Senate OKs landmark gun violence bill, House passage is next

Senate OKs landmark gun violence bill, House passage is next
In the key roll call hours earlier, senators voted 65-34 to end a filibuster. (AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2022

Senate OKs landmark gun violence bill, House passage is next

Senate OKs landmark gun violence bill, House passage is next

WASHINGTON: The Senate easily approved a bipartisan gun violence bill Thursday that seemed unthinkable a month ago, setting up final approval of what will be Congress’ most far-reaching response in decades to the nation’s run of brutal mass shootings.
After years futile Democratic efforts to curb firearms, 15 Republicans joined with them as both sides decided inaction was untenable after last month’s rampages in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. It took weeks of closed-door talks but senators emerged with a compromise embodying incremental but impactful movement to curb bloodshed that has come to regularly shock — yet no longer surprise — the nation.
The $13 billion measure would 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 dangerous. It would also fund local programs for school safety, mental health and violence prevention.
“Families in Uvalde and Buffalo, and too many tragic shootings before, have demanded action. And tonight, we acted,” President Joe Biden said after passage. He said the House should send it to him quickly, adding, “Kids in schools and communities will be safer because of it.”
The election-year package fell far short of more robust gun restrictions Democrats have sought and Republicans have thwarted for years, including bans on the assault-type weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines used in the slayings in Buffaloand Uvalde. Yet the accord let leaders of both parties declare victory and demonstrate to voters that they know how to compromise and make government work, while also leaving room for each side to appeal to its core supporters.
“This is not a cure-all for the all the ways gun violence affects our nation,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., whose party has made gun restrictions a goal for decades. “But it is a long overdue step in the right direction.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, in a nod to the Second Amendment right to bear arms that drives many conservative voters, said “the American people want their constitutional rights protected and their kids to be safe in school.” He said “they want both of those things at once, and that is just what the bill before the Senate will have accomplished.”
The day proved bittersweet for advocates of curtailing gun violence. Underscoring the enduring potency of conservative cIout, the right-leaning Supreme Court issued a decision expanding the right of Americans to carry arms in public by striking down a New York law requiring people to prove a need for carrying a weapon before they get a license to do so.
McConnell hailed the justices’ decision and Senate passage of the guns bill as “complementary victories that will make our country freer and safer at the same time.”
The Senate vote on final passage was 65-33. A cluster of House Democrats who watched the vote in the chamber’s rear included Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., whose 17-year old son was shot to death in 2012 by a man complaining his music was too loud.
In the key roll call hours earlier, senators voted 65-34 to end a filibuster by conservative GOP senators. That was five more than the 60-vote threshold needed. The House planned to vote Friday and approval seemed certain.
On both votes, 15 Senate Republicans joined all 50 Democrats, including their two allied independents, in backing the legislation.
Yet the votes highlighted the risks Republicans face by defying the party’s pro-gun voters and firearms groups like the National Rifle Association. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Todd Young of Indiana were the only two of the 15 up for reelection this fall. Of the rest, four are retiring and eight don’t face voters until 2026.
Tellingly, GOP senators voting “no” included potential 2024 presidential contenders like Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Some of the party’s most conservative members voted “no” as well, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
Cruz said the legislation would “disarm law-abiding citizens rather than take serious measures to protect our children.”
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, hailed senators who supported the measure for “coming together and putting the safety of the American people ahead of gun lobby priorities.”
While the Senate measure was a clear breakthrough, the outlook for continued congressional movement on gun curbs is dim.
Less than one-third of the Senate’s 50 GOP senators backed the measure and solid Republican opposition is certain in the House. Top House Republicans urged a “no” vote in an email from the No. 2 GOP leader, Rep. Steve Scalize of Louisiana, that called the bill “an effort to slowly chip away at law-abiding citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights.”
Both chambers — now narrowly controlled by Democrats — could well be run by the GOP after November’s midterm elections.
Senate action came one month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde. Just days before that, a white man was accused of being motivated by racism as he killed 10 Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo. Both shooters were 18 years old, a youthful profile shared by many mass shooters, and the close timing of the two slaughters and victims with whom many could identify stirred a demand by voters for action, lawmakers of both parties said.
The talks were led by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. Murphy represented Newtown, Connecticut, when an assailant killed 20 students and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, while Cornyn has been involved in past gun talks following mass shootings in his state and is close to McConnell.
Murphy said the measure would save thousands of lives and was a chance to “prove to a weary American public that democracy is not so broken that it is unable to rise to the moment.”
“I don’t believe in doing nothing in the face of what we saw in Uvalde” and elsewhere, Cornyn said.
The bill would make the local juvenile records of people age 18 to 20 available during required federal background checks when they attempt to buy guns. Those examinations, currently limited to three days, would last up to a maximum of 10 days to give federal and local officials time to search records.
People convicted of domestic abuse who are current or former romantic partners of the victim would be prohibited from acquiring firearms, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
That ban currently only applies to people married to, living with or who have had children with the victim. The compromise bill would extend that to those considered to have had “a continuing serious relationship.”
There would be money to help states enforce red flag laws and for other states without them that for violence prevention programs. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have such laws.
The measure expands the use of background checks by rewriting the definition of the federally licensed gun dealers required to conduct them. Penalties for gun trafficking are strengthened, billions of dollars are provided for behavioral health clinics and school mental health programs and there’s money for school safety initiatives, though not for personnel to use a “dangerous weapon.”

