Republican rivals battle in frigid Iowa ahead of first test against Trump

Republican rivals battle in frigid Iowa ahead of first test against Trump
Clockwise, from top left, former President Donald Trump, former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy campaign in Iowa state on January 13, 2024. (Getty Images via AFP/Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2024
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Republican rivals battle in frigid Iowa ahead of first test against Trump

Republican rivals battle in frigid Iowa ahead of first test against Trump
  • An Iowa poll released on Saturday night showed Haley overtaking DeSantis for second place
  • Trump, the only current or ex-US president to be charged with criminal activity, was still the top pick for 48 percent of respondents

DES MOINES, Iowa: Republicans vying to beat a dominant Donald Trump to be the party’s nominee in the 2024 US presidential election fought for attention in frozen Iowa on Saturday in some of the final campaigning ahead of the first nominating contest on Monday.

His rivals will be trying to prevent a rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden for the leadership of the world’s most powerful country in what looks set to be a close and deeply acrimonious November vote that has raised questions about the depth of support for Europe and even basic democratic values.
Trump, the only current or ex-US president to be charged with criminal activity, holds a commanding lead over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who want to place a strong second in Iowa and show they can deliver an upset going forward.
“People are still showing up even with the cold, so I think that’s a good sign for us on Monday that our folks are still going to be willing to come out and make their voices heard,” DeSantis told reporters in Council Bluffs.
An Iowa poll released on Saturday night showed Haley overtaking DeSantis for second place.
While Trump was still the top pick for 48 percent of respondents, Haley was the favorite for 20 percent, followed by DeSantis with 16 percent, according to the final Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll before the caucus. Support for Haley jumped 4 percentage points since the previous poll in December, while support for DeSantis and Trump each slipped 3 points.
Jill Noordhoek, a former Trump supporter who decided to back DeSantis after he was endorsed by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, said she was optimistic the polls would prove wrong on Monday night.
“Polls are wrong. The polls are not the vote of this state,” she said as she waited for DeSantis to appear at a campaign event in Des Moines.
Only four Republicans are left challenging Trump in an unusually truncated field at this initial stage of the nominating process, a sign of the deep support he holds among so many of the party faithful and its upper echelons.




A billboard shows Republican presidential candidates, former US President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, put up by the Democratic National Committee ahead of the Iowa caucus vote, in Des Moines, Iowa on January 13, 2024. (REUTERS/Marco Bello)

A nationwide Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday showed Trump with 49 percent support. Haley, aiming to be the first woman president, was at 12 percent, while DeSantis garnered 11 percent. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson polled at 4 percent and 0 percent, respectively.
An Iowa poll released on Thursday showed Trump 41 percentage points ahead of DeSantis and Haley, in second place at 14 percent each.
But battling the weather was a key factor in weekend campaigning.
Blizzard conditions could see temperatures plunge to a low of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 degrees Celsius) on Monday, cancel more events and test the resolve of even the hardiest Midwesterners to go out to vote.
Iowans take pride in their first-in-nation status for the nominating contests and are used to dealing with snow, dressing in layers and driving trucks with four-wheel drive, but Monday is set to be the coldest day of caucuses ever.
Joy Burk, 43, a DeSantis supporter in Ankeny, said the weather might impact turnout but that if the snow has cleared by Monday, “it’s just the cold weather, which we are used to.”
Trump canceled two rallies in Iowa on Saturday due to the weather but flew in to the state in the evening for a small gathering with precinct captains and other supporters, where he took friendly questions from Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird.
Over 45 minutes, Trump accused Haley of being a “globalist” beholden to donor interests, took a jab at DeSantis for his recent slide in opinion polls, and sought to portray the economy under Biden in catastrophic terms, even as inflation ebbs and with the stock market recently hitting record highs.
“We are weak. We are ineffective. We are laughed at as a country and Bidenomics is a total disaster,” Trump said.
Earlier on Saturday, Trump turned on Ramaswamy, who often praises the former president, avoiding his ire. In a TruthSocial post Trump accused Ramaswamy of being a “fraud” and of using “deceitful campaign tricks” to disguise his support. He warned that a vote for Ramaswamy was a vote for the “other side.”
Haley and DeSantis met voters in smaller settings on Saturday.
On Sunday, Trump plans a rally in Indianola, a suburb of Des Moines, but canceled one in the city of Cherokee. Haley and DeSantis will begin the day in Dubuque in the east of the state near the Mississippi River, followed by another DeSantis event around 300 miles (500 km) away in Sioux City.
From 7 p.m. CST on Monday (0100 GMT on Tuesday), Iowans will gather for two hours in school gymnasiums, bars and other locations to debate the candidates before ranking them in order of preference.
Results are typically announced within a few hours.

