Saudi-American candidate for US Congress pledges new vision

Saudi-American candidate for US Congress pledges new vision
Al-Abdrabbuh, a local school board chair, university teacher and community organizer, is hoping to replace retiring congressman Peter DeFazio. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 February 2022

Saudi-American candidate for US Congress pledges new vision

Saudi-American candidate for US Congress pledges new vision
  • Al-Abdrabbuh is hoping to replace retiring congressman Peter DeFazio
  • He said that his election platform is centered on his sense of responsibility toward community and society

OREGON: Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, a Democratic candidate for the US Congress who hopes to represent the state of Oregon’s fourth congressional district, sees himself as a natural problem solver.

“Call me an American who loves to solve problems,” he said.

Al-Abdrabbuh, a local school board chair, university teacher and community organizer, is hoping to replace retiring congressman Peter DeFazio, the powerful chairman of the US House Transportation Committee who served 36 years in Congress — the longest-serving member of US Congress in Oregon’s history.

He told Arab News that his candidacy will bring a new vision and diversity to the district as he hopes to build on his work as chair of the city of Corvallis school board where he was successfully elected for several years in a row.

Al-Abdrabbuh said that his election platform is centered on his sense of responsibility toward community and society and providing the public with the right to have education and health care security as well as climate justice.

He told Arab News that education is the cornerstone of democracy. This is why he ran for the school board, which he said has had an impact in benefiting students and teachers as well as parents. In addition to his background in education and environmental suitability, he said that he offers legislative and budgetary experience.

Al-Abdrabbuh, who was born in Arizona, has a Ph.D in engineering, which he says is what makes him a “problem solver.” He currently teaches at a state university and works as a consultant for a technology company.

He said that he wanted to run for US Congress because he believes a sense of responsibility and public service is the way to make a community and society a better place to live and work in, and it is part of his personality to volunteer and contribute to public life.

“This is what I have been doing all of my life, I volunteer my time to help solve problems. I am a problem solver, which is natural for me as an engineer,” he said.

He said that he is no stranger to Democratic Party politics in the state. Al-Abdrabbuh is a member of the Democratic Party Central Committee in Oregon and was one of the state delegates who cast his vote for Biden in the 2020 elections.

Despite having DeFazio as its long-time democratic congressman and it being a mostly Democratic district, the coming election is expected to see a strong push to convert it to a Republican column.

The 2022 elections are expected to favor the Republicans, who are predicted to win control of Congress in the second half of US President Joe Biden’s term.

On broader policy issues, Al-Abdrabbuh believes that he will continue the “wonderful work” of DeFazio in the district, especially in infrastructure, and build his own track record to make it more sustainable. He wants to further develop the district in a way that will help the next generation cope with new challenges.

Al-Abdrabbuh sees himself as a candidate who is willing to work with all representatives regardless of ideological or party affiliation.

“At the end of the day I see myself as Sami, a name that means pursuing the highest ideals and ethical standards, and I would be building solutions based on that.”

Al-Abdrabbuh said that people could call him a progressive or liberal or moderate. “But what I would love to call myself is an American who loves to solve problems based on ideas of justice and fairness for all.”

He told Arab News that climate change and the environment are very important to him because he believes in environmental sustainability.

Al-Abdrabbuh supports the Green New Deal, a socioeconomic and environmental congressional proposal that calls for addressing climate change sponsored by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He said that was on record as advocating similar ideas as far back as 2016, calling it then a “Newer Deal,” and that he had driven a solar-powered car across the country with zero carbon emissions.

While the field of candidates to replace DeFazio is expected to be crowded, Al-Abdrabbuh said he is hopeful that the people of the district will recognize his public service and efforts to help the community and environment and put him into Congress. 


Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine, pledges to work with G7 for more support to Kyiv

Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine, pledges to work with G7 for more support to Kyiv
Updated 53 min 52 sec ago

Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine, pledges to work with G7 for more support to Kyiv

Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine, pledges to work with G7 for more support to Kyiv
  • As G7 host next year, Japan pledges to propose further sanctions against Russia and reconstruction plan for Ukraine

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in telephone call Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, condemned Russia’s new annexation of parts of Ukraine as illegal and a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
“I told him that the process that Russia called a referendum and its annexation of parts of Ukraine should never be accepted, and that I strongly condemn them,” Kishida said afterward.
Kishida said he also reassured Zelensky in their 30-minute conversation that Japan is committed to working with other Group of Seven nations and the broader international community in further supporting Ukraine, and plans to impose more sanctions against Russia.
Western leaders including US President Joe Biden have also condemned Russia’s annexation of four occupied Ukrainian regions days after voters supposedly approved Moscow-managed “referendums” on joining Russia.

