DeSantis argues he’s top Trump alternative even as ex-president’s indictment overshadows 2024 race

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd of supporters at the Never Back Down event inside the F & E Event Center on June 10, 2023, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Tulsa World via AP)
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Updated 11 June 2023

DeSantis argues he’s top Trump alternative even as ex-president’s indictment overshadows 2024 race

  • DeSantis argues that his record in Florida has put him at the cutting edge of the next generation of Republicans
  • But while criticizing Trump, he also slammed the 37-count criminal indictment against the former president

PONCA, Oklahoma: Republican White House candidate Ron DeSantis plowed ahead Saturday with efforts to portray himself as his party’s staunchest national conservative leader, even as the 2024 GOP race has been disrupted by drama surrounding the 37-count felony federal indictment for mishandling classified documents against former President Donald Trump.

The Florida governor sought to project strength amid the turmoil by campaigning in Oklahoma — one of more than a dozen states scheduled to hold its Republican primary on Super Tuesday, weeks after the earliest states vote. He also notched the endorsement of the state’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, the first governor to formally announce his support for DeSantis, while appearing at a rally in the state’s second-largest city of Tulsa.
DeSantis has argued that his record in Florida has put him at the cutting edge of the next generation of Republicans. But Saturday, before a sweat-soaked audience fanning themselves with yard signs, DeSantis introduced a loftier theme, asking Americans to embrace his call for new national leadership.
“So our duty is to preserve what the founders of the country called the sacred fire of liberty,” said the governor, who wore jeans, cowboy boots and a red-and-blue checked shirt. He ticked through the Declaration of Independence, the battle of Gettysburg and the Normandy invasion during World War II as moments Americans rallied during times of crisis.
“Our generation now is called upon to carry this torch. It’s not a responsibility we should shy away from,” DeSantis said. “It’s a responsibility we should welcome. We have to stand firm for the truth, and we have to remain resolute in the defense of core American and enduring principles.”
Later, he planned to stop at a rodeo in Ponca, about 75 miles northwest of Tulsa.
The legal drama presents both an opportunity and challenge for DeSantis and other Trump campaign rivals. Multiple criminal cases — while initially lifting Trump’s polling numbers and fundraising efforts — could ultimately undermine the former president as the best general election candidate against President Joe Biden.
But direct criticism of Trump over the criminal indictment might alienate the former president’s core supporters, which his rivals are out to convert. That is especially true for DeSantis, who is continuing to criticize Trump while attempting to position himself as the field’s most conservative choice, but also has opted to slam the case against Trump rather than overtly trying to capitalize from it.
“One of the things that flows from that is this increasing weaponization of these federal agencies against people they don’t like,” DeSantis said. He didn’t mention Trump or the indictment specifically but added, “On day one you’ll have a new director of the FBI. We’re going to use our authority to hold people accountable.”
On policy matters, DeSantis has gradually ramped up criticism of Trump, though not directly by name, for rejecting the idea of changes to Social Security and Medicare spending. The former president has rejected the idea of cuts to the programs.
The Florida governor also has suggested that Trump is less-than-devout in his opposition to abortion rights, in light of his criticism as “harsh” of DeSantis for signing a ban on most abortions before six weeks of pregnancy.
Trump himself was campaigning Saturday at the Georgia Republican Party convention, where he called the case against him “ridiculous” and “baseless.” He was addressing the North Carolina Republican convention later Saturday but also has urged his supporters to rally ahead of a Tuesday court appearance in South Florida — ensuring that his case is likely to garner more attention than the 2024 GOP primary for the foreseeable future.
The Justice Department case adds to deepening legal jeopardy for Trump, who has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to more criminal charges. But among the various investigations he has faced, legal experts — as well as Trump’s own aides — had long seen the Mar-a-Lago probe as the most perilous legal threat.
Stitt’s endorsement, meanwhile, is probably unlikely to sway many voters nationally. But it is important for projecting strength far from DeSantis’ home state, as does stopping in Oklahoma so early in the campaign.
The governor opened his campaign last month by visiting Iowa, then traveled to New Hampshire and South Carolina, all states that vote early on the primary calendar and have absorbed the majority of the candidates’ attention. Yet the early Oklahoma stop lets DeSantis show he plans to be in the race for the entire primary season, not just the start.
And, though he’s the governor of Florida — known more for its beaches and theme parks than calf-roping or bull riding — DeSantis’ later stop in Ponca wasn’t, as they say, his first rodeo. He was making that appearance together with his wife, Casey, who was runner-up in the NCAA equestrian national championships at College of Charleston.
In March, before formally entering the presidential race, DeSantis skipped the Conservative Political Action Conference to instead address a Republican Party dinner in Houston — but not before hitting the rodeo there with his family. Casey DeSantis and the couple’s two young children rode horses then, though the governor himself did not.

Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests

Updated 43 min 2 sec ago

Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests

  • More than 100 people killed, thousands injured in clashes between police and students
  • Police on ‘highest alert’ as curfew remains in place after hearing

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Sunday scrapped most of the quotas on government jobs that had sparked nationwide unrest in the country and resulted in deadly clashes between police and student protesters that killed more than 100 people in the past week.

University students have been demonstrating on campuses since the beginning of July to demand a reformation of the quota system that reserved 30 percent of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

The government abolished the quotas after student protests in 2018, but it was reinstated by Bangladesh’s High Court last month, setting off a new round of demonstrations that was met with a harsh crackdown, including a curfew and a communications blackout that left the country of 170 million people cut off from the world.

Ruling on an appeal, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said the Supreme Court had ordered for the quota reserved for veterans to be cut to 5 percent and for 93 percent of jobs to be allocated on merit. The remaining 2 percent will be reserved for members of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

“In the future, the government may change the ratio if needed,” Uddin told Arab News.

“Now, I will send a copy of the verdict to the law minister for the next steps. (I) hope a gazette will be published in this regard within the next couple of days.”

The verdict came after demonstrations spiraled into deadly clashes, prompting authorities to impose a curfew ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, which Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Agence France-Presse news agency will continue “until the situation improves.”

The military was on patrol in the streets of Dhaka, along with riot police and thousands of Border Guard personnel as all gatherings were banned amid an increasing number of casualties.

At least 148 people have been killed in the past week and thousands injured, according to a count based on reports in the local media.

Inamul Haq Sagar, spokesman for the police, told Arab News: “We are on the highest alert across the country to maintain law and order.”

He added that at least three policemen had been killed and about 1,000 police officers injured during clashes in the past few days.

He said: “Since the curfew is underway, I urge all to be respectful to the law of the country and refrain from any destructive activities.”

It was not immediately clear how protesters would react to the decision by the Supreme Court.

Students had taken to the streets as the government quotas, which reserve hundreds of thousands of well-paid government jobs, affect young people directly.

The country’s unemployment rate is highest among people aged between 15 and 29 — more than a quarter of Bangladesh’s population — which constitutes 83 percent of the total without jobs.

Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’

Updated 3 sec ago

Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’

NAIROBI: Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga Sunday insisted “justice” was a prerequisite for any talks with the government after deadly clashes, as President William Ruto warned unrest could “destroy” the country.
Initially peaceful rallies that started last month against planned tax rises descended into violence with dozens killed after some marchers stormed parliament.
Ruto shelved his tax reform and proposed a national dialogue.
“Justice must come first before any talks,” said Odinga on Sunday, however.
He demanded “compensation for every victim of police brutality” during the rallies.
Despite Ruto’s concessions, rallies have continued across the country. The opposition has called for fresh demonstrations next week.
“I want to promise it is going to stop. Enough is enough,” Ruto said on Sunday.
A court on Thursday suspended a police move to ban protests in the center of the capital Nairobi.
Ruto vowed to stop “looters” and “killers” who he said “risk destroying our country.”
“We want a peaceful, stable nation. And our issues are resolved using democratic means.”
Odinga, 79, who lost out to Ruto in the 2022 presidential election, said there had to be a “national conversation” between different sectors of society.
Such discussions, he said in a post on X, “should come from various sectors including youth, government, religious leaders, health care professionals, lawyers and teachers.”
Ruto on Friday unveiled a new partial cabinet to lead a “broad-based” government in a bid to ease the worst crisis of his nearly two years in office.
But the main opposition coalition swiftly branded the cabinet moves “cosmetic” and insisted it would not join a government of national unity led by Ruto.

Pope Francis calls for Olympic truce for countries at war, prays for peace

Updated 3 min 44 sec ago

Pope Francis calls for Olympic truce for countries at war, prays for peace

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday voiced his hope that the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games will provide an opportunity for countries at war to respect an ancient Greek tradition and establish a truce for the duration of the Games.
“According to ancient tradition, may the Olympics be an opportunity to establish a truce in wars, demonstrating a sincere will for peace,” Francis said during his Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope stressed that sport also has “a great social power, capable of peacefully uniting people from different cultures.”
The opening ceremony of the 33rd Olympic Games will be held in Paris on July 26 with the participation of 205 delegations of athletes, who will parade on more than 80 boats on the Seine.
“I hope that this event can be a sign of the inclusive world we want to build and that the athletes, with their sporting testimony, may be messengers of peace and valuable models for the young,” Francis added.
The pope, as always, asked the faithful to pray for peace, recalling the ongoing conflicts around the world.
“Let us not forget the martyred Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, Myanmar, and many other countries at war. Let us not forget, war is a defeat,” he concluded.

