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Trump makes frenetic election push in states that highlight his Covid denial

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President Donald Trump’s final sprint to shore up states he won four years ago led him Tuesday into the epicentre of America’s quickening viral surge in Wisconsin, as the state’s record single day spikes in Covid-19 cases and deaths crystalized his administration’s failures that could end his political career, CNN reports.

A week from the night when America could learn the identity of its next President — depending on prolonged mail-in voting counts and possible legal challenges — Trump greeted a crowd, packed together, with a few masks worn, the CNN report says.

“He did so as Badger State hospitals are critically understaffed and facing the threat of being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients. But on a chill fall night, the President wove an alternative reality he bets will win him reelection.

Trump’s three-state swing Tuesday — he also visited Michigan and Nebraska — reflected the sleight of hand he’s using a week from Election Day, creating a false impression that the pandemic is all but over as it gets worse each day.

“We are turning the corner. We are rounding the curve, we will vanquish the virus,” Trump said in West Salem, Wisconsin, as the US piles up record numbers of new infections that have added half a million new cases in the last week alone. More than 226,000 Americans have died. The current death rate is 800 per day, and experts warn the trend is only increasing ahead of a grim winter.

But in his closing election pitch, Trump is denying the disastrous impact of the gravest challenge facing the country, holding potential superspreader events that put his own supporters and anyone they meet at risk and yet again prioritizing his political survival above his duty to guard public health.

While Trump complained in Wisconsin that all the media talks about is “Covid, Covid, Covid,” the state’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers warned Tuesday: “There is no way to sugarcoat it, we are facing an urgent crisis and there is an imminent risk to you and your family.”

Andrea Palm, Secretary-designee of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, warned: “The increasing cases, and our increase in deaths today are the largest single day increases we’ve seen throughout the course of this pandemic. We must take significant and collective action.”

 

Public disquiet about the President’s handling of the worst public health crisis in 100 years has contributed to a situation in which Trump appears to be struggling to hang on to states like Wisconsin, which he won in 2016, and is seeking to shore up Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Iowa.

With more than 68.5 million Americans having voted so far — surpassing half the total votes four years ago — time is running out to change the dynamics of a race in which he is trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden in key battlegrounds.

Yet Trump, drawing energy from his crowds, seemed upbeat Tuesday, predicting a “great red wave,” slamming polls and promising an even bigger Electoral College upset than in 2016. He blasted pundits who said back then “‘he can’t get to 270’ — and they were right — We got to 306.”

If Trump wins next week in another upset, it will suggest that enough voters think his cultural connection with the US heartland and nationalist approach is more important than his downplaying of the worst domestic crisis since World War II and his daily flurry of lies. He will have made good on his vow to find millions of new Trump voters who escaped pollsters. Still, there is so far no sign in national or state polls that the President is building the kind of late momentum that drove his shock win over Hillary Clinton.

Biden goes on the offensive

Biden’s travel is telling the story of a Democratic campaign that believes that it has more routes to 270 electoral votes than the President. The former vice president pledged to heal a sick and divided nation in symbolic surroundings in the spa town of Warm Springs, Georgia, where President Franklin Roosevelt, who guided the country through earlier crisis, once sought relief from paralysis caused by polio.

“Many wonder, has it gone too far?” Biden asked in a state Democrats have not won since Bill Clinton carried it in 1992 but think could be in play this year.

“Have we passed the point of no return? Has the heart of this nation turned to stone?” Biden said. “I don’t think so. I refuse to believe it. I know this country. I know our people. And I know we can unite and heal this nation.”

Biden got another assist on Tuesday from his former boss, ex-President Barack Obama, who delivered another attack on his successor that was dripping with mockery and designed to drive out Democratic base voters in Florida.

Obama ridiculed Trump for turning the White House, perhaps the most secure building in the country, into a Covid “hot zone.”

 

“He said this at one of his rallies, ‘Covid, Covid, Covid,’ he’s complaining. He’s jealous of Covid’s media coverage,” Obama said at a drive-in rally in Orlando. “If he had been focused on Covid from the beginning, cases wouldn’t be reaching new record highs across the country this week.”

As Trump pulls out all the stops, first lady Melania Trump made her first solo campaign appearance, in another swing state, Pennsylvania, in a bid to improve her husband’s reduced standing among female voters.

“The Democrats have chosen to put their own agendas ahead of the American people’s well-being,” she said, while also offering thoughts to citizens, like her, who have suffered from the coronavirus.

