WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 50 Democratic and Republican members of Congress are due to unveil a $1.5 trillion bipartisan coronavirus relief legislation on Tuesday, in an election year effort to break a month-long impasse in COVID-19 talks between the White House and top Democrats.
The Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes members of both parties in the House of Representatives, was set to outline the legislative package at an 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) press conference at the U.S. Capitol.
The group, which says it has been working to find common ground on coronavirus relief for the past six weeks, was set to offer the measure just before House lawmakers returned to Washington from a summer recess on Monday.
“This is just a framework to hopefully get the negotiators back to the table,” U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer, the group’s Democratic co-chairman, told CNBC in an interview.
The proposal includes another round of direct checks to Americans, $500 billion for state and local governments and jobless benefits, with spending lasting beyond next January’s presidential inauguration, according to a source familiar with the plan.
With less than two months to go before the November election, there is growing anxiety among lawmakers about the inability of Congress and President Donald Trump’s White House to agree on a package to deliver relief to millions of Americans and an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Talks between the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer broke down in early August and the two sides remain nearly $900 billion apart. Democrats are demanding $2.2 trillion in spending, while the White House has signaled a willingness to accept $1.3 trillion.
House and Senate Republican leaders have not participated in the discussions.
The Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass a $300 billion coronavirus bill over the objections of Democrats who called it inadequate. It was a slimmed-down version of an earlier $1 trillion measure that also failed.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum)
Three times Trump was racist during presidential debate
President Donald Trump was called racist by Democratic nominee Joe Biden during the first presidential debate, as the Republican candidate repeatedly used racist tropes to defend his supporters and engage in personal attacks.
During Tuesday’s debate, which was the first of the three scheduled before 3 November’s election, Mr Trump repeatedly interrupted and spoke over Mr Biden, as he launched attacks on the former vice president and other Democratic officials.
During a discussion about racial sensitivity training, Mr Biden called the president racist over his decision to ban the practice for federal contractors earlier in the year.
Mr Biden, who has undertaken the training, claimed: “This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division.”
Mr Biden added later on in the debate, while the candidates clashed over Black Lives Matter protests: “He’s the racist.”
However, there were other moments during the debate where the president used racist tropes – while talking about the coronavirus pandemic, white supremacists and senator Elizabeth Warren.
The president refused to condemn white supremacist groups
On Tuesday, the president refused to condemn the violence of far-right and white supremacist groups during Black Lives Matter protests this summer, when moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, repeatedly asked him to.
Mr Trump initially tried to avoid the question by asking Mr Wallace for a specific group that he wanted him to condemn, but eventually chose to address the far-right, white supremacist group, the Proud Boys.
He said: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”
In reaction to the president’s comments, a key Proud Boys organiser wrote on the “free speech” social network, Parler: “Standing by sir.”
Following the debate, experts warned that Mr Trump’s comment could encourage violence from extremist groups.
Kathleen Belew, a historian of American white power movements, tweeted: “A green light like ‘stand back and standby’ is catastrophic.”
It’s astonishing that, when asked a simple question, will you condemn white supremacists, @POTUS responded – “The Proud Boys should stand back and stand by.” Trying to determine if this was an answer or an admission. @POTUS owes America an apology or an explanation. Now. https://t.co/9tgufXom9K
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) September 30, 2020
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), also tweeted his concern, and said that the president “owes America an apology or an explanation. Now,” for his comments.
President Trump called senator Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’
During the debate, Mr Trump questioned whether Mr Biden would have won the Democratic nomination if senator Elizabeth Warren had not dropped out of the race, and called her “Pocahontas” while doing so.
He said: “If Pocahontas would have left [the race] two days earlier, you would’ve lost every primary on Super Tuesday,” in reference to the senator’s previous claims that she has Native American heritage.
Pocahontas was a Native American woman, who belonged to the Pamunkey tribe. She was born in 1596 and died in 1617.
In 2018, president Trump claimed that Ms Warren was lying about her Cherokee heritage for political gain, and in response the senator took a DNA test, which showed that she was between 1/64th and 1/1028th Native American. She subsequently apologised for her previous claims.
However, Mr Trump has continued to refer to Ms Warren as Pocahontas, and although it was not commented on during the debate, the president using the term has caused upset to Native American people in the US.
In 2019, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which describes itself as the oldest and largest indigenous rights organisation in the US, said the president’s actions were part of a long tradition of insults endured by Native Americans.
“For centuries Native people have endured such slurs – from ‘R*dskins’ to ‘Injuns’ to ‘savages’ – that the forces of racism and intolerance deploy to dehumanise our people, mock our cultures, and interfere with our inherent right to control our own lands and destinies,” said NCAI CEO Kevin Allis.
He added: “Not only does it disrespect Pocahontas’ legacy and life, it likens her name to a slur.”
The president once again called coronavirus the ‘China plague’
During the debate, the president once again referred to the coronavirus pandemic as the “China plague,” while defending his administration’s response to tackling the virus.
He said: “We built the greatest economy in history, we closed it down because of the China plague.”
According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, in the US as a whole, some 7.1 million people have tested positive for coronavirus, while the death toll has reached at least 206,351.
Mr Trump, alongside other Republicans, has repeatedly referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus,” or “Wuhan flu,” and other slurs during the pandemic, which have been criticised for blaming the virus on a single country and group of people.
Additionally, there are concerns that the phrase could lead to a rise of harassment and mistreatment of Asian Americans, according to NBC News.
