• Trump to speak to Christian group, then court Black vote in Philadelphia
    on June 22, 2024 at 9:01 am

    By Nathan Layne PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will speak on Saturday to an influential group of conservative Christian activists who advocate for restricting abortion, before heading to Philadelphia for a rally aimed at courting Black voters. The former president is scheduled to give the keynote speech at an event organized by the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a group overseen by longtime Trump ally Ralph Reed, at 1:30 p.m. ET (1730 GMT) in Washington. The gathering will highlight issues important to conservative Christian voters ahead of the Nov. 5 election, and participants will likely be eager to hear more about Trump’s stance on abortion. Trump has tried to carve out a political middle ground on the subject, which has become a liability for Republicans in recent elections. He has claimed credit for appointing three right-wing justices to the Supreme Court who helped overturn the Roe v. Wade decision two years ago this Monday, eliminating a nationwide right to abortion in a moment of triumph for conservatives. Trump has more recently said he would not support a federal ban on abortion, however, preferring to leave the issue to individual states. That stance does not sit well with many evangelical voters, an important voting bloc for Trump. Reed has said his group would continue to work towards restrictions at both the state and federal levels. Later on Saturday, Trump will hold a campaign rally in a historically Black area of Philadelphia, long a stronghold for Democrats. The Trump campaign has made courting Black and Hispanic voters, who make up more than half of Philadelphia’s population, a priority this cycle, encouraged by some opinion polls that indicate he made be gaining ground with these voters. While Trump has little chance of winning the city — President Joe Biden, a Democrat, won 81.4% of the votes in Philadelphia County in 2020 — Trump could still boost his chances by narrowing the margin in Philadelphia and surrounding counties so critical to the overall tally in Pennsylvania, a battleground state. Trump’s campaign said he will use his Philadelphia speech to talk about Biden’s handling of inflation, the southern border and crime, all key tenets of the Republican’s campaign for a second term. William Rosenberg, a political science professor at Drexel University, said he believed Trump’s main goal was projecting his outreach to Black voters nationally, similar to the rally he held in the Bronx borough of New York City last month. “It’s a play to get on national TV to say you are in Philadelphia to make the case that this is a Black community,” Rosenberg said. “Then perhaps you convince some swing voters that Donald Trump is not so bad.” (Reporting by Nathan Layne in Philadelphia; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Alistair Bell) Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • UN envoy defends failure to include Afghan women in upcoming meeting with the Taliban in Qatar
    on June 22, 2024 at 5:18 am

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations’ top official in Afghanistan defended the failure to include Afghan women in the upcoming first meeting between the Taliban and envoys from 22 countries, insisting that demands for women’s rights are certain to be raised. U.N. special envoy Roza Otunbayeva was pummeled with questions Friday from journalists about criticism from human rights organizations at the omission of Afghan women from the meeting in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on June 30 and July 1. The Taliban seized power in 2021 as United States and NATO forces withdrew following two decades of war. No country officially recognizes them as Afghanistan’s government, and the U.N. has said that recognition is almost impossible while bans on female education and employment remain in place. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Tirana Hassan said that, in the face of the Taliban’s tightening repression of women and girls, the U.N. plans to hold a meeting “without women’s rights on the agenda or Afghan women in the room are shocking.” Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said, “The credibility of this meeting will be in tatters if it doesn’t adequately address the human rights crisis in Afghanistan and fails to involve women human rights defenders and other relevant stakeholders from Afghan civil society.” Otunbayeva, a former president and foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan, insisted after briefing the U.N. Security Council that “nobody dictated” conditions to the United Nations about the Doha meeting, but she confirmed that no Afghan women will be present. U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo will chair the meeting, Otunbayeva said. She will attend, and a few of the 22 special envoys on Afghanistan who are women will also be there. The meeting is the third U.N.