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POLITICO Playbook: McConnell: Quit the charade, impeachment is a 'political exercise' – POLITICO

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DRIVING THE DAY

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL on “Fox and Friends” this morning: “Do you think Chuck Schumer is impartial? Do you think Elizabeth Warren is impartial? Bernie Sanders is impartial? So let’s quit the charade. This is a political exercise. … All I’m asking of Schumer is that we treat Trump the same way we treated Clinton.

“We had a procedure that was approved 100 to nothing — Schumer voted for it, to go through the opening arguments, to have a written question period, and then, based upon that, deciding what witnesses to call. We haven’t ruled out witnesses. We’ve said let’s handle this case just like we did with President Clinton. Fair is fair.”

MCCONNELL was asked if he had spoken to Schumer: “Yeah, before we left town. Look, we’re at an impasse. We can’t do anything until the speaker sends the papers over, so everybody enjoy the holidays.”

“THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, if they think this is a very significant episode, can take it into account we’re voting [next] year. Most people that I run into, whether they are fans of the president or not, say, ‘Well, why don’t you just let us decide this. We’re in the middle of the election.’”

SWING STATE READ … FRONT PAGE of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, banner headline: “‘Nakedly partisan … disrespectful’: Impeachment of Trump echoes that of Clinton”

THE NEXT BIG OBJECT OF FASCINATION among President DONALD TRUMP’S allies is U.S. Attorney John Durham’s report on his investigation into the origins of the Russia probe — and, more specifically, the intelligence community’s role in it.

WE KNOW REMARKABLY LITTLE about Durham and what he’s up to. POLITICO and others have reported that he’s focusing on former top intel leaders like CIA chief JOHN BRENNAN, but not much else. What we do know is that the president personally and his allies have said — over and over — that they are putting a lot of stock into Durham, which makes him a central figure of the moment.

— KNOWING DURHAM … NYT, A1: “Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case,” by Elizabeth Williamson: “Mr. Durham is known in New England’s close-knit law enforcement community for working long days on his own cases, and providing sought-after guidance on others’.

“Wearing gunmetal-frame glasses and a drooping goatee, he rises early and dresses in the dark, often mismatching his suit jackets and pants. His reputation for discretion, on top of a long record of successful high-profile prosecutions, are among the reasons he has been a go-to person when Washington — under Republicans and Democrats alike — needs someone to handle sensitive tasks. …

“‘He believes in four things: his family, his profession, his religion and the Boston Red Sox,’ said Hugh F. Keefe, a Connecticut defense lawyer who says Mr. Durham is so by the book, he once asked Mr. Keefe whether he had reported a free Red Sox ticket to the I.R.S. ‘If anyone thinks they can lead him like a horse to water, they’re mistaken.’”

THE EVANGELICAL VOTE … SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL FRONT PAGE: “President Donald Trump to rally evangelical voters in Miami,” by Skyler Swisher: “President Donald Trump is going to rally his religious supporters in Miami, a move that comes after an evangelical Christian magazine called for him to be removed from office. Trump is rolling out an ‘Evangelicals for Trump’ coalition on Jan. 3 in Miami, according to his campaign.” Front page

“At one evangelical church, congregants dismiss the Christianity Today editorial — if they’ve read it at all,” by WaPo’s Amy Wang in Brookfield, Wis.

BREAKING IN THE KINGDOM … AP/RIYADH: “Saudi sentences 5 to death for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing,” by Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy: “Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death on Monday for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year by a team of Saudi agents.

“The killing of Khashoggi stunned the international community and also many Saudi citizens, who were deeply shocked that a Saudi national could be killed by 15 government agents inside one of the kingdom’s consulates.

“Another three people were sentenced to prison for a combined 24 years, according to a statement read by the attorney general’s office on Saudi state TV. No individual breakdown for the sentencing was given.”

Good Monday morning. WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS WEEK! Hanukkah started Sunday night. Playbook will still be in your inbox as usual, but just a bit later this week and next. Playbook PM and the Audio Briefing are on hiatus.

MARKET WATCH — “How the economy could make or break Trump in 2020,” by Ben White: “Most of the economic gifts President Donald Trump is going to get for 2020 are already unwrapped and out from under the tree. The Federal Reserve slashed rates and went dark. The phase one China deal is pretty much done. So is the new NAFTA.

