Britain’s Boris Johnson battles to stay as PM amid revolt

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Wednesday, July 6, 2022. (AP)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Wednesday, July 6, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 07 July 2022

Britain’s Boris Johnson battles to stay as PM amid revolt

Britain’s Boris Johnson battles to stay as PM amid revolt
  • Johnson made the remarks in parliament in response to a question from a lawmaker in his own party
  • He insists he won’t step down and rules out an election

LONDON: Britain's Boris Johnson defied pressure from senior ministers and a mounting rebellion within his party to quit on Wednesday, vowing to stay on as prime minister and fight off any attempts to oust him.
By Wednesday evening, 39 ministers and their Tory MP aides had quit over the prior 24 hours, mostly from more junior positions outside the cabinet.
A cabinet delegation had awaited his return to Downing Street from a lengthy grilling by a parliamentary committee to tell him his time was up.
It was said to include hard-line interior minister Priti Patel and Nadhim Zahawi, who has barely been 24 hours in his new job of finance minister.
One encouraged him to make a dignified exit by setting his own timetable rather than face a confidence vote.
But despite the clamour for him to resign, Johnson was continuing to focus on the important issues, a government source said after his meeting with members of his top cabinet team. A senior Conservative said the prime minister was digging in.
"I am not going to step down and the last thing this country needs, frankly, is an election," he told a parliamentary committee earlier, saying he had a mandate from the 2019 national election, which he won with a large majority.
Johnson also refused to say if he would try to stay in the job even if he lost a confidence vote from his own lawmakers. That could come next week if they agree to change the party's rules, which only allow one such challenge a year. He narrowly won a similar vote last month.
Late Wednesday, Johnson  fired one of his top cabinet allies, fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove, as he mounted a fightback against the cabinet revolt, a Johnson aide said.
"He sacked Michael Gove," Johnson's parliamentary private secretary James Duddridge told Sky News, adding: "The prime minister is in buoyant mood and will fight on."
A senior Conservative lawmaker on condition of anonymity said: "The prime minister is deluded if he feels he can cling on in the face of collapsed parliamentary support. He is embarrassing the Conservative Party and showing contempt for the electorate."
But culture minister Nadine Dories said she was behind Johnson and, when asked if others also still backed him, she replied: "Yes, definitely."
The dramatic resignations on Tuesday of his health and finance ministers triggered a growing swell of other ministerial departures, while many Conservative lawmakers openly said they wanted him gone, questioning his fitness to govern and his integrity.
At parliamentary questions on Wednesday some Conservatives struggled not to laugh when others poked fun at him and he took a pummelling from a committee of senior politicians over his past behaviour, his motivation and some of the scandals that have come to define much of his tenure.

'TRUMPIAN STANDOFF'?
The ebullient Johnson came to power nearly three years ago, promising to deliver Britain's exit from the European Union and rescue it from the bitter wrangling that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Since then, some Conservatives have enthusiastically backed the former journalist and London mayor while others, despite reservations, supported him because he was able to appeal to parts of the electorate that usually rejected their party.
That was borne out in the December 2019 election. But his administration's combative and often chaotic approach to governing and a series of scandals have exhausted the goodwill of many of his lawmakers while opinion polls show he is no longer popular with the public at large.
Despite even one-time supporters saying the current crisis could only end with his resignation, Johnson vowed to fight on and his spokesperson said he was confident of winning another confidence motion.
"The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you've been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going," Johnson told parliament. "And that's what I'm going to do."
All might change next week when the 1922 Committee that sets the rules for the Conservative parliamentary party holds an election to its executive that could usher in a rule change to allow a second confidence vote on his leadership.
Johnson has tried to reassert his authority by quickly appointing Nadhim Zahawi - a rising Conservative star widely praised for the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines - as finance minister. But Zahawi was among the group of ministers in Downing Street who were to tell him to go.
Earlier in parliament, senior ministers struggled to contain their laughter as the opposition Labour leader poked fun at his cabinet for being in the "charge of the lightweight brigade".
"At some point, we have to conclude that enough is enough. I believe that point is now," said Sajid Javid, in his resignation speech as health minister, with Johnson listening stony-faced.
His leadership has been mired in scandals over the last few months. He was fined by police for breaking COVID-19 lockdown laws, while a damning report laid bare breaches of those rules by Downing Street officials, and a committee is investigating whether he then lied to parliament about it.
There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defence of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism that he has not done enough to tackle inflation, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.
The latest scandal saw Johnson apologising for appointing a lawmaker to a role involved in party welfare and discipline, after being briefed that the politician had been the subject of complaints about sexual misconduct.
With no immediate way of forcing Johnson from office, one Conservative lawmaker likened his determination to cling on to the attempts by former President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 U.S. election result.
"We could end up in a Trumpian standoff," the lawmaker said. "This could end up causing enormous embarrassment and damage to the party."
(With Reuters and AFP)


Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion
Updated 9 sec ago

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion

Taiwan holds military drill as China accused of preparing invasion
  • Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China
  • Taipei’s drill started in the southern county of Pingtung shortly with the firing of target flares and artillery
FENGGANG TOWNSHIP, Taiwan: Taiwan held an artillery drill Tuesday simulating a defense against an attack as its top diplomat accused Beijing of preparing to invade the island after days of massive Chinese war games.
China launched its largest-ever air and sea exercises around Taiwan last week in a furious response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking American official to visit the self-ruled island in decades.
Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views its neighbor as part of Chinese territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.
“China has used the drills and its military playbook to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan,” Joseph Wu told a press conference in Taipei on Tuesday, accusing Beijing of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military action.
“China’s real intention is to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and entire region,” he said.
Taipei’s drill started in the southern county of Pingtung shortly with the firing of target flares and artillery, ending just under an hour later, said Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps.
Soldiers fired from howitzers tucked into the coast, hidden from view of the road that leads to popular beach destination Kenting.
The drills, which will also take place Thursday, included the deployment of hundreds of troops and about 40 howitzers, the army said.
On Monday, Lou said the drills had been scheduled previously and were not in response to China’s exercises.
The island routinely stages military drills simulating defense against a Chinese invasion, and last month practiced repelling attacks from the sea in a “joint interception operation” as part of its largest annual exercises.
The anti-landing exercises come after China extended its own joint sea and air drills around Taiwan on Monday, but Washington said it did not expect an escalation from Beijing.
“I’m not worried, but I’m concerned they’re moving as much as they are. But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more than they are,” Biden told reporters at Dover Air Force Base.
China has not confirmed if its drills in the Taiwan Strait will continue Tuesday.
But Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu condemned Beijing for extending its military exercises around the island, accusing them of trying to control the Taiwan Strait and waters in the wider Asia-Pacific region.
“It is conducting large-scale military exercises and missile launches, as well as cyber-attacks, a disinformation campaign and economic coercion in order to weaken public morale in Taiwan,” he said.
Wu went on to thank Western allies, including the US after Pelosi’s visit, for standing up to China.
“It also sends a clear message to the world that democracy will not bow to the intimidation of authoritarianism,” he said.
Taiwan has insisted that no Chinese warplanes or ships entered its territorial waters — within 12 nautical miles of land — during Beijing’s drills.
The Chinese military, however, released a video last week of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit, showing how close it had come to Taiwan’s shores.
Its ships and planes have also regularly crossed the median line — an unofficial demarcation between China and Taiwan that the former does not recognize — since drills began last week.
Ballistic missiles were fired over Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, during the exercises last week, according to Chinese state media.
On Tuesday, the Chinese military released more details about the anti-submarine drills it had conducted a day earlier around the island.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater command said the exercises were aimed at enhancing the ability of air and sea units to work together while hunting submarines.
It said maritime patrol aircraft, fighter jets, helicopters and a destroyer practiced locating and attacking targets in the waters off Taiwan.
The scale and intensity of China’s drills — as well as its withdrawal from key talks on climate and defense — have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.
The drills have also shown how an increasingly emboldened Chinese military could carry out a gruelling blockade of the island, experts say.
But Beijing on Monday defended its behavior as “firm, forceful and appropriate” to American provocation.
“(We) are only issuing a warning to the perpetrators,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing, promising China would “firmly smash the Taiwan authorities’ illusion of gaining independence through the US.”
“We urge the US to do some earnest reflection, and immediately correct its mistakes.”

Islamic communities fearful after 4 killings in Albuquerque

Islamic communities fearful after 4 killings in Albuquerque
Updated 10 min 46 sec ago

