Biden targets ‘extremist’ Trump allies as democratic threat in fraught political moment

Biden targets ‘extremist’ Trump allies as democratic threat in fraught political moment
Biden spoke in Philadelphia from behind bullet-proof glass and within earshot of chanting Trump-supporting protesters. (AP)
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Updated 02 September 2022

Biden targets ‘extremist’ Trump allies as democratic threat in fraught political moment

Biden targets ‘extremist’ Trump allies as democratic threat in fraught political moment

PHILADELPHIA:U.S. President Joe Biden charged Republican allies of Donald Trump with undermining the country's democracy and urged voters on Thursday to reject extremism ahead of November's midterm elections.
Biden accused lawmakers and others devoted to the Make America Great Again (MAGA) agenda led by former U.S. President Trump as willing to overturn democratic elections, ignore the Constitution and "determined to take this country backwards" to a time without rights to abortion, privacy, contraception or same-sex marriage.
"Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic," Biden said. "As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise."
The prime-time speech in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, marked a sharp turn for Biden as midterm congressional elections approach.
Aides say the president is increasingly concerned about anti-democratic trends in the Republican Party, and sees a need to jump into this year's election fight and recast the stakes of his own 2024 re-election bid.
After spending much of 2022 trying to combat high inflation at home and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and enduring two bouts of COVID-19 over the summer, Biden has in recent days repeatedly lashed out at Trump-aligned Republicans.
His remarks on Thursday denouncing political violence and urging bipartisan compromise came after speeches in recent days where he condemned MAGA philosophy as "semi-fascism" and assailed Republican threats against the FBI after a search of Trump's Florida home as "sickening."
House of Representatives Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday accused Biden of ignoring crime and inflation to criticize his fellow citizens.
"Instead of trying to bring our country together to solve these challenges, President Biden has chosen to divide, demean and disparage his fellow Americans," McCarthy said in Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. "Why? Simply because they disagree with his policies."
A Democratic fundraiser said donors are closely watching Biden's performance over the next few months to gauge whether to back him in a 2024 presidential run.
Some have already decided that Biden, 79, should step aside to make way for fresh leadership, while others want to see if he can lead the party effectively.
"If we can pull it off and retain the Senate, then there will be enough voices saying he has earned it and pave the way for re-election," said a senior Democratic official. "If we don't, the overwhelming sentiment will be 'Pass the torch.'"
Biden spoke in Philadelphia from behind bullet-proof glass and within earshot of chanting Trump-supporting protesters. He made his remarks at a venue meant to signal the historical significance of his appeal, near Independence Hall, where the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution were adopted.
Some historians and legal scholars have cast the stakes in starker terms than Biden's political future, saying free elections and commitment to the rule of law hang in the balance.
They say losing Congress would not only make Biden a lame-duck president, but also turn over control of certifying the results of the next presidential election to Trump sympathizers, some of whom never accepted Biden's 2020 victory and who have pledged to overhaul voting systems.
Biden alluded to the concerns, saying "I will not stand by and watch elections in this country be stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost."
The speech echoed Biden's signature 2020 campaign pledge to restore the "soul of the nation" and, by implication, purge the values associated with Trump. In the nearly two years since Biden was elected, Republican voters have mostly backed candidates aligned with the former president; more than half say they believe Trump rightfully won the election.
Confronted by threats after Trump's loss, one in five election workers polled this year said they may quit before the next presidential election.


Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 
Updated 04 December 2022

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 
  • Kingdom set to help Philippines develop halal tourism 
  • Manila sees ‘great potential’ in attracting more Saudi tourists 

MANILA: The Philippine government said on Sunday it is going to work closely with Saudi Arabia in developing the tourism industry in both countries. 

More than 9,400 Saudi tourists have visited the Southeast Asian country since it reopened to fully vaccinated international travelers in February. Before the pandemic, Saudi Arabia was the top Middle Eastern source of arrivals, according to data from the Philippine Department of Tourism. 

“The two countries agreed on formalizing their partnership with Saudi Arabia,” the tourism department said in a statement on Sunday. 

