Biden’s candidacy faces new peril as more Democratic lawmakers and campaign supporters weigh in

Democratic candidate US President Joe Biden walks offstage with first lady Dr. Jill Biden at the conclusion of a presidential debate with Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump, in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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Updated 11 July 2024
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Biden’s candidacy faces new peril as more Democratic lawmakers and campaign supporters weigh in

  • The sudden flurry of grave pronouncements despite Biden’s determined insistence he is not leaving the 2024 race put on public display just how unsettled the question remains among prominent Democrats
  • Democrats have been reeling over whether to continue backing Biden after his poor showing in the June 27 presidential debate with Trump

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s imperiled re-election campaign hit new trouble Wednesday as House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi said merely “it’s up to the president to decide” if he should stay in the race, celebrity donor George Clooney said he should not run and Democratic senators and lawmakers expressed fresh fear about his ability to beat Republican Donald Trump.
The sudden flurry of grave pronouncements despite Biden’s determined insistence he is not leaving the 2024 race put on public display just how unsettled the question remains among prominent Democrats. On Capitol Hill, an eighth House Democrat, Rep. Pat Ryan of New York, and later a ninth, Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, publicly asked Biden to step aside.
“I want him to do whatever he decides to do,” Pelosi said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” rather than declaring Biden should stay in. While Biden has said repeatedly that he’s made his decision, she said, “We’re all encouraging him to make that decision, because time is running short.”
It’s a crucial moment for the president and his party, as Democrats consider what was once unthinkable — having the incumbent Biden step aside, just weeks before the Democratic National Convention that is on track to nominate him as their candidate for reelection.
Biden is hosting world leaders in Washington for the NATO summit this week with a crowded schedule of formal meetings, sideline chats and long diplomatic dinners showcasing his skills. His party at a crossroads, Biden faces the next national public test Thursday at a scheduled news conference that many Democrats in Congress will be watching for signs of his abilities.
To be sure, Biden maintains strong support from key corners of his coalition, particularly the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill, whose leadership was instrumental in ushering the president to victory in 2020 and is standing by him as the country’s best choice to defeat Trump again in 2024.
“At this moment, the stakes are too high and we have to focus,” Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota told The Associated Press on Tuesday, saying Democrats are “losing ground” the longer they fight over Biden’s candidacy. “Democracy is on the line. Everything we value as Democrats, as a country, is on the line, and we have to stop being distracted.”
Pelosi has been widely watched for signals of how top Democrats are thinking about Biden’s wounded candidacy, her comments viewed as important for the party’s direction as members weigh possible alternatives in the campaign against Trump.
Because of her powerful position as the former House speaker and proximity to Biden as a trusted longtime ally of his generation, Pelosi is seen as one of the few Democratic leaders who could influence the president’s thinking.
The lack of a full statement from Pelosi backing Biden’s continued campaign is what lawmakers are likely to hear most clearly, even as she told ABC later she believes he can win. Her remarks came as actor Clooney, who had just hosted a glitzy Hollywood fundraiser for the president last month, said in a New York Times op-ed that the Biden he saw three weeks ago wasn’t the Joe Biden of 2020. “He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”
Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, spoke forcefully late Tuesday about the danger of a second Trump presidency and said it’s for the president “to consider” the options.
Stopping just short of calling for Biden to drop out, Bennet said on CNN what he told his colleagues in private – that he believes Trump “is on track to win this election — and maybe win it by a landslide and take with him the Senate and the House.”
Bennet said, “It’s not a question about politics. It’s a moral question about the future of our country.”
Another Democrat, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said Wednesday he was “deeply concerned” about Biden winning the election, which he called existential for the country.
“We have to reach a conclusion as soon as possible,” Blumenthal said on CNN.
And Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters, “I have complete confidence that Joe Biden will do the patriotic thing for the country. And he’s going to make that decision.”
Democrats have been reeling over whether to continue backing Biden after his poor showing in the June 27 presidential debate with Trump and his campaign’s lackluster response to their pleas that Biden, at 81, show voters he is up for another four-year term.
Biden and his campaign are working more intently now to shore up support, and the president met with labor leaders Wednesday, relying on the unions to help make the case that his record in office matters more than his age.
With the executive council of the AFL-CIO, America’s largest federation of trade unions, Biden told the crowd that even Wall Street was acknowledging the power of unions, as he once again articulated his vision for an economy built “from the bottom up and middle out.”
“I said I’m going to be the most pro-union president in American history,” Biden told the cheering crowd. “Well guess what? I am.”
While more House Democrats have publicly called on Biden to end his candidacy, no Senate Democrats have gone that far. Bennet was among three Democratic senators, including Jon Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who spoke up during a private lunch Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer invited Biden’s campaign to address senators’ concerns. The president’s team is sending senior Biden advisers Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti, and Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon to meet with Democratic senators privately Thursday for a caucus lunch, according to both a Senate leadership aide and the Biden campaign.
There were some concerns, however, that it could backfire. One Democratic senator who requested anonymity to speak about the closed-door meeting said it could be a waste of time if Biden would not make the case to senators himself.
Pelosi of California said Biden “has been a great president” who is beloved and respected by House Democrats.
The Californian said she watched as he delivered a forceful speech at the NATO summit on Tuesday, and recounted his many accomplishments.
While foreign leaders are in Washington this week and Biden is on the world stage hosting the event at a critical time in foreign affairs, Pelosi encouraged Democrats to “let’s just hold off” with any announcements about his campaign.
“Whatever you’re thinking, either tell somebody privately but you don’t have to put that out on the table until we see,” she said, how it goes “this week.”
 


