As former vice president Joe Biden prepares to launch his 2020 presidential campaign on Thursday, his long public record working for gun control has been consistently in line with the values of today’s Democratic Party, but potential political danger lurks for him even on this issue, NBC News reported on Wednesday.
As a Delaware senator and ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Biden voted in favor of the Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986, which the NRA has called “the law that saved gun rights.”
Reflecting a vastly different era decades ago, when compromise was common in the Senate and guns were less of a partisan and emotional issue, the act passed by a wide margin.
It overturned six Supreme Court rulings and various regulations, leaving a legacy as one of the most important gun laws of the past century and a major political boost for the growing gun rights movement.
The act allowed dealers to sell rifles, shotguns and ammunition through the mail and limited federal inspections of firearms dealers while allowing them to sell at gun shows.
Biden praised it at the time as a “balanced piece of legislation that protects the rights of private gun owners while not infringing on law enforcement’s ability to deal with those who misuse guns or violate laws,” adding that “I have never believed that additional gun control or Federal registration of guns would reduce crime.”
Biden spokesman Bill Russo said “Cherry-picking an out of context quote from 1986 doesn’t even begin to address Joe Biden’s unparalleled record on gun safety. Let’s be clear on the facts: Joe Biden took on the NRA and won – twice.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
People hold banners during a rally to support a nationwide teachers’ strike in central Warsaw, Poland April 24, 2019. Banner reads “Nationwide demonstration for the school”. Agencja Gazeta/Jedrzej Nowicki via REUTERS
April 24, 2019
WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s governing nationalists announced legislation on Wednesday to ensure final high school exams are held next month despite a teachers’ strike that has shut thousands of schools for more than two weeks.
Teacher demands for a pay rise of up to 1,000 zloty ($260)evoke the competing demands of various groups for a slice of the fast-growing prosperity of central Europe’s largest economy, at a time when the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) is expanding benefits for families and pensioners ahead of elections.
Critics say the government lacks incentive to find extra money for teachers as they broadly oppose the PiS over accusations that it is undermining Polish democracy by seeking to impose more political control over the judiciary, the state media and other public institutions. Meanwhile, the populist PiS has announced more payments for farmers who raise pigs and cows.
Teachers polled by the Rzeczpospolita daily say they earn 1,750-2,800 zloty a month after taxes. The average net salary in Polish enterprises amounts to around 3,700 zloty.
Students and parents are anxious to know whether final high school exams – allowing students to apply to university – will be held as planned at the beginning of May.
“The state must guarantee that in every school every exam candidate will be able to take their exam at the scheduled time, this is necessary for the peace of mind of students and parents and for the state to be seen as serious and responsible,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a televised speech.
He announced pending legislation that would allow school directors to grant permission for exams to go ahead if the teachers’ committees at schools remained on strike.
The emergency bill is expected to be put to a vote on Thursday. Given the PiS’s majority of 237 seats in the 460-strong lower house of parliament, the announced legislation is likely to be passed.
Despite a majority of Polish schools not holding lessons for a third week, final exams for children finishing primary and middle schools were held without disruptions.
Thousands of teachers took to the streets of Warsaw on Wednesday as the strike stretched into its 17th day, brandishing placards with slogans such as “Without respect and money, education drowns in poverty”.
In recent months, some opinion polls conducted before the European Parliament election in May have raised the possibility that PiS might lose power after Poland’s national election due in October or November. It is the first such signal since the strongly conservative party took office in 2015.
($1 = 3.8296 zlotys)
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Afghan villagers who fled from the fighting sides arrive at the Behsud district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Parwiz
April 24, 2019
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan Taliban insurgents are battling fighters loyal to Islamic State over control of territory in eastern Afghanistan in some of the heaviest clashes over the past year between the rival militants, officials said on Wednesday.
The fighting erupted on Monday in two districts of the eastern Afghan border province of Nangarhar, when Islamic State fighters attacked villages under Taliban control.
“Islamic State fighters have captured six villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts but the fighting has not stopped,” said Sohrab Qaderi, a member Nangarhar’s the provincial council.
About 500 families had fled from the fighting, he said.
Casualty figures were not available.
A spokesman for the Taliban, who control more territory than at any point since they were ousted from power nearly 18 years ago, was not available for comment.
