Biden Government Urges Judge To Block Texas Anti-Abortion Law

U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as he gives a remark. (Anna Moneymaker/AFP)

 

US President Joe Biden’s administration called on a federal judge Friday to swiftly block a new law that bans most abortions in Texas and has raised concerns about women’s curtailed access to care.

The controversial statute, which went into force on September 1, represents “an open threat to the rule of law,” deputy assistant attorney general Brian Netter declared in court arguments in Austin.

In its challenge, the US government described the ban as “a truly extraordinary law designed to outflank the federal government and to violate the constitution,” Netter said, adding a “judicial intervention” was necessary to make the law unenforceable until the case is decided.

The Texas law, the most restrictive of its kind in the country, prohibits abortions as soon as an embryo’s heartbeat is detectable, usually at around six weeks of pregnancy, and does not allow exceptions in cases of incest or rape.

In recent years similar laws have been passed in other states but were struck down because they violated US Supreme Court precedent from Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling which guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, at around 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The Texas law is unique in that it empowers anyone to file lawsuits against a person who has assisted in an abortion, which prompted Netter to accuse state authorities of enabling a regime of “vigilante justice.”

The nine-justice Supreme Court, with its clear conservative majority, cited such “novel” procedural issues when it decided last month against intervening to block the law, Texas Senate Bill 8, as pro-choice advocates had requested.

The federal government has entered the fray, citing its interest in upholding Americans’ constitutional rights.

Netter argued that while the United States rarely files suit to challenge state laws, “this suit is necessary because SB-8 represents a thus far unprecedented attack on the supremacy of the federal government, of the federal constitution.”

Attorney William Thompson of the Texas Attorney General’s Office accused Netter of “inflammatory rhetoric” and insisted the law respects Supreme Court precedent.

But Judge Robert Pitman retorted: “If the state’s so confident in the constitutionality of the limitations on a woman’s access to abortion, then why did it go to such great lengths to create this very unusual private cause of action?”

Pitman could issue a ruling soon in the case.

Biden Says US Not Seeking ‘Cold War’ As He Vows To Lead

U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as delivers remarks on the U.S. military’s ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on August 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden (File Photo) Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Joe Biden told the world on Tuesday that the United States is not seeking a new Cold War with China as he vowed to pivot from post-9/11 conflicts and take a global leadership role on crises from climate to Covid.

Addressing the UN General Assembly for the first time as President, Biden promised to work to advance democracy and alliances, despite friction with Europe over France’s loss of a mega-contract.

The Biden administration has identified a rising and authoritarian China as the paramount challenge of the 21st century, but in his United Nations debut, he made clear he was not trying to sow divisions.

“We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs,” Biden said.

“The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to share challenges even if we have intense disagreement in other areas.”

Biden did not mention China by name, other than voicing alarm about human rights in Xinjiang, where experts say more than one million people from the Uyghur and other mostly Muslim populations are incarcerated.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to address the General Assembly later Tuesday but by video in light of Covid-19 precautions.

Biden declared himself to be the first US president in 20 years not to be running a war after his controversial pullout of troops from Afghanistan, where the Taliban swiftly took over.

Instead, America is “opening a new era of relentless diplomacy” in which military power must be the “tool of last resort.”

“The mission must be clear and achievable, undertaken with informed consent of the American people and whenever possible in partnership with our allies,” Biden said from the UN rostrum where previous US presidents, notably including George W. Bush, have pushed for military action.

‘Recipe For Trouble’

Opening the General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of growing divisions between the United States and China and urged dialogue.

“I fear our world is creeping towards two different sets of economic, trade, financial and technology rules, two divergent approaches in the development of artificial intelligence — and ultimately two different military and geopolitical strategies,” Guterres said.

“This is a recipe for trouble. It would be far less predictable than the Cold War.”

The UN General Assembly is meeting in person for the first time in two years but at limited capacity and with pandemic precautions.

