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Boris Johnson urged to quit after admitting he attended lockdown party

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Wall Street Journal

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing intense pressure to quit after admitting that he did attend a drinks party in the Downing Street garden during the country’s lockdown

Johnson apologised for how he handled the event and says he appreciates why so many people are enraged over the scandal.

Cabinet members have stood by their leader, including Deputy PM Dominic Raab but Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross and senior backbencher William Wragg are two of many calling for him to stand down immediately.

In his apology, Johnson admitted he was at the May 2020 gathering for about 25 minutes using the event to “thank groups of staff” for their hard work.

The Prime Minister’s statement was met with a mixed reaction from the Tories… with some saying he did sound genuine.

But across the floor, Opposition Leader, Kier Starmer says the PM’s defence is “so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public”.

In the wake of the apology, Ministers are urging fellow MPs to wait for the outcome of an investigation into the alleged parties by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

It’s expected Gray’s findings will be published shortly.

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Does the West need to fear China’s presence in the pacific?

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China’s influence in the Pacific is causing concern for some Western nations who are playing a diminished role in the region

Tides are changing in the Pacific, an area which has long deferred to the West, but is increasingly gazing eastward.

The changing dynamic has been typified by the landmark security deal signed by China and the Solomon Islands. This week, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi embarked on an historic 10 day tour of eight Pacific Island nations.

Should Western nations fear China’s growing influence in the Pacific?

The Pacific Islands have a long history of Western influence, dating back hundreds of years to European colonisation.

But nations such as Australia and the U.S. are suddenly having to contend with the arrival of a new player.

Benjamin Herscovitch, a research fellow at the Australia National University, told TICKER NEWS China’s increased influence in the area represents a “dramatic shift in circumstances” for the region.

“We are at the beginning of a really heated up period of competition between Australia and China for influence in the Pacific,” he says.

This will place further pressure on an already strained relationship.

In recent years, the two nations have butted heads over a number of issues including human rights and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Two weeks ago, relations between the two nations flared again. In the lead up to the Australian federal election, then defence minister Peter Dutton labelled the presence of a Chinese spy ship off the coast of Western Australia was “an aggressive act”.

Despite outcry from the West, there is still no evidence China’s intentions in the Pacific have militaristic undercurrents.

Yi has started his tour of the Pacific by promising his government has “no intention” of building a military base in the Solomon Islands.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a ten day tour of the Pacific

What is China’s goal in the Pacific?

While China’s role in the Pacific will likely become a point of contention, Herscovitch doesn’t believe it is coming from a position of Chinese aggression.

Rather, it is the natural progression for a country becoming more influential across the globe.

“A lot of the alarmist commentary in Australia maybe fails to appreciate that we’re coming in this period of rising Chinese influence and power globally,” he says.

“It’s almost to be expected that you’d have Beijing having a much larger footprint in Australia’s region.”

“China is a country with an incredibly large economy, with trading interests that span the globe, with diplomatic and political interests that span the globe.”

Benjamin Herscovitch, ANU

“China’s expanding footprint, expanding influence is just part and parcel of China emerging as the globe’s greatest economic power,” he says.

Will Island nations benefit from competition in the Pacific?

Herscovitch says the dispute could be “a good news story” for island nations because states will compete to invest in the area as a way to build influence in the Pacific.

“We’ll see a lot of competition for investment, a lot of competition for influence between key economies, and that’s probably beneficial for Pacific Island countries,” he says.

Pacific nations also look set to benefit by increased action on climate change.

As some of the most low-lying nations in the world, global warming and rising sea levels are of huge concern to the area.

Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong also visited the Pacific to pledge an improvement in Australia’s climate change policy.

“There’s a sense here in which Australia’s desire for influence will encourage Australia to be more forward leaning, more proactive on climate change issues,” Herscovitch says.

New role for the West in the pacific?

With China beginning to gain a foothold in the Pacific, Herscovitch says the West may have to alter its diplomatic approach.

He believes Australia and U.S. have been overly critical of South Pacific countries, and in particular the Solomon Islands, for engaging with China.

In the backlash following Solomon Islands’ defence treaty with China, the nation’s Prime Minister Mannasseh Sogavare accused the Australian government and its allies of undermining his government.

Herscovitch labels this approach as “counterproductive” to maintaining relations with the Pacific nations, saying “we should always respect their sovereign decisions and respect their independent choices.”

He says Australia, the U.S. and Japan has a highly important role in providing expertise and advise on how to manage their relationship with China as they become more economically entwined with the global power.

“They’re relying on China for more infrastructure, and it’s really important that their officials are empowered with all the necessary information to manage that relationship and to manage that growing dependency,” he says.

Bryan Hoadley contributed to this report

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Husband of teacher killed in Uvalde school shooting dies from heart attack

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Teacher killed in Robb Elementary shooting Irma Garcia’s husband also dies from a heart attack

Guadalupe “Joe” Garcia, 48, has reportedly passed away shortly after visiting the memorial of the Robb Elementary school shooting victims.

Their nephew initially said that Joe died from heartache, but the family later reported that it was a heart attack that took his life.

Garcia was spotted visitng a cross memorial to the victims of the school shooting on Thursday morning.

It is unknown how long after that he suffered the heart attack and passed away.

The couple had four children.

Their nephew decribed Joe as a family man who would have done anyhting for his children.

The family described this week as a nightmare, still trying to grapple with Irma’s death.

She was one of 21 killed in the elementary school shooting on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.

Reportedly her body was found holding one of the students who was also killed in the shooting.

Her family said they believe that Irma died a hero.

According to her profile, Irma taught at Robb Elementary for 23 years.

In 2019, she was one of 19 San Antonio-area teachers nominated as a finalist for a Trinity University prize that recognizes excellence in teaching.

Danaya Malenda contributed to this report.

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Police under fire for delayed response to Uvalde shooting

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With details from the Uvalde mass shooting continuing to emerge, the region’s police officers are now coming under fire for reportedly delaying their entry into the school

It’s now believed gunman Salvador Ramos was inside Robb Elementary for up to an hour before he was killed.

The death toll stands at 21, with 19 children and two adults losing their lives.

This has prompted questions over whether authorities could have prevented some deaths if they intervened earlier.

Eyewitnesses say women and other onlookers were shouting at officers to “go in”, as they watched on in horror at the unfolding situation.

But authorities say the gunman had locked himself in a classroom, which made access difficult.

This comes as a daughter of an individual whose life was taken in the Sandy Hook massacre says the time to act on US gun violence was “ten years ago”.

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