India-Middle East Economic Corridor Possible Reason For Hamas Attack: Biden
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 26: US President Joe Biden has hinted that one of the reasons behind Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel was the recent announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor that integrates the entire region with a network of rail, road and ports.
"I'm convinced one of the reasons Hamas attacked when they did, and I have no proof of this, just my instinct tells me, is because of the progress we were making towards regional integration for Israel, and regional integration overall. We can't leave that work behind," Biden said.
The US President made the remarks during a joint press conference with Australian PM Anthony Albanese on Wednesday (US local time).
During the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, USA, UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.
The corridor will encourage and provide impetus to economic development through enhanced connectivity and economic integration between Asia, West Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as per sources.
The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor will consist of two separate corridors, the East corridor connecting India to West Asia/Middle East and the Northern corridor connecting West Asia/Middle East to Europe.
It will include a rail line, which upon completion, will provide a reliable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network to supplement the existing multi-modal transport routes enhancing transhipment of goods and services between South East Asia through India to West Asia/Middle East Europe.
Biden recently lauded the corridor and said the project will spur opportunities for investment across two continents.
He said that the rail port project is part of an effort to build a more sustainable, integrated Middle East.
US Shooting: At least 22 dead in Maine, manhunt for person of interest underway
MAINE, Oct 26: Police fanned out across southern Maine searching for a person of interest, Robert R. Card, a U.S. Army reservist who law enforcement had been committed to a mental health facility over the summer.
They circulated photographs of a bearded man in a brown hooded sweatshirt and jeans at one of the crime scenes armed with what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle.
Public school districts in the area canceled classes on Thursday and police urged residents to stay indoors.
"This is a dark day for Maine," Governor Mills said at a press conference. "Mr. Card is considered armed and dangerous and police advise that Maine people should not approach him under any circumstances."
Maine State Police found a white SUV they believe Card drove to the town of Lisbon, about 7 miles (11 km) to the southeast, and urged people to remain indoors in both Lewiston and Lisbon. Early Thursday, police also told residents in the town of Bowdoin, about 12 miles east of Lewiston, to shelter in place. Card lives in Bowdoin, according to public records.
There was an eerie quiet in Lewiston and Lisbon on Thursday morning, with almost no cars on the roads and just a few people outside. Many downtown businesses appeared to be closed.
A Maine law enforcement bulletin identified Card, 40, as a trained firearms instructor at the U.S. Army Reserve base in Saco, Maine, who recently said he had been hearing voices and had other mental health issues.
He threatened to shoot up the National Guard base in Saco and was "reported to have been committed to mental health facility for two weeks during summer 2023 and subsequently released," according to the bulletin from the Maine Information & Analysis Center, a unit of Maine State Police.
The U.S. Army said Card was a sergeant and a petroleum supply specialist in the Army Reserve who had never been deployed in combat since enlisting in 2002.
Police said the shooting began shortly before 7 p.m. at the the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley. A short time later, they received reports of a shooting at Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant, about three miles (5 km) away.
"In a split second your world gets turn upside down for no good reason," Schemengees posted on its Facebook page. "How can we make any sense of this."
Just-In-Time said in a Facebook post that its staff were "devastated for our community."
"None of this seems real, but unfortunately it is," it said in the post. "We lost some amazing and whole hearted people from our bowling family and community last night. There are no words to fix this or make it better."
Guns are lightly regulated in Maine, a largely rural state near the northeast border with Canada where about half of all adults live in a household with a gun, according to a 2020 study by RAND Corporation. Maine does not require a permit to buy or carry a gun, and it does not have so-called "red flag" laws seen in some other states that allow law enforcement to temporarily disarm people deemed to be dangerous.
However, at least one federal judge has ruled such laws unconstitutional in light of a landmark 2022 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that said that the Constitution grants an individual the right to carry weapons in public.
U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken to state officials to offer the federal government's support and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast until Monday to honor the victims, his office said.
