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Unlikely Coalition of Veterans Backs Biden on Ending Afghan War

A politically diverse set of veterans’ groups critical of the conflicts abroad have found ways to gain access to the White House to lobby for withdrawals.

WASHINGTON — Soon after President Biden announced that the United States military would withdraw from Afghanistan, hawks in Congress accused him of accepting defeat. But a diverse group of war veterans — many of whom had clashed bitterly with one another over the years — stepped in to provide him political cover.

Closely coordinating with the White House’s National Security Council, a coalition that included Concerned Veterans for America, an advocacy group funded by the Koch network; Common Defense, a longtime antagonist of former President Donald J. Trump; and the Secure Families Initiative, a nonpartisan group of military spouses, wrote opinion columns, began social media campaigns and released a stream of statements pushing for an end to America’s longest war. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veteran service organization, also came out in support of the new policy, to the surprise of many.

Over 20 years of war, American veterans have been venerated by Republicans and Democrats but lacked cohesive political influence. Democrats and the operatives around them often assumed that most veterans were conservative and failed to court them, and for years, leaders in both parties believed most veterans supported the conflicts abroad.

But as the conflicts dragged on, veterans and military families increasingly united around public positions critical of the wars, and found ways to gain access to the White House to lobby for withdrawal from them.

Similar efforts by lawmakers have also brought together unlikely allies, like Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California and once a lone voice against the wars, and Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona.

“Veterans acted as a liaison between the administration and the general public in terms of explaining what the impact of two decades of war were on American lives,” said Adam Weinstein, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a research organization that has become increasingly influential among anti-interventionists in Washington. Mr. Weinstein served as a Marine and deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

The movement against the “forever war” began in the last half of the Bush administration, with large protests around the country focused as much on the president as on the war on his watch. It is now fueled by a politically diverse group that was energized by Mr. Trump’s chin-out defiance of American adventures abroad, and by the election of Mr. Biden, who had been a critic of operations in Afghanistan as vice president.

President Biden attending a Memorial Day service in Delaware in May. Mr. Biden’s position on Afghanistan most likely helped him make inroads with veteran households in 2020.
Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Veterans have often made the case that the mission in the region had outlasted its original intent, and that an all-volunteer force should not be tasked with nation-building. But their forceful support of the withdrawal could be tested if the violence in the country continues to worsen as the last American troops leave.

“Veterans are credible messengers on issues of war and peace,” said William Ruger, the vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute and Mr. Trump’s last nominee as ambassador to Afghanistan.

“They are important cue givers to the public and policymakers,” said Mr. Ruger, a veteran of the war who remains an officer in the Navy Reserve. “This isn’t going to be a one-act story.”

The election of President Barack Obama largely quelled the antiwar movement as opponents of the conflicts assumed he would move quickly to end them.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, distinguished himself from Senator Hillary Clinton on war matters. More notably, Mr. Trump openly criticized the conflicts, setting him apart from other Republicans in the field and Mrs. Clinton.

“We saw the way that Donald Trump was tapping into the frustration with the wars,” said Alexander McCoy, a Marine Corps veteran and the political director for Common Defense. “This was a huge danger to Democrats because veterans were not excited about her.” At the same time, he said, “there was an inaccurate perception among Democratic operatives that veterans are conservative. We knew we needed to fix that to beat him.”

Mr. Trump ultimately did not deliver on his promise to get remaining troops out of Afghanistan, thwarted in part by conflicts among his closest advisers over the policy. But as even Mr. Biden has conceded, Mr. Trump set the table.

“President Trump helped propel the movement,” Mr. Ruger said. “That created the conditions in which the Biden administration came to office.”

Near the end of Mr. Trump’s term, the United States signed a deal with the Taliban to end the conflict in Afghanistan, giving the movement among veterans more fuel.

VoteVets, a group that works to elect Democratic veterans and to bring veterans out to vote, also furiously lobbied Mr. Biden and other Democratic primary contenders on withdrawal.

It joined forces with Concerned Veterans for America, a group with which it had sparred on veterans’ policy issues and that did not support Mr. Biden, to work on members of Congress to support withdrawal.

