GOP’s Jim Jordan fails again to win vote to become US House speaker and colleagues seek other options

GOP’s Jim Jordan fails again to win vote to become US House speaker and colleagues seek other options
US Representative Jim Jordan arrives for a GOP caucus meeting at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. on October 16, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 19 October 2023
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GOP’s Jim Jordan fails again to win vote to become US House speaker and colleagues seek other options

GOP’s Jim Jordan fails again to win vote to become US House speaker and colleagues seek other options
  • The combative ally of Donald Trump lost two more Republican party mates during the second round of voting
  • Without a House speaker, legislative work in the US Congress had been at a standstill

WASHINGTON: Republican Rep. Jim Jordan failed again Wednesday on a crucial second ballot to become House speaker, the hard-fighting ally of Donald Trump losing even more GOP colleagues who are refusing to give him the gavel.
Next steps were highly uncertain as angry, frustrated Republicans looked at other options. A bipartisan group of lawmakers floated an extraordinary plan — to give the interim speaker-pro-tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., more power to reopen the immobilized House and temporarily conduct routine business.
What was clear was that Jordan’s path to become House speaker was almost certainly lost. He was opposed by 22 Republicans, two more than he lost in first round voting the day before.
“We’ll keep talking to members, keep working on it,” Jordan, a founding member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, said after the vote, vowing to stay in the race.
The House came to another abrupt standstill, stuck now 15 days without a speaker — a position of power second in line to the presidency — since the sudden ouster of Kevin McCarthy. Once a formality in Congress, the vote for House speaker has devolved into another bitter GOP showdown for the gavel.
As Republicans upset and exhausted by the infighting retreated for private conversations, hundreds of protesters, if not more, amassed outside the Capitol over the Israel-Hamas war, a stark reminder of the dangers of having the House adrift as political challenges intensify at home and abroad.
Ahead of the morning vote, Jordan, the combative Judiciary Committee chairman, made an unusual plea for party unity — almost daring his colleagues to put forward the alternative proposal for a temporary speaker.
“We’ve been at this two weeks,” Jordan said at the Capitol. “American people deserve to have their government functioning.”
But as the rollcall got underway, he lost more than he gained, picking up three backers but adding more detractors. No further votes were scheduled.
The holdouts added to a surprisingly large and politically diverse group of 20 Republicans who had rejected Jordan’s nomination the day before, many resenting the hardball tactics seeking to enforce support, and viewing the Ohio congressman as too extreme for a central seat of US power.
With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, Jordan must pick up most of his GOP foes to win. Wednesday’s tally, with 199 Republicans voting for Jordan and 212 for Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, left no candidate with a clear majority, as the 22 Republicans voted for someone else.
One new Jordan opponent, Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, explained his vote, “I think it’s time to move on.”
Bipartisan groups of lawmakers have been floating ways to operate the House by giving greater power to McHenry or another temporary speaker. The House had never ousted its speaker before McCarthy, and McHenry could tap the temporary powers that were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to ensure continuity of government.
The novel concept of boosting the interim speaker’s role was gaining favor with a pair of high-profile Republicans: Former GOP speakers Newt Gingrich and John Boehner.
Gingrich said while he likes Jordan, he has “no faith” the nominee can get much beyond the 200 votes he won in the first vote.
“We can’t sit around and suck our thumbs and hope the world will wait until the House Republicans get their act together,” Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on his show.
Boehner reposted Gingrich’s views saying, “I agree,” on social media.
The two men have deep experience with the subject. Both were chased to early retirement.
“The Republicans are unable to function right now,” Jeffries said late Tuesday. “All options are on the table to end the Republican civil war,” he added Wednesday.
In nominating Jordan, veteran Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said it was time to end the upheaval that he had warned against with McCarthy’s sudden ouster.
“We have a chance today to end that chaos, end that uncertainty,” Cole said.
He said that Jordan was not a “shrinking violet” but someone who could lead the House.
Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California nominated Jeffries, noting the Democratic leader continues to win more votes and is the best choice to move the country forward.
“The country cannot afford more delays and more chaos,” Aguilar said.
Jordan had relied on backing from Trump, the party’s frontrunner in the 2024 election to challenge President Joe Biden, and groups pressuring rank-and-file lawmakers for the vote, but it was not enough.
Flexing their independence, the holdouts are a mix of pragmatists — ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing, to newer lawmakers from districts where voters back home prefer President Joe Biden to Trump.
Some Republicans resent being pressured by Jordan’s allies and say they are being threatened with primary opponents if they don’t support him as speaker. Others are simply upset at the way the whole process has dragged out.
They cast their ballots for McCarthy, Majority Leader Steve Scalize — who had been the party’s first nominee to replace McCarthy — and others, one vote even going to the retired Boehner.
“Jim Jordan will be a great speaker,” Trump had said Tuesday said outside a courthouse in Manhattan, where he is facing business fraud charges. “I think he’s going to have the votes soon, if not today, over the next day or two.”
Jordan has been a top Trump ally, particularly during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by the former president’s backers who were trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.
The political climb has been steep for Jordan who is known more as a chaos agent than a skilled legislator, raising questions about how he would lead. Congress faces daunting challenges, risking a federal shutdown at home if it fails to fund the government and fielding Biden’s requests for aid to help Ukraine and Israel in the wars abroad.
First elected in 2006, Jordan has few bills to his name from his time in office. He also faces questions about his past. Some years ago, Jordan denied allegations from former wrestlers during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University who accused him of knowing about claims they were inappropriately groped by an Ohio doctor. Jordan has said he was never aware of any abuse.
 