Kishida, who is to host a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations next year, told Zelensky he plans to propose that they impose tough sanctions against Russia, and will lead a discussion on Ukraine’s reconstruction.
He said Japan is assessing when it can reopen its embassy in Kyiv, which he described as important for close contacts between Japan and Ukraine. Japan closed its embassy in March as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensified and moved part of its operations to Lviv in western Ukraine.
Japan has closely cooperated with other G-7 members and European nations in imposing sanctions on Russia over its war in Ukraine. Most recently, Japan banned exports of sensitive materials that could be used to make chemical weapons.
Japan’s sanctions against Russia have further damaged their ties, already strained over a group of islands taken by Moscow at the end of World War II that have prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their war hostilities.
In retaliation for Tokyo’s sanctions, Moscow terminated peace talks, including negotiations over the islands.

 

 


Biden signs bill to avert US government shutdown, aid Ukraine

Biden signs bill to avert US government shutdown, aid Ukraine
Updated 01 October 2022

Biden signs bill to avert US government shutdown, aid Ukraine

Biden signs bill to avert US government shutdown, aid Ukraine
  • Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the measure, with only 10 from the GOP voting in favor
  • Democrats voted unanimously, saying the bill was important to helping Ukraine as well as victims of recent natural disasters in the US 

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden signed into law Friday a bill that finances the federal government through mid-December and provides another infusion of military and economic aid to Ukraine after lawmakers acted to avert a partial government shutdown set to begin after midnight.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 230-201 earlier in the day. Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the measure. Some wanted to extend government funding into January when, based on the results of the midterm elections, it’s possible they’ll have more leverage over setting federal spending for the full fiscal year. Others argued the measure needed to do more to address border security.
Democrats said passing the bill was important to helping Ukraine as well as victims of recent natural disasters in the US, including Hurricane Ian, as it provides a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster fund with a year’s worth of money up front rather than for two-and-a-half months.
“Turn on the news. Look what’s happening in Florida right now. Look at what happened to Puerto Rico. Look at what’s happening in Alaska. I mean, people need help,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts. “And look at what’s happening in Ukraine. Do we support helping preserve democracy in Ukraine or not? That’s what’s at stake here.”
But Republicans complained the bill brought to the floor was not subject to bipartisan negotiations in the House and didn’t reflect their priorities.
“We know we have a crisis on the southern border. You can turn on the television every night. You can look at the fentanyl pouring into the country, You can see the tragedy of human trafficking. Is there anything in this bill that asks us to do anything different, anything new?” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma “No, you just ask, ‘please allow us to continue the current state of affairs on the southern border.’ That is a travesty.”
In the end, support for the bill was unanimous among Democratic lawmakers. Only 10 Republican lawmakers joined them in voting yes.
Later Friday, former President Donald Trump responded to the bill’s passage with a racist message on his social media platform attacking Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and his Asian American wife, who also served in Trump’s administration as a Cabinet secretary. Trump ominously wrote that McConnell has a “death wish.”
The bill finances the federal government through Dec. 16 and buys lawmakers more time to agree on legislation setting spending levels for the 2023 fiscal year. The bill generally keeps spending at current levels, though it does provide more than $12.3 billion in Ukraine-related aid. The money will go to provide training, equipment and logistics support for the Ukraine military, help Ukraine’s government provide basic services to its citizens and replenish US weapons systems and munitions.
“This contribution ensures we continue upholding our moral responsibility to support the people of Ukraine in the face of a vicious invasion that continues to demand decisive action by us,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
Disaster assistance was also attached to the stopgap bill, including $2.5 billion to help New Mexico communities recover from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s history; $2 billion for a block grant program that aids the economic recovery of communities impacted by recent disasters; and $20 million for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements previously authorized for Jackson, Mississippi.
“We cannot leave communities behind that are still picking up the pieces from disastrous floods, wildfires and hurricane, and even basic water system failures,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
The bill would provide an additional $1 billion for a program that helps low-income households heat their homes. And it would transfer $3 billion from a Pentagon aid program to the State Department for continued Afghan resettlement operations.
Lawmakers also included a reauthorization of the Food and Drug Administration’s user fee agreements for five years, which ensures the agency can continue critical product safety reviews and won’t need to issue pink slips for thousands of employees working on drug and medical device applications.
One thing missing from the bill is the billions of dollars in additional funding that Biden sought to aid the response to COVID-19 and monkeypox. Republicans criticized the health spending as unnecessary. The White House said the money would have been used to accelerate the research and development of vaccines and therapeutics, prepare for future COVID variants and support the global response.


