It’s time to choose, Biden tells Republicans in fiery voting rights speech

It’s time to choose, Biden tells Republicans in fiery voting rights speech
US President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, part of both Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University on January 11, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (AFP)
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Updated 12 January 2022

It’s time to choose, Biden tells Republicans in fiery voting rights speech

It’s time to choose, Biden tells Republicans in fiery voting rights speech
  • Challenged senators to “stand against voter suppression” by changing Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation that Republicans are blocking from debate and votes

ATLANTA, US: President Joe Biden on Tuesday made a full-throated appeal for US voting rights legislation stalled in Congress, saying Democratic lawmakers should rewrite Senate rules to overcome Republican opposition.

In a speech designed to breathe life into the fight to pass federal voting laws and convince skeptical Democrats of his commitment, Biden called many Republicans cowardly and committed to changing the US Senate “filibuster” to pass legislation.
Calling it a “battle for the soul of America,” the Democratic president put the voting rights effort on par with the fight against segregation by slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Former President Donald Trump maintains the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats through voter fraud, despite investigations’ finding no supporting evidence. Since then, Republican lawmakers in 19 states have passed dozens of laws making it harder to vote. Critics say these measures target minorities, who vote in greater proportions for Democrats.
Biden on Tuesday said Republicans must choose which side of history they want to be on, as he contrasted civil rights heroes with the country’s most ardent white supremacists.
“Do you want to be on the side of Martin Luther King or George Wallace?” Biden asked, referring to the segregationist former Alabama governor.
His tone echoed remarks on the one-year anniversary of the attacks on the US Capitol, reflecting a new White House calculus after a year focused on working with Republicans. Supporters of Trump were attempting “a coup” on Jan. 6, 2021, Biden said Tuesday.
“Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America’s right to vote,” Biden said. “Not one.”
Before Biden spoke, there was a moment of solemnity as he and Vice President Kamala Harris stood before King’s gravesite, with King’s family standing nearby, heads bowed. Biden and Harris later spoke on the shared campus of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, two historically Black schools.
Jesiah Osbourne, 21, a senior at Morehouse who gives Biden mixed reviews overall, said he credits the president for pushing for a cornerstone civil right even in the absence of a clear legislative path. “It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “There’s no unity.”
Many activists say Biden should have done more during his first year in office to push for reforms, and some, including Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, did not attend his speech.
Biden told reporters on Tuesday that he spoke to Abrams, and despite a schedule mix-up, they are “on the same page.”
“The President deeply understands that Congress must pass” the voting-rights bills “by whatever legislative means necessary,” said Abrams, a Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia.

Filibuster carve-out
Biden wants to build public support for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bills would make Election Day a holiday, register new voters and strengthen US Justice Department oversight of local election jurisdictions with a history of discrimination.
Both bills have languished in the Senate under united opposition from Republicans, who argue they would impose questionable national standards on local elections.
Biden said if no breakthrough on the legislation can be achieved, lawmakers in the Senate should “change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
The filibuster is a parliamentary maneuver effectively requiring a 60-vote majority in the Senate for passage of most bills, instead of a simple majority.
“Sadly, the United States Senate, designed to be the greatest deliberative body, has been rendered a shell of its former self,” Biden said.
Republicans criticized Biden’s proposal as overreach.
“What the Democrats have coined a ‘voting rights’ bill is really just a partisan, political power grab. And now they want to eliminate the filibuster in order to advance this terrible legislation, which would only compound confusion in our election process,” Senator Mike Crapo said after Biden’s speech.
It was Biden’s most direct plea to date for the Senate to change its rules. Democrats, with only narrow control of the chamber, do not currently have the votes for such a maneuver.
Biden said he had had quiet conversations with lawmakers about the legislation in recent months, but “I’m tired of being quiet.”
Newly passed laws in Republican states could impact as many as 55 million Americans, the White House said.
Georgia was a battleground state in the 2020 election, and Democrats won two crucial US Senate seats there that gave them effective control of the chamber. Last year, the Republican-led state legislature approved sweeping voting restrictions. The Justice Department sued, saying the law infringes the rights  of Black voters.
Democrats are girding themselves for tough 2022 congressional elections that could strip them of their majority and the chance to change federal voting laws.
 