"This is a frightening, frightening situation," White House spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC. "More needs to be done to get these weapons of war off the streets and out of people's hands walking around Walmarts and grocery stores and bowling alleys."
The range of estimated fatalities would be on par with the annual number of homicides that normally occur in Maine, which has the fourth-lowest murder rate in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of annual homicides in the state has fluctuated between 16 and 29 since 2012, according to Maine State Police.
The number of U.S. shootings in which four or more people were shot has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, with 647 occurring in 2022 and 679 projected to occur in 2023, based on trends as of July, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
The deadliest modern U.S. mass shooting on record is the massacre of 58 people by a gunman firing on a Las Vegas country music festival from a high-rise hotel perch in 2017.
Hamas, Putin Out To Annihilate Democracies: Biden
WASHINGTON, Oct 20: President Joe Biden on Thursday said Hamas and Russia are both out to "annihilate" democracies, in an impassioned speech to the nation from the Oval Office where he made the case for assistance to Ukraine and Israel as a vital US interest.
Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin "represent different threats but they share this in common: they both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy," Biden said in the prime-time speech.
"We can't let petty partisan angry politics get in the way of our responsibility as a great nation. We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win. I refuse to let that happen," Biden said in a televised address to the nation.
He said he would ask Congress on Friday to approve massive funding to help Ukraine and Israel, arguing that this was an investment for the United States' future as a global leader.
"It is a smart investment that's going to pay dividends for American security for generations," the 80-year-old Democrat said in just the second speech of his presidency delivered from behind the historic Resolute Desk.
"American leadership is what holds the world together. American alliances are what keep us, America, safe. American values are what make us a partner that other nations want to work with," he said.
"America is a beacon to the world. Still. Still," he said.
Fresh from a whirlwind trip to Israel this week, Biden wants to win over war-weary voters and hardline Republicans as he ramps up his 2024 reelection bid.
The White House is said to be teeing up a huge request to Congress for a $100 billion package that would include funding for Israel in its war with Hamas and also for Ukraine's battle against Russian invasion.
Tying together two conflicts an ocean away from the United States is a bid by Biden to frame them as part of a bigger struggle to shape the world order and protect Americans at home.
Presidents traditionally reserve speeches from the solemn setting of the Oval Office for moments of key national significance.
Biden's only previous address from there was in June when he hailed a deal with Congress to avert what would have been a catastrophic US debt default.
But Congress has now been paralyzed for more than two weeks as divided Republicans, who control the majority in the House, fail repeatedly to agree on electing a House speaker.
Hard-right Republicans, and a growing number of voters, are also strongly opposed to adding to the $43.9 billion in security assistance that the United States has committed to Ukraine since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
US media reported that Friday's package request will include $10 billion in emergency assistance for Israel and $60 billion for Ukraine.
Just before the speech, Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Zelensky welcomed the recent delivery of ATACMS long-range missiles from the United States, adding: "Ukraine is grateful for the vital and enduring US support in our fight for freedom and against Russian aggression."
Biden has also been striking a statesmanlike tone on the Israel-Hamas war with an eye on US voters where there is strong support for Israel -- even if leftwing Democrats oppose his stance.
In Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Biden backed Israel as it gears up for a ground invasion of Gaza after the October 7 attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas which killed more than 1,400 people.
But he also brokered a deal to get some aid through Egypt into the Gaza Strip, where Israeli bombing since has killed at least 3,785 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas health ministry.
The threat of a wider Middle Eastern conflict meanwhile looms in the background.
The United States has already moved two aircraft carriers into the eastern Mediterranean to deter Iran or Lebanon's Hezbollah, both allies of Hamas, from getting involved.
‘No place in America for hate against anyone,’ President Joe Biden condemns murder of 6-year-old Illinois boy
WASHINGTON, Oct 16: President Joe Biden expressed his shock and sorrow over the murder of the child and the attempted murder of his mother in their home in Illinois.
