Kenya police arrest demonstrators as hundreds protest tax hikes

Protestors run as police officers use teargas to disperse them during a protest against Kenya's proposed finance bill 2024/2025 in Nairobi, Kenya, June 18, 2024. (REUTERS)
Protestors run as police officers use teargas to disperse them during a protest against Kenya's proposed finance bill 2024/2025 in Nairobi, Kenya, June 18, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 18 June 2024
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Kenya police arrest demonstrators as hundreds protest tax hikes

Kenya police arrest demonstrators as hundreds protest tax hikes
  • Tax hikes last year led to several opposition protests which sometimes degenerated into deadly street clashes between police and demonstrators

NAIROBI: Kenyan police fired tear gas and arrested at least a dozen demonstrators on Tuesday as hundreds of people gathered near parliament to protest tax hikes, according to journalists at the scene.
The East African economic powerhouse has struggled with a cost-of-living crisis, which critics say will only worsen under the levies laid out in a bill due to be debated in parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
Kenya’s government on Tuesday walked back plans to impose multiple tax hikes, the presidency said, announcing amendments to the controversial bill.

BACKGROUND

Kenya’s government has walked back plans to impose multiple tax hikes, the presidency said, announcing amendments to the controversial bill.

“The Finance Bill has been amended to remove the proposed 16 per cent VAT on bread, transportation of sugar, financial services, foreign exchange transactions as well as the 2.5 per cent Motor Vehicle Tax,” the presidency said in a statement.
The new taxes contained in the finance bill were expected to help the cash-strapped administration generate some 346.7 billion shillings ($2.7 billion) to boost revenue and cut government borrowing.
In addition to the proposed motor vehicle tax, the amendments will also do away with increased taxes on financial and mobile services.
“We are going to end up with a product in parliament that came from the executive and has been interrogated by the legislature. Through public participation, the people of Kenya have had a say,” President William Ruto told his party’s lawmakers.
Parliament must pass the final version of the bill before June 30.
Tax hikes last year led to several opposition protests which sometimes degenerated into deadly street clashes between police and demonstrators.
Hundreds of black-clad protesters marched toward parliament in Nairobi’s business district, but were kept back by police officers lobbing tear gas at the crowds.
“I am tired. The prices of everything have gone up. Life is no longer affordable,” said 29-year-old Rara Eisa.
Eisa, who said she had never protested before Tuesday, described the hikes as oppressive.
“They are not lenient in any way,” she said.
Student Paloma Njoroge, 22, who was protesting, rejected pro-government claims that the demonstrations amounted to “social media activism that yields nothing.”
“I have my bottle of water and running shoes. They have to feel our disgust,” she said.
Dubbed “Occupy Parliament,” news of the protest was shared online after an activist leaked MPs’ contact details, urging people to bombard them with calls and messages to shoot down a bill proposing the new hikes.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission urged police to “stop the arrests.”
“Our constitution grants us the right to protest. Still, if the arrests persist, we won’t be deterred,” KHRC said on X, formerly Twitter.
Ruto came to power in 2022 on a promise to revive the economy and put money in the pockets of the downtrodden, but his policies have sparked widespread discontent.
Last year’s tax hikes led to opposition protests, sometimes degenerating into deadly street clashes between police and demonstrators.
While Kenya is among the most dynamic economies in East Africa, roughly a third of the 51.5 million population lives in poverty.

