Watchdog calls for House committee to uninvite RFK Jr. after his comments are blasted as antisemitic

Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. (Photo/Wikipedia)
Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. (Photo/Wikipedia)
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Updated 18 July 2023
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Watchdog calls for House committee to uninvite RFK Jr. after his comments are blasted as antisemitic

Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. (Photo/Wikipedia)
  • Democrats and anti-hate groups quickly condemned the comments from Kennedy, who comes from one of the country’s most famous political families as the son of former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy

NEW YORK: A Democratic watchdog group has called for a US House committee to rescind an invitation to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after the Democratic presidential candidate was filmed falsely suggesting COVID-19 could have been “ethnically targeted” to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people.
Kyle Herrig, executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project, sent a letter to Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, asking him to disinvite Kennedy from a hearing scheduled for Thursday after the candidate’s comments at a New York City dinner last week prompted widespread accusations of antisemitism and racism.
A spokesperson for Jordan said he plans to move forward with the hearing Thursday despite disagreeing with comments Kennedy made.
In the filmed remarks first published by The New York Post, Kennedy said “there is an argument” that COVID-19 “is ethnically targeted” and that it “attacks certain races disproportionately.”
“COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese,” he added. “We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted at that or not but there are papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential of impact for that.”
After the video was made public, Kennedy posted on Twitter that his words were twisted and denied ever suggesting that COVID-19 was deliberately engineered to spare Jewish people. He asserted without evidence that there are bioweapons being developed to target certain ethnicities, and called for the Post’s article to be retracted.
Researchers and doctors pushed back on the assertion, including Michael Mina, a medical doctor and immunologist.
“Beyond the absurdity, biological know-how simply isn’t there to make a virus that targets only certain ethnicities,” Mina wrote on Twitter.
Democrats and anti-hate groups quickly condemned the comments from Kennedy, who comes from one of the country’s most famous political families as the son of former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy.
“These are deeply troubling comments and I want to make clear that they do not represent the views of the Democratic Party,” read a Saturday tweet from Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee.
“Last week, RFK Jr. made reprehensible anti-semitic and anti-Asian comments aimed at perpetuating harmful and debunked racist tropes,” US Rep. Suzan DelBene, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement on Sunday. “Such dangerous racism and hate have no place in America, demonstrate him to be unfit for public office, and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
Asked about the video on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Kennedy’s claims were false and “vile” and that “they put our fellow Americans in danger.”
The Anti-Defamation League also responded to the comments with a statement saying Kennedy’s claim is “deeply offensive and feeds into sinophobic and antisemitic conspiracy theories about COVID-19 that we have seen evolve over the last three years.”
And another anti-hate watchdog, Stop Antisemitism, tweeted, “We have no words for this man’s lunacy.”
On Monday, Kerry Kennedy issued a statement saying, “I strongly condemn my brother’s deplorable and untruthful remarks last week about Covid being engineered for ethnic targeting,” adding that the remarks don’t represent “what I believe or what Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights stands for.” She is president of the human rights organization.
Kennedy is set to address the GOP-led House subcommittee during a hearing Thursday to examine “the federal government’s role in censoring Americans.”
He has long railed against social media companies and the government, accusing them of colluding to censor his speech during the COVID-19 pandemic when he was suspended from multiple platforms for spreading vaccine misinformation.
Herrig’s letter to Jordan called Kennedy “a total whack job whose views and conspiracy theories would be completely ignored but for his last name.”
It asked the chairman to disinvite the candidate from Thursday’s hearing because of “video evidence of his horrific antisemitic and xenophobic views which are simply beyond the pale.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy threw cold water Monday on the idea of disinviting the presidential candidate from testifying before Congress.
“I disagree with everything he said,” McCarthy said. “The hearing that we have this week is about censorship. I don’t think censoring somebody is actually the answer here. I think if you’re going to look at censorship in America, your first action to censor probably plays into some of the problems we have.”
Kennedy has a history of comparing vaccines – widely credited with saving millions of lives – with the genocide of the Holocaust during Nazi Germany, comments for which he has sometimes apologized.
His first apology for such a comparison came in 2015, after he used the word “holocaust” to describe children whom he believes were hurt by vaccines.
But he continued to make such remarks, ramping up during the COVID-19 pandemic. An AP investigation detailed how Kennedy has frequently invoked the specter of Nazis and the Holocaust in his work to sow doubts about vaccines and agitate against public health efforts to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, such as requiring masks or vaccine mandates.
In December 2021, he put out a video that showed infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci with a mustache reminiscent of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. In an October 2021 speech to the Ron Paul Institute, he obliquely compared public health measures put in place by governments around the world to Nazi propaganda meant to scare people into abandoning critical thinking.
In January 2022, at a Washington rally organized by his anti-vaccine group Children’s Health Defense, Kennedy complained that people’s rights were being violated by public health measures that had been taken to reduce the number of people sickened and killed by COVID-19.
“Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did,” he said.
The comment was condemned by the head of the Anti-Defamation League as “deeply inaccurate, deeply offensive and deeply troubling.” Yad Vashem of the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem said it “denigrates the memory of its victims and survivors,” as well as others.
After initially sticking by his remarks, Kennedy ultimately apologized, tweeting, “I apologize for my reference to Anne Frank, especially to families that suffered the Holocaust horrors.”
Then, days after he launched his presidential campaign this April, he wrote on Twitter that “the onslaught of relentless media indignation finally compelled me to apologize for a statement I never made in order to protect my family.”
 

