Two Americans nabbed in assassination of Haitian president – National & International News – FRI 9Jul2021

Several of the conspirators in Haitian President Jovenel Moise's assassination are lined up for cameras.

2 US men nabbed in Haiti assassination. Biden signs orders to boost competition, protect consumers. Taliban claims to control 85% of Afghanistan.

NATIONAL NEWS

Biden to sign order to boost competition, protect consumers

Today, President Biden will be signing a raft of executive orders targeting monopolies that hurt workers and consumers. The orders take aim at numerous sectors, including big tech, banking, healthcare, and the airline industry.

In all, the order contains 72 directives for various government agencies. These directives range from sweeping actions to smaller, targeted reforms. Overall, the orders are in line with antitrust actions. A statement from the White House explains, “In total, higher prices and lower wages caused by lack of competition are now estimated to cost the median American household $5,000 per year. Inadequate competition holds back economic growth and innovation”.

To give an idea of the variety and scope of these actions, one of the orders would reduce the ability of some businesses to force departing employees to sign non-compete orders.

Another order would give owners of smartphone and other mobile tech the freedom to repair their devices themselves. Currently, many providers restrict customers to using their more expensive in-house repair services.

Some orders target service fees in the airline industry. For example, a customer who paid to have a bag checked would be entitled to a refund if their luggage was delayed.

Big Tech

The most sweeping antitrust actions are directed at the tech industry. The directives aim to increase enforcement of anti-competitive actions by tech firms, including throttling of certain services who don’t pay a fee. Biden also hopes to increase scrutiny of buyouts of smaller competing firms by larger firms.

Agencies will also be required to monitor transactions between large tech firms that affect consumer data privacy. The White House is also seeking to restore Obama-era rules on net neutrality.

Healthcare

Biden will also direct the Federal Trade Commission to focus on price competition in the healthcare sector. One such order calls for hearing aids to be available for over-the-counter sales at pharmacies. Currently, consumers can only buy hearing aids from physicians or other select vendors. This increases the price of hearing aids by thousands of dollars, despite them being relatively inexpensive to produce.

The FTC is also expected to draft a ban on deals that allow large pharmaceutical companies to delay the release of generic drugs. This could save many US consumers thousands of dollars per year.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

2 US men, several ex-Colombian soldiers nabbed for Moïse assassination

Haitian police have detained 17 men, two of whom are US men of Haitian descent, on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Several of the other men detained are ex-Colombian soldiers. Authorities say they are seeking another 8 men.

Haitian authorities have named the two US men, though American authorities have not confirmed their identities. They are James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55, both from Florida. Solages had briefly worked as a contractor at the Canadian embassy in Haiti.

Both Solages and Vincent have denied direct involvement in the assassination, saying they merely acted as translators for the hit squad. They also say the original plan was not to assassinate Moïse. Rather, the men had planned to kidnap Moïse and bring him to the National Palace. The National Palace was the ceremonial seat of the Haitian president, prior to the 2010 earthquake.

Strangely, police arrested several of the men at the Taiwanese embassy, where they had attempted to break in.

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Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal as Taliban sweep country

As US troop numbers in Afghanistan drop, the Taliban is escalating its takeover of the country. In the last 48 hours, group has captured four major border crossings, including one on the Iranian border. Taliban leadership now claim to be in control of 85% of the country, and signs point to an operation to create a chokehold on Kabul.

These developments follow statements from President Biden yesterday, defending his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Many Afghans fear that the Taliban’s advancement may sweep away two decades of gains for women and democracy in the country overnight. But Biden has stood by his decision, saying that maintaining “the status quo is not an option”.

Biden dismissed fears that the Taliban could take over the entire country, but equally admitted it was unlikely that the Afghan government could unite the country under its rule. In his statement, Biden alluded to Kabul’s divided political class. For several months last year, the country effectively had two presidents following a disputed election.

Some observers in Afghanistan fear that it is these divisions, and not Taliban aggression, that may ultimately lead to the country’s downfall.

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