Texas Republicans Have A New Voting!

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Defiant Biden stands ‘squarely behind’ decision to withdraw from Afghanistan

Joe Biden has said US troops may stay past a 31 August deadline so as to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan, and defended the withdrawal, saying there was no way for the US to pull out “without chaos ensuing”.

As critics in the US and abroad questioned his handling of the withdrawal, the president said in his first on-camera interview since the Taliban took Kabul that troops would stay in the country to get American citizens out.

“If there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out,” Biden told ABC News, implying that he would listen to US lawmakers who had pressed him to extend the 31 August deadline he had set for a final pullout.

Asked if he thought the handling of the crisis could have gone better, Biden said: “No.”

“We’re gonna go back in hindsight and look … but the idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

The sentiment contradicts what Biden had said weeks back, when he insisted that it was “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would be “over running everything and owning the whole country”.

It has also emerged that classified intelligence documents from the past few weeks gave multiple warnings to the Biden administration of the prospect of an imminent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the likely rapid collapse of Afghan troops, with Kabul portrayed as highly vulnerable. It raises questions as to why the US administration was not better prepared for security and evacuations in the event the Taliban took control.

The speed with which Taliban forces retook Afghanistan, as US and other foreign forces withdrew, has led to continued chaotic scenes at the airport with diplomats, foreign citizens and Afghans trying to flee. Taliban and Nato officials said a total of 12 people have been killed in and around the airport since Sunday.

The Taliban official said the deaths were caused either by gunshots or in stampedes and he urged people still crowded at the gates of the facility to go home if they did not have the legal right to travel. “We don’t want to hurt anyone at the airport,” said the Taliban official, who declined to be named.

However, there have been multiple reports of Afghans and foreigners with passports and papers being turned away at airport checkpoints by Taliban fighters, leading to foreign evacuation flights departing with empty seats.

The US said it has evacuated nearly 6,000 people from Afghanistan since Saturday but thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans who want to leave the country remain and it is feared the slow speed of evacuations was putting lives at risk. Educated young women, former US military translators and other Afghans most at-risk from the Taliban appealed to the Biden administration to get them on evacuation flights as the United States as quickly as possible.

“If we don’t sort this out, we’ll literally be condemning people to death,” said Marina Kielpinski LeGree, the American head of nonprofit organisation Ascend.

Biden told ABC the Taliban were cooperating in helping get Americans out of the country, but admitted “we’re having some more difficulty” in evacuating US-aligned Afghan citizens.

He said: “They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out, embassies get out, et cetera, but they’re having … we’re having some more difficulty having those who helped us when we were in there.”

The president was asked what his response had been to images that emerged of packed US military planes taking off from Kabul airport as people clung to their sides. At least two people apparently fell to their deaths from the undercarriage soon after takeoff.

Biden replied: “What I thought was: we have to gain control of this. We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport. And we did.”

Thursday marks Afghanistan’s independence day, celebrating the country’s freedom from British rule in 1919. The Taliban seized on the celebrations, stating that “as a result of our jihadi resistance, [we] forced another arrogant of power of the world, the United States, to fail and retreat from our holy territory of Afghanistan”.

However, it also raised the prospect of galvanising further anti-Taliban protests across the country. On Wednesday, at least three people and were killed and over a dozen injured when hundreds of Afghans marched in the city of Jalalabad, brandishing the Afghan flag, to protest against Taliban rule and were beaten and shot at by Taliban fighters.

The humanitarian cost of the Taliban insurgency also became increasingly apparent, as ATMs ran out of cash and concerns were raised about food shortages. Though the Taliban has appealed for international aid to continue to flow into the country, which currently accounts for 42.9% of GDP, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) joined growing number of donors and lenders who said they would suspend funds going to Afghanistan. IMF Resources of over £268m had been set to arrive this month but an IMF spokesperson said “lack of clarity within the international community” over recognising a government in Afghanistan meant they would no longer send the funds.

Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country of Sunday as Taliban troops entered Kabul, made his first appearance since it emerged he had been granted entry into the United Arab Emirates on “humanitarian grounds”.

Ghani, speaking in a video posted on Facebook, said he supported talks between the Taliban and former government officials, led by former president Hamid Karzai. He said he was “in talks” to return to Afghanistan and that he was making efforts to “safeguard the rule of Afghans over our country”.

Looking pale and gaunt, Ghani denied he had betrayed Afghans by fleeing and said the Taliban had entered Kabul, despite an agreement they would not.

