Biden confronts crucial day in campaign, as team says no Democrat would do better

The eyes of the world will be on US President Joe Biden as he tries to calm growing calls from his Democratic party to step aside over his age and health. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 July 2024

Biden confronts crucial day in campaign, as team says no Democrat would do better

  • Any missteps by Biden could turn the trickle of Democrats who have so far urged him to abandon his 2024 election bid into a flood
  • His recent appearances have been joint appearances with foreign leaders restricted to two questions each

WASHINGTON DC: President Joe Biden’s ability to run for reelection faced crucial tests Thursday as he prepared for questions at a highly anticipated press conference and his team met privately with skeptical senators on Capitol Hill. The outreach came even as more House Democrats called for him to exit the race.
The Biden 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 Republican Donald Trump. Biden will head to Detroit on Friday.
It all comes as 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 recent debate performance, but the hard-fighting 81-year-old president refuses to give up as he prepares to take on Trump in a rematch.
“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 Vice President Kamala Harris to determine how she’s viewed among the electorate, according to two people with knowledge of the campaign who spoke to The Associated Press 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, particularly as Trump steps up his attacks against her. The survey was first reported by The New York Times.
Thursday is pivotal. Biden must show skeptics during his whirlwind day with world leaders at NATO, and the evening press conference that he is up for another four years. Voters are watching, and elected officials are deciding whether to press for another choice.
As the day unfolded, Rep. Hillary Scholten, whose district is in the battleground state of Michigan, and Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois became the 11th and 12th Democrats in Congress to call on Biden to step out of the race.
Scholten, a first-term Democrat, told The Detroit News that people can’t “unsee” Biden’s terrible debate performance and said in a statement that “it’s time to pass the torch.”
Top leaders in Congress have largely kept quiet as they meet privately with other lawmakers. But House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi opened the door this week to a continued conversation about Biden’s political future when she publicly said “it’s up to the president” to decide what to do — even though Biden had already emphatically told Congress he was staying in the race.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said talks among lawmakers are “candid, comprehensive and clear-eyed” as they discuss the path ahead.
Jeffries, who supports Biden and the Democratic ticket, said House and Senate Democrats remain unified on the agenda ahead that includes growing the middle class, fighting for reproductive rights and pushing back against Trump and the far-right Project 2025 agenda.
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 the president 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.
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.
One Democrat, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, said afterward, “My feeling is still the same. And this is not a reflection on that meeting. 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.”
The fresh emphasis on the “blue wall” states by the campaign, which has heavily invested in other battlegrounds such as Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia, acknowledges that the path to defeating Trump in November is narrowing, even as the team insists the Sun Belt states are “not out of reach.”
Though senior campaign aides write in the memo that Biden could clinch 270 electoral votes in a number of ways, it also says those three states are critical and that is why Biden has prioritized the areas in his recent travels. including the upcoming trip to Michigan. He went to Madison, Wisconsin; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania over the weekend.
It acknowledges “real” movement in the race, but argues that it was not a “sea change.”
Campaign leaders say they want to continue touting Biden’s achievements in office, drawing a contrast with Trump and his policies, and redoubling their grassroots efforts to engage voters — which were their goals anyway before the disastrous June 27 debate that left in question Biden’s cognitive capabilities and fitness to serve. Their internal research suggests that voters will make their decisions based on policies and issues, rather than Biden’s age, O’Malley Dillon and Rodriguez contend.
“What has changed following the debate is that the urgency and discipline with which we need to pursue them has kicked into high gear,” O’Malley Dillon and Rodriguez wrote. “We believe if we follow the roadmap below, we will win.”
It’s all part of a mounting effort from the president, who insists he is not stepping aside, and his allies to stop a potential flood of defections and end the turmoil tearing the party apart.
Polls conducted after the debate have largely agreed that Democrats nationwide have doubts about Biden’s ability to lead the ticket in November.
More than half of Democrats, 56 percent, in a recent Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll said that given Biden’s debate performance, he should step aside and let someone else run. But the Biden campaign points to this same poll to argue that despite the “increased anxiety” after the debate, his performance was not leading to a “drastic shift in vote share.”
More than half of Democratic voters in a CNN/SSRS poll said the party has a better chance of winning the presidency in November with a different candidate. And around 6 in 10 voters, including about one-quarter of Democrats, said that reelecting Biden as president this November would be a risky choice for the country rather than a safe one, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

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

Updated 6 sec ago

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

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

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

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

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

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.”