Despite polls, Biden aides insist Gaza campus protests will not hurt reelection bid

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 19 May 2024
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Despite polls, Biden aides insist Gaza campus protests will not hurt reelection bid

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP)
  • Protests over Israel’s war in Gaza have broken out at more than 60 colleges and universities this year, disrupted Biden’s events around the country, pushed Democrats in key battleground states to vote “uncommitted” and divided the Democratic party

WASHINGTON: Several top White House aides say they are confident protests across US college campuses against Israel’s offensive in Gaza will not translate into significantly fewer votes for Joe Biden in November’s election, despite polls showing many Democrats are deeply unhappy about the US president’s policy on the war.
The White House optimism on the issue, which is shared by many in the Biden campaign, runs contrary to dire warnings from some Democratic strategists and youth organizers who warn misjudging the situation could cost Biden dearly in a tight race with Republican rival Donald Trump.
Several aides told Reuters they are advising Biden to remain above the fray, rather than directly engage with the relatively small groups of protesters on college campuses, arguing their numbers are too insignificant to harm the president’s reelection campaign.
Faced with a choice between Biden and Trump in November, many officials remain confident even Democrats who oppose US policy will choose Biden. Reuters interviewed nearly a dozen top White House officials in recent days, but only two expressed concern about the impact of the protests and Biden’s handling of the issue.
The issue returns to the spotlight Sunday, when Biden makes the commencement address at Morehouse College, over some objections by students and faculty, and a warning from the college’s president that the ceremony will stop if there are protests.
Most officials Reuters spoke to said they believe housing costs and inflation were the issues top of mind for young voters, not the war in Gaza, pointing to a recent Harvard poll that ranks Israel/Palestine 15th on a list of issues, after taxes, gun violence and jobs. Several aides refer to the protesters as “activists” rather than students.
Asked for comment on the issue, White House senior deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said Biden understands this is a painful moment for many communities and is listening. He has said too many civilians have died in the “heartbreaking” conflict and that more must be done to prevent the loss of innocent lives, Bates added.
Biden and Trump are nearly tied in national polls, and Trump has the edge in the battleground states that will decide the election, multiple recent polls show. On economic issues like inflation, Trump scores higher with voters overall than Biden.
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found Democrats deeply divided over Biden’s handling of both the war in Gaza and the US campus protests against it, with 44 percent of registered Democrats disapproving of Biden’s handling of the crisis, and 51 percent of his handling of the protests.
Young voters still favor Biden, but support has dropped significantly since 2020, polls show. A Reuters/Ipsos poll in March showed Americans aged 18-29 favored Biden over Trump by just 3 percentage points — 29 percent to 26 percent — with the rest favoring another candidate or unsure if anyone would get their vote.
Two White House officials Reuters spoke to emphasized Biden’s support among young voters is not where it was in 2020 and said they worry the administration is not taking the drop seriously enough.
With over 35,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza since war began in October, US support for Israel’s government could weigh heavily on the presidential election in November, they said.
“There is almost a level of defiance when it comes to some of the president’s closest advisers on this issue,” said a senior White House official with direct knowledge of the matter, who did not wish to be named. “They think the best approach is to simply steer clear and let it pass.”

BIDEN SPEAKS CAUTIOUSLY
Protests over Israel’s war in Gaza have broken out at more than 60 colleges and universities this year, disrupted Biden’s events around the country, pushed Democrats in key battleground states to vote “uncommitted” and divided the Democratic party.
Biden, who is known for saying what he thinks, even when it’s not politically beneficial, has been cautious on the issue of protests over Gaza. He spoke in early May on the importance of following the law, while defending free speech and later on addressed the threat of antisemitism on college campuses.
Both times, he mostly avoided the issue that has sparked the protests — how young Americans feel about his support for Israel. But he also said bluntly that protests will not change his Middle East policy.
Groups organizing the protests say that a recent halt to some weapons to Israel was too little too late, and are planning fresh demonstrations, though the summer break may quieten action on campuses.
Michele Weindling, political director of the climate-focused youth group the Sunrise Movement, said “young people are incredibly disillusioned, they are angry at the way the president has treated this conflict.”
“A huge risk right now is that young voters will completely stay out of the electoral system this November, or deliberately vote against Biden out of anger,” Weindling said.
That has the potential to cost Biden dearly, given 61 percent of the more than half of Americans aged 18 to 29 that voted in the 2020 general election voted Democratic, a Tufts University research group found. The youth turnout was up 11 points from 2016.