Trump focused on retribution
Trump continues to claim falsely that his 2020 loss to Biden was due to widespread fraud and has vowed if elected again to punish his political enemies, introduce new tariffs and end the Ukraine-Russia war in 24 hours, without saying how, according to his own comments, those of his campaign and media reports.
He has drawn criticism for increasingly authoritarian language that has echoes of Nazi rhetoric, including comments that undocumented immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country.”
Trump has used charges of unlawfully trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to fundraise and boost his support among Republican voters and elsewhere and claim a “witch hunt” as he protests his innocence.
He faces four prosecutions, setting up the unprecedented prospect of a president being convicted or even serving from behind bars, with the courts almost certainly weighing in at every stage.
DeSantis, who has tacked to the right of Trump especially on issues such as education and LGBTQ rights, has staked a huge amount on a strong performance in Iowa, with associates saying he needs to finish at least second.
While DeSantis has been to all 99 counties, fiercely courted socially conservative voters in a state that is nearly 90 percent white and secured the backing of its governor, Trump has showed up a fraction of the time but has held larger rallies his rivals have struggled to match.


Italy PM Meloni visits Tunisia for migration talks

Italy PM Meloni visits Tunisia for migration talks
Updated 17 April 2024
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Italy PM Meloni visits Tunisia for migration talks

Italy PM Meloni visits Tunisia for migration talks
  • Tunisia is a major transit point for thousands of sub-Saharan migrants hoping to reach Europe every year

TUNIS: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met with officials in Tunis Wednesday to discuss what she called a “new approach” to irregular migration and economic cooperation with Tunisia.
The hard-right leader’s visit, the fourth in less than a year to the north African country, came as her government pledged to curb irregular migrant arrivals in Italy.
Meloni met with President Kais Saied, who said after the meeting Tunisia must not become “a country of transit or settlement” for migrants from other African countries, according to a statement from his office.
In a video address released after her discussions with Saied, Meloni also said “Tunisia cannot be a country of arrival for migrants” from the rest of Africa.
She vowed to “involve international organizations to work on repatriations” of migrants while insisting on more European investment in African nations.
Ahead of the visit, an Italian official had told AFP that “cooperation on migration remains a central aspect of the relationship between Italy and Tunisia.”
“It remains essential that Tunisian authorities continue their action to combat human trafficking and contain illegal departures,” the official added.
Meloni’s latest visit to Tunisia came as part of her so-called Mattei Plan, a program aiming to posit Italy as a key bridge between Africa and Europe.
She said the fight against irregular migration required development for African countries and investments.
“Italy will continue to try to advance this new approach which it is promoting at a European level,” she said.
But critics say the plan would funnel energy north while exchanging investment in the south for deals aimed at curbing migration.
Three agreements were signed Wednesday: a 50-million-euro ($53-million) aid for energy projects, credit for small- and medium-sized businesses, and a university cooperation agreement.
Meloni also said Italy would encourage regular migration by granting 12,000 residence permits to Tunisians trained in specific fields.
Tunisia is a major transit point for thousands of sub-Saharan migrants hoping to reach Europe every year, with Italy as a frontline for their arrivals.
Almost 70,000 migrants were intercepted trying to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Italy last year, according to Tunisian authorities.
Meloni visited Tunisia three times over the summer of 2023, twice with the European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
The visits resulted in the European Union’s signing of an agreement in July to provide financial aid to debt-ridden Tunisia in return for its commitment to curb migrant departures.
The agreement provided 105 million euros to curb irregular migration — which the EU has started paying — added to 150 million euros in budgetary support.
European Parliament lawmakers criticized the agreement, citing a deterioration of human rights and freedoms in the north African country.
They also criticized Saied’s increasing authoritarian rule after his sweeping power grab in 2021.
Last month, the EU signed a similar deal with Egypt worth 7.4 billion euros on energy and migration.


Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel

Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel
Updated 17 April 2024
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Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel

Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel
  • 'Google workers do not want their labor to power Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza,' No Tech For Apartheid group said

LONDON: Several Google employees were arrested on Tuesday for taking part in a 10-hour sit-in at the company’s offices in New York and California.

The protest, organized by members of the No Tech For Apartheid movement, was meant as a challenge to the tech giant’s involvement with the Israeli government. It centered on a $1 billion cloud computing contract between Google, Amazon and the Israeli government and military, known as Project Nimbus.

The project involves creating a secure Google cloud setup in Israel to facilitate data analysis, AI training and other computing services, Time magazine reported.

According to leaked documents reported by American news organization Intercept in 2022, the project includes advanced features like AI-enabled facial detection and automated image categorization.

During the sit-in, a livestreamed video captured a security worker telling protesters at Google’s California office that they were on administrative leave and cautioned them about trespassing.

Social media videos showed police removing nine protesters from the premises. Similar actions were recorded at the company’s New York office.

A statement from the No Tech For Apartheid group said: “Google workers do not want their labor to power Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. The time is now to rise up against Project Nimbus, in support of Palestinian liberation and join calls to end the Israeli occupation.”

Last month, a Google employee from the group interrupted a talk by the company’s Israel chief, accusing the company of “powering genocide.” He was later fired.

A Google spokesman told the Telegraph: “These protests were part of a longstanding campaign by a group of organizations and people who largely don’t work at Google. A small number of employee protesters entered and disrupted a couple of our locations.

