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US Republicans, Democrats far apart on coronavirus relief plan | Coronavirus pandemic News

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United States Republicans and Democrats faced difficult talks on Tuesday on how best to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, after Republicans unveiled a relief proposal days before millions of Americans lose federal unemployment benefits.

Senate Republicans announced on Monday a one-trillion-dollar coronavirus aid package hammered out with the White House, which would slash the current expanded unemployment benefit from the $600 a week in addition to state unemployment, which expires on Friday, to $200.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell touted the proposal as a “tailored and targeted” plan to reopen schools and businesses, while protecting companies from lawsuits.

The plan sparked immediate opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats decried it as too limited, and too late, compared with their three-trillion-dollar proposal that passed the House of Representatives in May.

Some Republicans said it was too expensive.

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wears a face mask while walking to the House Chamber before a vote on an additional economic stimulus package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US [Tom Brenner/Reuters] 

The Republican proposal would give many Americans direct payments of $1,200 each, one area of common ground with the Democrats.

It would also provide billions in loans to small businesses and help schools reopen.

There is widespread agreement between the two political parties that more money is needed for virus testing, to help schools prepare to begin their new year and to shore up small businesses but they are far apart on the details.

Republicans seek $16bn for virus testing, but Democrats want $75bn.

For school reopenings, Democrats want four times the $105bn Republicans have proposed.

Democrats also want to extend a federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units that is expiring Friday, but Republicans are silent on evictions.

The federal supplemental unemployment benefit has been a financial lifeline for laid-off workers and a key support for consumer spending. Democrats quickly denounced the cuts as draconian when millions of Americans cannot return to shuttered workplaces.

Many Republicans insist the high unemployment payout encourages Americans to stay home rather than go back to work. Their proposal would put the $200 weekly supplemental payment in place until states create a system to provide a 70 percent wage replacement for laid-off workers.

Democrats said the $200 suggestion is insufficient and would damage the economy, and scoffed at suggestions that people would rather stay home.

“People want to work, Republican friends. They just don’t have jobs to do it. We’re not going to let them starve while that happens,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a Senate speech criticising Republicans.

“Let’s get something done. America desperately needs our help,” he said.

Schumer and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are due to meet later on Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, after a session on Monday evening.

US federal jobless benefits expire

Protesters temporarily block the street to US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s house with a live band on a flatbed truck during a protest on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 22, 2020 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

McConnell said no bill would go to a vote without liability protection, that he said is not for businesses only.

The bill also includes a provision that would restore hundreds of millions of dollars in US defence spending that President Donald Trump’s administration had diverted in order to pay for a wall along the US border with Mexico, according to the Washington Post newspaper. 

The partisan dispute comes as US coronavirus cases have passed 4.3 million, with nearly 150,000 people killed in the country, and tens of millions out of work.

The Democratic-led House in May passed its three-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill known as the “HEROES Act,” but the Republican-led Senate refused to consider it.

McConnell acknowledged that the Republican “HEALS Act” was just a starting point for negotiations that would need bipartisan support to become law.

In his remarks opening the Senate on Tuesday, McConnell accused Democrats of risking Americans’ wellbeing amid the health and economic crisis by playing politics.

“The HEALS Act is full of provisions that I would frankly dare my Democratic colleagues to actually say they oppose,” McConnell said.

SOURCE:
Reuters news agency



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Pakistan-born ‘neo-Sufi’ singer breaks free from music traditions | Arts and Culture News

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New York, United States – It is a music album born in an extraordinary time of strife. The artist was not only grappling with the challenge of creating music during a pandemic, but also with the death of her younger brother.

Arooj Aftab’s third album, Vulture Prince, out on Friday, reflects this pain but stands out for the power of her musical expression.

And that power has already been recognised. Pitchfork, a respected online music magazine, named her first single, Mohabbat, the Best New Track.

The 36-year-old singer had been making waves since 2018 when the United States’ NPR network called her song Lullaby one of the Greatest Songs by 21st Century Women+, and The New York Times included her song Island No 2 in its list of 25 best classical music tracks that year.

The musical style

The Pakistan-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s musical style is inspired by a diverse range of singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Reshma, and Abida Parveen – the “queen” of Sufi music. Sounds of Greek, Egyptian and Spanish idioms are also hauntingly intermingled.

The genre can best be defined as somewhere at the intersection of Sufi, Pakistani folk, jazz fusion and semi-classical.

“I didn’t want to call it any of these. It was none of those genres. At first, I coined it neo-Sufism because I had to call it something because people can’t place it and you get lost in the sauce,” Aftab told Al Jazeera.