On Saturday, a 71-year-old man stabbed a 6-year-old boy to death and wounded his mother in a hate crime motivated by their Muslim faith and the war between Israel and Hamas, according to police.
The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace.
“This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and
who we are,” Biden said in a statement.
He also called on Americans to unite and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred.
“I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate. We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone,” he said.
He offered his condolences and prayers to the family, including for the mother’s recovery, and to the broader Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American communities.
The suspect, Joseph Czuba, was the landlord of the victims, who lived on the ground floor of his home in Plainfield Township, Ill.
On Saturday morning, he allegedly knocked on their door and attacked them with a large military-style knife, shouting, “You Muslims must die!” at them, as the boy’s father learned from text messages.
The boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian-American who had recently celebrated his sixth birthday, died from 26 stab wounds, while his mother, Hanaan Shahin, 32, survived with more than a dozen stab wounds. She was in critical condition but expected to recover.
Will County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene and found Czuba sitting in front of the home with a cut on his forehead. He was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment.
“Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis,” the Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
US President dials Palestine counterpart to condemn Hamas attack
WASHINGTON, Oct 15: US President Joe Biden recently called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the attack by Hamas on Israel and reiterate that the declared militant group doesn't represent Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that the Biden administration hopes to push a new weapons package for Israel and Ukraine through Congress that will be significantly higher than $2 billion.
Sullivan, in an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation," said U.S. President Joe Biden will have intensive talks with the U.S. Congress this week on the need for the package to be approved.
Republicans' struggles to pick a speaker for the House of Representatives after party hardliners ousted Kevin McCarthy nearly two weeks ago has delayed action on legislation, as Israel prepares a ground war against Hamas in Gaza and U.S. officials warn the regional crisis could escalate.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Israel on Monday following a whirlwind round of talks across the region aimed at heading off a widening of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Blinken met in Riyadh on Sunday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The US also said it has held talks with Iran, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations, through back-channels - warning Tehran against escalating the conflict.
Robert Kennedy Jr. will run for US president as independent
NEW YORK, Oct 9: Longtime environmental lawyer and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Monday he will run for president as an independent and drop his Democratic primary bid, adding a wrinkle to a 2024 race heading toward a likely rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
Kennedy, a member of one of the most famous Democratic families in politics, was running a long-shot primary bid and has better favorability ratings among Republicans than Democrats. It’s unclear whether GOP support would translate to a general election when Kennedy would also be running against Trump. Allies of both Biden and Trump have at times questioned whether Kennedy would be a spoiler against their candidate.
Biden's allies so far have dismissed Kennedy’s primary campaign as unserious. Asked for comment on his potential independent run, a Democratic National Committee spokesman responded with an eye roll emoji.
Awaiting Kennedy's remarks Monday, hundreds of supporters gathered at Philadelphia's Independence Mall, an apt location for the launch. Campaign signs teased a potential new slogan: “Declare your independence.”
Among Kennedy's fans in the crowd were several voters who said they don’t identify as Democratic or Republican and view Kennedy as a truth teller and a breath of fresh air.
US Expels 2 Russian Diplomats In Retaliation
WASHINGTON, Oct 7: The US expelled two Russian diplomats, weeks after Moscow ordered two Americans to leave, the latest tit-for-tat expulsions as relations continue to worsen between the two countries.
The move came after Russia ousted the two US diplomats for contacts with a former consular employee who had been accused of collecting sensitive information. The US has called those allegations baseless.
"The Department will not tolerate the Russian government's pattern of harassment of our diplomats," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
The unidentified Russian diplomats were given seven days to depart the US. That was the same amount of time given to US diplomats Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, who were ordered to leave Russia last month.
Sillin and Bernstein were accused of contact with a former employee of the US consulate in Vladivostok who later pleaded guilty to gathering confidential information.
