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Biden: 'Erratic' Trump should not get intelligence briefings

President Joe Biden has said his predecessor Donald Trump should not be given access to intelligence briefings because of his "erratic behaviour". US President Joe Biden is refusing to give former president Donald Trump access to intelligence briefings. Photo: AFP The US has a tradition of allowing former presidents to be briefed on the nation's security issues - as a courtesy extended by the incumbent. But when asked by CBS News if Trump would receive the same courtesy, President Biden said: "I think not". He cited Trump's "erratic behaviour" as his reason for refusing access. "I don't think there's any need for him to have an intelligence briefing," Biden said in his first sit-down interview since becoming president. He declined to speculate on what his worst fears would be if Trump were allowed to see classified reports, but he suggested the former president could not be trusted to keep confidential information to himself. "What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?" Biden said. The move is the first time a former president has been excluded from the tradition of being granted continued access to the briefings, according to the New York Times. For weeks after the 3 November presidential election, Trump himself broke with tradition by failing to include his successor in security and intelligence briefings. Trump eventually agreed to allow the formal transition process to take place, but his administration was still accused of blocking Biden's access to intelligence. Trump feuded with the intelligence community throughout his four-year presidency and went through six national intelligence directors. He questioned reports by US agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election, and assailed intelligence chiefs for being "extremely passive and naive" over Iran. In 2017, he disclosed highly classified information to Russia's foreign minister about an Islamic State operation in what was seen as a breach of trust by many in the US intelligence community. During his CBS interview, Biden was asked about the impeachment trial Trump is facing in the US Senate for his role in the riot at the Capitol in Washington on 6 January. Biden said he "ran like hell to defeat" Trump in the election "because I thought he was unfit to be president", but he would leave the Senate to decide whether the Republican should be barred from ever holding public office again. Fox cancels vocal Trump supporter Lou Dobbs' show US broadcaster Fox has cancelled the TV programme hosted by Lou Dobbs, a vocal Trump supporter who is accused of using his platform to spread baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election. The news emerged a day after Dobbs was named in a defamation lawsuit filed by the voting machine maker Smartmatic. The $US2.7 billion lawsuit claims the presenter was part of a "disinformation campaign" against the company. Fox, which denies the allegations, says the decision to drop Lou Dobbs Tonight was not linked. The veteran financial journalist, 75, has presented Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox Business Network since 2011. He was also an occasional commentator on Fox News, the conservative channel that has been home to several staunch supporters of Trump. - BBC
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Myanmar shuts down internet amid anti-coup rallies

Myanmar's military rulers have shut down the country's internet as thousands of people joined the largest rally yet against Monday's coup. Protesters in Yangon in one of the largest rallies yet against the coup in Myanmar. Photo: AFP A near-total internet blackout is in effect with connectivity falling to 16 percent of ordinary levels, said the monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory. In the main city, Yangon, crowds chanted "Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win". Police with riot shields have blocked the main roads into the city centre. The internet shutdown happened hours after the military blocked access to Twitter and Instagram to stop people mobilising for protests. Facebook had been banned a day earlier. Many users had evaded the restrictions on social media by using virtual private networks (VPNs) but the more general blackout severely disrupted that. Civil society organisations urged internet providers and mobile networks to challenge the blackout order, Reuters news agency reported. Human rights group Amnesty International called the shutdown "heinous and reckless" and warned it could put the people of Myanmar at risk of human rights violations. The military has not commented. It temporarily blocked access to the internet following the coup on 1 February. Rallying 'for future generations' On Saturday morning, protesters - including factory workers and young students - called for the release of those detained by the army, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. They marched through the streets of Yangon as city buses sounded their horns in support. Bystanders flashed the three-finger Hunger Games salute, which has become a symbol of defiance against authoritarianism, while residents clapped or banged pots and pans on their doorsteps. Many households have also been displaying red stickers in their windows in support of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the BBC's Burmese editor Soe Win Than reports. Police with riot shields used barbed wire to block roads and water cannon were put in place in some areas as a precaution, but the demonstration reportedly remained peaceful, with no attempt by protesters to pass police lines. A protester in Yangon flashes the three-finger salute, which has become a symbol of defiance in the region. Photo: AFP Demonstrators gave police roses and bottles of drinking water, calling on them to support the people not the new regime. One female protester, who asked not to be named, said