“Do not believe whoever tells you that your president sold you out and fled for his own advantage and to save his own life,” said Ghani. “These accusations are baseless.”

He also denied reports he had taken money with him when he fled. “I was expelled from Afghanistan in such a way that I didn’t even get the chance to take my slippers off my feet and pull on my boots,” said Ghani.


Political cartoon of the day: While Milley napped …

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a letter to President Biden requesting a “Gang of 8” briefing on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan where the U.S. military is attempting to evacuate Americans from the Taliban-controlled capital.

“It is of the utmost importance that the U.S. Government account for all U.S. citizens in Afghanistan and provide the necessary information and means of departure to all those Americans who desire to leave the country,” said the letter from the two Republican leaders, sent on Thursday.


The letter requested a briefing or call with the Gang of Eight, a colloquial term for the eight congressional leaders briefed on classified intel matters, to cover six key areas regarding the evacuation.

The topics to be discussed in the meeting include:

  • The number and location of U.S. persons currently located in Afghanistan, and the methodology to determine such a number and location;
  • The Taliban’s security posture inside Kabul and the ability of U.S. persons to safely travel to Hamid Karzai International Airport from inside the city;
  • The status of discussions with the Taliban to ensure the safety of U.S. persons;
  • The ability of the U.S. Government to communicate with U.S. persons in country;
  • The Administration’s plan to evacuate U.S. persons outside of Kabul who cannot travel safely to the city; and
  • The number of U.S. persons unaccounted for in the country and the potential reasons why such individuals have not been reached.


Biden has faced growing criticism over the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, where thousands of Americans and allies are still reportedly stranded in Kabul attempting to get past Taliban roadblocks surrounding the airport.

Biden defended his actions in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday and said that his administration knew all along that the withdrawal would be chaos.

“No. I don’t think it could’ve been handled in a way that – we’re going to go back in hindsight and look but the idea that somehow there was a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” Biden said.


“So for you, that was always priced in the decision?” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos responded.


The group is infamous for its use of suicide bombers!

The Taliban movement’s inner workings and leadership have always been largely shrouded in secrecy, even during their rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

As the hardline Islamic group appears to be on the brink of regaining power, here is a rundown of what little is known about its leadership.

– Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader –

Haibatullah Akhundzada was appointed leader of the Taliban in a swift power transition after a US drone strike killed his predecessor, Mullah Mansour Akhtar, in 2016.

Before ascending the movement’s ranks, Akhundzada was a low-profile religious figure. He is widely believed to have been selected to serve more as a spiritual figurehead than a military commander.

After being appointed leader, Akhundzada secured a pledge of loyalty from Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who showered the religious scholar with praise — calling him “the emir of the faithful

Abdul Ghani Baradar was raised in Kandahar — the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

Like most Afghans, Baradar’s life was forever altered by the Soviet invasion of the country in the late 1970s, transforming him into an insurgent.

He was believed to have fought side-by-side with the one-eyed cleric Mullah Omar.

The two would go on to found the Taliban movement in the early 1990s amid the chaos and corruption of the civil war that erupted after the Soviet withdrawal.

Following the Taliban’s collapse in 2001, Baradar is believed to have been among a small group of insurgents who approached interim leader Hamid Karzai with a letter outlining a potential deal that would have seen the militants recognise the new administration.

Arrested in Pakistan in 2010, Baradar was kept in custody until pressure from the United States saw him freed in 2018 and relocated to Qatar.

This is where he was appointed head of the Taliban’s political office and oversaw the signing of the withdrawal agreement with the Americans.

– Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Haqqani Network –

The son of the famed commander from the anti-Soviet jihad, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Sirajuddin doubles as both the deputy leader of the Taliban movement while also heading the powerful Haqqani network.

The Haqqani Network is a US-designated terror group that has long been viewed as one of the most dangerous factions fighting Afghan and US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan during the past two decades.

The group is infamous for its use of suicide bombers and is believed to have orchestrated some of the most high-profile attacks in Kabul over the years.

The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Western citizens for ransom — including US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, released in 2014.

Known for their independence, fighting acumen, and savvy business dealings, the Haqqanis are believed to oversee operations in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, while holding considerable sway over the Taliban’s leadership council.

– Mullah Yaqoob, the scion –

The son of the Taliban’s founder Mullah Omar.