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy
Updated 30 June 2022

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy

US Supreme Court backs Biden bid to end Trump ‘remain in Mexico’ policy
  • Supreme Court overturns decision requiring Biden to restart Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy after the Republican-led states sued to maintain the program

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Thursday gave a major boost to President Joe Biden’s drive to end a hard-line immigration policy begun under his predecessor Donald Trump that forced tens of thousands of migrants to stay in Mexico to await US hearings on their asylum claims.
The justices, in a 5-4 ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, overturned a lower court’s decision requiring Biden to restart Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy after the Republican-led states of Texas and Missouri sued to maintain the program.
The ruling bolsters Biden as he pursues what he calls a more “humane” approach at the southern border even as Republicans blame him for what they portray as an immigration crisis.
The justices concluded that the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals erred in finding that federal immigration law required sending migrants back to Mexico so long as there was not enough space to detain them in the United States.
“The problem is that the statute does not say anything like that,” Roberts wrote, adding that the 5th Circuit’s decision also mistakenly imposed a “significant burden” upon the US government’s ability to conduct diplomatic relations with Mexico.
Trump’s administration adopted the policy, formally called the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” in 2018 in response to an increase in migration along the US-Mexican border, changing longstanding US practice. It prevented certain non-Mexican migrants, including asylum seekers fearing persecution in their home countries, from being released into the United States to await immigration proceedings, instead returning them to Mexico.
Biden’s fellow Democrats and immigration advocates have criticized Trump’s policy, saying migrants stuck in Mexican border cities have faced kidnappings and other hazards.
Roberts was joined by fellow conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the three liberal justices in the ruling. In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito — joined by fellow conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — said Congress never meant for the government to release immigrants and simply hope they “will show up for the hearing.”
The ruling also faulted the 5th Circuit for voiding the administration’s June 2021 decision to end Trump’s program. The 5th Circuit found that Biden’s administration had failed to properly explain its rescinding of Trump’s policy in violation of federal administrative law. But the Supreme Court found that the June 2021 decision was superseded by a new, more detailed one issued by the administration four months later.
Biden suspended the “remain in Mexico” policy in January 2021 shortly after taking office and acted to rescind it five months later. Roughly 68,000 people fell under the policy from the time it took effect in 2019 until Biden suspended it.
At issue in the case was the meaning of a provision of a 1996 US immigration law that stated that US officials “may return” certain immigrants to Mexican territory pending immigration proceedings. Texas and Missouri have said this provision must be used because the United States lacks detention space for migrants. Biden’s administration said the provision was clearly discretionary.
For migrants not posing a security risk, immigration law separately allows their release into the United States for humanitarian reasons or “significant public benefit” pending a hearing, a practice officials have followed for decades.
Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion, said that every president since the late 1990s has allowed immigrants into the United States to await their proceedings.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, criticized the ruling, saying it “will only embolden the Biden administration’s open border policies.”
Immigrant rights groups called the ruling a victory.
“The US for generations has been a refuge for those fleeing danger and persecution,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, urging Biden’s administration to “move swiftly to permanently end every facet of the human rights disaster that is ‘remain in Mexico.’“
The number of migrants caught crossing the US-Mexico border has reached record highs recently. Republicans contend that the “remain in Mexico” policy effectively deterred unlawful migration.
After a judge ruled in favor of Texas and Missouri, reinstating the program, the Supreme Court last August refused the Biden administration’s request to block that decision while it appealed. The 5th Circuit ruled in December that because the government lacks the capacity to detain all migrants eligible for admission pending a hearing, it must maintain “remain in Mexico.”
Thursday’s decision came on the final day of rulings for the court’s current nine-month term.