Islamic communities fearful after 4 killings in Albuquerque

Islamic communities fearful after 4 killings in Albuquerque
  • Killings have sent ripples of fear through Islamic communities in New Mexico and beyond and fueled a race to find who was responsible
First was the killing of a Muslim man from Afghanistan late last year. Then came two more slayings in the last two weeks — men from Pakistan who attended the same mosque in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Those deaths were followed Friday by the city’s fourth homicide of a Muslim man in nine months. Together the killings have sent ripples of fear through Islamic communities in New Mexico and beyond and fueled a race to find who was responsible.
Authorities on Monday identified the latest victim as they sought help searching for a vehicle believed to be connected to the slayings. The common elements were the victims’ race and religion, officials said.
Naeem Hussain was killed Friday night, and the three other men died in ambush shootings. Police in New Mexico’s largest city are trying to determine if the deaths are linked.
“The fact the suspect remains at large is terrifying,” Debbie Almontaser, a Muslim community leader in New York, wrote on Twitter. “Who is next?!”
In a phone interview, Almontaser said that a female friend who lives in Michigan and wears the hijab head covering shared with her over the weekend just how rattled she was. “She’s like, ‘This is so terrifying. I’m so scared. I travel alone,’” Almontaser said.
Hussain, 25, was from Pakistan. His death came just days after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.
The earliest case involves the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.
Aneela Abad, general secretary at the Islamic Center of New Mexico, described a community reeling from the killings, its grief compounded by confusion and fear of what may follow.
“We are just completely shocked and still trying to comprehend and understand what happened, how and why,” she said.
Some people have avoided going out unless “absolutely necessary,” and some Muslim university students have been wondering whether it is safe for them to stay in the city, she said. The center has also beefed up its security.
Police said the same vehicle is suspected of being used in all four homicides — a dark gray or silver four-door Volkswagen that appears to be a Jetta or Passat with dark tinted windows. Authorities released photos hoping people could help identify the car and offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Investigators did not say where the images were taken or what led them to suspect the car was involved in the slayings. Police spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said in an email Monday that the agency has received tips regarding the car but did not elaborate.
“We have a very, very strong link,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Sunday. “We have a vehicle of interest … We have got to find this vehicle.”
Gallegos said he could not comment on what kind of gun was used in the shootings, or whether police know how many suspects were involved in the violence.
President Joe Biden said he was “angered and saddened” by the killings and that his administration “stands strongly with the Muslim community.”
“These hateful attacks have no place in America,” Biden said Sunday in a tweet.
The conversation about safety has also dominated WhatsApp and email groups that Almontaser is on.
“What we’ve seen happen in New Mexico is very chilling for us as a Muslim minority community in the United States that has endured so much backlash and discrimination” since the 9/11 attacks, she said. “It’s frightening.”
Few anti-Muslim hate crimes have been recorded in Albuquerque over the last five years, according to FBI data cited by Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a professor of criminal justice at California State University at San Bernardino.
From 2017 through 2020, there was one anti-Muslim hate crime a year. The highest recent number was in 2016, when Albuquerque police recorded six out of a total of 25 hate crimes.
That largely tracks with national trends, which hit the lowest numbers in a decade in 2020, only to increase by 45 percent in 2021 in a dozen cities and states, Levin said.
Albuquerque authorities say they cannot determine if the slayings were hate crimes until they have identified a suspect and a motive.
Louis Schlesinger, a forensic psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said bias killings are often perpetrated by a small group of people, typically young white men. A lone perpetrator is rare.
“These are basically total losers by every dimension, whether it’s social, economic, psychological, what have you,” he said. “They’re filled with hatred for one reason or another and target a particular group that they see, in their mind, to blame for all their problems in life.”
It was not clear whether the victims knew their attacker or attackers.
The most recent victim was found dead after police received a call of a shooting. Authorities declined to say whether the killing was carried out in a way similar to the other deaths.

Russian casualties in Ukraine up to 80,000: Pentagon

Russian casualties in Ukraine up to 80,000: Pentagon
Updated 09 August 2022

Russian casualties in Ukraine up to 80,000: Pentagon

Russian casualties in Ukraine up to 80,000: Pentagon
  • Kahl admitted that the Ukraine side also had significant losses of manpower on the battlefield, but gave no figures

WASHINGTON: A senior Pentagon official estimated Monday that as many as 80,000 Russians have been killed or wounded in Ukraine since the war began in late February
“The Russians have probably taken 70 or 80,000 casualties in less than six months,” Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl said.
Kahl also said Russian forces have also lost “three or four thousand” armored vehicles, and could be running low on available precision-guided missiles, including air and sea-launched cruise missiles, after firing a large number on Ukraine targets since launching the invasion on February 24.
Those losses are “pretty remarkable considering the Russians have achieved none of Vladimir Putin’s objectives at the beginning of the war,” he told reporters, referring to the Russian president.
He said the slowdown in Russian forces’ use of longer range and precision guided missiles was an indicator that their supplies had fallen close to what Moscow needed to hold in reserve for “other contingencies.”
Kahl admitted that the Ukraine side also had significant losses of manpower on the battlefield, but gave no figures.
“Both sides are taking casualties. The war is the most intense conventional conflict in Europe since the Second World War,” he said.
“But the Ukrainians have a lot of advantages, not the least of which is their will to fight.”