Speaking at a virtual invitation-only fundraiser for Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign last month, the former US president Barack Obama criticised Mr Trump’s use of the phrase, according to The Hill.
“I don’t want a country in which the president of the United States is actively trying to promote anti-Asian sentiment and thinks it’s funny,” Mr Obama reportedly said.
“I don’t want that. That still shocks and p***es me off,” he added.
Earlier in the year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) director general, Tedros Adhanom, said the name specifically does “not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease,” according to Forbes.
He reasoned that “having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing”.
The second presidential debate is scheduled to take place on 15 October in Miami with C-SPAN’s Steve Scully moderating.
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25 years after UN women’s meeting, equality remains distant
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Twenty-five years ago, the world’s nations came together to make sure that half of Earth’s population gained the rights, power and status of the other half. It hasn’t happened yet. And it won’t anytime soon.
In today’s more divided, conservative and still very male-dominated world, top U.N. officials say the hope of achieving equality for women remains a distant goal.
“Gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of our age and the biggest human rights challenge we face,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said. Last week, in his address at the virtual meeting of world leaders at the General Assembly, he said the COVID-19 pandemic has hit women and girls the hardest.
“Unless we act now,” he said, “gender equality could be set back by decades.”
Ahead of Thursday’s high-level meeting to commemorate the landmark 1995 U.N. women’s conference in Beijing, the head of the U.N. agency charged with promoting gender equality lamented the “slow, terribly uneven” progress, “pushback” and even regression in reaching the goals in the 150-page platform adopted by the 189 nations that met in China’s capital.
While there has been progress since Beijing, U.N. Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told The Associated Press on Tuesday that gains have been modest. What’s more, she says, “there is also sometimes an exaggeration and an illusion of much bigger progress than there has been.”
She pointed to the number of women in parliaments, which moved from about 11% in 1995 to a global average of 25% today. Now, women hold just 23% of managerial positions in the private sector. And among the 193 U.N. member nations, there are 21 female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, about twice as many as in 1995.
This means that men still hold about 75 percent of the power positions in the world, Mlambo-Ngcuka said. They “make decisions for us all, and that is what we have to crack.”
Guterres has stressed the uphill struggle, which he attributes to “centuries of discrimination, deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny.”
The landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing was crucial because it adopted a road map to gender equality. It was the largest-ever formal gathering of women, though hundreds of men were among the 17,000 participants at the official meeting that adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Some 30,000 people, the vast majority women, attended a parallel NGO forum outside the capital.
“The Beijing Declaration is still the equivalent of the United Nations Charter for women,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “It’s the one thing we have that was adopted by the largest number of member states.”
The platform called for bold action in 12 areas for women and girls, including combating poverty and gender-based violence, ensuring all girls get an education and putting women at top levels of business and government, as well as at peacemaking tables.
It also said, for the first time in a U.N. document, that women’s human rights include the right to control and decide “on matters relating to their sexuality, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”
Mlambo-Ngcuka said there has been significant “pushback” on reproductive rights, explaining that groups once on the fringes are now in the mainstream, and developed countries from the “global north are also being part of pushback,” including the United States.
“When the U.S. regresses, it is a big deal, not just for the U.S. but for many people who are influenced by trends in the U.S.,” she said.
She expressed deep concern at the possible replacement of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “who was the pillar of the feminist agenda,” with a conservative jurist like Trump administration nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
In the European Union, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, there are countries that want to pull out of The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women or are refusing to ratify it. “You would not have expected that to happen within the EU,” she said. And in Africa and Asia, she said, there are governments “that have not felt any pressure” to move forward.
“So our energy has had to go to stop this pushback, not to work for the advancement of women,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “And then came COVID, and that has made the situation worse.”
She said Thursday’s meeting is important to generate fresh support from world leaders for the Beijing platform and for the U.N. goal to achieve gender equality by 2030, and “to reaffirm multilateralism as indispensable.”
At the meeting, 170 nations are expected to speak including over 50 world leaders, among them French President Emmanuel Macron and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who had been scheduled to host “Generation Equality” forums this year for thousands of civil society representatives and activists. Those were postponed until 2021 because of the pandemic.
The summit will not be adopting any document. That happened in March when the Commission on the Status of Women, the main U.N. body promoting women’s rights, reaffirmed the 1995 Beijing declaration and platform and pledged to step up implementation.
Mlambo-Ngcuka did point to some advances in the last 10 years including 131 countries that enacted legislation to advance gender equality. The U.N. has also helped change and amend 25 constitutions in 25 years to entrench gender equality and “that is a big deal,” she said.
At the 1995 Beijing conference, then U.S. first lady Hillary Clinton galvanized participants with a rousing speech featuring words that have become a mantra for the global women’s movement: “Human rights are women’s rights — and women’s rights are human rights.”
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” Clinton said in a virtual discussion on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing conference at the Georgetown Institute For Women, Peace and Security.
“Am I discouraged? No. I’m disappointed we haven’t gone even farther in 25 years. I’m worried about the pushback and the backlash that we see from authoritarian leaders, in particular, who are trying to turn the clock back,” she said.
“But that just energizes me more to speak out, to work with others, to defend those who are on the front lines,” Clinton said. “”My thinking has also evolved. I’m certainly going to continue to call for women’s rights. But more important to me now is enabling women to have the power to claim their rights.”
Edith M. Lederer, chief U.N. correspondent for The Associated Press, has been reporting internationally for nearly a half century, including at the Beijing Women’s Conference in 1995. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EdithLedererAP
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