Biden’s statement came hours after a former secretary of states Hillary Clinton Tuesday night asked Nigerian authorities to “stop killing” persons protesting against police brutality in the country.
Former United States Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has called on Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the ongoing violent crackdown on protesters in the country.
“I urge President Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths,” Biden said in a statement.
“I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.
“My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence.”
He urged the United States to “stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy.”
– What Actually Happened –
Security forces on Friday shot sporadically at unarmed protesters who were protesting against police brutality at Lekki area of Lagos State.
About 7 persons were feared dead from the shooting in Lagos on Tuesday night with more than 10 people dead earlier in different demonstrations in Nigeria.
Scenes of people removing a bullet from someone’s wound and pleading for help were broadcast in a live video by DJ Switch, a popular disc jockey, to 150,000 Instagram viewers.
Amnesty International Nigeria said there was no justification for the “excessive use of force” against the peaceful, unarmed protesters.
The protests against police brutality, harassment, extortion and extrajudicial killings had attracted thousand to streets in different parts of Nigeria.
Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered the round-the-clock shutdown in the sprawling economic hub on Tuesday, claiming the protests had “degenerated into a monster” as violence flared in a string of cities.
Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday said the shooting and killing of the unarmed protesters was an “unfortunate incident.”
“I recognize the buck stops at my table and I will work with the FG to get to the root of this unfortunate incident and stabilise all security operations to protect the lives of our residents,” the governor said.
Twitter suspended the identified profiles because they were deceiving users about their intention and their identity, and were therefore deemed to be manipulating public debate.
Twitter said Tuesday it had suspended several fake accounts purporting to be African Americans who support President Donald Trump and which had succeeded in garnering several thousand followers in just a few days.
“Our teams are working diligently to investigate this activity and will take action in line with the Twitter rules if Tweets are found to be in violation,” said a spokesman for the San Francisco-based company.
Darren Linvill, a professor at Clemson University who specializes in disinformation on social media, published some examples of the fake accounts on Twitter, accusing them of using “digital black face.”
“Yes IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!” said one of the examples he shared, under the name of Ted Katya on September 17. “Libs won’t like that but I don’t care!!!”
The tweet was shared 6,000 times and “liked” more than 16,000 times.
Most of the accounts “used images of real Americans in their profiles,” Linville said, and some of them had tens of thousands of followers.
The company forbids using the platform “to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behaviour that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience on Twitter,” according to guidelines published last month.
Under heavy criticism, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have mobilized in the run-up to the November 3 election to show they have learned the lessons of the scandals in 2016 when they were used to spread false or misleading information ahead o the US elections, some of the concerted campaigns initiated by foreign powers such as Russia.
The platforms have made progress in dismantling large-scale disinformation campaigns but now face a number of smaller-scale attempts to disseminate falsehoods through accounts like those suspended on Tuesday.
The people behind such campaigns often use themes linked to current events and which inflame public opinion, such as the coronavirus or the Black Lives Matter movement, to draw in as many followers as possible.
The United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a 10-year military cooperation deal in Rabat, Morocco on Friday — two days after signing a similar deal in Tunisia as he made his final stop on a North African tour aimed at strengthening the fight against Islamist extremists in war-torn Libya and the Sahel-Sahara region.
Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s Foreign Minister, shared a few words in a public address, “Our long-standing alliance has not only endured the test of time. We have stood side by side throughout the major challenges that shaped the 20th century, and we have transitioned into the 21st century stronger than ever.”
A sentiment which seems to be shared by the States who sees Morocco as a key ally in this terrorist-challenged area of the continent. Esper followed in kind, “Now more than ever, our two nations are working closely together to tackle the challenges of an increasingly complex security environment – ranging from counterterrorism and other transnational threats to regional instability and broader strategic challenges.”
The goal of Esper’s visit was to reinforce mutual cooperation between the two nations as Morocco already hosts the largest annual US joint military exercise in Africa, “African Lion” — cancelled this year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
His visit came as talks between Libyan rivals were set to restart Friday evening in Bouznika, near Rabat, according to a Moroccan official.