Mullah Yaqoob heads the group’s powerful military commission, which oversees a vast network of field commanders charged with executing the insurgency’s strategic operations in the war.

His lineage and ties to his father — who enjoyed a cult-like status as the Taliban’s leader — serves as a potent symbol and makes him a unifying figure over a sprawling movement.

However speculation remains rife about Yaqoob’s exact role within the movement, with some analysts arguing that his appointment to the role in 2020 was merely cosmetic.


Blinken says U.S. embassy staff in Kabul are moving to airport

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will resign on Monday, news portal Malaysiakini reported, after losing his majority owing to infighting among the ruling coalition.

If confirmed, Muhyiddin’s resignation would end a tumultuous 17 months in office but also bring more uncertainty to Malaysia as the country grapples with surging COVID-19 cases and an economic downturn.

It was not immediately clear who could form the next government, given there is no clear majority in parliament, or whether elections could be held during the pandemic

It would be up to the constitutional monarch, King Al-Sultan Abdullah, to decide what happens next.

Muhyiddin will submit his resignation to the king on Monday, according to Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof, a minister in the prime minister’s department, Malaysiakini reported on Sunday.

Reuters could not reach Mohd Redzuan and the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Malaysiakini quoted Mohd Redzuan as saying that Muhyiddin informed party members of his decision to resign after exhausting all other options to sustain the government.

“Tomorrow, there will be a special cabinet meeting. After that, he will head to (the palace) to submit his resignation,” Mohd Redzuan told Malaysiakini.

Muhyiddin’s grip on power has been precarious since he took office in March 2020 with a slim majority. Pressure on him mounted recently after some lawmakers from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party – the largest bloc in the ruling alliance – withdrew support.

The premier had for weeks defied calls to quit and said he would prove his majority in parliament through a confidence vote in September.

But on Friday Muhyiddin admitted for the first time that he did not have a majority and made a last-ditch effort to woo the opposition by promising political and electoral reforms in exchange for support on the confidence vote. The offer was rejected unanimously.

The king has the constitutional power to appoint a prime minister from among elected lawmakers based on who he thinks can command a majority.

Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with Singapore’s Institute of International Affairs, said the king could also appoint an interim premier until a permanent successor is found.

The premier would then have to face a confidence vote in parliament, he said.


President to leave for Turkey today

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi will leave for Turkey on Saturday (today) for a two-day visit on the invitation of His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdo an

During the visit, the two presidents will participate in the launch of the first of the four MILGEM corvettes for Pakistan Navy in Istanbul. The two leaders will hold talks on bilateral relations as well as exchange views on regional issues.

President Alvi will also interact with the media and leading Turkish businessmen. The fraternal relations between Pakistan and Turkey are deeply embedded in common faith, culture and history and underpinned by exceptional mutual trust and respect.

The strategic relationship between the two countries continues to grow for strength to strength, with increasing focus on the economic dimension. The frequent leadership-level exchanges and regular coordination on a range of issues between the two countries signify the commonality of views and strength of the bilateral relationship.


One FC personnel martyred, two injured in Balochistan terrorist attack

At least one security personnel was martyred and two others injured on Saturday after terrorists attacked on their vehicle in Balochistan’s Loralai, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

According to the military’s media wing, a FC vehicle carrying troops was passing through Shahrig area of Loralai when terrorists opened fire on it.

“FC troops responded promptly and killed 3 terrorists,” the ISPR statement added.

During the exchange of fire Naik Sharif embraced martyrdom, while Major Qasim and a soldier were injured in the attack. The body and the injured have been shifted to CMH Quetta.

Condemning the terrorist attack on the FC vehicle, Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed termed it a cowardly act. He expressed his condolences to the family of Naik Sharif.

“Terrorists cannot demoralise our forces by carrying out such cowardly attacks,” he added.

Earlier on June 25, five Frontier Corps soldiers were martyred in an attack by terrorists in Sibi, Balochistan.

The terrorists had targeted an FC patrol party in Sangan, District Sibi.

During an exchange of fire, heavy losses were inflicted on to the terrorists in men and materials, an ISPR statement had said.


In Texas, Efforts To Make Voting Harder

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A Woman Who Accused Gov. Andrew !

If you’re a well-rounded sports fan and want to watch live sports from all the major leagues, you’ll need an option that offers the broadest coverage. Subscribing to multiple individual-sport streaming services adds up quickly, and you could wind up spending more than cable would have cost in the first place. Even so, many of the options that pair sports networks with other TV channels can get expensive fast.

