‘Uncommitted’ protest over Biden’s Israel support heads to Minnesota

US President Joe Biden participates in a meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (unseen) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)
US President Joe Biden participates in a meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (unseen) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 07 March 2024
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‘Uncommitted’ protest over Biden’s Israel support heads to Minnesota

‘Uncommitted’ protest over Biden’s Israel support heads to Minnesota
  • Hussein, who estimates the Midwestern state has about 250,000 Muslims, said the effort in the Minnesota Democratic primary aims to get at least 10,000 votes checking the “uncommitted” option instead of backing Biden

MINNEAPOLIS: The “uncommitted” movement to pressure US President Joe Biden to change his policy on Israel has landed in Minnesota, where activists hope a coalition of progressive Democrats and Muslim Americans will fuel a strong protest vote on Super Tuesday.
Minnesota is not a battleground state, given Democrats’ historic strength there, so any uncommitted vote won’t carry the same impact as Michigan’s unexpectedly large protest last week, which won two delegates for the Democratic National Convention in August.
Still the vote is being closely watched as a gauge of Biden’s strength within his own party.
“This will be another protest vote against Biden with the aim of stopping the war,” said Jaylani Hussein, co-chair of the Abandon Biden movement in Minnesota, one of several groups pushing the vote with phone banks, texting campaigns, and events in mosques and other community centers.
Hussein, who estimates the Midwestern state has about 250,000 Muslims, said the effort in the Minnesota Democratic primary aims to get at least 10,000 votes checking the “uncommitted” option instead of backing Biden, but the numbers could end up being higher.
Some organizers tried to lower expectations Monday.
“The Michigan effort was months in the making...we don’t have that in Minnesota, the organizers on the ground don’t have the kind of grassroots muscle,” said an uncommitted organizer, who did not wish to be named.
The uncommitted movement is asking Biden to back a permanent ceasefire and halt aid to Israel. Biden’s early and strong support of Israel and his refusal to condition military aid on not killing innocent people or destroying infrastructure has sparked outrage in key parts of his coalition that could affect his chances of reelection against likely Republican rival Donald Trump.
Biden, 81, faces low general approval ratings and concern about his age, as does Trump, 77. If Trump is reelected, he is expected to be a strong supporter of Israel and its right-wing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Michigan results, where Biden won 81 percent of the vote, shows his “core group of supporters are still behind him,” said an official from the Biden campaign — which expects to see the same result from Minnesota.
“None of this means we will ignore the Arab American and Muslim American population,” the official said. “We will not. We are not taking anyone for granted.”
The sharpest US comment on the war to date came from Vice President Kamala Harris, who on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and urged Hamas to accept a deal to release hostages in return for a six-week cessation of hostilities. The vice president’s comments “show the pressure the Biden campaign is under and that they are starting to feel that pressure,” said Wa’el Alzayat, chief executive of Emgage Action, the political arm of a Muslim outreach group worked on the uncommitted vote in Michigan and is doing the same in Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
Organizers are also targeting California, Georgia, North Carolina, Vermont and other states.
Even with a protest vote, Biden is expected to sweep Democratic primaries in Minnesota and more than a dozen other states on March 5, also known as Super Tuesday, and secure the Democratic nomination in the coming weeks.
Minnesota hasn’t backed a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972, though Trump came within 1.5 percentage points of winning in 2016. Biden won the state with over 233,000 votes in 2020.
’COMPARE HIM TO THE ALTERNATIVE’
Biden campaign and many Democratic Party officials believe disaffected Democrats will ultimately support Biden in November when faced with the prospect of Trump.
Democrats, overall, support Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict by 61 percent, February polling by Harvard-Harris shows, although a Reuters/Ipsos February poll show 56 percent of Democrats prefer a president who doesn’t support military aid to Israel.
Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota branch of the Democratic party, formally known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, told reporters, “this is an existential election” and he anticipates Biden will have near-unanimous support in the state.
“I respect people’s feelings and differences of opinion on a whole host of issues. But as Joe Biden says, ‘don’t compare him to the Almighty, compare him to the alternative,’ and I think that’s the reality here,” Martin said.

