Angry and frustrated, US House Speaker McCarthy challenges right-flank colleagues to try to oust him from his post

Angry and frustrated, US House Speaker McCarthy challenges right-flank colleagues to try to oust him from his post
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters about avoiding a government shutdown and launching an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, following a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 14, 2023. (AP Photo)
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Updated 15 September 2023
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Angry and frustrated, US House Speaker McCarthy challenges right-flank colleagues to try to oust him from his post

Angry and frustrated, US House Speaker McCarthy challenges right-flank colleagues to try to oust him from his post
  • A core group of rabid Trump allies is holding the threat of removal over McCarthy unless he meets conservative demands
  • Freedom Caucus conservatives are demanding cuts lower than what McCarthy agreed to in a budget deal with Biden earlier this year

WASHINGTON: Angry, frustrated and unable to lead a fractured and unruly Republican majority, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday told the colleagues threatening to oust him: Do it.
The embattled Republican leader essentially dared his hard-right flank to quit holding the risk of a vote to remove him from the job.
If you’re going to do it, go ahead and try, McCarthy told the Republicans behind closed doors.
“File the f— — — motion,” McCarthy said, using a profanity for emphasis, according to those in the private meeting.
With a government shutdown looming, McCarthy is confronting the same stubborn problem that has driven Republicans before him from the speaker’s job — trying to lead a ruptured GOP majority that’s split between what’s left of the traditional party and a harder-right element largely allied with former President Donald Trump.
Even his decision to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden did little this week to appease the demands of the Freedom Caucus and others as they threaten to shut down the government in pursuit of deep spending cuts or move to a motion to oust him from office.
“I showed frustration in here because I am frustrated with some people in the conference,” McCarthy said after the meeting in the Capitol basement as lawmakers were wrapping up for the week.
“But when we come back, we’re going to get this done. Nobody wins in a government shutdown.”
This may be the toughest moment yet for McCarthy who is trying to survive his first year as House speaker and live to fight another day.
But now, after promises made and possibly dashed, he has barely any days left.
At the moment McCarthy has just nine working days to pass the spending bills needed to fund the government or risk a politically devastating federal shutdown.
An interruption in government services would ripple across the country, almost certain to hurt his party politically as Republicans are blamed for the disruption and disarray.
Biden said in a speech Thursday that McCarthy and House Republicans seem unable to honor the commitments they made as part of a June debt-limit deal and are now seeking deeper cuts. In his remarks, the president did not address the impeachment inquiry nor the indictment Thursday of his son, Hunter, on gun-purchasing charges.
“They’re back at it again, breaking their commitment,” Biden said in Maryland. “Threatening to shut down the government again this month.”
Led by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a core group of McCarthy critics is holding the threat of removal over him unless he meets conservative demands.
A top Trump ally, Gaetz reiterated the conservative flank’s many demands after McCarthy’s meeting — single-subject spending bills, a subpoena for Hunter Biden in the impeachment inquiry and other priorities.
“So instead of emotionally cursing, let’s do this,” Gaetz chided. “We must begin immediately. Pull yourself together, Kevin!”
None of the hard-right opponents of McCarthy rose to speak during the private morning meeting — in fact, few even showed up.
But McCarthy still addressed them directly — and profanely.
“Kevin doesn’t live in fear about this,” said Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla.
McCarthy has prided himself being a survivor, who rose from the ranks over the past nearly 20 years to lead House Republicans.
At the start of the year, he suffered through 14 votes in his reach for the speaker’s gavel before colleagues finally agreed to give it to him on the 15th vote.
Top McCarthy ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene who is also close with Trump recaptured the speaker’s message. “He said, ‘If you want to throw in a motion to vacate, that’s fine. I didn’t survive 15 rounds for nothing and I’ll survive another 15 rounds.”
That said, there still is no viable plan or having the House pass the bills needed to run the government by Sept. 30, when current funding runs out, risking the shutdown.
Freedom Caucus conservatives are demanding cuts lower than what McCarthy agreed to in a budget deal with Biden earlier this year — — and even lower than the speaker promised he would fight for when he agreed to their demands during his election to become speaker.
It’s not just Trump influencing House Republicans from the campaign trail. Republican rival Ron DeSantis has also connected with conservatives “and is supportive of us trying to fight to get change up here,” said Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said, “House Republicans have made clear that they are determined to shut down the government and try to jam their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of Americans.”
Jeffries said he had not talked to McCarthy this week about a solution, but he has spoken with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and they have agreed “the only way forward is a bipartisan path that funds the government at the current fiscal year levels.”
The Senate meanwhile, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats, pushed ahead with a rare and overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, 91-7, to advance a package of spending bills toward final passage — until it was stalled by Senate conservatives.
“And now all of a sudden, you have a group, a small group in the Senate, trying to mimic the Freedom Caucus in the House,” Schumer said, calling on Republican leaders to intervene “for the good of the country.”
McCarthy told the lawmakers to go home for the weekend — they are not in session Friday for the Jewish holiday — and be prepared to stay in session next week until they get the job done.
“I don’t walk away from a battle,” the speaker said, preparing to return to fight another day.
Asked if he had a plan for the week ahead, McCarthy said later: “I always have a plan. Doesn’t mean it happens.”
“I had a plan for this week, didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned,” he said.
Exasperated, McCarthy had already showed signs of strain the night before.
As he left the Capitol, his voice hoarse and his dry-cleaning bags of fresh shirts in hand, McCarthy scoffed when asked about the conservatives’ latest demands for spending cuts.
“Welcome to my world,” McCarthy said, as the grand Memorial Door slammed behind him.
 


