Georgia hand tally affirms Biden’s victory as Trump attempts to undermine election

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gives an update on the state of the election and ballot count during a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 6, 2020. (REUTERS/Dustin Chambers/File Photo)
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Updated 20 November 2020

Georgia hand tally affirms Biden’s victory as Trump attempts to undermine election

  • Georgia’s audit, launched after unofficial results showed Biden leading Trump by about 14,000 votes cast, ended with Biden winning by 12,284
  • Trump and his allies have accused fellow Republican Raffensperger without evidence of overseeing a flawed election

DETROIT/WILMINGTON, Delaware: After a painstaking recount, Georgia officials confirmed on Thursday that President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump in the battleground state on Nov. 3, further narrowing the president’s dubious effort to overturn the election results.
The result of the six-day hand recount of the state’s 5 million ballots had been widely expected, despite baseless allegations from Trump and his allies that Georgia’s vote tallies were suspect because of widespread fraud.
Amid a series of losses in court, Trump’s re-election campaign has shifted to a new strategy that relies on persuading Republican state legislators in crucial states to ignore the election results and intervene on Trump’s behalf, according to three people familiar with the plan.
The campaign has filed multiple lawsuits to try to challenge the results in battleground states that Biden won, as election officials across the country have affirmed that there is no evidence of major irregularities. Judges in three states delivered new legal setbacks to the campaign on Thursday, rejecting claims of improper vote counting.
Biden, a Democrat, has captured 306 electoral votes to the Republican Trump’s 232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner of the election, well above the 270 needed for victory.
Georgia’s audit, launched after unofficial results showed Biden leading Trump by about 14,000 votes cast, ended with Biden winning by 12,284, according to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. The state is expected to certify Biden’s victory on Friday.
Trump and his allies, including Georgia’s Republican US senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both face runoff elections in January, have accused fellow Republican Raffensperger without evidence of overseeing a flawed election, an allegation Raffensperger has angrily disputed.
In remarks on Thursday after a call with 10 state governors, Biden called Trump’s attempt to reverse the results “totally irresponsible.”
“It sends a horrible message about who we are as a country,” said the president-elect, although he expressed no concern that the gambit would succeed in preventing him from taking office on Jan. 20.
While legal experts see Trump’s last-gasp effort as unlikely to succeed, they say the strategy represents an unprecedented assault on the country’s democratic institutions by a sitting president.
The Trump campaign has already asked a judge in Pennsylvania, where Biden won by 82,000 votes, to declare Trump the winner, allowing the Republican-controlled legislature to choose the state’s 20 Electoral College voters.
Several prominent law firms have pulled out of the campaign’s legal challenges, leaving Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to spearhead the efforts.

Giuliani alleges conspiracy
At a news conference on Thursday, Giuliani said he planned to file more lawsuits and that Democrats had engaged in a “national conspiracy” to manipulate vote totals, although he admitted he did not have any evidence.
Other members of the legal team floated a theory involving Venezuela and George Soros, a bogeyman of conservatives, although they said they would probably not pursue it in court.
Giuliani said accounts of suspicious activity would ultimately overturn the election, which Biden won nationwide by 5.9 million votes. Some of those accounts have already been thrown out of court.
“We cannot allow these crooks — because that’s what they are — to steal this election. They elected Donald Trump. They didn’t elect Joe Biden,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani’s agitated performance, featuring rivulets of hair dye running down his face, was widely mocked by Democrats. Others expressed alarm.
“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” tweeted Christopher Krebs, who headed up the US government’s efforts to combat election disinformation until he was fired by Trump earlier this week.