The Kingdom will support the Philippines with Arabic-speaking tour guides, increasing direct flights and developing halal tourism, while the Philippines will “provide hospitality and human capital development to the Kingdom’s tourism frontline.” 

The agreement follows Philippine Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco’s meeting with her Saudi counterpart Haifa Al-Saud in Riyadh last month. 

“Saudi Arabia actually ranks No. 1 for our Middle East source market. We see great potential in ushering in more arrivals into the Philippines,” Frasco said, as quoted in the statement. 

She added that the relationship is mutual, as there are over 800,000 Filipinos living in Saudi Arabia. 

“Our affection for each other is long-standing, and I am very interested in furthering this relationship by formalizing an agreement specifically focused on tourism development,” she said. 

The Philippines, known for its white sand beaches and famous diving spots, is dependent on tourism. In 2019, the sector generated around $44 billion and made up nearly 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. 

Most tourism destinations in the country were forced to shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, dealing a major blow to the industry. Foreign arrivals slumped by 82 percent, while revenues from tourism plummeted to $17 billion. 

Tourism recovery efforts yielded results once several COVID-19 restrictions were lifted this year. 

By Nov. 14, official data showed nearly 1.5 million foreign tourists had visited the Philippines. 


Iraqi in UK who saved baby niece via illegal entry granted leave to remain

Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
Updated 19 min 43 sec ago

Iraqi in UK who saved baby niece via illegal entry granted leave to remain

Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
  • Najat Ibrahim Ismail, 35, rescued 7-month-old Rwen Tahsin Ibrahim from France after burn incident

LONDON: An Iraqi man who saved his baby niece by bringing her to the UK illegally has been granted leave to remain following years of legal attempts by the Home Office to deport him, The Guardian reported.

Najat Ibrahim Ismail, who arrived in Britain in 2004, saved his niece, Rwen Tahsin Ibrahim, then only 7 months old, after she had sustained significant burn injuries in a French refugee camp.

Her parents had fled Iraq following the expansion of Daesh and in 2016 had traveled to France.

Ismail, 35, heard the news of his relative’s injuries and traveled to Dunkirk, where he drove his niece back to Britain illegally in a bid to give her access to urgent medical care.

In 2017, he was prosecuted for assisting illegal entry into the UK.

As a result, the UK Home Office pursued his deportation three times, but to no avail.

Now the 35-year-old, who is married to a British woman and has three children, has been granted leave to remain following years of legal campaigning by his solicitor.

His niece — whose family has also been given leave to remain — has since made a full recovery following the 2016 incident and is now in school.

Ismail said: “For the first time I can sleep well. I’m the happiest person in the world and I can’t stop smiling.

“I can’t thank my solicitor enough. She saved my life.”

Though a judge condemned Ismail’s actions in assisting the illegal entry, they said: “I do accept that you were not a person who was trafficking for gain. These were family members you decided to assist.”

Hannah Baynes, Ismail’s solicitor, said: “We are very pleased that Najat will be allowed to remain in the UK after so many years of uncertainty.

“The judge acknowledged that there was a risk of Najat’s mental health deteriorating if he was forced to live separately from his family in Iraq, where he has a well-founded fear of persecution.”

 


‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister
Updated 04 December 2022

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister
  • Balkan country is ‘demonstrably safe,’ Robert Jenrick argues

LONDON: The UK should prevent Albanian migrants from seeking asylum in Britain, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has said.

Sky News reported that Jenrick, who assumed the ministerial role on Oct. 25 as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet, said that Albanians should be “excluded from the right to claim asylum.”

He added that Britain should tighten its policy toward the Balkan country because it is a “demonstrably safe” place, describing the numbers of Albanians arriving in the UK as “unsustainable.”

Albanian nationals made up more than one-third of the 33,000 people who crossed the English Channel in boats from January to September this year.

Amid growing pressure on the government to tackle the migrant crisis, Jenrick said that the Albanian factor was now the “number one priority.” 

He told GB News: “Albania is a demonstrably safe country. It is very hard to see how an Albanian should be able to successfully claim asylum here in the UK.

“We have a returns agreement, which was signed a year ago, and 1,000 Albanians have gone back already. We are looking at what we can do there. We are also pursuing the diplomatic channels.