 


Prominent Democrat Schiff calls for Biden to withdraw, but party aims to nominate before convention

Prominent Democrat Schiff calls for Biden to withdraw, but party aims to nominate before convention
Updated 8 sec ago
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Prominent Democrat Schiff calls for Biden to withdraw, but party aims to nominate before convention

Prominent Democrat Schiff calls for Biden to withdraw, but party aims to nominate before convention
  • The Democratic convention runs in person from Aug. 19-22, but the party announced in May that it would hold an early roll call to ensure Biden would qualify for the ballot in Ohio

WASHINGTON: California Rep. Adam Schiff on Wednesday became the highest-profile Democrat to call for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the party pushed ahead with plans for a virtual vote to formally make Biden its nominee in the first week of August.
The move to schedule the roll call, which would come weeks before the Democratic National Convention opens in Chicago on Aug. 19, follows nearly 20 Democratic members of Congress calling on Biden to withdraw from the presidential race in the wake of his dismal debate performance against Republican former President Donald Trump last month.
Late in the evening, ABC News reported new details about Biden’s private meeting over the weekend with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at his beach home in Delaware. It said Schumer told the president it would be “better for the Democratic party, and better for the country if he were to bow out.”
A Schumer spokesperson called the report “idle speculation. Leader Schumer conveyed the views of his caucus directly to President Biden on Saturday.”
Among Democrats nationwide, nearly two-thirds say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to a new AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll — sharply undercutting Biden’s post-debate claim that “average Democrats” are still with him even if some “big names” are turning on him.
Biden tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling Wednesday in Las Vegas and is experiencing “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.
“While the choice to withdraw from the campaign is President Biden’s alone, I believe it is time for him to pass the torch,” Schiff said in a statement. “And in doing so, secure his legacy of leadership by allowing us to defeat Donald Trump in the upcoming election.”
Schiff is a prominent Democrat on his own, and his statement will also be watched because of his proximity to Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.
It was Pelosi who revived questions about Biden post-debate, when she said recently that “it’s up to the president” to decide what to do — even though Biden had fully stated he had no intention of stepping aside. The former House speaker publicly supports the president, but has fielded calls from Democrats since debate night questioning what’s next.
In response to Schiff’s comments, the Biden campaign pointed to what it called “extensive support” for him and his reelection bid from members of Congress in key swing states, as well as from the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses. Biden is traveling in Nevada this week, and the campaign noted that he’s been joined on the trip by “nearly a dozen” Congressional Black Caucus members.
Still, Schiff’s announcement came after Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries encouraged the party to delay for a week plans to hold the virtual vote to renominate Biden, which could have taken place as soon as Sunday, according to two people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The Democratic National Committee’ s rulemaking arm is set to meet on Friday to discuss how the virtual vote plans will work and to finalize them next week.
“We will not be implementing a rushed virtual voting process, though we will begin our important consideration of how a virtual voting process would work,” Bishop Leah D. Daughtry and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, co-chairs of the rules committee for the Democratic National Convention wrote in a letter Wednesday.
The letter also said that the virtual roll call vote won’t take place before Aug. 1, but that the party is still committed to holding a vote before Aug. 7, which had been the filing deadline to get on Ohio’s presidential ballot.
The Democratic convention runs in person from Aug. 19-22, but the party announced in May that it would hold an early roll call to ensure Biden would qualify for the ballot in Ohio. That state originally had an Aug. 7 deadline but has since changed its rules.
The Biden campaign insists that the party must operate under Ohio’s initial rules to ensure Republican lawmakers can’t mount legal challenges to keep the president off the ballot.
Sen. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat who wrote last week that Biden should leave the race “for the good of the country,” applauded the decision to move back setting a date.
“No shortcuts, no end around,” he said. “This process shouldn’t be rushed.”
Even if Democrats conduct a virtual roll call vote ahead of their convention, meanwhile, it wouldn’t necessarily lock Biden into the nomination. The DNC rulemaking arm could vote to hold an in-person roll call in Chicago, said Elaine Kamarck, a longtime member of the party’s rules committee and expert on the party’s nominating process. But since the Ohio law doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 1, Biden appearing on the state’s ballot remains a real concern, Kamarck said.
“This is a failsafe for the Democrats,” Kamarck said, adding that “the convention is the highest authority” in the nominating process.
The AP-NORC poll, conducted as Biden works to salvage his candidacy two weeks after his debate flop, also found that only about 3 in 10 Democrats are extremely or very confident that he has the mental capability to serve effectively as president, down slightly from 40 percent in an AP-NORC poll in February.
The letter from Daughtry and Walz follows a contingent of House Democrats wary of swiftly nominating Biden as the party’s pick for reelection circulated another letter raising “serious concerns” about plans for a virtual roll call. Their letter to theDNC, which has not been sent, says it would be a “terrible idea” to stifle debate about the party’s nominee with the early roll call vote.
“It could deeply undermine the morale and unity of Democrats,” said the letter obtained by the AP.
A spokesperson said that Huffman was pleased with the decision to delay and would hold off sending the letter from House Democrats as they continue monitoring the situation.


