Michelle Obama has launched a stinging attack on US President Donald Trump as Democrats prepared to crown Joe Biden as their White House challenger.
“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” said the former US first lady in an emotional recorded message to the Democratic convention.
Disaffected members of Mr Trump’s Republican party also piled in on him at the Democratic party conference.
The election takes place on Tuesday 3 November.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, Democrats scrapped plans for a crowded party extravaganza with balloon drops and all the other political razzmatazz in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
But it is unclear whether the largely virtual schedule of pre-recorded speeches with no live audience can generate the same level of enthusiasm as pre-pandemic gatherings of the party faithful.
Republicans will face the same challenge as they make their case for four more years in the White House at a drastically scaled-down convention next week.
What did Michelle Obama say?
Mrs Obama, who recorded her keynote address before Mr Biden announced his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, six days ago, launched a blistering attack on Mr Trump.
“You simply cannot fake your way through this job,” she said in remarks that closed the first night of the convention on Monday.
The headline speaker added: “Our economy is in shambles because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long.”
“Stating the simple fact that a black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office,” Mrs Obama continued.
“Because whenever we look to this White House for some leadership, or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division and a total and utter lack of empathy.”
She said the last four years had been difficult to explain to America’s children.
“They see our leaders labelling fellow citizens enemies of the state, while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists.
“They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protests for a photo op.”
Mrs Obama continued: “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head.
“He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
She described Mr Biden as a “profoundly decent man”, touting the Democratic White House candidate’s experience as vice-president under her husband, President Barack Obama.
“We have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it,” she said, wearing a necklace that said “Vote”.
An emotional punch
A lot of politicians spoke at the camera during the “virtual” Democratic convention on Monday night. The only speaker who landed an emotional punch, however, was Michelle Obama.
The truth, she said, was that Donald Trump “simply cannot be who we need him to be for us”.
“It is what it is,” she said, employing the same words the president recently used about the coronavirus death toll – a jab that was as subtle as it was devastating.
She wasn’t trying to convince Republicans to switch sides. That was the job of John Kasich, the Republican ex-governor of Ohio.
She wasn’t trying to get left-wing progressives to rally to Biden. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders handled that.
Mrs Obama was speaking to loyal Democrats, some of whom may have stayed at home or voted for a third party in 2016, some of whom may be dispirited or scared this year.
Her goal was to drive home the gravity of the moment and to give them a call to action.
What else happened on Monday?
The opening night of the convention, a two-hour programme hosted by former Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria Baston, was titled by party organisers “We the People”.
John Kasich, who ran against Mr Trump for the Republican nomination in 2016, recorded a message calling on Americans to deny the president a second term in office.
Mr Kasich endorsed Mr Biden, saying: “We can all see what’s going on in our country today and all the questions that are facing us, and no one person or party has all the answers.
“But what we do know is that we can do better than what we’ve been seeing today, for sure.”
Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Vermont senator who was Mr Biden’s fiercest competitor during the Democratic party’s contest to pick a challenger to Mr Trump, also recorded a message.
He said: “My friends, I say to you, and to everyone who supported other candidates in this primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake.”
He added: “Nero fiddled while Rome burned – Trump golfs.”
Along with Mr Kasich, three other high-profile Republicans recorded messages for the convention’s opening night: California businesswoman Meg Whitman, former New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman and former New York congresswoman Susan Molinari.
While their inclusion left the Biden team claiming a broad coalition, some Democrats grumbled that the Republicans used up precious time that could have benefited progressive speakers or lesser-known rising stars.
But Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and Biden campaign co-chairman, rejected that idea, saying, “remember tonight’s theme is ‘We the People,’ not ‘We the Democrats'”.
The opening night also featured pre-recorded messages from everyday Americans, including repentant Trump voters and a woman who blamed her father’s death from Covid-19 on the president.
How did President Trump hit back?
On Tuesday morning, Mr Trump responded to Mrs Obama’s criticism in a series of tweets.
“[I] would not be here, in the beautiful White House, if it weren’t for the job done by your husband,” he wrote.
And on Monday, Mr Trump spoke to the BBC on Air Force One and lashed out at Mr Kasich. “He was a loser as a Republican, and he’ll be a loser as a Democrat,” the president said.
During a campaign speech earlier that day in Mankato, Minnesota, Mr Trump warned that if Mr Biden won in November, news outlets would lose their audiences.
“Nobody’s going to want to cover sleepy Joe,” Mr Trump said. “We will end up with one very boring socialist country that will go to hell.”
Mr Trump also confirmed he would accept the Republican nomination for a second term during a live speech at the White House next week.
Democrats and some fellow Republicans have criticised the plan for using the White House as a campaign venue.