-sponsored gathering on the Afghan crisis in Doha. The Taliban weren’t invited to the first, and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said they set unacceptable conditions for attending the second in February, including demands that Afghan civil society members be excluded from the talks and that they be treated as the country’s legitimate rulers. Undersecretary-General DiCarlo visited Afghanistan in May and invited the Taliban Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, to attend the upcoming meeting. The Taliban accepted and said they are sending a delegation. “We do hope that delegation will be led by de facto Foreign Minister Muttaqi,” Otunbayeva said, but the Taliban may send another minister. Just before the Doha gathering, there will be a hybrid meeting with Afghan civil society representatives from inside and outside the country, Otunbayeva said. And on July 2, immediately after Doha, “we’ll be meeting all the civil society people.” The Taliban have used their interpretation of Islamic law to bar girls from education beyond age 11, ban women from public spaces, exclude them from many jobs, and enforce dress codes and male guardianship requirements. Otunbayeva said the upcoming gathering will be the first face-to-face meeting between the Taliban and the envoys and will focus on what she said were “the most important acute issues of today” — private business and banking, and counter-narcotics policy. Both are about women, she said, and the envoys will tell the Taliban, “Look, it doesn’t work like this. We should have women around the table. We should provide them also access to businesses.” She added that “if there are, let’s say, 5 million addicted people in Afghanistan, more than 30% are women.” Otunbayeva told the Security Council the U.N. hopes the envoys and the Taliban delegation will speak to each other, recognize the need to engage, and “agree on next steps to alleviate the uncertainties that face the Afghan people.” The U.N. expects a continuation of the dialogue at a fourth Doha meeting later in the year focused on another key issue: the impact of climate change on the country. Lisa Doughten, the U.N. humanitarian office’s finance director, told the council that “the particularly acute effects of climate change” are deepening Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, saying over 50% of the population — some 23.7 million people — need humanitarian aid this year, the third-highest number in the world. “Extreme weather events are more frequent and more intense,” she said. “Some areas in Afghanistan have warmed at twice the global average since 1950” with the country experiencing increasing droughts and deadly flash flooding. Otunbayeva said another outcome from the Doha meeting that the U.N. would like to see is the creation of working groups to continue talks on how to help farmers replace poppies producing opium with other crops, how to provide pharmacies with medication to help addicted people, and how to address crime and improve banking and private businesses. As for what the U.N. would like to see, she said, “we need badly that they will change their minds and let girls go to school.” Otunbayeva said Afghanistan is the only country in the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation that doesn’t let girls go to school, which she called “a big puzzle.” Afghanistan has been very male-dominated and “we want to change the minds” of young people from such a traditional society towards women, Otunbayeva said. The humanitarian office’s Doughten told the council “the ban on girls’ education is fueling an increase in child marriage and early childbearing, with dire physical, emotional and economic consequences.” She also cited reports that attempted suicides by women and girls are increasing. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Former CNN anchor takes on professor in primary aimed at finding Democrat who can win on Long Island
    on June 22, 2024 at 4:18 am

    A former CNN anchor and a retired chemistry professor are facing off in a Democratic primary to pick a challenger to U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota in an eastern Long Island congressional district that has been in Republican hands for a decade. John Avlon, who was a senior political analyst at CNN, is running against Nancy Goroff, a professor emeritus at Stony Brook University who was the Democratic candidate in the district in 2020, but lost by about 10 points. Democrats have made the suburban New York City district a priority this year in their bid to reclaim a majority in the House of Representatives. It’s one of several districts in the reliably Democratic states of New York and California that are seen as crucial to their chances. The race could hinge on personality and voters’ views about which candidate gives Democrats the best chance to win. Their positions on policy matters are so similar that a local newspaper, The East Hampton Star, headlined its story about a recent debate between them: “Avlon and Goroff Debate, Largely Agree.” Many Democrats, including local officials and incumbent members of Congress, have lined up behind Avlon as a fresh face who might have a better chance of toppling LaLota, the Republican incumbent. “Republicans didn’t think they’d have to fight in this district,” Avlon said in an interview. “They didn’t think they’d have a real fight on their hands and now they do.” But Goroff isn’t rolling over. She loaned her own campaign $1.2 million, according to federal records, Her allies have also sought to attack Avlon for his early career job as a speechwriter in the office of Rudy Giuliani when he was the mayor of New York City. She said she’s confident a Democrat can win in the district, which stretches from the sandy Hamptons on the eastern tip of Long Island more than 80 miles westward to the outer ring of commuter suburbs east of New York City. “I think it’s very much purple and we are working to make sure that in this district, we activate people who want to see someone who’s working hard,” Goroff said in an interview. “Whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, they’re looking for someone who is actually willing to do the work.” The question looming after the June 25 primary is whether a Democrat can retake the seat from a Republican. President Joe Biden