Group of swing state Muslims vows to ditch Biden in 2024 over his war stance

Aida Nackic, left, and Nusaiba Mubarak, listen to speakers during a vigil with state legislators and faith leaders currently on hunger strike outside the White House to demand that President Joe Biden call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (AP)
Aida Nackic, left, and Nusaiba Mubarak, listen to speakers during a vigil with state legislators and faith leaders currently on hunger strike outside the White House to demand that President Joe Biden call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Group of swing state Muslims vows to ditch Biden in 2024 over his war stance

Group of swing state Muslims vows to ditch Biden in 2024 over his war stance
  • More than 13,300 Palestinians — roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza — have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war

CHICAGO: Muslim community leaders from several swing states pledged to withdraw support for US President Joe Biden on Saturday at a conference in suburban Detroit, citing his refusal to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Democrats in Michigan have warned the White House that Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war could cost him enough support within the Arab American community to sway the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.
Leaders from Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania gathered behind a lectern that read “Abandon Biden, cease-fire now” in Dearborn, Michigan, the city with the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States.




Actors Renee Benton, left, and Cynthia Nixon speak alongside state legislators and faith leaders currently on hunger strike outside the White House to demand that President Joe Biden call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (AP)

More than 13,300 Palestinians — roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza — have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war. Some 1,200 Israelis have been killed, mostly during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war.
Biden’s unwillingness to call for a cease-fire has damaged his relationship with the American Muslim community beyond repair, according to Minneapolis-based Jaylani Hussein, who helped organize the conference.
“Families and children are being wiped out with our tax dollars,” Hussein said. “What we are witnessing today is the tragedy upon tragedy.”
Hussein, who is Muslim, told The Associated Press: “The anger in our community is beyond belief. One of the things that made us even more angry is the fact that most of us actually voted for President Biden. I even had one incident where a religious leader asked me, ‘How do I get my 2020 ballot so I can destroy it?” he said.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates previously said the Biden administration has pushed for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, adding that “fighting against the poison of antisemitism and standing up for Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself have always been core values for President Biden.”
Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were critical components of the “blue wall” of states that Biden returned to the Democratic column, helping him win the White House in 2020. About 3.45 million Americans identify as Muslim, or 1.1 percent of the country’s population, and the demographic tends to lean Democratic, according to Pew Research Center.
But leaders said Saturday that the community’s support for Biden has vanished as more Palestinian men, women and children are killed in Gaza.
“We are not powerless as American Muslims. We are powerful. We don’t only have the money, but we have the actual votes. And we will use that vote to save this nation from itself,” Hussein said at the conference.
The Muslim community leaders’ condemnation of Biden does not indicate support for former President Donald Trump, the clear front-runner in the Republican primary, Hussein clarified.
“We don’t have two options. We have many options. And we’re going to exercise that,” he said.

 

 


Pope Francis skips readings at audience, says he still has a cold

Pope Francis skips readings at audience, says he still has a cold
Updated 53 min 30 sec ago
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Pope Francis skips readings at audience, says he still has a cold

Pope Francis skips readings at audience, says he still has a cold
  • The 87-year-old pontiff, who has had a number of health issues recently, canceled appointments on Saturday and Monday

VATICAN CITY, Feb 28 : Pope Francis skipped readings at his Wednesday weekly audience, delegating the task to an aide and telling the faithful he was still not well.
The 87-year-old pontiff, who has had a number of health issues recently, had canceled appointments on Saturday and on Monday due to what the Vatican called a mild flu.
On Sunday, however, he addressed crowds in St. Peter’s Square as normal, to deliver his Angelus message.
“Dear brothers and sisters, I still have a bit of a cold,” Francis said, announcing that someone else would read his catechesis on envy and vainglory, two of the seven deadly sins.
In December, the pope was forced to cancel a planned trip to a COP28 climate meeting in Dubai because of the effects of influenza and lung inflammation.
In January, he was unable to complete a speech owing to “a touch of bronchitis.” Later in the month he said he was doing better despite “some aches and pains.”
As a young man in his native Argentina, Francis had part of a lung removed.
The pope also has difficulty walking, and regularly uses a wheelchair or a cane. On Wednesday, he arrived at his indoor audience in a wheelchair. (Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Miral Fahmy)


Extremism is US voters’ greatest worry, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds

Extremism is US voters’ greatest worry, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds
Updated 28 February 2024
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Extremism is US voters’ greatest worry, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds

Extremism is US voters’ greatest worry, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds
  • Marginally higher than those who picked the economy – 19 percent – and immigration – 18 percent

WASHINGTON: Worries about political extremism or threats to democracy have emerged as a top concern for US voters and an issue where President Joe Biden has a slight advantage over Donald Trump ahead of the November election, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

Some 21 percent of respondents in the three-day poll, which closed on Sunday, said “political extremism or threats to democracy” was the biggest problem facing the US, a share that was marginally higher than those who picked the economy — 19 percent — and immigration — 18 percent.