The measures include replacing the microphone after each speaker — likely welcome news for the 78-year-old Biden who spoke after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who defied guidance only to attend if vaccinated.

Biden has called a virtual summit on Wednesday on defeating the pandemic and teased that he will announce “additional commitments.”

“We seek to advance the fight against Covid-19 and hold ourselves accountable around specific targets on three key challenges: saving lives now, vaccinating the world, and building back better,” Biden said.

He also said Washington would double financing on climate change — a key element in reaching an ambitious new accord in November at a UN conference in Glasgow as temperatures and severe weather rise dangerously.

The United Nations says there is a $20 billion shortfall in the $100 billion fund that developed countries promised to mobilize annually from 2020-2025 for helping poorer nations adapt to climate change.

Friction With Europe

Biden will end a busy diplomatic week with an unprecedented four-way summit at the White House with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan — the so-called “Quad” widely seen as a united front against China.

But Biden’s efforts to shore up alliances have faced one sudden and strong hurdle: France.

Paris recalled its ambassador to Washington in fury after Australia canceled a multibillion-dollar contract for French conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear versions as part of a new alliance announced with Washington and London.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said he will not meet one-on-one in New York with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and has described Biden’s diplomatic style as “brutality.”

The White House appears confident it can calm the spat, with Biden set to speak by telephone to French President Emmanuel Macron, who is not attending UNGA due to Covid precautions.

But German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who openly rejoiced in Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump, voiced solidarity with France and called the submarine decision “disappointing.”

“I was never under any illusion that we wouldn’t have problems with the new American president,” he told reporters.

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, who is expected to address the assembly on Friday, is among about a hundred world leaders who attended the opening ceremony today.

U.S. To End Travel Ban For Vaccinated Passengers

(FILES) In this file photo passengers are seen at Dulles Washington International Airport (IAD) in Dulles, Virginia, on August 14, 2021.

 

The United States announced Monday it will lift COVID-19 travel bans on all air passengers in November if they are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

The unprecedented restrictions had kept relatives, friends and business travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds on.

Jeffrey Zients, coronavirus response coordinator for President Joe Biden, told reporters the new “consistent approach” would take effect “early November.”

The easing of travel restrictions, imposed by Donald Trump 18 months ago as the Covid-19 pandemic first erupted, marks a significant shift by Biden and answers a major demand from European allies at a time of strained diplomatic relations.

Numerous safeguards will remain in place to suppress the spread of the virus, which has already killed more than 670,000 Americans and is resurgent after what many had hoped was a lasting dip earlier this year.

“Most importantly, foreign nationals flying to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated,” Zients said.

It was not immediately clear if the new rule only applied to US-approved vaccines or if other brands, such as those produced in China or Russia, would also qualify. Zients said that would be determined by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Restrictions on vehicle movement from Canada and Mexico will remain in place. “We do not have any updates on the land border policies,” Zients said.

Zients said passengers will need to show they were fully vaccinated before boarding planes bound for the United States, as well as providing proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days.

Americans not fully vaccinated will still be able to enter, but only on testing negative within a day of travel.

Masks will be obligatory on US-bound flights, and airlines will provide the US health authorities with contact tracing information.

“This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans’ international air travel safe,” Zients said.

 

‘Great News’

Britain and Germany quickly welcomed the lifting of the near-total ban. The German ambassador to the United States called it “great news.”

“Hugely important to promote people-to-people contacts and transatlantic business,” Ambassador Emily Haber tweeted.

The announcement was also hailed by airlines, which have taken a huge hit during the pandemic shutdown.

The trade group Airlines For Europe predicted “a much-needed boost to trans-Atlantic traffic & tourism and will reunite families and friends.”

And Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, said: “We welcome the Biden administration’s science-based approach to begin lifting the restrictions.”

While it had been widely expected that Biden would reopen borders to the European Union and Britain, the announcement covers the globe.

“This applies to all international travel,” Zients said.