United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to guarantee that he will transfer power if he loses the November election, earning scorn from his Democratic challenger Joe Biden and even from within his own party.
“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump responded when asked at a White House press conference whether he is committed to the most basic tenet of democratic rule in the United States — the peaceful handover of power upon a change of president.
Biden, who holds a steady lead over the Republican incumbent in opinion polls ahead of the November 3 vote, expressed incredulity.
“What country are we in?” the former vice president said, when asked about Trump’s comment by reporters.
“Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a frequent but rare party critic of Trump, went further, saying that any hesitation on the core constitution guarantee was “unthinkable and unacceptable.”
“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” he tweeted.
– ‘Get rid’ of ballots -Trump followed up his remarks — unprecedented in modern times for a US president — by resuming his near daily complaint about the fairness of the election.
Apparently referring to the increased use of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said: “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.”
Trump frequently claims that mail-in ballots are vulnerable to mass fraud and are being encouraged by Democrats to rig the election.
However, there is no evidence that ballots sent through the postal service have ever led to significant fraud in US elections.
At the press conference, Trump seemed to suggest annulling what are expected to be the huge numbers of mailed-in ballots, noting that in such a scenario, he would remain in power.
“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation,” he said.
Trump’s latest insistence that there cannot be a free and fair presidential election came as pressure mounts over his plan to put a new, right-leaning justice on the Supreme Court.
Trump is set to nominate a replacement on Saturday for the late liberal-leaning justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week.
His Republican Party, which has a majority in the Senate, is then expected to quickly confirm the nominee.
If they succeed, the nine-justice court would then likely have a strongly pro-conservative bent for years to come.
Democrats are crying foul, saying that the process should wait until the results of the election are known, allowing the winner to shape the Supreme Court.
With Trump and the Republicans mounting a series of court challenges against the use of mail-in ballots, the chances of a contested election result are considered high.
On Wednesday, Trump said he thinks the election “will end up in the Supreme Court.”
A Louisville police officer was charged Wednesday with three counts of “wanton endangerment” in connection with the shooting of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman whose name has become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Judge Annie O’Connell announced the charges brought by a grand jury against Detective Brett Hankison, one of three police officers involved in the fatal shooting in March.
No charges were filed against the other two officers and the grand jury findings immediately sparked street protests in Louisville, the scene of weeks of anti-racism demonstrations.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Taylor family, condemned the grand jury decision.
“3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor,” Crump said on Twitter. “This is outrageous and offensive!”
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the grand jury charges as “not accountability and not close to justice.”
“This is the manifestation of what the millions of people who have taken to the streets to protest police violence already know: Modern policing and our criminal legal system are rotten to the core,” the ACLU said.
Hankison, who has been fired from the police department, was not charged for shooting Taylor but for shots that he fired into adjoining apartments, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said.
“I know that not everyone will be satisfied with the charges reported today,” Cameron said. “Every person has an idea of what they think justice is.”
– ‘They did knock’ – Taylor, an emergency room technician, was shot dead in her apartment when three plainclothes police officers turned up at her door to execute a search warrant.
Cameron said reports that the officers had executed a “no-knock” search warrant were incorrect and they had announced their presence.
“They did knock and announce,” he said. “That information was corroborated by another witness.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in bed with her, grabbed a gun and exchanged fire with the officers. He later said he thought they were criminals.
The officers, who had not activated their body cameras as required, shot Taylor multiple times, killing her. A police sergeant was wounded.
Cameron said Hankison had not fired the fatal shots and the two other officers who opened fire had done so in self-defense.
He said Hankison could face five years in prison for each count of “wanton endangerment” if convicted.
The city of Louisville settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor’s family for $12 million last week.
A state of emergency has been declared by the mayor of the city, which has a population of 600,000, with much of downtown closed to traffic.
Some downtown business owners boarded up their shops in anticipation of unrest sparked by the grand jury decision.
Louisville police chief Robert Schroeder said the authorities would not tolerate any “violence or destruction of property.”
“We are prepared to meet any challenge we may face,” Schroeder said, calling for demonstrators to protest “peacefully and lawfully.”
