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U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and her husband reported more than $2 million in income on their 2018 federal tax return, with the vast majority stemming from her husband’s work as a partner in a law firm.

The California senator, one of 18 declared candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, released 15 years’ worth of tax returns Sunday, dating back to when she first held elected office.

Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, a partner at DLA Piper, reported taxable income of $1.8 million, including $157,352 from her Senate salary. The couple paid $697,611 in taxes this year with an effective rate of 38.4 percent. In 2017, before the Republican tax overhaul went into effect, they paid an effective tax rate of 40 percent and paid about a half-million dollars in taxes on lower income.

The couple reported more than $225,000 in state and local tax payments, but the tax overhaul capped the amount they could deduct from their federal taxes at $10,000. Emhoff did not qualify for a 20 percent deduction for pass-through business owners included in the new law because the deduction isn’t granted to law firms.

Harris is widely viewed as a top-tier contender in a large and growing Democratic field, running competitively in surveys for third place behind the much better-known former Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn’t officially announced, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. She raised $12 million in the first quarter of 2019, second only to Sanders.

Harris has focused her message around progressive economics and social justice for immigrants, African Americans and the LGBT community. She has proposed cutting taxes for middle-income and low-income families by providing tax credits and direct payments to those households.

She has also proposed to pay for these tax breaks by rolling back benefits for those making more than $100,000 and to put a levy on banks with more than $50 billion in assets.

Before being elected to the Senate in 2016, Harris served as the California attorney general and as the San Francisco district attorney. She’s scheduled to campaign in the important early state of South Carolina this week.

Harris joins several other 2020 hopefuls, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, in releasing more than a decade of tax returns. Democrats have been using the release of their tax information to contrast with President Donald Trump, who in the 2016 campaign became the first presidential candidate in more than 40 years to refuse to release his returns.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who released only one year of returns when he ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016, has said he’ll make 10 years’ worth of returns public by April 15, the tax filing deadline. Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir said Saturday that the senator’s tax returns will be “boring.”

House Democrats have asked the IRS to hand over Trump’s tax returns, citing a 1924 law that allows the chairmen of the tax-writing committee to demand the returns of any American taxpayer. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the agency, has asked the Justice Department to review the request, but Trump, White House officials, Republican members of Congress and the president’s lawyers have all said it would be a violation of his privacy to do so.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal has given the IRS an April 23 deadline to release the returns but the fight is expected to drag on for some time.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Man takes selfie pictures with a cutout of Indonesia's presidential candidate for the upcoming election Prabowo Subianto during a campaign rally in Solo
FILE PHOTO: A man takes selfie pictures with a cutout of Indonesia’s presidential candidate for the upcoming election Prabowo Subianto during a campaign rally in Solo, Central Java Province, Indonesia, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo

April 10, 2019

By Fanny Potkin and Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Armed with laptops, three dozen journalists and fact-checkers braced for battle before a live debate between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his challenger, Prabowo Subianto.

With two giant screens displaying television network feeds in front of them, the keyboard warriors split into six groups, each responsible for fact-checking a segment of the debate.

For nearly three hours, their eyes barely left their screens as they attempted to verify candidates’ comments in real time: allegations about corruption, statistics on the country’s Muslim population, boasts, and even personal anecdotes.

They and other fact-checkers are fighting a running battle against fake news and propaganda ahead of an April 17 election in the world’s third-biggest democracy.

Election monitors are worried that the flow of misinformation stoking ethnic and religious divides could undermine electoral bodies and even raise social tensions.

The Cekfakta (“checkfacts” in Indonesian) initiative brings together the non-profit fact-checking organization Mafindo and 24 news organizations that normally compete fiercely with each other during election campaigns.

“There’s a watchdog now in operation,” Cekfakta co-founder Wahyu Dhyatmika, editor-in-chief of news website Tempo.co, told Reuters. “As a candidate, you cannot throw claims into the air … we will fact-check them.”