Currently, only US citizens, residents, and foreigners with special visas are allowed to enter the United States from most European countries.

In an interview in Washington with AFP, Thierry Breton, European commissioner for internal market, said he was hopeful the policy will be extended to include the AstraZeneca shot used by many European nations, which has not been approved by US health authorities.

Breton said he spoke with Zients, who “sounded positive and optimistic.”

The restriction has deeply irked EU and British authorities. On Monday, the European Union recommended that member states reimpose restrictions on American travelers who had earlier been free to enter if vaccinated.

Breton said the restrictions “no longer made any sense.”

Despite Europe’s relatively high vaccination rates, “we are on the same restrictions as China, Iran, and other countries. It makes no sense at all,” he said.

Biden’s move comes on the eve of his speech to the annual UN General Assembly in New York, where the pandemic is due to be the headline issue.

It also comes as Washington and Paris spar bitterly over Australia’s sudden announcement that it will acquire US-built nuclear submarines as part of a new defense alliance, ditching a previous French contract for conventionally powered submarines.

France has recalled its ambassador from Washington and accused the Biden administration of stabbing it in the back.

However, US officials denied that the White House’s travel decision was an attempt to smooth ruffled French feathers.

“This is really driven by the science,” a State Department official said.

AFP

Biden Warns Of Climate Change During Visit To Storm-Damaged New York, New Jersey

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 07: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media as he departs the White House on September 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden is traveling to New Jersey and New York to tour storm damage from Hurricane Ida. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

President Joe Biden flew Tuesday to storm-ravaged New York and New Jersey, just days after inspecting the damage caused by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana — a trail of destruction the Democrat blames on climate change.

Biden — who is pushing a giant infrastructure spending bill, including major funding for the green economy — argues that extreme weather across the United States this summer is a harbinger of worse to come.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden believes the latest devastation shows “the average costs of extreme weather are getting bigger and no one is immune from climate change.”

Ida struck the US Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing major flooding and knocking out power to large parts of the heavily populated region, which is also a main hub for the oil industry.

The departing remnants of the hurricane then caught authorities in the New York region by surprise, with ferocious rainfall triggering flash flooding.

The final blast of the storm killed at least 47 people in the US Northeast as it turned streets into raging rivers, inundated basements and shut down the New York subway.

And while one part of the country buckles under hurricane fallout, California and other parts of the west are struggling to combat ever fiercer wildfires.

Biden was to tour Manville, New Jersey and the New York borough of Queens before making remarks at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT).

With his presidency straining from the aftermath of the Afghanistan pullout and surging Covid infections at home, Biden faces a difficult coming few weeks, including a struggle to get his infrastructure plans through the narrowly divided Congress.

The White House hopes that the dramatic impact from Hurricane Ida in two different parts of the country will galvanize action on the spending bills.

“It’s so imperative that we act on addressing the climate crisis and investing… through his ‘Build Back Better’ agenda, which is working its way through Congress,” Psaki said.

Biden is due to “highlight how one in three Americans live in counties that have been impacted by severe weather events in recent months,” she said.

“Just over the summer, 100 million Americans have been impacted by extreme weather — obviously in the northeast, out west with wildfires, and then in the Gulf Coast.”

AFP

Biden Defends Afghanistan Exit As ‘Best Decision For America’

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the situation in Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House on August 16, 2021 in Washington,DC. -(Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday mounted a fierce defense of his exit from Afghanistan as the “best decision for America,” the day after the US military withdrawal celebrated by the Taliban as a major victory.

“This is the right decision. A wise decision. And the best decision for America,” Biden said in an address to the nation in Washington, after he stuck to an August 31 deadline to end two decades of bloodshed that began and ended with the hardline Islamists in power.

He spoke after the United Nations warned of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan, underscoring the daunting challenges that the victorious Taliban face as they transform from insurgent group to governing power.

For America, Biden argued, the only choice in Afghanistan was “leaving or escalating.”