Germany pledges more Sudan aid as European leaders push for funding on war anniversary

Germany pledges more Sudan aid as European leaders push for funding on war anniversary
Updated 3 sec ago
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Germany pledges more Sudan aid as European leaders push for funding on war anniversary

Germany pledges more Sudan aid as European leaders push for funding on war anniversary
  • The war in Sudan broke out on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces
  • World Health Organization said on Friday that the crisis could worsen in the coming months as the distribution of humanitarian aid and medical supplies remains restricted
PARIS: Germany will provide a further 244 million euros ($260 million) in humanitarian aid to war-torn Sudan, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday as European diplomts met in Paris to mark the first anniversary of the devastating conflict.
“We can manage together to avoid a terrible famine catastrophe, but only if we get active together now,” Baerbock said, adding that, in the worst-case scenario, one million people could die of hunger this year.
The United States, hoping the Paris conference could loosen purse strings elsewhere, also planned to announce an additional $100 million in aid, Reuters reported on Sunday.
At Monday’s meeting, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné was also joined by top EU diplomat Josep Borrell and EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič.
“It is obvious that the series of crises — I am thinking of Gaza and Ukraine — have pushed the Sudanese crisis into the background,” Sejourne said.
French President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to meet Borrell and Lenarčič at the end of the conference, according to the EU’s external action office.
The war in Sudan broke out on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). It has devastated infrastructure, prompted warnings of famine and displaced millions of people inside and outside Sudan.
Thousands of civilians have been killed, although death toll estimates are highly uncertain, and each side has been accused of committing war crimes. Both sides have largely denied the accusations against them.
The World Health Organization said on Friday that the crisis could worsen in the coming months as the distribution of humanitarian aid and medical supplies remains restricted.
Last week, US Special Envoy Tom Perriello called the international response so far “pitiful.”
“We’re at 5 percent of the needed amount,” he said, adding that the US had already committed over a billion dollars in humanitarian relief to the conflict.

UK’s Cameron urges Israel not to retaliate against Iran, France calls to avoid ‘conflagration’

UK’s Cameron urges Israel not to retaliate against Iran, France calls to avoid ‘conflagration’
Updated 15 April 2024
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UK’s Cameron urges Israel not to retaliate against Iran, France calls to avoid ‘conflagration’

UK’s Cameron urges Israel not to retaliate against Iran, France calls to avoid ‘conflagration’
  • The strike by more than 300 missiles and drones from Iran caused only modest damage in Israel

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary David Cameron urged Israel not to retaliate after Iran’s drone and missile attack, saying it should “think with head as well as heart” because Tehran’s strike had been a near total failure.
The strike by more than 300 missiles and drones from Iran caused only modest damage in Israel as most were shot down by its Iron Dome defense system and with help from the US, Britain, France and Jordan. It followed a suspected Israeli airstrike on Iran’s embassy compound in Syria on April 1.
“I think they’re perfectly justified to think they should respond because they have been attacked, but we are urging them as friends to think with head as well as heart, to be smart as well as tough,” Cameron told BBC TV.
He said he was urging Israel not to escalate the tensions in the Middle East.
“In many ways this has been a double defeat for Iran. The attack was an almost total failure, and they revealed to the world that they are the malign influence in the region prepared to do this. So our hope is that there won’t be a retaliatory response,” he told Sky News.
Cameron said Britain would also work with allies to look at imposing more sanctions on Iran, and it urged Israel to return its focus on agreeing a ceasefire with Iran-backed Hamas in the Gaza war.
Macron says will do everything to avoid Middle East ‘conflagration’
President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that France would help do everything to avoid an escalation in the Middle East.
Iran launched its first-ever direct assault on Israeli territory late Saturday in retaliation for a deadly April 1 air strike on Tehran’s consulate building in Syria’s capital Damascus that was widely blamed on Israel.
“We will do everything to avoid a conflagration that is to say an escalation,” he told the BFMTV news channel.
French jets helped repel an Iranian violation of Jordan’s air space, Macron added.
“For several years now we have had an air base in Jordan to fight terrorism,” he said.
“Jordanian airspace was violated... We made our planes take off and we intercepted what we had to intercept.”
Experts say Israel was able to neutralize most of the missiles and drones.
French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne on Sunday said he had asked the foreign ministry to summon the Iranian ambassador on Monday to express a “message of firmness.”


