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Biden gets more security as he edges toward win: report

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Washington (District of Columbia, United States AFP)

The US Secret Service has increased its protective bubble around Joe Biden as chances increased that he will be the next US president, the Washington Post reported Friday.

The Secret Service sent an extra squad of agents to Biden’s campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware as expectations rose that the Democratic candidate would be able to declare victory over President Donald Trump as early as Friday, the Post reported.

The Secret Service, an agency under the Department of Homeland Security, is in charge or protecting the White House and senior government officials, visiting high officials, and others.

It had already deployed some agents to protect Biden around early July after he triumphed in the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries.

As a former vice president, Biden could have requested Secret Service protection before then, but reportedly did not.

If Biden becomes president-elect, Secret Service protection is expected to ramp up to a higher level.

Trump erupts as Biden closes in on US presidency

President Donald Trump launched a tirade of unsubstantiated claims that he had been cheated out of winning the US election, as vote counting across battleground states early Friday showed Democrat Joe Biden closing in on victory.

Biden’s momentum towards the White House built further with major media outlets reporting he had overtaken Trump by a razor-thin margin in the crucial battleground state of Georgia.

 

“They are trying to steal the election,” an increasingly isolated Trump said in an extraordinary appearance at the White House on Thursday, two days after polls closed.

Providing no evidence and taking no questions from reporters, Trump spent nearly 17 minutes making the kind of incendiary statements about the country’s democratic process that have never been heard before from a US president.

According to Trump, Democrats were using “illegal votes” to “steal the election from us.”

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” he claimed. “They’re trying to rig an election. And we can’t let that happen.”

Trump repeated those claims in a tweet early on Friday.

His rhetoric came as his campaign aggressively challenged the integrity of the huge number of ballots mailed in rather than cast in person on Election Day.

The big shift to postal ballots this year reflected the desire of voters to avoid risking exposure to Covid-19 in crowded polling stations during a pandemic that has already killed 235,000 Americans.

Mail-in ballots have tilted heavily to Democrats. In the crucial state of Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign moved to stop the counting of votes, which authorities were forbidden from processing before Election Day.

– Mixed support for Trump –

Several major US television networks cut away from live coverage of Trump’s event over concerns of disinformation and there were signs of cracks in support within his Republican Party.

Representative Will Hurd called Trump’s call to stop vote-counting “dangerous and wrong,” while Rupert Murdoch’s long supportive New York Post called Trump’s allegations “baseless.”

But prominent Republicans rallied behind Trump and signalled that they could challenge the legitimacy of results if the president loses.

I think everything should be on the table,” Senator Lindsey Graham said when asked by Fox News host and Trump loyalist Sean Hannity if Pennsylvania’s Republican-led legislature should refuse to certify results.

Biden, 77, was just one or, at most, two battleground states away from securing the electoral college votes to take the White House.

Trump, 74, needs an increasingly unlikely combination of wins in multiple states to stay in power.

Biden, who has promised to heal a country bruised by Trump’s extraordinarily polarizing four years in power, appealed for “people to stay calm.”

“We have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator (Kamala) Harris and I will be declared the winners,” he said in comments to reporters in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

“The process is working,” he said. “The count is being completed. And we will know soon.”

– Biden closes in –

In Georgia, a generally Republican state, Biden pulled ahead with a lead of 917 votes, CNN, Fox News and the New York Times reported.

If Trump loses Georgia, he can not win a majority of electoral college seats.

In Arizona and Nevada, Biden was holding on to slim leads.

If Biden wins two of those three states he would win the presidency.

The biggest piece of the puzzle is Pennsylvania, where Trump’s early lead continued to steadily draining away.

The Democratic hopeful currently is projected to have 253 of the 538 electoral college votes divvied up between the country’s 50 states.

He has 264 with the inclusion of Arizona, which Fox News and the Associated Press have called in his favor but other major organizations have not.

If Biden took Pennsylvania, he would grab 20 more electoral college votes, thereby instantly topping the necessary 270 for overall victory.

The latest results showed Trump’s lead in the state had shrunk to around 18,000 votes, with most ballots yet to be counted coming from Democratic stronghold Philadelphia.

– Protests across country –

Trump’s campaign insisted that the president has a way to win, citing pockets of Republican support yet to be counted and also alleging mass fraud without providing evidence.

Trump’s team fanned out across the battleground states challenging the results in court and his supporters converged outside election offices in several cities.

Outside an election office in Arizona’s capital Phoenix, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones roused a heavily armed crowd, shouting on a megaphone about Trump’s supposed enemies: “They will be destroyed because America is rising.”

In Las Vegas, Trump backers wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats demanded to see ballots being processed.

Brando Madrigal said he wanted to verify that the votes are “not coming from the people who died with Covid, people who are out of state, people who don’t have the ability to vote because they don’t have the papers.”

But while Trump was demanding that counting be halted in Georgia and Pennsylvania — where his lead is narrowing — his supporters and campaign insisted that it continue in Arizona and Nevada, where he is trailing.