Mr. Biden, whose son Beau Biden served in the Army National Guard, signaled early on he was open to the message. “The first thing I would do as president of the United States of America is to make sure that we brought all combat troops home and enter into a negotiation with the Taliban,” he said during a debate.

Ralph Lauer/EPA, via Shutterstock

Mr. Biden’s position on the war most likely helped him make inroads with veteran households in 2020, a group Mr. Trump won 55 to 43 percent, down 14 points from 2016.

The Taliban agreement, Mr. Biden’s election and exhaustion with a war that had killed thousands provided a window for the groups.

“We saw this last half a year as a once-in-20-year opportunity,” said Sarah Streyder, the executive director of Secure Families Initiative. “You had a new administration with a record of supporting this kind of direction, and the inheritance of agreement. Many of our peers in this space agreed that if we really wanted this policy to happen, now is the time to ramp up the efforts. We began yelling loudly, having meetings on the Hill and the White House.”

White House officials acknowledged that advocates for veterans have met regularly with officials at the National Security Council and other agencies since Mr. Biden’s election. “We had the signal that now is a good time to push,” Ms. Streyder said.

When Mr. Biden finally announced his plans, some veterans were more cautious. “I support the Biden administration’s decision to finally bring our longest war to an end,” said Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado and a former Army Ranger. “But we must do so in a way that keeps our promises to our allies, protects the women and children of Afghanistan, and ensures a safer and more secure world.”

But a large contingent celebrated publicly, and the administration was quick to blast out those remarks. “It’s like we say in the Marines, ‘No better friend, no worse enemy,’ ” said Mr. McCoy, adding that his group would continue to defend Mr. Biden’s decision and criticize any further military conflicts. “They always pick up the phone when we call.”

Author: Jennifer Steinhauer
Read more here >>> NYT > Top Stories

Europe holiday boost: Angela Merkel backs down on vaccinated UK holidaymakers

Germany has downgraded the UK from its highest level of “virus variant area” to the second-highest “high-incidence area”. It comes just weeks after German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for quarantine restrictions to be imposed on all UK travellers throughout the European Union (EU).

However, following her meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Chequers, Ms Merkel appeared to back down on her former statement.

In fact, the chancellor showed promise that vaccinated Britons could soon be welcomed back to Germany without restriction.

Speaking at a press conference alongside the Prime Minister at Chequers, Ms Merkel said: “We are continuously reviewing our travel restrictions.

“In the foreseeable future, those who have received double jabs will be able to travel again without having to go into quarantine.”

READ MORE: Green list warning: Infections SPIKE – will Majorca & Ibiza go amber?

At the time, the German chancellor said: “In our country, if you come from Great Britain, you have to go into quarantine – and that’s not the case in every European country, and that is what I would like to see.”

Following this, Spain introduced new rules for Britons, demanding all unvaccinated travellers shown evidence of a negative PCR test upon arrival.

Those who could not show this evidence are required to quarantine.

Green list Malta also made the decision to implement 14 days of mandatory quarantine for Britons who have not taken up both doses of the vaccine.

Similarly, Portugal and its archipelago Madeira imposed 14-day isolation for British tourists who could not prove they were fully vaccinated.

However, Merkel’s comments may suggest a bloc-wide approach to allowing vaccinated Britons to travel without quarantine could be on the cards.

Already, the EU’s Covid green pass for travel is up and running across the bloc, allowing vaccinated citizens to holiday freely.

The NHS app is also expected to be streamlined with the EU pass in the coming months.

Last week, many travellers found themselves at a loose end when Malta announced it would not accept the NHS app as evidence of vaccination.

Instead, tourists were expected to carry a paper version of the NHS Covid Pass letter which had to be requested at least a week ahead of departure.

Luckily, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the decision had been reversed, with the app now being accepted.

In a tweet, he said: “Pleased to say that #Malta now recognise our NHS Covid app (or NHS letter), to allow our fully vaccinated UK citizens access to their beautiful islands without the need to isolate.”

Author: Aimee Robinson
Read more here >>> Daily Express

James Bond: Pierce Brosnan backs Tom Hardy and Idris Elba in race to be the next 007

Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie No Time To Die hits cinemas in late September, but speculation over the next 007 is as rife as ever. The incumbent’s predecessor Pierce Brosnan recently weighed in on who he thinks could take up the Licence to Kill in the 2020s. At first, the 68-year-old said he had no idea, before backing Idris Elba and Tom Hardy.

