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Jerusalem Issue Saw The United States Stand Alone

Manak Suri

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US Consulate in Jerusalem

2017 is a year Americans are unlikely to forget very easily and it’s all thanks to one man: Donald J. Trump. They welcomed the year 2017 amid deep controversy following the election of Mr. Trump as the 45th President of the USA. Since then, Mr. Trump has managed to maintain a spot in the headlines every now and then with a number of his decisions sparking several debates. Now, with the New Year looming large, Americans find their government alienated at the forefront of another controversy; the one that has followed the immensely criticized decision by the Trump government to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

On December 6, Mr. Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, also signalling the move of the United States Embassy to the hugely controversial city from Tel Aviv. “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital”, he said of the decision. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.” One of the promises made by Trump as part of his campaign was to successfully broker a deal in the Middle East and bring an end to decades of conflict between Israel and Palestine. With the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he seems to be doing anything but fulfilling that promise.

Why is the issue of Jerusalem so contentious?

You may as well ask why the move is being given the attention that it has been receiving and what it means. To put it quite simply, the status of Jerusalem has remained unresolved in the context of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Till the Six-Day War in 1967 Jerusalem was controlled partly by Israel in the west and by Jordan in the east. During the war Israel occupied East Jerusalem, thereby obtaining complete control of the entire city. The Palestinians and the Arab world, along with many others in the international community recognized the move as an illegal occupation of East Jerusalem. Palestine also views East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Moreover, Old City in Jerusalem is an important religious site for Jews, Muslims as well as for Christians. Therefore, Jerusalem’s status has been a contentious issue both historically and religiously.

So where does the rest of the world stand?

What has followed since the decision of the United States is a demonstration by the rest of the world on how far they are willing to go against the US or anyone for that matter to condemn what they believe does not contribute to peace in the world. On December 18, 14 out of 15 members of the United Nations Security Council gave a green signal to a measure “expressing deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” Quite obviously, the US was the only country to veto the measure following which Turkey and Yemen took it upon themselves to call for an emergency session of the 193 members strong United Nations General Assembly.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the US would be closely watching and “taking names” of those who voted against them. She went so far as to write to more than 180 countries that any vote in favour of the resolution would be taken personally by the President. Mr. Trump himself suggested withdrawal of billions of dollars of aid to countries who would vote against the US. “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot,” he said. “We don’t care.” Even right before the voting took place, Haley threatened that the US would cut funding to the UN over the vote. The talk may have swayed some countries to its side which barely amounted to anything. 128 member countries voted in favour of the resolution and only 9 voted against it. Any consolation that the US received from the vote was 35 abstentions from some of its allies. By not voting at all, they neither criticized the move by the US, nor did they voice their support for the US on the issue, if any.

What the measure explicitly says is that any changes to Jerusalem’s status “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.” In addition, it “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem”, clearly targeting the US decision to move its embassy to the city.

How have the different parties involved reacted?

Ambassador Haley had the following to say of the result that saw the United States pretty much isolated on yet another international issue: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out in this assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.” She added, “We will remember it when, once again, we are called up to make the world’s largest contribution to the UN, and we will remember it when many countries come calling on us to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.” Regardless of the vote, Haley said the US Embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority called Trump’s announcement a “crime” and expressed that he no longer desires the US to broker peace between them ad Israel. In addition, more than 50 countries with a majority of Muslim population signed a statement which declares that the United States has lost its role as a “sponsor of peace” in the Middle East region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, thanked Mr. Trump for his stance on the issue as well as the other countries that voted against the resolution. Also rejecting the measure, Mr. Netanyahu released a statement saying that “Israel rejects the UN resolution and at the same time expresses satisfaction with the high number of countries that did not vote for the resolution.”