Philippines’ Marcos says will not hand former president Duterte to ICC over drug war

Philippines’ Marcos says will not hand former president Duterte to ICC over drug war
Updated 18 min 27 sec ago
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Philippines’ Marcos says will not hand former president Duterte to ICC over drug war

Philippines’ Marcos says will not hand former president Duterte to ICC over drug war
  • Marcos also said the trilateral agreement signed between his country and the US and Japan was not directed at anyone

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said Monday he would not hand his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte to the International Criminal Court, which is investigating his deadly drug war.

Thousands of people have been killed in the anti-narcotics campaign started by Duterte in 2016 and continued under Marcos.

Asked Monday if he would hand Duterte — who has accused him of being a drug addict — to the ICC if it issued a warrant for his arrest, Marcos said “no.”

“We don’t recognize the warrant that they will send to us. That’s a no,” he said at a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

“We are well within international law when we take the position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the ICC in the Philippines,” Marcos said.

Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the ICC in 2019 after the Hague-based tribunal started probing allegations of human rights abuses committed during his drug war.

It launched a formal inquiry into Duterte’s crackdown in September 2021, only to suspend it two months later after Manila said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen and vigilantes.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor later asked to reopen the inquiry, and pre-trial judges at the court eventually gave the green light in late January 2023 — a decision that Manila appealed shortly afterwards and lost.

More than 6,000 people were killed in anti-drug operations under Duterte, according to official data released by the Philippines. ICC prosecutors estimate the death toll at between 12,000 and 30,000.

Marcos has repeatedly ruled out rejoining the court and insisted it does not have jurisdiction in the country because there is a functioning judicial system.

Relations between the Marcos and Duterte families have deteriorated in the past two years.

Marcos, the son and namesake of the country’s former dictator, won the 2022 presidential election by a landslide following a massive social media misinformation campaign whitewashing his family’s history.

His vice presidential running mate Sara Duterte, the daughter of the former president, helped him win vital support from her family’s home island of Mindanao.

In recent months there has been a very public falling out between the families as they begin to shore up their rival support bases and secure key positions ahead of the mid-term elections in 2025 and presidential elections in 2028.

NO ADDITIONAL US BASES

Marcos also said the US would not be given access to more Philippine military bases.

“The answer to that is no. The Philippines has no plan to open or to establish more EDCA bases,” Marcos said in response to a question.

Manila last year announced the locations of four more military bases it is allowing the US military to use on top of the five agreed on under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, known as EDCA.

The deal allows US troops to rotate through and store defense equipment and supplies.

The four additional bases include sites near the hotly disputed South China Sea and another not far from Taiwan.

Marcos made his remarks during a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines that was attended by members of the Philippine military and foreign diplomats.

Marcos also said the trilateral agreement signed between his country and the United States and Japan was not directed at anyone, but merely a strengthening of relations between the three.

Marcos met with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the nations’ first trilateral summit in Washington last week.

A death of a Filipino soldier in the South China Sea could be grounds to invoke a mutual defense treaty with the US, Marcos told foreign correspondents in Manila.


Australian police say Sydney knife attacker may have targeted women

Australian police say Sydney knife attacker may have targeted women
Updated 15 April 2024
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Australian police say Sydney knife attacker may have targeted women

Australian police say Sydney knife attacker may have targeted women
  • Five of six people killed and majority of 12 injured in Saturday’s attack in Sydeny were women
  • Australian Police say suspect Joel Cauchi, 40, suffered from mental health issues in the past

SYDNEY: Australian police said on Monday the attacker who fatally stabbed six people at a busy shopping center in Sydney’s beach suburb of Bondi may have targeted women, as the country mourned the victims and hundreds of people laid flowers near the scene.