Russia and the US have engaged in a series of reciprocal expulsions dating to well before Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Can’t comment on NewsClick’s China link, respect media freedom: US
WASHINGTON, Oct 3: The US government has seen reports of NewsClick’s alleged links to China and is aware of concerns around it though it can’t independently comment on the veracity of those claims. But, as a general principle, the US continues to urge Indian government as well other governments across the world to respect the human rights of journalists, including freedom of expression online and offline.
At a regular State Department briefing on Tuesday, when asked about the raids on the proprietors, staffers and contributors of NewsClick and a New York Times report that the news website was a part of a Chinese influence operation funded through an American businessman, State department‘s principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “So we are aware of those concerns and have seen that reporting about this outlet’s ties to the PRC (People’s Republic of China), but we can’t comment yet on the veracity of those claims.”
Patel added that, separately, the US strongly supported “the robust role of the media globally, including social media, in a vibrant and free democracy”.
“We raise concerns on these matters with the Indian Government, with countries around the world, through our diplomatic engagements that are, of course, at the core of our bilateral relationship. And we have urged the Indian Government, and have done so not just with India but other countries as well, about the importance of respecting the human rights of journalists, including freedom of expression both online and offline.”
Patel, however, said that he did not have any additional information about “this particular circumstance or any of the underlying issues that may or may not be related to this outlet”.
Kevin McCarthy becomes the first Speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a U.S. House vote
WASHINGTON, Oct 3: Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job Tuesday in an extraordinary showdown, a first in U.S. history that was forced by a contingent of hard-right conservatives and threw the House and its Republican leadership into chaos.
McCarthy’s chief rival, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, forced the vote on the “motion to vacate,” drawing together more than a handful of conservative Republican critics of the speaker and many Democrats who say he is unworthy of leadership.
Next steps are uncertain, but there is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority.
Stillness fell as the presiding officer gavelled the vote closed, 216-210, saying the office of the Speaker "is hereby declared vacant.”
Moments later, a top McCarthy ally, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., took the gavel and, according to House rules, was named Speaker pro tempore, to serve in the office until a new Speaker is chosen.
The House then briskly recessed so lawmakers could meet and discuss the path forward.
It was a stunning moment for the battle-tested McCarthy, a punishment fuelled by growing grievances but sparked by his weekend decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.
An earlier vote was 218-208 against tabling the motion, with 11 Republicans allowing it to advance.
The House then opened a floor debate, unseen in modern times, ahead of the next round of voting.
McCarthy, of California, insisted he would not cut a deal with Democrats to remain in power — not that he could have relied on their help even if he had asked.
Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a letter to colleagues that he wants to work with Republicans, but he was unwilling to provide the votes needed to save McCarthy.
Biden Calls US Allies On Support For Ukraine: White House
WASHINGTON, Oct 3: President Joe Biden called key allies on Tuesday to "coordinate" support for Ukraine, the White House said, amid concerns in Western capitals after Republican hardliners derailed US funding for Kyiv.
"President Biden convened a call this morning with allies and partners to coordinate our ongoing support for Ukraine," the White House said in a statement, adding that it would give details of the call later.
Biden Vows Ukraine Support, Urges Republicans To 'Stop The Games'
WASHINGTON, Oct 1: President Joe Biden on Sunday vowed the United States would not abandon Ukraine despite aid being dropped from a deal to avoid a government shutdown, urging Republicans to "stop the games" on funding.
"I want to assure our American allies, the American people, and the people in Ukraine that you can count on our support. We will not walk away," Biden said in an address from the White House.
Biden said there was an "overwhelming sense of urgency" to get Congress to pass a new package of assistance to Ukraine in the days and weeks to come as it battles the Russian invasion.
An 11th-hour deal by Congress late Saturday to avoid a US government shutdown contained no new war-time aid for Ukraine as part of a compromise between Republicans and Democrats.
Democrat Biden lashed out at Republicans and called on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to avoid another shutdown drama when the 45-day stopgap deal agreed on Saturday runs out.
"I'm sick and tired of the brinksmanship," Biden said, speaking from the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
"The brinksmanship has to end. There shouldn't be another crisis."
