US Congress votes to avert a shutdown and keep the government funded into early March

US Congress votes to avert a shutdown and keep the government funded into early March
US House Speaker Mike Johnson meets with visitors at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2024 after Congress passed a stop gap bill to fund the federal government through early March, averting a partial government shutdown. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2024
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US Congress votes to avert a shutdown and keep the government funded into early March

US Congress votes to avert a shutdown and keep the government funded into early March
  • The House approved the measure by a vote of 314-108, with half of Republicans joining Democrats in passing the stopgap funding measure
  • Opposition came mostly from the more conservative members of the Republican conference, who said the measure facilitates more spending 

WASHINGTON: Congress sent President Joe Biden a short-term spending bill on Thursday that would avert a looming partial government shutdown and fund federal agencies into March.
The House approved the measure by a vote of 314-108, with opposition coming mostly from the more conservative members of the Republican conference. Shortly before the vote, the House Freedom Caucus announced it “strongly opposes” the measure because it would facilitate more spending than they support.
Nevertheless, about half of Republicans joined with Democrats in passing the third stopgap funding measure in recent months. The action came a few hours after the Senate had voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill by a vote of 77-18.
The measure extends current spending levels and buys time for the two chambers to work out their differences over full-year spending bills for the fiscal year that began in October.
The temporary measure will run to March 1 for some federal agencies. Their funds were set to run out Friday. It extends the remainder of government operations to March 8.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president would sign the resolution and urged Republicans to quit wasting time on partisan spending bills.
“House Republicans must finally do their job and work across the aisle to pass full-year funding bills that deliver for the American people and address urgent domestic and national security priorities by passing the President’s supplemental request,” Jean-Pierre said.
Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, has been under pressure from his right flank to scrap a $1.66 trillion budget price tag he reached with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this month for the spending bills. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said the continuing resolution passed Thursday will facilitate that agreement, and urged colleagues to vote against it.
“It’s Groundhog Day in the House chamber all the time, every day, yet again spending money we don’t have,” Roy said.
Johnson has insisted he will stick with the deal, and centrists in the party have stood behind him. They say that changing course now would be going back on his word and would weaken the speaker in future negotiations.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Americans expect Congress to govern and work in a bipartisan fashion.
“Some of my colleagues would see that this government would shut down and don’t care how hurtful that would be,” DeLauro said.
House Republicans have fought bitterly over budget levels and policy since taking the majority at the start of 2023. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted by his caucus in October after striking an agreement with Democrats to extend current spending the first time. Johnson has also come under criticism as he has wrestled with how to appease his members and avoid a government shutdown in an election year.
“We just needed a little more time on the calendar to do it and now that’s where we are,” Johnson said Tuesday about the decision to extend federal funding yet again. “We’re not going to get everything we want.”
Most House Republicans have so far refrained from saying that Johnson’s job is in danger. But a revolt of even a handful of Republicans could endanger his position in the narrowly divided House.
Virginia Rep. Bob Good, one of eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy, has been pushing Johnson to reconsider the deal with Schumer.
“If your opponent in negotiation knows that you fear the consequence of not reaching an agreement more than they fear the consequence of not reaching an agreement, you will lose every time,” Good said this week.
Other Republicans acknowledge Johnson is in a tough spot. “The speaker was dealt with the hand he was dealt,” said Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr, noting the constraints imposed by the party’s slim majority.
In Thursday afternoon’s vote, 107 House Republicans voted to keep federal agencies funded and 106 voted against the measure. To almost lose the majority of his conference underscores the challenges facing the new speaker and signals the difficulty he will have in striking a deal that will not alienate many of his GOP colleagues. They are clamoring for deeper non-defense spending cuts and myriad conservative policy mandates.
Meanwhile, 207 Democrats voted for the resolution and only two voted against.
The short-term measure comes amid negotiations on a separate spending package that would provide wartime dollars to Ukraine and Israel and strengthen security at the US-Mexico border. Johnson is also under pressure from the right not to accept a deal that is any weaker than a House-passed border measure that has no Democratic support.
Johnson, Schumer and other congressional leaders and committee heads visited the White House on Wednesday to discuss that spending legislation. Johnson used the meeting to push for stronger border security measures while Biden and Democrats detailed Ukraine’s security needs as it continues to fight Russia.
Biden has requested a $110 billion package for the wartime spending and border security.
 


Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier
Updated 19 June 2024
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Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier
  • The Pentagon has said that Black broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China

Prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of four years and eight months for a US soldier who has been detained in the Russian city of Vladivostok on suspicion of theft and threats to kill his girlfriend, Russian agencies reported on Wednesday.
Gordon Black, who was detained on May 2 in Vladivostok in Russia’s far east, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of threatening to kill his girlfriend but admitted he was “partially” guilty of stealing from her.
“(We ask) to impose a sentence of four years and eight months, to be served in a penal colony,” Russia’s RIA state news agency cited the prosecutor as saying at the court hearing.
The prosecutor has also asked for a fine of 40,000 roubles ($469), RIA reported.
Black’s defense lawyer has asked the court to acquit him of all of the charges, RIA reported.
Earlier, RIA reported that Black “partially” acknowledged his guilt on the charge of stealing 10,000 roubles ($113) from his girlfriend Alexandra Vashchuk’s purse but said that “there was no intent.”
The pair had met in South Korea, where Black was stationed. The Pentagon has said that he broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China.


US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
Updated 19 June 2024
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US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
  • The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza

WASHINGTON: The United States bristled Tuesday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested ally Washington was withholding critical weapons to his country as it wages war against Hamas in Gaza.
“Let me just start off by saying that we genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
With the exception of “one particular shipment of munitions” that US officials were looking at closely, Jean-Pierre said “there are no other pauses. None.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said earlier Tuesday that Washington is “continuing to review one shipment... with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah,” a city in southern Gaza.
But the top American diplomat said other weapons were moving as usual and that Washington was “making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.”
The pointed reaction from the White House came hours after Netanyahu said Blinken had assured him the US government was working “day and night” to address the delay in the arrival of the weapons.
In a video statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciated America’s support during the Gaza crisis, he also said he told Blinken “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.
The unprecedented October 7 attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, of whom Israel believes 116 remain in Gaza, including 41 who the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,372 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.


Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say

Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say
Updated 19 June 2024
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Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say

Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say
  • Xinjiang is a vast region bordering Kazakhstan that is home to about 11 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities
  • As part of the crackdown, more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were estimated to be held in extralegal internment camps

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Authorities in China’s western Xinjiang region have been systematically replacing the names of villages inhabited by Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities to reflect the ruling Communist Party’s ideology, as part of an attack on their cultural identity, a report released by Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
About 630 villages in Xinjiang have had their names changed to remove references to Islam or the Uyghurs’ culture and history, according to the group's report, done in collaboration with the Norway-based organization Uyghur Hjelp.
The report compared the names of 25,000 Xinjiang villages as listed by the National Bureau of Statistics of China between 2009 and 2023.
Words like “dutar,” a traditional Uyghur string instrument, or “mazar,” a shrine, have been removed from the names of villages, and replaced with words such as “happiness,” “unity” and “harmony” — generic terms often found in the Communist Party’s policy documents.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions about the report and its policies in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is a vast region bordering Kazakhstan that is home to about 11 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. In 2017, the Chinese government launched a campaign of assimilation that has included mass detentions, alleged political indoctrination, alleged family separations and alleged forced labor among other methods.
As part of the crackdown, more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were estimated to be held in extralegal internment camps. The Chinese government at the time described the camps as " vocational training centers " and said they were necessary to curb separatism and religious extremism.
The U.N. Human Rights Office in 2022 found accusations of rights violations in Xinjiang “credible” and said China may have committed crimes against humanity in the region.
The changes to the names of Xinjiang villages included removing mentions of religion, including terms such as “Hoja,” a title for a Sufi religious teacher, and “haniqa,” a type of Sufi religious building, or terms such as “baxshi,” a shaman.
References to Uyghur history or to regional leaders prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 have also been removed, according to the report.
“The Chinese authorities have been changing hundreds of village names in Xinjiang from those rich in meaning for Uyghurs to those that reflect government propaganda,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. “These name changes appear part of Chinese government efforts to erase the cultural and religious expressions of Uyghurs.”
The Chinese government wants to “erase people's historical memory, because those names remind people of who they are,” said Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur linguist based in Norway and founder of Uyghur Hjelp.
Most of the village name changes occurred between 2017 and 2019, at the height of the government crackdown in Xinjiang, according to the report.