You might hope you can get live sports streaming for free, and you can. However, many of the “free” sports streaming sites require you to have cable or a subscription to a partner sports streaming service, so they really are not as free as they sound. The truly free options are often sketchy; you may need to use a VPN and take some not-quite-legal steps to get access. We do not recommend this approach.


Trump Continues To Push Election Falsehoods

A day after being suspended from Facebook for another two years, former President Donald Trump returns to the political arena Saturday night, poised to get back into his comfort zone speaking from the kind of platform he seems to enjoy most.

He’s making a speech before the North Carolina Republican Party convention, kicking off what’s likely to be a spree of summer campaigning. It’s his first public speech since his address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.

Trump called it “a great honor to be speaking” before the group.

“I understand the place will be packed, all records broken!” he boasted in an emailed statement.

In that statement, Trump also furthered falsehoods about voting in the 2020 election that he lost, and in response to Facebook’s announcement that he is banned until at least January 2023, he continued the lie that the election was “rigged.”

Trump was suspended and continues to be, Facebook said, because of the way he used the platform leading up to and during the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump Continues To Push Election Falsehoods. Here’s Why That MattersTrump called the ruling “an insult” to the people who voted for him. But Trump’s reactions are no surprise. Re-litigating the election is what he has largely focused on since leaving office. That was evident in an NPR analysis of nearly two months of his statements.

“We know exactly what he’s going to say — the election was rigged, stolen,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee spokesman and North Carolina native. “He’ll tease running for president again. ‘Wouldn’t you love me to run again? Well, I’m thinking about it….’ And he’ll take shots at those who voted to impeach” him and criticized him.

Trump’s choice of venue to kick off his campaigning is something of a soft launch. Doing it this way doesn’t have the pressure of creating a scene and crowd that a traditional rally would have.

“That Trump is doing a state party convention makes sense,” Heye said. “It’s a controlled environment and doesn’t risk the empty seats he could have at a rally — no more football stadiums.”

But Trump will soon be trying to hold those large rallies again. He’s expected to hit the road with two rallies reportedly in the next month, with more to come later this summer in an effort to boost both allies and challengers to Republican incumbents who have spoken out against him.

Some of those include: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who Trump thought should have done more to help him win the state he lost in the presidential election, and Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted for Trump’s impeachment.

Then-President Donald Trump waves to supporters during a campaign rally on Oct. 24, 2020, in Circleville, Ohio.
J.D. Pooley/Getty Images
These events are ostensibly about others, but in the past they have seemed to always come back to being about Trump. Feeling constrained by the office and Washington, these rallies became almost therapeutic for the 45th president. He would feed off the friendly crowds, re-energize and dig in with harder-line culture-war messages.

The most important person in the party

Since leaving office, and being booted from mainstream social media platforms, Trump has struggled to control the political narrative.

He ditched a blog-like feature on his website for statements, and a hyped new social media platform has yet to materialize. To get buzz, he’s been relegated to emailing statements — and hoping for them to be shared on mainstream platforms.

And yet, Trump remains the most influential figure and most powerful force in the Republican Party, despite an eager crop of candidates waiting in the wings.

Trump remains very popular with Republican voters, and his positions are essentially GOP leaders’ positions. That’s despite party figures like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially criticizing Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

McCarthy has since cozied up to Trump, betting that riding the former president’s coattails is the best way to take back the House — and for him to become speaker. McConnell rallied other Republicans in blocking a 9/11-style independent commission to more fully investigate the Jan. 6 riot.

That was singing from Trump’s hymnal.

“Republicans in the House and Senate should not approve the Democrat trap of the January 6 Commission,” Trump said in a statement May 18, adding, “Republicans must get much tougher and much smarter, and stop being used by the Radical Left. Hopefully, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening!”

They were.

Positioned to win the GOP nomination again

Though Trump brought many voters into the fold, there are plenty of reasons why Republicans might think twice about nominating him to be their standard-bearer again. Those include:

He lacks a discipline that many Republicans privately — and some publicly — believe made it harder for them to pass policies conservatives care about;
some Republicans have grown tired of the chaos he brings — even if they agree with him on policy;
he would be 78 years old if he were to win in 2024, the same age President Biden is now;
his favorability ratings with independents are abysmally low; and
only one other president has won a second term after losing a reelection bid, Grover Cleveland, more than a century ago.
“I’ll be really curious to see how many candidates want to campaign with him in a general election,” said Alex Conant, a founding partner at the consulting firm Firehouse Strategies, and former communication director for Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign.