And the president, whose critics have savaged him for his handling of the withdrawal, said the frenzied airlift — which saw the United States and its allies fly more than 120,000 people fleeing the new Taliban regime out of Afghanistan — was an “extraordinary success.”

“No nation has ever done anything like it in all of history; only the United States had the capacity and the will and ability to do it,” he said.

The Taliban also saw the airlift as a success: a mark of their astonishing comeback and defeat of a global superpower.

Read Also: 29 Killed As Bus Plunges Off Cliff In Peru

Taliban fighters fired weapons into the sky in Kabul in the early hours of Tuesday in jubilation after the last US plane flew out. Later, they swept into the capital’s vast airport.

“Congratulations to Afghanistan… this victory belongs to us all,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters hours later on the airport runway.

Mujahid said the Taliban’s victory was a “lesson for other invaders”.

In Kandahar, the spiritual birthplace of the movement and the country’s second-largest city, thousands of celebrating supporters swept onto the streets.

‘Darkest hour’

All eyes will now turn to how the Taliban handle their first few days with sole authority over the country, with a sharp focus on whether they will allow free departure for those wanting to leave — including some foreigners.

The US has said that “under 200” of its citizens remained in the country, and Britain said the number of UK nationals inside was in the “low hundreds.”

Thousands of Afghans who worked with the US-backed government over the years and fear retribution also want to get out.

Talks are ongoing as to who will now run Kabul airport, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned was of “existential importance” as a lifeline for aid.

Many Afghans are terrified of a repeat of the Taliban’s initial rule from 1996-2001, which was infamous for their treatment of women and girls, as well as a brutal justice system.

The group has repeatedly promised a more tolerant brand of governance compared with their first stint in power, and Mujahid persisted with that theme.

“We want to have good relations with the US and the world. We welcome good diplomatic relations with them all,” he said.

Mujahid also insisted Taliban security forces would be “gentle and nice”.

But UN chief Antonio Guterres gave a stark assessment of the challenges they face as they build their new regime.

He expressed his “grave concern at the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country,” adding that basic services threatened to collapse “completely.”

He pleaded for financial support from the international community for the war-ravaged country, which is dependent on foreign aid.

“I urge all member states to dig deep for the people of Afghanistan in their darkest hour of need,” Guterres said in a statement.

 ‘Not done’ with IS-K

Authorities from several countries have already begun meeting with Taliban leadership, the latest being India.

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, urged the Taliban to combat terrorism after the US withdrawal, and called for an inclusive government.

Some Afghans also appealed to the Islamist movement to keep its promise of a softer rule.

Fawzia Koofi, a rights activist and former negotiator for the ousted government who has twice survived assassination attempts, called on the Taliban via Twitter to include all Afghans as they turn to ruling.

“Taliban, hear us out: we must rebuild together!” she wrote. “This land belongs to all of us.”

Other activists struggled to find hope.

“If I let my thoughts linger on what we have lost, I will lose my mind,” Muska Dastageer, who lectured at the American University of Afghanistan, said on Twitter.

The US-led airlift began as the Taliban completed an astonishing rout of government forces around the country and took over the capital on August 15.

The withdrawal came just before the August 31 deadline set by Biden to end the war which began with the US invasion in the wake of 9/11 — a conflict that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans and more than 2,400 American service members.

The slightly early finish came amid a threat from the regional offshoot of the Islamic State group, rivals of the Taliban, to attack US forces at the Kabul airport.

Thirteen US troops were among more than 100 people killed late last week when an IS suicide bomber attacked the perimeter of the airport, where desperate Afghans had massed in the hope of boarding an evacuation flight.

Biden said Tuesday that the United States would continue the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries, and warned IS: “We are not done with you yet.”

Another Attack Likely Soon At Kabul Airport, Says US

A file photo of US President Joe Biden

 

US military commanders believe that another terror attack like the deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport is “highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” President Joe Biden warned Saturday.