“We can’t have 1 million people entering the country in a single year and net migration of half a million — it’s just not sustainable.

“What I’m concerned about is there are people coming to universities here as a backdoor way of bringing their families into the UK and staying here for a prolonged period.

“A very significant number of people use this as a route to a life in the UK. This is a big driver of net migration.”

PM Sunak and his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama recently discussed efforts to end policies that have led to Britain being unable to efficiently deport failed Albanian asylum seekers.

But the Albanian leader also warned that the UK should avoid blaming Albanians and using migrants as an “excuse” for government failures.


US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces

US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces
Updated 04 December 2022

US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces

US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces
  • Russia’s military focus has been on striking Ukrainian infrastructure and pressing an offensive in the east

KYIV: The head of US intelligence says fighting in Russia’s war in Ukraine is running at a “reduced tempo” and suggests Ukrainian forces could have brighter prospects in coming months.
Avril Haines alluded to past allegations by some that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advisers could be shielding him from bad news — for Russia — about war developments, and said he “is becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia.”
“But it’s still not clear to us that he has a full picture of at this stage of just how challenged they are,” the US director of national intelligence said late Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.
Looking ahead, Haines said, “honestly we’re seeing a kind of a reduced tempo already of the conflict” and her team expects that both sides will look to refit, resupply, and reconstitute for a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring.
“But we actually have a fair amount of skepticism as to whether or not the Russians will be in fact prepared to do that,” she said. “And I think more optimistically for the Ukrainians in that timeframe.”
In recent weeks, Russia’s military focus has been on striking Ukrainian infrastructure and pressing an offensive in the east, near the town of Bakhmut, while shelling sites in the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces liberated last month after an 8-month Russian occupation.
In his nightly address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at Western efforts to crimp Russia’s crucial oil industry, a key source of funds for Putin’s war machine, saying their $60-per-barrel price cap on imports of Russian oil was insufficient.
“It is not a serious decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of the terrorist state,” Zelensky said, referring to Russia. He said the $60-per-barrel level would still allow Russia to bring in $100 billion in revenues per year.
“This money will go not only to the war and not only to further sponsorship by Russia of other terrorist regimes and organizations. This money will be used for further destabilization of those countries that are now trying to avoid serious decisions,” Zelensky said.
Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States and the 27-nation European Union agreed Friday to cap what they would pay for Russian oil at $60 per barrel. The limit is set to take effect Monday, along with an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea.
Russian authorities have rejected the price cap and threatened Saturday to stop supplying the nations that endorsed it.
In yet another show of Western support for Ukraine’s efforts to battle back Russian forces and cope with fallout from the war, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland on Saturday visited the operations of a Ukrainian aid group that provides support for internally displaced people in Ukraine, among her other visits with top Ukrainian officials.
Nuland assembled dolls out of yarn in the blue-and-yellow colors of Ukraine’s flag with youngsters from regions including northeastern Kharkiv, southern Kherson, and eastern Donetsk.
“This is psychological support for them at an absolutely crucial time,” Nuland said.
“As President Putin knows best, this war could stop today, if he chose to stop it and withdrew his forces — and then negotiations can begin,” she added.


Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away
Updated 04 December 2022

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away
  • Semeru volcano on Java island spews a column of ash 1.5km into the air
  • Indonesia has the largest population globally living in close range to a volcano
JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Semeru volcano on Java island erupted early on Sunday, spewing a column of ash 1.5km into the air, prompting authorities to warn residents to stay away from the eruption area.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency, BNPB, warned residents not to conduct any activities within 5km of the eruption center and to stay 500 meters from riversides due to risks of lava flow.
Japan’s Meteorology Agency said was monitoring for the possibility of a tsunami there after the eruption, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The volcano began erupting at 2:46 a.m. (1946 GMT on Saturday), BNPB said in a statement. Videos posted on social media showed grey ash clouds in nearby areas.
BNPB did not immediately respond to Japan’s warning of tsunami risk.
Indonesian authorities have distributed masks to local residents, BNPB said in a statement, adding that volcanic activity remained at level III, below the highest level of IV.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the largest population globally living in close range to a volcano, including 8.6 million within 10km.