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Facebook anticipates tougher 2021 even as Covid-19 pandemic boosts ad revenue – business news


Facebook Inc on Thursday warned of a tougher 2021 despite beating analysts’ estimates for quarterly revenue as businesses adjusting to the global coronavirus pandemic continued to rely on the company’s digital ad tools.

The world’s biggest social media company said in its outlook that it faced “a significant amount of uncertainty,” citing impending privacy changes by Apple and a possible reversal in the pandemic-prompted shift to online commerce.

Also Read: Twitter warns US election could affect ad sales, shares drop 16%

“Considering that online commerce is our largest ad vertical, a change in this trend could serve as a headwind to our 2021 ad revenue growth,” it said.

Shares of the company were flat in extended trading.

Facebook’s financial results and those of Google and Amazon demonstrate how resilient tech giants have been even as the pandemic devastated other parts of the economy.

The success has earned them extra scrutiny in Washington, where the companies face multiple antitrust investigations.

Facebook’s total revenue, which primarily consists of ad sales, rose 22% to $21.47 billion from $17.65 billion in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, beating analysts’ estimates of a 12% rise, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

A July ad boycott over Facebook’s handling of hate speech, which saw some of the social media giant’s biggest individual spenders press pause, barely made a dent in its sales, which mostly come from small businesses.

Revenue growth at Facebook, the world’s second-biggest seller of online ads after Google, has been cooling steadily as its business matures, although it came in at more than 20% throughout 2019.

Still, compared to expectations, the company has had a bumper year due to surging use of its platforms by users stuck at home amid virus-related lockdowns, which cushioned online ad sales even as broader economic activity suffered.

USER BASE GROWTH

Facebook continued to expand its user base, with monthly active users rising to 2.74 billion, compared with estimates of 2.70 billion according to the IBES data, although user numbers declined in North America compared to the second quarter.

The company projected that trend would continue for the rest of the year, with user numbers either flat or slightly down in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.

Also Read: Facebook India policy head quits after row over content

“It appears that investors are disappointed that despite user growth jumping across most regions during the quarter, the social media platform reported a decrease in users in North America, which covers the U.S. and Canada – its most lucrative ad market,” said Jesse Cohen, senior analyst at Investing.com.

Total expenses increased 28% to $13.43 billion, with costs continuing to grow as Facebook tries to build out its non-ad businesses and quell criticism that its handling of user privacy and abusive content is lax.

Facebook CFO Dave Wehner said on an earnings conference call that expenses would rise due to the costs of returning work-from-home staff to offices as well as increased headcount, product investments and higher legal expenses.

He said the company was expecting a margin decline as a result, although he did not give specific revenue guidance.

The company has been under especially strong pressure ahead of next week’s U.S. presidential election and is aiming to avoid a repeat of 2016, when Russia used its platforms to spread election-related misinformation.

EMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson said Facebook remains “a go-to for advertisers” seeking to reach a broad set of consumers, despite its content moderation issues, but said that may change in 2021.

“We expect that more advertisers will take a hard look at their reliance on Facebook and will ask themselves whether the environment is safe for their brands,” she said.

Net income came in at $7.85 billion, or $2.71 per share, compared with $6.09 billion, or $2.12 per share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected a profit of $1.90 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.



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Pompeo wraps up China-focused tour of Asia in Vietnam


HANOI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is wrapping up a tour of Asia in Vietnam as the fierce American presidential election race enters its final stretch.

With just four days left in the campaign in which China has been a central theme, Pompeo was visiting Hanoi on Friday (Oct 30) ostensibly to celebrate 25 years of US-Vietnam relations. But as he has at his previous stops in India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia, Pompeo is expected to highlight the Trump administration’s antipathy toward China, its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, its human rights record and aggressiveness towards its smaller neighbours.

Those issues, particularly the Chinese origin of the virus, have been highlighted by President Donald Trump as he seeks to beat back a stiff re-election challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden in the Nov 3 polls. Trump has sought to paint Biden as weak on China and beholden to it, repeatedly raising questions about alleged connections between Biden’s son, Hunter, and Chinese businesses.

