Coronavirus: Government accused of shambles as list of countries exempt from quarantine announced

Downing Street has been accused of a “shambolic” handling of the air bridges scheme after it finally unveiled a list of locations English holidaymakers can visit without having to quarantine for a fortnight when they return.
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How the Trump administration is unbalancing the balance of powers

From a paralysed Congress to a growing number of conservative judges, legal experts are concerned about the US presidency’s expanding scope.

At the risk of sounding like a Schoolhouse Rock! video, power in the United States is meant to be balanced between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, all three of which are meant to check each other from excess. In reality, however, executive power has ballooned.

That executive power has increased without successfully being checked is not a Trump-specific phenomenon. “I do believe that, since the New Deal, but at an accelerated pace since the Reagan administration, presidents have been gathering more power unto themselves”, Peter Shane, a professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, who regularly teaches on constitutional law and law and the presidency, told the New Statesman.

“Even before Trump, presidents had insisted they had all but unlimited authority, for example, to deploy US military force at will and without prior congressional authorisation, at least short of a sustained war effort against another nation-state.”

But Trump is unique in many ways, including in his relationship to executive power. “In a number of respects, the Trump administration has been more aggressive in defending executive power than his predecessors. Arguably the most troubling has been the assertiveness with which it has frequently stonewalled Congress on oversight,” Shane adds. Last year, Politico reported that “the administration has at least 30 times refused or delayed turning over documents to 12 House committees, according to House Democrats”.

According to Bernadette Meyler, a law professor at Stanford, “Trump has shown that one of the biggest powers of the president” – separate even from the power of the executive branch – “is the power to destroy, rather than create.” Meyler points to Trump’s decision to leave a host of government positions vacant, and the fact that “one of the things that Trump has been hammering upon since getting into office [is that the] Deep State is against him”. Taken together, this would suggest that Trump isn’t as interested in the strength and might of the full executive branch as he is that of his particular presidency.

It could be argued that that the other branches are now making an effort to push back against Trump’s expanding executive (or presidential) power. The House of Representatives voted to limit the president’s military action against Iran, for example, and the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to shut down the Obama-era immigration programme Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Most notably John Roberts, the conservative Chief Justice appointed by George W Bush, recently sided with four liberal justices to strike down a Lousiana law that effectively restricted abortion. There are also some who speculate that the Supreme Court is “asserting” its independence from Trump.

But experts say that’s not quite what’s happening.

Donald Kettl, professor at the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, observes that “if anything, the power of the Congress has weakened during Trump’s administration. The Democrats took over control of the House following the 2016 mid-term election, but the Republican control of the Senate has frustrated the ability of either party to push forward an agenda.

“The inability of Congress to reach legislative consensus on virtually anything, and the Trump administration’s inability to forge a working coalition on the Hill, has weakened the power of the legislative branch – almost to the breaking point.”

Saikrishna Prakash, professor at the University of Virginia’s school of law, agrees, noting that Congress is at a structural disadvantage. “Congress has two chambers composed of hundreds of people. The president and the executive branch are generally more unified.” And if the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives opposes the president, but the Republican-controlled Senate doesn’t? “It’s easier for the president to get what he wants.”

As for the idea that Chief Justice Roberts is standing up to the president, Prakash – who is the author of The Living Presidency: An Originalist Argument Against Its Ever-Expanding Powers – says: “We’ve seen the Chief [Justice] sometimes support the president’s policies and other times not… If you think that [standing up to the president] is his policy, I think that you have to suppose he’s reaching results that he disagrees with to curb the presidency – you have to doubt his sincerity for why he’s doing what he’s doing.”

“The chief doesn’t vote against every legal argument made by the administration,” Prakash adds, making it “odd to think he views himself as having this cause”. And even in the abortion case, Roberts’s reason was past precedent. One can imagine that would have been his reason regardless of who sat in the Oval Office.

There are, on lower courts, more liberal justices who rule against the president on controversial policies – and if one does, Prakash notes, there can be an injunction, holding up the particular policy and ensnaring the administration in legal battles. But there are also, on lower courts, many new conservative justices put in place by the president. “The bigger but quieter trend is the growing number of conservative appointments to the lower courts. That could well prove one of the most enduring legacies of Donald Trump, regardless of who wins in November,” Kettl observes.

And if the person who wins again in November is Trump? What, then, for the imbalance in the balance of powers? “There are signs”, wrote Kettl, “that the Trump team has begun to discover the vast powers of the presidency, especially in the actions that the president can take without legislative approval.

“That is one of the most important signals for what a second Trump term would look like – a team honed more laser-like on exploiting the president’s considerable powers to act.”

“That power,” he says, “coupled with Congress’s genuine struggle to act legislatively and, even to conduct effective oversight, could well be a harbinger of an even stronger presidency in a second Trump term.”


