 minutes after taking off from a heliport in the city of Puebla, AP reported. Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the privately-owned helicopter was bound for Mexico City and crashed after suffering an unspecified failure. “At this point, there’s no evidence that could lead us to conclude that the cause was not related to how the [helicopter] was functioning,” Durazo said.
Alonso, who was a member of the National Action Party, was sworn in as governor on December 14 after narrowly beating Manuel Barbosa, who was the Mexican president’s favoured candidate. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador alleged irregularities in the elections, following which an election tribunal validated the poll result for Puebla. Obrador said his government would launch an investigation into the incident to find “the truth” about what caused the crash. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has been a critic of Obrador, said he was troubled by the timing of the accident after the electoral dispute. “Every single doubt must be cleared up,” he said.
WASHINGTON, December 22 -- The federal government entered a partial shutdown at 12:01 a.m. EST on Saturday.
President Donald Trump would not budge on his attempt to get the American people to pay for the border wall he spent his entire 2016 campaignpromising Mexico would pay to build. Both chambers of the Republican-controlled Congress adjourned on Friday without agreeing to a bill to fund the government, and no plan to reach a compromise that satisfies Trump’s demand for wall funding. The House passed a short-term budget bill with the $5.7 billion the White House wanted, and the Senate adjourned without achieving the 60-vote majority it needed to overcome a filibuster to pass that bill. Earlier in the week, the Senate unanimously passed a spending bill without wall funding. But this putative conflict — in which most congressional Republicans align with Trump’s push for a wall and all Democrats refuse to fund the project — is unnecessary posturing that conceals the root cause of the shutdown that the president embraced last week: Trump failed to fulfill his signature campaign promise of building a great wall and getting Mexico to pay for it.
He repeated this promise over and over. Trump told a crowd in South Carolina, “You know all of these guys say ‘oh they’ll never pay’ — of course they’ll pay. If you have the right guy negotiating it, that they’ll pay.” The president also said Mexico would be “thrilled to be paying for the wall.”
MEXICO, December 02 -- Multiple grenades have exploded on the grounds of the US’ consulate in the western Mexican city of Guadalajara.
Just before US Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka flew into Mexico City on Saturday morning at the head of a high-level US delegation attending the inauguration of Mexico’s new president.
The consulate said that it was made aware of the security incident following a report by Fox News that said that two grenades were thrown at the US consulate Friday night. In a statement on the consulate’s Facebook page, they said that no one was hurt in the incident. They said "the Consulate was closed at the time and there were no injuries."
A former special agent that was in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Special Operations Division, Derek Maltz, told Fox News that there was “unconfirmed information” last week that members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) had threatened to bomb the US embassy or consulate in Mexico.