won the district in 2020 by a very small margin, but Democratic state lawmakers changed its borders slightly earlier this year to make it slightly more Republican, potentially giving other Democrats on the island a better chance at winning their races. Since losing her election bid in 2020 to then U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, Goroff helped start an advocacy group that organizes around politically fraught school board races. Her campaign says she successfully helped defeat 20 right-wing candidates. Avlon is best known for his time as a CNN personality, but he also worked as an editor at The Daily Beast, an online news site. He also helped create the centrist political group No Labels and authored books on political polarization. Both Democrats favor protecting abortion rights and warn against what a federal government controlled by Republicans could do to curtail women’s reproductive rights more broadly. Their criticisms of LaLota are similar, characterizing the freshman congressman as too deferential to Donald Trump and more interested in political stardom than getting legislation across the line. Both candidates point to a host of explanations for why Republicans have thrived in recent elections on Long Island, which has been receptive to conservative candidates in recent elections. Their explanations include lagging Democratic turnout, the strength of particular candidates and voter fears about crime in New York City spilling over into the suburbs. In a statement, LaLota said, “While they fight to see who can appease the far left the most, I’m focused on putting results over rhetoric and fighting for the community I grew up in.” One exception to the Republicans’ success was the recent special election in a congressional district once represented by George Santos that includes parts of the New York City borough of Queens and northern Long Island. In that race, Democrat Tom Suozzi, an established political figure in the area, defeated a lesser-known Republican, Mazi Pilip. He did so in part by running a centrist campaign that Democrats hope to replicate in other suburban races in the fall. Avlon hopes to duplicate that winning formula. He often talks about how Democrats need to pull in moderates and independent voters, as well as some Republicans who have grown dissatisfied with the GOP under Trump. “There’s a reason I’m running as a common sense Democrat,” he said. “In any swing district the candidate and the party who seizes the center will win.” Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party, said it’s going to be difficult for a Democrat to win on the island this year, especially in this district, given its shift to the GOP over the last decade and its more Republican-friendly configuration after redistricting. “Long Island is once again a Republican bastion,” he said. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • Biden and allied Republicans are trying to rally GOP women in swing-state suburbs away from Trump
    on June 22, 2024 at 4:18 am

    DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Thirty miles north of Philadelphia, upscale subdivisions such as Colonial Commons interrupt dairy farms, centuries-old roadside stone houses and the winding Neshaminy Creek that flows between Doylestown and Newtown. Both cities were once rural outposts that have morphed into fashionable commercial, dining and shopping hubs. This is one of the most closely watched areas in U.S. politics. President Joe Biden ran up his numbers in Bucks County, which includes both cities, on the way to flipping Pennsylvania from Republican Donald Trump four years ago, and won among suburban women in the state by a substantial margin. Biden and his allies are trying to replicate Democrats’ success with suburban women this year and signaling they can win a small number of Republican women who may be opposed to a second Trump presidency. But in dozens of interviews this month in Pennsylvania’s Bucks County, there was little evidence that traditional Republicans were ready to abandon Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, in significant numbers. “I feel like I have to vote for the policies, not the person,” said Lynn Natale, a 62-year-old interior designer. While Natale criticized Trump’s rhetorical style — “It’s like he doesn’t have the words to speak directly to women” — she said she supported Trump’s ideas on the economy and immigration. “The alternative is unacceptable,” she said. About a dozen volunteers gathered in Biden’s Bucks County campaign office on a recent sunny Saturday afternoon. The group fanned out across politically mixed neighborhoods around Doylestown, knocking on doors of registered Republican voters as well as those unaffiliated with either major party to ask them about issues that concerned them most. In addition to the Biden campaign’s outreach in politically mixed and Republican-voting neighborhoods of Bucks County, conservative groups such as Women4Us and Republican Voters Against Trump are mobilizing in suburban Philadelphia with hopes of peeling off GOP voters. Stephanie Sharp, with Women4Us, pointed to former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley receiving 22% of the vote in the four-county suburban Philadelphia bloc in the April Republican presidential primary. That translated to 42,032 votes won by Haley six weeks after she suspended her campaign, in what was an apparent protest vote against Trump. “Pennsylvania’s closed Republican primary demonstrated an appetite for something better,” said Sharp, whose group is planning outreach to Republican women in the most competitive presidential campaign states, including