Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot

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Former US president and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is flanked by his partymates in the Senate as he gives remarks to the press at the National Republican Senatorial Committee building on June 13, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Donald Trump shakes hands with Sen. Steve Daines at the National Republican Senatorial Committee building on June 13, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 14 June 2024

Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot

  • Despite pending federal charges against him, Trump arrived emboldened as the party’s presumptive nominee
  • He has successfully purged the GOP of critics, silenced most skeptics and enticed once-critical lawmakers aboard his MAGA-fueled campaign
  • Even Trump's most prominent Republican critic, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, shook hands, and fist-bumped with him

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump made a triumphant return to Capitol Hill on Thursday, his first with lawmakers since the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks, embraced by energized House and Senate Republicans who find themselves reinvigorated by his bid to retake the White House.

Despite pending federal charges against Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, and his recent guilty verdict in an unrelated hush money trial, the Republican former president arrived emboldened as the party’s presumptive nominee. He has successfully purged the GOP of critics, silenced most skeptics and enticed once-critical lawmakers aboard his MAGA-fueled campaign.
A packed room of House Republicans sang “Happy Birthday” to Trump in a private breakfast meeting at GOP campaign headquarters across the street from the Capitol. The lawmakers gave him a baseball and bat from the annual congressional game, and senators later presented an American flag cake with “45” candles — and then “47” — referring to the next presidency. Trump bragged that even his telephone rallies for lawmakers could draw bigger crowds than mega-popstar Taylor Swift, who has yet to make any endorsement.
In one remarkable moment, Trump and his most prominent Republican critic, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, shook hands, and fist-bumped.


“There’s tremendous unity in the Republican Party,” Trump said in brief remarks at Senate GOP headquarters.

Trump spent about an hour each with House and Senate Republicans delivering free-wheeling remarks, fielding questions and discussing issues — including Russia and immigration, tax cuts and other priorities for a potential second term.
During the morning session, Trump said House Speaker Mike Johnson is doing a “terrific job,” according to a Republican in the private meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it. Trump asked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the speaker’s chief Republican critic, if she was being “nice” to Johnson, another Republican said.
“President Trump brought an extraordinary amount of energy, excitement and enthusiasm this morning,” Johnson said afterward, noting high fund-raising tallies since the guilty verdict. “We’re feeling good.”
The Republican speaker had demurred earlier over whether he’s asked Trump to respect the peaceful transfer of presidential power and commit to not doing another Jan. 6. “Of course he respects that, we all do, and we’ve all talked about it, ad nauseum.”
Many potential priorities for a new White House administration are being formulated by a constellation of outside groups, including Project 2025, laying the groundwork for executive and legislative actions, though Trump has made clear he has his own agenda.
“Anybody who thought that this president was going to be down after the sham trial. it’s only giving him even more energy,” said Rep. Tom Emmer, the GOP whip. “Donald Trump is crushing this election.”

Donald Trump reacts as he is applauded by Republicans at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington, DC, on June 13, 2024. (REUTERS)

But Trump’s private meetings with House and Senate Republicans so close to the Capitol were infused with the symbolism of his return as the US president who threatened the American tradition of the peaceful transfer of power.
“It’s frustrating,” said former US Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who made his own unsuccessful run for Congress as a Maryland Democrat in the aftermath of Jan. 6, the day when police engaged in hand-to-hand fighting to stop Trump supporters who stormed the building in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.
Dunn spoke of the “irony” of Trump returning to the area and lawmakers now embracing him. “It just shows the lack of backbone they have when they’re truly putting party and person over country,” he said. “And it’s sad.”
Biden was overseas Thursday attending a summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, but the president’s campaign unveiled a new ad blaming Trump for lighting the “fire” of Jan. 6 and threatening democracy.
Many of those who once stood up to Trump are long gone from office and the Republicans who remain seem increasingly enthusiastic about the possibility of him retaking the White House, and the down-ballot windfall that could mean for their own GOP majorities in Congress.
Thursday afternoon offered the first encounter in years between Trump and McConnell, who once blamed Trump for the “disgraceful” attack that he called an “insurrection” but now endorses the party’s presumptive nominee.
Trump addressed the situation directly, saying he intends to work with everyone and that McConnell had “done his best” as leader, said Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, an ally of the former president.

According to Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, who organized the conference meeting, after Trump addressed the group McConnell gave a thumbs up and the two approached each other and exchanged the fist-bump.
“We had a really positive meeting,” McConnell said. “He and I got a chance to talk a little bit, shook hands a few times.”
As democracies around the world come under threat from a far-rightward shift, some analysts warn that the US system, once seemingly immune from authoritarian impulses, is at risk of populist and extremist forces like those that Trump inspired to sack the Capitol.
“This is just another example of House Republicans bending the knee to Donald Trump,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus.