After a briefing from his national security team, Biden said in a statement that a US drone strike targeting the Islamic State-Khorasan group, which claimed responsibility for Thursday’s carnage at the airport, was “not the last.”

“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” Biden said.

READ ALSO: Incendiary Balloons From Gaza Cause Fires In Israel

Scores of Afghan civilians were killed in the Kabul bombing Thursday, along with 13 US troops — several of them born around the time US military operations in Afghanistan began 20 years ago.

The Pentagon said Saturday it had killed two “high profile” targets — logistics experts for the jihadist group — and wounded another in a drone strike in eastern Afghanistan in retaliation for the suicide bombing.

No civilians were hurt in the attack, Major General Hank Taylor told a news conference in Washington.

“The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the Earth, that’s a good thing,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

US troops have been scrambling in dangerous and chaotic conditions to complete a massive evacuation operation from the Kabul airport by an August 31 deadline.

Biden has pledged to stick to the agreed cut-off and had vowed to punish those responsible for the suicide blast. He said Saturday that the drone attack would not be the last.

“We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay,” he said. “Whenever anyone seeks to harm the United States or attack our troops, we will respond. That will never be in doubt.”

 

AFP

Kabul Evacuation Is One Of Largest, Most Difficult Airlifts In History – Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as delivers remarks on the U.S. military’s ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on August 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as delivers remarks on the U.S. military’s ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on August 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President Joe Biden said Friday he could not guarantee the outcome of emergency evacuations from Kabul, calling it one of the most difficult airlift operations ever, but added he would mobilize “every resource” to repatriate Americans.

“This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history,” Biden said in a televised address from the White House, highlighting the dangerous elements of coordinating a mass evacuation while being surrounded by Taliban forces, who took over the Afghan capital on Sunday.

“I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or… that it will be without risk of loss,” he said of the chaotic exit from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war and rebuilding.

“But as commander in chief, I can assure you that I will mobilize every resource necessary” to conduct a thorough evacuation, Biden added.

“Let me be clear: Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home.”

The president said US forces have airlifted 13,000 people out of Afghanistan since August 14, and 18,000 since July, with thousands more evacuated on private charter flights facilitated by the US government.

Earlier this year, Biden — building on his predecessor Donald Trump’s 2020 call for a withdrawal from Afghanistan — imposed a deadline of August 31 for a full exit.

Asked whether he could get all Americans out by that rapidly approaching date, Biden said he aimed to, but warned he would not second guess the judgment of military commanders on the ground.

“I think we can get it done by then, but we’re going to make that judgment as we go,” he said.

Biden said this week he had believed it was impossible to leave Afghanistan “without chaos ensuing” — a scenario that has played out in recent days with thousands of Afghans, including many who worked as translators or otherwise aided US operations, crowding outside the gates of Kabul airport.

He also said his administration has been in “constant contact” with the Taliban to coordinate and facilitate the safe evacuation of US personnel.

With the haphazard retreat making global headlines, Biden stressed he has seen “no question of credibility from our allies around the world” regarding the conduct of the American withdrawal, adding US forces were in close operational contact with NATO on the evacuation operation.

 

AFP

‘I’m Trying To Get Joe Biden On The Phone’: Man Threatens To Blow Up US Capitol Hill

First responders arrive on the scene to investigate a report of an explosive device in a pickup truck near the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill, August 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. McNamee/Getty Images/AFP
First responders arrive on the scene to investigate a report of an explosive device in a pickup truck near the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill, August 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. McNamee/Getty Images/AFP

 

Several buildings on Capitol Hill were evacuated in a bomb scare Thursday, as police negotiated with a man in a pickup truck threatening to detonate explosives near the site — targeted months ago in a deadly insurrection.

Much of the complex was cordoned off as police and FBI agents investigated the truck — which was driven onto the sidewalk near the Capitol building and Library of Congress — for possible explosives.

“This is an active bomb threat investigation,” the US Capitol Police said on its Twitter feed.