“It came to me as a genre during the creation of my first album listening to Abida Parveen and reading a lot of [poet] Rumi.”

While categories in music still force terminologies such as “neo-Sufism”, Aftab now has the confidence to call it something else.

Arooj Aftab’s third album, Vulture Prince, releases on Friday [Courtesy of Arooj Aftab]

“It isn’t neo-Sufi any more,” she said. “I have more confidence in using a longer sentence to describe it.”

In a musical world where lyrics often get submerged in beats and melody, Aftab makes poetry her lead singer – a quintessential characteristic of her music.

The ghazals (a form of Urdu poetry) she sings, some celebrated for decades, have a neutral cadence in their renditions, where poetry shines independent of the musical accompaniment.

Think of the minimalistic and soulful structure of Norah Jones with an even less focus on accompanying instruments.

“She breaks free from the hard, traditional norm of subcontinental music and yet remains very deep in her interpretation of that music without being guilty of cultural appropriation,” Arieb Azhar, veteran musician and commentator on Sufi music, told Al Jazeera.

‘Mohabbat’

Aftab says she consciously planned stripping her music from any percussion in a self-effacing way.

Madan Gopal Singh, Sufi musician and cultural historian in India, says Aftab’s “voice grain has a languorous quality”.

“With it, she has broken the hierarchy between instrumentalisation and the emergence of voice so that the dignity of both remains, and that is unique,” Singh told Al Jazeera.

Singh comes from the Indian side of Punjab province while Aftab was born in Lahore on the Pakistani side.

But the two share a serendipitous connection with a song called Mohabbat (love). It is the song with which, recollects Singh, he charmed his wife into marrying him many decades ago.

The song was originally written by Hafeez Hoshiarpuri, a poet born in 1912 in Hoshiarpur in India’s Punjab. But Hoshiarpuri died in 1973 across the border, in Karachi.

His song has since gathered a cult-like following through the renditions of famous singers, including Mehdi Hassan, Iqbal Bano, Jagjit Singh and more recently Papon.

For Singh, Aftab’s version is equally evocative.

“I love her rendition and the way she is thinking in her musical arrangement. I just wish she would look at the translations more attentively,” he said. “Then the song has potential for even more musical impact.”

The repetitive lyrics of Mohabbat – Mohabbat Karne Waale Kum Na Hongey (the number of people who love will never come down) – can have various interpretations.

“Arooj’s music is abstract enough and as abstract art, you are free to interpret it in any way you like,” said Azhar.

“It is an internalised emotion that she is projecting. One can’t say whether it is personal love or loss or political or a revolutionary expression?”

Arooj herself feels Mohabbat has many faces. She says, “Immortalising this song was a lifelong dream.”

“It could be a love song, breakup song, a political statement, a nostalgic memory. It has comforted me in so many different emotional moments,” she says, adding that the interpretation that resonated most was a “dissatisfaction with the world”.

The feeling that the song creates when you listen to it is of a “wallowing despair but that I’m OK. I am just disappointed in everyone and everything”, Aftab said.

As a young woman from Pakistan, Aftab says her journey as an artist has been a struggle [Daniel Hilsinger/Al Jazeera]

“In whichever place you look – Kashmir, India, Pakistan, the US, mass shootings, or Palestine, wherever you look, there is this unbelievable, inexcusable atrocity going on. So, Mohabbat is kind of like a ‘f*** you’ to the world.”

The struggle

As a young woman from Pakistan, Aftab says her journey as an artist has been a struggle. “In order to pursue the dream, I have sacrificed,” she says.

“Separating yourself from friends and family. It’s like self-exiling yourself because the situation doesn’t agree with you.”

In the US, she had to build a new support system, which included recruiting musicians for her album. Going to Berkeley College of Music in Boston, one of the best music schools in the world, also meant paying off student loans.

She also recollects moments where she had only $20 left in her bank account, or facing unruly audience members who misbehaved with her band’s musical equipment during a performance near Times Square.

“But it’s still been all worth it.”

Ahmer Naqwi, a Pakistani writer on popular culture, says “to do what Aftab did is quite unique” coming from a society like Pakistan.

“It is a remarkable story of Pakistani music that it keeps finding ways to thrive despite hostile financial and social obstacles,” he told Al Jazeera.

Subcontinental and global recognition

Musical and cultural experts believe Aftab’s new album has the promise to attain global recognition. But they also worry about America’s categorisation for awards like the Grammy’s.

Aftab’s music will likely fall in the US industry’s limited category of World Music.

“Grammy’s may not recognise her because they are limited in their categorisation but that doesn’t take away from the quality of her music,” said Azhar.

As for the subcontinent, and Pakistan in particular, Aftab’s music “isn’t suited for virality”, Naqwi said.