 


Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger
Updated 09 August 2022

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger
  • Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, are already serving life sentences after being found guilty in a state trial for the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery

WASHINGTON: A Georgia man and his father convicted of federal hate crimes for the murder of a Black man who was shot dead while jogging were sentenced to life in prison on Monday.
Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, are already serving life sentences after being found guilty in a state trial for the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced both men to life in prison on separate hate crimes charges and denied their requests that they be allowed to serve out their sentences in a federal prison instead of a state facility.
The McMichaels, who are white, chased Arbery in a pickup truck on February 23, 2020 as he jogged through their neighborhood near the town of Brunswick, Georgia.
Travis McMichael confronted the 25-year-old Arbery as he passed by their truck and shot and killed him.
The racially-charged case added fuel to nationwide protests over police killings of African Americans sparked initially by the murder in May 2020 of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A third man who was involved in the chase, William Bryan, who had a less direct role in the murder and cooperated with investigators, was given life with the possibility of parole on the state charges.
He received a sentence of 35 years in prison on the federal charges.
During the federal hate crimes trial, prosecutors recounted the three men’s alleged use of vulgar racial slurs and history of racism.
“The Justice Department’s prosecution of this case and the court’s sentences today make clear that hate crimes have no place in our country,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“Protecting civil rights and combatting white supremacist violence was a founding purpose of the Justice Department, and one that we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”
FBI director Christopher Wray said that hate crimes strike “at the very heart of our society.”
“This is why combatting hate crimes and protecting civil rights are top priorities for the FBI,” he said in the statement.


FBI searches Trump’s Florida home as part of presidential records probe

FBI searches Trump’s Florida home as part of presidential records probe
Updated 09 August 2022

FBI searches Trump’s Florida home as part of presidential records probe

FBI searches Trump’s Florida home as part of presidential records probe
  • The unprecedented search of a former president’s home would mark a significant escalation into the records investigation, which is one of several probes Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business

Former President Donald Trump said FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday and broke into his safe in what his son acknowledged was part of an investigation into Trump’s removal of official presidential records from the White House to his Florida resort.

The unprecedented search of a former president’s home would mark a significant escalation into the records investigation, which is one of several probes Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business.

The US Justice Department declined to comment on the search, which Trump in a statement said involved a “large group of FBI agents.” The FBI’s headquarters in Washington and its field office in Miami both declined comment.

Eric Trump, one of the former president’s adult children, told Fox News the search concerned boxes of documents that Trump brought with him from the White House, and that his father has been cooperating with the National Archives on the matter for months.

A source familiar with the matter also confirmed to Reuters the raid appeared to be tied to Trump’s removal of classified records from the White House.

Trump said the estate “is currently under siege, raided, and occupied.” He did not say why the raid took place.

“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said, adding: “They even broke into my safe!“

Trump was not present at the time as he was in New York on Monday, Fox News Digital reported, publishing a photo of Trump that a Fox reporter said showed him leaving Trump Tower.

Trump, who has made his club in Palm Beach his home since leaving the White House in January 2021, has generally spent summers at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, because Mar-a-Lago typically closes for the summer.

A federal law called the US Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.

Any search of a private residence would have to be approved by a judge, after the investigating law-enforcement agency demonstrated probable cause that a search was justified.

It almost certainly would also be approved by FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, and his boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was appointed by Trump’s successor and political rival, President Joe Biden.

Democratic supporters of Biden have criticized Garland for being overly cautious in investigating Trump over his attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.

But Trump supporters in turn have accused the Democrats of weaponizing the federal bureaucracy to target Trump, even as Biden has taken steps to distance himself from the Justice Department.

“Make no mistake, the attorney general had to authorize this,” said Phillip Halpern, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in public corruption cases, adding that Wray and a host of prosecutors would also be involved.

“This is as big a deal as you can have, and ... every single person in the chain would have had to sign off on this,” Halpern said.

In February, Archivist David Ferriero told US House lawmakers that the National Archives and Records Administration had been in communication with Trump throughout 2021 about the return of 15 boxes of records. He eventually returned them in January 2022.

At the time, the National Archives was still conducting an inventory, but noted some of the boxes contained items “marked as classified national security information.”

Trump previously confirmed that he had agreed to return certain records to the Archives, calling it “an ordinary and routine process.” He also claimed the Archives “did not ‘find’ anything.”

The Justice Department launched an early-stage investigation into Trump’s removal of records to the Florida estate, a source familiar with the matter said in April.

Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, said he only removed mementos that he was legally authorized to take.

“Look, my father-in-law as anybody knows who’s been around him a lot loves to save things like newspaper clippings, magazine clippings, photographs, documents that he had every authority to take from the White House,” Lara Trump told Fox News.

“And you know, again, he’s been cooperating every single step of the way with the people that have questioned any of this.”

Besides the presidential records case, Trump is under investigation on a number of other fronts, including a congressional probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, assault by Trump supporters on the US Capitol and accusations that Trump tried to influence Georgia’s 2020 election results.

In addition, the US Attorney in Washington, D.C., is probing a scheme by Trump’s allies to submit slates of fake electors in a failed bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

In an interview in July with NBC News, Garland was asked whether the Justice Department would indict Trump over the events of Jan. 6 if evidence supported such an action.

Garland replied, “We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable. That’s what we do. We don’t pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.”