“That leaves one big question for a recently impeached president as he heads for a dicey reelection bid: What’s left to goose markets and the economy beyond what most expect will be a pretty blah 2020?

“Even blah — a 2 percent-or-so growth rate with unemployment still near or below 4 percent — could be enough to help Trump overcome a low approval rating and win again. But if he really hopes to romp over the eventual Democratic nominee, he’ll probably need markets to keep popping and growth to bubble higher, especially in the industrial Midwest. And it is far from obvious how the United States can get there from here.” POLITICO

TRADE WARS … WSJ/BEIJING: “China to Cut Tariffs on Range of Goods Amid Push for Trade Deal”: “China will cut import tariffs for frozen pork, pharmaceuticals and some high-tech components starting from Jan. 1, a move that comes as Beijing and Washington are trying to complete a phase-one trade deal.

“The plan, approved by China’s cabinet, will lower tariffs for all trading partners on 859 types of products to below the rates that most-favored nations enjoy, the Finance Ministry said Monday. Most-favored-nation rates are the lowest possible tariffs a country offers to its trading partners.

“The lower levies will apply to frozen pork, as China aims to shore up its meat supplies amid an outbreak of swine fever, as well as semiconductor products and medicines to treat asthma and diabetes. Tariffs on some of the products will go to zero.

“The plan will also cut import levies for more than 8,000 products even lower for 23 countries and regions that have free-trade agreements with China, including Australia, South Korea, Iceland, New Zealand and Pakistan, from the beginning of next year. The statement said China would further cut tariffs on some information-technology products and services from July 1, 2020.”

WE’RE STILL AT WAR … AP/KABUL: “U.S. soldier is killed in Afghanistan; Taliban claim attack”

2020 WATCH …

— “Trump campaign plagued by groups raising tens of millions in his name,” by Maggie Severns: “As President Donald Trump raises money for his reelection campaign, he’s competing for cash with a growing mass of pro-Trump PACs, dark money groups and off-brand Facebook advertisers neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Trump’s campaign, which have pulled in over $46 million so far.

“The groups mimic Trump’s brand in the way they look and feel. They borrow the president’s Twitter avatar on Facebook pages, use clips of Trump’s voice in robocalls asking for ‘an emergency contribution to the campaign’ and, in some cases, have been affiliated with former Trump aides, such as onetime deputy campaign manager David Bossie. But most are spending little money to help the president win in 2020, POLITICO found.

“The unofficial pro-Trump boosters number in the hundreds and are alarming the actual operatives charged with reelecting the president: They suck up money that Trump aides think should be going to the campaign or the Republican National Committee, and they muddy the Trump campaign’s message and make it harder to accumulate new donors, Trump allies say.” POLITICO

— DES MOINES REGISTER FRONT PAGE: “Warren shakes up campaign style in Iowa”

— BOSTON GLOBE: “Elizabeth Warren’s brothers are a silent fixture of her campaign,” by Jess Bidgood in Newcastle, Okla.: “It feels as far away as possible from the chaos and choreography of a presidential campaign: a little red house in a neighborhood surrounded by fields, where almost nothing breaks the straight line of the horizon.

“But the man who lives here, a decorated Air Force veteran who the neighbors don’t see very often, has a crucial role to play in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. So do his two brothers, who live their own quiet lives in Oklahoma City and nearby Norman.

“The men are Warren’s older brothers — Don Reed Herring, John Herring, and David Herring — and, at nearly every campaign stop, she introduces herself to voters by talking about them, weaving folksy family stories with details about their military service, conservative politics, and agreement around her big ideas. Over the past year, they have become a fixture of her pitch, a living link to her upbringing in a financially strained world she says is an indelible part of who she is.

“They also do more: They are a key part of her effort to show she can find common ground with Republicans, offering them as a rejoinder to questions about her electability.” Boston GlobeA1 PDF

— ELENA SCHNEIDER with this AMAZING DETAIL: “How Buttigieg’s childhood pal ended up managing 2020’s breakout campaign”: “Before the Democratic presidential debate in Columbus, Ohio, Mike Schmuhl ventured into the city to get his mop of red hair cut. It wasn’t so much that Schmuhl himself needed a trim — but Pete Buttigieg’s campaign manager wanted to make sure the barbershop was up to the task of a presidential shave.