UK’s infected blood scandal could and should have been avoided, inquiry finds

UK’s infected blood scandal could and should have been avoided, inquiry finds
Updated 16 sec ago
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UK’s infected blood scandal could and should have been avoided, inquiry finds

UK’s infected blood scandal could and should have been avoided, inquiry finds
LONDON: Britain’s infected blood scandal that has killed 3,000 people and left thousands more suffering with hepatitis or HIV was no accident, a public inquiry found on Monday, blaming a catalogue of failures by government and doctors.
Inquiry chair Brian Langstaff said more than 30,000 people received infected blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s from Britain’s state-funded National Health Service, destroying lives, dreams and families.
The use of infected blood, despite the known risks, has resulted in thousands of victims in the United States, France, Canada and other countries, in part after US prisoners and other high-risk groups were paid to provide blood.
In Britain around 1,250 people with bleeding disorders were infected with HIV, including about 380 children, the inquiry found.
Three quarters of them died.
“This disaster was not an accident,” Langstaff said. “The infections happened because those in authority — doctors, the blood services and successive governments — did not put patient safety first.”
He said proper compensation must now be paid.
The government, which in 2015 said it was “something that never should have happened”, agreed in 2022 to pay an interim 100,000 pounds ($126,990) to those affected.
The infected blood and blood products, some of which were imported from the United States, were used for transfusions, which were not always clinically needed, and as treatments for bleeding disorders like haemophilia.
Haemophiliacs received Factor 8 concentrates, often imported from the United States or Austria, which carried a higher risk of causing hepatitis.
Some of the concentrates were infected with HIV in the 1980s, the inquiry said, but authorities failed to switch to safer alternatives and they decided in July 1983, a year after risks were apparent, not to suspend their importation.
Systemic failures resulted in between 80 and 100 people becoming infected with HIV by transfusion, it said, and about 26,800 were infected with Hepatitis C, often from receiving blood after childbirth or an operation.
Both groups were failed by doctors’ complacency about Hepatitis C and being slow to respond to the risks of AIDS, it said, compounded by an absence of meaningful apology or redress.
He said patients were exposed to risks despite it being well known that blood could cause severe infection, in the case of hepatitis since the end of World War Two.
Treatment practices that could have reduced the risks were not adopted, he said, noting blood was collected from prisoners, who had a higher prevalence of hepatitis, until 1984.
Some of the victims were further betrayed by being used in medical trials without their knowledge or consent, he said.
“It will be astonishing to anyone who reads this report that these events could have happened in the UK,” Langstaff said.
The British inquiry, which started in 2018, does not have the power to recommend prosecutions. ($1 = 0.7875 pounds)

Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in

Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in
Updated 57 min 37 sec ago
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Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in

Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in
  • Protests erupted last week, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved in France that would change who is allowed to participate in elections
  • Pro-independence political parties say they want the French government to withdraw the electoral reform before they restart talks

SYDNEY/PARIS: A thousand police arrived in New Caledonia from France and streets were relatively calm after a week of unrest, the French High Commission said on Monday, but roads were blocked by protesters and the airport remained shut, stranding tourists.
Blockades of roads would continue, Field Action Co-ordination Cell (CCAT), the activist group organising the protests in the French-ruled Pacific island, said in a statement, urging protesters to use a peaceful approach.
Road blocks were making it a challenge to get food supplies to stores in several areas or to provide secure travel for medical staff, New Caledonia government officials said, adding, however, that there were no shortages of supplies or staff.
Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said "the situation there is deeply concerning", after a night of fire and looting.
France's top official in the territory, Louis Le Franc, said on Sunday a police operation to regain control of the road from capital Noumea to the international airport would take several days. Gendarmes had dismantled 76 road blocks, the High Commission said on Monday.
Airline Aircalin said the airport would remained closed until Thursday.
Protests erupted last week, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved in France that would change who is allowed to participate in elections, which local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.
Six people have been killed and the unrest has left a trail of burnt businesses and cars and looted shops, with road barricades restricting access to medicine and food. The business chamber said 150 companies had been looted and burnt.