 

 


Three dead, 3 critically wounded in shooting at Denmark mall

Three dead, 3 critically wounded in shooting at Denmark mall
Updated 11 min 23 sec ago

Three dead, 3 critically wounded in shooting at Denmark mall

Three dead, 3 critically wounded in shooting at Denmark mall
  • A 22-year-old Danish man was arrested, Copenhagen police inspector Søren Thomassen told reporters

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Danish police say three people were killed and three others are in critical condition after a shooting rampage Sunday at a shopping mall in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen police inspector Søren Thomassen said the three victims were a man in his 40s and “two young people.
A 22-year-old Danish man was arrested, Copenhagen police inspector Søren Thomassen told reporters, adding there was no indication that anyone else was involved in the attack, though police were still investigating.
Gun violence is relatively rare in Denmark.
Thomassen said it was too early to speculate on the motive for the shooting, which happened in the late afternoon at Field’s, one of the biggest shopping malls in Scandinavia and located on the outskirts of the Danish capital. When the shots rang out, some people hid in shops while others fled in a panicked stampede, witnesses said.
“It is pure terror. This is awful,” said Hans Christian Stoltz, a 53-year-old IT consultant, who was bringing his daughters to see Harry Styles perform at a concert scheduled for Sunday night near the mall. “You might wonder how a person can do this to another human being, but it’s beyond … beyond anything that’s possible.”
Thomassen gave no specific casualty count beyond saying several people were dead and several wounded. He said the suspect was an “ethnic Dane,” a phrase typically used to mean someone is white.
Danish broadcaster TV2 published a grainy photo of the alleged gunman, a man wearing knee-length shorts and a tank top and holding what appeared to be a rifle in his right hand.
“He seemed very violent and angry,” eyewitness Mahdi Al-Wazni told TV2. “He spoke to me and said it (the rifle) isn’t real as I was filming him. He seemed very proud of what he was doing.”
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the Scandinavian country had been hit by a “cruel attack.”

An ambulance and armed police are seen during the evacuation of people at the Fields shopping center in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 3, 2022 after Danish media reported a shooting. (AFP)


“It is incomprehensible. Heartbreaking. Pointless,” she said. “Our beautiful and usually so safe capital was changed in a split second.”
Images from the scene showed people running out of the mall, and TV2 posted a photo of a man being put on a stretcher. After the shooting, an enormous contingent of heavily armed police officers patrolled the area, with several fire department vehicles also parked outside the mall.
Laurits Hermansen told Danish broadcaster DR that he was in a clothing store at the shopping center with his family when he heard “three, four bangs. Really loud bangs. It sounded like the shots were being fired just next to the store.”
The shopping center is on the outskirts of Copenhagen just across from a subway station for a line that connects the city center with the international airport. A major highway also runs adjacent to the mall.
Organizers called off the Harry Styles concert, which had been scheduled at the nearby Royal Arena, by order of police.
On Snapchat, Styles wrote: “My team and I pray for everyone involved in the Copenhagen shopping mall shooting. I am shocked. Love H.”

People embrace outside Fields shopping center, after Danish police said they received reports of a shooting at the site, in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 3, 2022. (Reuters) 


The royal palace said a reception with Crown Prince Frederik connected to the Tour de France cycling race had been canceled. The first three stages of the race were held in Denmark this year. The reception was due to be held on the royal yacht that is moored in Soenderborg, the town where the third stage ended.
In a joint statement, Queen Margrethe, her son Crown Prince Frederik and his wife, Crown Princess Mary, said: “We do not yet know the full extent of the tragedy, but it is already clear that more people have lost their lives and that even more have been injured.”
“The situation calls for unity and care,” they said in a statement.
The shooting came a week after a mass shooting in neighboring Norway, where police said a Norwegian man of Iranian origin opened fire during a LGBTQ festival, killing two and wounding more than 20.
Though the number of victims in Copenhagen on Sunday was unclear, it appeared to be the worst gun attack in Denmark since February 2015, when a 22-year-old man was killed in a shootout with police after going on a shooting spree in the capital that left two people dead and five police officers wounded.


Death toll from a massive landslide in India rises to 37

Death toll from a massive landslide in India rises to 37
Updated 03 July 2022

Death toll from a massive landslide in India rises to 37

Death toll from a massive landslide in India rises to 37
  • A wall of mud and rock swamped a camp housing railway construction workers and members of the Territorial Army in remote Manipur state in the northeast after heavy rain early on Thursday

GUWAHATI, India: The death toll from a massive landslide in India hit 37 on Sunday, authorities said, as rescue teams battled teeming rain to search for 25 others still missing three days later.

