For the first time in US history, a chamber of the United States Congress is expected to vote on Friday to give Washington, DC statehood – a move towards fuller voting rights for the city’s majority Black population.
“Across the United States today, Americans are taking down the remnants of the Confederacy as symbols of inequality, just as the House of Representatives is raising up in our nation’s capital to ensure equality for its citizens,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is Washington’s non-voting delegate to the Congress.
Norton, 83, has represented the District of Columbia in the US Congress since 1991. Norton cannot vote on legislation in the House but otherwise enjoys the privileges of a member of Congress. DC has no US senators.
“My life as a third generation Washingtonian has marched toward this milestone,” Norton said at a news conference at the US Capitol on Thursday.
The DC statehood bill has 226 co-sponsors, more than enough to pass the House. But Republicans in the Senate oppose the measure, making Friday’s vote symbolic.
Recent events in Washington, DC prompted House Democratic leadership to bring the DC statehood bill to a vote. In April, Republicans in the US Senate shorted the city $755m when the Congress doled out emergency funding for the coronavirus fight.
More recently, city residents and local leaders were outraged when federal law enforcement violently cleared protesters from Lafayette Square, a public park near the White House, and President Donald Trump called up military troops to be on standby at bases just outside the city.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recognises DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, left, during a joint news conference in advance of Friday’s historic House vote on District of Columbia statehood bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC [Yuri Gripas/Reuters]
If Washington, DC were a state “its residents would be protected from the kind of civil rights violations we saw in Lafayette Square”, said Representative Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House.
“This [is] not just an issue of local governance and fairness. It is a major civil rights issue as well. We must bring to an end the disenfranchisement of 711,000 American citizens,” Hoyer said.
Statehood is the only way to recognise the full voting rights of DC residents and bringing the bill to the House for a vote now is a way “to show respect to the citizens” of DC who have been denied the right to representation in Congress for two centuries, Hoyer said.
In 2016, 86 percent of DC voters said “yes” to a referendum authorising the City Council to petition Congress for statehood.
Signs supporting DC statehood are on display outside a voting place in Washington, DC in 2016 when residents voted to become the US’s 51st state [File: Susan Walsh/AP Photo]
The bill is unlikely to become law unless Democrats gain a majority in the Senate in the upcoming November election. Even then, it would face an uphill climb requiring support from Republicans.
“They want to make Washington [DC] a state to rig the rules of our democracy and try to give the Democratic Party permanent power,” Senator Tom Cotton told NBC News on Thursday.
In May, President Trump told the New York Post newspaper: “DC will never be a state. Why? So we can have two more Democratic – Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No, thank you. That’ll never happen.”
The balance of power between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate is a point of discontent. While Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, they represent fewer Americans than do Senate Democrats.
Tomorrow there will be a historic vote on #DCStatehood in the House. It’s unacceptable that 700,000+ Americans in the capital of our democracy—63% of whom are people of color—have no voting representation in Congress. We must forever end this injustice: DC statehood now!
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) June 25, 2020
The District of Columbia is comprised of 10 square miles (26sq km) of land ceded to the federal government by the state of Maryland in 1788. At the time, the US government was still in formation. George Washington was not yet installed as the first president in 1789. The city of Washington was an undeveloped swamp.
The US constitution mandates that a federal district serve as the seat of government that falls under the jurisdiction of Congress. The bill would shrink that district to encompass a smaller area to include the US Capitol, the national mall and a number of federal buildings, the rest of the land would become a state.
The Washington metropolitan area, including adjacent cities and suburbs of Virginia and Maryland, is now the sixth-largest metro area in the US with a population of more than six million.
With 711,000 residents, DC has a greater population than two states, Vermont and Wyoming. North Dakota and Alaska are similar in population.
The last time new states were admitted to the union was Hawaii and Alaska in 1959. Washington, DC residents received the right to vote for the president in 1961 and DC carries three votes in the US Electoral College which determines the winner of presidential elections.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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