 


Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations

Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations
Updated 5 sec ago
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Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations

Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations
  • There is no time limit to deliberations but an acquittal or conviction would require unanimity
NEW YORK: Jurors return Thursday to a second day of deliberations in Donald Trump’s criminal trial, leaving the Republican presidential candidate and the country waiting for a decision that could upend November’s election.
After weeks of testimony from more than 20 witnesses on Trump’s alleged fraud in covering up a politically damaging tryst with a porn star, the spotlight is now on the 12-strong New York jury.
The jurors — their identities kept secret for their own protection amid nationwide political tensions — are working behind closed doors in a separate room.
The only clues to the direction they are taking come through requests for clarifications. They were due to start off Thursday by reexamining testimony from two witnesses and also hear again the judge’s instructions on how to interpret the law.
Trump, 77, is required to stay in the court building while deliberations unfold.
Although barred by Judge Juan Merchan with a gag order from attacking witnesses, he has taken out his anger daily on the judge and what he claims is a politically motivated trial.
“It’s a disgrace,” he said late Wednesday. “There’s no crime.”
There is no time limit to deliberations but an acquittal or conviction would require unanimity. If just one juror refuses to join the others, the judge would have to declare a mistrial.
Trump is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse a $130,000 payment to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels, when her account of an alleged sexual encounter could have imperiled his ultimately successful 2016 presidential campaign.
Prosecutors say the fraud was motivated by a plot to prevent voters from knowing about his behavior.
If Trump is found guilty, the political repercussions would far outweigh the seriousness of the charges as, barely five months before the November 5 presidential election, the candidate would also become a convicted criminal.


In closing arguments on Tuesday, Trump’s defense team insisted the evidence for a conviction simply did not exist, while the prosecution countered that it was voluminous and inescapable.
“The defendant’s intent to defraud could not be any clearer,” said prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, urging the jurors to use their “common sense” and return a guilty verdict.
If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison on each of the 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender he is unlikely to get jail time.
A conviction would not bar him from the November ballot and he would almost certainly appeal. In the case of a mistrial, prosecutors could seek a new trial.
Trump — required to attend every day of the proceedings — has used his trips to court and the huge media presence to spread his claim that the trial is a Democratic ploy to keep him off the campaign trail.
Polls show Trump neck and neck against President Joe Biden, and the verdict will inflame passions as the White House race intensifies.
In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
He also faces charges in Florida of hoarding huge quantities of classified documents after leaving the White House.
However, the New York case is the only one likely to come to trial by election day.

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north
Updated 14 min 55 sec ago
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Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north
  • Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds

KYIV: Russia is building up forces near the northern part of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region where it launched an offensive this month, but it still lacks the troop numbers to stage a major push in the area, Ukraine’s top commander said on Thursday.
Ukraine says it has stabilized the front in the northeastern Kharkiv region where Russian forces launched a cross-border assault on May 10 that opened a new front in the 27-month-old war and stretched Kyiv’s outnumbered troops.
Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds to bulk up its troops on two main lines of attack in Kharkiv region’s north.
That includes the Strilecha-Lyptsi area between two small villages and the vicinity of the border town of Vovchansk where there has been street fighting.
“These forces are currently insufficient for a large-scale offensive and breakthrough of our defense,” Syrskyi said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
He said Ukraine’s “creation of an ammunition reserve” had also reduced the offensive capabilities of Russian forces.
The remark suggested Kyiv’s acute shortages of artillery ammunition had eased since the United States finally approved a major aid package in April after months of delay.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that American weapons being delivered were helping to stabilize the Ukrainian front lines.
Russia has concentrated most of its offensive pressure in Ukraine’s east where its troops have been able to make slow incremental advances since capturing the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region in February.


India’s capital sees first heat-related death this year, media reports

India’s capital sees first heat-related death this year, media reports
Updated 30 May 2024
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India’s capital sees first heat-related death this year, media reports

India’s capital sees first heat-related death this year, media reports
  • India experiencing a severe heat wave conditions for weeks, and the temperature in Delhi reached a record high of 52.9 degrees Celsius

NEW DELHI: India’s capital Delhi recorded its first heat-related death this year as temperatures reached record highs, media reported on Thursday.
Parts of northwest and central India have been experiencing heat wave to severe heat wave conditions for weeks, and the temperature in Delhi reached a record high of 52.9 degrees Celsius in Mungeshpur neighborhood on Wednesday.
That reading may be revised however, as maximum temperatures in other parts of the city ranged from 45.2 C to 49.1 C.
The capital territory’s first heat-related fatality this year was a 40-year-old laborer who died of heatstroke on Wednesday, The Indian Express newspaper reported.
Delhi’s lieutenant governor on Wednesday directed the government to ensure measures were taken to protect laborers by providing water and shaded areas at construction sites and granting them paid leave from noon to 3 p.m.
Delhi recorded a temperature of 36 C which felt like 37.8 C on Thursday morning, according to India’s weather department. It has predicted heat wave to severe heat wave conditions over northwest and central India will begin reducing gradually from today.
India classifies a heat wave as a situation where the maximum temperature is 4.5 C to 6.4 C above normal, while a severe heat wave occurs when the maximum is higher than normal by 6.5 degrees or more.