“Thirty minutes later, after the Royal Rhino Club Barbershop and Lounge passed muster and Schmuhl made an appointment under the name ‘Max Harris,’ another aide who got his hair trimmed, Buttigieg himself appeared for a fresh pre-debate cut.”

— THE HOLLYWOOD VOTE: “Actor Kevin Costner returns to Iowa to support Buttigieg,” by AP’s Thomas Beaumont in Indianola, Iowa

TRUMP’S MONDAY … THE PRESIDENT is in Florida and has nothing on his schedule.

— MERIDITH MCGRAW in West Palm Beach, Fla.: “Escape to Mar-a-Lago: Trump gets a post-impeachment mood lift”: “Friends of the president noted just how content he seemed in the glamorous getaway town of Palm Beach he now calls home, away from it all and back at his Mar-a-Lago resort — what’s described to be like a personal ‘Cheers bar,’ where Trump knows everybody’s name.

“‘He’s very happy to be back at what he calls the winter White House and is happy to take a break from the cold and craziness of his job,’ said George Guido Lombardi, a Mar-a-Lago member and longtime Trump friend. ‘It’s the only time that he’s got to be his real self and let down.’

“For aides, Mar-a-Lago can sometimes be a headache, as there is less control over who gets face time with the president and who might be able to whisper an idea in his ear. But that’s the way Trump likes to be, unfettered and able to do what he loves best — playing host, golfing with friends, watching television and working away from the confines of the West Wing.” POLITICO

PLAYBOOK READS

DAILY RUDY — “Giuliani pals leveraged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal,” by AP’s Desmond Butler and MIchael Biesecker in Kyiv, Ukraine: “The Associated Press reported some details in October of the brash pitch that [Lev] Parnas and [Igor] Fruman made to [Andrew] Favorov in Houston. But in a recent series of interviews with the AP in Kyiv, Favorov painted a more complete picture of his dealings with Giuliani’s associates.

“His tale, corroborated by interviews with other key witnesses, reveals that the pair continued to pursue a deal for months. The campaign culminated in May, at a meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington that included a lobbyist with deep ties to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and a Republican fundraiser from Texas close to Donald Trump Jr. Three people with direct knowledge of that meeting described it to the AP on condition of anonymity because some of the players are under federal investigation.

“The maneuvering over Naftogaz came at the same time that Giuliani, with the help of Parnas and Fruman, were trying to get Yovanovitch out of the way and persuade Ukraine’s leaders to launch an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s work with Burisma, a rival Ukrainian gas company.” AP

— NBC’S JOSH LEDERMAN: “Inside Giuliani’s new push to flip the script on Trump’s impeachment”

TOP-ED — SEN. PAT LEAHY (D-Vt.) in the NYT: “What the Senate Does Now Will Cast a Long Shadow”: “When the Senate ultimately convenes to consider whether to remove the president from office, for just the third time in its history, it will convene not as a legislative body, but as a court of impeachment. And it will not just be President Trump on trial. The Senate — and indeed, truth itself — will stand trial.”

FED WATCH — “Fed Confronts Lack of Diversity in Its Ranks,” by WSJ’s Nick Timiraos: “The economics profession embarked this year on a soul-searching appraisal of perceived hostility to women and minorities in its ranks, and the Federal Reserve—the nation’s largest employer of Ph.D. economists—wants to get ahead of the curve.

“For the Fed, where three quarters of its research economists are men and most are white, facing up to the lack of women and minorities among these employees isn’t just a matter of appearances. A staff that better reflects the U.S. population could limit the potential for groupthink or blind spots that hinder the central bank’s assessment of how the economy is changing. …

“Current and former staffers and private economists who interact with the central bank say the Fed’s attention to diversity issues gained new urgency under former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and has continued under her successor, Jerome Powell. The shift has coincided with veteran female staffers earning promotions to three of the central bank’s most important management positions this year.” WSJ

BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Fur is under attack. It’s not going down without a fight,” by WaPo’s Robin Givhan

ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION FRONT PAGE: “Loeffler reaches out to skeptical Georgia GOP activists,” by Greg Bluestein: “As Kelly Loeffler prepares to be sworn in as Georgia’s next U.S. senator, many of the grassroots activists who form the backbone of the state’s Republican Party remain reluctant to give her a full-fledged endorsement.

“An Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey of dozens of local party officials and county GOP chairmen showed many are taking a wait-and-see approach to Loeffler, a financial executive Gov. Brian Kemp selected for the job who is largely unknown to even many top Republicans.