UK’s Starmer uses European forum to press for EU reset, Ukraine support

UK’s Starmer uses European forum to press for EU reset, Ukraine support
Updated 18 July 2024
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UK’s Starmer uses European forum to press for EU reset, Ukraine support

UK’s Starmer uses European forum to press for EU reset, Ukraine support
  • “This meeting of European leaders is an opportunity to push on and begin delivering on the people’s priorities,” Starmer said

LONDON: Prime Minister Keir Starmer will use his role as host of a European forum on Thursday to press his desire to reset Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union and to reaffirm support for Ukraine.
Two weeks after winning a large majority in an election and fresh from his first international trip to NATO in Washington as prime minister, Starmer hosts the European Political Community (EPC) of more than 40 nations at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, to build cooperation on border security.
The one-day meeting of a group set up after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 provides Britain’s new leader another opportunity to push for closer defense cooperation especially before the possible election of Donald Trump who suggests that Europe must do more to protect its own security.
“We cannot let the challenges of the recent past define our relationships of the future. That is why European security will be at the forefront of this government’s foreign and defense priorities, and why I am focused on seizing this moment to renew our relationship with Europe,” Starmer said in a statement.
“The EPC will fire the starting gun on this government’s new approach to Europe, one that will not just benefit us now, but for generations to come.”
Starmer has been determined to reset EU ties after the 2016 vote to leave the bloc created years of rancour. He has said he does not see Britain rejoining the single market or customs union in his lifetime.
A decision by his predecessor Rishi Sunak to call an early election means Starmer can use NATO and the EPC to advance early talks.
Officials stress that the talks are very much in their infancy, and the ultimate goal of negotiating a security pact, covering a broad range of areas such as energy, supply chains, pandemics and migration will come much later in negotiations when the EU has been clear there will be no “cherry picking.”
But the EPC offers Starmer, flanked by foreign minister David Lammy and Nick Thomas-Symonds, his minister for EU relations, another chance to hold meetings in numbers it would normally take a new government months to set up.
In Washington, defense minister John Healey said the Labour team there had “met and talked with every one of the 32 member (NATO) nations, Ukraine of course ... and the Indo Pacific four nations that are here as well.”

MIGRATION AND MOLDOVA
At Blenheim Palace, the leaders, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, are expected to not only express renewed support for Kyiv but also to discuss energy security, safeguarding democracy and migration.
Some critics say the EPC is little more than a talking shop, often offering no firm agreements, but others say its informal nature encourages wider conversations, which one German government source said strengthens “geopolitical cohesion between the EU and third countries in the region.”
A French official said London wanted the EPC to call for action against the Russian shadow fleet of tankers, which avoid sanctions, by closing the loopholes, while Moldova, which borders Ukraine, and France would work on cooperation to fight against foreign interference.
Starmer would take part in the migration working group and the Moldova Group to underline the country’s sovereignty and democracy in the face of Russian interference. He will also champion a move to deploy staff to a new rapid returns unit to take control of national borders.
But perhaps most important to Starmer is the development of personal relationships with other leaders, something he says is essential to the way he works to get the best results.
He hosted Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris at his country residence Chequers on Wednesday and will entertain French President Emmanuel Macron over dinner on Thursday. He will also have a number of bilateral meetings, including with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
“This meeting of European leaders is an opportunity to push on and begin delivering on the people’s priorities,” Starmer said.