Backed financially by Google News Lab, which also helps fund Mafindo, Cekfakta’s volunteers took over the U.S tech giant’s swanky Jakarta office for the debate on March 30.

Dhyatmika wanted to avoid a repeat of the 2014 election, also between Widodo and retired general Prabowo, when reporters were unprepared for the flood of false news that swept across social media.

‘WE’RE IN A WAR’

The fact checkers’ adversaries, fake news peddlers, sit at screens too, pumping out misinformation disguised as fact that often exploits ethnic or religious divides.

“We’re in a war for content … people are doing anything they want,” said one fake news creator, who has written stories depicting Indonesian officials as paid off by Beijing. The person declined to be identified because such work is illegal.

Indonesia’s population of 269 million has a youthful median age of just over 30 years, according to the World Population Review.

With more than 100 million accounts, the country is Facebook’s third-largest market and a top-five market globally for its platforms WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as rival Twitter.

Fake news in Indonesia can rack up thousands of views in hours, despite laws against creating and spreading such content.

Mafindo’s head of fact-checking, Aribowo Sasmito, compares it to the drug trade.

“There are the factories, the dealers, and the victims. Most of the people who end up arrested are victims … They read hoaxes and believed them to be true.”

Since December, Mafindo has documented a surge in political fake news using ethnicity and religion to target both candidates.

The organization finds most worrisome the dozens of stories that paint electoral bodies as corrupt. This will be only Indonesia’s fourth democratic presidential election.

Sasmito considers it a good result if fact-checked posts can reach even a small fraction of the audience the originals did.

Mafindo’s work has made it some enemies. The group has received enough threats that it keeps its office address secret; Cefakta’s website was hacked after a previous debate.

A Reuters investigation in March found that both the Prabowo and Widodo campaigns were funding sophisticated social media operations to spread propaganda and disinformation through fake accounts on behalf of the candidates. [L3N20Z2EH]

Both campaigns said they did not use such teams.

FAKE NEWS CREATORS

One journalist said he was hired by Prabowo campaign advisers to write positive stories about Prabawo and negative ones on Widodo, to be posted on Facebook and WhatsApp. He said he was not motivated by money but believes the mainstream media is biased in favor of Widodo.

Fearing government retaliation, the man declined to be named, but he showed Reuters communications that suggested he was he in contact with Prabowo advisers.

He said he wrote only “true” negative stories, and cited as an example a post that 2,000 Chinese workers on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island were secretly part of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

“We have evidence from government contacts and we can see they are soldiers from the way they look,” he said, declining to share such evidence.

Prabowo campaign spokesman Andre Rosiadi denied any advisers had hired journalists to write “positive or negative content” and “especially not fake news.”

Asked about the Sulawesi allegation, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy in Indonesia replied to Reuters in a text: “fake news.”

But such claims also make it onto the campaign trail. A Prabowo campaign volunteer in West Java told Reuters last week that millions of Chinese workers had been secretly relocated to Sulawesi.

“It’s not hoax, it’s fact,” said volunteer Cecep Abdul Halim.

Reuters found that the creator of the Sulawesi claim had also written stories in 2016 falsely depicting former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjaha Purnama as a Communist stooge of China.

Purnama, a Christian ethnic-Chinese Indonesian ally of Widodo, recently completed a two-year prison sentence for blasphemy against Islam based on a video doctored to make him seem he was insulting the Koran.

The man convicted of making the video, a former journalist, worked for Prabowo’s media team until he was sent to prison last month. A campaign spokesman confirmed he had worked for the media team, but did not comment further.

Social media data gathered by Mafindo as well as Indonesian big-data consultancy Drone Emprit shows that allegations using China as a bogeyman are widespread in Indonesia, where suspicions about the wealth of the ethnic-Chinese community and the influence of Beijing run deep.

