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Rough politics in Brazil's Amazon: mayoral candidates fight in the ring – Reuters

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 15 (Reuters) – Politics is often rough and tumble in the Brazilian Amazon, but in one small city two mayoral candidates literally came to blows over the weekend during a bruising election campaign.

The incumbent mayor of Borba, a city of about 41,000 people upriver from Amazonas state capital Manaus, is known for appearing in political ads with boxing gloves on. So amid a long-standing feud with a former city councilor running for his position, Mayor Simão Peixoto challenged his opponent, Erineu da Silva, to a mixed martial arts match.

Silva, widely known by his nickname Mirico, accepted, and the two went blow to blow in an MMA style match on Saturday.

There were no knockout punches, but the judges deemed the mayor victorious. Hundreds of residents crowded around the octagonal ring in the local gymnasium to cheer on their candidate.

It was unclear if the results of the match will have any effect on the results of the election. In October, Mirico and Peixoto will go head to head at the ballot box.

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Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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New documents show census officials concerned about political interference from Trump's Commerce Department – CNN

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(CNN)Newly released documents appear to show top career officials at the Census Bureau had drafted a memo of concerns during the Trump administration’s attempts to exert political pressure on the bureau during the 2020 population count.

Other records show career officials alarmed by pressure from political appointees to alter processes for tallying undocumented immigrants and citizenship data that would likely result in GOP gains in the US House of Representatives. The records are among hundreds of documents that the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school obtained in a lawsuit filed in September 2020.
The New York Times was the first to report on the Census Bureau records.
An email among senior officials at the Census Bureau from September 2020 discusses the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau, and what the officials considered to be an “unusually high degree of engagement in technical matters, which is unprecedented.”
The email and other documents came out as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit between the Brennan Center and the Department of Commerce, as well as eight other federal agencies. The email shows that the officials drafted a memo and planned to discuss with then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross his apparent interest in areas the Census Bureau officials perceived to be under the bureau’s independent jurisdiction, separate from its parent agency. The issues involved technical aspects of the population count including the privacy of census participants, the use of estimates to fill in missing population data, pressure to take shortcuts to produce population totals and political pressure for a last-minute push to identify and count undocumented immigrants.
In an email to CNN, Ross said he had no recognition of seeing the memo at any meeting in which the set of topics was discussed with him. The Census Bureau did not return CNN’s multiple requests for comment.
The Census Bureau’s population estimates are used for reapportionment, the process of reallocating House districts among the 50 states. But the Trump administration also wanted the bureau to separately tally the number of undocumented immigrants in each state. Then-President Donald Trump had ordered the tally in a July 2020 presidential memorandum, saying he wanted to subtract them from House reapportionment population estimates, CNN reported at the time.
Trump had already sought to use the census as a way to advance his immigration priorities as President. In June 2019, the Supreme Court rejected his administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The FOIA suit ended in October 2020, when the trial court granted the Brennan Center’s motion for a preliminary injunction, forcing the agencies, including the Commerce Department, to produce most of the requested documents to the Brennan Center on a rolling basis. All of the documents were made public last week, revealing for the first time new details about the struggle that senior census officials had faced when counteracting the Trump administration’s political influence at the agency.
Other undated records released as part of the same suit suggest that the Commerce Department planned to have Ross make personal calls to 10 Republican governors in order to lobby them to provide state records to “enhance the frame from which citizenship status is determined.” There was no evidence to suggest that similar calls were made to Democratic governors, according to the Brennan Center’s analysis of the FOIA documents it received.
The records also show that Census Bureau officials tasked with carrying out Trump’s July 2020 memo did not think it was achievable due to timing and technical restraints. In August 2020, emails addressed to then-Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, appointed by Trump, and political appointee Nathaniel Cogley said the bureau “has been consistently pessimistic” about the feasibility of determining undocumented populations and that “under the best, most legally defensible methodology, we are at great risk of not being able to carry out the policy outlined in the Presidential Memorandum by December 31, 2020.”
Another email suggests that political appointees joined the 2020 census count process late in the game when Dillingham introduced two of them to career officials at the bureau in August 2020 “to accomplish much work in a short period of time.” The email states that the two appointees, Cogley and Benjamin Overholt, were “interested in” efforts to produce citizenship data. An internal watchdog report in 2021 cited the two appointees for leading the administration’s efforts to produce a last-minute report on undocumented populations in the final days of the Trump administration.
Soon after the inspector general report revealed the push to produce a tally of noncitizens that career officials said could not be assembled, Dillingham, who denied the accusations of partisan interference at the bureau, resigned nearly a year before his term had been scheduled to end, dashing the possibility of being fired by the then-incoming Biden administration.
Dillingham and Cogley did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Attempts to reach Overholt have been unsuccessful.
In addition to Ross’ apparent interest in Census Bureau affairs, other FOIA records show the Commerce Department under the Trump administration was in close contact with anti-immigration groups leading up to the 2020 census count.
Records show Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for reduced immigration, emailing directly with Ross in December 2019 about the group’s recent report on “long-term consequences of mass immigration and the apportionment of House seats. … ” The email opens with a reference to a call from Ross.
The FOIA records also reveal a connection between a Commerce Department official and a former Trump adviser known for his work in the administration peddling unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. An email chain shows a Commerce Department employee putting Cogley in contact with the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, a member of Trump’s failed voter fraud commission.