GAZA NOT A TOP ISSUE
Republicans both overwhelmingly disapprove of the protests and Biden’s handling of the war, a Reuters/Ipsos poll published this week shows. Some Republicans have called for him to send National Guard troops on to campuses.
But until a day before Biden delivered his first speech on the protests on May 2, he remained unsure he needed to address the issue, two officials said. Biden asked his team to put together “something rudimentary,” so he could edit and change it, which he did that evening, one of the officials said.
He did not make the final decision to speak until the morning, after violence broke out on the UCLA campus, the official added.
The Harvard youth poll showing Israel/Gaza is low on youth concerns is being circulated at internal meetings at the campaign and the White House and is in line with private data the White House has seen, the first official said.
The president doesn’t speak about every issue in the news, on purpose, another White House official said. It “doesn’t always happen, no matter what kind of news it is, whether it’s the news of the day or the week or the month,” he said.

 


Court blocks Modi opponent Kejriwal’s release from prison

Court blocks Modi opponent Kejriwal’s release from prison
Updated 5 sec ago
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Court blocks Modi opponent Kejriwal’s release from prison

Court blocks Modi opponent Kejriwal’s release from prison
  • He was released from detention to campaign partway through India’s weeks-long general election but returned to jail after voting ended this month
NEW DELHI: An Indian court stopped on Friday the release from jail of one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chief opponents, a day after he was granted bail in a long-running corruption case, reports said.
Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi and the leader of the opposition Aam Aadmi party, denies the charges as a “political conspiracy” by Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
He was released from detention to campaign partway through India’s weeks-long general election but returned to jail after voting ended this month.
A trial court ordered his release late Thursday, but before he could walk out of jail on Friday the country’s top economic crimes investigative agency, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), appealed to the Delhi High Court.
It suspended his release until it could decide on the appeal, local media reported.
The decision could come in “two-three days,” legal news portal Live Law posted on social media platform X.
Kejriwal is one of several opposition leaders in India under criminal investigation over various corruption-related probes, which Modi’s opponents say are being used by the premier to weaken any potential challengers.
The 55-year-old has been chief minister of Delhi, the region which includes the capital New Delhi, for nearly a decade.
He first came to prominence as an anti-corruption crusader, but his government was itself accused of graft when it liberalized liquor sales in 2021.
His party is a key member of the opposition INDIA bloc, led by the main opposition Congress party, which defied polls and expectations to deprive Modi’s BJP of its overall parliamentary majority in the election.

Hijabi heavy metal trio to make Indonesia’s debut at Glastonbury

Hijabi heavy metal trio to make Indonesia’s debut at Glastonbury
Updated 4 min 28 sec ago
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Hijabi heavy metal trio to make Indonesia’s debut at Glastonbury

Hijabi heavy metal trio to make Indonesia’s debut at Glastonbury

JAKARTA: Hijabi heavy metal band Voice of Baceprot is set to become the first Indonesian act to perform at the UK’s iconic Glastonbury Festival next week, marking another milestone in the all-female trio’s trailblazing career.

More than a decade after first emerging, Voice of Baceprot was named in Forbes Asia’s 30-Under-30 list just last month. The group has toured Europe and the US, and released its debut album last year.

With lyrics that address issues from gender inequality to climate change, members of the group from Garut, West Java said on Friday that they hope to help improve the world for future generations through their music.

“We care about what’s happening around us, that’s why we make a lot of songs about what we ourselves experience, see, and hear. We only want the world that we live in to become a better place for the generations after us,” Firda “Marsya” Kurnia, who is the lead singer and guitarist, told reporters.

“We certainly feel excited and proud, especially after finding out that we are going to be the first Indonesian musicians to perform in Glastonbury. It will also be our first performance in the UK.”

Voice of Baceprot will play the Woodsies stage at Glastonbury on June 28, sharing the glory of performing at the legendary music festival alongside artists such as Coldplay, Dua Lipa and Cyndi Lauper.

“We will try to use this opportunity to also uplift Indonesian culture through music, including using tonal elements from Sundanese music,” Marsya said, referring to their ethnic origins.

Voice of Baceprot sings a mix of English, Indonesian and Sundanese — their native tongue. The word “baceprot” is Sundanese for “annoyingly noisy.”

Marsya met the other band members — drummer Euis Siti Aisyah and bassist Widi Rahmawati — at an Islamic boarding school and established the group in 2014.

Now in their early 20s, they have been overcoming prejudice and shattering stereotypes about Muslims and Islam.