Speaking with People, Brosnan said: “Idris Elba comes to mind.

“Idris is such a powerful presence and such a great former voice tensity. He would be magnificent.

“There’s Tom Hardy out there as well. Tom can really chew the furniture up, just be a ball boy – both men can.”

But whoever is the next Bond should be in for a wild ride, as the GoldenEye star believes Craig’s legacy has only benefited the franchise.

1. GoldenEye (1995)
2. Casino Royale (2006)
3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
4. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
5. Goldfinger (1964)
6. The Living Daylights (1987)
7. From Russia With Love (1963)
8. Skyfall (2012)
9. Licence To Kill (1989)
10. Live and Let Die (1973)
11. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
12. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
13. Moonraker (1979)

14. You Only Live Twice (1967)
15. Thunderball (1965)
16. Octopussy (1985)
17. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
18. A View To A Kill (1985)
19. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
20. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
21. Dr. No (1962)
22. Die Another Day (2002)
23. Quantum of Solace (2008)
24. Spectre (2015)


Author: George Simpson
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Entertainment Feed

Jordan Henderson backs England youth to overawe Germany and upset Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp

An England-Germany match-up stirs a huge pot of emotions – including a justifiable worry of history repeating itself – but the carefree kids in Gareth Southgate‘s squad will carry in a ‘no fear’ approach. Whether such a breezy outlook will survive all the way until kick-off we will see – the rivalry and the stakes make Tuesday’s Wembley clash a mountain of a game – but four days out all the young guns are feeling is excitement.

There is an inherent danger for the second-youngest squad in the Euros knockout stages that Germany’s greater experience – they had five thirty-somethings on the pitch against Hungary on Wednesday night – could be a disadvantage in such a high pressure game.

But England are banking on their youthful brio being a trump card.

“We’ve got quite a young squad but I think that can be a positive thing,” insisted Jordan Henderson, one of England’s old stagers at 31.

“A lot of these lads just go out, enjoy the game and play with no fear and that’s what they need to do again on Tuesday – go and show everybody how good they are and use the emotion and passion in the right way to give them energy for the game because that can be the difference.

“As an experienced player I can help with that and make sure we’re in the right frame of mind going into the game.

“A lot of the lads have played in huge games already – Champions League finals, cup finals, big games for England. They’re used to big games even though they’re young and I’m sure they’re looking forward to this one.”

For Henderson, the clash of rival nations is personal as well. The Liverpool captain had his German club manager Jurgen Klopp on minutes after the group stages were completed.

“As soon as the final whistle went he just sent a smiley face emoji,” said Henderson.

It is a fixture with so much baggage attached.

While the age profile of Gareth Southgate’s players renders their manager’s penalty miss at Euro ’96 and the parallel heartbreak of Italia ’90 a sepia irrelevance, they are very much alive to the fact that spot-kicks could again play their part.

England are honing their shoot-out skills just in case.

“I don’t want to go into too much detail. I can’t tell you too much. But the process is like you would do in a game,” said Henderson, who missed England’s last penalty in their final warm-up game against Romania.

Raheem Sterling is meanwhile eyeing a career-defining triumph at the Euros after his goals fired England into the last 16.

The Manchester City striker has won three Premier Leagues, an FA Cup and four Carabao Cups in his trophy-laden club career but views a major international tournament as the ultimate.

“I think winning something with the national team, England, would definitely be the greatest achievement that I can possibly do. I mean, not me but the team can possibly achieve,” said Sterling.

“I feel like you win stuff with your clubs and you know it’s a great achievement but this is on a bigger scale.

“You’re representing a nation, a country, so to achieve something with England it would be the biggest thing to happen in my footballing career.

“We need now to go against Germany and we need a big performance. If we’re going to win this tournament, if you’re going to be in with a shout, you’ve got to put in these big performances against the big sides and that’s what we’ll be looking to do on Tuesday.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed

In N.C.A.A. Case, Supreme Court Backs Payments to Student-Athletes

In April, Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, said he was looking for “clarity about what the law is, clarity about who has responsibility for what, clarity about how these issues will be decided, whether through congressional processes, through legal processes or through N.C.A.A. decision-making processes.”