 


Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
Updated 19 June 2024
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Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
  • Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created

RACINE, Wisconsin: Donald Trump holds a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, where he will slam Democratic President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy, even as a major local factory that Trump broke ground on six years ago has proven to be a flop.
The Republican former president was in this largely working-class, lakeside city in 2018 to celebrate what was expected to be a $10 billion investment by Taiwanese technology group Foxconn. During his 2017 to 2021 term, Trump touted the facility, designed to produce TVs, as an example of how his “America First” policies had rejuvenated American manufacturing.
But while Foxconn originally forecast 13,000 new jobs at the factory, the company now expects to create only about 1,500 positions. Vacant fields west of downtown Racine, threaded by empty roadways, serve as a local symbol of unmet promises.
The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, previously said that it changed its plans due to a reduction in projected demand for the factory’s products.
“I think people look at it as a joke,” said Nancy Anderson, a 67-year-old retired teacher, while having breakfast at a local cafe.
Trump is expected to speak to supporters at a lakeside park at 3 p.m. local time (2000 GMT). Among the topics he will address, according to the campaign, is how high inflation under Biden has hurt Wisconsin residents.
Foxconn’s underwhelming debut has opened up a line of attack for local and national Democrats who say Trump failed to live up to his economic promises. They are hoping that message resonates in Wisconsin, one of just a handful of states expected to be competitive in the Nov. 5 election.
According to an average of surveys maintained by polling website FiveThirtyEight, Trump leads Biden in Wisconsin by 0.2 percentage points, despite having lost the state in 2020.
The two candidates are competing furiously for every vote. Biden was in Racine last month to tout the construction of a $3.3 billion Microsoft data center in a location where Foxconn was supposed to build part of its manufacturing campus.
“Foxconn turned out to be just that — a con,” Biden told supporters at Gateway Technical College’s Sturtevant campus.
Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created.
Anthony Eckman, a 28-year-old who is unemployed, said he was disappointed when a warehouse position he planned to apply for at Foxconn failed to materialize.
But he said his personal finances have worsened under Biden, and he will likely vote for Trump this year, despite sitting out the last election.
“I wish we had better candidates this year, but Biden showed no signs of improving this country in my opinion,” Eckman said. “I think I’m gonna be voting for Trump this year.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Racine is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, and it is considered politically competitive even by Wisconsin standards. Trump beat the Democratic nominee in both 2016 and 2020 by about 4 percentage points, while former Democratic President Barack Obama narrowly won the county in 2008 and 2012.
Last week, Trump called Milwaukee, where the Republican National Convention will take place next month, a “horrible city” during a meeting with Republicans in the US House of Representatives.
His campaign said he was referring to violent crime and alleged election security issues in the city when he made that comment.


Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour

Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour
Updated 18 June 2024
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Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour

Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour
  • Opinion polls consistently put Labour on course for a victory that would end 14 years of Conservative government

LONDON: Billionaire John Caudwell, one of the governing Conservative Party’s biggest donors before Britain’s last national election in 2019, said on Tuesday he would instead be backing Keir Starmer’s Labour Party at the upcoming July 4 vote.
“I can declare publicly that I will vote for Labour, and I encourage everybody to do the same,” Caudwell said in a statement.
“We need a very strong Labour Government that can take extremely bold decisions and you can rest assured that I will be doing my best to influence them wherever I can, in putting the great back in Britain.”
Opinion polls consistently put Labour on course for a victory that would end 14 years of Conservative government. A poll published by Ipsos on Tuesday estimated Labour could win 453 seats to the Conservatives’ 115, giving them a huge parliamentary majority of 256.
Caudwell made nearly 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) in 2006 when he sold his mobile phone retailer Phones 4u.
He said he had been despairing about the Conservatives’ performance in government for “many years.”
Previously, in an interview with Reuters, Caudwell had expressed frustration at the Conservatives but described Labour as untested.
On Tuesday he cited current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s handling of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic — when he was finance minister — and what he said was a lowering of ethical standards under former leader Boris Johnson. He described Liz Truss’s brief spell in charge, which spooked financial markets, as a “debacle.”
Caudwell said he liked the focus on accelerating economic growth in Labour’s manifesto: “As I have always said, the government must be much more commercially minded to grow GDP in order to finance the public services that benefit all of society without increasing taxes.”
Labour leader Starmer welcomed the endorsement.
“I’m delighted that John, someone with such a successful track-record in business, has today thrown his support behind the changed Labour Party that I lead,” he said.
“The message is clear: business backs change and economic stability with Labour, and rejects 5 more years of chaos and decline with the Tories.”