Islamic State fighters first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in around 2014 and have battled the Taliban as well as government and foreign forces.
The Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has made some inroads into other areas, in the north in particular.
It has also established a reputation for unusual cruelty, even by the standards of the Afghan conflict, and has been behind some of the deadliest attacks in urban centers.
While Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, has been an Islamic State stronghold, some villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts have been controlled by the Taliban.
Fleeing villagers said they had to run for their lives.
“I could only rescue my family. We had to leave everything,” said Shawkat, 36, a resident of Markikhel village in Shirzad district who sought safety in a neighboring village.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor said, authorities would help the displaced villagers with food and medicine.
In August, more than 150 Islamic State fighters surrendered to the Afghan security forces after they were defeated by the Taliban in the northwestern province of Jawzjan.
The U.S. military estimates there are about 2,000 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.
Many are former Taliban. There is scant evidence of direct links with Islamic State in the Middle East, where the group has lost territory it once held in Syria and Iraq to Western-backed forces.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Ahmad Sultan in Nangarhar; Editing by Robert Birsel)
The showdown between the White House and House Democrats is growing more bitter as new battles break out and ignite a total war, Politico is reporting.
Now, even modest compromises may be unobtainable as both sides ready for protracted fights in federal court.
Here are some of the key disputes.
- House Democrats are warning they could hold an administration official in contempt. The official, who had overseen security clearances, was instructed by the White House not to cooperate with Congress.
- The administration refused to turn over six years of President Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns by a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline and asked for additional time to consult with the Department of Justice.
- The White House is trying to block the House Judiciary Committee from bringing in former White House counsel Don McGahn for testimony, according to The Washington Post. McGahn was mentioned in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
- Trump has filed suit to block a subpoena for his financial records from the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
“It’s a pretty extraordinary and outlandish situation right now,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the House Oversight panel. “It’s like a curtain has fallen down over the White House.”
And Politico noted that Trump’s attorneys, who are challenging a subpoena for his financial records, wrote in court papers: “The Democrat Party, with its newfound control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J. Trump.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: A view of cranes at the container terminal at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen January 5, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
April 24, 2019
DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister on Wednesday blamed Yemen’s Houthi movement for a stalled peace deal in the main port of Hodeidah, saying the Iran-aligned group was ignoring the kingdom’s call for a political solution to the four-year war.
Saudi Arabia is leading a Western-backed Sunni Muslim military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from power in the capital Sanaa by the Houthis in late 2014.
“They are ignoring our calls for a political solution to this crisis,” Prince Khalid bin Salman said at a security conference in Moscow, in his first comments on Yemen since becoming deputy defense minister in February.
The warring parties reached a deal at U.N.-sponsored talks in Sweden in December for a ceasefire and troop withdrawal from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of people.
The Houthis say they are ready to implement the Hodeidah deal, but that the other side is obstructing it.
The truce has largely held but the redeployment of forces has stalled with each side blaming the other for impeding the pact, the first major breakthrough in peace efforts in over four years aimed at paving the way for political negotiations.
Prince Khalid, a son of King Salman and a full younger brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, accused regional rival Iran of trying “to seize the Yemeni state” by supporting the Houthis, who control Hodeidah and most urban centers in Yemen.
The Houthis deny being puppets of Iran and say their revolution is against corruption.
The conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation to the brink of famine, is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its arch foe Shi’ite Muslim Iran.
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a database tracking violence in Yemen, last week said around 70,000 people have been reported killed since the start of 2016.
Western nations, some of which supply arms and intelligence to the alliance, have increased pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end the conflict following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October at the hands of Saudi agents at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Additional reporting by Tuqa Khalid; Editing by Alison Williams)
U.S. President Donald Trump attends the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
April 24, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is expected to tout his fight against opioid abuse in remarks in Atlanta on Wednesday, a day after his administration brought its first related criminal charges against a major drug distributor and company executives.
America’s opioid epidemic, especially damaging in rural areas where Trump is popular, has been a focus for the Republican president.
Little has come of Trump’s calls for executing drug dealers, but on other fronts the administration has taken some action. Trump has worked to boost funding for treatment and raise awareness of the problem.
On Tuesday, the government charged Rochester Drug Co-operative Inc and executives of the major drug distributor. The company agreed to pay $20 million and enter a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve charges it turned a blind eye to thousands of suspicious orders for opioids.