EVACUATIONS AWAITED
Pro-independence political parties say they want the French government to withdraw the electoral reform before they restart talks.
"We need strong actions [from the government] to calm the situation ... this is a political, not a security issue," said Dominique Fochi, secretary general of the pro-independence Caledonian Union.
Shares of Australian nickel miners were on the rise as underlying prices surged by 7% over the weekend due to unrest in New Caledonia, a key global supplier of the metal.
Australia's Albanese earlier told ABC radio his country was awaiting approval from French authorities to send an evacuation flight to pick up tourists stranded in New Caledonia hotels.
Around 300 Australians have registered with consular officials in the French territory, which lies in the southwest Pacific, some 1,500 km (930 miles) east of Australia.
There were around 3,200 people waiting to leave or enter New Caledonia as commercial flights were cancelled due to the unrest that broke out last week, the local government said.
New Zealand defence aircraft were on standby and also awaiting the French go-ahead to repatriate nationals, its Foreign Minister Winston Peters wrote in a post on X on Sunday.


Indians vote early in fifth phase of polls to avoid scorching heat

Indians vote early in fifth phase of polls to avoid scorching heat
Updated 20 May 2024
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Indians vote early in fifth phase of polls to avoid scorching heat

Indians vote early in fifth phase of polls to avoid scorching heat
  • World’s largest election began on April 19 amid high summer temperatures and more days of heatwaves than usual predicted
  • Two senior citizens collapsed at polling station in Mumbai temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius and humidity of 71 percent 

MUMBAI/BHUBANESWAR: Indians began voting early on Monday in the fifth phase of mammoth general elections, with thousands queuing at polling stations to beat the scorching heat in the financial capital of Mumbai and the sprawling states of Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

The world’s largest election began on April 19, amid high summer temperatures, with the weather office predicting more days of heatwaves than usual through the season.

Votes will be counted on June 4, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to win a rare third consecutive term.

“Given the hot and humid conditions, there could have been fans and better arrangements for the ill and those with disabilities,” said Sangeeta Rege, 46, a director at a health research organization.

She was speaking after two senior citizens collapsed at her polling station in Mumbai temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 Fahrenheit) and humidity of 71 percent that made it difficult for many, especially the elderly, to set foot outdoors.

Nearly a billion people are eligible to vote in India’s elections, but after poor initial turnout in early phases, more exercised the franchise to take the average of the first four rounds to 66.95 percent, with 69 percent voting in the May 13 fourth phase.

Monday’s phase has the fewest constituencies going to the polls, with 89.5 million voters set to pick representatives for 49 seats.

High-profile candidates in the fray on Monday include trade minister Piyush Goyal, standing from one of six seats in Mumbai, and defense minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, both cities where there has been poor voter turnout in the past.

On Sunday, the Election Commission specifically urged residents of both cities “to erase the stigma” of urban apathy.

“At the core of our vision for Mumbai is – better infrastructure and more ‘ease of living,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while campaigning in the city last week.

GANDHI FAMILY BASTIONS

Two boroughs of the opposition Congress party’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty are also going to the polls in the large politically crucial northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Family scion Rahul Gandhi is contesting the seat of Raebareli, in addition to Wayanad in the south, which has already voted.

Smriti Irani, minister for women and child development, is contesting from Amethi, where she defeated Rahul Gandhi in 2019, to take a seat his family held almost continuously for the last four decades.

Other keenly watched contests in the state include Kaiserganj, where the BJP is fielding the son of a former wrestling federation chief, although the father has been charged with sexually harassing female wrestlers.

Poor voter turnout became a concern for the ruling BJP initially, and analysts believe the low numbers cast doubts on the landslide victory the party and its allies sought.

But long queues snaked out of polling booths in Mumbai and Bolangir in the eastern state of Odisha after the weather department forecast maximum temperatures to rise between 2 degrees and 4 degrees Celsius.

The election aimed “to ensure stability and security ... plus development of my city and country which ... is happening at a rapid rate,” said Mumbai homemaker Jaya Roy Chowdhury, 48.

“The BJP has not fielded the right candidate for the Lok Sabha, but we are voting ... with Modi in mind,” said 55-year-old Odisha farmer Girish Mishra, referring to the lower house of parliament.

Modi, accused by opponents of targeting minority Muslims to please hard-line voters, resolved in a television interview aired after the fourth phase to “not do Hindu-Muslim (in politics).”

He has repeatedly accused the Congress of plans to extend welfare benefits to Muslims at the expense of disadvantaged tribal groups and Hindu castes, a claim the opposition party has denied.