 


India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires

India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires
Updated 12 sec ago
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India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires

India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires
  • Kohli fell early in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s chase after he was caught by Kolkata Knight Riders Harshit Rana
  • Visuals on social media showed Kohli having discussion with umpire after the match as pundits weighed in on dismissal

NEW DELHI: India star Virat Kohli has been fined half his match fee for an angry outburst in response to his dismissal from an Indian Premier League match, the league said Monday.

Kohli fell early in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s chase on Sunday after he was caught and bowled by Kolkata Knight Riders pace bowler Harshit Rana and his team went on to lose by one run at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.

But the former India captain looked confident the high full-toss was above his waist as the umpires checked for a no-ball.

TV umpire Michael Gough declared it out after technology suggested the trajectory of the ball dipped below the waist of the batsman, who returned furious after exchanging words with the on-field officials.

“Kohli committed a Level 1 offense under Article 2.8 of the IPL’s Code of Conduct,” an IPL statement said.

“He admitted to the offense and accepted the Match Referee’s sanction.”

Visuals on social media showed Kohli having a long discussion with an umpire after the match ended and pundits weighed in on the dismissal.

Former India batsman Navjot Singh Sidhu slammed the call and asked for the “rules to be changed“

Ex-India quick Irfan Pathan said on X, formerly Twitter, “if Virat Kohli was standing at the popping crease the ball would have been lower than his measured waist height, making it a legal delivery.”

Kohli has been the top run-getter in the T20 tournament so far with 379 runs in eight matches but his team Bengaluru remains bottom of the 10-team table with just one win.


Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea

Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea
Updated 22 April 2024
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Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea

Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea
  • More than 16,000 Filipino, American soldiers are involved in the annual exercises this year
  • Beijing, Philippines have overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea

MANILA: Filipino and US forces began their annual joint military drills on Monday, segments of which will, for the first time, take place outside of the Philippines’ territorial waters following a string of maritime clashes between Manila and Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

The exercises, known as Balikatan — Tagalog for shoulder-to-shoulder — will run up until May 10 and involve over 16,000 military personnel, along with more than 250 Australian and French forces.

For the first time since the annual drills started over 30 years ago, the Philippines and the US will conduct joint naval drills beyond the 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) of the Philippines’ territorial waters, in parts of the open sea claimed by China.

“This exercise represents the essence of unity, collective responsibility, and enduring partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America and other partners,” Philippines’ military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said during the opening ceremony.

“It is not a partnership of convenience but rather a clear reflection of our shared history, unwavering commitment to democracy and respect for international law in our pursuit of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Throughout the three-week exercise, soldiers from the two militaries will operate out of a joint command center to perform four major activities with a focus on countering maritime, air, land, and cyber attacks.

“It’s the first time that we are going beyond our (12) nautical miles,” Maj. Gen. Marvin Licudine, Philippines exercise director, told reporters.

The Balikatan training operations are not directed at a particular country, he said, but are more focused on the “development of interoperability,” with an increased complexity of the drills and scenarios to let soldiers learn more from one another.

The joint exercises take place as Philippine and Chinese coast guard and other vessels have featured in a series of increasingly tense territorial face-offs since last year, including Chinese use of water cannons against a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea last month, causing damage and injuries.

After the incident, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said his government would take countermeasures against “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous attacks” by the Chinese Coast Guard.

“We seek no conflict with any nation, more so nations that purport and claim to be our friends but we will not be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience,” Marcos had said in a statement.

