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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at a Wednesday news conference that he had been working for nearly eight months to assemble a bipartisan task force to address economic, technological, military and political threats from China. But Democrats ultimately bailed on the initiative the night before it was supposed to be announced, McCarthy said.

President Donald Trump and the GOP — who have made cracking down on China a central campaign theme — have tried to paint Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as soft on China. Democrats, of course, reject the charges and point out that Trump initially touted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the coronavirus.

The GOP’s report lays out 83 key findings and makes 430 policy recommendations, two-thirds of which are bipartisan, according to McCarthy. Since its inception, the task force has met with 125 people, including policy experts, business leaders, lawmakers and current and former administration officials.

“It is not only the most thorough report on China in the history of the House, it’s bold, achievable, and bipartisan,” McCarthy told reporters. “It doesn’t just lay out the challenges, it lays out the solutions.”

The blueprint calls for securing medical and national security supply chains, striking a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan and limiting the Thrift Savings Plan from investing in certain Chinese companies. The report also calls for evaluating whether the Chinese Communist Party’s crimes against humanity in Xinjiang amount to genocide and providing a safe harbor for Hong Kong refugees.

During a press conference, task force members highlighted the stack of recommendations that already have strong bipartisan support and expressed hope that many of them could actually become law.

“I don’t know of another issue in American politics that united me and Chuck Schumer as closely as countering the Chinese Communist Party,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.).

McCarthy, when pressed on whether he thought Biden would be willing to implement these recommendations if he wins the White House, said he was concerned that the former vice president wouldn’t be as tough as the Trump administration in standing up to China.

“I would hope Joe Biden would read this report,” McCarthy said. “But that would be a real concern to me of why switching administrations would be wrong.”

McCarthy has also highlighted the China Task Force recommendations in his election-year agenda that was released earlier this month, signaling it would be a top priority for the GOP if they win back the House.

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Democrats already angling to take out Ron Johnson in 2022

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Johnson, a two-term senator who hasn’t said whether he’ll run again, has been an adamant defender of President Donald Trump — and Democrats think that record will not play well in the perennial battleground in 2022.

While an announcement eight days before the presidential election might rankle some in the party for sidetracking from an all-hands-on-deck attempt to oust President Donald Trump from the White House, the move gives Nelson a head start on other Democrats expected to flock to challenge Johnson in the weeks after the presidential election.

The early start could allow Nelson to take advantage of sky-high Democratic enthusiasm that’s translated into fundraising records across the country, which could wane after Nov. 3, especially if Joe Biden wins.

Other Democrats whose names are already circulating as possible candidates include Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry, who also served as the Democratic National Convention host committee finance chair. Lasry, the son of billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic bundler Marc Lasry, could quickly mount of a formidable, well-funded campaign.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who took on a national role speaking for Wisconsin in the wake of police shooting of Jacob Blake and the subsequent Kenosha riots, is another name in the mix, as well as state Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Nelson’s announcement coincides with an expected Monday confirmation vote on Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. Nelson criticized Johnson, who, after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this month, vowed to wear a “moon suit” to return to the Senate and cast a vote in favor of Barrett if needed.

“I think his record, I think his behavior and what he has done and what he has said — not just the last couple of years but for the last nine years — makes him very vulnerable,” Nelson said. “Ron Johnson is an unmitigated disaster and a conspiracy nut, among other qualities. Every time he opens his mouth he embarrasses himself and our state.”

Nelson said his county — about an hour-and-a-half north of Milwaukee — has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus, putting him on the frontlines of the pandemic as the state has undergone one of the most severe spikes in the nation.

Nelson assailed Johnson for recent remarks seeming to underplay the virus, as well as Johnson’s decision to attend a fundraiser while he awaited the results of a Covid-19 test. He later tested positive. Nelson said the senator was especially vulnerable electorally because he had voted against the first coronavirus relief package.

Nelson, who rolled out an announcement video on Monday, served as a Bernie Sanders delegate earlier this year. He argues he’s well-positioned to win statewide because he’s demonstrated he can win over voters in a key swing area. He was elected three times to the state assembly and elected three times as Outagamie county executive, most recently in April. The county, which voted twice for Barack Obama, swung to Trump in 2016, along with the rest of the state.

That year, Nelson ran unsuccessfully for an open seat in Congress, losing to now-Rep. Mike Gallagher by more than 20 points.

For his part, Johnson, first elected in 2010, has not announced his 2022 intentions, refusing to rule out any of three scenarios: retirement, reelection or a potential run for governor against Democratic incumbent Tony Evers. When he last ran for reelection in 2016, Johnson said it would be his final term in the Senate — but he backtracked last year.

Even if they retain control of the Senate in next week’s elections, the 2022 cycle will be a challenging one for the GOP. Two swing-state Republican senators, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have already said they will retire in 2022 rather than run for reelection. Also on the ballot in two years are Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who will be 89 years old on Election Day 2022.