Vietnam was a late addition to Pompeo’s itinerary and has numerous concerns about Chinese policies in the region. Those range from Beijing’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea to its development activities along the Mekong River, which runs through much of mainland Southeast Asia and is a regional lifeline.

READ: Pompeo slams China’s ‘corruption, coercion’ at Tokyo talks

SOUTH CHINA SEA CLAIMS

In a statement released ahead of Pompeo’s arrival in Vietnam, the State Department attacked China for reneging on cooperation pledges with other Mekong countries and for aggressively pursuing suspect claims in the South China Sea.

China’s “malign and destabilizing actions in the Mekong region, including manipulation of Mekong river water flows, negatively affect millions of people who depend on the river for their livelihoods,” it said.

“The United States stands with our Indo-Pacific allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources in the South China Sea, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” it said. It noted that earlier this year, Pompeo had rejected outright nearly all of Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

“The United States rejects (China’s) maritime claims to the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank off Vietnam’s coast,” the statement said, “We will oppose any efforts aimed at undermining the rules-based maritime order in the South China Sea or elsewhere.”

China has pressed ahead with attempts to enforce its claims to much of the South China Sea and has ignored an arbitration ruling won by the Philippines that invalidated China’s claims.

Pompeo arrived in Vietnam from Indonesia, where he praised Indonesian leadership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for pushing back on what he called China’s “unlawful” South China Sea claims and denounced Beijing for its treatment of religious minorities, calling it “the gravest threat to the future of religious freedom.”

Mike Pompeo Retno Marsudi Jakarta

Pompeo had travelled to Indonesia from the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India on stops where he steadily ratcheted up the pressure on China, which has rejected US concerns and accused him and others in the Trump administration of fanning the flames of a new Cold War.

READ: Pompeo, Esper driving US’s anti-China message in India visit

In the Maldives, Pompeo announced the United States would for the first time open an embassy in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a move that reflects growing U.S. concern about increasing Chinese influence and what he called “its lawless and threatening behaviour” in the Indo-Pacific region.

INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY

Just hours earlier in Sri Lanka, Pompeo had accusing China of being a “predator” in smaller countries by exploiting them with loans and development projects intended to benefit the Chinese more than the intended recipients.

At his first stop of the tour in India, Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper had stepped up the administration’s anti-China message by playing on Indian suspicions about the Chinese to shore up a regional front against Beijing in the Indo-Pacific.

Just hours before the meetings in New Delhi began, the Trump administration notified Congress of plans for a US$2.37 billion sale of Harpoon missile systems to Taiwan – the second major arms sale in two weeks to the democratic island that Beijing regards as a renegade province. China angrily reacted by announcing sanctions on US defence contractors.

READ: China ‘to sanction’ US firms over Taiwan arms sale



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PM Modi Condemns Killing of Three BJP Yuva Morcha Leaders in Jammu and Kashmir


A file photo of PM Narendra Modi.

A file photo of PM Narendra Modi.

Fida Hussain, Umer Hajam and Umer Rashid Beigh were shot by militants in Y K Pora area of Kulgam district late on Thursday evening.

  • PTI New Delhi
  • Last Updated: October 30, 2020, 7:23 IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday condemned the killing of three BJP workers in Jammu and Kashmir, and said they were bright youngsters doing excellent work there. The three BJP workers were shot dead by militants in Kulgam district, police said.

“I condemn the killing of 3 of our young Karyakartas. They were bright youngsters doing excellent work in J&K,” Modi said in a tweet. “My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls rest in peace,” he tweeted.

The Resistance Front (TRF), believed to be a shadow group of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, has claimed responsibility for the killings. Fida Hussain, Umer Hajam and Umer Rashid Beigh were shot by militants in Y K Pora area of Kulgam district late on Thursday evening.

The trio was rushed to a local hospital at Qazigund where doctors declared them dead on arrival.



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What the papers say – October 30


By

Press Association 2020

Newspapers

Newspapers

Troubles within Labour lead many of Friday’s front pages after the publication of a heavily critical investigation into the party’s handling of anti-Semitism.

