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US Midterms: Republicans Narrowly Win Back the House

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Getty Images

Republicans have secured the 218 seats needed to win a majority in the lower chamber of the Congress, the BBC’s US partner CBS News projects.

The party’s majority in the House of Representatives is razor-thin, but it is enough to stall President Joe Biden’s agenda for the next two years.

It marks a return to divided government, with Democrats still retaining power in the Senate.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump has announced he will run again.

Split control of Washington was ushered in by last week’s midterm elections, in which the Republicans – who had hoped to win back control of both chambers – underperformed expectations.

The Republican party is now projected to win between 218-223 seats in the 435-seat House, according to CBS.

But with votes in cliff-hanger races still being tallied, the party’s majority may not be clear for days or even weeks.

Kevin McCarthy, who was elected by rank-and-file Republicans to be their nominee to replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House on Tuesday, celebrated having “officially flipped” the chamber.

“Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver,” the California congressman tweeted on Wednesday night.

In order to be elected Speaker, the House Republican minority leader must work to receive majority support from the 435 members of the full House.

President Joe Biden congratulated Mr McCarthy and offered to work with Republicans to deliver results for Americans.

“As I said last week, the future is too promising to be trapped in political warfare,” said the Democratic president.

“The American people want us to get things done for them. They want us to focus on the issues that matter to them and on making their lives better.”

As the majority party, Republicans will run key committees, empowering them to initiate legislation and investigate Mr Biden, his family and his administration.

But any Republican-backed legislation that emerges in the House could well be blocked in the Senate, which Democrats still control.

Republicans had hoped that Mr Biden’s relatively low popularity, stubborn inflation, and the fact that congressional maps were redrawn by Republican-led state legislatures would herald sweeping midterms victories.

The blame for last Tuesday’s showing has largely landed on two party leaders: Mr Trump and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

On Tuesday night, the ex-president formally announced a third bid for the White House in 2024 from a ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

He said voters had “not yet realised the full extent and gravity of the pain our nation is going through”, but would change their minds over the next two years as he predicted things would get worse.

In Washington on Wednesday, Mr McConnell was re-elected as Senate minority leader, fending off a challenge from fellow Republican Rick Scott of Florida.

This was the first challenge to his lengthy leadership tenure in 15 years.

The two men butted heads frequently in the lead-up to the midterms and Mr Scott had said he was “not satisfied with the status quo”.

The new Congress will be convened on 3 January 2023.

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Original Post: bbc.co.uk

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Three Women Among Dozen Publicly Flogged in Afghanistan – Taliban Official

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Reuters

Twelve people, including three women, have been flogged in front of thousands of onlookers at a football stadium in Afghanistan.

The group were guilty of “moral crimes” including adultery, robbery and gay sex, a Taliban official told the BBC.

This is thought to be the second time in a month the Islamist group has carried out public lashings.

The move could signal a return to the hard-line practices seen in the previous Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Omar Mansoor Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman for Logar region in eastern Afghanistan, where the lashings happened, said that all three women were freed after they were punished. Some of the men were jailed, he said, but it is not clear how many.

The men and women received between 21 and 39 lashes each. The maximum number a person can receive is 39, another Taliban official said.

Nineteen people were also punished last week in a similar flogging in Takhar province in northern Afghanistan, reports say.

The flogging in Logar province comes a week after the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered judges to enforce punishments for certain crimes in line with the group’s strict reading of Islamic Sharia law.

This interpretation of Islamic law includes public executions, public amputations and stoning – although exact crimes and corresponding punishments have not been officially defined by the Taliban.

The supreme leader’s order is the latest sign that the Taliban is taking a tougher stance on rights and freedoms; after promising to rule more moderately when they took power last year.

During their rule from 1996-2001, the Taliban were condemned for regularly carrying out punishments in public, including floggings and executions at the national stadium in Kabul.

The government also vowed that they would not repeat the brutal repression of women; but since the group’s return to rule women’s freedoms have been severely curbed and a number of women have been beaten for demanding rights.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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Ukraine War: Zelensky Denounces Russian ‘terror’ in UN Address

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of “crimes against humanity” after a bombardment caused blackouts across Ukraine.

At least six civilians were killed in the barrage, and officials were forced to shut down three nuclear reactors due to power outages.

Neighbouring Moldova also experienced blackouts, but it was not directly hit.

