Trump likes virus briefings, some advisers worry he likes them too much

Trump likes virus briefings, some advisers worry he likes them too much
US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the James Brady Briefing Room April 10, 2020 at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
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Updated 11 April 2020

Trump likes virus briefings, some advisers worry he likes them too much

Trump likes virus briefings, some advisers worry he likes them too much
  • Some advisers have quietly recommended he not spend so much time at the briefings to avoid being distracted from the challenge at hand and bickering with reporters
  • Trump is down against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in most recent national election polls

WASHINGTON: Cooped up in the White House, President Donald Trump sees the coronavirus briefings as his main outlet of the day, a reminder for Americans that he is in charge of managing the greatest crisis of a lifetime. Plus, the ratings are good.
Some advisers, however, would prefer a less-is-more approach. They have quietly recommended he not spend so much time at the briefings to avoid being distracted from the challenge at hand and bickering with reporters.
“It’s been suggested a few times, but he thinks it’s just great, and all these ratings,” said a source familiar with the situation.
After an initial bump, polls show approval ratings for Trump’s handling of the pandemic have leveled off, a departure from the usual surge of support Americans typically show their president during a national crisis, such as the high ratings George W. Bush received after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In a further blow, Trump is down against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in most recent national election polls, even though Biden has been reduced to appearing on video from a room in his home, unable to hold campaign events because of the virus.
All of this has caused some alarm among the president’s advisers, in and out of the White House.
While Trump has boasted about the high numbers of Americans who tune in to the briefings, some of the advisers feel he would appear to be more in command if he came to the briefing room, delivered opening remarks and turned the proceedings over to the task force for the details.
“I don’t think it’s helping him,” a Republican close to the White House said of Trump’s lengthy appearances. “If you look at the polling, his job approval numbers are under water. And this is the high water mark part of this crisis. As time goes on, I think things get worse for him. He just hasn’t gotten a huge bounce out of the ‘rally around the president’ aspect of the crisis.”
The debate over the briefings is only part of how daily life has abruptly changed for Trump.
Campaign on pause
Six weeks ago, he was feeding off the energy of packed campaign rallies, watching the Democratic debates on television and critiquing each candidate’s performance, spending weekends at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and playing rounds of golf.
Now, he is fetched up in the Oval Office or sitting at the end of a dining table in the room directly adjacent, TV on in the background, and a phone almost permanently held to his ear.
He talks to governors, emergency management officials, business leaders, lawmakers, people with problems for him to solve, others with solutions to offer. He has always spent many hours on the phone, aides say, but now there is an extra intensity.
His re-election campaign is on pause with no rallies planned and fund-raising events behind held online.
Advisers say Trump privately frets about the state of the collapsing economy, the strength of which earlier this year he had considered a crown jewel of his presidency and the best case for his re-election in November.
The drop-by meetings of counselors and friends that he craves have been sharply curtailed. Anybody who comes close to the president has to be tested for the virus, delaying in-person meetings and limiting the number of them.
The daily briefings are now Trump’s main connection to the outside world. Aides said his participation every day was not initially intended. Vice President Mike Pence, head of the coronavirus task force, handled the first few on his own with members of his team. Trump then became more involved.
“He’s not able to get out of the house right now which is tough. I thinks he just craves people and TV time. He can’t go out and do any events,” said the source familiar with the situation.
Trump has a speechwriter prepare an opening statement, but after reading it aloud he will often preside over a briefing and question-and-answer session that can last more than two hours.
Proceedings can frequently veer off track. One argument he got into earlier this week over whether people should vote by mail — he was opposed — was seen inside Trump’s team as an example of why he should participate less in the briefings.
Others see a Trumpian strategy at play. Television networks have little choice but to air some or all of the briefings, which still receive high ratings as Americans marooned in their homes tune in for details on when the crisis might subside.
Cliff Sims, a former White House official for Trump, said the president is making good use of his appearances.
“They play to his strength as a communicator and make him an ubiquitous presence in people’s lives during a crisis,” he said.


After months of delays, Somalia postpones election amid threats of violence

Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
Updated 26 July 2021

After months of delays, Somalia postpones election amid threats of violence

Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
  • The country’s Al-Shabab militants warned politicians last week against taking part in the vote

MOGADISHU: Somalia has postponed elections that were due to start on Sunday after months of delays in the deeply unstable Horn of Africa country, officials told AFP.