The Times talks of a “battle for Labour’s soul” after Jeremy Corbyn was suspended from the party in the wake of the report, which says Labour unlawfully discriminated against its Jewish members.

The Daily Telegraph writes about a “civil war” as MPs and party members called for Mr Corbyn to be reinstated.

While The Guardian writes the party has been plunged into “turmoil”.

Metro carries the headline “Corbinned”, the i writes about “civil war” after the damning report, and The Independent says it was a “day of shame” for the opposition.

The Daily Mirror says Sir Keir Starmer has pledged a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism with the suspension of Mr Corbyn “swift and decisive”.

While the Daily Mail says Labour “exploded into open warfare over the report.

Away from the opposition, and the Daily Express writes about a “market rush for homes”, with buyers looking to exploit the stamp duty holiday.

The Financial Times leads with the US election, reporting the fact the country’s economy is growing at its fastest post-war pace will help Donald Trump push his message of recovery.

And the Daily Star reports Basil Brush wants to see Marcus Rashford made Prime Minister.






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MS Dhoni Retirement Rumours Fuel Again as Chennai Skipper Hands out Signed Jerseys to Kolkata Player After Win


It has become a tradition of sorts for MS Dhoni to hand out signed jerseys after every CSK match this IPL season and after the team”s win over Kolkata Knight Riders’ in their penultimate match of the season on Friday, Dhoni has added fuel to the rumours of his retirement by giving away signed jerseys to players. This first came to notice when Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler, who considers Dhoni his idol, shared a photo of him holding a signed CSK Dhoni No.7 jersey. A couple of days later, the Pandya brothers – Hardik and Krunal – were seen holding Dhoni’s No.7 CSK jersey. And on Friday, Nitish Rana got a signed jersey from Dhoni while youngsters from the KKR team posed for photos post-match. With CSK out of the race for playoffs, they are now left with just one game this season. Dhoni had announced his retirement from international cricket earlier this year in a rather nonchalant manner and there is every possibility that he may come up with another retirement announcement when least expected.

On the other hand, many believe that Dhoni will play the next edition of the IPL. The 39-year-old Dhoni’s future has come under scrutiny in the wake of CSK’s mediocre performances in the ongoing IPL. However, Gautam Gambhir, who flourished under Dhoni’s captaincy in international cricket, opined that CSK will retain Dhoni as their captain for the next edition. CSK management has said that Dhoni would be retained at the next mega auction, which is likely to be held in 2022.

But, that has not stopped fans from speculating. Here’s what they are talking about:

MS Dhoni Retirement Rumors Fuel Again as CSK Skipper Hands out Signed Jerseys to KKR Player After Win







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North Carolina Officials Adamant on ‘Black Lives Matter’ Signs at Polling Sites


North Carolina elections officials ordered a town to remove Black Lives Matter signs from its voting site at town hall, but town officials said the signs are staying put.

In a letter dated Wednesday to Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and town council members, elections board Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said there were several complaints about the signs from voters. Bells letter also said the general counsel of the North Carolina Republican Party informed the board of numerous complaints about the signs.

According to Bell’s letter, the flags are attached to the front of the site and therefore could be interpreted as an official endorsement by the board of elections in favor of a particular movement. Bell said the signs must be removed for the rest of the early voting period, which ends on Saturday.

While these flags may be a supported symbol of the Town of Carrboro, the one-stop early voting site is open to any Orange County voter and therefore the site must provide the opportunity for all voters to exercise their right to vote without intimidation or hindrance, Bell wrote.

Officials in Carrboro issued a two-sentence statement on Thursday acknowledging the letter and rebuffing Bell’s order.

After consulting with the town attorney, the Mayor and Town Council have chosen to leave the flags in place, the statement said.

Carrboro, a small town just west of the college town of Chapel Hill, is known for its progressive stances. On the town’s website, Lavelle writes that Carrboro is a forward thinking community with a relaxing small town atmosphere.