“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies and we will investigate and take action.

“These employees were put on administrative leave and their access to our systems was cut. After refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety.”


Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order

Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order
Updated 17 April 2024
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Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order

Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order
  • Abbkr has paranoid schizophrenia and believed he was controlled by people possessed by evil spirits

LONDON: A man convicted of attempted murder after deliberately setting fire to two elderly men shortly after they left mosques in the UK was on Wednesday handed an indefinite hospital order.
Mohammed Abbkr, from Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, deliberately set fire to Hashi Odowa, 82, and Mohammed Rayaz, 70, in February and March last year.
Abbkr, originally from Sudan, was convicted of two counts of attempted murder last year at Birmingham Crown Court in central England.
Judge Melbourne Inman told Abbkr, who has paranoid schizophrenia and believed he was controlled by people possessed by evil spirits: “You threw petrol over your victims and then set them alight — the attacks were horrific.”
“The two victims in this case were, on any rational view, chosen at random,” the judge told Abbkr, who watched the proceedings by video-link from Ashworth high security hospital in northwest England.
“You, however, genuinely believed each of them was one of those trying to take control of you.
“I am wholly satisfied that you committed both of these offenses at a time when you were suffering a severe mental illness.”
Abbkr sprayed petrol on the two men outside or near mosques they had attended and then set them alight. The attacks took place in west London on February 27 and Birmingham on March 20.
Odowa, who was attacked in London, was treated for severe burns to his face and arms. The Birmingham attack left Rayaz hospitalized with severe injuries.


70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains

70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains
Updated 17 April 2024
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70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains

70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains
  • Rains between Saturday and Wednesday triggered flash floods in most Afghanistan provinces
  • Fifty-six people injured, over 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed, says Afghan official 

KABUL: Around 70 people have been killed by heavy rains lashing Afghanistan over the past five days, the government’s disaster management department said Wednesday.
Afghanistan was parched by an unusually dry winter which desiccated the earth, exacerbating flash-flooding caused by spring downpours in most provinces.
Disaster management spokesman Janan Sayeq said “approximately 70 people lost their lives” as a result of rains between Saturday and Wednesday.
Fifty-six others have been injured, he said, while more than 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 95,000 acres of farmland wiped away.
Giving a smaller death toll last week, Sayeq said most fatalities at that point had been caused by roof collapses resulting from the deluges. 
Neighbouring Pakistan has also been hammered by spring downpours, with 65 people killed in storm-related incidents as rain falls at nearly twice the historical average rate.
The United Nations last year warned that “Afghanistan is experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions.”
After four decades of war the country ranks among the nations least prepared to face extreme weather events, which scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.
At least 25 people were killed in a landslide after massive snowfall in eastern Afghanistan in February, while around 60 were killed in a three-week spate of precipitation ending in March.


President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia
Updated 17 April 2024
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President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia
  • Country has ‘endless’ investment ability, Tim Cook says on visit to Jakarta
  • Tech giant announces opening of new Apple Developer Academy in Bali

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday met the head of tech giant Apple and urged him to open a manufacturing facility in the country.

CEO Tim Cook was in Jakarta following a trip to Hanoi, where the company announced plans to increase spending on suppliers in Vietnam, its most important manufacturing hub outside China.

Before the meeting between Widodo and Cook, Apple announced plans to boost its investment in Indonesia and said it would open a new Apple Developer Academy — facilities designed to nurture local talent in the tech sector — in Bali, its fourth in the country.

“The meeting with Tim Cook focused on exploring strategic plans, including the opportunity of Apple expanding to Indonesia and further integration into the global supply chain,” Widodo said in a statement.

“I invited Apple to establish an innovation hub with potential universities in Indonesia for human resources development. I also urged Apple to develop a manufacturing facility in the country.”

Apple currently does not have a manufacturing facility in Indonesia but opened its first developer academy there in 2018.

The new facility takes the company’s total investment in Indonesia to 1.6 trillion rupiah ($98.4 million), according to Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita.

“After this, the Ministry of Industry will conduct a business-matching program. We already have a list of the components (that Apple needs) and mobile components that are already produced in Indonesia, so perhaps there can be a partnership,” he said.

Apple has based much of its key manufacturing of iPads, Airpods and Apple Watches in Vietnam, and more recently India, as it explores ways to diversify its supply chains away from China.

Home to more than 270 million people, Indonesia has a young, tech-savvy population with more than 100 million people aged under 30.

According to figures from Statista, as of January, Apple had an 11.5 percent share of Indonesia’s mobile phone market, behind Oppo (18 percent) and Samsung (17 percent).

“We talked about the president’s desire to see manufacturing in the country and it’s something that we will look at,” Cook told reporters after meeting Widodo.

“I thought we had a great conversation and I really appreciated the time with him. It was a dialogue about how much potential there is in the country and our commitment to the country.”

Cook later met president-elect, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who will take over from Widodo in October.

“I think the investment ability in Indonesia is endless, I think that there’s a lot of great places to invest and we’re investing,” Cook said. “We believe in the country.”