With winter setting in, Moscow has stepped up strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Officials say Russia’s missile strikes on energy stations has caused “colossal” damage and left more than half of the country’s power grid in need of repair.

Addressing an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, Mr Zelensky said the latest strikes had forced “millions of people to stay without energy supplies, without heating, without water” as temperatures started to drop below zero.

“That’s the Russian formula of terror,” he told delegates in New York via video link.

On Wednesday, an air-raid alert was issued across Ukraine, followed by reports of explosions in a number of locations – including in the capital Kyiv and in the Western city Lviv.

In the southern Zaporizhzhia region, a newborn baby was killed when a missile hit a maternity unit, emergency services said.

General Valeriy Zaluzhniy – the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces – said 67 cruise missiles were launched by Moscow, with air defences successfully intercepting 51 projectiles.

But the attack has caused significant damage to infrastructure across the country.

In Kyiv, parts of the city were left without water and completely without power. By nightfall Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least 80% of residents remained without power or water.

Most thermal and hydro-electric power plants were forced to shut down as well, Ukraine’s energy ministry said.

Shortly before the fresh reports from Kyiv and Lviv, officials said southern Ukraine had come under renewed assault.

The governor of the Mykolaiv region warned of “many rockets” arriving from the south and east.

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Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov did not comment on the attacks during a visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan, but he pledged that the “future and the success of the special operation (Moscow’s term for its war in Ukraine) are beyond doubt”.

Moscow has said that attacking Ukraine’s power grid could weaken its ability to fight and drive its leaders to the negotiating table.

But French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter that such strikes against “civilian infrastructure” constituted a war crime, following similar comments from the US.

Blackouts in Moldova

More than half of Moldova was left without electricity, deputy prime minister Andrei Spinu wrote on Twitter. He said the attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has caused a “massive blackout”.

Within a few hours power was restored in much of the capital, Chisinau, where a third of the Moldovan population lives.

Moldova also experienced widespread power cuts as a result of strikes on Ukraine on 15 November, Mr Spinu said. Mobile networks were also badly affected.

Energy policy analyst Sergiu Tofilat said that because Moldova and Ukraine were connected to the European grid in March, one of the connection points on the power line between Moldova and neighbouring Romania shut down automatically if Ukraine was hit to protect the system: “We reconnect once Ukraine has assessed the damage.”

In response to the outages, Moldovan President Maia Sandu said Russia had “left Moldova in the dark”.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine kills people, destroys residential blocks and energy infrastructure with missiles…” she wrote on Facebook. “But the electricity supply can be restored. We will solve the technical problems and we will have light again. All state institutions are working in this direction.”

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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G20: Xi Accuses Trudeau of Leaks to Media About China-Canada Relations

Cassandra Sherman

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China’s Xi Jinping has been filmed accusing Justin Trudeau of leaking meeting details, days after they held talks at the G20 summit in Bali.

President Xi told the Canadian PM, via a translator, this was inappropriate and accused him of lacking “sincerity”.

He was likely referring to reports that Mr Trudeau discussed alleged Chinese espionage and interference in Canadian elections at the sit down.

The talks, which happened behind closed doors, were the pair’s first in years.

In the footage, filmed by journalists at the now finished gathering of world leaders, President Xi and Mr Trudeau can be seen standing close to each other and conversing via a translator.

“Everything we discussed has been leaked to the papers and that is not appropriate,” the Chinese leader told Mr Trudeau in Mandarin.

It captures a rare candid moment of President Xi, whose image is normally carefully curated by Chinese state media.

After smiling and nodding his head, the Canadian PM responded by saying “in Canada we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have”.

“We will continue to look to work constructively together but there will be things we disagree on,” he added.

Before Mr Trudeau could finish, President Xi cut his counterpart off and asked that he first “create the conditions” – eventually shaking Trudeau’s hand and walking away.

The short but revealing exchange highlighted tensions between China and Canada, running high since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges. All three were later released.

But tensions recently resurged following the arrest of Yuesheng Wang, a public utility worker at Hydro-Quebec, who was charged with espionage.

Mr Wang “obtained trade secrets to benefit the People’s Republic of China, to the detriment of Canada’s economic interests,” Canadian police said in a statement.

At the time, Mr Trudeau and President Xi were at the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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