’No excuse’
Critics say Trump’s refusal to concede has serious implications for national security and the fight against the coronavirus, which has killed more than 250,000 Americans.
Biden is not receiving the classified intelligence due a president-elect, and his transition team has not received the funding, office space and briefings from current government officials normally afforded to an incoming administration.
He warned the delay could cause additional deaths as the pandemic surges to record levels across the country.
“There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan, because on Day One it’s going to take us time, if we don’t have access to all this data,” he said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. “It’s going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more, and that’s lives.”
The former vice president has focused on preparing his incoming administration, naming senior staff members and getting briefed by his advisers. He said on Thursday he had selected a Treasury secretary and could announce his pick as soon as next week.
Democratic leaders in Congress sent a letter on Thursday to the administrator in charge of releasing transition funds, Emily Murphy, demanding that she explain why she has yet to recognize Biden as president-elect.
Part of the new Trump campaign effort involves trying to delay certification, the normally routine process by which election results are finalized, a senior campaign official said.
In Detroit on Tuesday, Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused at first to certify the results, then reversed themselves, then signed affidavits that they wanted to rescind their certification.
One of the members told Reuters that Trump called her after she agreed to certify the results.
Trump’s campaign dropped a federal lawsuit on Thursday challenging the election results in Michigan, citing the Wayne County officials’ affidavits. Officials said the affidavits were too late to stop certification.
Republican legislative leaders from Michigan are scheduled to visit the White House on Friday at Trump’s request, a source in Michigan said, adding the lawmakers planned to hear what the president had to say.


Russia reports 10,595 new COVID-19 cases, 368 deaths

Updated 45 min 3 sec ago

Russia reports 10,595 new COVID-19 cases, 368 deaths

  • The government’s coronavirus taskforce said that 368 people had died in the last 24 hours

MOSCOW: Russia on Sunday reported 10,595 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,534 in Moscow, taking the national case tally to 4,322,776 since the pandemic began.
The government’s coronavirus taskforce said that 368 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the Russian death toll to 89,094.


Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

Updated 07 March 2021

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

  • It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment
  • Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts
MULTAN, Pakistan: Eight cars of a Lahore bound train derailed in southern Pakistan early Sunday, killing at least one passenger and injuring 40 others, officials said.
The accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province and caused a temporary suspension of railway traffic in both directions, said Kamran Lashari, a railway official.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment. Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where successive governments have paid little attention to improving the poorly maintained signal system and aging tracks.
Lashari said eight cars of the 18-car train that departed from Karachi for the eastern city of Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch.
Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts. He said the body of the woman who died and 40 injured passengers were taken to hospitals in nearby towns. It wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers were on the train.
Railway Minister Azam Sawati told a local television station that the accident was being investigated and the government would provide financial compensation to the heirs of deceased woman and all the injured.

Khalilzad seeks support to shake up Afghan peace process, warring parties object

Updated 07 March 2021

Khalilzad seeks support to shake up Afghan peace process, warring parties object

  • Zalmay Khalilzad is on a visit to Kabul, Doha and other regional capitals, his first since under Joe Biden's administration
  • Peace negotiations in Doha are making little progress and violence in Afghanistan escalating

KABUL/ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: The US special envoy to Afghanistan proposed a shakeup of the stalled peace process this week, including an interim government and a conference of key players, according to diplomatic and political sources, but his plan faced immediate objections by the warring sides. 
Afghan-born US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad is on a visit to Kabul, Doha and other regional capitals, his first since US President Joe Biden’s administration began reviewing its options for the peace process and as time runs out before a May 1 US troop withdrawal deadline. 
With peace negotiations in the Qatari capital making little progress and violence in Afghanistan escalating, Khalilzad is trying to build consensus around alternative options with all Afghan sides and key regional players, sources said.
“(The United States) thinks Doha isn’t working and needs impetus and an alternate approach,” said one diplomatic source who closely follows the process.
In Kabul, Khalilzad met Abdullah Abdullah, the chief peace envoy, President Ashraf Ghani and other political and civil society leaders, including former President Hamid Karzai.
Three diplomatic sources, two sources on the teams of political leaders who met with Khalilzad and two international sources in Kabul said one of the envoy’s main proposals was an interim government arrangement, referred to as a participatory or representative government.
A former Afghan government official familiar with the matter said Khalilzad shared a document detailing the power-sharing proposal and that it revised a paper he circulated in December.
Another proposal was a meeting with a similar format to the 2001 Bonn conference, to involve representatives from a wide range of Afghan parties meeting in person while international agencies and diplomats push them to a solution.
Anti-Taliban leaders met under international auspices in the German city of Bonn after the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the insurgents from power and agreed on a provisional administration and a roadmap for forming a permanent government and writing a new constitution.
“We’re considering a number of different ideas that might accelerate the process,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Friday.
“The United States is not making any formal proposals and is continuing to review all relevant options for future force posture — and all means all,” a State Department spokesperson said on Saturday. “Ambassador Khalilzad has discussed a range of ways to move the diplomacy forward, nothing more.”
The two international sources said Khalilzad is asking the United Nations to take a lead role and call the conference.
Spokespeople for the UN mission in Afghanistan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two of the sources said the conference could be held in Turkey, but a third cautioned that location might meet resistance from Western nations and other countries including Germany and Uzbekistan were being considered.