Biden’s Democrats considered extremism by far the No. 1 issue while Trump’s Republicans overwhelmingly chose immigration.

Extremism was independents’ top concern, cited by almost a third of independent respondents, followed by immigration, cited by about one in five. The economy ranked third.

During and since his presidency, Trump has kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism of US institutions, claiming the four criminal prosecutions he faces are politically motivated and holding to his false claims that his 2020 election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.

That rhetoric was central to his message to supporters ahead of their Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol.

Overall, 34 percent of respondents said Biden had a better approach for handling extremism, compared to 31 percent who said Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

The poll helps show the extent to which Biden’s re-election bid could rely on voters being motivated by their opposition to Trump rather than enthusiasm over Biden’s candidacy.

BIDEN APPROVAL DIPS

Biden’s approval rating in the poll, 37 percent, was close to the lowest level of his presidency and down a percentage point from a month earlier. Nine-out-of-ten Democrats approved of his performance and the same share of Republicans disapproved, while independents were slightly skewed toward disapproval.

But 44 percent of Democrats said extremism was their top issue, compared to 10 percent who said the economy, their second most-picked concern. Prior Reuters/Ipsos polls did not include political extremism as an option for respondents to select as the country’s biggest problem.

Biden’s re-election campaign has focused its messaging on the dangers to democracy posed by Trump, whose many legal problems include criminal charges tied to his efforts to overturn his loss to Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Other Reuters/Ipsos polls have shown Biden’s supporters are more motivated by their opposition to Trump than by their support for  the president.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all the charges he faces, which he claims are part a conspiracy by Democrats to derail his return to the White House.

Trump has regularly launched verbal attacks against the prosecutors and judges handling his civil and criminal cases, and a Reuters review earlier this month found that serious threats to US federal judges have more than doubled over the past three years.

While 38 percent of Republicans in the poll cited immigration as the top issue for the country, a significant proportion — 13 percent — picked extremism, a sign that Trump’s own claims about the danger to the nation posed by “far left” Democrats also resonate with his base.

The economy, which has suffered under high inflation for most of Biden’s presidency, was the second biggest issue among Republicans, with 22 percent saying it weighed the most.

The economy has long been a sore spot for Biden. Thirty-nine percent of poll respondents said Trump had a better approach to the economy, compared to 33 percent who said Biden did.

Trump led Biden 36 percent to 30 percent when it came to having a better approach to foreign conflicts, though few Democrats or Republicans considered those issues to be top national priorities.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll gathered responses online from 1,020 adults, using a nationally representative sample, and had a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.


US says Iranian operatives in Yemen aiding Houthi attacks

US says Iranian operatives in Yemen aiding Houthi attacks
Updated 28 February 2024
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US says Iranian operatives in Yemen aiding Houthi attacks

US says Iranian operatives in Yemen aiding Houthi attacks

WASHINGTON: Operatives from Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are working inside Yemen to support Houthi insurgents’ attacks on international shipping, a US official said Tuesday.

Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, told a Senate subcommittee that Iran’s clerical state was “equipping and facilitating” the Houthi attacks, which have triggered retaliatory US and British strikes on Yemen.

“Credible public reports suggest a significant number of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives are supporting Houthi attacks from inside Yemen,” Lenderking said.

“I can’t imagine the Yemeni people want these Iranians in their country. This must stop,” he said.

The White House said in December that Iran was “deeply involved” in planning the attacks, which the Houthis say are acts of solidarity with the Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war.

Lenderking, who has dealt with the Houthis since the start of President Joe Biden’s administration as he helped diplomacy to freeze a brutal civil war, acknowledged that the rebels have not been deterred.

“The fact that they continue this, and have said publicly that they will not stop until there’s a ceasefire in Gaza, is an indication that we’re not yet at the point, unfortunately, where they do intend to dial back,” Lenderking said.

The bombing campaign drew skepticism from some senators from Biden’s Democratic Party.

Chris Murphy, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Middle East, agreed that the United States has “an obligation to respond” to attacks on shipping but added, “I do worry about the efficacy.”

The Houthis, who control war-torn Yemen’s most populated areas, have previously reported the death of 17 fighters in Western strikes targeting their military facilities.

The Houthi attacks have had a significant effect on traffic through the busy Red Sea shipping route, forcing some companies into a two-week detour around southern Africa.

Last week, Egypt said Suez Canal revenues were down by up to 50 percent this year.


