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Arizona Senate Assures Feds Election Recount Is Secure

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The Republican president of the Arizona Senate said in a letter Friday to the U.S. Justice Department that ballots being recounted from November’s presidential election are secure and the department’s worries about voter intimidation are unfounded.

The letter from Senate President Karen Fann came two days after the head of the department’s Civil Rights Division sought assurances from the Senate that 2.1 million ballots from the state’s most populous county are being secured as federal law requires.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan also warned Fann that the Senate’s plan to have the contractor overseeing the unprecedented election audit contact voters could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

Fann said in her response that the Senate had determined several weeks ago that plans to directly contact voters to see if they actually cast a ballot were being indefinitely deferred. And Fann said that if the Senate ultimately decides to contact voters, the vendor will implemizona ent detailed rules ensuring the contacts comply with federal and state civil rights law.

The Justice Department letter said federal law requires ballots from federal elections to remain in the control of election officials for 22 months, and that Fann’s decision to hand them over to a contractor may violate that law.

Fann, a Republican, said in her response that security is tight at the state fairgrounds venue where teams of contractors are recounting votes in the race won by President Joe Biden, and that former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett is at the site daily to ensure that remains true.

She vowed that “not a single ballot has been destroyed, defaced, lost or adulterated” and said she was confident none would be.

A Justice Department spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Fann’s letter.

Voting rights groups last week asked the Justice Department to send monitors to Veterans Memorial Coliseum to watch over the recount.

“We are very concerned that the auditors are engaged in ongoing and imminent violations of federal voting and election laws,” said the letter sent by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Leadership Conference and Protect Democracy.

In other developments Friday, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs asked GOP Gov. Doug Ducey to provide her security and the request was granted.

Hobbs tweeted late Thursday that she had received several death threats because she is an outspoken critic of the Senate’s unprecedented effort to audit the 2020 election, which she and Ducey both certified last year and declared as free and fair. She also complained that she was chased by a “reporter” for a rightwing website. Hobbs is the state’s top elections official.

“The @ArizonaAudit and its far-right allies know their rhetoric will lead to this,” she tweeted. “They are complicit.”

Ducey’s spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, said the governor immediately assigned a Department of Public Safety detail to Hobbs.

“Threats of violence are completely unacceptable, we take them very seriously,” Karamargin said.

Hobbs wrote a letter earlier this week to Bennett, laying out a series of concerns she had with the policies the contractor was using in the recount. Hobbs said the policies were “vague and insufficient to ensure accuracy and consistency.”

Bennett responded Friday, saying Hobbs had signed a court stipulation Wednesday releasing any claims that the recount policies were “legally inadequate or not ‘consistent with state and federal statutory and constitutional law and the EPM, including with respect to the security and integrity of ballots and election equipment.’”

“With all due respect, it reads like a political press release calculated to undermine a process that you have opposed since its inception,” Bennett of Hobbs’ letter.

The recount that began on April 23 is moving extremely slowly, with only about 10% of the ballots counted so far and only a week left on the Senate’s lease on the Coliseum.

Bennett said earlier this week that he hopes they can pause the recount while a series of high school graduations are held and then restart it at the same site. The fair board’s spokeswoman, however, said an extension is not possible.

The recount is being done, Fann said, to put to rest concerns by former President Donald Trump and his backers that he lost Arizona and other battleground states bets because of fraud.

Multiple audits, a hand recount of a sample of Maricopa County ballots, and numerous lawsuits found no evidence of any problems with the election.

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Covid’s Detrimental Effects To American Society

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This COVID-19 pandemic has put the lives of billions of people around the world on hold and despite efforts to slow down its spread, the situation seems far from simmering down. Thanks to the swift roll out of the vaccine, a return to normalcy can be seen on the horizon.

The economic struggle has burdened all countries all over the globe and a superpower like the United States is no exception to this. However, we tend to forget that unemployment and lack of revenue aren’t the only major problems during the pandemic. Our society is inclined to put aside the psychological well-being of the people, especially the youth.

