Pence warns US voters: ‘You won’t be safe’ under Joe Biden

US vice president Mike Pence is playing an important part in Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. (AFP)
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Updated 27 August 2020

Pence warns US voters: ‘You won’t be safe’ under Joe Biden

  • US vice president makes patriotic case for Donald Trump getting a second term
  • Polls show almost two-thirds of Americans are unhappy with Trump’s coronavirus response

BALTIMORE: US vice president Mike Pence took center stage at the Republican convention Wednesday to warn voters they “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” — casting Donald Trump as their protector against the “radical” left.
Pence was the keynote speaker in a parade of Trump acolytes who sought to uplift the president as an economic virtuoso and champion of conservative and pro-life values, law enforcement and civil rights.
They also spoke of dark forces intent on ending the American dream, and said losing to their Democratic rivals is not an option.
“Law and order is on the ballot,” Pence stressed on the third night of a convention overshadowed by violent unrest in Wisconsin and the approach of Hurricane Laura to the southern US coast.
He addressed the event from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the site of an 1814 British bombardment that inspired the poem later turned into the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
With that backdrop, Pence made the patriotic case for Trump getting a second term instead of allowing the nation to be “fundamentally transformed” by a Biden administration he warned would take an uncharted path toward socialism and mob rule.
“The hard truth is, you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” said the 61-year-old Pence.
Pence’s address came amid a new flare-up of racial tensions in the United States, with protests spreading over the latest police shooting of an African-American man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Trump announced he is sending in additional federal forces to quell unrest in the Midwestern city, where two people were shot dead during anti-police protests Tuesday. A 17-year-old has been arrested on murder charges.
Addressing the latest unrest, Pence struck a tough tone.
“Let me be clear. The violence must stop whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha,” he said.
“We will have law and order on the streets of this country for every American.”
Touting Trump’s strong economic record before the Covid-19 epidemic struck and his ongoing efforts to revive it — Pence urged voters to ask themselves “who do you trust to rebuild this economy?”
A former governor of Indiana, the evangelical Christian Pence has taken on the role of calm counterweight to Trump’s constant drama.
As a traditional conservative Pence seeks to reassure old-school Republicans, while also praising the new generation of Trump loyalists — a balancing act that will likely play out within the party ahead of the presidential election in 2024.
Pence is playing an important part in Trump’s re-election, crisscrossing the country — with an emphasis on swing states including Wisconsin — to rally support.
He has similarly served as the White House’s sober pointman on coronavirus, which has killed nearly 180,000 Americans since Trump’s initial, erroneous prediction that it would disappear without trouble.
Where Trump has veered radically between dismissing the crisis and grimly embracing a self-declared role as a “wartime president,” Pence has shouldered the unglamorous role of White House coronavirus task force coordinator.
He reached out to the millions of Americans upended by the crisis in a way Trump has appeared unable to do.
“Tonight, our hearts are with all the families who have lost loved ones. We mourn with those who mourn, and we grieve with those who grieve,” Pence said.
But in comments sure to draw criticism from opponents, Pence saluted Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
“We are slowing the spread, we are protecting the vulnerable, we are saving lives, and we are opening up America again,” he said.
Polls show almost two-thirds of Americans are unhappy with Trump’s coronavirus response, and Biden’s camp said Pence’s speech offered “no real discussion of the crushing financial hardship countless families are facing as a result.”
His communications director Kate Bedingfield said: “Instead of a roadmap to defeat this virus and rebuild our economy so that it works for the middle class, Vice President Pence only offered up debunked scare tactics and gaslighting in an attempt to further divide us.”
Trump’s Democratic rival holds a lead nationally, but a CNBC-Change Research poll released Wednesday showed the race tightening across six swing states including Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris, will be attacking Trump on his coronavirus record at a speech Thursday in Washington, the same day Trump gives his main acceptance speech at the White House to close out the Republican convention.
Pence’s Baltimore address follows two days of appearances by Trump boosters, including First Lady Melania Trump, who on Tuesday defended the president as “an authentic person who loves this country.”
Trump, never far from the spotlight, flew with Melania to Baltimore to celebrate with the Pences after the vice president’s speech but did not formally address the gathering.