A man appearing to be the suspect took to Facebook Live to stream a series of threats — and asking to speak to President Joe Biden.

READ ALSO: Key Quotes From Biden’s Afghanistan Speech

“I’m trying to get Joe Biden on the phone. I’m parked up here on the sidewalk right beside all this pretty stuff,” said the man, identified on the Facebook page as Ray Roseberry.

“I’m telling you, them snipers come in, they start shooting this window out, this bomb’s going off,” he said.

Police said the suspect man drove the pickup truck onto the sidewalk before making his threats.

“The driver of the truck told the responding officer on the scene that he had a bomb and what appeared, the officer said, appeared to be a detonator in the man’s hand,” Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger told reporters.

An evacuation of nearby buildings was ordered, and law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in negotiations with the man.

“We are in communication with the suspect,” Manger told reporters.

“We’re trying to get as much information as we can to find a way to peacefully resolve this,” the police chief added, while declining to identify the suspect or provide details about him.

“We don’t know what his motives are,” Manger added.

While it remained unclear whether the vehicle contains actual explosives, the Library of Congress’s main buildings were evacuated amid the scare, as was the nearby US Supreme Court and at least one of the three House office buildings.

The nearby Republican National Committee headquarters was also reportedly evacuated and the Washington Metro’s Capitol Hill subway station closed as a precaution.

A White House official said staff in the executive mansion where monitoring the situation and receiving updates from law enforcement.

‘Growing risk’

Both the Senate and House of Representatives are currently on recess, but some lawmakers have remained in Washington and staffers are working in the complex.

“My staff and our building near the vehicle have been safely evacuated but please keep the Capitol Police, FBI, and (Washington police) in your prayers as they address this serious threat,” congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi tweeted.

While congressman Dean Phillips said everyone in his office was safe, he noted that “once again, America is forced to confront the growing risk posed by domestic terrorists.”

Tensions have remained high on Capitol Hill more than seven months after the deadly January 6 insurrection, when supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol, fought with police, and sought to block certification of the presidential election.

In April a man rammed a car into barriers at the US Capitol, killing one Capitol Police officer before the attacker was shot and killed.

The January uprising prompted authorities to erect a ring of steel in the form of tall metal fencing and razor wire around the Capitol complex.

The fencing — one of the last physical reminders of the attack — only came down in July.

AFP

Key Quotes From Biden’s Afghanistan Speech

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the situation in Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House on August 16, 2021 in Washington,DC. – President Joe Biden broke his silence Monday on the US fiasco in Afghanistan with his address to the nation from the White House, as a lightning Taliban victory sent the Democrat’s domestic political fortunes reeling. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

 

 

US President Joe Biden on Monday defended his decision to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, despite the Taliban’s blistering military campaign that resulted in their takeover of the country.

Here are the key quotes from Biden’s speech on the situation from the White House:

– No regrets –
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces.”

“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building.”

“I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.”

– ‘Far from perfect’ –
“The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”

“I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for president that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end. And while it’s been hard and messy — and yes, far from perfect — I’ve honored that commitment.”

– ‘Every chance’ –
“We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.”

“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”

“I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?”

– Warning to Taliban –
“As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban: If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the US presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful. We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary.”

– China and Russia –
“Our true strategic competitors — China and Russia — would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.”

Biden Asks New York Governor To Resign After Damning Harassment Report

A photo combination of US President Joe Biden and New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo.
A photo combination of US President Joe Biden and New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo.

 

US President Joe Biden joined leading Democrats Tuesday in calling on powerful New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign after an independent investigation concluded that he sexually harassed multiple women.

Cuomo, who drew praise nationwide for his early pandemic response, denied inappropriate conduct and resisted immediate calls to quit after the probe found he harassed current and former New York state employees.

But his position was looking increasingly untenable late Tuesday after Biden and House speaker Nancy Pelosi said the three-term governor should step down and state lawmakers moved to impeach him.

