Donald Trump threatens funds for US states easing voting in coronavirus pandemic

US President Donald Trump himself has requested an absentee ballot to vote in Florida. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 May 2020

Donald Trump threatens funds for US states easing voting in coronavirus pandemic

  • The president targeted Michigan with an inaccurate tweet on its voting plans

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to hold up federal funds for two election battleground states that are trying to make it easier and safer to vote during the coronavirus pandemic. He backed away from that threat but stuck with his unsupported claim that widespread voting by mail promotes “a lot of illegality.”
The president targeted Michigan with an inaccurate tweet on its voting plans and also went after Nevada in the latest — and the most confused — episode in his campaign against mail-in voting.
As states have shifted to remote voting, following health officials’ recommendations on safety, Trump has denigrated the practice and sought to limit access. He has said repeatedly, without evidence, that mailed ballots allow widespread fraud and has worried publicly that wide availability could lead so many people to vote that Republicans would lose in November. His GOP allies, meanwhile, have fought changes to voting in court and opposed funding to expand mail-in voting in Congress.
Wednesday marked the first time Trump has tried to use federal aid money to beat it back.
Trump began by going after Michigan, misstating Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s announcement that she would send applications for absentee ballots to every voter in the state. Though Republican secretaries of state have taken this step elsewhere, Trump pounced on the move in a state key to his reelection hopes.
“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. That brought strong criticism from Democrats in Michigan and elsewhere, pointing out that the state was sending applications, not actual ballots, an error the president corrected in a subsequent tweet six hours later. He stuck with the rest of his tweet: “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”
Trump later tweeted a similar threat to pull back funds from Nevada, which has sent ballots to voters for its June 9 state primary. A federal judge recently cleared Nevada’s decision to mail ballots, which were sent by the Republican secretary of state.
It was not clear exactly what funds Trump was referencing, but the states are paying for the voting changes with federal aid intended to support elections during the pandemic. By Wednesday evening, Trump told reporters he had spoken with Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and did not think funding would have to be cut.
“I don’t think it’s going to be necessary,” he said, adding that he stood by his opposition to mail voting. “Voting is an honor. It shouldn’t be something where they send you a pile of stuff and you send it back.”
Trump himself has requested an absentee ballot to vote in Florida.
Trump’s tweets and statements came the day before he is slated to visit Michigan to tour Ford’s ventilator assembly plant in Ypsilanti. The state is one of three Rust Belt states that helped deliver his 2016 victory. In recent months, it has become a national hot spot for the coronavirus and watched its economy collapse, both factors contributing to what T rump’s advisers see as a shift toward Democrats.
The president’s comments appeared to reflect growing GOP concerns that Democrats’ swift embrace of mail-in voting will give them an edge in November. Some key Democratic areas have moved to make it easier for voters to request ballots, while Republican areas have not. And even though Trump’s campaign encourages absentee voting, along with several state Republican Party officials, GOP voters, like Trump, have expressed growing skepticism.
Democrats noted Trump seems more concerned about mail-in voting in battleground states and has not threatened Republican-dominated states that are doing the same thing as Michigan.
Republicans’ claims that mailing ballots to all voters creates widespread fraud is not backed up by evidence from the five states that use this method. None has had significant voter fraud cases.
The GOP-controlled US Senate has so far stopped Democrats from mandating expanded mail and early voting as part of coronavirus relief bills, arguing that states should make decisions on their own election systems. The battle has largely moved to the courts, with Democrats filing at least 17 lawsuits to force states to expand their programs.
Hours after Trump tweeted Wednesday, he sent another message to Michigan. The state is grappling with severe flooding in one county after two dams failed, forcing thousands to evacuate.
Three hours after threatening to hold up federal funding to the state, Trump tweeted: “My team is closely monitoring the flooding in Central Michigan – Stay SAFE and listen to local officials. Our brave First Responders are once again stepping up to serve their fellow citizens, THANK YOU!”