she would not accept the "unjust seizing of power". "Because of military dictatorship, many of our lives have been destroyed," she said, adding: "We cannot allow our future generations to meet the same fate." Speaking from Yangon, Britain's ambassador to Myanmar, Dan Chugg, told the BBC that people were taking to the streets in increasing numbers. "The grief and the sadness of the last few days is gradually turning to anger," he said, adding: "Doctors are refusing to work and civil servants have been refusing to work... There's quite a sense around the country of unhappiness at what's happened - and outrage." Another demonstration took place on Saturday in Myanmar's second city, Mandalay. Myanmar - also known as Burma - has remained mostly calm in the aftermath of the coup, and there were no immediate reports of violence after Saturday's protests. More demonstrations were expected to be held later. The military authorities are hunkered down in the capital, Nay Pyi Daw, and have so far avoided direct engagement with the protesters. The BBC's Nyein Chan in Yangon says the Burmese know very well the violent crackdowns that the military is capable of. The country was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011. But now that people have had time to digest what is happening, they are finding different ways to get their voices heard, our correspondent says. Suu Kyi is under house arrest, according to her lawyer. Police documents show she is accused of illegally importing and using communications equipment - walkie-talkies - at her home in the capital. Social media's role as coup unfolded The coup took place as a new session of parliament was set to open, following November's landslide election win by the NLD party. Many Burmese watched the events unfold in real time on Facebook, which is the country's primary source of information and news. But three days later, internet providers were ordered to block the platform for stability reasons. Following the ban, thousands of users were active on Twitter and Instagram using hashtags to express their opposition to the takeover. By 22:00 local time (15:30 GMT) on Friday access to those platforms had also been denied. There was no official word from the coup leaders but AFP reported it had seen an unverified ministry document that said the two social media sites were being used to "cause misunderstanding among the public". A spokeswoman for Twitter said the ban undermined "the public conversation and the rights of people to make their voices heard". Facebook, which owns Instagram, called on the authorities to "restore connectivity". Myanmar at a glance Myanmar is a country of 54 million people in South East Asia which shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos. It was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011, either directly or indirectly, leading to international condemnation and sanctions. Protesters have been calling for the release of those detained by the army, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: AFP Aung San Suu Kyi spent years campaigning for democratic reforms. A gradual liberalisation began in 2010, though the military still retained considerable influence. A government led by Suu Kyi came to power after free elections in 2015. But a deadly military crackdown two years later on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh. It triggered a rift between Suu Kyi and her previous supporters in the international community after she refused to condemn the crackdown or describe it as ethnic cleansing. But she has remained hugely popular at home, shown in her party's landslide win in the November election. - BBC
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Biden ends deadlock over first African and first woman to lead WTO

The Biden administration has ended the deadlock over the next head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by expressing its "strong support" for Nigeria's ex-finance minister. Former US president Donald Trump was a lone voice in opposing the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as head of the WTO. Photo: AFP Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was frontrunner for the role until the Trump administration last October said it wanted another woman, South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee. Yoo has now withdrawn her candidacy. If confirmed in the role, Dr Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO. Dr Okonjo-Iweala on Friday praised her rival for the post and said: "There is vital work ahead to do together." A WTO nominations committee in October recommended its 164 members appoint Dr Okonjo-Iweala as a replacement to outgoing chief Roberto Azevedo; a spokesman at the time said all had approved the appointment "except for one". President Donald Trump - who had described the WTO as "horrible" and biased towards China - wanted Yoo, South Korea's trade minister. Yoo said her decision to withdraw her candidacy was made in "close consultation" with the US. She said: "South Korea will actively contribute to reaching consensus for the next WTO chief and co-operate with her and participate in the WTO reform process." South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee consulted with the US before withdrawing her candidacy, she says. Photo: AFP The White House congratulated Yoo on her "strong campaign" for the position and for being a "traiblazer" as South Korea's first female trade minister. In a statement, it said the "US stands ready to engage in the next phase of the WTO process for reaching a consensus decision on the WTO director general". - BBC
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Myanmar military rulers order block on Twitter, Instagram 'until further notice'