Once defiant, President Biden is now ‘soul searching’ about dropping out of race, source says

Updated 58 min 24 sec ago
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Once defiant, President Biden is now ‘soul searching’ about dropping out of race, source says

  • Biden, 81, has faced increasing pressure from heavyweights in his party to cede his position at the top of the ticket

REHOBOTH BEACH, Delaware: US President Joe Biden is taking calls to step aside as the Democratic presidential candidate seriously and multiple Democratic officials think an exit is a matter of time, according to sources familiar with the matter.
“His soul searching is actually happening, I know that for a fact,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity. “He’s thinking about this very seriously.”
Biden, 81, has faced increasing pressure from heavyweights in his party to cede his position at the top of the ticket after a shoddy debate performance against former President Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, raised fears about his age and ability to win in November.
The president has pushed back defiantly against those calls, arguing that he has won millions of votes in primary races over the last several months and is Democratic voters’ choice. As recently as Wednesday, he vowed “I am all in” the 2024 race.
Another of the sources, a Democratic congressional aide, said the writing appeared to be on the wall for the president after lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly urged him to drop out of the race.
“It feels like it’s a matter of ... when, not if,” the aide said.
Biden is convalescing from COVID-19 at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He had no public events on Thursday after concluding a trip to the political swing state of Nevada on Wednesday.
Biden’s campaign is
focusing on three out of seven battleground states
after the debate, a narrow path to victory, but it has rejected suggestions that he is ready to step aside.
“He is not wavering on anything. The president has made his decision,” deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said in Milwaukee, where the Republican convention is taking place. “Joe Biden has said he is running for president of the United States. Our campaign is moving forward.”
Another source, a Biden campaign official, said the opposite. “Yes, it’s over. Just a matter of time.”


Bangladesh protesters set state TV HQ ablaze as toll mounts, Internet cut

Updated 18 July 2024
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Bangladesh protesters set state TV HQ ablaze as toll mounts, Internet cut

  • Death toll mounts to 32 as authorities impose “near-total” Internet blackout amid police’s clash with protesters
  • Protesters demand end to quota system reserving more than half of civil service posts for specific groups

DHAKA: Bangladeshi students set fire to the country’s state broadcaster on Thursday as protests against civil service hiring rules escalated, with the death toll mounting to at least 32 and monitors saying a “near-total” Internet blackout had been imposed.

Police fired with rubber bullets at hundreds of protesters, who fought back and chased retreating officers to the headquarters of Bangladesh Television (BTV) in the capital Dhaka.

Demonstrators set ablaze the network’s reception building and dozens of vehicles parked outside, with the broadcaster saying in a Facebook post that “many people” were trapped inside, although a station executive later told AFP they had safely evacuated the building.

A day earlier, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appeared on the network seeking to calm the escalating clashes.

“Our first demand is that the prime minister must apologize to us,” protester Bidisha Rimjhim, 18, told AFP.

“Secondly, justice must be ensured for our killed brothers,” she added.

Widespread Internet outages went into effect, with websites for the Bangladesh home and foreign ministry, as well as the Dhaka Tribune and Daily Star newspapers, not available in the evening.