The civil settlement with Taylor’s family reflected the public pressure and emotion surrounding her death, which came about two months before that of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Floyd’s death triggered protests across the US against racial injustice and police brutality.
After death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senate Republicans have said they will not wait for election to vote on Trump pick.
United States President Donald Trump has urged the Republican-controlled Senate to act “without delay” on vetting a Supreme Court justice nominee following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In a tweet on Saturday, Trump responded to statements from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said shortly after Ginsburg’s death on Friday evening that the chamber would move forward with approving the president’s as-yet-unannounced nominee.
“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us,” Trump tweeted, “the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices.
“We have this obligation, without delay!”
The appointment is set to give conservatives a six-to-three majority in the highest court in the US and brings forward the prospect of sweeping changes on abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act, voting rights, and other issues of American life.
The president’s statement contradicts the projections of some analysts, who said Trump could delay the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice to shore up support among his conservative base going into the election on November 3.
A barrage of high-ranking Democratic officials, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, have called for the appointment to come after the election to let voters decide at the ballot box who will make the consequential decision.
With the remaining justices relatively young, the appointment could shape the court’s ideological position for years, if not decades, and it has already set off a fierce political fight in Washington, DC.
“Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” Biden said on Friday.
That was echoed by at least one Republican legislator, Maine Senator Susan Collins, who said Saturday that Trump should hold off on nominating anyone until after the presidential poll.
“In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on November 3rd,” Collins, who is facing a tough re-election race herself, said on Twitter.
Political battle Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy after they in 2016 refused to call hearings for the appointment of Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s pick to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
That nomination came 237 days before that year’s election, while as of Saturday, the 2020 election is just 45 days away.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, echoing, word-for-word, a statement McConnell made in 2016.
McConnell, for his part, has said his 2016 argument does not apply to the current situation because four years ago, the Senate was controlled by an opposing party to the president.
That justification was not central to Republicans’ justification for blocking Garland’s appointment at the time.
Trump also rejected the idea that his Republican Party was being hypocritical, telling reporters Saturday evening that the party’s decision to block Garland’s appointment was “the consequence of losing an election”, according to the White House press pool.
The president said he expects to announce his nominee for the top court next week and that his choice would likely be a woman. “I think we’ll have a very popular choice, whoever that may be,” Trump told reporters.
It remains unclear if the Republican brass will be able to appoint a new justice before the election, however.
Historically, the process of vetting and holding hearings on a Supreme Court nominee takes months.
Republicans have a slim majority of 53 seats in the 100-member chamber, and several incumbents face challenges in their home states. Approving a new justice amid controversy could potentially damage their prospects of re-election.
At least four Republicans would need to vote against a nominee to block the appointment, and several had made statements before Ginsburg’s death saying they would not, or be hesitant to, appoint anyone so close to the election.
Potential appointees To date, Trump has released over 40 names of possible Supreme Court nominees, most recently adding 20 potential picks to the original list released during his 2016 candidacy.
The list includes Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley, as well as several rising stars in the Republican Party, notably Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Trump said Saturday that he has narrowed his choices down to a short list, but did not reveal any names.
Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed source, reported that two women are included on Trump’s short list: Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appeals court judge and former clerk for Justice Scalia, and Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban-American federal appeals court judge and former Florida Supreme Court Justice.
Amul Thapar, a US District Court judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Allison Jones Rushing, a federal appeals court judge and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, are also at the top of the list of potential nominees
Politicians and celebrities are paying tribute to the late Supreme Court justice, who died from cancer Friday aged 87.
As word of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death spread on Friday, tributes quickly poured in from celebrities, athletes, and Democrats and Republicans alike.
Donald Trump said Ginsburg, who died at age 87 of complications from metastatic pancreas cancer, “was an amazing woman” who “led an amazing life.”
The US president’s remarks came shortly after a rally in Minnesota where he said one reason the upcoming presidential election is so important is because of possible Supreme Court vacancies.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, also following a campaign stop in Minnesota, called Ginsburg “a beloved figure” and said, “My heart goes out to all those who cared for her and care about her. And she practiced the highest American ideals as a justice, equality and justice under the law, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us.”