In the attack on Saturday at the Westfield Bondi Junction mall, five of the six people killed and the majority of the 12 injured were women.

“It’s obvious to me, it’s obvious to detectives that seems to be an area of interest that the offender had focused on women and avoided the men,” New South Wales State Police Commissioner Karen Webb told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“The videos speak for themselves, don’t they? That’s certainly a line for inquiry for us.”

Witnesses described how attacker Joel Cauchi, 40, wearing shorts and an Australian national rugby league jersey, ran through the mall with a knife. He was killed by Inspector Amy Scott, who confronted him solo while he was on the rampage.

Police have said Cauchi had mental health issues in the past and there was no indication ideology was a motive.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said “the gender breakdown ... was concerning” when asked on ABC Radio if it was a gender-motivated attack.

The only man who was killed during the attack was a 30-year-old security guard at the mall, Faraz Tahir, who arrived in Australia last year as a refugee from Pakistan, according to a statement from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Australia, to which he belonged.

The New South Wales government said it would give A$18 million ($12 million) for an independent coronial inquest into the attack but Premier Chris Minns ruled out any change in rules that would allow private security guards to carry firearms.

DAY OF MOURNING

Thousands of flowers and wreaths lay in a makeshift memorial outside the beachside mall in Bondi on Monday as hundreds of Sydney residents came down to pay tributes.

“It’s shocking something like this could happen so close to home,” said Wren Wyatt, who paid respects at the memorial.

“I’m still trying to get back to everyday life. I’ve taken today off to try and get my head better,” she added.

Wyatt said she was walking past the mall on Saturday when a crowd rushed past her screaming and security told her to flee.

Police said they had finished taking physical evidence at the mall and began allowing people inside to collect cars and other belongings.

Violent crimes such as Saturday’s stabbing are rare in the country of about 27 million people, which has some of the world’s toughest gun and knife laws.

The Australian national flag is flying at half-mast across the country, including at the Parliament House and Sydney’s Harbor Bridge, in honor of the victims. Sydney Opera House’s sails will be lit with a black ribbon on Monday evening.

Chinese state TV reported on Sunday that one Chinese citizen was among those who had died in the attack, without revealing the identity of the victim, adding that another Chinese citizen had been injured. 

($1 = 1.5437 Australian dollars)


In Modi’s India, opponents and journalists feel the squeeze ahead of election

In Modi’s India, opponents and journalists feel the squeeze ahead of election
Updated 15 April 2024
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In Modi’s India, opponents and journalists feel the squeeze ahead of election

In Modi’s India, opponents and journalists feel the squeeze ahead of election
  • India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has brought corruption charges against many officials from its main rival
  • Under Modi’s rule, peaceful protests have been crushed with force while a once-free press is threatened

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government are increasingly wielding strong-arm tactics to subdue political opponents and critics of the ruling Hindu-nationalist party.

A decade into power, and on the cusp of securing five more years, the Modi government is reversing India’s decadeslong commitment to multiparty democracy and secularism.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has brought corruption charges against many officials from its main rival, the Congress Party, but few convictions. Dozens of politicians from other opposition parties are under investigation or in jail. And just last month, Modi’s government froze the Congress party’s bank accounts for what it said was non-payment of taxes.

The Modi administration says the country’s investigating agencies are independent and that its democratic institutions are robust, pointing to high voter turnout in recent elections that have delivered Modi’s party a clear mandate.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah, in New Delhi, India, on April 8, 2019. (AP/File)

Yet civil liberties are under attack. Peaceful protests have been crushed with force. A once free and diverse press is threatened. Violence is on the rise against the Muslim minority. And the country’s judiciary increasingly aligns with the executive branch.

To better understand how Modi is reshaping India and what is at stake in an election that begins April 19 and runs through June 1, the AP spoke with a lawyer, a journalist, and an opposition politician.

Here are their stories:

DEFENDING MODI’S CRITICS

Mihir Desai has fought for the civil liberties and human rights of India’s most disadvantaged communities, such as the poor and Muslims, for nearly four decades.

The 65-year-old lawyer from India’s financial capital Mumbai is now working on one of his – and the country’s – most high-profile cases: defending a dozen political activists, journalists and lawyers jailed in 2018 on accusations of plotting to overthrow the Modi government. The accusations, he says, are baseless – just one of the government’s all-too-frequent and audacious efforts to silence critics.

One of the defendants in the case, a Jesuit priest and longtime civil rights activist, died at age 84 after about nine months in custody. The other defendants remain in jail, charged under anti-terror laws that rarely result in convictions.