“I think he should resign,” Biden told reporters in Washington.

The explosive report detailed allegations by 11 women that paint a “deeply disturbing yet clear” picture of a pattern of abusive behavior by Cuomo and his senior staff, state Attorney General Letitia James said, announcing the findings.

It was not clear if the governor would face criminal prosecution, with James saying the investigation was “civil in nature,” but US media reported that the district attorney’s office in state capital Albany had opened an investigation.

The five-month investigation “concluded that Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women and in doing so violated federal and state law,” James told a news conference.

She said Cuomo engaged “in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous comments of a suggestive sexual nature that created a hostile work environment for women.”

The investigation also found that Cuomo and his senior team took retaliatory action against at least one former employee for coming forward with her story, she added.

Cuomo issued an unequivocal denial.

“I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said in a pre-recorded televised statement.

“I am 63 years old. I have lived my entire adult live in public view. That is just not who I am. And that’s not who I have ever been.”

And he suggested that resignation was not on his mind, saying: “What matters to me at the end of the day is getting the most done I can for you.

“And that is what I do every day. And I will not be distracted from that job. We have a lot to do.”

Cuomo also published a response to every allegation made by the women against him on his website, adding: “Please take the time to read the facts and decide for yourself.”

Defending his actions, he included photos of prominent Americans, including Biden and ex-president Barack Obama, kissing and hugging people.

– ‘Climate of fear’ –

One former employee said Cuomo slipped his hand under her blouse last year, while a trooper on Cuomo’s protective detail said he inappropriately touched her stomach and hip.

His conduct was “not just old fashioned affection and behavior as he and some of his staff would have it, but unlawful sex-based harassment,” said Anne Clark, one of the lawyers heading the investigation.

None of the women welcomed his attentions, the other lawyer leading the probe, Joon Kim, said. “All of them found it disturbing, humiliating, uncomfortable and inappropriate.”

Clark detailed one incident where Cuomo prepared a letter he wanted to release to the press attacking one of the alleged victims, though he was ultimately persuaded not to.

And Kim said Cuomo and his staff fostered a “climate of fear” that kept women from speaking out.

The investigators said that at least one report has been made to police about Cuomo’s behavior, and that their findings could be used in any criminal investigations.

The women involved can also decide whether they want to sue Cuomo, they said.

“I am inspired by all the brave women who came forward. But more importantly, I believe them,” said James.

The charismatic Cuomo, a moderate who still enjoys considerable support amongst voters, had hoped to go one better than his father Mario Cuomo by winning a fourth term in November 2022 elections.

But it looked increasingly likely that he could be forced out before then as state assembly speaker Carl Heastie announced that Cuomo had “lost the confidence” of its Democratic majority and “can no longer remain in office.”

 

AFP

Biden Announces ‘New Phase’ In Iraq Relations, End Of ‘Combat Operations’

File photo: US President Joe Biden speaks on the American Jobs Plan, following a tour of Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia on May 3, 2021. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Joe Biden opened talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi on Monday saying relations were in a “new phase” that would include the end of US combat operations in the country.

With Kadhemi at his side in the White House, Biden said that the US is “committed to our security cooperation” and will “to continue to train, to assist, to help, to deal with ISIS (Islamic State) as it arises.”

“But we’re not going to be, at the end of the year, in a combat mission,” he said.

Biden also stressed US support for elections in October in Iraq, saying Washington is working closely with Baghdad, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations to ensure the elections are fair.

Kadhemi said the US and Iraq have a “strategic partnership.”

“America, they help Iraq. Together we fight, fight and defeat ISIS,” he said.

“Today, our relation is stronger than ever — our partnership in the economy, the environment, health, education, culture and more.”

Biden is currently also overseeing the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, with the Taliban on the offensive amid fears they could even topple the Kabul government.

Political support 

Biden’s comments confirmed his readinesses to further limit US involvement in Iraq, but without removing the remaining 2,500 troops in the country, 18 years after the United States invaded to remove strongman Saddam Hussein.