The new military rulers of Myanmar are ordering mobile operators and internet service providers to block access to Twitter and Instagram in the country until "further notice", Norwegian telecom Telenor says. A night-time street protest organised via social media takes place in Yangon. Photo: AFP The government had already ordered internet providers on Thursday to block Facebook, which counts half of the population of 54 million as users, until this weekend. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology did not immediately answer a request for comment, but said previously it had blocked Facebook for the sake of "stability". Twitter, which is also facing pressure from authorities in India, did not immediately answer requests for comment. A spokesman for Facebook confirmed the block on Instagram. "We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with family and friends and access important information," he told Reuters. In a statement, Telenor expressed "grave concern" about the directive and said it had challenged its necessity to authorities. Since the ban on Facebook, thousands in Myanmar have flocked to Twitter and Instagram to express their opposition to Monday's takeover by the army and the ousting and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since the coup. Photo: AFP Many people are using social media and pro-democracy hashtags to criticise the army's takeover and call for peaceful protests until the result of November's election, which was won in a landslide by Suu Kyi's party, is respected. The hashtags #RespectOurVotes, #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar, and #SaveMyanmar all had hundreds of thousands of interactions by Friday, according to hashtag tracker BrandMentions. Teachers, students among protesters Meanwhile, teachers and students have joined the protests against Monday's military coup, the BBC reports. Demonstrators at a university in the biggest city, Yangon, chanted support for Suu Kyi and wore red ribbons, her party's colour. Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since Monday, is under house arrest, according to her lawyer. He said he was seeking her unconditional release and that of the president, who was also detained, but he had been unable to meet them. Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, has remained mostly calm in the aftermath of the coup, which has plunged the South East Asian country into uncertainty. On Friday afternoon, hundreds of teachers and students gathered outside Dagon University in Yangon, where they displayed the three-finger salute - a sign that has been adopted by protesters in the region to show their opposition to authoritarian rule. University teachers in Yangon make the three finger salute with red ribbons on their uniform during a civil disobedience campaign against the military coup. Photo: AFP They chanted their support for Suu Kyi and carried red flags. "We will not let our generation suffer under this kind of military dictatorship," Min Sithu, a student, told the AFP news agency. There have been a number of demonstrations in different parts of Myanmar - the first large-scale street protests seen in the country since the coup. Residents in some cities, including Yangon, have conducted nightly protests from their homes, banging pots and pans and singing revolutionary songs. There have also been daytime flash mobs. A woman gives the three-fingered salute in Yangon. Photo: AFP About 70 MPs are said to have held an insurgent parliament, to replicate the parliamentary session that was supposed to take place this week. 79-year-old detained In a pre-dawn phone call with BBC Burmese, Win Htein, a 79-year-old patron of the NLD and strong supporter of Suu Kyi, said he was being taken to the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, by members of the police and the military. He said he was being detained under sedition laws - which carry a maximum punishment of life imprisonment - although he was not told the exact charge. "They don't like what I've been talking about. They are afraid of what I'm saying," he said. The military overthrew Suu Kyi's government after it claimed a November election won by the NLD was fraudulent, though the country's election commission said there was no evidence to back up these allegations. The move has been met with global outrage. On Thursday, US President Joe Biden called on the military to "relinquish power" and release detained officials and activists. The US had already threatened severe sanctions on Myanmar. However, the military is seemingly undeterred, continuing down its path of consolidating power and appointing new ministers, the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head said. The UN Security Council also called on the military authorities in Myanmar to release Suu Kyi and other detained leaders - but stopped short of condemning the coup. In doing so, it has brought China and Russia behind a call for her release, in what our correspondent has described as a rare show of international unity. - Reuters / BBC
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Actor Christopher Plummer dies at 91

Christopher Plummer, the distinguished Canadian actor best known for his role as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, has died at the age of 91. Photo: AFP He won an Oscar in 2012 for the film Beginners and was also nominated for The Last Station in 2010 and All the Money in the World in 2018. In the latter film he replaced Kevin Spacey, whose complete performance as billionaire J Paul Getty was excised. His many other films included The Man Who Would Be King and Knives Out. According to reports, Plummer passed away peacefully at his home in Connecticut with his wife Elaine Taylor at his side. Lou Pitt, his long-time friend and manager of 46 years, remembered him as "an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession". "He was a national treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots," he continued. "Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come. "He will forever be with us." The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, said he "beguiled audiences across generations", adding: "He will be missed." Bafta added their condolences, praising his "amazing work since the 50s". The official Twitter account for The Sound of Music added they were "saddened" to hear of his death. We're saddened to hear of Christopher Plummer’s passing. His legacy as our Captain will live on in THE SOUND OF MUSIC forever. Our thoughts are with his loved ones during this time.