Last week, in Memphis, Tennessee, an elections official said a poll worker was fired after turning away early voters who were wearing Black Lives Matter and I Cant Breathe shirts, an elections official said Monday. The action was taken after officials received a call from a witness at the voting site, said Shelby County Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson.

While Tennessee law prohibits voters from wearing items bearing the name of a candidate or a political party in a polling place, it doesn’t prohibit statements such as Black Lives Matter, Thompson said.



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Indonesian activists slam ‘Jurassic Park’ plan for Komodo dragon habitat


JAKARTA: Indonesian conservationists have slammed plans to turn the home of endangered Komodo dragons into a Jurassic Park-style attraction, after a viral photo showing one of the giant reptiles sparked an online backlash over the development.

Nearly 3,000 of the world’s biggest lizard species live on a cluster of islands east of Bali, where they grow to around three metres in length and weigh up to 90kg. 

READ: Indonesia says ‘Jurassic Park’ project no threat to Komodo dragon

Authorities last month unveiled a proposal to build a tourist development on one of the islands, dubbed “Jurassic Park” after architects published a promotional video of the project set to music from the film franchise.

But environmentalists warned then that it would threaten the already at-risk species.

This week, a picture of a Komodo dragon in the path of a truck carrying construction supplies renewed debate over the project, after it was shared widely online.

“The idea to build a Jurassic Park is honestly embarrassing,” said Gregorius Afioma, an activist at local social justice NGO Sunspirit.

“People come here to see komodos in their natural habitat … These people are selling a concept where (visitors) can walk around indoors to see komodo dragons, which to me is no different than a zoo,” he added.

Rima Melani Bilaut of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, added that the development would further threaten the dragons by reducing the size of their habitat.

The government said the truck in the now-viral photo wasn’t linked to the controversial development, which has been put on ice until mid-2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we control it well and minimise contact with wildlife, the current tourism development will not endanger the komodo population,” said an environment ministry official in a statement this week.

Conservationists have long feared that mass tourism, trafficking and a lack of natural prey threaten the survival of Komodo dragons.

Last year, Indonesia scrapped plans to ban tourists from the conservation area and said it would instead limit visitor numbers and raise entry prices to create a “premium destination”.



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Whether it’s Trump or Biden, China’s military rise poses greatest foreign policy challenge to next US President


Beijing’s program of rapid modernization has seen its military transformed into a true global power, capable of comfortably projecting its forces throughout the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

This year alone has seen China engage in deadly border clashes with Indian troops; China’s People’s Liberation Army aircraft have repeatedly buzzed Taiwanese and Japanese air defenses; and Chinese ships have been involved in multiple incidents in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

At the same time, Beijing has been drilling its naval units in the Pacific with increasing frequency, sometimes with as many as five separate exercises happening across multiple locations in a matter of days.

China’s actions, especially those in the South China Sea, present a challenge to what the US military calls a free and open Indo-Pacific, a place where it says commerce should flow without intimidation and where fishing and mineral rights are respected under international laws and treaties.

As voters across the US cast their ballots in November’s presidential election, the rise of China’s military power represents one of the most complex and pressing foreign policy concerns confronting the country’s next leader. Here’s a look at the key areas:

Taiwan

The self-governing island has received increasing levels of public support from Washington during the Trump administration, including visits by high-level US government officials and the sale of high-end weaponry like F-16 fighter jets.

Analysts say the current state of play doesn’t leave much room for either the Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, or President Donald Trump to pull back from supporting Taiwan.

Trump administration notifies Congress of $1.8B in proposed weapons sales to Taiwan

Biden could offer minor concessions to Beijing, like stopping any new visits by Cabinet-level officials or ensuring future arms sales consist of smaller, less potent weapons, said Timothy Heath, senior researcher at the RAND Corp think tank in Washington.

“But regardless of who wins, the US will likely maintain a friendly relationship with Taiwan and criticize Chinese efforts to intimidate and destabilize the island,” said Heath.

Beijing continues to view Taiwan as an inseparable part of its territory even though the Chinese Communist Party has never governed the democratic island. China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, has been clear in his ambitions to “reunify” the island with the mainland, and has refused to rule out the use of force.

