Democratic governors complained Wednesday of voter intimidation and an “assault on American democracy” from President Trump, based on steps he and his campaign are reportedly considering.
The 11 governors promised to count “all votes cast in the upcoming election,” and vowed to resist any effort to call that process into question.
“There is absolutely no excuse for promoting the intimidation or harassment of voters. These are all blatant attempts to deny our constituents the right to have their voices heard, as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, and to know the will of the people will be carried out,” said the governors, which spanned from Jay Inslee in Washington to Ralph Northam in Virginia.
They also said if the results show Mr. Trump lost, “he must leave office — period.”
The president has sparked doubts after reusing to commit to a transfer of power after the election.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” the president told reporters last week, adding that he’d been “complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”
Several of the governors who signed on to Wednesday’s statement have overseen changes to weaken fraud checks, such as witness signatures or obtaining mail-in ballots, saying they want to ease voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Trump and his team have sued several of the governors over the changes.
The president has also urged people to work as election monitors to try to spot fraud.
And The Atlantic has reported that the Trump team is pondering ways to install their own slate of electors in states where it appears they have lost the vote, but where Republicans control the levers of power.
The Democratic governors complained about that, too.
“We will not allow anyone to willfully corrupt the democratic process by delegitimizing the outcome or appointing fraudulent electors against the will of the voters,” they said.
Ironically, many of the governors, serve in states that do just that.
Washington, Oregon, California, New Jersey, New Mexico and Delaware all belong to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which in theory would commit their delegates to vote for the person who wins the most votes nationwide, regardless of who won their own state.
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Beirut blast: Tracing the explosives that tore apart the capital |NationalTribune.com
Beirut, Lebanon – It was only after a massive explosion ripped through Beirut that most people in Lebanon learned about the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a hangar at the city’s port. The detonation of the material – used in bombs and fertilisers – sent shockwaves through the Lebanese capital, killing scores of people,…
Beirut, Lebanon – It was only after a massive explosion ripped through Beirut that most people in Lebanon learned about the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a hangar at the city’s port.
The detonation of the material – used in bombs and fertilisers – sent shockwaves through the Lebanese capital, killing scores of people, injuring thousands, and leaving much of the city a mangled mess.
In the explosion’s devastating aftermath, many Lebanese are expressing immense shock and sadness at the destruction, and great anger towards those who allowed this to happen.
Analysis of public records and documents published online show senior Lebanese officials knew for more than six years that the ammonium nitrate was stored in Hangar 12 of Beirut’s port.
And they were well aware of the dangers it posed.
So how did this happen? Here’s what we know so far.
The cargo of ammonium nitrate arrived in Lebanon in September 2013, on board a Russian-owned cargo vessel flying a Moldovan Flag. The Rhosus, according to information from the ship-tracking site, Fleetmon, was heading from Georgia to Mozambique.
It was forced to dock in Beirut after facing technical problems at sea, according to (PDF) lawyers representing the boat’s crew. But Lebanese officials prevented the vessel from sailing, and eventually, it was abandoned by its owners and crew – information partially corroborated by Fleetmon.
The ship’s dangerous cargo was then offloaded and placed in Hangar 12 of Beirut port, a large grey structure facing the country’s main north-south highway at the main entrance to the capital.
Months later, on June 27, 2014, then-director of Lebanese Customs Shafik Merhi sent a letter addressed to an unnamed “Urgent Matters judge”, asking for a solution to the cargo, according to documents shared online.
Customs officials sent at least five more letters over the next three years – on December 5, 2014, May 6, 2015, May 20, 2016, October 13, 2016, and October 27, 2017 – asking for guidance. They proposed three options: Export the ammonium nitrate, hand it over to the Lebanese Army, or sell it to the privately-owned Lebanese Explosives Company.
ممكن حدا يخبرنا مين القاضي العظيم اللي نيم هيدي القضية وليش؟ صراحة شي ببكي على حالنا @MarieClaudeNajm pic.twitter.com/EuPy7loktF
— Wadih AL-ASMAR (@walasmar) August 4, 2020
One letter sent in 2016 noted there had been “no reply” from judges to previous requests.
It pleaded: “In view of the serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions, we reaffirm our request to please request the marine agency to re-export these goods immediately to preserve the safety of the port and those working in it, or to look into agreeing to sell this amount” to the Lebanese Explosives Company.
Again, there was no reply.
A year later, Badri Daher, the new Lebanese Customs Administration director, wrote to a judge once again.
In the October 27, 2017, letter, Daher urged the judge to come to a decision on the matter in view of “the danger … of leaving these goods in the place they are, and to those working there”.
Nearly three years later, the ammonium nitrate was still in the hangar.
A view of the harbour area in Beirut following the massive explosion on Tuesday afternoon [Wael Hamzeh/EPA]
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Tuesday declared the explosion at the port a “great national disaster” and promised that “all those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price”.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called the failure to deal with the ammonium nitrate “unacceptable” and vowed the “harshest punishment” for those responsible. An investigation has now been launched, and the committee is to refer its findings to the judiciary within five days.
The cause of the explosion is still not clear, but many Lebanese were quick to point out what they believe to be the root causes; immense mismanagement in a broken state run by a corrupt political class who they say treat the country’s inhabitants with contempt.
“I don’t want to die” a young girl screams as the blast hits. Those responsible for this must pay. pic.twitter.com/yTyCaoPtvc
— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) August 4, 2020
It is also not lost on Beirut’s residents that this tragedy emanated from the city’s port, a public utility known locally as the “Cave of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” for the vast amount of state funds that have reportedly been stolen there over the decades.
