Biden aides to meet with Arab, Muslim leaders in Michigan on Gaza

Residents of Detroit and the Arab Community of Dearborn march in support of Palestinians on October 14, 2023 in Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn is home to one of the largest populations of Arabs and Arab diaspora in the US, with many of the community who have family and friends currently living in Gaza and Palestine. (AFP/File)
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Updated 08 February 2024
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Biden aides to meet with Arab, Muslim leaders in Michigan on Gaza

  • Community leaders in southeastern Michigan earlier refused to meet with Biden campaign officials
  • They said they would engage only with policymakers on ending Israel’s attacks on Gaza and getting aid to Palestinians

WASHINGTON: Senior US officials will visit the 2024 election battleground state of Michigan on Thursday to meet with Arab-American and Muslim leaders critical of President Joe Biden for not calling for a permanent ceasefire in Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

The officials include US Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, Steve Benjamin, White House public engagement director; and his deputy, Jamie Citron, a White House official said.
Other officials include Tom Perez, who heads the White House office of intergovernmental affairs; his deputy, Dan Koh; Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser; and Mazen Basrawi, director for partnerships and global engagement at the National Security Council, the official said.
The meetings come weeks after community leaders in southeastern Michigan refused to meet with Biden campaign officials, saying they would only engage with policymakers on ending Israel’s attacks on Gaza and getting aid to Palestinians.
On Tuesday, over 30 elected officials across Michigan said they would vote “uncommitted” in Michigan’s Democratic primary on Feb. 27 to protest Biden’s response to the war in Gaza, and others have said they will not vote for Biden in November.
Administration officials say the meetings are part of their ongoing engagement with community leaders and elected officials since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel. They have said a broad ceasefire now would benefit Hamas but have called for more limited halts in fighting to allow for the release of hostages taken by Hamas and the distribution of aid to Gaza residents.
Ahmad Chebbani, founder and chairman of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, said community leaders remained skeptical. “They should have engaged with us months ago. I think this thing is irreversible. You can’t really cover up 30,000 people dead,” he said.
Israel began its military offensive after militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages on Oct. 7. Gaza’s health ministry says at least 27,585 Palestinians have been confirmed killed, with thousands more feared buried under rubble. There has been only one truce so far, lasting just a week at the end of November.


More than 80 passengers killed in the latest boat accident in Congo

Updated 12 June 2024
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More than 80 passengers killed in the latest boat accident in Congo

KINSHASA, Congo: A boat carrying more than 270 passengers has capsized on a river near Congo’s capital of Kinshasa, leaving more than 80 dead, President Félix Tshisekedi said Wednesday.

It was the latest deadly boat accident in the central African country where overloading is often blamed, including in February when dozens lost their lives after an overloaded boat sank.
A statement quoting Tshisekedi said the locally made boat capsized late Monday in Maï-Ndombe province along the Kwa River.
The boat was carrying 271 passengers to Kinshasa when it broke down due to an engine failure, according to the UN-backed Radio Okapi, citing Ren Maker, the water commissioner in the Mushi district where the accident happened.
Eighty-six of the passengers died while 185 managed to swim ashore, some 70 kilometers (43 miles) near the closest city of Mushie, Maker said.
He said the boat hit the edge of the river bank and broke up.
Congolese officials have often warned against overloading and vowed to punish those violating safety measures for water transportation. But in remote areas where most passengers come from, many are unable to afford public transport for the few available roads.
 

 

 


Apparent pro-Palestinian activists splash red paint on homes of Jewish officials at Brooklyn Museum

Updated 12 June 2024
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Apparent pro-Palestinian activists splash red paint on homes of Jewish officials at Brooklyn Museum

  • Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, wrote: “This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism”
  • Taylor Maatman, a spokesperson for the museum said a report was filed with police but declined to provide more details