But when it comes to a Republican presidential primary, Trump is better-positioned than anyone else in the party. Everyone knows who he is — and name recognition is critically important — and Republicans love him.

In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 85% of Republicans said they wanted candidates who agree with Trump. Two-thirds said they want Trump to run again and be the party’s nominee in 2024.

“I think a lot of GOP voters are excited about the next generation of candidates,” Conant said, “but if Trump ran in 2024, he’d be hard to beat in a primary.”

Putting the 2024 “field on ice”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leaves after holding a press conferenceFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis campaigned for governor with an ad telling his child, playing with paper bricks, to “build the wall.” And since winning that race, he’s arguably been angling for a presidential run.

Both DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, another possible 2024 candidate, have gained prominence in conservative circles for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as they’ve defiantly resisted mask mandates and kept businesses open. Noem is also speaking before the North Carolina GOP Saturday.

Others, like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Trump United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, have also gotten a lot of attention as potential candidates.

Scott delivered the response to Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress. And Haley, who has had an up-and-down relationship with Trump, launched a group that’s supposed to advocate for conservative policies, but it looks more like a site for a campaign-in-waiting for Haley.

When Joe Manchin was in the fight of his political life, vying for reelection in a state where being a Democrat had long been out of fashion, the senator’s opening message to voters focused on the place he knew best: Farmington, West Virginia.

Manchin argued throughout his last reelection campaign that it was his upbringing in the small Appalachian town set on the banks of Buffalo Creek — from working at his family’s local grocery store to watching how relationships in his hometown transcended political lines — that helped make him a politician who would listen to even his most ardent detractors and use his power to make sure every bipartisan avenue was exhausted before he picked the best option for the people of his state.

And, of course, there’s former Vice President Mike Pence. He, too, appears ready to run if given the chance. He has now made appearances in Texas for a state fundraiser, and in the early presidential primary states of South Carolina and New Hampshire.

Pence Distances Himself From Trump Over Jan. 6 Insurrection
He made news Thursday in New Hampshire when he said he doesn’t think he and Trump will “ever see eye-to-eye” about Jan. 6. Pence was targeted by the pro-Trump mob that day, and Trump tweeted during the insurrection that “Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

Pence’s comments splitting with Trump about the insurrection made headlines, but the bulk of his New Hampshire speech was laudatory toward the former president and what he said they accomplished. It was an attempt to thread a very fine needle to help his standing as a potential serious candidate.

Trump, though, doesn’t appear ready to pass the baton, or rather the “mantle of anger,” as he once put it during his 2016 run.

“I am looking at it very seriously,” Trump told ally and conservative media personality Sean Hannity in April about whether he will run again. “Beyond seriously. From a legal standpoint, I don’t want to really talk about it yet. It’s a little too soon.”

On Friday, responding to the Facebook news, Trump gave perhaps the clearest hint yet that he may be intending to run. Threatening not to have dinner anymore with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Trump began his statement with this phrase:

“Next time I’m in the White House… .”

It’s a good bet Trump will likely tease out his final decision until the very last minute, effectively putting the other candidates in a deep freeze.

“His being out there keeps the rest of the field on ice,” Heye said. “They’ll go to New Hampshire and Iowa, etc., but they can’t make a ton of hires, and they absolutely cannot announce a campaign. The first one to do so will take all sorts of incoming from Trump.”

That will irritate other potential candidates. While they try to stay in Trump’s good graces, there will be the inevitable grousing from people close to those candidates in anonymous quotes in stories about the presidential field, perhaps griping “sooner rather than later,” Heye said, “but I’m not sure if it matters. Trump got into the 2016 race relatively late, had no real campaign, and still won.”–166134810/–166134865/–166134908/–166134915/–166134917/–166134922/–166134931/–166134992/–166135148/–166135160/–166135376/–166135389/–166135476/–166135481/–166135522/–166135617/–166135774/–166135783/–166135793/–166135801/–166135808/–166135818/–166136119/–166136144/–166136865/–166137033/–166137043/–166137164/–166137169/–166137175/–166137341/–166137956/–166137967/–166137971/–166138244/–166138811/–166138812/–166138940/–166138961/–166138975/–166139093/–166139124/–166139465/