Libby Emmons, editor in chief for conservative news outlet The Post Millennial, summed up the terrible experience of Americans in trying to cope with daily life under the pandemic.

“In some schools, the pandemic has also created a permanent “remote school” practice, where even when kids are in school, fully masked, socially distanced, they have computers on their desks and login to Google Meets in order to talk to their teacher, follow lessons, or chat with each other. Teachers don’t come over to assist students at their desks because they don’t want to “spread COVID.” Rightly or wrongly, this makes life worse,” Emmons wrote.

In her opinion piece, Emmons elaborated on a variety of problems that COVID-19 has brought upon American life in general. Unlike the more common calamities such as storms and even earthquakes, a virus outbreak or a plague seeps deeper into society and the agony is much more prolonged.

“Remote work has its benefits, but for many the isolation of perpetual solitude is more horrifying than rush hour traffic. Labor shortages and job losses caused by the pandemic-inspired business closures, combined with extended government funding to try to make sure no one falls through society’s cracks, resulted in a rush toward self-check out kiosks at shops and fast food restaurants and an extended unemployment holiday. Supply shortages and inflation loom. There aren’t enough workers to fill the positions available,” Emmons detailed.

Despite our severe limitations, we must never succumb to further degradation. America must act now and do our best to preserve the things that made us one of the greatest nations in the history of the world.

“The way forward, as a nation, is not to remake everything all at once and in a hurry, but to stick to our values, hold up our core principles, and remember that the process of representative democracy is what brought us the prosperity, freedom, and independence of the past, and it can do it again, if we let it,” Emmons concluded.

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GOP Republicans Agree To Refugee Resettlement Plan For Afghans

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Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in GOP governors supporting the massive refugee resettlement program being planned for our allies in Afghanistan. The said operation is slated to bring in around 95,000 Afghans to the United States through the rest of 2022. A total of 46 states except West Virginia, Wyoming, Hawaii, South Dakota and Washington DC, will be participating in this initiative.

Republican governors Brian Kemp (Georgia), Doug Ducey (Arizona), Henry McMaster (South Carolina),  Kim Reynolds (Iowa), Larry Hogan (Maryland), Charlie Baker (Massachusetts), Spencer Cox (Utah), Phil Scott (Vermont), Asa Hutchinson (Arkansas) and Kevin Stitts (Oklahoma), have agreed last month to president Biden’s plan to save the Afghans who helped America during its battles in the region.

The list of GOP leaders joining in to provide sanctuary for the refugees have increased since last month and more support is on the way. Among the new batch of governors who agreed to the plan are Montana’s Greg Gianforte, Indiana’s Eric Holcomb, Alabama’s Kay Ivey, Idaho’s Brad Little, Tennessee’s Bill Lee, New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu, Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts and Ohio’s Mike DeWine.

“These are individuals who have been partners with United States and deserve our support in return for the support they’ve given us. Thank you to the resettlement agencies and communities who have stepped forward and demonstrated they have the resources necessary to help these individuals in their time of need,”  Gov. Mike DeWine stated.

“A debt of gratitude to those allies who actively helped our soldiers and diplomats stay safe during our two decades in the country,” Gov. Kay Ivey said.

“Whether it’s persecuted Christians or interpreters who served with our troops, Tennesseans have the right to know exactly who is being settled where. While we await more information from the federal government, we are in direct communication with our congressional delegation, members of the General Assembly, and local officials,” Gov. Bill Lee said.

“Montana welcomes our fully-vetted Afghan allies who worked alongside us, have left their homes in the face of the Taliban’s reemerging, merciless terror and seek freedom and safety,” Gov. Greg Gianforte stated.

The suffering that our Afghan allies have gone through during the twenty-year war in Afghanistan is a great sacrifice that will not be forgotten by the American people. Right now, their lives are still at risk and they will be facing danger under the rule of the Taliban until the day that they will be given protection in the U.S.