Deaths from opioid overdose in the United States jumped 17 percent in 2017 from a year earlier to more than 49,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl surged 45 percent in that time, according to the CDC.
Hundreds of lawsuits by state and local governments accuse drugmakers such as Purdue Pharma of deceptively marketing opioids, and distributors such as AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp of ignoring that they were being diverted for improper uses.
Trump has said he convinced Chinese President Xi Jinping in a December meeting in Argentina to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance.
China last month listed all fentanyl-related substances as controlled narcotics after criticism from Trump, though its government blamed U.S. culture for abuse of the drug and said the amount of fentanyl going from China into the United States was “extremely limited.”
Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October 2017. He plans to provide an update on his administration’s work on the issue at the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, a White House spokesman said.
Trump has used the crisis to support his call for building a wall on the border with Mexico, saying it would help keep out drugs and curb the crisis.
Heroin from Mexico accounted for 86 percent of the heroin found on U.S. streets, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s most recent annual narcotic report. Heroin, unlike fentanyl, is derived from the seeds of the opium poppy plant.
Last week, U.S. health officials said they will spend $350 million in four states to study ways to best deal with the opioid crisis on the local level, with a goal of reducing opioid-related overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years in selected communities in those states.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and David Gregorio)
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacts during a news conference at his campaign headquarters following a presidential election in Kiev, Ukraine April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo
April 24, 2019
By Marc Jones and Tom Arnold
LONDON (Reuters) – Ukraine has entered uncharted political waters by choosing Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian with no previous political experience and few detailed policies, as its new president.
Zelenskiy is the latest anti-establishment figure to unseat an incumbent leader, both in Europe and further afield, but he has a lot to get to grips with. Below are five big questions investors and the international community have.
1/STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT?
Zelenskiy is expected to take office next month and his ability to work with Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada, will be crucial to meeting the expectations of his voters.
The president appoints the head of the state security service, the head of the military, the general prosecutor, the central bank governor and the foreign and defense ministers. But parliament must confirm each appointment — and there’s the rub.
While Zelenskiy beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko decisively in Sunday’s presidential vote, parliamentary elections are not due until October and opinion polls suggest he is unlikely to win an outright majority.
That means he would need to ally with at least one other party if he is to get many of his policies and appointments through. The other alternative is to try to bring the elections forward in order to capitalize on the momentum from his presidential victory.
2/TEAM BUILDING EXERCISE
With no political experience himself, investors want Zelenskiy to build a team with enough know-how to avoid any policy missteps.
He does not actually have a full slate of policies yet but he brought in two former ministers as advisers for his campaign: former finance minister Oleksandr Danylyuk and former economy minister Aivaras Abromavicius.
Danylyuk is rumored to be in line to become either foreign minister or the head of the presidential administration, which would give him a powerful gatekeeper role.
“Zelenskiy might be inexperienced in foreign affairs but I think he will have plenty of choice of experienced individuals to serve as foreign minister, and will receive plenty of support, advice from Western governments,” wrote Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management.
International Monetary Fund aid has kept Ukraine’s economy above water so its ongoing support is seen as crucial, especially with around $3 billion (about 2 percent of GDP) of external debt obligations, including interest, coming due in the remainder of 2019. Another $5.5 billion (about 4 percent of GDP) must be repaid in 2020.
But Ukraine’s patchy reform efforts led to repeated delays in its previous IMF program that ended up disbursing only $8.7 billion of a planned $17.5 billion.
That was replaced by a new $3.9 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) in December. While Kiev hopes for another tranche of that money as early as next month, investors will want to see a fuller program put back in place soon.
It could be an interesting negotiation. Zelenskiy already wants to talk the IMF about reversing some gas price rises the Fund saw as crucial to mending Kiev’s finances.
Ukraine’s economic backdrop has improved in recent years though, with much smaller twin deficits (2-3 percent of GDP), lower public sector debt (just over 60 percent) and a stable currency. It also has over $20 billion in FX reserves, which is over four months of import cover, according to S&P Global.
One concern is Zelenskiy’s ties to oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, the former owner of Ukraine’s biggest lender PrivatBank, which was nationalized in 2016.