Bangladesh was experiencing a “near-total” Internet shutdown, outage monitor Netblocks said, posting a graphic online showing connectivity plummeting late Thursday from around 90 percent to about 10 percent.

It said the latest outage “follows earlier efforts to throttle social media and restrict mobile data services” — key communication tools for protest organizers.

Near-daily marches this month have demanded an end to a quota system that reserves more than half of civil service posts for specific groups, including children of veterans from the country’s 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Critics say the scheme benefits children of pro-government groups that back Hasina, 76, who has ruled the country since 2009 and won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.

Hasina’s government has ordered schools and universities to close indefinitely as police step up efforts to bring the deteriorating law and order situation under control.

Her administration is accused by rights groups of misusing state institutions to entrench its hold on power and stamping out dissent, including by the extrajudicial killing of opposition activists.

Mubashar Hasan, a Bangladesh expert at the University of Oslo in Norway, said the protests had grown into a wider expression of discontent with Hasina’s autocratic rule.

“They are protesting against the repressive nature of the state,” he told AFP.

“Protesters are questioning Hasina’s leadership, accusing her of clinging onto power by force,” he added. “The students are in fact calling her a dictator.”

The premier appeared on BTV on Wednesday night to condemn the “murder” of protesters and vow that those responsible will be punished regardless of political affiliation.

But violence worsened on the streets despite her appeal for calm as police again attempted to break up demonstrations with rubber bullets and tear gas volleys.

At least 25 people were killed on Thursday in addition to seven killed earlier in the week, with hundreds more wounded, according to an AFP tally based on hospital data.

Police weaponry was the cause of at least two-thirds of those deaths, based on descriptions given to AFP by hospital figures.

“We’ve got seven dead here,” an official at Uttara Crescent Hospital in Dhaka, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told AFP.

“The first two were students with rubber bullet injuries. The other five had gunshot injuries.”

Nearly 1,000 others had been treated at the hospital for injuries sustained during clashes, the official said, adding many had rubber bullet wounds.

Didar Malekin of the online news outlet Dhaka Times told AFP that Mehedi Hasan, one of his reporters, had been killed while covering clashes in Dhaka.

Several cities across Bangladesh saw violence throughout the day as riot police marched on protesters who had begun another round of human blockades on roads and highways.

Helicopters rescued 60 police officers who were trapped on the roof of a campus building at Canadian University, the scene of some of Dhaka’s fiercest clashes, the elite Rapid Action Battalion police force said in a statement.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric appealed for “restraint from all sides.”

“We urge the government to ensure a conducive environment for dialogue. And we encourage protesters to engage in dialogue to resolve the deadlock,” he told reporters.

“Violence is never a solution.”

Before the late near-total Internet shutdown, junior telecommunications minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak told reporters that social media had been “weaponized as a tool to spread rumors, lies and disinformation,” forcing the government to restrict access.

Along with police crackdowns, demonstrators and students allied to the premier’s ruling Awami League have also battled each other on the streets with hurled bricks and bamboo rods.

Rights group Amnesty International said video evidence from clashes this week showed that Bangladeshi security forces had used unlawful force.


Migrants encounter hazards of food delivery on the streets of NYC

Updated 18 July 2024
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Migrants encounter hazards of food delivery on the streets of NYC

  • Asylum-seekers have gravitated to working food delivery in New York and other major cities

NEW YORK: Brad Song thought he was about to get his e-bike stolen a second time in a less than a month after delivering an order for Chinese food app Fantuan Delivery. Seven strangers surrounded the Chinese immigrant and knocked him off the scooter. He was rescued when a nearby motorist revved his engine, scaring the assailants.
His brakes were damaged and a phone used for navigation had its screen shattered, but, while the February attack in New York rattled Song, his bike and body emerged intact.
Asylum-seekers have gravitated to working food delivery in New York and other major cities, drawn by an abundance of customers and ease of getting started. But the job carries hazards, particularly thieves who target food delivery bikes. Newly arrived asylum-seekers have been easy targets. Some work without legal permission, which can make them fearful of seeking help in an emergency.
Dissatisfied with the police response, many delivery drivers have banded together.
Juan Solano, who migrated from the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2017, founded E l Diario de los Delivery Boys en la Gran Manzana, a group of delivery workers who help retrieve stolen e-bikes, often with the help of monitoring devices. Launched during the pandemic, the group has more than 50,000 followers on Facebook and a WhatsApp channel to alert delivery workers of robberies in real time.
Solano, 35, started working in food delivery during the pandemic with his nephew, Sergio, who had his e-bike stolen twice.
Thieves appear to target isolated areas near bridges that connect Manhattan to other boroughs, especially those with lighter police presence. They prey especially on those traveling alone.