In this photo taken during on January 6, 2021, rioting pro-Trump supporters occupy parts of the attack on the US Capitol building to protest Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election. Returning to the Capitol for the first time since the riot, Trump described as "patriots" those rioters. some of whom had been charged or sentenced to prison for insurrection. (Shutterstock)

Making Jan. 6 a cornerstone of his reelection campaign, Trump celebrates those who stormed the Capitol as “warriors” and “patriots,” and he has vowed to pardon any number of the more than 1,200 people charged with crimes for the assault on the seat of US democracy.
Moreover, Trump has vowed to seek retribution by ousting officials at the US Justice Department, which is prosecuting him in a four-count indictment to overturn the election ahead of the Jan. 6 attack and another case over storing classified documents at his Mar-A-Largo home.
Republicans, particularly in the House but increasingly in the Senate, are vigorously following his lead, complaining of an unfair justice system. It’s having noticeable results: the House and Senate GOP campaign arms scored some of their highest fundraising periods yet after a jury found him guilty in the New York hush money case.
When former GOP Speaker Paul Ryan on Fox News reiterated this week that he wouldn’t be voting for Trump and wished Republicans had another choice for president, he was immediately ostracized by Trump allies.
“Paul Ryan, you’re a piece of garbage,” said Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas. “We should kick you out of the party.”
Of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over Jan. 6 and convict him on the charge of inciting the insurrection, only a few remain in office.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, had not been expected to attend Thursday’s closed-door session with Trump. But Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joined as did Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana
Cassidy said he’s attending the Trump meeting expecting “he’s going to be the next president, so you have to work” together.
Asked if he was concerned about the direction of the Trump Republican Party, Cassidy said: “Let the day’s own troubles be sufficient for the day. You can fill yourself up with anxiety about tomorrow, but will it change a thing? No.”

In Saudi Arabia, Indonesian health workers build careers, gain opportunities 

Updated 59 min 9 sec ago

In Saudi Arabia, Indonesian health workers build careers, gain opportunities 

  • There are at least 600 Indonesian nurses working in Saudi Arabia, one estimate shows
  • Many Indonesian health workers move to the Kingdom for higher salary, to upgrade skills

JAKARTA: For more than a decade, Ade Koswara has served as a perfusionist of the cardiac surgery team at one of Saudi Arabia’s top hospitals, working alongside some of the best in the field. 

The 42-year-old Indonesian, who is originally from Sukabumi, West Java, was responsible for operating the machine that artificially replaces a patient’s heart or lung functions during surgery. 

Since joining the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh in 2010, he said he has been able to develop his skills and has gained new, previously unthinkable, experiences. 

“There are many precious things I have gained, especially the knowledge and skills that I acquired,” Koswara told Arab News. 

“There are many new devices and equipment that aren’t yet available in Indonesia because they are very expensive, but they have a lot of them here with the amazing support from the government for the people in Saudi Arabia.” 

When he decided to move abroad, like many Indonesians Koswara considered the financial benefits of working in the Kingdom, which would have given him about eight times the salary he was earning at the time from a public hospital in his home country.

“There’s a significant difference financially, in terms of material rewards,” he said. “In 2010, I was earning about IDR 6 million ($372) (per month), which included benefits and incentives, but in Saudi Arabia, I would earn about IDR 50 million.”

Since moving to Riyadh, Koswara — who is also head of the ​​Indonesian National Nurses Association’s chapter in Saudi Arabia — has worked alongside doctors from the US and Europe and learned to keep up with the international standard practiced at the hospital, which has sent him abroad for training to upgrade his skills. 

“I had the opportunity to go to Germany and it was amazing because there was a time when I’d dreamed of going there and it came true … It makes me happy and motivated,” he said. 

“Opportunities here are equal. It’s not just for the Saudis, it’s also there when they see potential in any staff, even when they’re not Saudi nationals.” 

Koswara said there is much potential for other Indonesian nurses to pursue a career in Saudi Arabia. 

“For Indonesian nurses especially, the opportunity for an international career in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, is huge. We have the potential to enter this market, to gain new and better experiences, and hopefully a better financial reward,” he said. 

Saudi Arabia is among the top destination countries for Indonesian migrant workers and ranked seventh last year, according to government data. 

But as most of them are domestic workers, Koswara estimated that there are at least around 600 Indonesian nurses currently working in the Kingdom. 

Another one is Akhir Fahruddin, who first went to the Kingdom in 2015 to work under the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, which has since become the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. 