How will the rest of the Democratic convention play out?
The four-night jamboree will culminate in Mr Biden’s speech on Thursday in a mostly empty ballroom in his home state of Delaware.
On Wednesday, his vice-presidential pick, Ms Harris, the daughter of immigrant parents from India and Jamaica, will accept her nomination as the first woman of colour to be a running mate on a major party presidential ticket.
Also speaking on Wednesday are former President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, and one of Mr Biden’s former rivals, Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Tuesday will hear speeches from former President Bill Clinton and congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
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How UK protesters are taking the spark of Black Lives Matter back to their hometowns
The outcry began in Minnesota, but campaigners spread the spark of the movement to towns around the world. In the UK, even as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in the streets of its major cities.
Yet the movement also spread outside Britain’s big urban centers, as anti-racist campaigners challenged institutional racism in smaller towns and cities which have less ethnic diversity and are less known for their activism. The tragedy of Floyd’s death inspired ordinary people, thousands of miles away in the UK, to fight for institutional change in their communities under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” (BLM).
Six months later, here are some of the voices of those continuing to fight for racial equality outside of the global spotlight.
Maia Thomas, 21, is an activist who campaigns for Black history and anti-racism to be taught in English schools.
In June, Thomas used social media to organize a peaceful protest and vigil for Floyd in Exeter, a small, historic city in the English county of Devon, around 170 miles southwest of London.
“People were shouting at me in the street ‘you’re pretty for a Black girl, you should use your looks instead of your voice,’ and ‘White supremacy will always win.’ I was threatened online by people saying they were going to attack, kill me and come after my family,” she told CNN.
Thomas said she was physically assaulted by a man in Exeter. After the protest she said she required security patrols in the city’s shopping center where she worked.
“I was given a key card to go through the back-exit doors just in case I was being followed,” she said. “At times my manager escorted me. It was serious.”
Despite the violence Thomas says she experienced, she regards the march as a success.
“There were more Black people at the protest than I’ve ever seen in the whole time that I’ve lived in Devon,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ views on education had an immediate impact. Scores of schools and other educational institutions have asked for the 21-year-old’s help to run equality workshops.
Thomas is also a part of “Black Lives Matter Somerset,” helping to produce Black History packs for schools and working to increase diversity within her local council. Next year she will attend a conference in Berlin as a UK delegate to speak about Britain’s BLM movement.
She has no intention of stopping anytime soon, but says campaigning can feel overwhelming: “Every organization, business, school and individual does not realize how draining it is to constantly relive trauma because no one has actually wanted to listen until now.
“I realized in Zoom calls, assemblies and talks if it was any other subject, the school or council would pay for a speaker,” she added. “So why should we as activists and educators be doing this for free?”
Liza Bilal is a 21-year-old student and one of the most prominent faces in Britain’s BLM movement. In June, Bilal and five young activists arranged a protest in Bristol, a port city in southwest England that has strong historic links to the UK slave trade. Britain enslaved 3.1 million Africans between 1640 and 1807, transporting them to colonies around the globe, according to Historic England, a public body. Many of them left on ships from Bristol.
The protests were a call to be heard, said Bilal. “People have been petitioning for the statue to come down for decades and were routinely ignored by the council.”
Bilal believes Floyd’s death forced people outside the US to reflect on their own issues with racism. She said the brutality of his death awakened “a lot of people that hadn’t really thought about systemic racism before.”
“Black and Brown people have been disproportionately affected. We know that’s nothing to do with biology and everything to do with systemic racism,” she said.
Yet the surge of protests has also had unintended consequences. Bilal fears the summer’s demonstrations have emboldened Britain’s far-right groups.
“In the summer I saw a group of White supremacists. I think there were maybe around 200-300 guarding the Cenotaph [war memorial] which is next to the plinth from which Edward Colston was torn down,” she told CNN.
The backlash hasn’t halted the All Black Lives campaign’s mission. They continue to hold monthly protests and weekly panels.
“We have to have a resilience that is unbreakable in the face of something as pervasive as White supremacy,” said Bilal.
“They’re not getting interviewed. They’re not getting the breaks. There’s been a lack of awareness that something structural [has] to adjust,” Campbell told CNN.
In June, hundreds of people staged anti-racism rallies in the center of Glasgow. Campbell said the protests were the Black community’s demand for change.
“This generation has decided that the racism, daily microaggressions, and experiences of exclusion from a job market — they’re no longer prepared to tolerate it. They felt the George Floyd moment. They said no more,” Campbell said.
Campbell helped create an employment working group that monitors diversity in council departments. He worries that without enforcing inclusive hiring initiatives, equality would remain a pipe dream.