A disproven video that went viral in January claimed to show seven shipping containers from China at Jakarta’s port filled with millions of ballots punctured in favor of Widodo.

Common misinformation themes against Widodo portray him alternatively as a member of Indonesia’s banned Communist party, a Chinese plant, or anti-Islam.

Prabowo, meanwhile, has been depicted as both impious and planning to create a caliphate, while his running mate has been portrayed inaccurately as gay.

All are inflammatory accusations in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, which rights groups say recently has seen increased prejudice against religious and LGBT minorities.

And the stories work. Although Widodo enjoys a double-digit lead over Prabowo, three surveys found that a minority of the population believes that he is either a communist or a Christian.

According to a December poll, as many as 42 percent of Prabowo supporters believed this about Widodo, while 65 percent of Widodo supporters believed Prabowo kidnapped democracy activists while in the military, a claim he strenuously denies.

Experts say such polarization is dangerous for Indonesia and could stoke anger against minorities.

“This kind of fake news gains traction because they’re the seeds of intolerance in our society,” said Cefakta’s Dhyatmika. “And it’s not being addressed.”

(Reporting by Fanny Potkin in JAKARTA and Agustinus Beo Da Costa in GARUT. Additional reporting by Yerica Lai. Editing by John Chalmers and Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on Wednesday called on his alma mater, Yale Law School, to either stop actions that discriminate against religions or face losing federal funding.

“Yale is discriminating against religious organizations,” Sen. Hawley told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “They don’t like religious organizations that want their members to follow their same religious beliefs. It’s just religious intolerance. It’s wrong, and by the way, it’s not permitted under federal law.”

The controversy began in February, when the Yale Federalist Society invited an attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal organization that represents people involved in faith-based claims, to speak on campus.

The move angered the Yale LGBT group “Outlaws,” which called ADF, which has in the past represented businesses such as a Colorado bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, a “hate group.”

Students also called on Yale to stop providing stipends for students who worked over the summer in ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship, leading Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken to say the school’s nondiscrimination policy would come into play.

Yale Law School said it has put a committee into place and is talking with organizations to work out the accommodations, but Hawley said he thinks Yale is trying to backtrack.

“I want to see the details of their policy,” he said. “I want to see that they are treating religious students and religious organizations in the same way they treat every other legal organization and every other student, and if Yale doesn’t do that . . . they should have their federal funding stripped.”

Source: NewsMax America

A man sells rainbow flags near The Stonewall Inn, on the eve of the LGBT Pride March, in the Greenwich Village section of New York
A man sells rainbow flags near The Stonewall Inn, on the eve of the LGBT Pride March, in the Greenwich Village section of New York City, , U.S. June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

April 5, 2019

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr said this week he was ordering certain Justice Department offices to investigate whether gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees are facing discrimination over their sexual orientation, after the department’s internal gay pride group complained about low morale.

In an April 4 letter to DOJ Pride released on Friday, Barr said he was “troubled” by the group’s concerns, and was directing the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons to “investigate and address allegations of discrimination.”

Barr also released a formal Equal Employment Opportunity statement declaring that no department employee or applicant should face discrimination over race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A participant waves a rainbow flag in front of President's office building during LGBT pride parade in Taipei
FILE PHOTO: A participant waves a rainbow flag in front of President’s office building during a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parade in Taipei, Taiwan, October 28, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

April 5, 2019

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Human rights lawyers and gay rights advocates urged the Vatican on Friday to issue a clear and unequivocal statement against the criminalization of homosexuality.

The request was made at a Vatican meeting two days after the United Nations said Brunei was violating human rights by implementing Islamic laws that would allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality.

Brunei has defended its right to implement the laws.

About 50 lawyers and gay advocates, led by Baroness Helena Ann Kennedy, director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, met Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state and gave him a study on criminalization of homosexuality in the Caribbean.

She said Parolin was “very responsive” to the ideas put forward by the group and thanked Pope Francis for having shown “compassion and understanding” to the gay community.

