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As early voting nears its end, McAuliffe and Youngkin campaign in decidedly different ways

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 CNN- In the increasingly nationalized race to be Virginia’s next governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin are closing their campaigns in decidedly different ways.

McAuliffe, helped by Vice President Kamala Harris and Virginia-native performer Pharrell Williams, spent Friday highlighting the national implications of the race, headlining a Norfolk rally that represented the crescendo of a campaign that has leaned on big name supporters to boost excitement and turn people out.
“Virginia, I am here because the President and I care deeply about Terry McAuliffe, about the commonwealth of Virginia and about the future of our nation. Now you all know that every four years when this election happens for governor of Virginia, it is a tight election, it is a close election, and it is a bellwether for what happens in the rest of the country,” Harris told the audience there, ratcheting up the national pressure on the race.
Youngkin, at five events across the commonwealth, tried to focus the close of his campaign on the same hyper-local issues that propelled him from the outset: Education, the economy and taxes. As the polls have tightened in recent weeks, Youngkin is now trying to inspire Republicans by convincing them that a Republican can win in Virginia after eight years of Democratic control.
And unlike McAuliffe, he campaigned without the help of top Republican officeholders.
“Terry McAuliffe is driving 45 miles an hour down Interstate 66, and I’m coming up 70 on the outside passing him,” Youngkin said. “And I’m telling you what’s about to happen: What’s about to happen is we are going to sweep our statewide offices.”
There was extra weight to each candidate’s events on Friday: Early voting in the state ends on Saturday, putting pressure on each campaign’s attempt to get voters to cast their ballots before Election Day. By the end of Friday, nearly 1 million Virginians had cast their ballots in the race.
McAuliffe will close his campaign with a frenetic weekend of candidate and surrogate events, including events for the former governor in the Virginia Beach, Hampton and Chesapeake areas on Saturday and events around Richmond and in the Washington, DC, suburbs on Sunday.
Youngkin will close the race with a series of events in the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia on Saturday, the state’s far western region on Sunday, and then in final stops across its biggest cities on Monday.
Although polls have been relatively steady throughout the race, recent polling shows Youngkin closing the gap in the final weeks of the campaign, giving Republicans hope for the first time in years that they could win a statewide race.
“I think we’ve been on the downslide,” said Linda Tylka, a former Charlottesville-based secretary. “I don’t think we’re respected in the world anymore. We need new people in the government who will work for the taxpayer and that starts in Virginia.”
The question is whether Youngkin’s efforts will be enough in a place that was tilted toward Democrats in a significant way ever since former President Barack Obama won Virginia in 2012. As the commonwealth has diversified and the northern Virginia counties just outside of Washington have ballooned in size, Republicans have found it difficult to compete statewide.
This was especially true during Donald Trump’s four years in office, when once reliable Republican voters fled the party in opposition to the then-President.
Youngkin’s goal from the outset of the campaign has been to cobble together a coalition that includes the diehard Trump supporters and those who left the party in response to the caustic leader. To do that, the Republican candidate has looked to stoke anger at the left and, by extension, Democratic control in both Richmond and Washington, DC.
“This is the moment for us to stand up and say, ‘No, not here anymore.’ We’re not going to have this left, liberal, progressive agenda,” Youngkin said Friday at an event in Charlottesville.
McAuliffe has responded with the opposite, hoping to lean heavily on the blue tilt of the state by bringing out Democratic leaders from Richmond, like Gov. Ralph Northam, and from Washington, like Harris. And he is attempting to keep those suburban voters who left the Republican Party over Trump with Democrats by regularly trying to tie Youngkin to the former President.
“We only have a few days to go. I cannot tell you how critical this election is. The stakes could not be any more clear: On one side, you think what you have over there, conspiracy theorists, we’ve got anti vaxxers and we’ve got Donald Trump. They are all on one side,” McAuliffe said in Norfolk. “From the day he got into this race Glenn Youngkin has run a campaign of hatred, division and fear.”
Although McAuliffe did highlight local issues he would tackle as governor — like addressing climate change and flooding in the Norflok area — he reminded the crowd of what it would mean to Republicans to get a win in Virginia — something that Harris echoed, too.
“What happens in Virginia will in large part determine what happens in 2022, 2024 and beyond,” Harris said. “The power is in your hands and elections matter.”
Across the state in Warrenton, an exurb about an hour west of Washington, Youngkin focused narrowly on how the coronavirus pandemic has been handled by schools and the state government, as well as parents’ roles in schools.
Youngkin pledged to deliver Virginia’s largest education budget in history, with raises for teachers and more funding for special education, if he is elected. He said he would launch the largest charter-school push Virginia has ever seen — including 20 new charter schools on his first day in office. And he lambasted critical race theory.
“We will teach accelerated math in our schools. We will award advance diplomas in our schools. We will teach all history, the good and the bad, in our schools,” Youngkin said.
Unlike McAuliffe, who made the Norfolk event his focus on the day, Youngkin headlined five rallies that were energetic and drew hundreds of supporters — including parents who brought their children. Staffers used T-shirt guns to fire shirts into the crowd while Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” played before Youngkin took the stage in Warrenton.
Education dominated Youngkin’s events, with speakers routinely hitting McAuliffe for saying “parents should be telling schools what they should teach” during the second and final debate in the contest. “Don’t mess with my kids,” one supporter’s sign in Warrenton said.
Mary Alipio, a Northern Virginia parent and volunteer who spoke in Warrenton, said that “being involved in their lives and education is non-negotiable.”
“That made me mad,” she said of McAuliffe’s debate comment. “But I’ve been mad since 2020.”
Another popular target for Youngkin and his supporters was critical race theory.
“Governor Glenn Youngkin will ban it, and if I have to take it to court to stop it, I will,” said Jason Miyares, the Republican nominee for attorney general, while campaigning with Youngkin in Warrenton.
Youngkin has walked a tightrope during the campaign with Trump, seeking to align himself closely enough to the former President to keep from alienating his Republican base, but not too close to drive moderates in northern Virginia away from his campaign.
Trump has repeatedly inserted himself into the race, though: He’ll headline a tele-rally Monday for Youngkin and the GOP ticket, said John Fredericks, the Virginia based conservative radio host who served as the co-chair of the Trump campaign in the commonwealth.
Youngkin and those who spoke at his rallies didn’t make reference to the former President. But his supporters were animated by opposition to the same Democratic rivals that Trump faced.
The crowd in Warrenton — as Youngkin crowds have elsewhere — chanted “Let’s go Brandon,” a coded phrase that conservative crowds have used to express their displeasure with President Joe Biden.