NEW YORK: People purporting to be pro-Palestinian activists hurled red paint at the homes of four Jewish officials with the Brooklyn Museum and also splashed paint across the front of diplomatic buildings for Germany and the Palestinian Authority early Wednesday, in sprees of vandalism that prompted a police investigation and brought condemnation from city authorities.
Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, shared four images of a brick building splashed with red paint with a banner hung in front of the door that called the museum’s director, Anne Pasternak, a “white-supremacist Zionist.”
“This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism,” Adams wrote, sending sympathy to Pasternak and other museum board members whose homes were defaced. “These actions will never be tolerated in New York City for any reason.”
Taylor Maatman, a spokesperson for the museum said a report was filed with police but declined to provide more details.
“We are deeply troubled by these horrible acts of vandalism targeting museum leadership,” she said in a statement.
Red paint was also splashed across the front of a Manhattan building that houses Germany’s consulate and the United Nations mission, and another building that is a headquarters for for Palestinian diplomats. Flyers critical of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, were scattered outside the building.
It wasn’t immediately clear who was responsible or whether the acts of vandalism were all related.
A spokesperson for the New York Police Department declined to comment, saying the agency was investigating and would provide more information later. Messages seeking comment were also sent to Palestinian and German diplomats.
Hundreds of protesters marched on the Brooklyn Museum late last month, briefly setting up tents in the lobby and unfurling a “Free Palestine” banner from the roof before police moved in to make dozens of arrests. Similar protests have happened since October at other New York City museums.
The protest group Within Our Lifetime and other organizers of that demonstration said the museum is “deeply invested in and complicit” in Israel’s military actions in Gaza through its leadership, trustees, corporate sponsors and donors — a claim museum officials have denied.
The protest group did not respond to an email seeking comment.
City Comptroller Brad Lander, who was among the New York politicians to speak out against the protests, said the Brooklyn Museum has done more to grapple with questions of “power, colonialism, racism & the role of art” than many other museums.
“The cowards who did this are way over the line into antisemitism, harming the cause they claim to care about, and making everyone less safe,” he wrote on X.
The grand beaux arts museum, the city’s second largest, sits at the edge of Crown Heights, home to one of the city’s largest communities of Orthodox Jews.
The paint attacks came the same week that Within Our Lifetime organized a large demonstration outside a New York City exhibition memorializing victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on the Tribe of Nova music festival. The group called it “Zionist propaganda” and dismissed the music festival, where hundreds died, as “a rave next to a concentration camp.”
That protest also drew condemnations from across the political spectrum.
“The callousness, dehumanization, and targeting of Jews on display at last night’s protest outside the Nova Festival exhibit was atrocious antisemitism — plain and simple,” US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday on X.


9 killed in Russian aerial attacks on Ukraine ahead of G7 summit aimed at slowing Moscow’s offensive

Updated 12 June 2024
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9 killed in Russian aerial attacks on Ukraine ahead of G7 summit aimed at slowing Moscow’s offensive

  • Zelensky said the strike has again proven that “Ukraine, together with its partners, must strengthen its air defenses”
  • “Modern air defense systems are capable of providing maximum protection of people, our cities, and our positions“