A wall of mud and rock swamped a camp housing railway construction workers and members of the Territorial Army in remote Manipur state in the northeast after heavy rain early on Thursday.

Emergency teams rescued 18 survivors within the first few hours of the incident.

But army spokesperson Angom Bobin Singh said Sunday that 28 people were still missing before an announcement later that three more bodies had been retrieved.

The fourth day of search operations was ongoing “despite adverse weather conditions” because of “heavy rains and fresh landslides,” Singh said.

The remote northeast has generally poor road and railway infrastructure but India in the last few years has pushed ambitious infrastructure projects to match a Chinese buildup across the border.

The picturesque region — with mountains and dense forests — has been pummeled by heavy rainfall in recent weeks, triggering landslides and floods.

Dozens were killed in the area after flooding last month, with relentless rains causing landslides and inundating homes.

Experts say climate change is increasing the number of extreme weather events around the world, with damming, deforestation and development projects in India exacerbating the human toll.

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Floodwaters in Bangladesh take heavy toll on children’s education

Floodwaters in Bangladesh take heavy toll on children’s education
Updated 03 July 2022

Floodwaters in Bangladesh take heavy toll on children’s education

Floodwaters in Bangladesh take heavy toll on children’s education
  • Deadly floods in Bangladesh had killed dozens of people and stranded millions of others
  • Thousands of schools in worst-hit Sylhet region were impacted by deluge

DHAKA: Last month’s flooding in northeastern Bangladesh has dealt a heavy blow to the country’s education sector as authorities estimate that it has kept hundreds of thousands of children out of school.

Millions of people were displaced, and dozens of others killed when heavy floods triggered by monsoon rains hit northeast Bangladesh in June. The South Asian nation witnessed intense rainfall that continued for days, causing the worst deluge that the country had seen in more than a century.

In the worst-hit Sylhet region, thousands of schools and colleges were forced to remain shut weeks after the devastating floods, leaving hundreds and thousands of students out of classes as authorities began assessing the extent of the damages.

Over 3,000 primary schools — more than half of the total in Sylhet — sustained damages during the floods, Dr. Nasima Begum, deputy director at the department of primary education in the region, told Arab News. Around 1.8 million children were enrolled in the primary schools, she added.

“Since more than half of the schools were affected by flood water, it is anticipated that the children of these areas were also affected,” Begum said.

“We have yet to complete the loss assessment because the floods have not completely receded in many areas,” she said. “We have plans to provide new books and education materials to the children when classes resume.”

Mohammed Nazrul Hakim, executive engineer at Sylhet’s education engineering department, told Arab News that buildings damaged in the floods are in dire need of repairs.

“The ground floors of the affected institutions have become unusable due to the floods. Students can’t have classes there without repair works being done,” Hakim said.

As hundreds of high schools and colleges in the region had also been damaged during the disaster, around 150,000 secondary students also had their final exams, initially scheduled to take place in June, postponed.

“More than 600 high schools and colleges were affected due to this flood,” Prof. Abdul Mannan Khan, director of Sylhet’s department of secondary and higher education, told Arab News.

Classes are expected to resume on July 19, but for most of the affected students, the “floodwater damaged many of their books and education materials,” Khan added.

When the unprecedented floods hit villages across northeast Bangladesh, most people only had enough time to save themselves and their loved ones.

“Saving our lives was the only concern during the flood,” 16-year-old Abdur Rahman Sohag told Arab News.

“It happened so quickly that I couldn’t manage to save any of my books.”

Sohag was among tens of thousands who were scheduled to take their final exams last month. But as the situation worsened and the final exams had to be postponed, a new date has yet to be announced.

Like Sohag, 16-year-old Sanjida Zahan Chowdhury also lost her textbooks in the floods, which had submerged her home in the Sunamganj district.

“Within half an hour at midnight, we found ourselves in around 1.5 meters of high flood water inside our home,” Chowdhury told Arab News, adding that she and her family had to wait eight hours before they were evacuated.

“Many of my books and notes were washed away. How can I sit for the exam without my books?”