Cuba requests US aid after Hurricane Ian knocks out power 

Cuba requests US aid after Hurricane Ian knocks out power 
Updated 01 October 2022

Cuba requests US aid after Hurricane Ian knocks out power 

Cuba requests US aid after Hurricane Ian knocks out power 
  • The US has imposed sanctions on Cuba over its crackdown on widespread protests last July 

WASHINGTON: Cuba’s government has made a rare request for emergency assistance from the administration of US President Joe Biden after Hurricane Ian knocked out power to the whole island of 11 million people, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Hurricane Ian tore through the island nation on Tuesday, causing an country-wide blackouts, flattening homes and destroying agricultural fields. Cubans have staged protests against the government over the power loss, which heightened concerns over ongoing food, fuel and medicine shortages.
Washington has assessed that Cuban authorities would place priorities on hospitals, water pumping facilities, sanitation and other critical infrastructure if the Biden administration were to provide aid, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a review of email communications.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report, nor did Cuba’s embassy in Washington.
Biden has promised to re-engage with Cuba after years of tensions between Havana and Washington. But Cuba’s crackdown following widespread protests on the island last July led instead to sanctions on Cuban officials.
The Cuban government blamed the protests on meddling by the United States. 


Russia vetoes UN resolution calling its referendums illegal

Russia vetoes UN resolution calling its referendums illegal
Updated 01 October 2022

Russia vetoes UN resolution calling its referendums illegal

Russia vetoes UN resolution calling its referendums illegal
  • The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 10-1 with China, India, Brazil and Gabon abstaining
  • US and sponsor Albania to take resolution to General Assembly, where there are no vetoes

UNITED NATIONS: Russia vetoed a UN resolution Friday that would have condemned its referendums in four Ukrainian regions as illegal, declared them invalid and urged all countries not to recognize any annexation of the territory claimed by Moscow.
The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 10-1 with China, India, Brazil and Gabon abstaining.
The resolution would also have demanded an immediate halt to Russia’s “full-scale unlawful invasion of Ukraine” and the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all its military forces from Ukraine.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said before the vote that in the event of a Russian veto, the US and Albania who sponsored the resolution will take it to the 193-member General Assembly where there are no vetoes, “and show that the world is still on the side of sovereignty and protecting territorial integrity.”
That is likely to happen next week.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Barbara Woodward, echoed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ statement that Russia’s actions violate the UN Charter and must be condemned.
“The area Russia is claiming to annex is more than 90,000 square kilometers,” she said. “This is the largest forcible annexation of territory since the Second World War. There is no middle ground on this.”
The council vote came hours after a lavish Kremlin ceremony where President Vladimir Putin signed treaties to annex the Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, saying they were now part of Russia and would be defended by Moscow.
Thomas-Greenfield said the results of the “sham” referendums on whether the regions wanted to join Russia were “pre-determined in Moscow, and everybody knows it.” “They were held behind the barrel of Russian guns,” she said.
Adding that “the sacred principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity” at the heart of the UN Charter must be defended, she said, “All of us understand the implications for our own borders, our own economies, and our own countries if these principles are tossed aside.”
“Putin miscalculated the resolve of the Ukrainians,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “The Ukrainian people have demonstrated loud and clear: They will never accept being subjugated to Russian rule.”
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia defended the referendums, claiming that more than 100 international observers from Italy, Germany, Venezuela and Latvia who observed the voting recognized the outcomes as legitimate.
“The results of the referendums speak for themselves. The residents of these regions do not want to return to Ukraine. They have made a an informed and free choice in favor of our country,” he said.
Nebenzia added: “There will be no turning back as today’s draft resolution would try to impose.”
He accused Western nations on the council of “openly hostile actions,” saying they reached “a new low” by putting forward a resolution condemning a council member and forcing a Russian veto so they can “wax lyrical.”
Under a resolution adopted earlier this year, Russia must defend its veto before the General Assembly in the coming weeks.
Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be safeguarded.” But China abstained, he said, because it believes the Security Council should be using trying to calm the crisis “rather than intensifying conflicts and exacerbating confrontation.”
Brazil’s ambassador, Ronaldo Costa Filho, said the referendums “cannot be perceived as legitimate” and his country stands by the principle of territorial integrity of sovereign states. But it abstained because the resolution didn’t contribute to de-escalating tensions and finding “a solution for the conflict in Ukraine,” he said.


Saudi-UK business to grow ‘significantly’ under GCC trade deal, says lord mayor of London

Saudi-UK business to grow ‘significantly’ under GCC trade deal, says lord mayor of London
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudi-UK business to grow ‘significantly’ under GCC trade deal, says lord mayor of London

Saudi-UK business to grow ‘significantly’ under GCC trade deal, says lord mayor of London
  • UK-GCC free trade agreement appears to remain a priority for Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss
  • Vincent Keaveny says UK expertise will “contribute massively” to the Kingdom’s net-zero targets

LONDON: A pending free-trade agreement between the UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council will “significantly increase” their financial ties at a transformational moment for the global economy, the lord mayor of the City of London told Arab News prior to his tour of the region.

