India’s massive election faces heatwave challenge in penultimate phase

A woman voter gets her index fingers marked with an indelible ink by a polling official before casting her vote in the sixth round of polling in India's national election in Prayagraj, India, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

India’s massive election faces heatwave challenge in penultimate phase

  • The Election Commission has deployed paramedics with medicines and oral hydration salts at polling stations in Delhi
  • In Haryana, people residing near polling booths pitched in to help voters, handing out cold drinks, dry fruits and milk

NEW DELHI: The world’s largest election may become the hottest on Saturday, as Indians participate in the next-to-last phase of voting with temperatures forecast to surge to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) in the capital New Delhi.
More than 111 million people in 58 constituencies across eight states and federal territories are eligible to vote in the general election’s sixth phase, which recorded a turnout of 10.82 percent in the first two hours of the 11-hour poll.
The overall turnout in the same phase of the last elections in 2019 was about 63 percent.
“There is a concern, but we hope that people will overcome the fear of the heatwave and come and vote,” Delhi Chief Electoral Officer P. Krishnamurthy told Reuters.
Voting in the elections began on April 19 and will conclude on June 1, with counting set for June 4.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who is favored to win a third consecutive term, also asked people to “vote in large numbers” in a message on social media platform X on Saturday.
The Election Commission has deployed paramedics with medicines and oral hydration salts at polling stations in Delhi, which have additionally been equipped with mist machines, shaded waiting areas and cold water dispensers for voters.
In some parts of the northern state of Haryana, people residing near polling booths also pitched in to help voters beat the heat, handing out cold drinks, dry fruits and milk free of cost.
Among those who cast their ballot early in Delhi were Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party and Modi’s main rival, his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Vadra.
“We are keeping all our grievances aside and casting our vote for our constitution and democracy,” Vadra told reporters.
Opposition leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose bail after pre-trial detention of nearly two months in a graft case has given fresh impetus to the opposition campaign, also voted in the capital.
Price rise and unemployment were two of the major issues mentioned by voters to Reuters when asked about the factors that determined their ballot.
“The government boasts about fast economic growth but the reality on the ground is very different,” said Delhi voter Fazal, 46, who only gave his first name and works at a multinational corporation, adding he also voted to “save democracy.”
Ashok Ghana, a plumber in the eastern state of Odisha, who said he voted for the BJP, added that “price rise and the non-availability of jobs” were the issues he considered.
Among those who voted based on the situation in their region was property dealer Praveen Chauhan, 43, in Delhi.
“My main issues are clean water, electricity, access to good health care and education,” he said, adding that the Kejriwal-led Delhi government “has given us that till now.”
While the heatwave was a concern in Delhi, a cyclone that is expected to hit land tomorrow was being closely watched in eastern Odisha and West Bengal, parts of which are also voting on Saturday.


WHO says coronavirus still kills 1,700 per week worldwide 

Updated 25 sec ago
Follow

WHO says coronavirus still kills 1,700 per week worldwide 

  • WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sounds warning on declining vaccine coverage
  • Advices that people in highest-risk groups receive a Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of their last dose

Geneva: Covid-19 is still killing around 1,700 people a week around the world, the World Health Organization said Thursday, as it urged at-risk populations to keep up with their vaccinations against the disease.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sounded a warning on declining vaccine coverage.

Despite the continued death toll, “data show that vaccine coverage has declined among health workers and people over 60, which are two of the most at-risk groups,” the UN health agency’s chief told a press conference.

“WHO recommends that people in the highest-risk groups receive a Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of their last dose.”

More than seven million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, though the true toll of the pandemic is thought to be far higher.

Covid-19 also shredded economies and crippled health systems.

Tedros declared an end to Covid-19 as an international public health emergency in May 2023, more than three years on from when the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

The WHO has urged governments to maintain virus surveillance and sequencing, and to ensure access to affordable and reliable tests, treatments and vaccines.