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views
Updated 30 June 2022

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views
  • ‘Dark money’ and smearing as antisemitic scuppers re-election bid, says candidate’s advisor
  • ‘Campaign reforms vital to limit political funding by reactionary, pro-Israel, interest groups’

CHICAGO: Although many Arab activists will point a finger at former president Donald Trump and blame him for racism and discrimination against their community, one of the newest and loudest voices supporting Palestinian rights was ousted by the Democratic Party they supported during Tuesday’s Illinois elections.

Congresswoman Marie Newman, who was elected in 2020 to represent the 3rd District, which has one of the largest concentrations of Palestinian voters, lost her re-election bid to a fellow member of the Democratic Party who had support from both the Democrats and pro-Israel PACs.

Newman was targeted by these political action committees because she had during her first year in office introduced or co-sponsored dozens of resolutions and bills defending Palestinian civil and human rights, which also harshly criticized Israel’s government policies.

To silence Newman, her supporters said, her own Democratic Party redrew her district and forced her to run against another more centrist Democrat, two-term incumbent Sean Casten of the 6th District.

Newman lost to Casten in the Illinois Democratic Primary Tuesday, June 28. Casten received 54 percent of the vote while Newman received only 42.3 percent, according to unofficial Illinois State Election Board results.

Shadin Maali, a Palestinian American political consultant who joined Newman’s team, blamed her defeat on “dark money” and being defamed as “antisemitic” because of her criticism of Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians.


“We can be critical of our own government,” Maali told Arab News Wednesday during the broadcast of The Ray Hanania Show program.

“We can criticize our government left and right. We do it every day. It is our fundamental democratic right to do so. But for some reason, this whole antisemitic label, when we are, when we question, or are critical of Israel in any way (this is how we’re labelled). All anybody that is pro-peace, pro-justice is saying here in our district and all over the country and the world, is that we want rights to be recognized for everybody. That’s all.”

Maali said that Newman was the target of a massive assault funded by pro-Israel critics who opposed her supporting justice for Palestine.


“I think we need to get the money out of politics. It shouldn’t be about who raises the most money. It should be about who represents the people the best,” Maali said, arguing there needs to be limits on how much money candidates can spend or receive from outside special interest PACs.

“Campaign reform. We absolutely need campaign reform. Every time you mail out a negative ad smearing a candidate, that is ($30,000) to $50,000. Most of the time it is not the candidates doing that. It is the PACs, the special interest PACs that are endorsing these candidates and are working on their behalf.”

As of June 8, 2022, three weeks before the election, Casten raised $3,112,950 and spent $2,572,280, while Newman raised $1,467,558 and spent $1,176,151, according to Open Secrets which monitors campaign funding.

In addition to media purchased by Casten, pro-Israel PACs spent $504,266 to attack Newman in TV ads and mailers and $154,517 to support Casten.


“The dark money exactly. That is exactly what is happening. And it is what’s happening to Marie every single day. We were getting, in my house, we were getting two to three ads smearing Marie to try to get her out,” Maali said.

“Why is the establishment working so hard to taint the name of somebody who is the third most prolific legislator in office out of the new freshman class?”

She emphasized: “It is completely about the money. It is so horrible because we are not on an equal footing.”

Newman is only one of a handful of the 435 members of the US House of Representatives who openly criticize Israel.

Maali concluded that it was her own Democratic Party that marginalized her in the election, leading to her defeat, and silencing a voice for peace and justice.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here.

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice
Updated 30 June 2022

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice
  • Ghanem cited Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories as a clear paradigm of the global failure to ensure mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty

BAKU: Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker, Marzouq Al-Ghanem, said on Thursday that the world is in dire need of a principled neutral third voice calling for the application of law and justice in the face of risks worldwide, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

At the Parliamentary Network of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Conference in Baku, Ghanem stated that the fact that the Palestinian struggle remains unresolved is proof of the ongoing threats in various world regions.

Ghanem added that although NAM was founded 67 years ago, the problems that led to its inception persist, with the risk of a third world war looming.

Ghanem cited Palestine and the Zionist occupation of Palestinian territories as a clear paradigm in this regard, saying its continuation is a disgrace to both the past and present world orders.

He stressed that looking forward, a major challenge will be promoting a movement that is moderate and fair.