After working for almost three years, Fahruddin came back to Indonesia to continue his studies before returning to Riyadh in 2021 to work as an occupational health nurse, now specializing in protecting and promoting the health and well-being of workers. 

Akhir Fahruddin, an occupational health nurse from Indonesia, sits at the back of an ambulance in Duba, Tabuk while on duty in this photo shared on July 14, 2024. (Supplied/Akhir Fahruddin)

The 33-year-old is now serving a company in Oxagon, a floating port city in the flagship multibillion-dollar NEOM project. 

From the Saudi healthcare system, Fahruddin said he learned about the value of collaboration and respect among health workers. 

“There is no such thing as one person being more superior than another, it’s a positive thing that I’ve learned while working in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. 

“I feel appreciated. When someone appreciates us in practicing our roles, I feel they are valuing my skills, and that’s something that I experienced firsthand.” 

He is also grateful for the time he is permitted to offer prayers, which he has learned from friends was not afforded to workers in other countries. 

“If I compare myself to two of my friends, who are in Japan and Germany, they encounter limitations in practicing their religion. This is in contrast with my experience in Saudi Arabia, where I am allowed to perform my prayers comfortably, they give me time,” Fahruddin said. 

Just four months ago, he experienced a highlight in his career when he resuscitated a patient in an emergency case and was able to save him. 

“He survived. It was very memorable for me because I was able to save a patient whose heartbeat had stopped … It allowed me to reflect on how everything I’ve learned all this time, I was able to put it into practice to save a patient,” he said. 

Most of all, Fahruddin is thankful that his career in the Kingdom has given him an opportunity to support his family back home in Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara. 

“I am able to help my family, to help my nieces and nephews to continue their education and my other relatives to pursue higher education,” he said. 

“I am also able to save money for my future and buy assets back home. This is the sort of happiness that I’ve gotten through working here.” 

Hopes high as first Titanic voyage in 14 years happens in wake of submersible tragedy

Updated 14 July 2024

Hopes high as first Titanic voyage in 14 years happens in wake of submersible tragedy

  • The voyage arrives as undersea explorers are still reeling from the deadly implosion of an experimental submersible en route to the Titanic in June 2023
  • The Titan submersible disaster killed all five people on board, including Paul-Henri Nargeolet, who was director of underwater research for RMS Titanic

PORTLAND: The company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic is undertaking its first expedition to the ship’s wreckage in years, and those involved in the mission said they have both heavy hearts and lofty goals for a trip happening a year after a submersible disaster involving another firm killed five people.
RMS Titanic Inc., a Georgia-based firm, holds the legal rights to salvage the wreck of the ship, which sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912. The company’s first expedition to the site since 2010 launched Friday from Providence, Rhode Island.
The voyage arrives as the worldwide community of undersea explorers is still reeling from the deadly implosion of an experimental submersible en route to the Titanic in June 2023. The Titan submersible disaster killed all five people on board, including Paul-Henri Nargeolet, who was director of underwater research for RMS Titanic.
This summer’s mission to the Titanic “means even more with the passing” of Nargeolet, known as “Mr. Titanic” by many, RMST Inc. president Jessica Sanders said.
The expedition will use modern imaging technology and remotely operated vehicles to capture detailed images of the Titanic, the wreckage site and the debris field, RMST Inc. representatives said.
“This monumental undertaking will allow us to document the Titanic in unprecedented detail and share new discoveries from the wreck site with the public, continuing the extraordinary work and passion of PH,” Sanders said.
The ship headed to the site, the Dino Chouest, will take several days to reach the site and is slated to return around Aug. 13, said Jon Hammond, a spokesperson for RMST Inc.
The work will allow the company to provide a comprehensive analysis of the current condition of the Titanic wreckage site and a detailed assessment of artifacts that can be safely targeted for future recovery, RMST Inc. representatives said.
Nargeolet made more than 35 dives to the Titanic in his lifetime. The implosion also killed Titan operator Stockton Rush; two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood; and British adventurer Hamish Harding.