KYIV: Russian forces launched new deadly attacks on Ukraine, killing at least nine people on Wednesday, a day before the leaders of countries that are some of Ukraine’s biggest backers were to discuss how to slow Moscow’s offensive.
Ukrainian authorities said that along with the nine killed, 29 others, including five children, were wounded when Russian missiles hit an apartment block in Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown.
Zelensky said the strike has again proven that “Ukraine, together with its partners, must strengthen its air defenses” — something that he has repeatedly appealed for with Ukraine’s Western partners. The United States has agreed to send another Patriot missile system, two US officials said late Tuesday.
“Modern air defense systems are capable of providing maximum protection of people, our cities, and our positions,” Zelensky said. “And we need as many of them as possible.”
Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine’s air force said it shot down more than two dozen air targets, including cruise missiles, a Kinzhal ballistic missile and Shahed drones. Several people were wounded, authorities said.
Kyiv’s outgunned and outnumbered forces are battling to hold back the bigger Russian army, which is trying to exploit Ukrainian vulnerabilities. Ukraine has been short of troops, ammunition and air defenses in recent months as the Kremlin’s forces try to cripple the national power supply and punch through the front line in eastern parts of the country.
Ukraine will need to weather the Russian onslaught through the summer, military analysts say, and in the meantime train more soldiers, build fortifications and hope that the provision of Western military aid picks up speed so that in 2025 Kyiv may be able to mount its own offensive.
Several diplomatic events over the next few days are aimed at how to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion or how to bring about an end to the war.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden and the other Group of Seven leaders will gather in Italy for their annual summit to discuss ways to help Ukraine, including how to divert more frozen Russian assets to Kyiv’s defense.
Separately, the Biden administration on Wednesday said it had broadened sanctions against Russia by targeting companies that help Moscow’s war effort and raising the stakes for foreign financial institutions that work with sanctioned Russian entities.
The more than 300 new sanctions are largely aimed at deterring individuals and companies in countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates and Türkiye from helping Moscow circumvent Western blocks on obtaining key technology. They also threaten foreign financial institutions with sanctions if they do business with almost any sanctioned Russian entity, underscoring the US view that the Kremlin has pivoted the Russian economy on to a war footing.
Biden and Zelensky will also sign a bilateral security agreement between the US and Ukraine on Thursday, when they meet on the G7 summit’s sidelines, the White House said.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the agreement would not commit US troops directly to Ukraine’s defense, but that it would demonstrate the US supports the people of Ukraine and serve as a “bridge” to when Ukraine is invited to join the NATO alliance — a long-term priority of Zelensky’s that alliance members have said will first require an end to the war.
While the G7 meets in Italy, defense chiefs from the US, Europe and other nations will meet Thursday in Brussels for their monthly meeting on Ukraine’s security needs. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will host the event.
And this weekend, representatives of nearly 90 countries and organizations, half from Europe, are expected to attend a summit in Switzerland aimed at charting a path to peace between Russia and Ukraine, though Russia won’t be attending.
Both sides in Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II have been reaching out to friendly nations to help keep their armed forces supplied. The war has cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides, including more than 11,000 Ukrainian civilians, according to the United Nations.
While Ukraine has looked to Western countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned to nations such as Iran and North Korea for help. Unconfirmed reports suggested Putin may soon make a third visit to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Moscow showed no signs of relenting in the war. The Kremlin said Wednesday that Putin met with Defense Minister Andrei Belousov, the chief of the military’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, and the commanders of Russia’s five military districts.
A readout of the Tuesday night meeting said the officials presented Putin with “plans to continue the hostilities.”
Fighting along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line has in recent months focused on the partly occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces are trying to reach the key hilltop city of Chasiv Yar and other strategic hubs.
Last month, Russian forces also launched an offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, which borders Russia. Putin said he wanted to establish a buffer zone there to prevent Ukrainian cross-border attacks. The offensive drew some Ukrainian fighters away from Donetsk.
However, Russia’s gains have been incremental and costly.
In the Kharkiv region, Russian units have become bogged down in Vovchansk, Ukraine Commander in Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said Wednesday on the Telegram messaging app.


Migrants dying in unprecedented numbers on Canary Islands route, NGO says

Updated 5 min 50 sec ago
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Migrants dying in unprecedented numbers on Canary Islands route, NGO says

  • Nearly 5,000 migrants have died at sea in first five months of 2024 trying to reach Spanish Canary Islands
  • Victims came from 17 different countries, mostly from African mainland but also Comoros Islands as well as Pakistan

ARGUINEGUIN, Spain: An unprecedented nearly 5,000 migrants have died at sea in the first five months of 2024 trying to reach the Spanish Canary Islands, according to a report released by migration rights group Walking Borders on Wednesday.

Between Jan. 1 and May 31, 4,808 people died on the Atlantic voyage to the Canaries after departing from Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia, making it the deadliest route between Africa and Spain, with 95 percent of migrant deaths, according to the group.

Arrivals to the archipelago in that period soared five times to over 16,500 from a year ago, Interior Ministry data showed.

The Mediterranean route was the second deadliest, with 175 deaths on the crossing from Algeria to Spain’s southeastern shores. Another 71 people died on the Strait of Gibraltar and Alboran Sea that separate Spain from Morocco, bringing the total of victims on routes to Spain to 5,054 — an average of 33 per day.

“We cannot normalize these figures. We must demand that the various countries put the protocols of duty of care at sea and the defense of the right to life above migration control measures,” said the NGO’s coordinator, Helena Maleno.

The victims came from 17 different countries, mostly from the African mainland but also the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, as well as Pakistan. They included 154 women and 50 children, the report said.

The head of the Red Cross in the Canary Islands, Jose Antonio Rodriguez Verona, said the Atlantic route was the most dangerous as the ocean’s rough weather conditions could easily cause the precarious vessels used by most migrants to capsize.

Migration expert and journalist Txema Santana said there were the political and economic ingredients of a “perfect storm” in West Africa that would likely see more mass arrivals to the Canaries in the upcoming summer and autumn seasons.