China says conducting joint military drills with Russia

Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

China says conducting joint military drills with Russia

  • China and Russia have drawn closer in recent years and tout their friendship as having ‘no limits’

BEIJING: China said Friday it was conducting joint military drills with Russia along its southern coast, after a US-led Western defense alliance met in Washington and Japan warned of a growing threat from Beijing’s strong ties with Moscow.
China’s defense ministry said the two militaries had begun the exercises, called Joint Sea-2024, in “early July” and they would last until the middle of this month.
The drills in the waters and airspace around Zhanjiang, a city in southern Guangdong province, are “to demonstrate the resolve and capabilities of the two sides in jointly addressing maritime security threats and preserving global and regional peace and stability,” the ministry said.
It added that the exercises “will further deepen China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era.”
They were taking place in accordance with Beijing and Moscow’s annual plan for military engagement, according to the ministry.
The announcement came in the same week that NATO leaders convened in Washington to reaffirm support for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.
China and Russia have drawn closer in recent years and tout their friendship as having “no limits,” and both share hostile relations with NATO.
NATO leaders said in a declaration on Wednesday that China had “become a decisive enabler” of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting Beijing to warn NATO against “provoking confrontation.”
China maintains that it is not a party to the Ukraine conflict but has been criticized by Western leaders for giving political and economic support to Russia, including in the trade of goods with both civilian and military uses.
Chinese forces are also staging drills this week with Belarus, another Russian ally, on NATO’s eastern border.
And Japan said Friday that joint China-Russia activities near its territory pose a “grave concern from the perspective of national security.”


Covid still kills 1,700 a week: WHO

Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

Covid still kills 1,700 a week: WHO

  • More than seven million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, though the true toll of the pandemic is thought to be far higher

Geneva: Covid-19 is still killing around 1,700 people a week around the world, the World Health Organization said Thursday, as it urged at-risk populations to keep up with their vaccinations against the disease.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sounded a warning on declining vaccine coverage.
Despite the continued death toll, “data show that vaccine coverage has declined among health workers and people over 60, which are two of the most at-risk groups,” the UN health agency’s chief told a press conference.
“WHO recommends that people in the highest-risk groups receive a Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of their last dose.”
More than seven million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, though the true toll of the pandemic is thought to be far higher.
Covid-19 also shredded economies and crippled health systems.
Tedros declared an end to Covid-19 as an international public health emergency in May 2023, more than three years on from when the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
The WHO has urged governments to maintain virus surveillance and sequencing, and to ensure access to affordable and reliable tests, treatments and vaccines.


Four people die in attempt to cross the English Channel — French coast guard

Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

Four people die in attempt to cross the English Channel — French coast guard

  • A total of 67 people were aboard the boat off the coast of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France

Boulogne-sur-Mer: Four migrants who tried to reach Britain died in the night from Thursday to Friday after their boat capsized in the Channel, a French coast guard spokesperson said on Friday, confirming earlier media reports.
A total of 67 people were aboard the boat off the coast of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France, the spokesperson said, adding that 63 of them were rescued by an operation involving four ships and one helicopter.
Several thousand people have arrived in Britain this year via small, overloaded boats — usually flimsy inflatable dinghies — that risk being lashed by the waves as they try to reach British shores.


Biden says during press conference he’s going to ‘complete the job’ despite calls to bow out

Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

Biden says during press conference he’s going to ‘complete the job’ despite calls to bow out

  • Biden holds highly anticipated news conference to deliver forceful defense of foreign and domestic policies
  • Insists his support among the electorate was strong and he would stay in the race and would win