According to Campbell, changing place names and removing statues isn’t enough to fight racism in Britain. Instead, he believes consciously challenging racism is necessary.
“People in Scotland too often presumed that you are anti-racist by default. In a racist society, especially one with a colonial history like Britain, you have to be actively anti-racist,” said Campbell.
“It’s the unconscious biases, that translate into institutional practices, that discriminate against non-White people.”
Robert Walcott, a director of SADACCA, believes BLM should primarily help Black people in their day-to-day lives, rather than educating White audiences.
“I want to focus on what we are doing after the protests. I’d like to see more of what we’re doing to support ourselves as opposed to trying to raise the issue to a White audience,” he told CNN.
Walcott’s mother is a part of the Windrush generation, the Caribbean immigrants who moved to the UK from the late 1940s at the invitation of the government.
The cruel consequences of tougher immigration policies implemented from 2012 were revealed five years later, in what came to be known as the Windrush scandal.
Those who had arrived decades earlier, without papers to prove their legal status as citizens as such documentation wasn’t needed before, had been denied government services, wrongly detained or even deported.
“I think there is a slight disconnect between the Windrush elders because they don’t fully understand why there is such hostility from young people towards the situation,” he said.
Walcott said that “racism was a fact of life” for the Windrush generation, who see younger Black people as currently having more opportunities than they did. “There have been more opportunities for Black people [created] in their lifetime,” he added.
“There is a fragility of people who are still refusing to accept that racism is the world’s number one pandemic. Still people don’t even know what racism is or about England’s major role in the slave trade,” said Robert Cotterell, SADACCA chairman.
Before the protests “there were no conversations at all from institutions and key players in the city,” said Cotterell.
SADACCA has continued discussions with authorities and institutions in Sheffield that “traditionally have had, and still have, issues around institutional structural racism.”
Despite the growing interest in hearing Black voices, Cotterell says anti-racism activists aren’t fairly compensated for their time and work.
“They can’t keep using us as the experts because if we were White, we’d be getting paid for our knowledge,” Cotterell told CNN. “If we were White, we would become consultants, we’d be getting paid… £1,500 a day.”
Nadia Thomas, 25, says she was forced to cut ties with a close family member after receiving relentless offensive messages due to her supporting BLM.
“My relative sent me a meme from the film ‘Zulu’ where all the British soldiers took over South Africa and knelt, about to go into battle. It said, ‘me and the boys, hashtag taking the knee,'” Thomas told CNN.
With a mixed-race background and having both White and Black parents, Thomas was shocked by her White relative’s insensitivity. The relative had worked for her Antiguan father for many years.
“It’s an awakening and it goes beyond ignorance,” she said.
In June this year Thomas and a group of friends organized a BLM protest. “At first, I couldn’t take part, I didn’t even want to turn on the TV,” she said.
As Thomas watched the cause spread globally she became less skeptical.
She felt responsible for confronting the racism within her own town — no matter how small or rural. “Since Brexit, [Donald] Trump and Boris [Johnson]… people aren’t afraid to be racist. I always thought it was a passive ignorance in this country and now I see blatant racism. It’s clearly always been here and it’s now allowed by people in power,” Thomas told CNN.
Thomas is working on ways to tackle racism in Chepstow. “I’ve got a meeting with the Labour Party and my constituency to do with Black history and diversity workshops in school curriculums,” she told CNN.
“Nationally, this needs to be addressed. I don’t want to just protest. I want to shake up the world.”
“We were followed home. We were threatened. We were told people were coming to find us. I moved out of my house for a few weeks just because someone followed me home,” said Gueye who is mixed-race Senegalese-British.
In response to the backlash, she founded the Local Equality Commission, a racial equality group that runs workshops to challenge racism in rural areas.
“The main aim of that was to try and suture some of the divides that occurred because of the protests that we organized,” Gueye told CNN. “We wanted to reaffirm to people that this isn’t a problem that’s going away.”
According to Gueye, education on racism is needed most in rural areas: “The UK doesn’t seem to understand how the BLM movement in the US resonates with the UK. In rural areas we don’t have the exposure to diversity. There is no exposure to this knowledge.”
The voices of Gueye and others in small towns demonstrate the power of protest, education and allyship. As the national focus on BLM dies down, Gueye aims to keep the conversation alive in Gloucestershire.
“George Floyd’s murder is the perfect example of the police brutality that happens frequently throughout the world, throughout the US, throughout the UK. We are in a system that is failing Black people,” said Gueye.
“Everything that has happened over the past six months has been a trajectory towards change,” she added. “It’s about trying to engage with people who don’t necessarily understand or empathize with what we’re trying to fight for.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Khady Gueye as the co-founder of the Local Equality Commission. She is the founder of the group.