CHALLENGES AHEAD
Khalilzad’s plans immediately encountered objections from both the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Ghani made a fiery speech in Afghanistan’s parliament on Saturday, repeating his refusal to step aside for an interim government. “Any institution can write a fantasy on a piece of paper and suggest a solution for Afghanistan” he said, warning any transfer of power would have to take place through elections as required by the constitution.
Two international officials in Kabul said Ghani’s fierce opposition would be a problem for the plan.
“The problem here is that Ghani can blame the United States directly ... by challenging his legitimacy and considering an interim government it implies they are undermining the democratic process,” one of the officials said.
A Taliban leader in Doha who spoke on condition of anonymity said Khalilzad raised the possibility of an interim government and a conference with the insurgents’ negotiating team, as well as asking for a cease-fire or reduction in violence by 60-70%.
“Khalilzad has come with some ideas and his top agenda is the intra-Afghan dialogue to deliver some tangible results and very soon,” he said.
He said the Taliban would not join an interim government, but was not opposed to one being formed.
“We would recommend people with a good reputation for the interim government and this set up would need to work for at least two years to depoliticize all the government departments, including the security establishment,” he said.
They could consider the reduction in violence, but not a cease-fire, the Taliban leader said, and had asked Khalilzad to pressure the Afghan government to release 7,000 more Taliban prisoners.
“We don’t believe any other conference in any country would help resolve the Afghan conflict,” he said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said they had not yet seen the plan, but if an alternative to talks in Qatar was sought, “it is doomed to failure.”
Two sources said Khalilzad was expected to visit Islamabad, Pakistan, a key player in the peace process, on his trip.
The envoy was the architect under President Donald Trump’s administration of a February 2020 deal between Washington and the Taliban, which envisaged the Afghan government and Taliban negotiating a peace agreement and setting a final withdrawal of foreign forces by May 1. 

 


Myanmar junta forces make night raids after breaking up protests; number of detained people rise to 1,700

Updated 07 March 2021

Myanmar junta forces make night raids after breaking up protests; number of detained people rise to 1,700

  • Protests erupted last month after the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Security forces have already killed more than 50 people protesting to restore democracy, United Nations says

YANGON: Myanmar security forces fired gunshots as they carried out overnight raids in the main city Yangon after breaking up the latest protests against last month’s coup with teargas and stun grenades.
The Southeast Asian country has been plunged into turmoil since the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1. Daily demonstrations and strikes have choked business and paralyzed administration.
More protests were planned on Sunday after local media reported that police fired tear gas shells and stun grenades to break up a protest in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, on Saturday. There were no reports of casualties.
The General Strike Committee of Nationalities protest group said protests would be held in Yangon, the second city of Mandalay and Monywa, also centers for protests in which the United Nations says security forces have killed more than 50 people.
Into the early hours of Sunday, residents said soldiers and police moved into several districts of Yangon, firing shots. They arrested at least three in Kyauktada Township, residents there said. They did not know the reason for the arrests.
“They are asking to take out my father and brother. Is no one going to help us? Don’t you even touch my father and brother. Take us too if you want to take them,” one woman screamed as two of them, an actor and his son, were led off.
Soldiers also came looking for a lawyer who worked for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy but were unable to find him, a member of the now dissolved parliament, Sithu Maung, said in a Facebook post.
Reuters was unable to reach police for comment. A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.