The Philippines and China, along with several other countries, have overlapping claims in the resource-rich waterway, where a bulk of the world’s commerce and oil transits.

Beijing has been increasing its military activity over the past few years, with the Chinese Coast Guard regularly encroaching on the Philippine part of the waters, the West Philippine Sea, despite a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague dismissing China’s expansive claims.

Don McLain Gill, an international studies lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, said the scope of this year’s Balikatan is a “clear reflection of Manila’s commitment to exercise its sovereignty and sovereign rights within its exclusive economic zone.

“This year ’s exercise will also involve complex maritime security issues such as simulations of recovering islands from hostile forces, which add a practical dimension to collective self defense efforts by the like-minded partners,” he told Arab News.

“Clearly, securing the WPS based on international law will not bode well for China’s expansionist interests. While the Balikatan is aimed at improving joint preparedness amidst emerging challenges in the region, the challenge posed by China's expansionism is clearly one of the critical factors that provoke regional security.”


Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources
Updated 22 April 2024
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Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

DAKAR: Suspected extremists in central Mali are holding more than 110 civilians whom they abducted six days ago, local sources told AFP on Monday.
Three buses carrying the civilians were stopped on April 16 by “jihadists,” who forced the vehicles and the passengers to head toward a forest between Bandiagara and Bankass, a local group of associations and an elected official said.’

“We demand the release of more than 110 passengers of three buses abducted on Tuesday by jihadists,” a member of the group, Oumar Ongoiba, told AFP.

An elected official from Bandiagara, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, said, “The three buses and the passengers, more than 120, are still being held by jihadists.”

Mali has since 2012 been ravaged by different factions affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group, as well as by self-declared, self-defense forces and bandits.

The worsening security situation has been compounded by a humanitarian and political crisis.

The violence spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, with all three countries seeing military regimes seize power.


With homelessness on the rise, US Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors

With homelessness on the rise, US Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors
Updated 22 April 2024
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With homelessness on the rise, US Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors

With homelessness on the rise, US Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors

WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court will consider Monday whether banning homeless people from sleeping outside when shelter space is lacking amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
The case is considered the most significant to come before the high court in decades on homelessness, which is reaching record levels in the United States.
In California and other Western states, courts have ruled that it’s unconstitutional to fine and arrest people sleeping in homeless encampments if shelter space is lacking.
A cross-section of Democratic and Republican officials contend that makes it difficult for them to manage encampments, which can have dangerous and unsanitary living conditions.
But hundreds of advocacy groups argue that allowing cities to punish people who need a place to sleep will criminalize homelessness and ultimately make the crisis worse.
The Justice Department has also weighed in. It argues people shouldn’t be punished just for sleeping outside, but only if there’s a determination they truly have nowhere else to go.
The case comes from the rural Oregon town of Grants Pass, which started fining people $295 for sleeping outside to manage homeless encampments that sprung up in the city’s public parks as the cost of housing escalated.
The measure was largely struck down by the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also found in 2018 that such bans violated the 8th Amendment by punishing people for something they don’t have control over.
The case comes after homelessness in the United States grew a dramatic 12 percent, to its highest reported level as soaring rents and a decline in coronavirus pandemic assistance combined to put housing out of reach for more Americans, according to federal data.


UK’s Sunak says first migrant flight to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks

UK’s Sunak says first migrant flight to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks
Updated 22 April 2024
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UK’s Sunak says first migrant flight to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks

UK’s Sunak says first migrant flight to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks
  • Prime minister ‘confident’ that the plan complies with all of Britain’s international obligations

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday the first flight carrying asylum seekers to Rwanda would leave in 10-12 weeks, as he set out plans for for his flagship policy to tackle illegal migration.
Speaking at a press conference, Sunak said he would not outline the exact operational details of the plan, but said the government had made specific preparations.
“I can confirm that we’ve put an airfield on standby, booked commercial charter planes for specific slots, and we have 500 highly trained individuals ready to escort illegal migrants all the way to Rwanda with 300 more trained in the coming weeks,” Sunak said.
“We are ready. Plans are in place. And these flights will go come what may.”
Under the timeline Sunak set out, the first flight would leave in July.
Sunak also said he was “confident” that the plan complied with all of Britain’s international obligations, responding to a question about its membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“If it ever comes to a choice between our national security — securing our borders — and membership of a foreign court, I’m, of course, always going to prioritize our national security,” he said, referring to the European Court of Human Rights.