The Titanic leaves Southampton, England, April 10, 1912, on her maiden voyage. The company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic is undertaking its first expedition to the wreckage of the ship in 14 years, and those involved in the mission said they have both heavy hearts and lofty goals for the trip. (AP/File)

OceanGate, a company co-founded by Rush that owned the submersible, suspended operations a year ago. The US Coast Guard convened a high-level investigation into what happened, but it has taken longer than expected and it’s unclear when the investigation will conclude.
Undersea explorers are waiting to learn the results of the investigation and RMST Inc.’s trip to the Titanic site is an important milestone in the site’s exploration, said Katy Croff Bell, founder of the Ocean Discovery League.
“The Coast Guard investigation is still ongoing and they have not released their results yet, so the final chapter in this episode has yet to come out,” Bell said. “One thing that has come out is there is perhaps more interest.”
This month’s journey to the Titanic also will allow comparison to 2010 imaging, RMST Inc. representatives said. The mission also may result in discovery of new areas of the debris field, previously unknown marine life and new areas of deterioration that could provide unobstructed access to the interior of the ship, the company stated on its website.
The vessel making the trip is equipped with two remotely operated vehicles that will be used to capture the first end-to-end mapping image of the wreck field and debris site, RMST Inc. said.
The expedition will include “the highest resolution camera systems ever deployed at the site in an effort to bring new insights about the ship to the community,” said Evan Kovacs, an underwater cinematographer working on the mission.

France’s Bastille Day parade meets the Olympic torch relay in an exceptional year

Updated 14 July 2024

France’s Bastille Day parade meets the Olympic torch relay in an exceptional year

  • Bastille Day marks the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789
  • The Olympic torch relay is joining up with thousands of troops marching in Paris beneath roaring fighter jets to mark Bastille Day

PARIS: Paris hosted an extra-special guest for France’s national holiday Sunday — the Olympic flame lighting up the city’s grandiose military parade for Bastille Day.
Just 12 days before the French capital hosts exceptionally ambitious and high-security Summer Games, the torch relay joined up with thousands of soldiers, sailors, rescuers and medics marching in Paris beneath roaring fighter jets.
While people around France mark the day with concerts, parties and fireworks, here’s a look at what the holiday’s about, and what’s different this year:
What does Bastille Day celebrate?
On July 14, 1789, revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fortress and prison in Paris, heralding the start of the French Revolution and the end of the monarchy.
The holiday is central to the French calendar, with events across the country. It aims to embody the national motto of ‘’liberty, equality and fraternity,” though not everyone in France feels the country lives up to that promise.
The Paris parade is the holiday’s highlight. This year, it paid tribute to those who freed France from Nazi occupation 80 years ago, with a re-enactment of the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944, and a presentation by service members from the 31 countries whose troops contributed to the liberation. About half are African nations that were under French colonial rule during World War II.
Who takes part?
Some 4,000 people and 162 horses marched in the tightly choreographed show, among them units that served in NATO missions in eastern Europe, against Islamic extremists in the Sahel, protecting French territories in the South Pacific and global shipping corridors. They were joined this year by three German officers from a cross-border brigade.
The ornamental uniforms are rich in symbolism — most notably those of the French Foreign Legion sappers, with long beards, leather aprons and axes from their original role as route-clearers for advancing armies.
Overhead, 65 aircraft flew in formations, including a British Typhoon fighter alongside French Mirages and Rafales, rescue helicopters and aircraft used in missions from Afghanistan to Mali or international drug busts.
President Emmanuel Macron kicked Sunday’s events off with a review of the troops.
Military bands and choirs played an important role, performing a medley of French military songs, American jazz tunes, a Scottish bagpipe ballad — and the Marseillaise.
The numbers are scaled back compared with previous years, because of Olympics security measures. Around 130,000 police are deployed around France for the holiday weekend.
What’s the political context?
This year’s Bastille Day offered Macron a moment of distraction from the political turmoil he unleashed with snap elections that weakened his pro-business centrist party and his presidency.
The result left a deadlocked parliament with no one clearly in charge. The prime minister could leave office within days, while the left-wing alliance that won the most seats is struggling to agree on a proposed replacement.
Meanwhile, Russia’s war in Ukraine is threatening Europe’s security. At a meeting with military leaders Saturday, Macron said France will keep up support for Ukraine and called for higher defense spending next year because of ‘’approaching threats.’’
What’s different this year?
The Olympic torch relay reached Paris just in time.
The parade wrapped up with the arrival of the flame, escorted by riders on horseback, 25 torchbearers, and cadets dressed in the five Olympic colors forming the shapes of the five interlocking Olympic rings.
The first torchbearer was Col. Thibault Vallette, equestrian gold medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, who passed it on to a group of young athletes smiling broadly as they passed it hand-to-hand in front of the presidential tribune.
Usually, the parade travels from the Napoleon-era Arc de Triomphe to the Concorde plaza, where France’s last king and queen were beheaded.
This year, Concorde has been transformed into a huge Olympic venue for breakdancing, skateboarding and BMX. So the parade route headed to the Bois de Boulogne park on the city’s edge instead.
Olympic venue construction around the Eiffel Tower means spectators can’t gather beneath the monument to watch its annual fireworks show, either.
After its Bastille Day appearance, the torch relay will swing by Notre Dame Cathedral, the historic Sorbonne university and the Louvre Museum before heading to other Paris landmarks Monday.