In a statement announcing her death, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said the US had lost “a jurist of historic stature”.
“We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her – a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” he said.
Former President George W Bush said Ginsburg was an inspiration to “more than one generation of women and girls” while former President Jimmy Carter called her “a beacon of justice”:
Carter on Ginsburg: ‘A beacon of justice’ Former President Jimmy Carter called Ruth Bader Ginsburg “a beacon of justice,” in a tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice whom he initially appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals and paving her…
In a tweet, Hillary Clinton thanked Ginsburg, who was appointed to the US Supreme Court by her husband President Bill Clinton in 1993, for paving the way for women – including herself.
“There will never be another like her,” Clinton wrote:
Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me. There will never be another like her. Thank you RBG.
Ginsburg died on Friday at age 87 from complications related to cancer, the US Supreme Court said in a statement.
She was only the second woman ever appointed to the nation’s top court when she took her seat 27 years ago.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that flags are flying half-staff over the US Capitol in honour of Ginsburg:
Tonight, the flags are flying at half staff over the Capitol to honor the patriotism of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Every woman and girl, and therefore every family, in America has benefitted from her brilliance.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Ginsburg before laying down a political marker, stating unequivocally that any potential nominee Trump puts forward to fill Ginsburg’s seat “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
The Senate and the nation mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the conclusion of her extraordinary American life.
My full statement:
Democrats will argue vociferously against Trump nominating someone to fill her seat so close to the election on November 3.
However, knowing the golden opportunity they have to replace a reliably liberal justice such as Ginsburg with a conservative justice, Trump and his Republican Party will likely move full steam ahead.
Joe Biden insisted Trump wait until it’s clear who will be the next president before nominating a new justice. “There is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed, saying that Ginsburg’s seat “should not be filled until we have a new president”:
The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.
US Senator Lindsey Graham, who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee will oversee the nomination hearing of Ginsburg’s successor if a nominee is put forth before January, left the upcoming political battle out of his tribute:
US Senate candidate, SC It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Justice Ginsburg.
Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer who possessed tremendous passion for her causes. She served with honor and distinction as a member of the Supreme Court.
It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Justice Ginsburg.
Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer who possessed tremendous passion for her causes. She served with honor and distinction as a member of the Supreme Court.
US Senate candidate, SC While I had many differences with her on legal philosophy, I appreciate her service to our nation.
My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.
May she Rest In Peace.
At the beginning of her tenure on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was considered left of centre; over the years, she developed into a reliably liberal firebrand, lionised by progressives.
US Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called her passing “a tremendous loss”:
The passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a tremendous loss to our country. She was an extraordinary champion of justice and equal rights, and will be remembered as one of the great justices in modern American history.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is one of US President Donald Trump’s lawyers and does not usually have many kind words for Democrats, also praised Ginsburg.
He said while he “disagreed with many of her decisions … they were all well reasoned and well argued”:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a credit to the Court.
I disagreed with many of her decisions but they were all well reasoned and well argued.
She was a close friend of her ideological opposite, Justice Scalia.
They both loved opera, law and the U.S.A.
May She Rest In Peace
World leaders offered up tributes as well, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said her “impact will undoubtedly be felt for generations”:
A profound and fearless advocate for women, equality, and justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s impact will undoubtedly be felt for generations. My thoughts are with her family, colleagues, and all who were inspired by her lifetime of service.
As only the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court (Sandra Day O’Connor was the first), Ginsburg was an icon to liberal women.
US football star Megan Rapinoe called Ginsburg’s death “devastating”.
This is devastating, an incalculable loss. We owe so much to RBG. Rest in Power Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #RIPRBG
Tributes flowed in from all corners of Hollywood: singers and musicians as well as television and movie stars, from the likes of Barbara Streisand, Katy Perry and Julia Louis-Dreyfus:
United States Supreme Court Justice and liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday, opening a crucial vacancy on the high court expected to set off a pitched political battle at the peak of the presidential campaign.
Ginsburg, 87, died after a fight with pancreatic cancer, the court announced, saying she passed away “this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, DC.”