Ghanem also thanked Azerbaijan for overseeing the Non-Aligned Movement since it assumed the rotating presidency three years ago, as well as for all of its efforts during its term.

The conference, which began earlier this Thursday, brings together parliamentary delegations from over 40 countries, as well as representatives from nine international parliamentary organizations, to advance their roles in promoting global peace and sustainable development.

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5
Updated 30 June 2022

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5
  • A panel of medical experts convened by the agency voted in favor of updating Covid vaccines against Omicron
  • BA.4 and BA.5, which are more transmissible and immune evasive, now comprise more than 52 percent of US Covid cases

WASHINGTON: The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday told vaccine makers that Covid boosters for this fall and winter should include components targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 sub lineages of omicron.
Earlier this week, a panel of medical experts convened by the agency voted in favor of updating Covid vaccines against omicron, with most indicating they would favor shots that target the latest iterations rather than its original form, BA.1, fearing the latter would be too out-of-date.
BA.4 and BA.5, which are more transmissible and immune evasive, now comprise more than 52 percent of US Covid cases, according to an official tracker.
“We have advised manufacturers seeking to update their Covid-19 vaccines that they should develop modified vaccines that add an omicron BA.4/5 spike protein component to the current vaccine composition to create a two component (bivalent) booster vaccine,” the FDA said in a statement.
These vaccines would also need to target the original Wuhan strain, in order to increase the breadth of immune response.
Pfizer and Moderna, which produce messenger RNA Covid vaccines, have developed and tested vaccines against BA.1, and representatives of both companies indicated during the experts’ meeting they would need around three months to produce BA.4 and BA.5 vaccines at scale.
Pfizer shared early results showing its BA.4/5 vaccine produced a strong antibody response in mice, but it hasn’t yet been trialed in humans.
Novavax, which makes a protein subunit vaccine, said it could offer BA.4/5 vaccines by the end of the year.
The FDA said in its new statement that the companies would need to submit human data prior to authorization.
The “primary series” or first shots a person receives would remain against the original strain, the FDA added.
While previous “variants of concern” like Alpha and Delta eventually petered out, omicron and its sub lineages have dominated throughout 2022, to the point it comprises the vast majority of all Covid in the world, FDA official Jerry Weir told the expert meeting this week.
This makes it more likely that the virus’s future evolution will also occur along the omicron branch of the Covid family tree, he added.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization also recommended the use of omicron boosters after a primary series against the original strain.

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur
Updated 30 June 2022

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur
  • More than 1,000 participants arrived from Saudi Arabia and 16 Asian countries
  • Conference was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob

KUALA LUMPUR: Participants from 17 countries gathered in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday for the first conference of Asian religious scholars organized in Malaysia by the Muslim World League to unite efforts addressing extremist ideologies.

The MWL is an international non-governmental Islamic organization founded in Saudi Arabia in 1962, that focuses on promoting and clarifying the worldwide understanding of Islam. It is headquartered in Makkah and maintains offices around the world.

More than 1,000 participants arrived from Saudi Arabia and countries including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The conference was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Malaysian Religious Affairs Minister Idris Ahmad and MWL Secretary-General Sheikh Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa.

“We feel proud and lucky that the MWL has chosen Malaysia to host the conference, which of course is a recognition to our country, which highlights Islam as a harmonious, safe and prosperous religion in a multi-racial and multi-religious society,” Yaakob said, adding that the meeting was taking place at a time when Muslims are still facing various challenges, including disputes among themselves, provocation, and Islamophobia.

The meeting will pave the way for the establishment in Kuala Lumpur a permanent council under the umbrella of the MWL.

Al-Issa said that the council’s first session was planned next year. The conference aims at developing educational tools and initiatives to foster collaboration and solidarity, especially among young and emerging leaders, to combat extremist ideology and what the MWL said in a statement were “artificial differences that sometimes exist” in politically diverse societies.

“With the efforts of the scholars, multi-pronged activities are being carried out to counter extremism in all parts of the world,” Al-Issa told Arab News on the sidelines of the conference. “We are hopeful that such efforts will bear fruits in due course and help wipe out extremism totally.”

He said that the MWL had chosen multiethnic Malaysia as it is “well known for its harmonious life.

“It is an ideal region for the propagation of harmony and peaceful coexistence among Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.

“The attendance in large numbers bears eloquent testimony to the enthusiasm of the people and religious scholars to work towards peace, harmony, and coexistence.”