Indirect parliamentary and presidential polls were due to open on July 25 with four days of voting for the upper house by state delegates. The election cycle was due to end with a presidential poll on Oct. 10.
“Even though the plan was the upper house election to start around the various states today, there is a delay, the election may not take place as planned,” a member of the electoral commission said.
The delay was due to the fact that federal regions were neither able to submit candidates’ lists in time, nor to form local committees to cast the ballots, the source added.
A spokesman for the federal government, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu, told AFP that the elections were “postponed,” without providing details.
Last week, the country’s Al-Shabab militants warned politicians against taking part in the elections, which were due to kick off after months of deadlock and delays.
The threat, in an audio message purportedly recorded by Al-Shabab leader Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, underscores the security challenges facing the election process in the country.
The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and frequently attacks government, security and civilian targets.
Somalia was plunged into an unprecedented constitutional crisis early this year, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and the leaders of Somalia’s five states were unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February.

SPEEDREAD

Somalia was plunged into an unprecedented constitutional crisis early this year, when the country’s leadership was unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February.

After months of stalemate that at times turned violent, the political leaders finally agreed last month on a voting timetable.
According to the agreed plan, delegates from the five federal states, chosen by various clans in that state, elect parliamentarians, who then elect a president. The process was due to kick off on Sunday.
But according to several sources, the sole state that was capable of carrying out a vote “during the week” was Jubaland. The state has already chosen its delegate committee and could publish a list of candidates “during the week.”
“We are expecting the election to take place soon,” said Mohamed Adan, a senior government official in Jubaland. Another source said the electoral process could kick off in the state later on Sunday.
In Puntland state, sources said the elections were delayed because of “technical reasons.”
In Galmudug state, the local parliament is on a break and will reconvene in early August.
In South-West state, the process is blocked because the regional president is out of the country.
Somalia’s political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gunbattles on the streets of Mogadishu. Under pressure the president, commonly known as Farmajo, reversed the extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the state leaders to chart a fresh roadmap toward elections.
The ballots follow a complex indirect model whereby special delegates chosen by the country’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.
Successive leaders have promised a direct vote but political infighting, logistical problems and the Al-Shabab insurgency has prevented such an exercise. The upper house vote will be followed by elections for the lower house from Sept. 12-Oct. 2, according to an updated timetable issued last week.
According to a statement issued in June, both assemblies were due to convene to vote for the president on October 10, but no date for this election was given in the updated timeline.
Somalia has not held a direct one-person, one-vote election since 1969, the year dictator Siad Barre led a coup and went on to rule for two decades.
Barre’s military regime collapsed in 1991 and Somalia sank into anarchy.


Putin warns of ‘lethal’ strikes at Russian warship parade

Putin warns of ‘lethal’ strikes at Russian warship parade
Updated 26 July 2021

Putin warns of ‘lethal’ strikes at Russian warship parade

Putin warns of ‘lethal’ strikes at Russian warship parade
  • The Russian leader’s boast comes days after military officials announced tests of advanced new weapons

PETERSBURG: President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that Russia’s navy was capable of delivering lethal strikes against underwater and aerial enemy targets during a parade of warships in the port city of Saint Petersburg.

The Russian leader’s boast comes days after military officials announced tests of advanced new weapons, some of which come from an arsenal Putin has described as “invincible.”

“The Russian navy today has everything it needs to guarantee the protection of our country and our national interests,” he said.

“We can detect underwater, surface or aerial enemies and target them if a lethal strike is necessary,” Putin said according to a broadcast on state television.

The Russian leader was speaking on the sidelines of an annual parade of military vessels, flanked by naval officers in white, and also Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Putin said Russia had secured its place among the world’s leading naval powers, including by developing “the latest hypersonic precision weapons still unrivaled in the world.”

The US, China, France and other major powers have announced plans to develop their own hypersonic weapons and are expected to soon catch up.

With the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world and a huge cache of ballistic missiles, Russia already has more than enough military capacity to deter its enemies.