Vincent Keaveny, who will begin his tour in Riyadh this weekend, said Saudi investment in Britain already topped £65 billion ($69.36 billion) annually, with UK trade with the Gulf surpassing £33 billion.

“The GCC is our fourth-largest trading partner, which gives you an idea of the importance and scale of investment flows, which are two way, and I see this increasing significantly over the years,” he added.

“Saudi Arabia has great transformational plans for its own economy, and the financial and professional services here in the UK have a huge amount to offer in helping implement and support this.”

One of the oldest continuously elected civic officers, the lord mayor of London serves as mayor of the City of London and leads the City of London Corp., with a focus on representing, supporting and promoting business within the financial heart of the UK capital.

The UK-GCC FTA that was announced in June appears to remain a priority for Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss, and is hoped to generate £33.5 billion in new trade.

While hosting GCC foreign ministers last December, then-Foreign Secretary Truss stressed that “closer economic and security ties with our Gulf partners” was a priority.

Lord Mayor of the City of London, Vincent Keaveny and his wife Amanda arrive to attend the Lord Mayor's Banquet in central London last year. (AFP/File Photo)

Keaveny said: “The FTA would be a very positive statement of intent about the future relationship between the UK and the countries that make up the region, and we would support the prime minister’s ambitions to get this done and get this done as quickly as possible.”

He added: “I think with Liz Truss this will happen; she’s someone the City knows very well. We worked with her closely on the international trade agenda when she was international trade secretary and indeed, she had a pronounced focus on trade during her time as foreign secretary.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, told Arab News that the FTA will be a priority for Truss.

Her focus when it comes to the Middle East, he said, would very much be on “getting the free-trade deal over the line.”

Keaveny said he would not be surprised by requirements for country-level agreements between each of the parties to flesh it out, stressing that “we’d have to wait and see” on the details.

“I take the view that free-trade agreements provide a framing context. It may be that some of the FTAs we see coming through in the next couple of years aren’t as full as we’d like them in the City,” he added.

“I’d only encourage the negotiators involved in this FTA to get it settled as quickly as possible, albeit I do recognize that this is a complicated position when negotiating with a body, like the GCC, that represents a diverse group of countries with divergent interests.”

Vincent Keaveny will begin a regional tour in Riyadh this weekend. (AFP/File Photo)

When questioned if increased regulatory alliance was on the agenda, he stressed that he was “not close enough to the negotiation to know if regulatory alignment will be the outcome,” but that greater alignment would be a positive, particularly from a financial services perspective.

“Anything that makes provision of financial services smoother, whether through regulatory alignment or the liberalization of data flows, would be welcome,” he said. “But I’m genuinely not close enough to the negotiations to know if this is a realistic outcome.”

For Keaveny, “strong, historic” ties exist between the Gulf and the UK, and he envisages “significant investment requirements and opportunities.”

In Saudi Arabia, there is the combination of its Vision 2030 plan — aimed at reducing its reliance on hydrocarbons, diversifying its economy and expanding public services — and its determination to be net-zero by 2060.

“All of this requires support, and the UK’s expertise and approach to net-zero and the financing of the transition means in many ways the City of London and the country are the thought leaders on this issue,” said Keaveny.  

“So we’ll be able to contribute massively to Saudi Arabia’s plans on this. It’s a big win as there are all sort of benefits that will flow and scope to significantly increase this, both in terms of financial assets and UK infrastructure, whether power structure or other utilities.”

Keaveny praised “strong, historic” ties between the Gulf and the UK, and said he envisaged “significant investment requirements and opportunities.” (Supplied/City of London)

Keaveny’s tour coincides with a fractious moment for the world, as the Russia-Ukraine conflict ekes into its ninth month amid growing concerns of a winter of discontent for a Europe that grew dependent upon Russian gas.

Even so, he does not see it being a major talking point for the parties involved. “Clearly the war in Ukraine has global economic repercussions, and if it comes up I believe it will be in the context of that, and on the effects it’s having on inflationary pressures around the world and on our net-zero ambitions,” said Keaveny.

He expressed excitement at the decision to host this year’s and next year’s UN Climate Change Conference in the Middle East, in Egypt and the UAE respectively.

“It’s very exciting that we have a COP festival in Africa this year and next year’s in Dubai, as it will frame a different set of discussions than the Glasgow one, and will set in motion what we need to do to finance the transition in developing economies,” he said.

“My own view, and I think it’s a view that’s shared by Mark Carney (former Bank of England governor) and John Kerry (US special presidential envoy for climate), is that the role of the multilateral development banks that define the finance institutions in this process are critical players, provided the right conditions are set.”