In Monday’s decision, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for the court, took a measured approach, saying his task was merely to assess a limited injunction entered by a trial judge, one that allowed payments for things like musical instruments, scientific equipment, postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, academic awards and internships. It did not permit the outright payment of salaries.

“Some will think the district court did not go far enough,” Justice Gorsuch wrote. “By permitting colleges and universities to offer enhanced education-related benefits, its decision may encourage scholastic achievement and allow student-athletes a measure of compensation more consistent with the value they bring to their schools. Still, some will see this as a poor substitute for fuller relief.”

“At the same time, others will think the district court went too far by undervaluing the social benefits associated with amateur athletics,” he added.

Justice Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion was bolder.

“The N.C.A.A. couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels,” he wrote. “But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”

“All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks,” he wrote. “Law firms cannot conspire to cabin lawyers’ salaries in the name of providing legal services out of a ‘love of the law.’”

“Price-fixing labor is price-fixing labor,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. “And price-fixing labor is ordinarily a textbook antitrust problem because it extinguishes the free market in which individuals can otherwise obtain fair compensation for their work.”

Author: Adam Liptak and Alan Blinder
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Supreme Court Backs Catholic Social Services in Case on Gay Rights and Foster Care

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that Philadelphia may not bar a Catholic agency that refused to work with same-sex couples from screening potential foster parents.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for six members of the court, said that since the city allowed exceptions to its policies for some other agencies it must also do so in this instance. The Catholic agency, he wrote, “seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”

The decision, in the latest clash between anti-discrimination principles and claims of conscience, was a setback for gay rights and further evidence that religious groups almost always prevail in the current court.

Philadelphia stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.

Lawyers for the city said the case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123, was an easy one. When the government hires independent contractors like the Catholic agency, they said, it acts on its own behalf and can include provisions barring discrimination in its contracts.

Lawyers for the agency responded that it merely wanted to continue work that it had been doing for centuries, adding that no gay couple had ever applied to it. If one had, they said, the couple would have been referred to another agency.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the agency. The city was entitled to require compliance with its nondiscrimination policies, the count said.

The case was broadly similar to that of a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

In 2018, the Supreme Court refused to decide the central issue in that case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: whether businesses may claim exemptions from anti-discrimination laws on religious grounds. It ruled instead that the baker had been mistreated by members of the state’s civil rights commission who had expressed hostility toward religion.

The foster care agency relied on the Colorado decision, arguing that it too had been subjected to hostility based on anti-religious prejudice. The city responded that the agency was not entitled to rewrite government contracts to eliminate anti-discrimination clauses.

Last year, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., appeared to urge the court to reconsider the 2015 decision that established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, saying it stigmatized people of faith who objected to those unions.

In his majority opinion in the Obergefell decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired in 2018, called for “an open and searching debate” on same-sex marriage, writing that “the First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

Author: Adam Liptak
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Australian swimmer backs out of Olympic trials, blames 'misogynistic perverts'

“You can no longer exploit young women and girls…and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus,” Olympic medalist Madeline Groves said.

WASHINGTON — Australian swimmer Madeline Groves, a two-time Olympic medalist, announced on Wednesday that she will not be competing at the country’s Olympic swimming trials, citing “misogynistic perverts” as the reason for her decision.

In an Instagram post, Groves said she would not be competing in the trials in Adelaide on Saturday, and was “grateful to feel so supported in this decision.”

She took screenshots of her Instagram post and shared them on Twitter, while further explaining her decision.

“Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers – You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus,” Groves wrote on Twitter. “Time’s UP.”

Groves won silver medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 200 meters Butterfly and the 4×100 meters Medley Relay.

RELATED: Laurie Hernandez, Morgan Hurd won’t compete at Olympic Trials

This isn’t the first time Groves has spoken up about this matter. In November, she shared on social media that she made a complaint a few years ago about a person who made her feel uncomfortable, but despite the complaint the individual was later promoted.

She added, “I think he went through some personal development first hopefully to teach him to not stare at young women in their toga, THEN he got promoted.”