“We try to introduce the other side that is closer to the truth,” Marsya said.
The band has already gained praise from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, and was met with great interest during its 2021 and 2022 Europe tours.

“It was beyond expectation. Every time we have an international tour, I am afraid that no one will show up ... because we’re not that big yet,” Siti said.

“But after a few times performing there, we’ve seen how enthusiastic the audience was. Some would even wait for our performance.”

The trio’s accomplishments have also been noticed by the Indonesian government, which is supporting the group’s upcoming UK trip.

“This is a form of soft diplomacy,” Desra Percaya, Indonesia’s ambassador to the UK, told reports.

“Voice of Baceprot is truly taking up the role of Indonesia’s ambassadors and, of course, they are on a mission to make Indonesia proud.”

 


Medical brain drain worsens in Sri Lanka as 25% of doctors ready to migrate

Medical brain drain worsens in Sri Lanka as 25% of doctors ready to migrate
Updated 27 min 40 sec ago
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Medical brain drain worsens in Sri Lanka as 25% of doctors ready to migrate

Medical brain drain worsens in Sri Lanka as 25% of doctors ready to migrate
  • More than 1,800 medical doctors left Sri Lanka in 2022 and 2023
  • Their salaries in the UK and Australia are often 30 times higher

COLOMBO: The biggest trade union of government doctors in Sri Lanka warned on Friday about a wave of economic crisis-driven brain drain among medical professionals, as 25 percent of them have already taken the necessary exams to find employment abroad.

Before the worst economic crisis pummeled Sri Lanka in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, on average 200 doctors would migrate to work in another country, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

The number has surged since early 2022, when the country defaulted on its foreign debt. Sri Lankans started experiencing power cuts and shortages of basics such as fuel, food and medicine, and the inflation rate rose to 50 percent a year.

“If we consider the situation within the last two years, more than 1,800 doctors have left the country in 2022 and 2023,” Dr. Chamil Wijesinghe, spokesperson of the Government Medical Officers Association, told Arab News.

Many more are likely to follow in their footsteps as GMOA data shows that at least 25 percent of doctors currently serving in the government health system have already passed the necessary exams to find employment abroad.

To practice medicine in the UAE or Oman, doctors need to take the Prometric Exam for GP Doctor. To work in the UK, they are required to complete the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board’s exams, while in Australia they have to follow the examination of the Australian Medical Council.

“Considering only those three … recent statistics show that nearly 5,000 Sri Lankan doctors have completed these exams and they’re waiting to take their decision of leaving the country,” Wijesinghe said.

“In government health institutions of Sri Lanka … there are around 20,000 doctors.”

He warned that an increasing number of those leaving were specialists, mainly in emergency medicine and anesthesia, followed by pediatricians, psychiatrists, neurologists and cardiac surgeons.

Some of the world’s most rigorously trained, Sri Lankan doctors are required by their country’s health system to obtain both local and international training before they practice as consultants. At the same time, and compared with the years of experience, they are among the most underpaid, earning between $170 and $720 per month.

In the past two years, those who had left for compulsory training in countries such as the UK, Australia or the US, are not willing to return.

“The high salaries they are being paid in those countries, compared to Sri Lanka, is the main reason. If you consider Middle East countries, it is nearly tenfold of the salary they are getting in Sri Lanka. In the UK and Australia, around 20 to 30-fold,” Wijesinghe said, adding that they are attracted by better working environments, better living standards, and education opportunities for their children.

“Majority of the Sri Lankan doctors migrate to Australia and the United Kingdom … They are migrating with their family members as well.”

He estimated that nearly 400 specialists have left in the past two years, which was becoming a “huge problem” for the Sri Lankan health sector.

“It has affected from the biggest hospital in Sri Lanka, the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, which is situated in Colombo, to the rural hospital system … Patients have to travel hundreds of kilometers sometimes to get their surgeries done,” he said.

“The brain drain of professionals and intellectuals from this country has affected many sectors, but it’s a well-known fact that health is the most affected sector.”

The GMOA has proposed to the Sri Lankan government ways to mitigate the brain drain of doctors, but as the solutions involve financial incentives and restructuring of the salary system, the Ministry of Health does not expect it to happen immediately.

“Increasing the salary is really difficult at this time since the country is just recovering from the economic crisis,” Dr. Asela Gunawardena, the ministry’s director-general of health services, told Arab News.

“However, we will do our best to attend to their needs to attract them to come back to their country and work for the nation.”

He was also hopeful that a sense of duty would help bring them home as well.