Pennsylvania. “Republican women have had enough of our votes being taken for granted,” Sharp added. Trump’s team is confident inflation and illegal immigration will drive some suburban women toward the former president, who is holding a rally Saturday in Philadelphia. “President Trump is speaking to women when he discusses the sky-high cost of rent, groceries and gas in Biden’s America,” Trump’s national press secretary Karoline Leavitt said. “President Trump is speaking to women when he talks about the migrant crime that has ravaged suburban communities.” About 6 in 10 suburban women in Pennsylvania voted for Biden in 2020, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of voters nationwide, while 4 in 10 voted for Trump. But this year, many suburban women aren’t happy to be faced with the same matchup, a trend that’s true of Americans at large, according to public polling. A recent survey of women voters by KFF found that about 6 in 10 suburban women are unsatisfied with their options for president. About half of those who identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party said the main reason they’re not satisfied with Biden was related to his age or his mental and physical health. Much smaller shares of Democratic-leaning suburban women pointed to other concerns, like the conflict between the Israelis and Hamas, the economy or his performance as president. Suburban women voters were generally much likelier to say that Biden respects women, compared to Trump. About 7 in 10 suburban women voters said Biden respects women a lot or some, compared to only about 3 in 10 suburban women who said that about Trump. Nearly 7 in 10 suburban women said Trump doesn’t respect women much, or at all. But when asked about the most important issue for their 2024 vote, suburban women were most likely to point to inflation. Terry Sykes, the owner of the boutique and spa along Newtown’s quaint State Street, says the local economy matters most to her. It thrived, she said, during Trump’s administration, “like turning on a light switch.” “To be clear, all of Trump’s policy positions support how I live my life,” the 61-year-old Sykes said. “I mean, he is who he is. And women need to get over it. Because it’s all about the policy and the health of our economy.” Anusha Bela, working from a laptop in a coffee shop in Doylestown’s bustling downtown, had been a more fervent Biden supporter early on, but became disappointed with what she viewed as his slow response to Israel’s violence in Gaza. “And would I prefer someone younger? Yes. Would I prefer someone who seems to have newer ideas? Yes,” the 40-year-old sports business consultant in a Philadelphia Phillies cap said. “But Trump is a danger to democracy,” she said. ___ Associated Press writer Amelia Thomson DeVeaux in Washington contributed to this report. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com

  • GOP targets a Biden executive order on voter registration ahead of the fall election
    on June 22, 2024 at 4:18 am

    ATLANTA (AP) — Republicans and conservative activists have increasingly been targeting an executive order issued three years ago by the Biden administration that is intended to boost voter registration, claiming it’s unconstitutional and an attempt to interfere in the November election. A recent fundraising email sent by a GOP political action committee is an example of how they are framing the order, saying it compels federal agencies “to act as Biden’s personal ‘Get-Out-The-Vote’ machine.”A Republican-led House committee recently issued subpoenas to agency directors and a group of GOP secretaries of state asked the Supreme Court to take up a case challenging the order. Despite the pushback on the right, there has been no indication the order favors voters of one party over another. White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson said the administration will continue to protect the voting rights of eligible citizens regardless of political affiliation. Biden issued the order in 2021 as Republican legislatures across the country were debating a wave of state voting restrictions amid the false claims that widespread fraud had cost former President Donald Trump reelection. “These are baseless claims brought by the very people who spread debunked lies about the 2020 elections and have used those same debunked lies to advance laws across the nation that make it harder to vote and easier to undermine the will of the people,” Patterson said in a statement. Here’s a look at what the order does, what federal agencies have done so far to comply with it and what Republicans are saying about it. Biden issued the executive order on March 7, 2021, noting the federal government’s “duty to ensure that registering to vote and the act of voting be made simple and easy for all those eligible to do so” and that it would be implemented “consistent with applicable law.” Agency leaders were asked to submit a strategic plan within 200 days. The order directed updates to the federal website vote.gov, including ensuring that voting information be made available in more than a dozen languages. The site is not engaged in registering voters directly, but instead connects visitors with state and local election offices to begin the registration process. The order specifically mentions the Department of Defense and asks it to establish procedures to provide active-duty military personnel the opportunity each year to register, update their voter registration information or request an absentee ballot. It also directs the Department of Justice to provide educational materials about registration and voting to those in federal custody as they prepare to be