The issue remains one which needs to be closely watched to ascertain what the repercussions will be once the decisions and actions of the US, the countries in the Middle East, and Israel play out in their entirety. The United States has already made a move to reduce the contribution of the country to the UN budget. “We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked, said Nikki Haley of the step, adding that they would look at ways to increase the governing body’s efficiency while protecting their own interests at the same time. At the same time, Guatemala has followed in the United States’ steps by deciding to move their embassy to Jerusalem as well. As 2018 approaches, will this prove to be the new year resolution that remains in focus for more than just the first few weeks of the year? At least the Palestinians will hope so.

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A student of economics with a keen eye for developments in the geopolitical sphere, Manak is a curious individual with a penchant for writing about anything that makes him ponder long enough.

Sports

The Best American Sports You Need to Get Into Right Now

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It’s no secret that sport is a driving force for the culture of America. Both fans and players admire the common values that are shared in all the popular American sports right now. Whether they are joining together to sing National Anthem at the start of a football game or they’re applauding great sportsmanship at the end of a tough match, it is a great way for USA citizens to bond. You might even say that sport is a universal language that everyone and anyone can understand no matter what their ethic, religious or geographical background may be. There are so many sports in action today, but here are some of the best ones in America right now that you should definitely consider following.

Ice Hockey

American Ice Hockey

When you think about some of the best ice hockey players in the world, who springs to mind first? You probably thought of Wayne Gretzky, right? Although he’s Canadian, he reached his peak when playing for the Los Angeles Kings. Surely this means that America helped to make Gretzky who he is today! With the 2020 NHL Playoffs quickly approaching, fans are truly starting to see a rhythm across the teams in each division. It’s always a fun game trying to predict who will reign as champion with the Stanley Cup this year. Before that honor can be granted they will need to earn their title in the NHL Playoffs. Of course, The Rangers are the first American team to win the Stanley Cup (four times to be precise). However, this year the Vegas Golden Knights have been given the best odds this year.

Soccer

Soccer definitely earns the top spot when it comes to sports in Europe, however it still stand strong amongst the most popular games in America. US citizens have shown consistent support for soccer games, which stems way further than the Major League Soccer. You could say that the arrival of David Beckham to LA Galaxy really sparked interest and raised the bar for American Soccer at that time. People that were following the sport soon became die hard fans. The 2019 Women’s World Cup was won by the USA and almost 15 million viewers chosen to tune in. Interestingly, this was a huge increase compared to the Men’s World Cup Final in 2018. Many say that soccer will never quite surpass the popularity of American Football, but you never know what could happen!

American Football

As mentioned, this is one of the most popular sports in America right now and has been for decades. The annual Super Bowl brings Americans together every single year and is a much anticipated event in every sports fan’s calendar. You could even say that the Super Bowl’s halftime performance is bigger than many other sporting events! The National Football League has steadily increased viewers over the years and in 2019 over 6 million people tuned in to watch the NFL draft. Similarly, when you try and name some of the biggest sportsmen in America you immediately think of those who play American Football, such as Joe Montana and Dan Marino. We might be right in thinking that American Football has and always will be number one in the USA.

Mixed Martial Arts

Having spent years flying under the radar, Mixed Martial Arts has finally made its way into the pool of mainstream American sports. You could say that the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) put MMA onto the global map. As soon as the UFC was televised Mixed Martial Arts quickly become one of the most popular sports in America. Some of the biggest names that put MMA on the map are Conor McGregor and female champion Ronda Rousey. 2016 was the biggest year for Mixed Martial Arts and it has only grown bigger and bigger since then.

Basketball

America wouldn’t be America without Basketball; both professional and college level basketball are extremely popular in the United States of America. This could be because most of the top performing college players often get brought into the NBA draft each year. It goes without saying that Kobe Bryant has made a significant impact on the world of American Basketball. He leaves a strong, honorable and everlasting stamp on USA basketball and will be missed by sports fans for years to come. The terrible helicopter accident that occurred earlier in January 2020 will be a moment that many basketball fans remember vividly. Bryant was one of those players who helped to keep the fire alive in American basketball. It is safe to say that basketball isn’t just one of the most popular games, it is one of the most treasured and truly loved games in America and all over the world.