Biden tests positive for COVID-19, White House says

Biden tests positive for COVID-19, White House says
Updated 18 July 2024
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Biden tests positive for COVID-19, White House says

Biden tests positive for COVID-19, White House says

US President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 while on a campaign trip to Las Vegas on Wednesday and is experiencing mild symptoms, the White House said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced the positive test for the 81-year-old Democrat after the president of UnidosUS, a Latino civil rights organization, said Biden would not be able to speak at a scheduled event due to the diagnosis.
“He is vaccinated and boosted and experiencing mild symptoms, Jean-Pierre said.


‘Of all the places’: Deep red Butler, Pennsylvania, grapples with Trump assassination attempt

‘Of all the places’: Deep red Butler, Pennsylvania, grapples with Trump assassination attempt
Updated 18 July 2024
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‘Of all the places’: Deep red Butler, Pennsylvania, grapples with Trump assassination attempt

‘Of all the places’: Deep red Butler, Pennsylvania, grapples with Trump assassination attempt
  • Butler, home to some 13,000 people, and the county whose grand courthouse graces its square are named for a Revolutionary War general

BUTLER, Pennsylvania: On the streets of Butler, Pennsylvania, in the wake of Saturday’s assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, the same four words have been spoken again and again: “Of all the places.”
Butler, home to some 13,000 people, and the county whose grand courthouse graces its square are named for a Revolutionary War general. American flags wave along its main drag alongside black-and-white photos of local heroes who died in other wars fought in the name of democracy. The first jeep was produced here in 1940 at the request of the US Army.
It’s rural. It’s neighborly. And it’s Trump country.
“Of all the places to go after him and try something. We’re like, in Butler County?” said Cindy Michael, a 44-year-old health care worker. “Everybody’s just shocked. So shocked.”
Trump isn’t the first person to have held the office of president who has been the target of a shooting in the area. Long before he became the nation’s first president, George Washington “narrowly escaped death” when a Native American shot at him from less than 15 paces away. A state historical marker marks the spot on a trail about 14 miles (22 kilometers) southwest of Butler.
This county on the western edge of a presidential swing state is a Trump stronghold. He won Butler County — where turnout hovers around an impressive 80 percent — with about 66 percent of the vote in both 2016 and 2020. About 57 percent of Butler County’s 139,000 registered voters are Republicans, compared with about 29 percent who are Democrats and 14 percent something else.
Between 2016 and 2020, Trump gained nearly 10,000 more votes in Butler County, but that wasn’t enough for him to carry Pennsylvania. Gains by President Joe Biden in the state’s cities and suburbs — and he secured 9,000 more votes in Butler County than Hillary Clinton in 2016 — helped him displace Trump from the White House.
Still, Butler County’s support for Trump runs deep. Local attorney Patrick Casey said that may have been part of the problem.
“A friend said to me this morning, ‘I think everyone assumed that Donald Trump would be safe in Butler County,’ and I replied to that friend by reminding him that when Pope John Paul II was shot in an assassination attempt, it occurred in Vatican City,” Casey said. “Who would have thought there could have been a safer place than that?”
Indeed, the atmosphere was relaxed and neighborly at the Butler County fairgrounds on the day of the rally. Couples held hands, parents corralled their children, a woman accompanied her 75-year-old mother for a birthday treat. That was until 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks fired shots, including the one that Trump says struck his ear. A Secret Service sniper returned fire and killed Crooks. A bystander was shot and killed, and two more were injured.
Whether Butler can even approach a return to normal remains to be seen.
“We are deeply saddened by what has occurred here in our hometown,” Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouse, which is located just outside the fairgrounds where the shooting happened, said in a Facebook post Monday. “Butler is a peaceful community and all who live here share similar qualities. The community is kind, generous and would give you the shirt off of their back if you needed it.”
While what happened that day weighs heavily on residents’ hearts, it did not appear to be swaying their votes. Some Trump supporters said the assassination attempt strengthened their resolve to vote for him while others said it didn’t impact their political feelings at all.
Victoria Rhodes, 25, a nurse who moved to Butler four months ago from Nashville, Tennessee, said she is still deciding how she will vote in November. She said what just happened in her new hometown isn’t a factor.
“This will be my first time voting in a presidential election,” she said. “I think I’m still trying to decide, because the political scene right now is kind of crazy.” While she is hopeful the assassination attempt will turn down the temperature on America’s political conversation, she said her experience has been that friends her age are able to speak about their political differences without anger.
Jamie Brackley, who manages the motorcycle shop in downtown Butler, called himself “a neither” in terms of declaring a political party. As for whether the attempt on Trump’s life will affect his politics, he said: “No. I’m a conspiracy theorist already, so it doesn’t affect me one way or another.”
Democrat Laneice Olesnevich, 66, has lived all her life in Butler. She called it “a good Christian town.”
Olesnevich said she remains undecided on her choice for president but that the assassination attempt wouldn’t affect her decision. Rather, she was waiting for more information on Trump’s running mate — he selected US Sen. JD Vance, of Ohio, later on Monday — and on Biden’s health.
“I feel bad for those parents of that young man, because you know their life now has become a living hell, and I don’t think (what he did) will make any difference in my decision,” she said.
She added: “I pray for this country daily, because we definitely need something to change everybody’s anger.”
In a place where people know each other, it’s common to consider the impact of such a cataclysmic event on individual people, especially those with a direct connection to what happened. It’s one more reason why the shock will linger for years.
“The world’s a crazy place,” said Jodie Snider, of nearby Clarion, a retired police officer, Army officer and sharpshooter, who was visiting the Butler County Courthouse on Monday. “Of all places, Butler.”


Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance

Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance
Updated 18 July 2024
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Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance

Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance
  • Chilukuri Vance left the law firm where she worked shortly after her husband was chosen as Trump’s running mate

WASHINGTON: Usha Chilukuri Vance, Yale law graduate and trial lawyer, was thrust into the spotlight this week after her husband, JD Vance, was chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate in the 2024 presidential election.
Chilukuri Vance, 38, was raised in San Diego, by Indian immigrants. Her mother is a biologist and provost at the University of California at San Diego; her father is an engineer, according to JD Vance’s campaign. She received an undergraduate degree at Yale University and a master of philosophy at the University of Cambridge through the Gates Cambridge scholarship.
After Cambridge, she met her husband back at Yale, where the two studied law. In his 2016 memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” JD Vance said the two got to know each other through a class assignment, where he soon “fell hard” for his writing partner.
“In a place that always seemed a little foreign, Usha’s presence made me feel at home,” he wrote.
They graduated in 2013 and wed the following year.
After law school, Chilukuri Vance spent a year clerking for Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he served as an appeals court judge in Washington, followed by a year as a law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts.
She has since become a trial lawyer for the Munger, Tolles and Olson law firm at its San Francisco and D.C. offices. Chilukuri Vance left the law firm where she worked shortly after her husband was chosen as Trump’s running mate.
“Usha has informed us she has decided to leave the firm,” Munger, Tolles & Olson said in a statement. “Usha has been an excellent lawyer and colleague, and we thank her for her years of work and wish her the best in her future career.”
Chilukuri Vance was not available Tuesday for comment, according to a spokeswoman for JD Vance’s campaign.
In his memoir, Vance credited part of his success and happiness to his wife.
“Even at my best, I’m a delayed explosion— I can be defused, but only with skill and precision,” Vance wrote. “It’s not just that I’ve learned to control myself but that Usha has learned how to manage me.”
Voter records show that as of 2022, Chilukuri Vance was a registered Republican in Ohio, and voted in the Republican primary that year — the same election that her husband was running in the Republican senate primary.
JD and Usha Vance live in Cincinnati, and have three children: Ewan, Vivek and Mirabel. Outside of work, she served on the Cincinnati Symphony Board of Directors from September 2020 to July 2023.