Democrats elect Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to lead campaign arm
As incoming DCCC chief, Maloney will have one of the trickiest jobs in Washington after the Democrats’ down-ballot trouncing at the polls last month that left Republicans between five and seven seats away from the majority. He will have to convince dozens of new candidates to run in a potentially unfavorable environment and in districts that have yet to be drawn.
Maloney will be immediately inserted into the center of an ideological debate that has gripped House Democrats since Nov 3., with the caucus’s warring factions pointing fingers at each other over exactly why they’re staring down a shrunken majority come January.
Many moderate Democrats — who largely supported Maloney for his ability to win in a Trump-won district — are demanding a new party message that veers starkly away from the GOP’s attacks on socialism and progressive slogans like “defund the police.”
Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are dissecting the internal gears at DCCC, arguing that the operation needs to rely on more diverse staff and consultants, devote more resources to get-out-the-vote efforts and completely rethink its digital operations.
Many progressives, particularly lawmakers of color, had flocked behind Cárdenas, who proved to be a prolific fundraiser and organizer as he built the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, BOLD Pac, from the ground up. And he staked his campaign on a vow to Democrats’ increasingly apparent struggles with Latino. The party suffered surprising losses in heavily Latino seats in Florida, Texas and California.
Cárdenas was vocal about reforming some of DCCC’s practices, including ending a contentious policy that banned the organization from hiring any consultant that has helped a primary challenger of a sitting Democrat — a practice that enraged progressives.
Maloney has acknowledged concerns with messaging and said he would reconsider the DCCC blacklist, though he has been mostly restrained — both publicly and privately — in his assessment of DCCC’s miscalculations.
“The smart thing for the DCCC chair to do is to say, I don’t know what happened until I’ve really had a chance to dig into the numbers,” Maloney said in a recent interview.
As chair, Maloney will have an additional task of shepherding members through the decennial redistricting process, which is fraught with politics and internal bickering, particularly in states that are on track to lose a seat. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that the Census Bureau will almost certainly not be able to release its reapportionment data in December, delaying states ability to draw new maps.
It’s entirely possible that redistricting alone creates enough red-friendly seats to place Republicans in the majority in 2022. The GOP has total control of the process in many key states, including Texas, Florida and North Carolina, which could have a combined total of 82 seats.
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.
Students May Not Be Allowed To Return To University For Five Weeks After Christmas To Prevent Spreading Coronavirus Round Campus
3 min read
Students who go home for Christmas may have to wait five weeks into the spring term before they can return to campus.
That is according to new government coronavirus guidance, which says the measure “is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students”.
The plan says those on practical or medical courses should be allowed to come back on a staggered basis over three weeks from 4 January.
But for those who do not have work, clinical or practical placements or on “courses requiring access to specialist or technical equipment”, they should not begin to go back until 25 January at the earliest, and should be spread out over a fortnight until 7 February.
As most universities plan to end their spring term after 12 weeks on 26 March, some students may be away from campus for almost half of that time.
And with the education department guidance on going home for Christmas stating people should return between tomorrow and 9 December, some students may be off-campus for more than two months.
Professor Glen O’Hara, who teaches modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes university criticised the plans, tweeting: “It is a total joke and an insult to hard-working lecturers and students.
“It is badly-written, badly-planned and a complete mess. Disgusting.”
The document to higher education providers, published this afternoon, states: “The government is committed to prioritising education and wants to enable all students, including those who have travelled home for the winter break, to return to university and resume blended learning.
“While we are confident that the face-to-face teaching element of blended learning can be done in COVID-secure environments, the mass movement of students across the country poses a greater risk for the transmission of infection between areas.
“It is important that measures are taken to manage the return to university carefully, to protect students, staff and local communities, while reducing disruption to education.
“This guidance sets out how we will support HE providers to enable students to return as safely as possible following the winter break, by staggering this process and to facilitate testing for all.”
Providers are advised that: “The return of students should be staggered over 5 weeks – this is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students.”
It also states universities must offer “asymptomatic mass testing to all students on their return”, and says if they are using lateral flow tests then they should be tested twice, the second one three days after their arrival.
The guidance on who can return says “from 4 January to week commencing 18 January 2021 HE providers should allow those students on practical courses to return to campus in line with their planned start dates”.
It adds: “The remaining courses should be offered online from the beginning of term so that students can continue their studies from home.
“HE providers should plan for students to return gradually from 25 January, over a 2-week period.”
Students are also told to “use private transport wherever possible and only use public transport if they have no other option”, and universities should encourage people to “avoid car sharing with anyone outside their household or support bubble”.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students. But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission.
“I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.
“It is so important students have the support they need to continue their education, which is why we are providing up to £20m funding for those facing hardship in these exceptional times.”
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