Affectionately known as the Notorious RBG, Ginsburg was the oldest justice of nine on the Supreme Court.
She anchored its liberal faction, whittled to four by two appointments since 2017 from President Donald Trump.
Coming just 46 days before an election in which Trump lags his Democratic rival Joe Biden in the polls, the vacancy offers the Republican president a chance to solidly lock in a conservative majority at the court for decades to come.
That could lead to a court that would potentially limit abortion rights, strengthen the powers of business, and water down rights provided minorities and the LGBTQ community over the past three decades.
But Democrats are expected to fight tough to force a delay in her replacement until after the election — an uphill battle given the control Trump’s Republicans have on the Senate, which must approve any nominee.
– Fought for women’s rights – Ginsburg, who was Jewish, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933.
A legal scholar and law professor, she had a deep history in jurisprudence of standing up for women’s rights.
She became only the second woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice when she was appointed to the court in 1993 by president Bill Clinton.
“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement.
“Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
– Looming political fight – There was no immediate comment on her death from the White House.
Speaking to a rally in Minnesota and apparently still unaware of the news, Trump reminded the crowd of the likelihood that a new term would allow him to appoint new justices.
“The next one will have anywhere from one to four” justices, he said. “Think of that, that will totally change” the landscape on core legal issues, including abortion, he said.
ABC News later reported, citing well-informed sources, that Trump will move quickly to name a replacement.
In a pitch to conservative voters earlier this month, he unveiled a long list of possible replacements for court vacancies, all of them deeply conservative, that he would tap if reelected.
Asked in August by radio host Hugh Hewitt if he would nominate a justice just before the election, Trump replied: “Absolutely, I’d do it.”
“I would move quickly. Why not? I mean they would. The Democrats would if they were in this position.”
Democrats were expected to fight hard to prevent a replacement from being named right away.
Ginsburg herself was acutely aware of the stakes of her health on the court balance, and her fans fretted at her increasingly frequent trips to the hospital over the past two years.
According to NPR radio, Ginsburg raised the issue this week with her granddaughter Clara Spera.
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she said, according to Spera.
But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Friday he would move on any nominee from Trump, ignoring the precedent he set in 2016 in freezing Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy before the election.
“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said in a statement.
The deputies were sitting in their patrol car when a person approached and opened fire through the passenger window.
Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were injured when an unidentified gunman fired multiple shots on their patrol car in an apparent ambush, authorities have said.
The incident took place on Saturday night when the officers – a 31-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man – boarded their car near a metro rail station in the city about 7pm (02:00 GMT).
A video posted to the sheriff department’s Twitter account showed a figure approach the vehicle and open fire through the passenger side window of the car and run away.
The deputies, who had graduated from the academy 14-months earlier, were able to radio for help. Both underwent surgery on Saturday.
President Donald Trump, who has run a campaign increasingly reliant on a “law and order” message amid continuing racial justice protests, retweeted a video of the incident, writing: “Animals that must be hit hard!”
Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Joe Biden tweeted this “cold-blooded shooting is unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice”.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva, whose department has been criticised during recent protests over racial injustice, expressed frustration over anti-police sentiment as he urged people to pray for the officers at a late-night news conference.
“It p**ses me off,” he said. “It dismays me at the same time.”
Authorities were continued to search the area for the gunman on Sunday.
“We have a very, very generic description,” Captain Kent Wegener said of the suspect at a news conference.
Protesters gather outside emergency room A small group of protesters gathered outside the emergency room where the deputies were being treated.
In a tweet, the sheriff’s department said members of the group blocked the entrance and the exit and chanted “we hope they die”.
At least one man was taken into custody at the protest, and a woman, later identified by the LAist news site as reporter Jose Huang, was arrested and later released.
“I have seen @LASDHQ tweets and have thoughts and videos to share soon after a little rest,” she wrote on Twitter.
Warnings in place along entire west coast, as high winds fan catastrophic fires in Oregon, Washington and California.
Wildfires raged unchecked across large parts of the western United States on Wednesday in blazes unprecedented in their scale and ferocity, as Oregon warned of many deaths after blazes destroyed at least five small towns.