Sweden refuses to deny deportations to Turkey part of NATO deal

Sweden refuses to deny deportations to Turkey part of NATO deal
Updated 03 July 2022

Sweden refuses to deny deportations to Turkey part of NATO deal

Sweden refuses to deny deportations to Turkey part of NATO deal
  • In an agreement signed by Stockholm and Helsinki at a NATO summit in Madrid on Tuesday, the two Nordic countries agreed to examine Turkish extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly”

VISBY, Sweden: Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson refused Sunday to deny Turkey’s claim that it had promised to deport individuals sought by Ankara as part of Stockholm’s efforts to join NATO.

Despite questioning by journalists and concerns among Kurdish and Turkish refugees in Sweden, Andersson would not say whether such a commitment had been given to Ankara for it to lift objections to Sweden’s membership.

“I’ve been a minister for eight years and I never talked about what is said in the negotiation room,” she said. “(That) actually puts me in a bit of a difficult situation right now,” she added.

In an agreement signed by Stockholm and Helsinki at a NATO summit in Madrid on Tuesday, the two Nordic countries agreed to examine Turkish extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly.”

No promise has been given to actually carry out the extraditions, and Finland and Sweden have since recalled that the process is in the hands of the authorities and independent courts.

But Turkish President Erdogan on Thursday said at the end of the NATO summit that Sweden had made a “promise” to extradite “73 terrorists” and threatened to block NATO membership if the commitments were not met.

Andersson, who was pressed several times on Sunday to say whether such a promise had been given, simply repeated Stockholm’s position.

She said Sweden will continue to respect national and international laws, no Swedish nationals will be extradited, the decision will be up to independent authorities and courts.

“If you are not involved in terrorist activities, there is no need for concern,” she said.

The Swedish leader was holding her first press conference since returning from the summit, during a visit to the Baltic Sea island of Gotland.

Every July, it hosts a week of political meetings bringing together party leaders.

But it is also one of the locations due to be reinforced by the Swedish army after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Sweden’s decision to join NATO.


UK whistleblower receives $500k payout after Kosovo corruption claims

UK whistleblower receives $500k payout after Kosovo corruption claims
Updated 03 July 2022

UK whistleblower receives $500k payout after Kosovo corruption claims

UK whistleblower receives $500k payout after Kosovo corruption claims
  • Ex-Foreign Office prosecutor told to ‘turn a blind eye’ before losing job
  • Lawyer: ‘The protection of whistleblowers is crucial for a fair and functioning democratic society’

LONDON: The UK government has agreed a settlement of more than $500,000 with a Foreign Office whistleblower who claimed she was undermined after exposing corruption in EULEX, the EU’s mission in Kosovo.
Maria Bamieh, a former prosecutor with the Foreign Office, was awarded the $512,000 settlement a decade after first raising concerns in her position in 2012, The Observer reported.
In her role Bamieh worked with EULEX, but a series of discoveries and interventions led to her being sidelined and terminated from her position in 2014.
Bamieh alleges that after discovering corruption and referring evidence back to the Foreign Office and local embassy, she was told to ignore the evidence.
The Foreign Office denies her claims despite the payout, which was agreed upon before a hearing took place.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have agreed to settle this long-running case without any admission of liability and continue to strongly refute these allegations.”
Bamieh said: “I believe that I should have been commended and supported by the Foreign Office for raising my concerns about possible corruption within EULEX and the treatment I suffered afterward, but instead I felt abandoned.”
The $1 billion EULEX mission aimed to pursue high-profile politicians and officials in Kosovo with links to organized crime and corruption.
Bamieh’s first discovery came in 2012 after attempts by a health official in Kosovo to undermine an investigation using links with a senior EULEX judge.
A senior prosecutor allegedly shared details of the investigation with the official through a third party.
Bamieh raised concerns with a UK diplomat but was told to “turn a blind eye.” A year later, however, she was disciplined for parking and work experience violations in an apparent attempt to undermine her work.
In 2014, the Foreign Office reduced its staff presence in Kosovo. Bamieh was terminated late that year.
He lawyer Mike Cain said: “The protection of whistleblowers is crucial for a fair and functioning democratic society. This is all the more the case in spaces where public power is being exercised as it was when our client formed and reported her concerns both in
Kosovo and to senior figures within the Foreign Office.”
Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, urged the Foreign Office to reform its internal complaints system.
“It takes great moral fibre and courage to raise your head above the parapet, knowing there may be significant personal cost,” he said.
“Cover-up culture benefits no one. Perhaps if the Foreign Office strengthened its complaint processes, and increased its openness, members of staff within the department would not have to resort to such drastic measures.”