“Aftab’s music has great potential but it is difficult for me to divorce the reception of this album from the reality of Pakistani music right now. It is not a great reality.”

But Singh believes “no other musician from Pakistan is thinking like she is”.

“She has a huge future,” he said.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Court Dismisses Appeal by Former CMB Employees

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A panel of three Justices of the Court of Appeal have dismissed with costs a case filed by three representatives of 1,568 Uganda Coffee Marketing Board workers who were retrenched between 1992 – 1998 and were entitled to payment as per the Auditor General’s report of 13th November 2009.

These rushed to the Court of Appeal challenging High court decision in which Government was ordered to compensate them but they disagreed with the interest rate awarded.

The three applicants (now appellants); Basiima Kabonesa, Solome Adumo and James Musoke in 2014 dragged the Government (Attorney General) and the Management of Uganda Coffee Marketing Board (under liquidation) to court on behalf of 1,568 other workers seeking to be compensated with more than Shs 10Billion with damages and costs

On 22July 2015, the parties entered a consent Judgement where it was agreed that the plaintiffs shall be paid a sum of Shs 10,330,013,506 as total terminal benefits with an additional ten million shillings each as damages

Court then granted this sum, which was to be shared equally by all workers with 10% interest per annum on the Principle sum from date of consent Judgement up to full payment and 6% on aggravated damages from judgment date up to full payment.

However, the petitioners were not satisfied with the total sum of aggravated damages awarded to them as well as the interest on Principal sum which they described as low.

On top of that, they claimed that the trial judge erred when he awarded interest on Principal sum from judgment date to full payment instead of running from date of retrenchment to full payment.

In their unanimous judgement, justices Remmy Kasule, Godfrey Kiryabwire and Monica Mugenyi noted that the trial judge was within the law by awarding interest on terminal benefits from date of judgement.

The justices also concurred with the High Court decision of awarding the plaintiff one billion shillings as costs that have to be shared equally by all beneficiaries since the trial judge based on the condition that the consent judgment was against the Government.

Each party was ordered bare its costs at High court while the appellants were ordered to pay the costs at the appeal level.

The post Court Dismisses Appeal by Former CMB Employees first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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Court Dismisses Appeal by Former Coffee Marketing Board Employees

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A panel of three justices of Court of Appeal have dismissed with costs an appeal filed before them by three representatives of 1,568 workers who were retrenched between 1992 to 1998 and entitled to payment as per Auditor General report of 13th November 2009.

These rushed to the Court of Appeal challenging the High court decision in which Government was ordered to compensate them but they didn’t agree with the interest rate which was imposed on the said money.

The three applicants (now appellants) Basiima Kabonesa, Solome Adumo and James Musoke, in 2014 dragged the Government of Uganda (Attorney General) and the Management of Uganda Coffee Marketing Board (under liquidation)  to court on behalf of other 1,568 workers seeking to be compensated more than ten billion shillings with damages and costs

On 22nd July 2015, the parties entered into a consent Judgment where it was agreed that the plaintiffs shall be paid a sum of ten billion three hundred thirty million thirteen thousand five hundred six (Shs 10,330,013,506) as total terminal benefits with an additional ten million shillings each as damages.

High Court would later okay this decision in which it awarded the plaintiffs aggravated damages totaling ten billion shillings which had to be shared equally by all of them with 10% interest per annum on Principle sum from the date of consent Judgment up to full payment and 6% on aggravated damages from judgment date up to full payment.

However, these were not satisfied with the total sum of aggravated damages awarded to them as well as the interest on the Principal sum which they described as “very low.”

The appellants also claimed that the trial judge erred when he awarded interest on Principal sum from judgment date to full payment instead of running from date of retrenchment to full payment.

In their unanimous judgment, justices Remmy Kasule, Godfrey Kiryabwire and Monica Mugenyi noted that the trial judge exercised under the law by awarding interest on terminal benefits from date of judgment.

“In terms of provisions in section 26(2) of the CPA for award of interest from date of suit, it seems to be resolved that so far, as the consent Judgment resolved, the dispute between the parties inter-allia leaving out the claim of aggravated damages and terminal benefits, the date of consent judgment redefined as between them,” reads part of the judgment.

The justices also concurred with the High Court decision of awarding the plaintiff one billion shillings as costs that have to be shared equally by all beneficiaries since the trial judge based on the condition that the consent was against the Government and  already made concessions involving colossal sums of public money.

Each party was ordered bare its costs at High Court well as the appellants were ordered to pay the costs at the appeal level.

The post Court Dismisses Appeal by Former Coffee Marketing Board Employees first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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