NATO meets as pressure grows to let Ukraine hit Russia

NATO meets as pressure grows to let Ukraine hit Russia
Updated 30 May 2024
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NATO meets as pressure grows to let Ukraine hit Russia

NATO meets as pressure grows to let Ukraine hit Russia
  • The gathering in the Czech capital is meant to focus on efforts to support Ukraine at NATO’s summit in Washington in July

PRAGUE:NATO foreign ministers meet in Prague on Thursday in the face of growing calls for leading allies to lift restrictions stopping Kyiv from using Western weapons to strike inside Russia.
The two-day gathering in the Czech capital is meant to focus on efforts to hammer out a package of support for Ukraine at NATO’s summit in Washington in July.
But the swirling debate over whether to let Kyiv use arms sent by Western backers to strike inside Russia risks overshadowing the meeting.
Ukraine has been pressing its supporters — chiefly the United States — to allow it to use the longer-range weaponry they supply to hit targets inside Russia.
The United States and Germany have so far refused to permit Kyiv to strike over the border out of fear that it could drag them closer to direct conflict with Moscow.
Ahead of the NATO meeting — which starts with a dinner on Thursday — alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said repeatedly it was time for members to reconsider those limits as they hamper Kyiv’s ability to defend itself.
French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to shift the dial on Tuesday when he said Ukraine should be allowed to “neutralize” bases in Russia used to launch strikes.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, remained less committal, saying Ukraine should act within the law — and Berlin had not supplied the weapons to hit Russia anyway.
Across the Atlantic, the White House said it still opposed Ukraine using US arms to strike inside Russia, although Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted that that strategy could change.
Moscow, meanwhile, has reacted strongly — with President Vladimir Putin warning there would be “serious consequences” if Western countries give approval to Ukraine.
Those pressing for Ukraine to be given a freer rein say they hope momentum is building for the United States and others to change course as Kyiv struggles to stop Russia’s offensive in the Kharkiv region.
“Clearly president Macron’s ideas help allies who believe this rule should change,” said a diplomat from one NATO country.
“I hope the debates in the US will take Macron’s ideas into consideration.”


As NATO allies wrestle with that issue, ministers in Prague are also trying to come up with a support package that keeps Ukraine satisfied as its hopes of eventual membership remain a distant prospect.
After pressing hard at a summit last year, Kyiv has been told firmly by NATO countries — led by the United States and Germany — that it should not expect any concrete progress toward joining the alliance in Washington.
NATO chief Stoltenberg instead wants to get alliance members to make clear, multi-year commitments on how much aid they’ll give to Ukraine in the future.
Last month he floated an overall target figure of 100 billion euros ($108 billion) over five years, but that fell flat among allies confused over what it would involve.
“People understand you need to announce something, but they don’t just want it to be air,” the Western diplomat said.
Diplomats say debate is still ongoing as allies try to work out what any pledges would cover and how they might be structured.
One area where NATO does seem closer to agreement is a plan for the alliance to take over from the United States coordination of weapon supplies to Ukraine.
So far, Washington has been in charge as NATO has stayed clear of involvement in delivering arms due to worries it would incite Russia.
Proponents say making the alliance overall responsible could help insulate future deliveries against a possible return of Donald Trump to the US presidency.
But others fear it might just add more bureaucracy.
“The first hope is to not make it less effective than the current system,” a second Western diplomat said.
Diplomats say that to avoid opposition from Hungary — one of the friendliest countries to Russia in the alliance — Budapest has been given an “opt-out” not to be involved.


4 Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region, Pakistani officials say

4 Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region, Pakistani officials say
Updated 30 May 2024
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4 Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region, Pakistani officials say

4 Pakistanis killed by Iranian border guards in remote southwestern region, Pakistani officials say
  • he incident happened near the border village of Mashkel in Baluchistan province on Wednesday

QUETTA: Iranian border guards opened fire at a vehicle carrying a group of Pakistanis, killing four people and wounding two others in a remote area in the southwest, Pakistani officials said Thursday.
The incident happened near the border village of Mashkel in Baluchistan province on Wednesday, local police said. Government administrator Sahibzada Asfand said it was unclear why the Iranian forces opened fire.
Local police say the bodies of the four men had been handed over to their families.
There was no immediate comment from Tehran or Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.
Security forces on both sides often arrest smugglers and insurgents who operate in the region. Pakistan in tit-for-tat strikes in January targeted alleged militant hideouts inside Iran, killing at least nine people in retaliation for a similar attack by Iran.