Punched and kicked"
Well over 1,700 people had been detained under the junta by Saturday, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group. It did not give a figure for overnight detentions.
“Detainees were punched and kicked with military boots, beaten with police batons, and then dragged into police vehicles,” AAPP said in a statement. “Security forces entered residential areas and tried to arrest further protesters, and shot at the homes, destroying many.”
Myanmar authorities said on Saturday they had exhumed the body of 19-year-old Kyal Sin, who has become an icon of the protest movement after she was shot dead in Mandalay on Wednesday wearing a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK.”
State-run MRTV said a surgical investigation showed she could not have been killed by police because the wrong sort of projectile was found in her head and she had been shot from behind, whereas police were in front.
Photographs on the day showed her head turned away from security forces moments before she was killed. Opponents of the coup accused authorities of an attempted cover-up.
The killings have drawn anger in the West and have been condemned by most democracies in Asia. The United States and some other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions on the junta. China, meanwhile, has said the priority should be stability and that other countries should not interfere.
Protesters demand the release of Suu Kyi and the respect of November’s election — which her party won in landslide but which the army rejected. The army has said it will hold democratic elections at an unspecified date.
Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe, hired by Myanmar’s junta, told Reuters the generals are keen to leave politics and seek to improve relations with the United States and distance themselves from China.
He said Suu Kyi had grown too close to China for the generals’ liking.
Ben-Menashe said he also had been tasked with seeking Arab support for a plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom were driven from Myanmar in 2017 in an army crackdown after rebel attacks.
Junta leader and army chief Min Aung Hlaing had been under Western sanctions even before the coup for his role in the operation, which UN investigators said had been carried out with “genocidal intent.”


Rioters ransack police stations and buildings as Senegal opposition steps up protests

Updated 07 March 2021

Rioters ransack police stations and buildings as Senegal opposition steps up protests

  • At least five people have died in protests sparked by Wednesday’s arrest of Ousmane Sonko
  • The most prominent opposition leader was arrested on rape charges, which he said was a fabrication

DAKAR: A 17-year-old boy was killed by gunfire in southern Senegal on Saturday, a government official said, and several police stations were ransacked as opponents of President Macky Sall called for more protests next week.
The boy was killed during clashes in the southern town of Diaobe, said the official, who asked not to be named. Protesters also burned down a military police station and ransacked several government buildings, the official said.
At least five people have died in protests sparked by Wednesday’s arrest of Ousmane Sonko, Senegal’s most prominent opposition leader. It is the worst political unrest in years for a country widely seen as one of West Africa’s most stable.
A spokesman for Senegal’s military police confirmed one person had died during clashes in Diaobe but did not say under what circumstances. He said protesters ransacked six police stations across the country on Saturday.
Sonko, who finished third in the 2019 presidential election, was arrested after an employee of a beauty salon accused him of raping her. Sonko denies the allegation and says it is an attempt by Sall to kneecap a political rival.
The government denies this.
The mostly young protesters cited a range of other grievances too, including high unemployment and strict measures to control the coronavirus that have inflicted economic pain, especially on informal workers.
Many are especially dubious about the accusation against Sonko because two other top rivals of Sall were previously targeted by criminal charges that prevented them from running for president in 2019.
In a statement, the opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) coalition called for three days of nationwide protests beginning on Monday.
“M2D ... calls on the Senegalese people to pursue its mobilization and peaceful struggle by using all of its constitutional rights to reject the dictatorship of Macky Sall,” it said.