♥️ pic.twitter.com/hDV3q1opzJ — The Sound of Music (@SoundofMusic) February 5, 2021 Actor Eddie Marsan worked with Plummer on 2016 film The Exception, and said: "It was like watching a master class. He had nothing to prove anymore so he was completely free, kind, funny mischievous and beautiful to watch. RIP." Plummer had a varied career across film, television and theatre, starring in productions on Broadway and with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Yet he will be forever known and loved for The Sound of Music, adapted from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, in which he appeared alongside Dame Julie Andrews. Plummer had ambivalent feelings towards his best-known film, which he famously renamed The Sound of Mucus in interviews. He also likened working with Andrews to "being hit over the head with a big Valentine's Day card, every day", though they later became great friends. Photo: AFP Born Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer in Toronto in December 1929, Plummer grew up in Montreal as an only child and was exposed to the arts by his mother at an early age. He first studied the piano before devoting himself to acting, having decided that playing the piano professionally "was very lonely and very hard work". He made his debut on the New York stage role in 1954's The Starcross Story alongside the actress Mary Astor, a show that only ran for one performance. Yet he soon landed more stage work and later played leading roles at the National Theatre and for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Plummer made his film debut in 1958's Stage Struck, directed by Sidney Lumet. He was nominated for a Tony the following year and eventually won the award in 1974 for playing Cyrano de Bergerac. He won his second in 1997 for playing fellow actor John Barrymore in Barrymore. Plummer was married three times. He and his first wife Tammy Grimes, are the parents of actress Amanda Plummer. - BBC
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Biden ends US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen

President Joe Biden declared a halt to US support for a Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen, demanding that the more than six-year war "has to end." Fighters with the Saudi-backed coalition man a checkpoint in Dar Sad, north of Yemen's southern city of Aden on December 31, 2020. Photo: Saleh Al-Obeidi / AFP Biden also named veteran US diplomat Timothy Lenderking as the US special envoy for Yemen in a bid to step up American diplomacy "to end the war in Yemen, a war which has created humanitarian and strategic catastrophe." The United Nations describes Yemen as the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, with 80 percent of its people in need and millions on the verge of a large-scale famine. "This war has to end," the Democratic president said during a visit to the US State Department in Washington. "And to underscore our commitment, we're ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales." The move is a reversal of a policy of both the Democratic Obama and Republican Trump administrations. Biden was vice president in the Obama administration. "At the same time," he said, "Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV (drone) strikes and other threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries. We're going to continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people." Saudi Arabia welcomed Biden's remarks, particularly his commitment to the country's defense and addressing threats against it, according to the country's state news agency. The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis. UN officials are trying to revive peace talks to end the war as the country's suffering is also worsened by an economic crisis, currency collapse, and the Covid-19 pandemic. 'Hope for Yemen' Under the Trump administration, policy on Yemen was secondary to a so-called "maximum pressure" sanctions campaign against Iran in a bid to force Tehran back into talks over its nuclear and missile programs and activities in the Middle East. A girl carries a water container on her head at a school building for displaced Yemenis in the town of al-Turba in Taez on February 4, 2021. Photo: Ahman Al-Basha / AFP Former President Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a top aide, were also focused on maintaining their close ties with Saudi Arabia's effective ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which included US arms sales. This was despite demands by Republican and Democratic lawmakers for an end to US support for Riyadh as the civilian death toll in Yemen mounted and the humanitarian crisis worsened. Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier that the end of US support for the Saudi-led coalition's operations in Yemen does not extend to efforts to combat the regional affiliate of the al Qaeda militant group. Sullivan said the Biden administration already had halted two sales of precision-guided munitions and kept regional allies in the region informed of actions to avoid surprises. "Any move that reduces the number of weapons, military activity, is to be welcomed and will give more space and more hope not only to the talks, but importantly more hope to the people of Yemen," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said. The State Department is also reviewing a Trump administration designation last month of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation. The United Nations and aid groups have called for the designation to be reversed, warning it would push Yemen into a large-scale famine. The Biden administration last week approved all transactions involving Yemen's Houthi movement for the next month as it carries out the review. -Reuters
