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US Postal Service says it will halt changes until after election | News

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United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will suspend all operational reforms and initiatives until after the November presidential election, he said in a statement.

The move comes amid an outcry by Democrats and others that service cuts could slow the handling of mail-in ballots, the use of which is expected to skyrocket for the election as the coronavirus pandemic raises fears of crowds.

Democrats in Congress and several Democratic state attorneys general had sought to block the cuts, which critics said President Donald Trump’s administration was backing to limit mail-in voting.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in the statement (PDF).

Democrats and other critics have accused the Republican president of trying to hobble the United States Postal Service (USPS) to suppress mail-in voting as he trails Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the November 3 election.

DeJoy said the USPS will not change retail hours at post offices, mail collection boxes will remain where they are, and no mail processing facilities will be closed. He also announced an expansion of a task force on election mail to include postal unions.

Demonstrators march to the condo of US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, to protest against changes in the postal service in Washington, DC, the US [Cheriss May/Reuters]

The move followed a lengthy call by the postal board of governors on Monday night, two people briefed on the matter said.

Trump said last week that he was against Democratic efforts to include funds for the USPS and election infrastructure in coronavirus relief legislation because he wanted to limit mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier on Tuesday, states including Washington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York said they were planning legal moves to block the cuts.

“The integrity of our elections is fundamental to our nation’s democracy and we won’t allow anyone to undermine them, not even the president of the United States,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said.

Trump has repeatedly and without evidence claimed that mail balloting is vulnerable to fraud. Voting by mail is nothing new in the US, and one in four voters cast ballots that way in 2016.

DeJoy is scheduled to testify on Friday before the Republican-led US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, spokespeople for the committee and the USPS said. DeJoy, a major political donor and ally of Trump, assumed the job in June.

DeJoy also is scheduled to testify on Monday before the Democratic-led House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Democrats have raised concerns that USPS cost-cutting could lead to missed or delayed ballots. They have pointed to reductions in overtime, restrictions on extra mail transportation trips and new mail sorting and delivery policies as changes that threaten to slow mail delivery – and in some cases, already have.

Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union that represents more than 200,000 employees, told Fox News that DeJoy’s policy changes “are truly slowing down mail, the customers see it … the postal workers see it – mail is getting all backed up”.  

US Postal Service

United States Postal Service postboxes or mailboxes stacked in Hartford, Wisconsin, the US; people who live nearby say the pile had grown noticeably larger in recent weeks [Brian Snyder/Reuters]  

The announcement by DeJoy came after key Republicans had sounded the alarm.

In the pivotal swing state of Ohio, Attorney General Dave Yost had pleaded with Trump to postpone any needed changes to the USPS until after Election Day. Senator Rob Portman and other Republicans in Ohio’s congressional delegation urged DeJoy to “ensure timely and accurate delivery of election-related materials”.

At the White House, Trump levelled fresh assaults Tuesday on mail-in voting and universal ballots. More Americans than ever are expected to choose to vote absentee this year instead of risking health concerns by voting at polling places during the coronavirus outbreak.

“You can’t have millions and millions of ballots sent all over the place, sent to people that are dead, sent to dogs, cats, sent everywhere,” Trump told reporters.

“This isn’t games and you have to get it right,” Trump said.

Trump made clear last week that he was blocking $25bn emergency aid to the USPS, acknowledging he wanted to curtail election mail operations, as well as a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6bn in additional election money to the states to help process an expected surge of mail-in ballots.

Congress is not in session but Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back to Washington over the crisis at the USPS, setting up a political showdown amid growing concerns that the Trump White House is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the election.

The House is expected to vote Saturday on legislation that would prohibit changes at the agency. The package will also include $25bn to shore up the USPS, which faces continued financial losses.

The top Democrat on the Homeland Security panel seeking DeJoy’s testimony, Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, called the USPS “a lifeline” to Americans.

“We must ensure they can continue to count on dependable and timely delivery,” said Peters.

USPS Vote

A US postal employee pumping gas into his mail delivery truck in San Diego, California [Mike Blake/Reuters] 

Ahead of the election, DeJoy, a former supply-chain CEO who took over the USPS in June, has sparked nationwide outcry over delays, new prices and cutbacks just as millions of Americans will be trying to vote by mail and polling places during the COVID-19 crisis.

Trump has defended DeJoy, but also criticised postal operations and claimed that universal mail-in ballots would be “a disaster”.

Experts say examples of ballot fraud have been overstated. The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of ballot fraud at 0.00004 percent to 0.0009 percent, based on studies of past elections.

In a letter to postal staffers last week obtained by The Associated Press, DeJoy said his policies have brought “unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels,” but added that the USPS “must make a number of significant changes which will not be easy, but which are necessary.”

Nate Castro, a postal staffer and union shop steward in Florida with more than three decades of experience, said the rationale behind DeJoy’s policy changes has been unclear.

“He’s on express mode where he’s not even taking the advice of people that are experienced for years,” said Castro.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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