“Their hesitance will play a major factor as the political newcomer faces a steep task. Her new role will require her to almost instantly take part in impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump, even as she tries to establish her political brand and fend off conservative challengers.” AJCFront page

MEDIAWATCH — “Devin Nunes, Johnny Depp lawsuits seen as threats to free speech and press,” by WaPo’s Justin Jouvenal: “The suits are part of a string of splashy defamation claims by politicians and the A-list star seeking nearly $1 billion in damages in Virginia courts this year, even though many of the cases have only loose connections to the state.

“The plaintiffs argue their names have been smeared and the venues are appropriate, but several of the defendants — including Twitter and Heard — say the filing location is aimed at exploiting the state’s weak protections for defamation defendants. Some legal experts say Virginia law allows those with deep pockets to bulldoze targets with frivolous, protracted and expensive litigation they couldn’t pursue in many other states.

“The true goals of the suits, the defendants argue, are to stifle critics, blunt aggressive journalism and settle scores. Some deride the legal maneuvers as ‘libel tourism’ and see a growing trend not just in Virginia but in other states that similarly lack safeguards. The suits have prompted Virginia lawmakers to look at changing the law.” WaPo

PLAYBOOKERS

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at politicoplaybook@politico.com.

ENGAGED — Jacques Petit, regional press secretary at Giffords, got engaged to Alyssa Harris, a contractor at the Department of Energy. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Steve Thomma, executive director of the White House Correspondents Association. An interesting book he’s been reading: ‘American Caesar.’ It was a gift from David Bradley of Atlantic Media after a conversation about our mutual admiration for the reporting and writing of the late William Manchester. It’s a terrific book, deeply reported, and a reminder to this addict of presidential bios that there really are other lions of American life even if they didn’t make it to the White House.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Bill Kristol … Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) is 67 … Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) is 69 … retired Gen. Wes Clark is 75 … Fox News’ Shannon Bream … Lucinda Guinn, executive director of the DCCC (h/t Cole Leiter) … Michawn Rich, USDA communications director (h/t Alec Varsamis) … Chris Peacock of Stanford University communications is 59 (h/t David Jackson) … POLITICO’s Julia Franklin … Alyssa DiBlasi … Steve Hills is 61 … Dentons’ John Russell IV … Axios’ Claire Kennedy … Julio Negron … Adam Milakofsky … Meghan Stabler … Patrick Burgwinkle … Kelley Moore, communications director for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) … Lauren Kahn …

… Fatima Noor … Jared Gilmour … Dan Shott is 33 … Tom Epstein (h/t Jon Haber) … Lewis A. Kaplan … Melissa Ann Merz … Abe Sutton … Josh Satin … Bill Goodson … Natasha Dabrowski … Trump White House alum Zina Bash … Texas A.G. Ken Paxton is 57 … Louisiana A.G. Jeff Landry is 49 … Brittany Bolen … Google’s Patrick D. Smith … Audrey Kubetin … James Miller … Joe Boswell … Jonathan Zucker is 48 … Hilary Novik Sandberg is 31 … Emil Pitkin, CEO of GovPredict … Elizabeth Bingold … Karen Roberts … Brennan Foley … Deloitte’s Rasheq Zarif … Allison Dobson … Rich Tarplin … Carter Snead … Kevin Hayes … Roy Behr … Doug Vilsack … Mark Clesh

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LETTER: On politics and medicine – SaltWire Network

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The irrational hysteria and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 vaccines are an integral part of what historian Richard Hofstader called “The paranoid style in American politics.” This phenomenon has now permeated Canadian politics as well and suggests that “My ignorance is as good as your knowledge.”

Vaccines against disease and pestilence have been viewed as major advances for humanity. But few vaccines have been subjected to the scrutiny and public vilification that COVID-19 vaccines have. Why? The statistically minute number (percentage) of negative reactions to vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, is rarely mentioned by their detractors; similarly, every surgical procedure has a small probability of a complication.

Over the course of the past two centuries at least 15 life-saving vaccines have been developed without a similar public outcry. Those vaccines include (selectively): smallpox (1796), typhoid fever (1896), diphtheria (1923), whooping cough (1923), polio (1952), measles (1963), mumps (1967), chicken pox (1974), meningitis (1978), and malaria (2021). Defoe’s classic, A Journal of the Plague Year (1772) gives us an idea of what the world was like without vaccines.