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Trump rejects call to testify at his impeachment trial

Former US President Donald Trump's lawyers rejected a request from Democrats to testify at his impeachment trial in the US Senate next week. President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for his last time as President. Photo: AFP/Getty Images Democrats in the House of Representatives accuse Trump of inciting insurrection when he urged supporters to "fight" his election defeat before they stormed the Capitol on 6 January, fought with police and sent lawmakers scrambling for safety. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer. "The president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding," Trump adviser Jason Miller told Reuters. In an open letter, Trump's attorneys, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, called the request a "public relations stunt." The attorneys this week rejected the impeachment charge and asserted that Trump's claims his 3 November election defeat was the result of widespread fraud - which were baseless - were protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Democratic lawmaker Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, wrote in a letter to the Republican Trump and his attorney inviting the former president, who left office on 20 January, to provide testimony under oath. "If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021," Raskin wrote. Castor told Reuters that Trump was within his rights in rejecting the request. "The burden is on the House to prove their case," Castor said. "I'm not going to help them meet their burden." Several senators said it would have been a bad idea for Trump to testify. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a vocal Trump ally, told reporters: "I don't think that would be in anybody's interest." For two months after losing his re-election bid to Democratic President Joe Biden, Trump loudly argued that he lost due to rampant electoral fraud, claims that were rejected by multiple courts and state election officials. Trump's lawyers and most Republican senators have challenged the constitutionality of the trial. They have said the Senate does not have the authority to hear the case because Trump has already left office and cannot be removed. Such an argument would allow Republican senators - who hold half the seats in the chamber - to vote against Trump's conviction on procedural concerns instead of directly supporting his comments. A two-thirds majority of the 100-member Senate would have to support the charge to convict Trump, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats in backing it. The Senate impeachment trial of Trump, the first US president to be impeached twice, is due to begin on Tuesday (US time). Trump's first impeachment trial, on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress after he appeared to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, resulted in an acquittal last year by the Senate, where Republicans held the majority at the time and denied Democrats' attempts to present witnesses. -Reuters
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Queensland could host Australia's first purpose-built quarantine facility

Queensland could be host to Australia's first purpose-built privately run Covid-19 isolation and quarantine centre - with potential capacity for 6000 people.  Construction firm Wagners wants to build the centre on its land next to the international airport in Toowoomba, a city of more than 130,000 people west of Brisbane. The state and federal government's are currently talking through the proposal.  Wagners chair John Wagner said a purpose-built complex was the best option. He said the company had the ability to build something quickly, and stage one of the project could consist of 1000 rooms which would include single and family rooms. Wagner proposed there would also be rooms available for staff, such as chefs, cleaners, and security staff, who would live on-site. "They all stay on-site and what we think is instead of those people going home into their communities each night, they do like a fly-in fly-out or drive-in drive-out type roster and it would minimise the [risk] that the Covid-19 contagion would get out. "So if you imagine that an aircraft could land, they walk down the steps of the aircraft, shove them on a bus, three minutes later they're in a quarantine facility, they get processed there for customs and immigration, they go straight to their rooms and then they do their 14 days." If Toowoomba had a purpose-built quarantine facility people would be able to get off the plane and then take a three minute bus trip to the facility, John Wagner said. Photo: 123RF Wagner said it made sense to try and manage one facility instead of having five or six hotels in Brisbane, which need police, army, and 24/7 care. He said ultimately, the 1000 beds could be added to because the infrastructure would be in place to support up to 6000 beds. "I think what we can do is start with 1000, get the systems right, then if we want to start bringing students back, start bringing farm workers back or if we want to start bringing international visitors back in, which we desperately need, particularly from your country [New Zealand], then we can use this facility as well." He said talks were underway and at this stage he could not divulge the possible cost of such a facility because it was commercially sensitive. Wagner said the local newspaper, The Toowoomba Chronicle, ran a poll and 80 percent of the people supported the idea of such a facility. He said ultimately it would be the federal government which would decide whether the project could go ahead. Wagner said if they got approval, the first tranche of the building could be off the ground in five to six weeks.