Chief Justice Roberts (left) recently sided with four liberal justices to strike down a Lousiana law that effectively restricted abortion
Author: Emily Tamkin | Source

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Record numbers of people in Britain can’t afford food – lifting lockdown won’t change that

Even before Covid-19 hit, the proportion of households in the UK without the resources to eat was rising.

It’s been almost 15 weeks since restaurants and cafés closed down across the UK as the country went into lockdown.

On 4 July, pubs and restaurants in England will invite customers back in, as A&E workers brace themselves for a peak in activity “similar to that of New Year’s Eve”.

Yet while some people will enjoy the chance to go out for a long-awaited restaurant meal, others will remain hungry.

Around 7.7 million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were forced to skip a meal or cut down their meal sizes because they did not have enough money over the month of April. Eating less was more common among younger people, with more than one in three (35 per cent) of those aged between 16 and 24 doing so.

Figures released by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) last week (24 June) also show that 28 per cent of families with children and 21 per cent of households with four or more members were struggling to eat enough.

But while the pandemic has intensified hunger, it definitely did not start it. The UK was facing a growing food insecurity crisis before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Before 2010, there were almost no food charities in the UK. In the year to March 2019, the Trussell Trust, which operates some 60 per cent of food banks in the UK, delivered 1.6 million emergency food supply parcels.

[see also: Why isn’t this the food bank election?]

Now, the FSA estimates that at least 3.4 million people had to use the services of a food bank or food charity in April alone. The rate is even higher for young adults, with one in five (20 per cent) of those aged 16-24 having had to use a food bank.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “We have been seeing rises in need at food banks for the past five years and reported a 89 per cent increase across the UK in April alone — with the number of families coming to food banks doubling.

“This is completely unprecedented and it’s not right. People need to have enough money to put food on the table.”

Google Trends, which shows search interest for particular terms across time, reveals that interest in food banks spiked to a record high in March this year, right before the lockdown, with a gradual return to pre-pandemic levels towards the end of June. The only other point since 2014 when searches for food banks were nearly as high was just before Christmas last year.

Search interest in food banks peaked in March​

These results are not a one-off. A separate study from Feeding Britain and the Healthy Living Lab found that one in four people in the UK have struggled to access food they can afford during lockdown, which risks leaving them susceptible to hunger and malnutrition.

Another survey commissioned by the Food Foundation found that more than three million people reported going hungry in the first three weeks of lockdown alone.

Will it last?

“The Covid-19 pandemic poses a clear and present danger to food security and nutrition, especially to the world’s most vulnerable communities,” the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) director-general Qu Dongyu said at a humanitarian action event last month.

We’ve seen a spike in hunger before. The 2008 financial crisis led to an increase in food prices and higher levels of food insecurity.

This time around, the global food supply chain has suffered less disruption during the coronavirus pandemic compared to other industries. But the crisis hasn’t ended yet.

Significant economic decline can translate to issues in accessing food and limits to people’s ability to get enough food, or enough nutritious food, an FAO study found.

And food costs could still rise in the coming months as competition increases globally and countries become more protective of their resources.

The pandemic has also exposed the UK’s dependence on imports of vegetables, a big share of which arrive from countries like Spain and the Netherlands.

A paper published in the Nature Food journal warns that the UK narrowly escaped food shortages during lockdown. This, coupled with a shortage of seasonal farm workers caused by Brexit and exacerbated by pandemic-related travel restrictions, puts the country at a high risk.

[see also: Brexit isn’t done: what next for agriculture?]

Reducing hunger

Food charities, businesses and local authorities have taken it upon themselves to provide emergency food relief to millions of people across Britain for the duration of the pandemic. But there are fears that when the lockdown goes away, the hunger will remain.

Several food charities are calling for a national food security plan. This would provide large-scale solutions for the entire sector, including wage increases, holiday hunger and enrichment programmes, meals-on-wheels and other such services.

“The government must put urgent support in place to ensure people already struggling to keep their heads above water can stay afloat,” said Emma Revie. “That’s why we’re working with a coalition of charities in calling for a Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme to ensure we all have enough money coming in to weather this storm. It’s within our power to protect one another during this economic crisis.”

[see also: Holiday hunger isn’t just for one summer – children go without food every year]

The coronavirus pandemic also offers an opportunity to rethink the way Brits consume food. People have been increasingly buying locally sourced food, with 35 per cent saying they are buying more from local suppliers.

To support that, the UK must also diversify its food supply system to avoid future shocks, including supporting local agriculture. Currently, only about 20 per cent of the fresh fruit consumed in the UK is produced locally.

There has also been a significant increase in cooking at home and a decrease in takeaway food purchases, which might create healthier relationships between consumers, supermarkets and farmers.

At the same time, the government needs to give clear signals that it will not accept lower-quality food imports, such as chlorine-disinfected chicken from the US.

Demand for food has kept increasing and shows no signs of stopping. The UK needs a consensus on how to approach rising food insecurity levels and a clear plan on how to help the most vulnerable beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.



Author: Nicu Calcea | Source

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