Turkiye ready to build Cyprus naval base ‘if necessary’: Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2024

Turkiye ready to build Cyprus naval base ‘if necessary’: Erdogan

ISTANBUL: Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that his country was ready to build a Cyprus naval base “if necessary,” 50 years after Turkish forces invaded the now-divided island.
“If necessary, we can construct a base and naval structures in the north” of the divided island, the official Anadolu news agency reported him as saying.
“We also have the sea,” Erdogan said he flew back to Turkiye after visiting northern Cyprus on Saturday to mark 50 years since Turkiye’s invasion.
He also accused rival Greece of wanting to establish a naval base of its own on Cyprus, on whose future both sides remain as divided as ever.
In 1983, Turkiye installed what it calls the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which no other country has recognized four decades after it was proclaimed by Turkish Cypriot leaders.
As Greek Cypriots mourned those killed and still missing since the 1974 convulsion of violence, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said Saturday that reunification was the only option.
Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 still divided after Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected a UN plan to end their differences with Turkish Cypriots.
But on the other side of the UN-patrolled buffer zone that separates the two communities, Erdogan on Saturday rejected the federal model championed by the United Nations, saying he saw no point in relaunching talks on such a plan.
“Frankly, we do not think it is possible to start a new negotiation process without establishing an equation whereby both parties sit down as equals and leave the table as equals,” Erdogan said.
The last round of UN-backed talks to reunify the island collapsed in 2017.
“We are constructing on the island the building of the presidency of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the parliament building. They are constructing a military base, we are building a political base,” Erdogan added.
He also hailed the “precious” presence during Saturday’s visit of the leader of Turkiye’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Ozgur Ozel, saying it demonstrated the “unity” of Turkiye’s population with regards to Cyprus.

Taliban ban on girls’ education takes mental, financial toll on Afghan teachers

Updated 21 July 2024

Taliban ban on girls’ education takes mental, financial toll on Afghan teachers

  • Scores of teachers lost their jobs after Taliban suspended secondary schools for girls
  • While female teachers cannot teach boys, women are also restricted from many workplaces

KABUL: Najiba’s life as an educator came to a halt after the Taliban imposed a ban on girls’ education almost three years ago, a controversial policy that also forced many Afghan teachers out of the classroom.

When secondary schools for girls were suspended in September 2021 — a month after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan — it resulted in about 1.1 million girls being denied access to formal education and scores of female teachers losing their jobs, as the new policies only allowed them to teach in girls’ primary schools.

“We had this fear but didn’t know it would happen so soon. It was the hardest thing to know that I wouldn’t be able to teach anymore,” Najiba, an English teacher in Kabul, told Arab News.

“The change happened so suddenly and so quickly that it was difficult for me to cope with it. I developed very serious levels of stress and depression as a result of losing my job and my profession.”

For the 37-year-old who used to teach at a local high school, the consequences on her mental health were “irreversible” not just for her, but also for her family, as she was forced to stay at home most of the time.

“I feel I am becoming illiterate because I don’t study. I miss my students and colleagues every day and every moment. I feel lonely most of the time at home,” she said.  

When the policy went into force, all female teachers from secondary and high schools were reassigned to elementary schools “where there was a shortage of teachers,” an official from the Afghan Ministry of Education told Arab News, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

“In addition, some of them were assigned to mixed schools, where boys and girls study in different shifts, to teach in the girls’ shift. The rest are staying at home,” the official said.

“The ministry’s plan is that only female teachers will teach in girls’ schools and male teachers will be transferred to boys’ schools. This has been successfully implemented in Kabul and other provinces.”

A year after their takeover, the Taliban had eliminated 14,000 government jobs held by women, the majority of which were teaching positions, according to a report published by the US government’s oversight authority on Afghanistan’s reconstruction known as SIGAR.  

Yet despite the increasing uncertainty over the future of education for girls in Afghanistan, Najiba is still holding out hope.

“I really hope and pray something good happens and girls’ schools reopen so we can go back to where we belong, in the classroom and school. Nothing else will make us happy and help us get back to our normal condition,” she said.

For Khaperai, who used to teach at a secondary school in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern Nangarhar province, the Taliban’s policies were taking a toll on her mental health and financial situation.

The 42-year-old has tried to no avail to get transferred to a primary school as there are no vacancies in her area.  

“And I couldn’t leave my family. The change in my condition has not only impacted me psychologically but has posed economic challenges as well,” she told Arab News, adding that her husband has also lost his job due to the ongoing economic crisis.

“I was supporting my children’s education with my salary but since the last few months, our salaries have decreased. We only receive 5,000 afghanis ($70) in our accounts now. It’s not sufficient to support myself and my children. I don’t know what I will do.”

With women also restricted from many workplaces under the Taliban, Khaperai found herself with no other alternative.

“I can’t do any other job. Women have very few work opportunities under the Taliban, making it almost impossible for female heads of the family to support their families,” she said.

“I can only hope for a positive change. I can’t do anything else. No one seems to listen to us or care about us. We are left to the mercy of God.”