“First authorities came up with a theory that they planned to kill Modi. Now they are being accused of being terrorist sympathizers,” he said.

Lawyer Mihir Desai poses for a photograph at his office in Mumbai, India, on April 3, 2024. (AP)

The point of it all, Desai believes, is to send a message to any would-be critics.

According to digital forensics experts at US-based Arsenal Consulting, the Indian government hacked into the computers of some of the accused and planted files that were later used as evidence against them.

To Desai, this is proof that the Modi government has “weaponized” the country’s once-independent investigative agencies.

He sees threats to Indian democracy all around him. Last year, the government removed the country’s chief justice as one of three people who appoint commissioners overseeing elections; Modi and the opposition leader in parliament are the others. Now, one of Modi’s cabinet ministers has a vote in the process, giving the ruling party a 2-1 majority.

“It’s a death knell to free and fair elections,” Desai said.

A POLITICIAN’S PLIGHT IN KASHMIR

Waheed-Ur-Rehman Para, 35, was long seen as an ally in the Indian government’s interests in Kashmir. He worked with young people in the majority-Muslim, semi-autonomous region and preached to them about the benefits of embracing India and its democratic institutions – versus seeking independence, or a merger with Pakistan.

Beginning in 2018, though, Para was viewed with suspicion by the Modi government for alleged connections to anti-India separatists. Since then, he has been jailed twice: in 2019 on suspicion that he and other political opponents could stoke unrest; and in 2020 on charges of supporting militant groups — charges he denies.

The accusations stunned Para, whose People’s Democratic Party once ruled Kashmir in an alliance with Modi’s party.

But he believes the motivation was clear: “I was arrested to forcibly endorse the government’s 2019 decision,” he said, referring to a clampdown on the resistance in Kashmir after the elimination of the region’s semi-autonomous status.

Modi’s administration argues the move was necessary to fully integrate the disputed region with India and foster economic development there.

After his 2020 arrest, Para remained in jail for nearly two years, often in solitary confinement, and was subjected to “abusive interrogations,’’ according to UN experts.
“My crime was that I wanted the integration of Kashmir, not through the barrel of the gun,” said Para, who is seeking to represent Kashmir’s main city in the upcoming election.

Para sees his own plight within the larger context of the Modi government’s effort to silence perceived opponents, especially those with ties to Muslims, who make up 14 percent of India’s population.

“It is a huge ethical question … that the largest democracy in the world is not able to assimilate, or offer dignity to, the smallest pocket of its people,” he said.

The campaign to turn once-secular India into a Hindu republic may help Modi win elections in the short term, Para said, but something much bigger will be lost.

“It risks the whole idea of this country’s diversity,” he said.

A JOURNALIST FIGHTS CHARGES

In October 2020, independent journalist Sidheeq Kappan was arrested while trying to report on a government clampdown in the northern Uttar Pradesh state ruled by Modi’s party.

For days, authorities had been struggling to contain protests and outcry over a gruesome rape case. Those accused of the crime were four upper caste Hindu men, while the victim belonged to the Dalit community, the lowest rung of India’s caste hierarchy.

Kappan, a 44-year-old Muslim, was detained and jailed before he even reached the crime site, accused of intending to incite violence. After two years in jail, his case reached India’s top court in 2022. While he was quickly granted bail, the case against him is ongoing.

Kappan’s case is not unique, and he says it highlights how India is becoming increasingly unsafe for journalists. Under intense pressure from the state, many Indian news organizations have become more pliant and supportive of government policies,

“Those who have tried to be independent have come under relentless attack by the government,” he said.

Foreign journalists are banned from reporting in Kashmir, for example. Same goes for India’s northeast Manipur state, which has been embroiled in ethnic violence for almost a year.

Television news is increasingly dominated by stations touting the government’s Hindu nationalist agenda, such as a new citizenship law that excludes Muslim migrants.
 Independent TV stations have been temporarily shut down, and newspapers that run articles critical of Modi’s agenda find that any advertising from the government – an important source of revenue – quickly dries up.

Last year, the India offices of the BBC were raided on tax irregularities just days after it aired a documentary critical of Modi.

The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders ranks India 161st on a worldwide list of countries’ press freedoms.

Kappan said he has barely been able to report news since his arrest. The trial keeps him busy, requiring him to travel to a court hundreds of miles away every other week. The time and money required for his trial have made it difficult for him to support his wife and three children, Kappan said.

“It is affecting their education, their mental health,” he said.