Winds gusting as high as 80km/h (50mph) fanned dozens of catastrophic fires across a large swathe of Oregon and neighbouring Washington state – places that rarely experience such intense fire activity because of the Pacific Northwest’s cool and wet climate.
Flames ravaged the towns of Detroit, Blue River, Vida, Phoenix and Talent, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said Wednesday.
The blazes, which also forced the evacuation of much of Medford in southern Oregon, could bring “the greatest loss in human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history”, Brown said at a news briefing.
In Washington state, a one year old boy was killed and his parents badly burned as tried to flee a fire, police said.
Nearly 100 fires are raging across the west of the US, with 28 in California, where nearly 930,800 hectares (2.3 million acres) have been burned and three people were on Wednesday confirmed dead. A massive cloud of smoke has enveloped much of the state leaving San Francisco beneath an eerie orange glow.
A 12-year-old boy and his grandmother died in a wildfire about 50 miles south of Portland, KOIN News reported. In Washington state a 1-year-old boy was killed and his parents severely burned as they tried to flee a fire in Okanogan County, police said.
Firefighters retreated from uncontrollable blazes in Oregon as officials gave residents “go now” orders to evacuate, meaning they had only minutes to leave their homes.
“It was like driving through hell,” Jody Evans told local television station NewsChannel21 after a midnight evacuation from Detroit, southwest of Portland.
Officials in the Pacific Northwest said they did not recall ever having to deal with so many destructive fires at once in the areas where they were burning.
Minutes to escape In suburban Clackamas County, home to about 420,000 people who mostly work in nearby Oregon, four major fires were burning, with sheriff’s deputies travelling with chainsaws in patrol cars to remove fallen trees blocking roads.
“These winds are so incredible and are spreading so fast, we don’t have a lot of time,” said Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts.
Fires were burning in seven Oregon counties, and rural and suburban homes miles away from Portland, Oregon’s largest city, were under preliminary orders to prepare for possible evacuations. Three prisons were evacuated late on Tuesday.
Brown saw no respite to the hot, windy weather and requested a federal emergency declaration for the state.
“Absolutely no area in the state is free from fire,” said Doug Graf, chief of fire protection for the Oregon Department of Forestry.
The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to wildfires, but most of the biggest ones until now have been in the eastern or southern parts of the region – where the weather is considerably hotter and drier and the vegetation more fire-prone than it is on the western side of the region.
Fires in 2017 and 2018 reached the top of the Cascade Mountains – the long spine that divides dry eastern Oregon from the lush western part of the state – but had never before spread into the valleys below, said Doug Grafe, chief of Fire Protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Climate scientists blame global warming for extreme wet and dry seasons in the US West that have caused grasses and scrub to flourish then dry out, leaving abundant fuel for fires.
“We do not have a context for this amount of fire on the landscape,” he said. “Seeing them run down the canyons the way they have – carrying tens of miles in one period of an afternoon and not slowing down in the evening – [there is] absolutely no context for that in this environment.”
Further north in Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee said more than 133,546 hectares (330,000 acres) had burned in a 24-hour period – an area larger than the acreage that normally burns during entire fire seasons that stretch from spring into the autumn.
‘Heartbreaking’ About 80 percent of the small eastern Washington farming town of Malden was levelled by flames from a fast-moving fire on Monday. Among the buildings that burned were the town’s fire station, post office, city hall and library.
“It’s an unprecedented and heartbreaking event,” Inslee told reporters.
In California, more than 14,000 firefighters continue to battle fires and all 18 National Forests have been closed due to “unprecedented and historic fire conditions.”
To the south, the Creek Fire, about 35 miles (56 km) north of Fresno, tore through the Sierra National Forest, destroying more than 360 homes and structures.
“This fire is just burning at an explosive rate,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for California’s state fire authority. “You add the winds, the dry conditions, the hot temperatures, it’s the perfect recipe.”
“It’s extraordinary, the challenge that we’ve faced so far this season,” Governor Gavin Newsom said.
Helicopters have been used in recent days to rescue hundreds of people stranded in the burning Sierra National Forest, where a fire has destroyed 365 buildings, including at least 45 homes. About 5,000 buildings were threatened, fire officials said.