Eight female bodies recovered from Nairobi dump: police

Updated 14 July 2024

Eight female bodies recovered from Nairobi dump: police

NAIROBI: A total of eight bodies, all of them female, have been recovered so far from a dumpsite in a Nairobi slum, Kenya’s acting police chief said on Sunday.
“They were severely dismembered in different states of decomposition and left in sacks,” Douglas Kanja told a press conference, adding that investigations into the gruesome find are ongoing.
Kanja said the first six corpses were found on Friday and body parts of another two women were found on Saturday.
“I would like to assure the public that we are committed to conducting transparent, thorough and swift investigations,” he added.
Kanja also called for public cooperation in the investigation “so that we bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to book.”
Kanja took up his post only this week after the resignation of national police chief Japhet Koome in the wake of public fury over the deaths of dozens of protesters during anti-government demonstrations last month.

Arab Americans react with shock at attempted assassination of former president Trump

Updated 14 July 2024

Arab Americans react with shock at attempted assassination of former president Trump

CHICAGO:Arab American leaders from the left and the right of American politics said they were in shock that former president Donald Trump was lightly injured in an apparent assassination attempt against him while he was speaking to a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night.

Initial reports and live television showed Trump addressing the rally and he turned his head to the right as he was speaking when three loud gunshots were heard. Trump grabbed his right ear, which was bloodied, as he was brought to the ground and covered completely by four by Secret Service agents.

Trump raised his hand in the air as he was walked off the rally stage embraced by five Secret Service agents.

Arab Americans reacted with anger and expressions of concern over the attempted assassination in which at least one person was thought to have been killed, as well as the suspected shooter, initial news reports stated. 

Many said it is the result of the hatred that has been directed at Trump by his foes, especially on social media like Facebook, and because of the continued polarization that has divided America politically and socially.

“They tried everything from impeachments to indictments, and when everything failed, they tried to actually assassinate him,” Dr. Massad Boulos told Arab News minutes after the attempted assassination in Pennsylvania.

“But this has just made him the 47th president of the USA. He’s been making calls from the hospital and he’s in a very positive spirit.”

Boulos’s son Michael is married to Tiffany Trump, one of the former president’s daughters.

Boulos said that he was told by the president’s aides in the past that “former president Trump has been asking for a beefed-up security to be provided for weeks, but the Biden administration has refused.”

Yards away, a member of the audience was declared dead from the bullet as it passed the president. A second female audience member was seriously injured as the crowd began screaming.

President Joe Biden issued a statement to say he is grateful that “he is doing well” and emphasized that “there is no place for political violence.” 

Biden said on national TV that he “reached out to Trump at the hospital.” Sources said the Biden campaign confirmed that it is pulling down campaign commercials that have been very critical of Trump.

Bishara Bahbah, chairman of Arab Americans for Trump, blamed “the atmosphere of hatred against President Trump” that has been intensifying over the past several years.

“The Democrats have been demonizing him, making all kinds of horrible attacks against him and against his family. I am not saying they are behind this, but, at the same time, the hatred emanating from the Democratic Party and some of its leaders and members of Congress is making its way down to people like this person who tried to assassinate him,” Bahbah told Arab News.

“I believe he will come out stronger now as a result and that the people will rally around him. We are grateful that he survived. Violence cannot be tolerated. We pray for him that he remains safe.”

Arab Americans on the right and the left said they were “in shock at the violence” that was broadcast on live television.

Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington D.C., said: “There is a lot we don’t know. But, what we do know is that violent rhetoric can give rise to violent behavior. We need to take action and that violence is never the way to resolve political differences. Our gun-crazy culture is out of control.”

Mohammed Jaber, a trustee on the suburban District 230 High School Board in Orland Park, said: “No human should fear for their life, whether it is a politician or a civilian. We can all agree to disagree, but everyone should be respected regardless of one’s view. It’s completely wrong what happened to Trump at this campaign rally.”

Samir Khalil, president of the Arab American Democratic Club of Illinois, said: “It is truly sad that so many tragic events around the world and the leading democracy nation reach this level of tragic political violence. As a human being I am saddened by this violent behavior. We should expect more intervention from the free world to influence peace and harmony not wars and no more hate. May God bless humanity of the world and the great USA.”

Mary Basta, mayor of the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, said: “I am deeply saddened by the senseless act of violence that occurred today.  Prayers go out to the victims and their families during this incredibly difficult time. Such acts of violence are unacceptable and have no place in our society and do not reflect the sentiment of true democracy.”