released, along with information about rules that might prohibit them from voting. A year after the order was issued, congressional Republicans sent a letter to the White House raising concerns that the administration had exceeded its authority and was directing federal agencies to engage in activities beyond their mission. Republicans said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service had informed state agencies that the costs of providing voter registration services were allowable administrative expenses under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and could be “reimbursed at the 50 percent level.” “Using the nation’s multi-billion-dollar nutrition program to implement the Biden Administration’s voter registration scheme is not only a cause for concern, but one that necessitates further scrutiny,” the Republicans wrote. What the letter didn’t say, according to a former White House official who helped implement the order, is that states administer the food assistance program and that states were specifically directed to provide voter registration information under a federal law passed years ago. Justin Levitt, who served as a senior policy adviser at the White House, also said the agency was only reiterating previous guidance that those expenses were reimbursable. A few months later, Republicans sent letters to federal agencies requesting information about their plans to comply with the order. They also included repealing the executive order in a broad elections bill they introduced last year. Last month, the chairman of the Committee on House Administration sent letters requesting documents related to the order and set a two-week deadline to comply. The chairman, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Bryan Steil, then issued subpoenas. He called the federal order “another attempt by the Biden Administration to tilt the scales ahead of 2024.” A White House official said the Office of Management and Budget had sent an initial response and other agencies were working on responding to the committee when it issued the subpoenas. While federal agencies have not published their proposals, they have announced steps they’ve taken to comply with the order. Levitt, a lawyer and expert on constitutional law, described the order as groundbreaking but limited in scope. Although federal law allows agencies to help with voter registration, he said military recruitment offices were the only ones doing it before Biden issued the executive order. He also said a federal agency can do this only if a state requests it. “Most of what the agencies have done is directly what states have asked them to do or clarified the rules to make sure people know what the rules are,” Levitt said. Kansas and New Mexico designated two Native American colleges run by the U.S. Department of Interior as voter registration agencies. Kentucky and Michigan have said they will designate Veterans Administration offices in their states. Michigan also plans to add offices of the federal Small Business Administration. A group of Republicans, who serve as their state’s top election officials, also has been critical of the order, calling it federal overreach into states’ administration of elections. West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner sent a letter in May 2022 asking Biden to rescind it and spoke against it when testifying before Congress last year. A few months ago, he issued a statement saying his state would refuse to accept any voter registration forms collected by federal agencies. “Adding federal agencies to an already complex administrative process will make it even more challenging for election officials to ensure timely and accurate registration services before the election,” he said in a statement in April. In May, Warner joined eight other GOP secretaries of state to file a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to take a case challenging the order. The others were from Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Wyoming. The court rebuffed a plea to take up and decide the case by the end of June, and won’t consider it for the first time until the justices’ first private conference in early fall. In the unlikely event the court agrees to hear the case, arguments wouldn’t take place before early next year. Republicans who oppose the executive order have labeled it “Bidenbucks,” an apparent reference to the controversy that erupted after the 2020 election when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg provided more than $350 million to a nonprofit that was later distributed to election offices. Republicans have claimed the “Zuckerbucks” effort was an attempt to benefit Democrats. David Becker, a former Justice Department lawyer who leads the Center for Election Innovation & Research, said the timing of the ramped-up criticism — years after Biden issued the executive order and just months before the presidential election — is noteworthy. “It’s being portrayed as some deep-state power grab, when in reality it’s an effort to ensure that eligible citizens who are engaging with the federal government can easily register or have their registration updated,” Becker said. “It is as innocuous as an order gets.” He said an important benefit of the federal order is that voters already registered are provided opportunities to update their information. That ensures more accurate voter rolls, something Republicans have said is needed. “It’s good for election integrity. It’s good for participation,” Becker said. “This didn’t used to be controversial.” ___ Associated Press writer Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report. Brought to you by www.srnnews.com