Why COVID-19 vaccines have created such vitriol warrants serious sociological and political study. One suspects that there is a close correlation between right-wing populism, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion politics, and anti-vax sentiment. They are all part of the same political culture that promotes this paranoia. It would be easy to dismiss anti-vaxers as “know nothings,” but they are more than that. They mirror the social divisions within our society. And their ignorance is dangerous.

Canadian constitutional law is premised on promoting “peace, order and good government.” A corollary is that the courts attempt to follow John Stuart Mill’s dictum of creating, “The greatest good for the greatest number of people,” rather than the highly individualistic American approach of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Within this context, collective rights will supersede individual rights, which may be “reasonably limited” by circumstance such as a national emergency. The Canadian Charter of Rights was never intended to promote a wild west show like our neighbours to the south.

In the interest of public health policy, it is time to defend the history of science and its many advances.

Richard Deaton,

Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.

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‘Heartbroken’: Politicians express shock at killing of British MP – Al Jazeera English

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British Member of Parliament David Amess has died after being stabbed several times during a meeting with his constituents at a church in eastern England. He was 69.

Reports said a man walked into Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, south Essex, on Friday while Amess was holding a surgery with locals and attacked the politician.

Police arrested a man and recovered a knife.

Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed shock and sadness over the horrific incident.

Here are some of the reactions:

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister

In a tribute to Amess, Johnson said the late MP was killed after “almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom”.

He added: “The reason people are so shocked and sad is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.

“He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals, or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country.”

Johnson continued: “David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future. And we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.

“Our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children and his family.”

Dominic Raab, UK deputy prime minister

“Heartbroken that we have lost Sir David Amess MP. A great common sense politician and a formidable campaigner with a big heart, and tremendous generosity of spirit – including towards those he disagreed with. RIP my friend.”

Priti Patel, UK interior minister

“I am devastated we have lost Sir David Amess … David served the people of Southend with endless passion, energy and integrity. That he was killed while going about his constituency duties is heartbreaking beyond words. It represents a senseless attack on democracy itself.

“Questions are rightly being asked about the safety of our country’s elected representatives and I will provide updates in due course.”

Rishi Sunak, UK finance minister

“The worst aspect of violence is its inhumanity. It steals joy from the world and can take from us that which we love the most. Today it took a father, a husband, and a respected colleague. All my thoughts and prayers are with Sir David’s loved ones.”

Liz Truss, UK foreign minister

“Devastated to hear the terrible news about Sir David Amess MP. He was a lovely, lovely man and a superb parliamentarian. My thoughts are with all his family and friends.”

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland

“This is awful beyond words. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with David’s family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace.

“Elected representatives from across the political spectrum will be united in sadness and shock today.

“In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no-one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.”

Nadhim Zahawi, UK education minister

“Rest In Peace Sir David. You were a champion for animal welfare, the less fortunate, and the people of Southend West. You will be missed by many.”

Sajid Javid, UK health minister

“Devastated to learn of Sir David Amess’ murder. A great man, a great friend, and a great MP killed while fulfilling his democratic role. My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him. Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, UK business minister

“Sir David was a thoroughly decent, kind and thoughtful man. An exemplary Member of Parliament who fought for his constituents with devotion. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this deeply tragic time.”

Simon Coveney, Irish foreign minister

“What a shocking and tragic incident. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with family, friends and political colleagues of Sir David Amess MP.”

Michael Gove, UK levelling up minister

“David Amess’s passing is heartbreakingly sad. Just terrible, terrible news. He was a good and gentle man, he showed charity and compassion to all, his every word and act were marked by kindness. My heart goes out to his family.”

Joao Vale de Almeida, EU ambassador to the UK

“Very shocked by the news of the death of MP Sir David Amess following a horrific attack. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”

Philip T. Reeker, US charge d’affair to the UK

“I’m deeply saddened to hear about the death of Sir David Amess MP. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and all those who worked with him during his distinguished parliamentary career.”

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

“Sir David Amess dedicated his life to championing causes he believed in, serving constituents and his country for almost forty years as a Member of Parliament. He was a devout Roman Catholic whose deep faith fuelled his sense of justice. We are richer for his life, and we are all the poorer for his untimely death.”