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Perspective | Religious opposition to vaccines is rooted in politics, not tradition – The Washington Post

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for the nation’s largest employers but allowed the policy to stand for health-care workers at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. As a result, only 17 million — rather than 84 million — workers will be required to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The court questioned President Biden’s legal authority to impose a mandate, placing decisions in the hands of businesses, individuals and state governments rather than the federal government. But the court notably avoided adjudicating the claim that vaccine mandates violate religious liberty — an assertion passionately deployed by religious opponents of vaccines.

Religious exemptions to vaccinations, however, have generally lacked a coherent basis, and those seeking them for coronavirus vaccination face an uphill battle. Religious beliefs have not historically been used as a justification to avoid vaccination, and the recent emergence of religious-based exemptions — animated by partisan politics, fear and debunked scientific studies — is an anomaly. This is not surprising, given that getting vaccinated (to protect yourself and others, especially the most vulnerable) fits neatly into the moral logic of the world’s major religions. This is one reason Pope Francis has called getting vaccinated against the coronavirus an “act of love.”

Mandated public health measures date to the beginning of American history. During the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington required his troops to be inoculated against smallpox, a process that involved exposing people to the smallpox virus itself. The goal was to produce a mild infection to build immunity, but it carried a non-trivial risk of serious illness or death. Where people objected to inoculation, their concerns were rooted in the potential physical risks.

The first official vaccine mandate in the United States was an 1809 Massachusetts law that granted local health officials the authority to require vaccination against smallpox. Vaccination was safer than inoculation — it consisted of cowpox, a related but less dangerous virus that conferred cross-immunity for smallpox — but it was not without risk, either, and again this inspired some wariness toward it.

Early vaccine hesitancy was thus largely animated by fear of immunization itself. Opposition centered on the claim that the state was forcing individuals to undertake a treatment that was potentially dangerous or, at least, ineffective. And though there were early and small pockets of religious hostility to vaccines, the concept of a “religious exemption” effectively did not exist, and it wouldn’t for some time.

Religious support for vaccinations began to build in the 20th century. After Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine in 1955, many religious believers viewed vaccinations as a gift from God. John Fea, a historian at Messiah University, recently marveled over how newspapers from the 1950s and 1960s chronicled religious leaders of all faiths and denominations, “including evangelical Christians,” talking about the polio vaccine “as a special gift” from God to fight disease.

And this made sense. Before the development of the vaccine, polio ravaged the United States, killing 3,000 children and paralyzing thousands more in 1952 alone. If you were a parent living in the 1950s who viewed the world through a religious prism, it was hard to interpret Salk’s medical innovation in any other way.

But by the 1990s, widespread vaccine hesitancy grounded in religious reasons emerged, growing out of popular anti-vaccine movements that were not religious in nature. Spearheaded by disgraced former physician Andrew Wakefield and endorsed by B-list celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, these movements emphasized the supposed “impurity” of vaccines and the imagined (and sometimes fabricated) risks they posed to children.

The message resonated with some religious communities. Among these groups, vaccine ingredients were objects of particular scrutiny, and anything “unnatural” was seen as a threat to the sacredness of the human body: If your “body is a temple,” everything that enters it needs to be aboveboard.

In the face of this worrying trend, religious authorities of various faiths continue to encourage vaccination, but evidently to limited effect. Today, as we struggle through the worst pandemic in a hundred years, the reality we face is as grim as ever. The people who are vaccine-hesitant no longer constitute a small minority, and more and more are claiming religious exemptions.

As soon as coronavirus vaccine mandates were announced this past summer, affected people petitioned their employers for religious exemptions in droves. A recent survey suggests that as many as 3 in 10 unvaccinated Americans have sought a religious exemption from the coronavirus vaccines. White evangelicals have proved particularly resistant. A Pew Research Center survey from September indicated that up to 40 percent had declined the shot, the highest of any religious group surveyed.

White evangelicals also exemplify the growing politicization of religious identity. They are among the most steadfast supporters of the Republican Party, and around 80 percent voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. This makes it difficult to discern whether individuals are seeking a coronavirus vaccine exemption for a “sincerely held” religious or philosophical belief or oppose vaccination for political or ideological reasons. There is already emerging evidence that flu vaccine uptake has become a partisan issue, indicating that the blending of religious and political beliefs could create serious public health problems in the future.

The trend may be reversible if religious conservatives begin to dissociate their views on vaccines from their political identity. If they look to the moral reasoning and sources of authority within their traditions, they will hear a message on vaccines that differs considerably from those on offer by many Republican leaders. Building on a long history of religious support for vaccination, the message might go something like this: “For the love of God, don’t seek religious exemptions from vaccines.”

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Trailblazer for Women in Canadian Politics, Alexa McDonough, Passes Away at Age 77 – VOCM

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A trailblazer for women in Canadian politics has passed away.

Alexa McDonough died this morning at the age of 77 after battling Alzheimer’s Disease.

McDonough made history in 1980, becoming the first female to lead a major political party when she became the leader of the Nova Scotia New Democrat Party, a position she would hold for 14 years.

She would go on to lead the Federal New Democrats in 1995, helping the NDP grow to 21 seats in the House of Commons during her tenure.

She was the recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia.

McDonough will be remembered as a champion for gender equality and social development and programs, as well as a relentless optimist, earning her the nickname, “Iron Angel”.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a celebration of life will occur at a later date.

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