Bob Bauer, a lawyer for the Biden campaign, dismissed the slew of lawsuits as “meritless.”

“All of this is intended to create a large cloud,” Bauer said. “But it’s not a very thick cloud. We see through it. So do the courts and so do election officials.”

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Sajith blames ‘Viyathmaga doc’

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Cause of Mahara Prison riot:

By Saman Indrajith

The recent Mahara Prison riot erupted as 120 inmates afflicted with COVID-19 had been taken there from the Welikada prison at the behest of a Director in charge of prisoners’ health, who was a Viyathmaga member, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday.

“Many explanations have been given by ministers about the riot at Mahara Prison. The number of deaths is not yet known and around 120 are wounded. One minister said that there was an invisible hand behind the clashes. Another said the motive was to bring the government into disrepute internationally. A theory was concocted that prisoners had taken some narcotic tablets called Reverse and they and fought because they wanted to see blood. But the truth is otherwise. The real cause is that 120 inmates infected with coronavirus were transferred to Mahara from the Welikada prison at the behest of a director in charge of prisoners’ health. That director is a member of the Viyathmaga. Those who were transferred to Mahara prison caused a cluster of 183 persons. As the infection spread fast there was unrest and tension. That was the reason for Mahara riots.”

He said that ministers had their own theories, but one day the truth would surface. “I hope that the ministerial committee appointed to probe the riots will conduct an impartial investigation and they will reveal the truth.”

“Prisoners have rights. I do not wish that this country would permit the perpetuation of the killing culture and state terrorism. The government members should keep in mind that there is a concept called rule of law and we all are expected to uphold it. So, we should dump those theories of Reverse tablets and strive to find the truth.”

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera: The health officer in charge of Mahara Prison is not a member of Viyathmaga.

Opposition Leader Premadasa: I did not say so. What I said was that 120 inmates were transferred from Welikada prison to the Mahara prison violating COVID-19 protocols. That order to transfer those had been given by a doctor who is a member of Viyathmaga. I do not mention his name. You can easily find it.

Chief Government Whip Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said that the Opposition leader talked of lofty ideals of prisoners’ welfare but the yahapalana government had failed to construct at least a single prison to ease the congestion in the prisons. “When I was incarcerated by your government, I was in a cell with 51 other inmates. There was no place to sleep. In the Kegalle prison, they put 225 in a hall enough for 50 inmates. The former government pre-occupied with the task of constructing new courts to imprison its political enemies but did not build a single prison for the benefit of inmates.”

Opposition Leader Premadasa: We did not want to build prisons, we built schools. Mahatma Gandhi has once said that when you open a single school, thousand prisons could be closed. We followed that.

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‘It will take four years to ensure quality of drinking water from small projects’

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By Saman Indrajith

The safety of drinking water from small scale community drinking water projects could guaranteed only after the implementation of a project to check the quality of water and that would take four years, Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara told Parliament yesterday.

The Minister said so, when Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana pointed out that although the safety of drinking water from the National Water Supply and Drainage Board was guaranteed the same could not be said of water from small scale projects.

“There are many harmful elements in water such as lead, cadmium and mercury. We know that Water Board supplied water is purified, but water from small scale project could be contaminated with them. It is said that mercury in a CFL bulb has the potential to pollute around 6,000 litres of ground water and causing kidney diseases. This is a dangerous situation. One trillion rupees have been allocated for the Water Supply ministry. Apart from the COVID-19 threat, the biggest threat to the lives of people in this country is from non-communicable diseases. Can the ministry introduce a mechanism to provide each district with at least a single testing unit to ensure the safety of drinking water supplied by the small scale community drinking water projects.”

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that safety of water from the Water Board was guaranteed owing to sophisticated purification methods employed by treatment plants. He said that it would take at least four years to provide testing units to ensure drinking water from the small scale community drinking water projects countrywide too is safe from harmful elements.

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Teachers’ Union boss Stalin accuses govt of attempting Akila’s failed stunt

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was an attempt to create a new post, Director General – Sports, at the Ministry of Education and to appoint a political henchman, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin told The Island yesterday.

“According to the Education Administrative Service minute, any appointment has to be made through a competitive exam. However, this post has been created through a Cabinet paper and an SLPP henchman is to be appointed to it.”

The CTU General Secretary said that during the yahapalanaya administration, then Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam had tried to appoint a UNP henchman to the post of Director – Sports at the Ministry. Kariyawasam had been compelled to back off due to the stiff opposition of the education sector unions, Stalin said.

“The court has also ruled that people should be appointed in keeping with the Education Administrative Service Minute. The President came into power promising to uphold the rule of law, but this government, too, is attempting to undermine the education system by appointing unqualified people to high posts.”

The post of Director General – Sports would have the same perks of an Assistant Secretary and the person to be appointed was a person representing a government affiliated union, Stalin said.

“95% of unions of the education sector will oppose if the government creates this post for the benefit of a henchman. We will resort to trade union and legal action.”

Minister of Education, Prof. G. L. Peiris was not immediately available for comment.

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