In Southern California, fires burned in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. People in foothill communities east of Los Angeles were warned to be ready to flee, but the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds were weaker than predicted.
President Donald Trump admits he tried to minimize the lethal threat of the coronavirus at the outset of the pandemic in audio recordings released Wednesday from interviews with veteran US journalist Bob Woodward.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in an interview with Woodward on March 19, according to a Media preview of the book “Rage,” due to be published September 15.
“I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” he said in the conversation with Woodward, which was recorded.
By contrast, in earlier interviews with Woodward, he made clear he understood well that the virus was “deadly stuff” — far more dangerous than the ordinary flu.
In public, however, Trump had been repeatedly telling Americans that the virus should not be considered much of a danger and would “disappear” by itself.
The frank admission that he decided to diminish the severity of the easily transmittable disease — right as it began to tear through the world’s richest country — brought instant condemnation from Trump’s opponents.
“He knew how deadly it was,” Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden said while campaigning in Michigan. “He lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months.”
“It was a life and death betrayal of the American people,” Biden added.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump’s only motivation in downplaying the dangers had been to reassure the public.
“It’s important to express confidence, it’s important to express calm,” she said. “The president has never lied to the American public on Covid.”
Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert and member of the White House task force on Covid-19, said he did not get the sense the president had distorted concerns.
“In my discussions with him, they were always straightforward about the concerns that we had… When he would go out, I’d hear him discussing the same sort of things,” Fauci told Fox News correspondent John Roberts Wednesday.
Often the president wanted to keep the country from getting “down and out,” Fauci said. But he added: “I don’t recall anything that was any gross distortion in things that I spoke to him about.”
Mixed messages – The US death toll from Covid-19 is expected soon to pass 200,000, looming heavily over the November 3 presidential election in which Trump is currently behind in the polls.
The president has repeatedly insisted that he has managed the pandemic successfully, pointing to his early decisions to ban travel from China, where the virus first appeared, and from hotspots in Europe.
However, opinion polls show some two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Trump’s actions.
At minimum, Trump long delivered mixed messages at a time when the country was looking for guidance. He veered from declaring himself the equivalent of a war-time president to contradicting government scientists and calling for an early reopening of the economy.
It took until July before Trump even wore a face mask in public. Early on, he also frequently praised the Chinese government’s response, only later pivoting to blame Beijing for the global health crisis.
In February — well after he had been briefed by advisors on the dangers posed by the coronavirus — he said that the virus might go away by April “with the heat.”
In March, he described the government’s “tremendous control over” the situation and said “It will go away. Just stay calm.”
That same month, Trump compared the coronavirus to the common flu, which he noted kills “between 27,000 and 70,000 per year” yet “nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.”
Many Republicans have pinned their political futures to Trump, while Democrats are running as bulwarks against him.
The battle for control of Congress is solidifying into a race about President Donald Trump, as Republicans hitch their fortunes to their party’s leader and Democrats position themselves as a bulwark against him – and as partners in a potential Joe Biden White House.
So far, voters are signalling they want to finish the job they started in 2018 by installing Democrats for House majority control. Now, they are on track to potentially do the same in the Senate.
“The president continues to overshadow and impact the races for the Senate and the House,” said Nathan Gonzales, the editor of Inside Elections, which tracks the campaigns.
Usually, a president at the top of the ticket boosts his party’s chances, but Trump’s slump is shifting the congressional map, strategists said. House Democrats are expected to easily retain the majority, without too many losses. The Senate, now in Republican hands, could almost as easily flip to Democrats.
Together, the congressional races provide a snapshot of an American electorate ahead of a voting season unlike any other.
The coronavirus crisis, a shattered economy and a new civil rights era are forcing a reassessment of the way the federal government approaches long-standing problems. In a volatile political climate, healthcare, jobs and even what the parties are calling the soul of the nation are all on the ballot.