While the analysts expect US support of Taiwan to continue, they also expect that Beijing will not pull back on the increased military pressure it has put on the island — in the form of increased PLA Air Force flights and naval exercises in nearby waters — no matter who is in the White House.

A Chinese H-6 bomber intercepted by Taiwanese planes over the Taiwan Strait in September.
“China will continue and possibly increase overflights into Taiwan airspace because Beijing is carrying out the sorties in response to politics in Taiwan,” Elizabeth Freund Larus, chairman of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Mary Washington, told the Diplomat.

The US military is active around Taiwan too, sending warships through the Taiwan Strait numerous times this year as well as US military aircraft operating in proximity to the island as they monitor PLA maneuvers.

That sets up the possibility of accidents or misunderstandings between military craft, something that could potentially trigger wider conflict, say experts.

South China Sea

Beijing claims almost all of the vast South China Sea as its sovereign territory and has stepped-up efforts to assert its dominance over the resource-rich waters in recent years, transforming a string of obscure reefs and atolls into heavily fortified man-made islands and increasing its naval activity in the region.

The US military has been vocal and visible in its efforts to challenge Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea.

At least six other governments also have overlapping territorial claims in the contested waterway. And although the US doesn’t have any claims in the waters, US Navy warships have been performing so-called Freedom of Navigation operations with record frequency in the past year, sailing close to Chinese-controlled islands.

Aircraft from the carriers USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan operate over the South China Sea earlier this year.

Earlier this year, the US Navy twice sailed two of its massive aircraft carriers into the South China Sea at the same time. In the skies above the waterways, US Air Force bombers and reconnaissance planes, flying out of Japan or Guam or even the continental US, have put Beijing on notice that its activities are thoroughly monitored and show US commitment to its allies and partners in the region.

Heath sees the US deployments continuing, no matter who is in the Oval Office.

“The US is likely to continue its military exercises and freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea. These waters are important for US security and development because of the access provided to the Indian Ocean for military purposes and the merchant shipping lanes,” Heath said.

Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, said Biden’s campaign hasn’t given a clear indication of where it will go on the South China Sea.

“The former VP says he will be tougher on China than Trump has been, but less confrontational. … It is not clear what he means by that,” Schuster said.

During the two candidates’ final presidential debate, the only reference to the South China Sea was made by Biden, who said that US planes would “fly through” Chinese identification zones set up in the region, something that the US military has done at increased levels under Trump.

Schuster, now a Hawaii Pacific University instructor, says Biden may also be hobbled by his eight years as vice president under Barack Obama.

South China Sea countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines judged Obama’s policies in the region as “all talk backed by little to no substantive action,” he said.

“Biden will have to overcome that perception to gain their cooperation beyond the minimum,” Schuster said.

Either administration would be wise to stand fast with those who commit to Washington’s point of view, he said. If Washington leaves its partners hanging, “they will be left to deal with an angry China.”

Two key allies

The current Trump administration has had somewhat of a rocky road in dealing with US military allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.

Trump’s call for allied nations to pay for more of their own defense burden, including the cost for hosting US troops at bases in their countries, has irritated relations with both South Korea and Japan, arguably the two most important US allies in Asia, if not the world.

As tensions rise in Asia Pacific, South Korea is building its first aircraft carrier ... complete with US-made fighter jets

Thousands of South Koreans working at US bases in that country were furloughed earlier this year while Washington and Seoul haggled over how much South Korea should pay for its US military presence. Agreement was finally reached in June to pay to cover the remainder of the year with an eye to putting together new funding plans in 2021.

Relations with Japan have been better, and Tokyo announced an 8.3% increase in its military budget, something analysts attributed in part to pressure from the Trump administration.

Analysts said these burden sharing efforts could be smoother in a Biden administration, because the former vice president has more of a reputation as a negotiator rather than one who makes unilateral demands as Trump has done.

But Schuster said internal pressures in both countries could make this a problem area even for Biden.

In South Korea, Schuster said, President Moon Jae-in wants to reduce defense costs while trying to improve relations with North Korea.