America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general
Updated 25 July 2021

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general
  • Since early May, violence has surged after the insurgents launched a sweeping assault
  • Taliban's assault has seen the insurgents capture scores of districts and border crossings

KABUL: The United States will continue air strikes in support of Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, a top US general said Sunday, as the insurgents press on with offensives across the country.
Since early May, violence has surged after the insurgents launched a sweeping assault just days after the US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal.
The Taliban's deadly assault has seen the insurgents capture scores of districts, border crossings and encircle several provincial capitals.
"The United States has increased air strikes in the support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks," General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, told reporters in Kabul.
McKenzie acknowledged that there were tough days ahead for the Afghan government, but insisted that the Taliban were nowhere close to victory.
"The Taliban are attempting to create a sense of inevitability about their campaign. They are wrong," he said.
"Taliban victory is not inevitable."
McKenzie's remarks came as Afghan officials in the southern province of Kandahar said fighting in the region had displaced about 22,000 families in the past month.
"They have all moved from the volatile districts of the city to safer areas," Dost Mohammad Daryab, head of the provincial refugee department, told AFP.
On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar city.
"The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has made way for the Taliban to come that close," Lalai Dastageeri, deputy governor of Kandahar province, told AFP.
"We are now trying to organise our security forces."
Local authorities had set up four camps for the displaced people who are estimated to be about 154,000.
Kandahar resident Hafiz Mohammad Akbar said his house had been taken over by the Taliban after he fled.
"They forced us to leave... I am now living with my 20-member family in a compound with no toilet," said Akbar.


UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID
Updated 25 July 2021

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID
  • “Please — if you haven’t yet — get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus,” Javid tweeted
  • Britain has one of the highest official COVID death tolls

LONDON: British health minister Sajid Javid was accused of insulting coronavirus victims on Sunday after urging people to take a COVID-19 vaccine and “learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.”
Javid, who replaced Matt Hancock as health minister last month after his predecessor stepped down for breaking COVID rules by kissing an aide in his office, began his job by urging people to learn to live with the virus.
Britain, which has one of the highest official COVID death tolls, has shifted its strategy to fight coronavirus from using restrictions to limit its spread to opening up society in the hope vaccines will protect most people from serious illness.
Cases are high, but so is uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, and officials argue the shift is needed to help businesses in sectors such as hospitality and the night-time economy.
Writing on Twitter, Javid said on Saturday he had recovered after testing positive for COVID. “Symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines,” he said.
“Please — if you haven’t yet — get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.”
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, was one of several lawmakers from opposition parties and people who have lost family members to the pandemic to criticize his use of the phrase “cower from.”
“127,000 people have died from this virus, tens of thousands of whom would still be here if it wasn’t for the catastrophic failures of your government,” she said on Twitter.
“So how dare you denigrate people for trying to keep themselves and their families safe.”


Briton held in Somalia alleges torture by CIA-linked officials

David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 25 July 2021

Briton held in Somalia alleges torture by CIA-linked officials

David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • War on Terror practices including sensory deprivation, waterboarding still used, document claims

LONDON: A British citizen has raised concerns that highly controversial forms of torture and interrogation practices used during the War on Terror are still being employed by US-linked officials.

David Taylor, whose identity was made anonymous following a family request, claimed he was tortured in Somalia and interrogated by US intelligence officers.

The torture practices, Taylor alleges, were used by Somalian authorities to force him into CIA cooperation, and involved hooding, sensory deprivation and waterboarding.

His London-based family have warned that UK intervention in his case is essential to ending his two-year detention in the African country.

A document relating to the legal case also shows that Taylor was questioned by two US FBI agents in Mogadishu on June 30.

It says: “They asked the claimant whether he wished to live in the US. They also showed him pictures of various individuals asking him whether he knew them.”

One of the people Taylor was shown an image of was a man imprisoned for supporting the terror group Al-Shabaab. It suggests that the alleged CIA involvement is aimed at targeting the Somalian-based militant group, which has launched dozens of deadly attacks around east Africa.

Taylor moved to Somalia in 2009 and was arrested a decade later in 2019 after visiting Yemen to organize his return to London.

He was transferred to Mogadishu, arrested and driven to a location near Mogadishu by anonymous individuals, who Taylor alleges were CIA agents.

The legal document stated: “He found himself in a room with a white lady and a white man. The lady spoke in an American accent and identified herself as ‘Roxanne.’ Taylor asked her to confirm the agency or organization she represented but she refused to do so.”

It added that Taylor subsequently faced daily interrogation, including having a gun pointed at his head after refusing to cooperate.

Later that year, he was transferred to a Mogadishu prison, where he currently lives in a cell with about 60 other prisoners. Taylor said that he has received death threats from other prisoners and has been accused of operating as a British spy.

His son said: “My dad has been left to languish in a foreign prison, in dangerous conditions, without charge or any proper reason. He is a UK citizen and he has had no support from his country. To know that my dad has faced torture, interrogation and violent threats to his life is terrifying and extremely distressing.

“I am heartbroken and afraid of what might happen to him if he stays there any longer. How can this still be allowed to happen?”