Afghan suspected of stabbing 7 held in custody in Sweden

Updated 05 March 2021

Afghan suspected of stabbing 7 held in custody in Sweden

  • Suspect an asylum-seeker whose residence permit had expired last year

STOCKHOLM: A 22-year-old Afghan man who is suspected of having stabbed seven men in a town in southern Sweden, leaving three of them in critical condition, was remanded in pretrial custody for at least two weeks on Friday.
The Eksjo District Court added that there was a flight risk, Swedish broadcaster SVT said. The suspect, who was not identified under Swedish rules and who faces seven counts of attempted murder, denied any wrongdoing.
“I have done nothing. I was at home,” the suspected shouted at the beginning of the custody hearing and banged his fist on the table, Swedish media reported.
The man, who has Afghan citizenship, was described by Swedish media as an asylum-seeker whose residence permit had expired last year. Local news reports also have said the man had a history of mental health issues. He is known to police for petty crimes.
On Friday, he entered the court room limping after having being shot in the leg by police Wednesday, some 20 minutes after the first calls of an ongoing incident in the small town of Vetlanda, 190 kilometers southeast of Goteborg, Sweden’s second-largest city. Officers who arrested him found a knife in his possession.
Police say there are five crime scenes in the town of 13,000. It appeared that the seven male victims were picked at random. All are stable, according to hospital officials.
At first, police floated the idea that the preliminary investigation could be considered terror-related, but later changed it to attempted murder.


Indian farmers plan major road blockade outside Delhi to mark 100th day of protests

Updated 05 March 2021

Indian farmers plan major road blockade outside Delhi to mark 100th day of protests

  • Tens of thousands have been camped outside New Delhi since December

NEW DELHI: Indian farmers who have been protesting for months against deregulation of produce markets plan to block a major expressway outside New Delhi on Saturday, the 100th day of their campaign, they said.
Tens of thousands have been camped outside Delhi since December, demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeal three farm laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies, which the farmers say will make them vulnerable.
Farmers from the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh plan to stop all traffic on the six-lane Western Peripheral Expressway that forms a ring outside New Delhi for up to five hours, union leaders said on Friday.
“We believe that after these 100 days, our movement will put a moral pressure on the government to accede to our demands, because the weather will also worsen,” said Darshan Pal, spokesperson for the farmer unions’ coalition Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), or United Farmers’ Front. “It will weaken the government, which will have to sit down with us to talk again.”
The government says the reforms will bring investment to the antiquated agriculture markets, and that new entrants would operate alongside government-regulated market yards, where farmers are assured of a minimum price for their produce.
Several rounds of talks between the government and farm leaders have failed and the movement has gained widespread support, including from international celebrities, posing one of the biggest challenges to Modi since he took power in 2014.
As the harvesting season begins this month, Pal said neighbors and friends back in the villages would help tend to farms while he and other farmers carry on the protests.
The capital typically has harsh summers with temperatures rising up to 45 degree Celsius, but Pal said that won’t hinder the movement.
“The laws are like a death warrant to us,” he said. “We are prepared for the long haul.”


One killed as Myanmar police open fire on protesters

Updated 05 March 2021

One killed as Myanmar police open fire on protesters

  • Earlier in the day, a big crowd had marched peacefully through the city

Police opened fire on Friday in the Myanmar city of Mandalay on protesting opponents of a Feb. 1 military coup, killing one person, witnesses and media said.
The young man was shot in the neck and died, media said.
Earlier in the day, a big crowd had marched peacefully through the city chanting: “The stone age is over, we’re not scared because you threaten us.”


Pope Francis leaves Rome for historic Iraq trip

Updated 05 March 2021

Pope Francis leaves Rome for historic Iraq trip

  • The Vatican has planned a packed program for the 84-year-old pope

ROME: Pope Francis left Rome on Friday for a historic trip to Iraq, his first abroad since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to an AFP reporter aboard his plane.