In Japan, new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga faces a choice between allocating money to new or updgraded Japanese weaponry like stealth fighters and aircraft carriers or spending it on the US troops his country hosts.

Japan announces plans for new stealth fighter as US approves sale of F-35 jets

“I think negotiations over basing costs will be difficult for whomever is President,” Schuster said.

In another area, building a strong coalition of like minded nations around the Indo-Pacific, Japan may be giving either Biden or Trump a smoother path.

Suga has visited Vietnam and Indonesia in the past few weeks, seeking improved military as well as economic relations with those countries with claims in the South China Sea.

“There are countries such as Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia and Vietnam where political relations with the United States remain sensitive for the military establishments,” said Corey Wallace, an assistant professor focusing on Japanese foreign policy at Kanagawa University.

“If these countries ever consider opening up more to United States military sometime in the future, Japan is likely to be there facilitating,” he said.

Money

Covid-19 has delivered a mighty blow to the US economy. While China was hit too, it has recovered much quicker and its military expansion isn’t expected to take much of hit, if any. Its shipyards and factories are turning out increasingly sophisticated military hardware at a frenetic pace.

Washington is under pressure to keep up, especially as what has been for years seen as its qualitative edge is trimmed as Chinese advancements in technology are reflected it its armed forces.

China’s Type 55 destroyers, for instance, are regarded to be among the world’s best of that class of warship. And Beijing’s missile forces have made big strides in numbers and survivability, putting US bases in places like Guam and Japan, as well as US aircraft carriers at sea, well within range of accurate and overwhelming Chinese missile strikes.

China's defense budget shows Xi's priorities as economy tightens

Schuster said the new US administration will face a bigger threat than that faced by even US administrations during the Cold War.

“China has become a more serious problem than the Soviet Union ever was. Beijing first built its economy and its technological base before expanding its military capabilities. More importantly, it has been a far greater and more effective international player, diplomatically and economically, than the Soviet Union ever dreamed of being,” he said.

The next US president must focus on making sure the country has the industrial base to keep its military on par with China, said Schuster.

“The next administration must address rebuilding America’s industrial base through equitable trade policies and a thorough review of which industries are vital to America’s national security,” he said.

That said, because of the pandemic’s drain on the economy, the next administration will face pressure to cap defense spending at current levels or even trim it, according to the analysts.

Biden may face the more difficult road here.

“There is strong pressure in the Democratic party to scale back the US military presence and investments in maintaining US military power to free up resources for domestic initiatives,” Heath said.

But even Trump could be hamstrung.

“Trump’s ambitions for the military also face the tailwinds of slow growth, and massive deficits will also limit Trump’s ability to boost defense spending,” Heath said.

Keeping the focus

Despite the 2018 National Defense Strategy and its focus on Asia, inertia and history can still keep the attention of the US defense establishment tilted toward Europe, analysts said.

“America’s European allies have the financial resources to increase their ability to defend their territory and air space. What they lack is the commitment because the US has always filled the gap for them because the threat to Europe far exceeded that we faced in the Asia-Pacific,” said Schuster.

“That threat balance is no longer true,” he said.

It only took days for a fire to hinder the US Navy's Pacific fleet for years to come

Either Trump or Biden will be challenged to keep Asia at the forefront of defense planning.

“We know from experience that as much as presidents would like to downgrade the status of the Middle East and transatlantic issues in favor of Asia, doing so is far from straightforward. The growing urgency of Asia, however, is here to stay,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Heath warns that political polarization in the US can provide an opening to those operating against American interests.

“Regardless of who wins the presidency, only about half of Americans are likely to support the President, and many of the other half will be perpetually motivated to oppose the President. That leaves a thin margin of error in any crisis, which may induce extreme caution for fear of losing political support and exposing the administration to damaging political criticisms,” he said.

Schuster warns that America’s worldwide influence hinges on Asia.

“If China establishes dominance there, America’s ability to maintains its interests elsewhere will be diminished,” he said.



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Trump officials tout progress on border wall before election


Senior Trump administration officials have visited Texas five days before the election to announce they have completed nearly 400 miles of US-Mexico border wall as they try to show progress on perhaps the president’s best-known campaign promise of 2016.