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Palau preparing to leave Pacific Islands Forum

Palau's president says it is preparing to leave the Pacific Islands Forum, the region's premier political and economic policy organisation. President Surangel Whipps Jr delivers his inaugural address, January 21. Photo: Richard Brooks The president of the republic, Surangel Whipps Jr, said the move was over the decision by other Pacific leaders to ignore Micronesia's request for their candidate to take up the role of secretary general of the forum. For months, the regional body has been divided over whose candidate should get the forum's top job. On Thursday, the former Cook Islands prime minister, Henry Puna, was appointed secretary general, pipping Marshall Islands' diplomat Gerald Zackios by just one vote. Whipps Jr told RNZ Pacific that the leaders' failure to honour an unwritten agreement that the role be rotated by sub-region was unacceptable. "Today, we are sending a diplomatic note to Fiji to let them know that we are closing our embassy there because of the results of the forum and after our meeting, as president of the north Pacific, I believe we will make a joint statement and we will also be moving forward and removing ourselves from the forum." Whipps Jr questioned the composition of the Pacific Islands Forum, and suggested a new regional body might be needed. He said south Pacific countries dominate the forum's decisions by sheer numbers. "For example, we have other islands in the north Pacific, we gave Guam, we have Saipan, we have Hawaii, we have American Samoa," he said. "Why aren't they members of the Pacific Islands Forum? If we are allowing Cook Islands, Niue - which are part of New Zealand - to be part of the forum, to vote, then we should be allowing those other countries. "As a region, as Pacific brothers, we will continue to fight for that, we will continue to be part of FFA, we will continue to be part of SPREP and all those things. "But the PIF maybe we need to come up with a new organisation and find new members because the current configuration is self-interest and that is the problem."
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US House punishes conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene

US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene talks to Rep Bob Good as they walk in the Cannon tunnel after a vote at the US Capitol February 5, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP In a test of unity for a House Republican caucus riven by division, nearly 95 per cent of Republicans voted to oppose the punishment after Greene expressed regret for remarks made before she entered office but failed to apologise. Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in a 230-199 vote to approve the Democratic-backed resolution, which stripped Greene of her seats on the House budget committee and the House education and labour committee. "I have never encountered a situation like the one before us now, where a member has made such vile and hurtful statements, engaged in the harassment of colleagues and expressed support for political violence," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said before the vote today. "This is not about party. It's about whether or not you will vote for decency and truth." The vote to punish Greene, a first-term lawmaker from Georgia and ally of former president Donald Trump, came a day after the chamber's Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, opted not to reprimand her. Republicans mainly attacked the resolution as a "partisan power grab" by Democrats and warned that punishing lawmakers for statements made before they entered office would set a dangerous precedent. Hours before the vote, Greene disavowed some of her previous statements. "These were words of the past and these things do not represent me, they do not represent my (congressional) district and they do not represent my values," Greene told the House. Before taking office last month, Greene voiced support for an array of unfounded conspiracy theories, including the QAnon one that holds that elite Democrats are part of a cabal of Satanist pedophiles and cannibals. According to CNN, Greene expressed support online for executing prominent Democrats including Pelosi. Greene, 46, embraced his false claim that he won the November 3 election, alleged that deadly US school shootings were staged, suggested a space laser was used to deliberately start a California wildfire and questioned whether a plane struck the Pentagon in the 2001 attacks on the United States. In her speech, Greene disavowed belief in the QAnon theory and acknowledged school shootings really happened and the September 11 attacks did occur. -Reuters
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