If he does seek a third term, Democrats view Johnson as vulnerable because of his steady loyalty to Trump and controversial remarks about the Covid crisis, including downplaying the severity of the virus, even as Wisconsin hospitalizations have soared.

“We have unfortunately been snookered into this mass hysteria that isn’t even close to the real risk,” Johnson said in recent remarks to Wisconsin business leaders. “And so we’ve shut down our economy. We’ve had this economic devastation.”

Democrats have also cast Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, as hyper-partisan because of his role in releasing a conflict-of-interest report on Biden’s son, Hunter, and attempting to bring outsize attention on his business dealings overseas. Democrats have also hammered Johnson for comments he’s made about everything from outsourcing to calling media coverage of coronavirus “panic porn.” He also drew a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci for comparing deaths caused by coronavirus to traffic accidents: “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways,” Johnson remarked.

Since January, Johnson’s favorability numbers have hovered in the 30s, according to the Marquette Law School poll, under-performing Trump, Evers and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

“He has defended Donald Trump to the hilt,” Nelson added, predicting that would come back to haunt Johnson.

But Republicans point back to 2016, when Democrats predicted Johnson was headed for sure defeat, only to watch him overcome former Sen. Russ Feingold, the liberal icon he had ousted six years earlier.

“He’s been a dead man walking two times before, and it just never really sticks when it comes down to the ballot box,” says Brian Reisinger, a former Johnson adviser, also referencing Johnson’s 2010 victory. “He’s the sort of person that it becomes fashionable for the Democrats and for the national Beltway media to bash him because he sticks his neck out there.”

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Manchester Leaders Have Until 12pm To Accept The Government’s Coronavirus Deal Or Have Tier 3 Restrictions Imposed Unilaterally

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Regional leaders have until midday on Tuesday to accept the government’s deal (PA)


3 min read

Leaders in Greater Manchester have been issued an ultimatum to accept the government’s offer of coronavirus support by noon on Tuesday or have tier 3 restrictions imposed on them.

Writing to the region’s mayors and council leaders, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that if the deadline was not met he would “advise the prime minister that despite our best endeavours we’ve been unable to reach agreement.”

The letter was sent just hours after the most recent meeting with Manchester representatives ended without progress, marking the end of the 10th day of talks with the government.

It is understood that the prime minister will impose the strictest tier of coronavirus restrictions on the region later this week if an agreement is not reached by 12 pm on Tuesday. 

Mr Jenrick said local leaders had been “so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control”.

He continued: “The deteriorating public health situation in Greater Manchester means that we need to take action urgently. We have held discussions in good faith with local leaders for 10 days in order to ensure that the measures put in place were tailored to the local community.

“We have offered an extensive package of support for local people and businesses, proportionate to the approach we have taken in the Liverpool city region and Lancashire and in addition to the wider national support.”

He added that Great Manchester has been offered £22 million to support the area’s 2.8 million people throughout the additional measures, and ministers were “open” to discussing further support.

But the city’s mayor Andy Burnham accused the government of “trying to respond to a pandemic on the cheap.”

Many local officials have expressed frustration that the sum offered to Manchester is much less than other regions, with Lancashire and Merseyside getting £42 million and £44 million respectively despite having smaller local populations. 

Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, Mr Burnham said: “We’re in a crisis, and people need support in a crisis, but it does appear there’s been an abrupt change since the summer where it’s the opposite.”

Asked if he would oppose the restrictions were they imposed once the deadline passes, Mr Burnham said he would “accept that decision” as it was the “government’s prerogative”.

“But I would say to them at this point, are they sure that that is a wise thing to do because this isn’t just Greater Manchester’s problem,” he continued.

“Everywhere could end up in tier 3 over the winter and if they imposed tier 3 on places without providing that support… it will be the poorest people that will suffer the most as a result of that. 

“And I would say to them that the government will be at risk of losing what public support remains for the approach that they’re taking.”

But speaking on LBC, business minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The important thing is to focus on saving lives”. 

He said the government had been “negotiating in good faith for 10 days” but there were now fears that “there will be no ICU beds left in greater Manchester by the second week of November.”

He also confirmed to Sky News that “there’s more to come if [Andy Burnham] wants to negotiate”.

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Tanzania elections: Why pop stars are hailing President Magufuli

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By Basillioh Mutahi & Athuman Mtulya
BBC News

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionBaba Lao, a song by Africa’s top star Diamond Platnumz, has been remixed to praise President Magufuli

“Bongo flava” stars are wowing the crowds in Tanzania with their election beat at mass rallies across the country.

At events for the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, the lyrics of recent hits have been changed to praise President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second term in office on Wednesday.