US Army is slashing thousands of posts in major revamp to prepare for future wars

US Army is slashing thousands of posts in major revamp to prepare for future wars
Updated 28 February 2024
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US Army is slashing thousands of posts in major revamp to prepare for future wars

US Army is slashing thousands of posts in major revamp to prepare for future wars
  • While the Army as it’s currently structured can have up to 494,000 soldiers, the total number of active-duty soldiers right now is about 445,000

WASHINGTON: The US Army is slashing the size of its force by about 24,000, or almost 5 percent, and restructuring to be better able to fight the next major war, as the service struggles with recruiting shortfalls that made it impossible to bring in enough soldiers to fill all the jobs.
The cuts will mainly be in already-empty posts — not actual soldiers — including in jobs related to counterinsurgency that swelled during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars but are not needed as much today. About 3,000 of the cuts would come from Army special operations forces.
At the same time, however, the plan will add about 7,500 troops in other critical missions, including air-defense and counter-drone units and five new task forces around the world with enhanced cyber, intelligence and long-range strike capabilities.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said she and Gen. Randy George, the Army chief, worked to thin out the number of places where they had empty or excess slots.
“We’re moving away from counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. We want to be postured for large-scale combat operations,” Wormuth told reporters on Tuesday. “So we looked at where were there pieces of force structure that were probably more associated with counterinsurgency, for example, that we don’t need anymore.”
George added that Army leaders did a lot of analysis to choose the places to cut.
“The things that we want to not have in our formation are actually things that we don’t think are going to make us successful on the battlefield going forward,” he said.
According to an Army document, the service is “significantly overstructured” and there aren’t enough soldiers to fill existing units. The cuts, it said, are “spaces” not “faces” and the Army will not be asking soldiers to leave the force.
Instead, the decision reflects the reality that for years the Army hasn’t been able to fill thousands of empty posts. While the Army as it’s currently structured can have up to 494,000 soldiers, the total number of active-duty soldiers right now is about 445,000. Under the new plan, the goal is to bring in enough troops over the next five years to reach a level of 470,000.
The planned overhaul comes after two decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan that forced the Army to quickly and dramatically expand in order to fill the brigades sent to the battlefront. That included a massive counterinsurgency mission to battle Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Daesh group.
Over time the military’s focus has shifted to great power competition from adversaries such as China and Russia, and threats from Iran and North Korea. And the war in Ukraine has shown the need for greater emphasis on air-defense systems and high-tech abilities both to use and counter airborne and sea-based drones.
Army leaders said they looked carefully across the board at all the service’s job specialties in search of places to trim. And they examined the ongoing effort to modernize the Army, with new high-tech weapons, to determine where additional forces should be focused.
According to the plan, the Army will cut about 10,000 spaces for engineers and similar jobs that were tied to counter-insurgency missions. An additional 2,700 cuts will come from units that don’t deploy often and can be trimmed, and 6,500 will come from various training and other posts.
There also will be about 10,000 posts cut from cavalry squadrons, Stryker brigade combat teams, infantry brigade combat teams and security force assistance brigades, which are used to train foreign forces.
The changes represent a significant shift for the Army to prepare for large-scale combat operations against more sophisticated enemies. But they also underscore the steep recruiting challenges that all of the military services are facing.
In the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the Navy, Army and Air Force all failed to meet their recruitment goals, while the Marine Corps and the tiny Space Force met their targets. The Army brought in a bit more than 50,000 recruits, falling well short of the publicly stated “stretch goal” of 65,000.
The previous fiscal year, the Army also missed its enlistment goal by 15,000. That year the goal was 60,000.
In response, the service launched a sweeping overhaul of its recruiting last fall to focus more on young people who have spent time in college or are job hunting early in their careers. And it is forming a new professional force of recruiters, rather than relying on soldiers randomly assigned to the task.
In discussing the changes at the time, Wormuth acknowledged that the service hasn’t been recruiting well “for many more years than one would think from just looking at the headlines in the last 18 months.” The service, she said, hasn’t met its annual goal for new enlistment contracts since 2014.

 


Biden and Trump win Michigan primaries, edging closer to a rematch

Biden and Trump win Michigan primaries, edging closer to a rematch
Updated 23 min 25 sec ago
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Biden and Trump win Michigan primaries, edging closer to a rematch

Biden and Trump win Michigan primaries, edging closer to a rematch
  • Trump won the state by just 11,000 votes in 2016 over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and then lost the state four years later by nearly 154,000 votes to Biden