“Sri Lanka is the country which gave them free education from the kindergarten to university,” he said. “They have an obligation to help the country when in trouble.”


Kyiv says suspects of Kazakh activist shooting fled Ukraine

Kyiv says suspects of Kazakh activist shooting fled Ukraine
Updated 27 min 54 sec ago
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Kyiv says suspects of Kazakh activist shooting fled Ukraine

Kyiv says suspects of Kazakh activist shooting fled Ukraine
  • Police said this week that a prominent Kazakh anti-government activist, Aydos Sadykov, had been shot and seriously wounded outside his home
  • “The suspects left the territory of Ukraine on the day of the attempted murder, crossing the border of Ukraine and Moldova,” the statement said

KYIV: Ukraine said Friday it had identified two suspects in the attempted murder of a Kazakh opposition figure in Kyiv and that the perpetrators had escaped to neighboring Moldova.
Police in Ukraine’s capital said this week that a prominent Kazakh anti-government activist, Aydos Sadykov, had been shot and seriously wounded outside his home.
The outspoken critic of Kazakhstan’s leadership has a large following on social media and was granted asylum in Ukraine in 2014.
“Two men carefully planned the murder of a journalist,” the office of the prosecutor general in Ukraine said in a statement, adding the suspects were both Kazakh citizens.
It said they had entered the country on June 2 from Poland and carried out surveillance on Sadykov before attempting to assassinate him on Tuesday.
“The suspects left the territory of Ukraine on the day of the attempted murder, crossing the border of Ukraine and Moldova,” the statement said, adding that both suspects are on an international wanted list.
The activist’s wife Natalia Sadykova said Friday that Sadykov remained in serious condition in hospital, and blamed Kazakhstan’s president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for orchestrating the attack.
“I was not mistaken, neither when I accused Tokayev of the assassination attempt or when I said that the shooter was a professional,” Sadykova said.
Tokayev has instructed Kazakh law enforcement agencies to cooperate with Ukraine to locate the suspects, his spokesperson said, according to Russian news agencies.
“Astana is ready to cooperate with Ukraine, including through Interpol,” the spokesperson was cited as saying.
Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into the shooting.
“The news of the attack on Sadykov during broad daylight in the Kyiv city center is deeply disturbing,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.


Russian politician says law needed to protect society from convicts who fought in Ukraine

Russian politician says law needed to protect society from convicts who fought in Ukraine
Updated 48 min 44 sec ago
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Russian politician says law needed to protect society from convicts who fought in Ukraine

Russian politician says law needed to protect society from convicts who fought in Ukraine
  • Reports of Russian soldiers committing serious crimes including murder and rape after returning from Ukraine are widespread
  • Many of the offenders are men who had been released early from prison, where they were serving time for serious crimes

LONDON: A member of Russia’s lower house of parliament said law enforcement authorities need to do more to protect civilians from ex-convicts who have returned home from fighting in Ukraine.
Nina Ostanina, a Communist Party deputy who has been sanctioned by Western countries over Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, told the gazeta.ru newspaper in an interview that violent crimes involving decommissioned soldiers “will be even more numerous” if authorities do not act.
Reports of Russian soldiers committing serious crimes including murder and rape after returning from Ukraine are widespread and have posed problems for the Kremlin, which portrays those fighting in its “special military operation” as heroes.
Many of the offenders are men who had been released early from prison, where they were serving time for serious crimes, in exchange for fighting in the war. Some Russian prisons are set to close this year because so many of their inmates have gone to the battlefields in Ukraine.
The comments by Ostanina, published on Wednesday, amount to a rare admission from a Russian politician that returning soldiers are putting strains on local communities.
Ostanina told gazeta.ru that law enforcement should be obliged to keep regular tabs on the former soldiers, and also help them find jobs and reintegrate into society.
“In no case can we release law enforcement agencies from control over those who have returned from the special operation zone and were previously in prison,” Ostanina said. “This is, to put it mildly, to protect society from these people.”
Ostanina, who chairs a parliamentary committee on “family protection,” said she expected lawmakers to propose a bill on the matter in the near future, but advised them to “hurry up.”
She was speaking after authorities in Siberia said they arrested an ex-soldier for brutally murdering a 12-year-old girl and dumping her body into a well.
Local media in Russia is littered with stories of similar gruesome crimes. An ex-soldier was given seven years in April for kicking a man to death while drunk. Last week a former Wagner mercenary was handed a 14-year sentence for killing his four-year-old stepdaughter after a quarrel with his wife.