Pop star Diamond Platnumz has remixed his popular song Baba Lao – a Swahili phrase that loosely means “Their Boss” – to “Magufuli Baba Lao”.

It not only lauds the president, but also Vice-President Samia Suluhu, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and other leaders, as well as CCM.

The opposition too have musicians on the campaign trail, though not as many.

This tactic – to appeal to young voters – is hardly surprising given that about two-thirds of Tanzania’s population is under the age of 25.

Historically too, it is not unusual for musicians to compose political songs, says Dr Viscencia Shule, a University of Dar es Salaam lecturer and expert on the performance arts.

“Artistes and musicians have been involved in the struggle for liberation in Tanzania and it continued that way post-independence. They have been used by the political class.”

‘Loyalty is key’

But Dr Shule does not believe all the praise-singing is genuine.

This mainly comes down to the strict laws introduced over the last five years to keep musicians in line – and a president who demands loyalty.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionDiamond Platnumz owns a record label as well as a TV and radio station

In July, President Magufuli got two long-time rivals – Diamond Platnumz and Alikiba – to attend a rally in the capital, Dodoma, where he made the musicians bury the hatchet.

Another big star, Harmonize, also came along – even though he had also fallen out with Diamond Platnumz after leaving his record label.

“I feel good when I see Alikiba seated next to Diamond. When you see Harmonize, who left Diamond, praising him in public, that’s the unity I want,” the president was quoted as saying.

‘Decadent behaviour’

But Diamond Platnumz has not always seen eye to eye with the authorities – and over the last few years has had to apologise to them multiple times.

His greatest climbdown was in 2018 when he fell foul of strict laws which include regulating the “decadent behaviour” of musicians – in the words of one cabinet minister.

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The regulations have been around for years, but are now being fully enforced by the country’s arts council, known by its Swahili acronym Basata, which often bans songs considered immoral or insulting.

In April 2018 Diamond Platnumz was questioned by police after posting on Instagram a video clip of himself playfully kissing a woman.

Eight months later he was banned from performing in Tanzania after he played a song which Basata banned for being sexually suggestive.

The song – called Mwanza – included lyrics with the Swahili word for “horny”, and dancers are seen in a video simulating sex.

At one stage Diamond Platnumz threatened to leave the country so angered was he by the clampdown.

But in the end he backed down and took to social media in December 2018, asking for “forgiveness” from Basata.

This was probably a savvy move as the musician has built up quite a business empire – with his own record label, TV and radio station.

‘The fear factor’

So it is through Basata that musicians are kept on a tight leash and have learnt over the last five years that they must knuckle down.

image captionRapper Nay wa Mitego (l) was greeted by well-wishers in 2017 after he was released following his arrest

Even in September, Diamond Platnumz’s radio station was taken off air for a week for airing some graphic material.

“Some circumstances can push them to [sing praises] to save their own interests,” says Dr Shule says. Some musicians, often with dependents and extended families, live on the breadline.

“Some are happy to do it, just to be seen… But there is the biggest factor – fear,” she adds.

Some may believe they can get some favours from President Magufuli, including being appointed to state positions.

Diamond Platnumz’s manager Babu Tale, with whom he co-founded the WCB music label, has joined the political race and is set to become a CCM MP as he faces no rivals in his constituency.

There are other artists who are seeking political positions in the elections, most of them on a CCM ticket, including popular rapper Mwana FA.

An opposition Chadema rally in Tanzania

AFP

If they don’t sing for the ruling party, they are seen as supporting the opposition”

Dr Viscencia Shule
University of Dar es Salaam lecturer

“Artists are forced to sing for various reasons,” says Dr Shule.

“The majority of them obviously don’t want to. But if they don’t sing for the ruling party, they are seen as supporting the opposition.

“And if they are in opposition they will suffer the consequences… the opposition has really suffered,” the academic says.

A case in point is rapper Roma Mkatoliki, famed for his anti-government songs, who says he was abducted by four unknown armed men in April 2017, tortured and then dumped near the ocean in Dar es Salaam three days later.

Tanzania’s election rivals:

Last year, he was reprimanded for a song criticising the government, which radio stations opted not to play.

Rapper Nay wa Mitego was also arrested in 2017 for his song which included the line: “Is there still freedom of expression in the country?”

He has seemingly refused to be cowed, and is on the campaign trail for the opposition Chadema party.

But he has not had any songs banned over the last three years – and appears to mask any criticism in ways it would be difficult to pin down exactly what he is referencing.

In a recent track, Mungu Yuko Wapi? meaning “Where is God?” he questions God’s existence and his faith, asking why God allows dictators to exist and behave like gods.

Self-censorship has become a matter of survival these days in Tanzania – and in fact if asked, Nay wa Mitego might or might not say whether the song had anything to do with the country.

Related Topics

  • John Magufuli

  • Tanzania
  • African Music

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