The move could lend political support to Kadhemi, in power for little over a year and under pressure from Iran-allied political factions to push US troops from his country.

The two leaders’ meeting came after weeks of preparations which included discussions on support for fighting Covid-19, aiding the Iraqi private sector and cooperation on climate change.

Ahead of the meeting a senior US official who would not be identified praised Kadhemi for being pragmatic and “a problem solver rather than someone who tries to use problems for his own political interests.”

The main concern from Washington is to lend enough support to Iraqi security forces to keep up the fight against the remnants of the Islamic State group — while also keeping a damper on Iran’s influence in Iraq.

Since last year the principal role of the remaining US troops in Iraq has been to train, advise and support their Iraqi counterparts to battle Islamic State.

But Biden’s statement made clear that their involvement in actual fighting Islamic State would end.

“Iraq has requested, and we very much agree, that they need continued training, support with logistics, intelligence, advisory capacity building — all of which will continue,” the US official said.

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October elections 

File photo: US President Joe Biden holds a press conference after the US-Russia summit in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (Photo by PETER KLAUNZER / POOL / AFP)

 

“We support strengthening Iraq’s democracy and we’re anxious to make sure the election goes forward in October,” he said.

In the vote Kadhemi is hoping to regain ground with powerful pro-Iran political factions, which are overtly hostile to the US presence.

He was expected to persuade Washington to ease some sanctions relating to Iran, to help Iraq honor crucial transactions with its neighbor and tackle power shortages.

Ramzy Mardini, an Iraq specialist at the University of Chicago’s Pearson Institute, said the meeting that it could be cosmetically “shaped” to help the Iraqi premier alleviate domestic pressures.

“But the reality on the ground will reflect the status quo and an enduring US presence.” said Mardini.

Remaining, however, has its risks.

“If there is no significant announcement on the withdrawal of troops, I fear that the pro-Iran groups may… increase attacks on the US forces,” Iraqi researcher Sajad Jiyad told AFP.

The Iraqi Resistance Coordination Committee, a group of militia factions, threatened to continue the attacks unless the United States withdraws all its forces and ends the “occupation.”

AFP

Biden Names Big Tech Critic To Head Anti-trust Unit

US President Joe Biden, with Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 8, 2021. Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday named a prominent Big Tech critic to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division in another sign of aggressive moves to counter the dominance of major Silicon Valley firms.

Jonathan Kanter, a lawyer who has represented firms challenging tech platforms, would if confirmed head up the division to handle an array of cases expected against the largest tech firms for alleged monopoly abuses.

The Kanter nomination follows the appointment Lina Khan, an advocate of breaking up the biggest tech firms, to head the Federal Trade Commission, which is also involved in antitrust enforcement.

A White House statement called Kanter “a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy.”

Kanter has represented firms such as Yelp and Spotify which have claimed tech giants such as Google and Apple have used unfair practices to thwart competition. He also represented the News Media Alliance in claims that large platforms have stymied media firms.

A former FTC lawyer, he recently started his own “boutique antitrust law firm that advocates in favor of federal and state antitrust law enforcement,” according to the White House.

Early indications from the Biden administration suggest a ramped-up effort at antitrust enforcement, amid calls by some to break up some of the biggest and most successful Big Tech firms.

Biden earlier this month unveiled a wide-ranging plan aimed at tilting the balance of power away from corporations and towards “the little guy.”

Biden described the initiative as a shift from what he called Washington’s 40-year “experiment of letting giant corporations accumulate more and more power” as he signed an executive order directing changes on everything from the sale of hearing aids to the disclosure of airline baggage fees.

“We have to get back to an economy that grows from the bottom up,” he said.

The order, which drew strong praise from consumer advocates but a scathing response from some industry lobbying groups, outlines 72 initiatives across the federal government and announces the creation of the White House Competition Council to monitor progress.