As Democrats gain momentum, Republicans are digging in, echoing Trump’s harsh criticism of the nationwide protests over police violence, particularly against Black people. He sounds dire warnings about the demonstrations happening in some cities. It is an opening for the GOP, an attempt to win back wary suburban voters, particularly white women, who voted for Trump in 2016 but have since drifted away.
“It’s a winning message,” said Bob Salera, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm.
The NRCC used Trump’s visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to unleash a flurry of attacks against vulnerable Democrats, primarily those freshmen who built the House majority in 2018 from districts the president won in
‘Win back the Senate’ The Democratic campaigns are taking the opposite approach. As their calling card to voters, they are offering healthcare policy – preserving and expanding the coverage under the Affordable Care Act and strategies to end the COVID-19 crisis.
Ten advertisements released by House Democrats last week targeted Republicans who voted to repeal and replace “Obamacare” or pushed a quick economic reopening despite COVID-19 risks. Democratic Senate candidates are taking similar cues as they appeal to voters concerned about healthcare access or costs.
“We’re gonna win back the Senate,” Biden told donors last week on a fundraising call.
The former vice president is eyeing a handful of Senate seats he believes Democrats could wrest from Republicans, with plans to campaign in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and other states where Republican senators are vulnerable.
Two months before the election, the races are still in flux. Any boost in Trump’s standing could bolster Republican chances, analysts said. Any missteps by Biden could hurt Democrats.
On top of that is the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis, which upended campaigning. While many Republicans are following Trump’s lead, holding events and meeting voters in person, Democrats are largely matching Biden’s approach of avoiding health risks by holding campaign events online.
A memo from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee obtained by The Associated Press news agency said candidates should remind voters “through your actions” that they take the COVID-19 threat seriously. Republicans mock Democrats’ virtual campaigning as hiding from voters.
Republicans hold a slim 53-47 majority in the Senate. That means they could afford to lose two or three seats, while Democrats would need to pick up three or four for a working majority. If either party has 50 seats, the vice president becomes a tiebreaker.
While election season began with the parties on defence, protecting their incumbent senators, it has shifted to a decidedly lopsided Senate map.
Only one Democrat, Senator Doug Jones in Alabama, appears seriously at risk of defeat, running in a Deep South state where Trump is more popular than almost anywhere else.
The list of potentially endangered Republican senators has only grown. Senator Cory Gardner is running against popular former Governor John Hickenlooper in Colorado, a state that has become more Democratic blue than toss-up purple.
In battleground Arizona, Republican Senator Martha McSally is trailing Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut. GOP Senator Susan Collins is relying on her independent brand to try to fend off challenger Sara Gideon in Maine.
Some incumbent Republican senators walk a fine line on support for Trump. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina distances himself from Trump on some issues, but pulls close on others, and he joined the president for his speech accepting the GOP nomination on the White House lawn.
GOP senators in Iowa, Montana and Georgia are now facing races suddenly in play. Even in Texas, South Carolina and Kentucky, where big-name GOP senators are up for re-election – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Bluegrass State, Lindsey Graham in the Palmetto State – races are becoming costly, even if the seats are not seriously in jeopardy.
‘Trump continues to drive Democratic energy’ In the House, Republicans face an even tougher haul.
They would need to net some 19 seats to wrest control from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, a tall order in any election but especially now in the hard-fought suburban districts with Trump wobbly at the top of the ticket.
Some of the Democrats elected in 2018 in places Trump won in 2016 were surprise winners, like Representative Kendra Horn in Oklahoma City, and they are among the most vulnerable.
Representative Ben McAdams in Utah faces a challenge from Burgess Owens, a former NFL player and Black conservative who delivered a standout speech at the GOP convention.
Some freshman Democrats, though, have tried to carve out brands to steel themselves against challenges in districts where Republicans typically would win.
Many of the issues once thought to define the candidates – including the Trump impeachment votes – have dimmed against the COVID-19 crisis.
At the same time, Trump’s willingness to push the norms of executive power suddenly makes Congress matter not just as a legislative branch of government, but one conducting oversight.
Gonzales said after GOP losses in 2018, there was an expectation that Trump atop the ticket would bring back Republican voters in 2020.
“But President Trump continues to drive Democratic energy and turnout,” he said.