Baseball

Baseball is known as the USA’s national pastime and sports lovers never cease to show their appreciation for baseball. The Major League Baseball event receives a high number of viewers every single year and continues to grow every season. The popularity of baseball began in the early 20th Century and hasn’t moved from top position since then. Babe Ruth, Aaron Judge and Jackie Robinson are some of the most popular names in American Baseball today and the New York Yankees are known globally for their popularity and talent.

Golf

You can’t mentioned golf in America without acknowledging the legend that is Tiger Woods. He was definitely pivotal to bringing the game of golf into the forefront of American sports fans. Golf is a hugely competitive sport, especially in the most recent years. As the competitiveness has increase, so as the attention from golf fans all across America. It is certain that golf stands as one of the top ten most popular sports in the USA right now and half of the top golfers today are all Americans.

Tennis

Venus and Serena Williams are definitely the biggest names in American tennis to date. They, like many have consistently helped tennis to get on the sports map. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras also put tennis on the map for America, even before the Williams sisters stepped onto the scene. The US Open is a hugely popular even on the sporting calendar with consistent increases in viewers every single year.

Boxing

Muhammed Ali is undoubtedly the greatest boxer of all time and he’s an American citizen through and through. Ali didn’t just have all the skills the best boxer in the world should have, he also had charisma, nerve and the ability to communicate with the public like no boxer had ever dared to before. Joe Frazier, his main rival at the time was also American. This gave boxing a hugely, popular push in the world of sports in the USA.

Wrestling

Wrestling is most certainly one of the most popular and most watched sports in the United States of America. There are so many wrestling super stars that reached their peak of stardom so much so that they have landed film and television roles. The WWE or The World Wresting Entertainment is renowned for in the wrestling industry. This is also the reason why many people have become attracted to this sport, because of the entertainment factor.

So, there are some of the most popular sports in America right now. You may be a die hard fan of some of them or you may follow them lightly whenever you can. No matter how much you love American sports, it’s safe to say there will always be plenty to choose from!

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Europe

ETIAS, the new permit you will need to travel to Europe from the US starting 2021

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EU flag

Last April the European Parliament and the European Council confirmed at the final agreement for the creation of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), a registration system for all visitors from third countries that are now exempt from visa. In order to strengthen border security, the European Commission proposed the creation of this system which will enter into full operation in 2021.

The ETIAS authorisation is not a visa. Once operational, it will carry out pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travellers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area. When arriving at the EU borders, travellers from the United States of America will need to have both a valid travel document and an ETIAS authorisation.

What countries will require it?

The ETIAS will facilitate access to countries within the Schengen Area to travelers from third countries that do not currently require a visa in order to improve security and to prevent irregular immigration. Therefore, to know if you need to use ETIAS or not, you will first have to find out if the country you want to visit falls within the Schengen Area, and you will also need to know if your country was visa-exempt until now.

Schengen Area Countries

It is important to remember that not all 28 countries of the European Union (EU) are part of the Schengen Area and that not all Schengen countries are part of the European Union. Great Britain and Ireland, for example, are part of the EU (Great Britain is scheduled to leave after Brexit), but not the Schengen Area; while Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are part of the Schengen Area, but not members of the EU.

Therefore, an ETIAS waiver will be required to visit the following countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland.

Countries’ citizens who will need to apply for ETIAS.

As stated above, ETIAS will be required to travelers from countries that do not require a visa. Currently, individuals from the following 57 countries do not require Schengen visas to visit countries in the European Union. However, with the arrival of ETIAS expected in 2021, passport holders of these countries will require an ETIAS waiver to travel to Europe for the purposes of tourism, business or transit for a short 90 days stay in any 180-day period.

How is it going to work?

Prior to traveling, those interested in acquiring an ETIAS waiver must fill out an online application providing with basic information (name, age, occupation, passport number, country of entry in Europe). In addition, they must answer a few questions on safety and health issues, among others. Approval often takes minutes once your ETIAS application is complete, and the maximum amount of time for approval is only four days.