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Qatar rejects Amnesty’s assertion that labour reforms have not translated on ground

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thepeninsulaqatar– The Ministry of Labour has issued a statement in response to Amnesty’s report “Reality Check 2021: A Year to the 2022 WorldCup”, stating that Qatar rejects its assertion that labour reforms have not translated into changes on the ground for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

The statement is as follows:

Qatar rejects Amnesty’s assertion that labour reforms have not translated into changes on the ground for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

Amnesty fails to document a single story from among the 242,870 workers who have successfully changed jobs since barriers were removed in September 2020, or from the more than 400,000 workers who have directly benefitted from the new minimum wage through salary increases and other financial incentives.

Since exit permits were removed in 2018, hundreds of thousands of workers have left Qatar and returned without permission from their employer; improvements to the Wage Protection System now protect more than 96 percent of eligible workers from wage abuse; new visa centres in labour-sending countries have significantly reduced exploitative practices before workers arrive in Qatar; and new rules extend the ban on summer working to minimise the effects of heat stress.

Qatar has also strengthened its enforcement measures to safeguard workers and prosecute employers who fail to comply with the law. The number of inspectors employed by the Ministry of Labour has increased year on year, as has their capacity to thoroughly investigate working conditions and refer violators for sentencing in the labour courts.

In the first half of 35,280,2021 accommodation and worksite inspections were carried out and 13,724 penalties were issued to violating companies, including worksite closures, fines and prison sentences. A further 4,840 site visits were made by labour inspectors to raise awareness of the new laws among employers and employees.

Every year, more companies are held accountable for violating the law. Systemic reform is a long-term process and shifting the behaviour of every company takes time. Through its actions, the government is sending a strong message to companies that violations will not be tolerated.

Qatar has never shied away from acknowledging that its labour system is still a work in progress. The government is committed to engaging collaboratively and constructively with international partners and critics to further improve standards for all migrant workers in Qatar

Qatar will therefore continue to consult with international experts including the ILO and trade unions. International NGOs will also be routinely consulted to provide their recommendations.

The reality is that no other country has come so far in such a short amount of time. Following Qatar’s lead, and as a sign of the programme’s wider impact, other countries in the region have now taken steps to introduce their own labour reforms.

Labour reform is a complex task, and Qatar believes that solutions are best found through dialogue and engagement. For this reason, and despite Amnesty’s criticism, Qatar will continue to work constructively with a range of labour experts and practitioners to build on the progress that has been made.