The allegations include claims that billions of dollars in tax revenue never reached the state treasury due to schemes to undervalue imports, as well as accusations of systematic and widespread bribery to avoid paying customs taxes.
“Beirut is gone and those who ruled this country for the past decades cannot get away with this,” Rima Majed, a Lebanese political activist and sociologist said in a tweet.
“They are criminals and this is probably the biggest of their (too many) crimes so far.”
Deadly blast hits Kabul mosque during Friday prayers |NationalTribune.com
A blast in a mosque during Friday prayers in the western part of capital Kabul has killed at least four people and wounded at least eight, Afghanistan’s interior ministry said. “Explosives placed inside the Sher Shah Suri Mosque exploded during Friday prayers,” said a statement issued by the ministry, which added that the mosque’s prayer…
A blast in a mosque during Friday prayers in the western part of capital Kabul has killed at least four people and wounded at least eight, Afghanistan’s interior ministry said.
“Explosives placed inside the Sher Shah Suri Mosque exploded during Friday prayers,” said a statement issued by the ministry, which added that the mosque’s prayer leader Azizullah Mofleh was among those killed.
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Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said police have cordoned off the area and helped move the wounded to ambulances and nearby hospitals.
Arian told Anadolu Agency that the incident took place in the posh Karta-4 neighbourhood of the city.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but a mosque attack earlier this month was claimed by an ISIL (or ISIS) group affiliate, headquartered in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
“Interestingly, every time you have the peace process gaining some momentum and pace, you have these kinds of attacks in the country,” Habib Wardak, a national security analyst based in Kabul, told Al Jazeera.
“The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack that happened last week on a mosque in Kabul, so despite the fact that you have these news and press conference from the government that they have eliminated ISIL, how can they conduct such sophisticated operations?”
The Taliban was quick to distance itself from the attack.
In a social media post, the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, said this attack is part of conspiracy by the “enemy” at a crucial time when peace talks are advancing.
The Afghan government dubbed the attack as “inhuman” and “against the principles of Islam.”
Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s senior civilian representative in Kabul, stressed the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
“As we face a historical opportunity for peace, spoilers can’t be allowed to disrupt it. We stand with #Afghanistan in the fight against terror,” he said on Twitter.
“I strongly condemn the attack on Sher Shah Suri mosque. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. As we face a historical opportunity for peace, spoilers can’t be allowed to disrupt it. We stand with #Afghanistan in the fight against terror.”- #NATO SCR @pontecorvoste
— NATO in Afghanistan (@NATOscr) June 12, 2020
Friday’s blast had parallels to one earlier this month, when an explosion tore apart a famous Kabul mosque and led to the death of renowned Afghan cleric Maulvi Ayaz Niazi.
“In this attack, the imam seems to be the target, not the rest of the crowd. These are the imams who have supported the peace process with the Taliban movement,” Wardak said.
“The other political aspect for these kinds of attacks is that there are peace spoilers trying to convey a message that peace with the Taliban will not eradicate violence in the country because you have ISIL.”
People inspect the interior of the Kabul mosque following the blast [Rahmat Gul/AP Photo]
Violence has spiked in recent weeks in Afghanistan with most of the attacks claimed by the ISIL affiliate.
The United States blamed the armed group for a horrific attack last month on a maternity hospital in the capital that killed 24 people, including two infants and several new mothers.
The ISIL affiliate also took responsibility for an attack on a bus carrying journalists in Kabul on May 30, killing two.
It also claimed credit for an attack on the funeral of a strongman loyal to the government last month that killed 35 people.
Meanwhile, the US is attempting to broker peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban to end 18 years of war.
Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in the region earlier this week trying to resuscitate a US peace deal with the Taliban.
The peace deal signed in February calls for the withdrawal of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in return for a commitment by the Taliban to not launch attacks on the US or its allies.
Fuel truck bomb blast kills dozens in Syria’s Afrin: Turkey
Among those who were killed were women and children – as well as six Turkish-backed opposition fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [Syrian Civil Defence/AFP] At least 40 civilians have been killed in a fuel tanker bomb blast in a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkish-backed opposition fighters, according to Turkey’s defence ministry.…
Among those who were killed were women and children – as well as six Turkish-backed opposition fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [Syrian Civil Defence/AFP]
At least 40 civilians have been killed in a fuel tanker bomb blast in a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkish-backed opposition fighters, according to Turkey’s defence ministry.
The ministry said in a Twitter post that another 47 people were wounded in Tuesday’s explosion in a crowded street of Afrin.
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There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Turkey blamed the attack on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara accuses the YPG of being the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an armed rebellion against Turkey since 1984. The PKK is considered a “terrorist group” by Ankara and many Western capitals.
Syrian activists said the blast on Tuesday burned several people to death, including some who were stuck inside their vehicles.
In a hospital yard, 10 charred bodies were covered with blankets next to ambulances. In an ambulance nearby, two charred bodies were inside, according to videos and photos circulated by activists.
The blast set several cars and shops on fire and tanker trucks were used to fight the blaze.
Amid fears the death toll could rise, activists in northern Syria urged people in the Afrin area to head to hospitals and donate blood.
Similar explosions in areas controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters have killed many people in recent months, attacks that Ankara blames on Kurdish fighters.
Turkey and allied Syrian opposition fighters took control of Afrin in a military operation in 2018.
Ankara supports the Syrian opposition in the war against President Bashar al-Assad, but has worked closely with his ally, Russia, to secure and monitor local ceasefires.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
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