She also tweeted about a time a “well known coach” asked her a creepy comment, but apologized 15 minutes later “possibly because the team psych told him to.”

According to Reuters, Swimming Australia released a statement in Decemeber claiming that Groves “declined to provide further information nor do we have any previous complaints on record from Maddie.”

The statement added: “We consider the welfare, safety and wellbeing of children and young people as paramount, and we have a duty to make inquiries to uphold the standards of our sport.”

This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

South China Sea war fears surge as US backs Malaysia over Beijing warplane ‘intrusion’

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s foreign minister, condemned the “intrusion” by the Chinese aircraft last week.

The country scrambled jets on May 31 to visually confirm Chinese planes detected within 60 nautical miles of the eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak, flying in a “tactical formation”.

Malaysia identified the aircraft as Ilyushin Il-76s and Xian Y-20s.

However, a Chinese military source told the South China Morning Post Beijing only dispatched two transport aircraft to the South China Sea.

The source insisted their mission was to deliver essential supplies to soldiers stationed in Chinese-held territory.

China’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur also insisted the planes were conducting “routine flight training”, “did not target any country” and had “strictly abided by” international law without violating other countries’ airspace.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

Rafael Nadal hits back at Cam Norrie after umpire backs Spaniard in French Open win

Rafael Nadal told Cam Norrie to stop whinging after wiping the last British singles player out of the French Open. The British No 2 put up a brave fight against the ‘King of Clay’ – and broke his serve twice during a rollercoaster second set.

And Norrie complained to Swedish umpire Louise Azemar Engzell after the Spanish superstar repeatedly delayed the London-based star’s serve to break his rhythm.

Engzell though defended Nadal and insisted he was taking a “reasonable” amount of time between points despite Norrie being left unhappy.

But the ruthless 13-time French Open champion still won 6-3 6-3 6-3 to reach the last 16 in Paris for a record 16th time – and then hit back at his fellow left-hander.

“Between games I think I need to take the towel, and I think I deserve to take the towel between games,” said the 20-time Grand Slam winner.

“Sometimes I think he was trying to speed up the situation, to put on some pressure. He’s free to do it. I don’t think I did anything bad.

“I didn’t complain at all when he was throwing his ball bad for 20 times. I didn’t know when he was going to serve.

“I didn’t complain at all during the whole match, so I don’t think he has to complain about the other stuff, no?

“The umpire just told me that I need to be quicker because he was ready. Okay, if he wants to put that pressure, I just accept it.

“I tried to be a little bit quicker. He was just playing his cards.”

In his post-match press conference, Norrie was less combative than on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

“I was just playing at my normal speed, and I think he takes obviously a little bit longer, especially on his service games when he was serving,” said the best Brit in Paris.

“He does a good job of managing the time of when I’m serving. She did say something to him.

I was having to wait until five, six or seven seconds left for him when I was the one serving when the rule is that you have to play to the service speed.

“I think it was all within the rules and completely reasonable – it didn’t put me off.”

MUST READ: Yana Sizikova arrested on suspicion of deliberately losing tennis game

Norrie, who reached two clay-court finals this season, preferred to look at the positives with Wimbledon only three weeks away.

“It was a wonderful experience playing against him, and I thought I played great,” he said. “I just don’t think I took enough risks.

“Let’s move on to the grass and get ready for some more tennis.”

Nadal, who has now won 32 consecutive matches at Roland Garros, will face next face Italian Jannik Sinner.

It was meanwhile a doubly bad day for Jamie Murray as the Scot went out in the third round of the men’s doubles with Bruno Soares – and then lost in the first round of the mixed with Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed

David Beckham backs electric cars with massive investment into classic car electrification

The former England star is believed to have taken a 10 percent stake in Lunaz as he takes small steps into the automotive industry. The football star was photographed getting to grips with electric car technology at the company’s Silverstone factory.

They said the new electrification process could extend the life of up to 70 percent of vehicles.

They say when the 2030 petrol and diesel car ban comes into effect there will be around two billion conventional cars still on the roads across the world.

Lunaz says remanufacturing and upcycling cars through electrification will prevent the majority of these cars from being scrapped.

David Lorenz, Founder and CEO of Lunaz said the new system will save businesses money.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Life and Style Feed
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