With the international community already concerned about corruption and influence, some have raised questions about what their relationship might mean for the future of PrivatBank and other interests of Kolomoisky in Ukraine.
A court ruling last week could threaten to overturn the nationalization of PrivatBank.
The central bank has said it will appeal — in fact there could be many appeals as well as other legal manoeuvres — but any sign that Zelenskiy might be in Kolomoisky’s camp on this could do serious damage, not least to relations with the IMF.
As world leaders clamored to offer their congratulations to Zelenskiy, one notable name was absent: Russian President Vladimir Putin. How the Russian-speaking Zelenskiy handles Ukraine’s relationship with Moscow will go a long way to determining the success of his term in office.
He has already suggested taking a fresh perspective to try to secure peace with Moscow, while pushing ahead with European Union-friendly moves. That could prove a difficult path to tread.
For its part, Russia has signaled it intends to respect the vote of the Ukraine people, although Putin is not planning talks with Zelenskiy.
Also rumbling in the background is a legal dispute between the two surrounding Ukraine’s $3 billion Eurobond, which Moscow wants repaid in full but which Kiev argues should have been written down along with most of its other debt in 2015.
Any repairing of ties could also bring rewards for Ukraine. Improved relations could help it regain control over the separatist-controlled east, as well as cheap gas and major investment, a Kremlin ally in Ukraine said last week.
(Additional reporting by Matthias Williams in Kiev, Graphics by Karin Strohecker, Editing by Catherine Evans)
FILE PHOTO: A Scandinavian SAS airline passenger plane flies near the air traffic control tower after taking off from Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
April 24, 2019
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Scandinavian airline SAS is offering travelers concerned about a possible strike by pilots the chance to reschedule flights for the April 26-29 period to another date free of charge.
The Swedish, Danish and Norwegian pilot unions’ joint SAS branch said this month they would go on strike on April 26 if there was no agreement on wages and terms by then, after an earlier talks round of talks broke down.
SAS said on its website the offer concerned flights operated by SAS but not those operated by its partners as they would not affected by the potential strike.
SAS employs around 1,500 pilots across its home markets of Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
National mediators in the three countries have since last week tried to broker a deal between delegations of the two parties but without success so far.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Edmund Blair)
FILE PHOTO: An abortion rights activist holds up a sign as marchers take part in the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
April 24, 2019
(Reuters) – A federal judge in the U.S. state of Oregon will block a move by the Trump administration to cut off federal money to family planning clinics that offer abortion or refer women to abortion providers, activists and media reports said late on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump’s new Title X rule, set to take effect in May, would halt government funds for Planned Parenthood clinics that subsidize birth control for low-income women, and other clinics that provide abortions.
Critics say the plan is aimed at fulfilling Trump’s campaign pledge to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions and other health services for women.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association, along with several other parties, sued in federal court in Oregon to halt the new rule.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said late on Tuesday that he will grant a preliminary injunction against the new federal restrictions, the Oregonian newspaper reported.
It was unclear when the ruling would be made formal and how wide-sweeping it would be.
The plaintiffs had sought a national injunction, but Judge McShane said he is reluctant to set national health care policy, the newspaper reported.
The U.S. Justice Department, which opposed the injunction in court, asked that it only apply to the plaintiffs in this case, the Oregonian said.
McShane said from the bench that the so-called “gag rule” would prevent doctors from doing their jobs, media reports said.
The U.S. Justice Department was not available for comment on Wednesday.
Congress provided $286 million in Title X grants in 2017 to Planned Parenthood and other health centers to provide birth control, screening for diseases and cancer, and other reproductive counseling to low-income women.
The funding cannot be used for abortions, but abortion opponents have long complained that the money subsidizes Planned Parenthood itself.
The American Medical Association applauded the proposed injunction.
“Judge McShane got it exactly right when he called the new Title X rule a ‘ham-fisted’ approach to health care,” AMA President Barbara McAneny said in a statement.
“The judge repeatedly asked how the new gag rule would improve health outcomes. The government was unable to answer,” she added.
Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called it a victory for patients and doctors.
But she added in a statement “this relief is preliminary and we will continue to fight the Trump-Pence administration in court and in Congress to ensure our patients’ health.”
Similar legal challenges are pending in other federal courts, including one brought by California, according to media reports.
(Reporting by Rich McKay; editing by Darren Schuettler)