White House: Biden expecting to meet Netanyahu next week

The Israeli and US governments have tentatively scheduled a meeting between Biden and Netanyahu on Monday. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 July 2024
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White House: Biden expecting to meet Netanyahu next week

  • Netanyahu will be in Washington next week for a July 24 address to a joint session of the US Congress
  • The two leaders have had strained relations for months over Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza conflict

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden expects to be able to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week depending on his recovery from COVID-19, the White House said on Thursday.
Netanyahu will be in Washington next week for a July 24 address to a joint session of the US Congress. The two governments have tentatively scheduled a meeting between Biden and Netanyahu on Monday.
Vice President Kamala Harris will also meet Netanyahu while he is in Washington, a White House official said.
Biden, under pressure from some fellow Democrats to not seek reelection due to a disastrous debate performance against Republican Donald Trump on June 27, tested positive on Wednesday for COVID-19 and is recuperating at his beach house in Delaware. His current plan is to return to Washington on Sunday.
The two leaders have had strained relations for months over Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza conflict where more than 38,000 people have been killed in Israel’s pursuit of Hamas militants responsible for the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel in which 1,200 people were killed.
“We have every expectation that the two leaders will have the chance to see each other while Prime Minister Netanyahu is in town,” said White House national security spokesperson John Kirby, without mentioning a specific date.
“Obviously we need to make sure that the president’s health and his recovery from COVID takes priority and if and how that might affect the discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu, we’re just not in a position today to be able to help,” he told reporters.
The United States has been working with Qatar and Egypt to try to arrange a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict in order to free hostages held since Oct. 7 and get more humanitarian aid into the enclave
A US official said US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk was traveling to the Middle East on Thursday for consultations on the Gaza conflict, with stops planned in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, a US official said.
No deal appeared imminent. Kirby said McGurk’s trip was part of regular consultations.
Netanyahu’s visit would be his first visit to the White House since he returned to office in late 2022.
The Biden administration may have eased on one point of contention last week when it said it would resume shipping 500-pound bombs to Israel, though it said it would continue to hold back on supplying 2,000-pound bombs over concerns about their use in densely populated Gaza.
In June, Netanyahu had criticized the United States for withholding some weapons, prompting Biden’s aides to express disappointment and confusion over the Israeli leader’s remarks.
The invitation for Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress was orchestrated by the House of Representatives’ Republican leadership, which has accused the Democratic president of not being supportive enough of Israel’s strategy in the Gaza war.
Addresses to joint meetings of Congress by foreign leaders are a rare honor generally reserved for the closest US allies or major world figures.
Netanyahu’s speech could highlight differences over Israel policy between Biden and some progressive Democrats, especially if some of them follow through on their threat to boycott the Israeli leader’s appearance.


British foreign secretary’s concern over former PM Johnson’s meeting with US presidential hopeful Trump

Updated 18 July 2024
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British foreign secretary’s concern over former PM Johnson’s meeting with US presidential hopeful Trump

  • Lammy admitted to LBC presenter Tom Swarbrick that he had not been aware the meeting was taking place

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary David Lammy expressed his concern on Thursday about a meeting between former UK prime minister Boris Johnson and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Speaking on the LBC radio morning show, Lammy admitted to presenter Tom Swarbrick that he had not been aware the meeting was taking place.

Johnson posted a picture on social media of him meeting Trump at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, after which he said the former president was “on top form” and that they had discussed the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The foreign secretary was asked if Johnson had followed protocol by informing the UK Foreign Office of his meeting with Trump, to which Lammy replied: “I’m not sure that Boris Johnson consults either Keir Starmer or us on his plans. And I certainly didn’t know.”

Lammy refused to be drawn when pressed by Swarbrick on whether the meeting went against “UK national interests” or not.

“The record will show that I had a friendship with Barack Obama, prior to him becoming president of the United States of America, and about a year or so into office, he was dealing with David Cameron (as prime minister),” he said.

“I would never have done anything to prejudice the UK national interests at that time. So the point you’re making is a serious one. I would hope that all former prime ministers would act in the UK national interests and not cut across us, particularly two weeks into office.

“You know, I’m not interested, actually, in the past. I’m interested in the future.”