India’s croon jewel: Lata Mangeshkar on turning 91 and acing the Twitter game

Updated 1 min ago

India’s croon jewel: Lata Mangeshkar on turning 91 and acing the Twitter game

  • Legendary singer speaks to Arab News about her career spanning 75 years and a life that has ‘given her much to be grateful for’

PATNA, India: On Monday, as Lata Mangeshkar turns 91, India’s most accomplished and acclaimed playback singer says she will “continue to sing until her last breath.”

“Even today, I feel like a student of music. I have so much to learn when I compare myself to the great musicians of our country. I will sing until my last breath. There is no retirement for an artist,” Mangeshkar said during an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Born in 1929 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Mangeshkar moved to Mumbai, Maharashtra with her family and four siblings — Meena Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Usha Mangeshkar and Hridaynath Mangeshkar — in 1945.

After recording her first Hindi song for a film titled Aap Ki Seva Mein in 1947, she gained prominence when, at the age of 20, she regaled audiences with Aayega Aanewala in the film Mahal two years later.

“Then there was Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya from Mughal-e-Azam. Audiences would throw coins on the screen when that song came on,” she said.

To date, in a career spanning 75 years, she has recorded more than 30,000 songs in 35 Indian and foreign languages — including Malaysian, English and Nepalese — and earned a Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in the process.

But remind her about her achievements, and she shrugs it off with habitual modesty. 

“There have been many talented singers before and after me (such as) Noor Jehanji, Shamshad Begumji, Geeta Duttji before me, and my sister Asha who were all extremely talented. Among the contemporary voices, I like Alka Yagnik, Shreya Ghosal and Sunidhi Chauhan,” she said.

Nearly 60 biographies have been written about the legendary singer, but she has not authored any herself. The platform where she does unleash her creative writing skills is Twitter.

With more than 14.6 million followers since her social media debut in 2010, the nonagenarian says she turns to Twitter to “stay in touch with friends” and has rarely forgotten to commemorate a colleague’s death or birth anniversary with a tweet on occasion.

“It’s the least we can do. We owe it to the entertainment industry. Earlier, we could pick up the phone and talk to one another. The only option I have is to meet them on social media,” she said.

And while there are no “fixed hours” for her time spent on the social media platform, she tweets when she has “something to say.”

“Otherwise, I stay away. Social media is addictive, and I advise more personal contact than virtual,” she added.

While the coronavirus outbreak and ensuing lockdown across India since March this year meant restriction on movement, Mangeshkar said that it did not derail her offline schedule.

After a “severe” lung infection last year, and based on doctor’s orders, she now leads a quiet, secluded life at her home in South Mumbai.

“The doctors have severely curtailed all my activities, including movie-watching,” she said, adding that she enjoys listening to music, as long as they are not her songs.

“I don’t listen to my songs. If I did, I’d find a hundred mistakes in my singing. Even in the past, once I finished recording a song, I was done with it,” she said.

This, however, was not the case for several Indian actresses, from Madhubala in the 1950s to Sridevi in the 1980s, who insisted on Mangeshkar singing for their onscreen personas. 

The supreme songstress has sung for five generations of Bollywood heroines, but ask her which actress did most justice to her voice on-screen and she replies after a pause: “That’s a tough one because each heroine brought something special to my songs. But I’d have to go with Nutan. She was a singer herself, and when she emoted my songs, she sang along. The way she performed on Mann Mohana Bade Jhothe (Seema) is exemplary. Jaya Bachchan is also one of my favorites. I think the way she emoted to Bahon Mein Chale Aao (Anamika) added a lot to the song’s enduring popularity.”

And her career-defining song?

“It would have to be Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon (a patriotic song). No matter where I go, people ask about it, and some even ask me to sing it for them,” she said, before considering the question of her “lasting legacy” to the world.

“I honestly don’t know, but if I’ve received so much love for so long, I must’ve done something right.”

Borrowing a few lines from one of her popular songs, she seals off her birthday advice with a message for her fans: “Light one lamp to another and let the love flow. We are going through the worst possible phase in the history of civilization due to the coronavirus. Be kind and generous to those who are less privileged than you. Now is the time to stop being tight-fisted.”