What do I need to apply?

All you need to apply is a valid Passport, a credit or debit card to pay the fee and a completed ETIAS application. Since it’s a visa waiver, you won’t need any further paperwork. And, unlike visa applications, ETIAS doesn’t require an interview at any embassy or consulate.

How do I apply?

The ETIAS application form is already available online, although its use won’t enter into force until 2021. You can apply for your ETIAS until 5 days before your trip, but the sooner you start the process, the better. Once in the application form, you’ll be prompted to provide your passport details and asked to answer a list of security questions. It’s vital that your application be error-free and that the information is an exact match to your passport. Any discrepancies between your ETIAS application and your passport could cause a delay in processing and/or approval You’ll also need a credit or debit card to complete the process.

Once you’re finished, the form is submitted immediately and you will receive an email with the information of you of approval status. You should receive the email within minutes, although sometimes issues on approval status could take up to four days to be sorted out.

How much is it going to cost?

Each applicant over 18 years old will have to pay a 5€ travel authorization fee. The payment must be done online during the application process.

How long can I use it for and when does it expire?

The ETIAS can be used for stays up to 90 days in a period of 180 days. The travel purposes covered by ETIAS are tourism, short-term business such or conference and qualifying medical procedures. Your approved ETIAS will last for three years, but it might expire sooner if your passport does. You will have to re-apply for ETIAS when you get a new passport.

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Business

Is the US Housing Market Slowing Down?

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There are signs that the US housing market, buoyant for several years with prices soaring, is slowing down as even properties in popular ‘hot spots’ such as Seattle, parts of Texas and Silicon Valley are taking longer to sell and sometimes not making their asking prices.

Economists predict the overall gain for property prices across the US will only be five percent for 2018 and will be down to three percent in 2019. The rise of home improvements – well over $300 billion is being spent on various house remodeling projects per year – show Americans are staying put and improving their present home rather than moving.

Versatile, top quality home improvements and ‘add-ons’ such as attic and garage conversions, and easy-to-install storage such as weatherproof prefabricated sheds that can add more space in a matter of hours, are giving people the chance to increase space in and around their properties for a fraction of the costs of moving home.

Pricing and interest rate rises

What has slowed the market?

Accelerating house prices – they’ve finally outstripped house buyers’ ability to afford them; rises have mostly been fueled by hitherto low housing stock in hot markets such as California and the Miami area.

Interest rate rises – recent interest rate rises make it not only more difficult for buyers to afford the repayments on what is likely to be a high mortgage, but have caused confidence to dip as people wonder if more are on the way.

Not a full blown slump

Many analysts, including Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Shiller – who predicted the ‘dot com bubble’ bursting back at the turn of the millennium – don’t predict a big downturn like that experienced during the financial crisis of 2008.

They’re saying it’s more a sign of demand naturally tailing off for a while as the market corrects itself and housing stock increases. It certainly has done in property hot spots such as Seattle where supply rose by well over 20% compared to late 2017.

Confidence has waned somewhat in the property market; even though the US economy is doing well only some 65% of Americans consider it a good time to buy – the lowest percentage since the world wide slump of 2008 when the property market was severely affected.

Certain areas such as Alabama are actually seeing property sales rise as these are areas that are still relatively affordable compared to the likes of California, where prices still make it hard for people to buy.

House builder stocks falling

An indication that all is not well in the housing market is the significant fall in homebuilding company stock values: overall stocks are down 21% this year, so very much in 2008 recession territory and worthy of caution.

Good for investors but less good for buyers

The lowering of prices and the rise of housing stock makes it good news for investors as properties offering decent yields may become reality again.

Ironically, a strong economy allied to low unemployment – the lowest since the late 1960s – increases the risk of interest rates continuing to rise as the Federal Reserve tries to keep inflation under control. That has the consequence that confidence is lower for potential house buyers, as is their ability to buy.

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