DEARBORN, Michigan: President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump won the Michigan primaries on Tuesday, further solidifying the all-but-certain rematch between the two men.
Biden defeated Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, his one significant opponent left in the Democratic primary. But Democrats were also closely watching the results of the “uncommitted” vote, as Michigan has become the epicenter for dissatisfied members of Biden’s coalition that propelled him to victory in the state — and nationally — in 2020. The number of “uncommitted” votes has already surpassed the 10,000-vote margin by which Trump won Michigan in 2016, surpassing a goal set by organizers of this year’s protest effort.
As for Trump, he has now swept the first five states on the Republican primary calendar. His victory in Michigan over his last major primary challenger, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, comes after the former president defeated her by 20 percentage points in her home state of South Carolina on Saturday. The Trump campaign is looking to lock up the 1,215 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination sometime in mid-March.
Both campaigns are watching Tuesday’s results for more than just whether they won as expected. For Biden, a large number of voters choosing “uncommitted” could mean he’s in significant trouble with parts of the Democratic base in a state he can hardly afford to lose in November. Trump, meanwhile, has underperformed with suburban voters and people with a college degree, and faces a faction within his own party that believes he broke the law in one or more of the criminal cases against him.
Biden has already sailed to wins in South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire. The New Hampshire victory came via a write-in campaign as Biden did not formally appear on the ballot after the state broke the national party rules by going ahead of South Carolina, which had been designated to go first among the Democratic nominating contests.
Both the White House and Biden campaign officials have made trips to Michigan in recent weeks to talk with community leaders about the Israel-Hamas war and how Biden has approached the conflict, but those leaders, along with organizers of the “uncommitted” effort, have been undeterred.
The robust grassroots effort, which has been encouraging voters to select “uncommitted” as a way to register objections to his handling of Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza, has been Biden’s most significant political challenge in the early contests. That push, which began in earnest just a few weeks ago, has been backed by officials such as Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman in Congress, and former Rep. Andy Levin.
Our Revolution, the organizing group once tied to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, had also urged progressive voters to choose “uncommitted” Tuesday, saying it would send a message to Biden to “change course NOW on Gaza or else risk losing Michigan to Trump in November.”
Trump won the state by just 11,000 votes in 2016 over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and then lost the state four years later by nearly 154,000 votes to Biden. Organizers of the “uncommitted” effort wanted to show that they have at least the number of votes that were Trump’s margin of victory in 2016, to demonstrate how influential the bloc can be, and they reached that figure not long after the first round of polls in Michigan closed at 8 p.m.
Mariam Mohsen, a 35-year-old teacher from Dearborn, Michigan, said she had planned to vote “uncommitted” on Tuesday in order to send a message alongside other voters that “no candidate will receive our votes if they continue to support genocide in Gaza.”
“Four years ago I voted for Joe Biden. It was important that we vote to get Trump out of office,” Mohsen continued. “Today, I feel very disappointed in Joe Biden and I don’t feel like I did the right thing last election. If Trump is the nominee in November I would not vote for Trump. I would not vote for Trump or Biden. I don’t think, in terms of foreign policy, there will be any difference.”
Trump’s dominance of the early states is unparalleled since 1976, when Iowa and New Hampshire began their tradition of holding the first nominating contests. He has won resounding support from most pockets of the Republican voting base, including evangelical voters, conservatives and those who live in rural areas. But Trump has struggled with college-educated voters, losing that bloc in South Carolina to Haley on Saturday night.
Even senior figures in the Republican Party who have been skeptical of Trump are increasingly falling in line. South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican who has been critical of the party’s standard-bearer, endorsed Trump for president on Sunday.
Shaher Abdulrab, 35, an engineer from Dearborn, said Tuesday morning that he voted for Trump. Abdulrab said he believes Arab Americans have a lot more in common with Republicans than Democrats.
Abdulrab said he voted four years ago for Biden but believes Trump will win the general election in November partly because of the backing he would get from Arab Americans.
“I’m not voting for Trump because I want Trump. I just don’t want Biden,” Abdulrab said. “He (Biden) didn’t call to stop the war in Gaza.”
Still, Haley has vowed to continue her campaign through at least Super Tuesday on March 5, pointing to a not-insignificant swath of Republican primary voters who have continued to support her despite Trump’s tightening grip on the GOP.
She also outraised Trump’s primary campaign committee by almost $3 million in January. That indicates that some donors continue to look at Haley, despite her longshot prospects, as an alternative to Trump should his legal problems imperil his chances of becoming the nominee.
Two of Trump’s political committees raised just $13.8 million in January, according to campaign finance reports released last week, while collectively spending more than they took in. Much of the money spent from Trump’s political committees is the millions of dollars in legal fees to cover his court cases.
With nominal intraparty challengers, Biden has been able to focus on beefing up his cash reserves. The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee announced last week that it had raised $42 million in contributions during January from 422,000 donors.
The president ended the month with $130 million in cash on hand, which campaign officials said is the highest total ever raised by any Democratic candidate at this point in the presidential cycle.
The Republican Party is also aligning behind Trump as he continued to be besieged with legal problems that will pull him from the campaign trail as the November election nears. He is facing 91 criminal changes across four separate cases, ranging from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he lost, to retaining classified documents after his presidency to allegedly arranging secret payoffs to an adult film actor.
His first criminal trial, in the case involving hush money payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels, is scheduled to begin on March 25 in New York.