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. 


Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’
Updated 25 June 2022

Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’
  • "Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved,” Biden said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House
  • Citing the families of shooting victims he has met, the president said, "Their message to us was, ‘Do something’”

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.
“Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved,” he said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Citing the families of shooting victims he has met, the president said, “Their message to us was, ‘Do something.’ How many times did we hear that? ‘Just do something. For God’s sake, just do something.’ Today we did.”
The House gave final approval Friday, following Senate passage Thursday, and Biden acted just before leaving Washington for two summits in Europe.
“Today we say, ‘More than enough,’” Biden said. “It’s time, when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential.”
The legislation will toughen background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders and help states put in place red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people adjudged to be dangerous.
The president called it “a historic achievement.”
Most of its $13 billion cost will help bolster mental health programs and aid schools, which have been targeted in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, and elsewhere in mass shootings.
Biden said the compromise hammered out by a bipartisan group of senators from both parties “doesn’t do everything I want” but “it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives.”
“I know there’s much more work to do, and I’m never going to give up, but this is a monumental day,” said the president, who was joined by his wife, Jill, a teacher, for the signing.
After sitting to sign the bill, Biden sat reflectively for a moment, then murmured, “God willing, this is gonna save a lot of lives.”
He also said they will host an event on July 11 for lawmakers and families affected by gun violence. The president spoke of families “who lost their souls to an epidemic of gun violence. They lost their child, their husband, their wife. Nothing is going to fill that void in their hearts. But they led the way so other families will not have the experience and the pain and trauma that they had to live through.”
Biden signed the measure two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday striking down a New York law that restricted peoples’ ability to carry concealed weapons. And Saturday’s ceremony came less than 24 hours after the high court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which had legalized abortion nationwide for nearly five decades.
“Yesterday, I spoke about the Supreme Court’s shocking decision striking down Roe v. Wade,” Biden said. “Jill and I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans. I mean so many Americans.”
He noted that the abortion ruling leaves enforcement up to the states, some of which have already moved to ban abortion or will soon do so. Biden said his administration will “focus on how they administer it and whether or not they violate other laws, like deciding to not allow people to cross state lines to get health services.”
Asked by reporters about whether the Supreme Court was broken, Biden said, “I think the Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions.” He walked away without answering more questions, noting, ” “I have a helicopter waiting for me to take off.”
While the new gun law does not include tougher restrictions long championed by Democrats, such as a ban on assault-style weapons and background checks for all firearm transactions, it is the most impactful gun violence measure produced by Congress since enactment a long-expired assault weapons ban in 1993.
Enough congressional Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the steps after recent rampages in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. It took weeks of closed-door talks but senators emerged with a compromise.
Biden signed the bill just before departing Washington for a summit of the Group of Seven leading economic powers — the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — in Germany. He will travel later to Spain for a NATO meeting.


Afghan escape relatives barred from UK family reunions

Afghan escape relatives barred from UK family reunions
Updated 25 June 2022

Afghan escape relatives barred from UK family reunions

Afghan escape relatives barred from UK family reunions
  • UK government cites housing shortages as former Afghan allies denied chance to reunite with families

LONDON: British ministers have been accused of failing to honor their promises to Afghan refugees by refusing to accommodate their family members.

About 12,000 Afghan refugees are still living in hotels paid for by the British taxpayer as ministers blame a housing shortage for the delay.

When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last year, the UK government told refugees that their family members would be allowed to join them once they were evacuated.

But The Times newspaper said that 10 months after the collapse of Kabul, about 6,500 refugees were still blocked from joining family members in the UK because they had yet to be granted refugee status.

The newspaper quoted government sources saying that ministers were forced to adjust the policy of family reunion because the average family size of those involved is 6.7, and regulations on housing rules meant that bigger homes were needed to shelter them.

By contrast, the average household size in Britain is three, and much of local government housing is developed around this figure.

Hossain Saeedi, 37, told The Times that he was evacuated with his wife and children, but his request to bring in his ex-wife, who is mother to his son, was denied.

He said: “The cases of Afghan family reunion have been overshadowed by the new scheme for Ukrainian refugees.”

The 6,500 Afghans barred from refugee status were brought in on the Home Office’s Pathway 1 scheme. In September, the government indicated that family members would be allowed to join other refugees, but has failed to demonstrate how this would be achieved.

The Home Office said that the 6,500 evacuees from Afghanistan who were unable to travel with their relatives would be given “options” for rejoining them “in due course.”

“Around 6,500 people were brought to safety in the UK during and after the Afghanistan evacuation who are eligible for the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme and received leave to remain under Pathway 1. While they do not hold refugee status, those who were evacuated were able to bring their immediate family members, including spouse or partner and children under 18 years old,” the government said.

The delay in reuniting families comes as a letter by several leading charity figures accused the government of treating Afghans unfairly compared with Ukrainians, who have received two visa schemes for reuniting family members, warning that this could have severe consequences on their mental health.

The letter, signed by the CEOs of Amnesty International, British Red Cross, Oxfam, Refugee Council, Safe Passage, Student Action for Refugees, UNHCR and Voices Network, said: “Ten months later these families remain separated. This is despite the government indicating, as long ago as September 2021, that family members would be eligible to join people who had been evacuated.

“Prolonged separation is distressing for families and can have a severe impact on mental health.

“We saw how the government acted to bring Ukrainian families together through the Ukraine Family Scheme. They must now act with the same urgency to safely reunite Afghan evacuees with their loved ones.”


UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election

UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election
Updated 25 June 2022

UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election

UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election
  • Earlier this month, Johnson survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers
  • Fears that Johnson could have become an electoral liability may prompt lawmakers to move against him

KIGALI: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed on Saturday to lead his Conservative party into the next national election, which could be more than two years away, despite two bruising by-election defeats that have led to renewed calls for him to quit.
Earlier this month, Johnson survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers, though 41 percent of his parliamentary colleagues voted to oust him, and he is under investigation by a committee over whether he intentionally misled parliament.
On Friday, Conservative candidates lost two elections to the House of Commons held to replace former Conservative incumbents who had to step down, one after being convicted of sexual assault and the other for watching pornography in parliament.
The election defeats suggest the broad voter appeal which helped Johnson win the 2019 election may be fracturing after a scandal over illegal parties held at Downing Street during coronavirus lockdowns.
Fears that Johnson could have become an electoral liability may prompt lawmakers to move against him, at a time when millions of Britons are struggling with rising food and fuel prices.
However, Johnson said he did not expect to face another internal challenge from within his party.
When asked on the final day of a trip to Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit if he would fight another confidence vote, Johnson told reporters: “What? We just had one of those things and I’m very happy to have got a bigger mandate from my parliamentary party than I got in 2019.”
Asked if he felt the question of his leadership was settled, the prime minister said: “Yes.”
Under existing party rules, Johnson’s leadership cannot be formally challenged again for another year.
Asked if he would lead the Conservatives into the next election, which is due no later than December 2024, Johnson said: “Will I win? Yes.”
Johnson blamed the by-election defeats partly on months of media reporting of lockdown parties at the heart of government.
“I think that actually people were fed up of hearing about things I had stuffed up, or allegedly stuffed up, or whatever, this endless, completely legitimate, but endless churn of news,” he said.
Earlier on Saturday, Johnson told BBC radio he rejected the notion that he should change his behavior.
“If you’re saying you want me to undergo some sort of psychological transformation, I think that our listeners would know that that ... is not going to happen.”

PARTY TROUBLE
Johnson’s explanation for the defeat may do little to ease frustration in the Conservative Party.
A wave of resignations by senior ministers might force Johnson out before the next national election. The party’s chairman, Oliver Dowden, quit after the by-election defeats.
Former Conservative leaders Michael Howard and William Hague are the latest senior party figures to call for Johnson to go.
Asked what his message was for Conservative lawmakers who fear they could lose their seats at the next election, Johnson said: “We have to focus on the things that matter to voters, get it right on the cost of living, the economy.”
Johnson refused to comment on a report in The Times newspaper that he had planned to get a donor to fund a 150,000-pound ($184,000) treehouse for his son at his state-provided country residence.
The story comes months after his party was fined for failing to accurately report a donation which helped fund the refurbishment of his Downing Street apartment.
“I’m not going to comment on non-existent objects,” Johnson said when asked if he planned to use a donor’s money to build the treehouse. ($1 = 0.8155 pounds)


Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID
Updated 25 June 2022

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID
  • The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented strict COVID-19 measures

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Beijing on Saturday said it would allow primary and secondary schools to resume in-person classes and Shanghai’s top party boss declared victory over COVID-19 after the city reported zero new local cases for the first time in two months.
The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented curbs to stop the spread of the omicron wave during March to May, with Shanghai imposing a two month-long city-wide lockdown that lifted on June 1.
The efforts, part of China’s adherence to a zero-COVID policy that aims to eradicate all outbreaks, have brought case numbers down but many of the heavy-handed measures have fueled anger and even rare protests and taken a heavy toll on the economy.
Beijing shut its schools in early May and asked students to move to online learning amid a spike in locally transmitted COVID cases. Senior year students at middle and high schools were allowed to return to classrooms from June 2.
On Saturday, with case numbers trending lower in recent days, the capital’s education commission said all primary and secondary school students in the capital can return to in-person classes from Monday. Kindergartens will be allowed to reopen from July 4.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports said separately that sports activities for the young can resume at non-school locations on June 27 in areas where no community cases have been reported for seven consecutive days, with the exception of basement venues, which will remain shut.
The Universal Beijing Resort, which had been closed for nearly two months, reopened on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Shanghai reported no new local cases — both symptomatic and asymptomatic — for June 24, the first time the Chinese economic hub had done so since Feb. 23.
Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang said at the opening at the city’s party congress on Saturday that authorities had “won the war to defend Shanghai” against COVID by implementing the instructions of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and that Beijing’s epidemic prevention decisions were “completely correct.” The city, however, remains on edge. Most students have not been allowed to resume in-person classes and dining indoors is still banned. It also plans to continue conducting mass PCR testing for its 25 million residents every weekend until the end of July.


Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police
Updated 25 June 2022

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police
  • Attack is being treated as a possible ‘terrorist act’
  • Motive behind attack remains unclear

OSLO: An overnight shooting in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, that killed two people and wounded more than a dozen is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, Norwegian police said Saturday.
In a news conference Saturday, police officials said the man arrested after the shooting was a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin who was previously known to police but not for major crimes.
They said they had seized two firearms in connection with the attack: a handgun and an automatic weapon.
The events occurred outside a nightclub and in nearby streets in central Oslo.
Police spokesman Tore Barstad said 14 people were receiving medical treatment, eight of whom have been hospitalized.
Olav Roenneberg, a journalist from Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he witnessed the shooting.
“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK. “First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a Facebook post that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the community.
Christian Bredeli, who was at the bar, told Norwegian newspaper VG that he hid on the fourth floor with a group of about 10 people until he was told it was safe to come out.
“Many were fearing for their lives,” he said. “On our way out we saw several injured people, so we understood that something serious had happened.”
Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people running down Oslo streets in panic as shots rang out in the background.
Norway is a relatively safe country but has experienced violent attacks by right-wing extremists, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe in 2011, when a gunman killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after setting off a bomb in Oslo that left eight dead.
In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his stepsister and then opened fire in a mosque but was overpowered before anyone there was injured.