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden used his highly anticipated news conference Thursday to deliver a forceful defense of his foreign and domestic policies, and batted away questions about his ability to serve another four years even as he flubbed a reference to Donald Trump in one of his first answers.
“I’m not in this for my legacy. I’m in this to complete the job I started,” Biden said as he insisted his support among the electorate was strong and he would stay in the race and would win.
Fumbles notwithstanding, the president pushed back at every suggestion that was slowing down or showing noticeable signs of decline, or that he was not in command of the job. But he was facing a growing chorus of calls from lawmakers, celebrities and other prominent Democrats to step aside from the 2024 race.
“My schedule has been full bore,” he declared. “So if I slow down and I cant get the job done, that’s a sign that I shouldn’t be doing it. But there’s no indication of that yet — none.”
Democrats are facing an intractable problem. Top donors, supporters and key lawmakers are doubtful of Biden’s abilities to carry on his reelection bid after his disastrous June 27 debate performance, but the hard-fighting 81-year-old president refuses to give up as he prepares to take on Trump in a rematch.
“I’m determined on running but I think it’s important that I allay fears — let them see me out there,” he said.
The first questioner of Biden’s press conference asked about him losing support among many of his fellow Democrats and unionists, and asked about Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden was at first defiant, saying the “UAW endorsed me, but go ahead,” meaning the United Auto Workers. But then he mixed up Harris and Trump, saying, “I wouldn’t have picked Vice President Trump to be Vice President if she wasn’t qualified.”
Trump weighed in live on Biden’s news conference with a post on his social media network of a video clip of the president saying “Vice President Trump.”
Trump added sarcastically, “Great job, Joe!”
Most of the hourlong press conference was vintage Biden: He gave long answers on foreign policy and told well-worn anecdotes. He used teleprompters for his opening remarks on NATO, which ran about eight minutes. Then the teleprompters lowered and he took a wide range of questions from 10 journalists about his mental acuity, foreign and domestic policy and — mostly — the future of his campaign.
“I believe I’m the best qualified to govern. I believe I’m the best qualitied to win,” Biden said, adding that he will stay in the race until his staff says, “There’s no way you can win.”
“No one’s saying that,” he said. “No poll says that.”

Earlier, Biden’s campaign laid out what it sees as its path to keeping the White House in a new memo, saying that winning the “blue wall” states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan is the “clearest pathway” to victory. And it declared no other Democrat would do better against Trump.
“There is also no indication that anyone else would outperform the president vs. Trump,” said the memo from campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon and campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez that was obtained by The Associated Press.
The memo sought to brush back “hypothetical polling of alternative nominees ” as unreliable and it said such surveys “do not take into account the negative media environment that any Democratic nominee will encounter.”
Meanwhile, the campaign has been quietly surveying voters on Harris to determine how she’s viewed among the electorate, according to two people with knowledge of the campaign who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to talk about internal matters.
The people said the polling was not necessarily to show that she could be the nominee in Biden’s place, but rather to better understand how she’s viewed. The research came after Trump stepped up his attacks against Harris following the debate, according to another person familiar with the effort. The survey was first reported by The New York Times.
While Biden has expressed confidence in his chances, his campaign on Thursday acknowledged he is behind, and a growing number of the president’s aides in the White House and the campaign privately harbor doubts that he can turn things around.
But they’re taking their cues from Biden, expressing that he is in 100 percent unless and until he isn’t, and there appears to be no organized internal effort to persuade the president to step aside. His allies were well aware heading into the week there would be more calls for him to step down, and they were prepared for it.
But in announcing a compact that would bring together NATO countries to support Ukraine, Biden referred to the nation’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky as “President Putin” to audible gasps in the room. He quickly returned to the microphone: “President Putin — he’s going to beat President Putin ... President Zelensky,” Biden said.
Then he said, “I’m so focused on beating Putin,” in an effort to explain the gaffe.
“I’m better,” Zelensky replied. “You’re a hell of a lot better,” Biden said back.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer invited Biden’s team to meet with senators privately at the lunch hour to discuss concerns and the path forward, but some senators groused they would prefer to hear from the president himself. In the Senate, only Peter Welch of Vermont has so far called for Biden to step out of the race.
The 90-minute conversation with the president’s team, which one person said included no new data, polling or game plan on how Biden would beat Trump, did not appear to change senators’ minds. The person was granted anonymity to discuss the closed door session.
The meeting was frank, angry at times and also somewhat painful, since many in the room know and love Biden, said one senator who requested anonymity to discuss the private briefing. Senators confronted the advisers over Biden’s performance at the debate and the effect on Senate races this year
One Democrat, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, said afterward, “My belief is that the president can win, but he’s got to be able to go out and answer voters’ concerns. He’s got to be able to talk to voters directly over the next few day.”
At the same time, influential senators are standing strongly with Biden, leaving the party at an impasse.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, told the AP he thinks Biden “is going to win this election. I think he has a chance to win it big.”
Sanders said he has been publicly critical of the campaign, and said Biden needs to talk more about the future and his plans for the country. “As we come closer to Election Day, the choices are very clear,” he said.