Indian-Americans Have Made A Mark For Themselves In US: Top Biden Official Neera Tanden
WASHINGTON, Oct 2: Indian-Americans have made a mark for themselves in the US and under President Joe Biden the community members are throughout the administration, a top White House official has said.
"We have such a strong person-to-person, community-to-community leader relationship based on the strength of the diaspora," Neera Tanden, the Director of the United States Domestic Policy Council, said on Saturday at an event held at India House - the official residence of India's Ambassador to the US.
"When I first came to Washington, there were just a few people in the Clinton administration who were Indian-American, and today Indian Americans are throughout the administration. When we're talking about AI issues, the Office of Science and Technology Policy is run by Arti Prabhakar, an Indian American," she said.
"When you hear the President's words in his amazing speech on democracy just two days ago, those words are written by Vinay Reddy. In fact, you can't throw a stone in the White House and not hit an Indian-American these days," Ms Tanden said amid cheers from the hundreds of Indian-Americans gathered at the India House.
"That is really because, over so many years, this community has widened its span to think broadly about contributions to our country. As an immigrant, when I first came to Washington, most people asked me why I was here and not working in medicine or business or some other area and I don't get that question anymore because of how much our community has honestly matured and recognised that we can participate and contribute in so many ways," she said.
"I think it is the strength of that relationship and the strength of the democratic participation that we are part of that builds on the US-India relationship," she added.
Sethuraman Panchanathan, the 15th Director of the National Science Foundation, said science and technology innovation make possible robust democracies.
"But more recently it has been challenged again, science and technological innovation will be the way in which we will ensure robust democracies. Science, technology, innovation is the method by which we will guarantee development both in the US as well as in India," he said.
"What better way of exemplifying the friendship between the United States and India, than the amazing science, technology, and innovation people that transcend between the US and India? You look at all the CEOs of all the technology companies, you look at the great scientists, you look at the great leaders in the industry, entrepreneurs like our Congressman here. This is truly an expression of the full frame and the full expression of what science, technology, and innovation can do," Panchanathan said.
Nisha Desai Biswal, the Deputy CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation, said the India-US relationship is not just a government-to-government relationship.
"It is far, far more than that. It is a people-to-people, a business-to-business, an academic institution, scientific collaboration, and it's most importantly an indication and a result of the investment of this very large and active Indian-American diaspora that has been persistent over decades in building that relationship as well," Ms Biswal said.
The Development Finance Corporation is looking to create important, impactful ways of financing infrastructure, energy, health, and food security around the world.
"Nowhere are we more active than in India, our largest portfolio of investments. It is such a critically important relationship because India is a driver of growth. India is a driver of development not only in its borders but around the world. So, this partnership becomes critically important," she said.
"We're working in India and with India to diversify solar supply chains so that we are not all globally dependent on one country for the renewable technology that we need on our planet today," she said.
"We have two large solar manufacturing projects in India today. We are working with India to advance global vaccine manufacturing, working with Indian companies, working on food security and economic inclusion targeting women entrepreneurs and so many more," Ms Biswal said.
Dr Vivek Hallegere Murthy, the US Surgeon General, said the friendship between India and the United States will be one of the defining friendships and partnerships of the 21st Century.
"It's a partnership, and I'll tell you why it was so essential because there's key progress that we need to make on many areas that you've heard about today. But I want to focus in particular on the partnership around health, the importance of our collaboration around future pandemic preparedness, and on addressing infectious diseases which know no border," he said.
"It's also essential for us to address the growing threat of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease, which continue to take millions and millions of lives each year, but which we could together help address. But it also requires collaboration on one last front, which we don't talk about often enough, which is addressing mental health, which has become a global struggle in the US and across the world as we've seen rising rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide, particularly among young people," he said.
Dr Rahul Gupta Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Speaker said that it becomes important to reflect upon the core values of the Mahatma truth, non-violence or ahimsa compassion, and kindness.