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Myanmar election body charges Suu Kyi with electoral fraud

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independent– Myanmar’s state election commission announced it is prosecuting the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and 15 other senior political figures for alleged fraud in last November’s general election.

The announcement was published Tuesday in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper and other official media.

Allegations of widespread electoral fraud were the main reason cited by the military for its Feb. 1 seizure of power that toppled Suu Kyi’s government. Her National League for Democracy party was about to begin a second five-year term in office after its landslide victory in the polls. The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party suffered unexpectedly heavy losses.

Independent observers, such as the Asian Network for Free Elections, found no evidence of substantive irregularities in the polls, though they criticized some aspects.

The action by the Union Election Commission could potentially result in Suu Kyi’s party being dissolved and unable to participate in a new election the military has promised will take place within two years of its takeover. However, the commission’s notice, dated Monday, did not specify which laws would be used to prosecute the accused.

In May, the military-appointed new head of the election commission said his agency would consider dissolving Suu Kyi’s former governing party for alleged involvement in electoral fraud and have its leaders charged with treason. Commission Chairman Thein Soe said an investigation had determined that the party had worked illegally with the government to give itself an advantage at the polls.

After taking power, the military dismissed the members of the election commission that had certified the results of last year’s poll and appointed new ones. It also detained members of the old commission, and, according to reports in independent Myanmar media, pressured them to state there had been election fraud.

The new commission declared last year’s election’s results invalid.

The new notice from the commission said Suu Kyi, former President Win Myint, other leading figures in her party and the commission’s former chairman were “involved in electoral processes, election fraud and lawless actions” related to the polls.

It accused 16 people of carrying out illegal actions, including compelling local election officials to obstruct military polling booths, threatening such officials in connection with advance voting for voters over 60 years old, forcing local officials to approve voting lists that included ineligible voters and interfering in campaigning to favor Suu Kyi’s party.

Suu Kyi is already on trial or charged in about a dozen criminal cases in which a conviction would almost certainly bar her from running for office again. Several of her top political allies also have been tried or are facing charges. Suu Kyi’s supporters as well as independent rights organizations contend that the cases are spurious and meant to discredit Suu Kyi and her party while legitimizing military rule.

Dissolving Suu Kyi’s party would follow a regional trend of dissolving popular political parties seen as a threat to governments in power.

Cambodia’s high court in 2017 dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party the sole credible opposition force, ahead of a 2018 general election.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court in 2020 dissolved the newly formed Future Forward Party, which had won the third highest number of seats in the lower house in the 2019 general election.

In both the Cambodian and Thai cases, the courts cited specific violations of the law for their rulings, but their actions were widely seen as reflecting political pressures.

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More than 20 killed in attack on Kabul military hospital

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bbc– More than 20 people have been killed and at least 16 injured in a gun and bomb assault on a military hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Attackers targeted the 400-bed Sardar Daud Khan hospital starting with two massive explosions outside the building, officials said.

Gunmen then broke into the hospital grounds, witnesses said.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group, IS-K, later said it had carried out the attack.

Photographs and video footage from Kabul showed a plume of smoke over the area and recorded the sounds of gunfire. A doctor in the building told the AFP news agency he had been sent to seek shelter in a safe room during the attack and could hear guns being fired.

Sayed Ahad told broadcaster EVN that one of the blasts was a suicide attack.

“As an Afghan citizen, I am really tired of this war, suicide and explosions,” he said. “How long do we have to endure this misery?”

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The Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, told the BBC that fighters from IS-K had entered the compound after detonating the first explosion at the entrance gate.

Mr Karimi said Taliban fighters shot and killed four IS-K attackers and captured one alive.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid meanwhile told Reuters news agency that Taliban special forces dropped by helicopter had stopped the attackers from entering the hospital itself, killing them at the entrance or in the building’s courtyard. All the assailants were killed in 15 minutes, he said.

Witnesses quoted by Reuters said they saw two helicopters over the area during the assault. The news agency reports that this would be one of the first times Taliban forces have used aircraft captured from the previous, Western-backed government during an operation.

The attack is the latest to hit Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control in August, after the US withdrew its last troops from the country.

IS-K, which stands for Islamic State Khorasan, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks targeting civilians and Taliban fighters.

In August, a bombing by IS-K at Kabul international airport in August killed more than 150 civilians and 13 US soldiers.

The Sardar Daud Khan hospital has been targeted before. More than 30 people were killed and 50 others wounded in 2017 when gunmen dressed as doctors stormed the building. That attack was also claimed by the Islamic State group.

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