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Biden Asks for Early Talks with Macron amid Submarine Row

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President Joe Biden has requested early talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, France said on Sunday, in an apparent effort to mend fences after a row over a submarines contract sparked rare tensions between the allies.

The announcement came after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French accusations that Canberra had lied about plans to cancel the contract to buy French submarines, saying he had raised concerns over the deal “some months ago”.

Australia’s decision to tear up the French deal in favour of American nuclear-powered vessels sparked outrage in Paris, with Macron recalling France’s ambassadors to Canberra and Washington in an unprecedented move.

But French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Sunday that there would be a telephone conversation between Biden and Macron “in the coming days” at the request of the US president.

Macron will ask the US president for “clarification” after the announcement of a US-Australian-British defence pact that prompted Canberra’s cancellation of the huge contract for diesel-electric French vessels.

“We want explanations,” Attal said. The US had to answer for “what looks a lot like a major breach of trust”.

Morrison insisted that he and his ministers had made no secret of their issues with the French vessels.

“I think they would have had every reason to know that we had deep and grave concerns,” he told reporters in Sydney. “We made very clear that we would be making a decision based on our strategic national interest.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had on Saturday used distinctly undiplomatic language towards Australia, the US and Britain which is also part of a new three-way security pact announced Wednesday that led to the rupture.

“There has been lying, duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt,” Le Drian told France 2 television.

The recall of the ambassadors for the first time in the history of relations with the countries was “to show how unhappy we are and that there is a serious crisis between us”.

The French contract to supply conventional submarines to Australia was worth Aus$50 billion ($36.5 billion, 31 billion euros) when signed in 2016.

Morrison said he understood France’s disappointment, but added: “I don’t regret the decision to put Australia’s national interest first. Never will.”

Defence Minister Peter Dutton also insisted Canberra had been “upfront, open and honest” with Paris about its concerns over the deal — a claim quickly rejected by French Defence Minister Florence Parly.

“His statement is inaccurate,” she said during a visit to Niger. “We were never informed of Australia’s intentions”.

– ‘The third wheel’ –

Le Drian also issued a stinging response to a question over why France had not also recalled its ambassador to Britain over the AUKUS security pact.

“With Britain, there is no need. We know their constant opportunism. So there is no need to bring our ambassador back to explain,” he said.

Of London’s role in the pact he said: “Britain in this whole thing is a bit like the third wheel.”

NATO would have to take account of what has happened as it reconsiders strategy at a summit in Madrid next year, he added.

France would now prioritise developing an EU security strategy when it takes over the bloc’s presidency at the start of 2022, he said.

A source at France’s defence ministry meanwhile said Paris had cancelled a meeting set for this week between its Defence Minister Florence Parly and her British counterpart Ben Wallace.

In London, a Ministry of Defence source said they could neither confirm nor deny the cancellation of the meeting, but said the two countries maintained a “strong and close-working defence partnership with France, as they remain trusted allies of the UK”.

– ‘Stab in the back’ –

Biden announced the new Australia-US-Britain defence alliance, widely seen as aimed at countering the rise of China.

It extends American nuclear submarine technology to Australia, as well as cyber-defence, applied artificial intelligence and undersea capabilities.

Le Drian has described it as a “stab in the back” and said the behaviour of the Biden administration had been comparable to that of Donald Trump, whose sudden changes in policy long exasperated European allies.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune has hinted that the row could affect Australia’s chances of making progress towards a trade pact with the EU, which is its third-biggest trading partner.

For America, the row has sparked a deep rift in its oldest alliance and dashed hopes of a rapid post-Trump renaissance in relations.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Saturday stressed the “unwavering” US commitment to its alliance with France.

Australia meanwhile has shrugged off Chinese anger over the nuclear-powered submarines order.

Beijing described the new alliance as an “extremely irresponsible” threat, warning the Western allies that they risked “shooting themselves in the foot”.

© AFP 2021

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