Last year, a record 39,910 migrants reached the Canary Islands and over 6,000 people died while attempting the perilous crossing. Rights groups expect that figure to be surpassed this year.


French President Macron urges moderate politicians to regroup to defeat the far right in elections

Updated 12 June 2024
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French President Macron urges moderate politicians to regroup to defeat the far right in elections

  • His move triggered an early legislative election that will take place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7
  • Macron said he decided on the risky move because he could not ignore the new political reality after his pro-European party was handed a chastening defeat

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday urged moderate politicians from the left and the right to regroup to defeat the far right in the upcoming national legislative elections he had called for after his party’s crushing defeat in the European parliamentary vote.
A somber-looking Macron addressed French voters for the first time since his stunning decision on Sunday to dissolve the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.
His move triggered an early legislative election that will take place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7, three weeks after the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen triumphed at the vote for the European Union Parliament.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Macron said he decided on the risky move because he could not ignore the new political reality after his pro-European party was handed a chastening defeat and garnered less than half the support of the National Rally with its star leader, Jordan Bardella.
Unlike in his recent national addresses in which Macron focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine and ways Europe should forge a common defense policy, independent of the United States, and shore up trade protections against China, the French president stuck to his country’s internal issues favored by the surging right, including curbing immigration, fighting crime and Islamic separatism in France.
Macron, who has three years left of his second presidential term, hopes voters will band together to contain the far right in national elections in a way they didn’t in European ones. He called on “men and women of goodwill who were able to say ‘no’ to extremes on the left and the right to join together to be able to build a joint project” for the country.
“Things are simple today: we have unnatural alliances at both extremes, who quite agree on nothing except the jobs to be shared, and who will not be able to implement any program,” Macron said during a press conference in Paris.
While he seemed to project the kind of enthusiasm that helped bring him to the presidency in 2017, analysts say French voters are more pessimistic about their future, and see Macron as increasingly out of touch with real life and pocketbook problems.
Macron acknowledged some faults committed by his pro-business centrist party while harshly criticizing parties on the right for teaming up with Le Pen’s National Rally, which has a history of racism and xenophobia. He scathingly called an alliance formed by parties on the left as “unusual and incoherent” after they included the hard-left France Unbowed of Jean-Luc Mélenchon who, Macon said “justified anti-Semitic policies” in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
“We’re not perfect, we haven’t done everything right, but we have results... and above all, we know how to act,” Macron said of his Renaissance party, adding that the “far right (is) the main danger” in the upcoming election.
“The question is who will govern the country tomorrow?” he asked. “The far right and a few associates, or the democratic, progressive bloc? That’s the fundamental question.”
The decision to send to the polls voters who just expressed their discontent with Macron’s politics was a risky move that could result in the French far-right leading a government for the first time since World War II.
Potential alliances and France’s two-round voting system in national elections make the outcome of the vote highly uncertain. Macron was adamant in his faith in the French voters’ intent to refuse to choose the extremes of both sides of the political spectrum. He assured that he was not falling into defeatism and said he would serve out his second presidential term regardless of the outcome of the legislative vote.
“I think the French are intelligent, they see what’s being done, what’s coherent and what’s not, and they know what to do,” Macron said. He added: “I don’t believe at all that the worst can happen. You see, I’m an indefatigable optimist.”
He rebuffed accusations that his move to call snap elections would help the far-right take power in France.
“It’s about allowing political forces chosen by the French to be able to govern,” he said, He added that it’s “awkward to think it has to be the extreme right or political extremes. Or maybe you’ve got the spirit of defeat spread everywhere.”
“If that’s what people are afraid of, it’s time now to take action,” he said.
Opposition parties on the left and right have been scrambling to form alliances and field candidates in the early legislative balloting.
While sharp differences between parties remain on either side of the political spectrum, prominent figures calling for a united front appear to have one thing in common: They don’t want to cooperate with Macron.
Despite their divisions, left-wing parties agreed late Monday to form an alliance that includes the Greens, the Socialists, the Communists and the far-left France Unbowed.
National Rally leader Marine Le Pen is working to consolidate power on the right in efforts to translate the European triumph into a national win and come closer to claiming power. Her party is expected to win the most French seats in the European Parliament, potentially as many as 30 of France’s 81.