While most of the wall went up in areas that had smaller barriers, the government built hundreds of miles of fencing as high as 30 feet in a short amount of time — most of it this year.

But crews blasted hills and bulldozed sensitive habitats in national wildlife refuges and on native American land to do it, prioritising areas where they could build more quickly.

The Department of Homeland Security waived environmental and other reviews to expedite construction.

And despite President Donald Trump’s repeated promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, the construction has been funded by US taxpayers for at least 15 billion dollars (£11.6 billion), two-thirds coming from military funding.

Border Wall
Acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf claims much progress has been made on the wall (Joel Martinez/The Monitor/AP)

In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and other officials spoke on Thursday, authorities have added just seven miles to sections of stop-and-start fencing. That’s despite the region long being the busiest corridor for unauthorised crossings.

DHS officials have held several events announcing immigration operations this month in states considered competitive in the election. Polls show a tight race in Texas, which has not supported a Democrat for president since 1976. Stephen Miller, a top Trump adviser, told reporters on Wednesday that “we have a president campaigning on having successfully built a border wall.”

Mr Wolf and other officials echoed Mr Trump’s campaign attacks on Thursday at an official government event. Mr Wolf criticised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, judges who have ruled against the wall, and what he labelled “outright lies in the press”.

Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), claimed he was locked out of his Twitter account for posting support for the wall and alleged without evidence that rolling back Mr Trump’s immigration programs would lead to an “invasion” of immigrants.

Border Wall
Activist protest in front of the border wall after Acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf gave a speech on the other side of the controversial barrier (Joel Martinez/The Monitor/AP)

“The wall system we’re looking at right now, it works,” Mr Morgan said.

Laiken Jordahl, a field campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, has documented the destruction of sensitive areas along the border.

“We’re seeing this administration just blow up anything in their path in order to build an additional mile of wall,” he said. “None of this is about border security. It’s about inflating this mile count in order to make Trump look tough for re-election.”

Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz said this week that the agency was not pushing to build quickly this year in case Mr Trump loses to Democrat Joe Biden, who has pledged to freeze any border wall construction if he wins.

The Trump administration has enacted other measures to stop border-crossers, including new restrictions on asylum eligibility and a public-health declaration citing the coronavirus pandemic that allows agents to quickly expel most migrants.

Border Wall
Contractors erect a section of border wall last year, replacing smaller fortifications, along the Colorado River in Yuma, Arizona (Matt York/AP)

As of last week, 381 miles of wall had been completed during the Trump administration. More than 270 miles were built using part of the 10 billion dollars (£7.73bn) Mr Trump took from military funding under a national emergency he declared last year after Congress refused to meet his request for wall funding.

Congress has funded some five billion dollars (£3.87bn) for border barriers under Mr Trump, including more than three billion dollars (£2.3bn) in the last two fiscal years for construction in the Rio Grande Valley and around Laredo, Texas.

Of the more than 150 miles funded by Congress in the last two years, just five miles have been built.





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Married At First Sight star Stacey Hampton faces court charged with breaching coronavirus restrictions


Married At First Sight star Stacey Hampton has appeared in an Adelaide court accused of breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Hampton, 27, was charged with three counts of failing to comply with directions on May 6 this year.

At that time, essential travellers were allowed to enter South Australia without quarantine, but non-essential travellers needed to isolate for 14 days.

Court information reveals the offences are alleged to have taken place in the suburbs of Hackney, Gawler East and Ingle Farm.

Hampton appeared for the first time in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Friday morning, when her case was called on about 30 minutes early.

Magistrate Michelle Sutcliffe adjourned the matter to a date in December.

In a video posted to her Instagram account later on Friday morning, Hampton can be seen rolling a suitcase and carrying a bag.

The video appears to have been taken in the carpark of Adelaide Airport and features the caption “Bye Adelaide”.

Hampton rose to fame earlier this year on the hit Channel Nine dating show, during which she was matched with Michael Goonan — but the pair later split.



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