The 84-year-old, who said he was making the first-ever papal visit to Iraq as a “pilgrim of peace,” will also reach out to Shiite Muslims when he meets Iraq’s top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Shortly before leaving for the airport Pope Francis met 12 Iraqi refugees from the Community of Sant'Egidio and Auxilium Cooperative, two Catholic NGOs for 15 minutes.

The four-day journey is the pope’s first abroad since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which left the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics saying he felt “caged” inside the Vatican.

Security will be tight in Iraq, which has endured years of war and insurgency, is still hunting for Daesh sleeper cells, and days ago saw a barrage of rockets plow into a military base.

Francis will preside over a half-dozen services in ravaged churches, refurbished stadiums and remote desert locations, where attendance will be limited to allow for social distancing.

Inside the country, he will travel more than 1,400 kilometers by plane and helicopter, flying over areas where security forces are still battling Daesh remnants.

Iraqi security officers stand guard in central Baghdad on March 4, 2021, on the eve of the Pope Francis’s first visit to Iraq. (AFP)

For shorter trips, Francis will take an armored car on freshly paved roads that will be lined with flowers and posters welcoming the leader known here as “Baba Al-Vatican.”

The pope’s visit has deeply touched Iraq’s Christians, whose numbers have collapsed over years of persecution and sectarian violence, from 1.5 million in 2003 to fewer than 400,000 today.

The first day of the pope’s ambitious itinerary will see him meet government officials and clerics in the capital Baghdad, including at the Our Lady of Salvation church, where a militant attack left dozens dead in 2010.

He will also visit the northern province of Nineveh, where in 2014 Daesh militants forced minorities to either flee, convert to Islam or be put to death.

Youths unfurl a poster welcoming Pope Francis next to the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul on March 2, 2021. (AFP)

“People had only a few minutes to decide if they wanted to leave or be decapitated,” recalled Karam Qacha, a Chaldean Catholic priest in Nineveh.

“We left everything — except our faith.”

Some 100,000 Christians — around half of those who lived in the province — fled, of whom just 36,000 have returned, according to Catholic charity “Aid to the Church in Need.”

(Additional reporting by Francesco Bongarr)


New Zealand to end COVID-19 lockdown on largest city

Updated 05 March 2021

New Zealand to end COVID-19 lockdown on largest city

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the stay-at-home order for Auckland will end early Sunday
  • Auckland will continue to restrict numbers at public gatherings to 100

WELLINGTON: New Zealand will lift a COVID-19 lockdown on nearly two million people on Sunday, as authorities say they are confident that a virus cluster in the country’s largest city has been contained.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday the stay-at-home order for Auckland will end early Sunday, one week after it was imposed in response to a mystery case that contact tracing could not explain.
It later emerged that family members of the infected person had defied isolation orders, socialising with friends who later tested positive for COVID-19.
With the case’s origins solved, quarantine protocols were enforced and Ardern said the cluster had been limited to 15 cases, allowing Aucklanders to leave their homes.
“This plan is consistent with our cautious and careful elimination strategy,” she told reporters.
New Zealand has won widespread praise for its coronavirus response, recording just 26 deaths in a population of five million.
Ardern acknowledged Aucklanders, who have endured two lockdowns in the past month, were weary but urged them to stick to rules designed to curb the spread of the virus.
“We may not be in the devastating position that much of the world finds itself in but the elimination strategy can still feel like hard work,” Ardern said.
“It’s completely natural to feel fatigued, COVID is hard work for everyone.
“Thank you for pushing through once again, we’re confident we’ll once again get ourselves back to a position where we have the freedoms New Zealanders have so enjoyed.”
Although lockdown will end on Sunday, Auckland will continue to restrict numbers at public gatherings to 100 and require face masks on public transport.
The rest of New Zealand will move to the least restrictive setting in the country’s COVID-19 response system.
New Zealand Cricket welcomed the move, which will allow unrestricted crowds at the fifth and final Twenty20 international between the Black Caps and Australia in Wellington on Sunday.
America’s Cup organizers said the yachting regatta would begin in Auckland on Wednesday despite the city’s restrictions on spectator numbers.
The showdown between Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa of Italy had been scheduled to being this weekend but was delayed by the lockdown.