Carrie Johnson, wife of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

“Absolutely devastating news about Sir David Amess. He was hugely kind and good. An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust. Thoughts are with his wife and their children.”

Keir Starmer, opposition Labour Party

“This is a dark and shocking day. The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before.

“Above all else, today I am thinking of David, of the dedicated public servant that he was and of the depth of positive impact he had for the people he represented.”

Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the House of Commons

“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country. In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Brendan Cox, husband of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016

“My thoughts and love are with David’s family. They are all that matter now. This brings everything back. The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo. I hope we can do the same for David now.”

Theresa May, former Conservative UK prime minister

“Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Sir David Amess. A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties. A tragic day for our democracy.”

Gordon Brown, former Labour UK prime minister

“Saddened and shocked to hear about the death of Sir David Amess. My condolences to his family and friends.”

David Cameron, former Conservative UK prime minister

“This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news. David Amess was a kind & thoroughly decent man – & he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet. Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened today. Right now, my heart goes out to David’s family.”

Tony Blair, former Labour UK prime minister

“David and I came into Parliament together in 1983. Though on opposite political sides I always found him a courteous, decent and thoroughly likeable colleague who was respected across the House. This is a terrible and sad day for our democracy.”

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Jonathan Soloman walking away from politics – TimminsToday

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Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon is retiring from politics with mixed emotions and feeling good about his tenure.

Solomon is resigning effective today, Oct. 15.

With over a year still left in his term, Solomon, 59, said he is leaving the office to focus on his health and spend more time with his family in his home community of Kashechewan.

After reflecting on his career and speaking with his family, Solomon said he decided to walk away from politics.

“My diabetes really spiked up. So, I thought about my well-being first and foremost. My family wants me to be well and I want to be well,” he said. “I’ve been in politics for many, many years and it’s taking a toll on me.”

He will now be working as a health director in Kashechewan. Solomon said the job is non-political, more private and allows him to stay in his home community.

Solomon said the Council of Chiefs will likely hold a by-election to elect a new leader for the remaining term until the next Mushkegowuk Council election in 2023.

To a new grand chief, Solomon advised to have a good vision, work with communities and staff, have good communication and continue supporting the ongoing work at the Mushkegowuk.

“You got to love what you do. Don’t do it for the sake of getting that title,” he said. “Lead from the heart.”

Solomon has been leading the organization, which represents seven First Nation communities in the James Bay and Hudson Bay, for the past six years. Before that, he was chief of Kashechewan for six years.

He got into politics at the age of 19 when he was elected to council. He first became Kashechewan chief when he was 27.

He also worked as director of education and served as Mushkegowuk deputy chief.

“Although I was a politician, I’m more of a human. I had a heart, I had compassion. I loved what I did,” he said.

During his tenure, Mushkegowuk Council signed a revenue sharing agreement with the Ontario government.

Most recently, the organization signed a memorandum of understanding with Parks Canada regarding a proposed National Marine Conservation Area in western James Bay and southwestern Hudson Bay.

As a chief, Solomon said he championed and lobbied to launch the inquiry into the suicide crisis in the First Nation communities.

Mushkegowuk Council established a People’s Inquiry in 2013. The communities raised their own funding to conduct the inquiry, hold public hearings and choose commissioners. The final report with recommendations was released in 2016.

Re-establishing the Mushkegowuk youth department was also one of his priorities as the grand chief.

“I lobbied so hard to get the funding,” Solomon recalled.

When the funding was approved, it was an emotional moment.

“I still remember that day like it was yesterday,” he said.

He said he also lobbied to establish the Mushkegowuk health department.

When he was first elected as the grand chief, his first priority was to get the organization “back on feet.” Solomon said he was surrounded by dedicated hardworking people who had the same vision for Mushkegowuk as he did.

“They’re the ones doing most of the work, the technical work. You got to have the right people surround you and to support you, and vice versa,” he said.

Solomon questioned why a sitting grand chief can’t have a satellite office and work from their home community.

He is from Kashechewan, while Mushkegowuk Council’s head office is in Moose Factory.

Spending six years between two communities, away from his family was quite challenging for him, Solomon said adding if he had an office in Kashechewan, he’d finish his term.

“I missed the part where my children were growing up. I was too busy. I missed a lot of parts. The next thing I knew they were starting their own families,” he said. “I want to be there for my grandchildren, I want to see their birthdays, special days. I want to be part of their lives, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

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