In reality, however, Trump has repeatedly denied the seriousness of the pandemic, predicted falsely and repeatedly that it will soon disappear and advocated state openings that sparked a Sun Belt surge this summer in an apparent effort to fire up the economy that is vital for his reelection.

The Trump campaign’s courting of women voters, particularly those in the suburbs, may have been undermined by the President when he used somewhat patronizing language in Wisconsin that betrayed rather an archaic view of suburban marriage between men and women.

“I’m also getting your husbands — they want to get back to work. We’re getting your husbands back to work,” Trump said in Wisconsin.

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PSC action could cripple health services, warns GMOA Secretary

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There were vacancies for 89 specialist doctors in government teaching hospitals due to certain actions taken by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

GMOA secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday told The Island those vacancies had the potential to cripple the state health service, as the service was stressed due to COVID-19.

Dr. Fernando said: “Specialist doctors are appointed and transfered according to procedures established by the Health Service Minute. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the transfers and the PSC should oversee the transfering process to ensure that they are made in a proper manner.”

“The PSC has ordered the appointment of a committee to look into the matter but there is no mention of such a committee in the Health Service Minute. Instead of following the process, the PSC has tried to intervene in the process and 89 posts remain vacant during the time of COVID-19,” he said.

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Hizbullah denies links with Zahran

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But signed agreement for Zahran’s help in 2015 GE

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province, M. L. A. M. Hizbullah on Monday night told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks, that he had not had any links to National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim. The NTJ members had assaulted his supporters at Kattankudy in March 2017, he said.

Hizbullah said so when the Commissioners asked him about his links with Zahran.

Hizbullah was also asked about billions of rupees he had received from foreign organisations since 2016. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that close to Rs. 4 billion had been deposited by foreign individuals and institutions in two accounts Hizbullah operated at the Bank of Ceylon Colpetty Branch from 2016 to 2019.

The witness said the Sri Lanka Hira Foundation, a social service institution run by him, had received money from foreign countries after March 2016.

“Ali Abdullah al-Juffali of Saudi Arabia gave Rs. 308 million and Siddique and Diana Osmond of London gave Rs. 5.5 million,” he said.

Hizbullah added that he knew al-Juffali and some other Saudi philanthropists. Al Juffali family was one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth USD 19.8 billion, he said.

Then, a video of a discussion Zahran had with Sibli Farooq of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was played at the PCoI.

The video showed Zahran and Farooq talking about a sum of one million riyals that Hizbullah had allegedly received from Saudi Arabia. In the video, Zahran says that he had no problem with Hizbullah receiving money from Saudi Arabia.

In response, Hizbullah said that by the 2015 Presidential election, Farooq and Zahran had been against him. A member of the Commission then asked why Hizbullah had entered into an agreement with Zahran during an election if he had acted against him.

Hizbullah said Zahran had told, on social media, that he would support politicians who agreed to some of his proposals.” All the parties joined him. I also went along,” he said. Earlier, it was revealed that representatives for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for the support of NTJ in 2015.

Hizbullah was also questioned on the Aliyar clash between NTJ and Sunnath Wal Jamaat, a group that supported Hizbullah, on 10 March, 2017.

“Did you ask Zahran to surrender to the court through his mother?” a member of the Commission questioned.

“I made no such comment. I do not know if anyone in my party did so,” he said.

The Commissioners also asked Hizbullah about growing date palms in the Kattankudy area and placing Arabic billboards.

The witness replied that he had grown date palms because of the high temperatures in the area. Nameplates with Arabic letters had been put up to attract Arabic students as they were largely visiting the area, he said.

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CA annuls summons issued on President

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The Court of Appeal yesterday annulled the summons issued on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance of two persons in Jaffna in 2011.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in 2011. Last year, Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued summons on Rajapaksa over a habeas corpus petition filed by the relatives of the two missing activists. They had named Rajapaksa one of the respondents since he was the Defence Secretary at the time of the disappearances.

Earlier, Rajapaksa had submitted a writ application stating that he found it difficult to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court due to security reasons. The Court of Appeal issued an injunction preventing Rajapaksa being summoned by the Magistrate.

President of the Court of Appeal A. H. M. D. Nawaz, declaring their decision, said that a Magistrate’s Court could only issue summons over a specific reason. However the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court had issued the summons based on a motion of a lawyer and that there was no legal basis for the summons. Thus, the Court of Appeal issued a writ notification declaring the summons issued by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court void.

 

 

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