London court set to rule on Julian Assange extradition

London court set to rule on Julian Assange extradition
Updated 20 May 2024
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London court set to rule on Julian Assange extradition

London court set to rule on Julian Assange extradition
  • The 52-year-old Australian is seeking permission to appeal against a ruling allowing him to be sent to face a US trial on espionage charges

London: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could find out on Monday whether he has won a reprieve in his last-ditch legal battle to avoid extradition from Britain to the United States.
The 52-year-old Australian is seeking permission to appeal against a ruling allowing him to be sent to face a US trial on espionage charges, after a long-running court saga.
Two London High Court judges handling Assange’s request adjourned the case in March, asking US government lawyers to give “satisfactory assurances” about free speech protections and that he would not face the death penalty if convicted.
Those submissions are expected to be presented at a hearing on Monday, and the judges could rule immediately afterwards.
If successful, Assange will be able to go back to domestic UK courts.
If he loses, Assange could be swiftly extradited after a five-year legal battle that has pitted the Washington and London governments against free-speech campaigners.
Assange’s only hope would then be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which could order a stay on the extradition if it decides there are “exceptional circumstances.”
It would also require London to accept the order. This is uncertain because of a separate dispute with the European court which blocked the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Dozens of Assange supporters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London early Monday, many wearing T-shirts bearing Assange’s face.
“This man’s life is at stake,” 83-year-old sculptor Jenny West told AFP.
“He represents all other journalists, it’s a pressing humanitarian situation,” she added.
Assange has been detained in the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since April 2019.
He was arrested after spending seven years holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced accusations of sexual assault that were eventually dropped.
US authorities want to put the publisher on trial for divulging US military secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange is accused of publishing some 700,000 confidential documents relating to US military and diplomatic activities, starting in 2010.
The United States has accused Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, which his supporters warn mean he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.
UK courts approved the extradition request after the United States vowed that Assange would not go to its most extreme prison, “ADX Florence,” nor to subject him to the harsh regime known as “Special Administrative Measures.”
His supporters have criticized the legal proceedings he has faced.
“It is abundantly clear of course that the process in the court in the United Kingdom is corrupt. The case is rigged against Julian,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, told reporters last Wednesday.
Stella Assange said she hoped her husband would be present at Monday’s hearing but added that she did not expect the judges to rule in his favor.
“I don’t expect a rational outcome from the courts, I’m afraid to say,” she said.
Assange’s supporters say his health is fragile and the Council of Europe this week voiced concern about his treatment.
The United States indicted Assange multiple times between 2018 and 2020 but President Joe Biden has faced domestic and international pressure to drop the case filed under his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden indicated recently that the United States was considering an Australian request to drop the charges.
“President Biden has the chance still to be the president who put an end to this, who acted in the interest of press freedom in journalism,” said Rebecca Vincent, of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).


Daesh claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spanish citizens and 3 Afghans

Daesh claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spanish citizens and 3 Afghans
Updated 20 May 2024
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Daesh claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spanish citizens and 3 Afghans

Daesh claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spanish citizens and 3 Afghans
  • The Daesh group issued statements on its Aamaq news agency late Sunday
  • Seven people were wounded in the attack on Friday in on Bamiyan province, a major tourist area

ISLAMABAD: The Daesh group has claimed responsibility for an attack on foreigners in central Afghanistan last week in which three Spanish citizens and three Afghans were killed.
Seven people were wounded in the attack on Friday in on Bamiyan province, a major tourist area, according to Abdul Mateen Qani, a spokesman for the interior minister. He said seven suspects were arrested at the scene.
The Daesh group issued statements on its Aamaq news agency late Sunday that said its fighters attacked a bus carrying tourists and their guides. “The attack was in response to the IS leaders’ directions to target citizens of the European Union wherever they are found,” it said.
Spain’s Foreign Ministry said three Spaniards died and at least one more had been wounded. A Taliban official in Bamiyan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the four wounded foreigners were from Spain, Norway, Australia and Latvia.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote on social media platform X that he was “overwhelmed” by the news.
Qani said that all those who were wounded have been transferred to capital of Kabul for treatment and they are stable condition.
The Daesh group’s affiliate in Afghanistan is a major Taliban rival and its militants have attacked schools, hospitals, mosques and minority Shiite areas throughout the country.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country after 20 years of war.
The Taliban is seeking to increase the number of tourists coming to the country. In 2021, there were 691 foreign tourists; in 2022, that figure rose to 2,300; and last year, it topped 7,000.
Bamiyan was the site of two massive Buddha statues carved into a cliff between the 4th and 6th century and which were destroyed by the Taliban at Al-Qaeda’s urging in early 2001.
Separately on Monday, a hand grenade exploded in the southern city of Kandahar, killing at least one civilian and wounding three, the Kandahar police chief’s office said.
Police were investigating the explosion near the road toward Kandahar airport, the statement said. No group has taken responsibility for the blast.