“Obviously there are issues that are doctrinal but the point that we were making and which I think he (Parolin) accepted is that this is absolutely about the Church’s teaching about respecting human dignity,” she told reporters.

The Church teaches that, while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are but it also says that the human dignity of homosexuals must be respected and defended.

“What we need is a very clear statement, from the Roman Catholic Church at least, that criminalization is wrong,” said Leonardo Javier Raznovich, lead researcher of a Caribbean report, which they gave to Parolin.

In 2008, the Vatican called for decriminalization of homosexuality but opposed a non-binding U.N. resolution on the issue because it believed that other parts of it equated same-sex unions with heterosexual marriage.

Catholic bishops around the world have had differing responses to laws to decriminalize homosexuality.

“The Church needs to have a clear policy where, if they believe in human rights, if they believe in the dignity of the human being, as they actively preach, they need to make sure that the Church throughout the world has the same response,” Raznovich said.

A Vatican statement said: “Parolin extended a brief greeting to those present, repeating the Catholic Church’s position in defense of the dignity of every human person and against every form of violence.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the a U.S.-based Catholic LGBT rights group New Ways Ministry, said the Vatican meeting was “a great step forward for improving the relationship between LGBT people and the Catholic Church but more urgent statements and actions are needed”.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Source: OANN

Marie Garcia and Mariana Sepulveda from trans organization Panambi, talk to Reuters, in Asuncion
Marie Garcia and Mariana Sepulveda from trans organization Panambi, talk to Reuters, in Asuncion, Paraguay March 22, 2019. Picture taken March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

April 5, 2019

By Daniela Desantis

ASUNCIÓN (Reuters) – Paraguay’s LGBT communities are feeling increasingly isolated amid a conservative shift in the Latin American country, even after they celebrated the global success of local lesbian drama film “Las Herederas” last year.

Led by right-wing President Mario Abdo, the government recently banned sex education guides for teachers, while the Senate declared itself “pro-life and pro-family” after opening an annual session with a prayer in the usually secular state.

The chill comes amid what local LGBT organizations told Reuters was a wider shift in the region, exemplified by conservative leaders such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has openly made offensive comments about sexual minorities.

“The rights of LGBTI people are facing a kind of setback right now,” Carolina Robledo, president of Paraguayan lesbian rights group Aireana, told Reuters, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities.

She added that these groups were suffering “many attacks from people, because with a right-wing, conservative government, people feel comfortable and protected to say whatever they want and to mistreat you however they want.”

One of the most vulnerable groups is the transgender community, with trans organization Panambí documenting hundreds of cases of violence and 61 murders in the last three decades.

“We are forgotten by the State in life since they have denied us the rights completely. And once again after people die, because murder cases remain unpunished,” said Mariana Sepulveda, Panambí general secretary.

‘Party of Lesbians’

The Paraguayan Congress did pay tribute to Las Herederas, the most awarded film in the history of local cinema. But in doing so, one senator accused its protagonists of being a “party of lesbians” that violates the rights of the family.

The film, which follows a couple of women going through a crisis, won awards at international festivals – including the Silver Bear for best actress in Berlin.

Paraguay, unlike some of its neighboring counties, does not have a law against many kinds of gender-based discrimination and does not recognize unions between people of the same sex.

“The context and the logic of the State toward the LGBT population is the same they had during the dictatorship,” said Simón Cazal, executive director of the SomosGay organization, referring to the 35-year rule of Alfredo Stroessner until 1989.

“Gays don’t exist in Paraguay: that is the phrase that summarizes the vision that the Paraguayan State has about the population that is not heterosexual,” added Cazal, using the derogatory Spanish term “putos.”

SomosGay says it has evidence of the existence of two secret “rehabilitation centers” to “cure” homosexuality, one in the arid Chaco region and the other near the capital, Asunción.

Reuters could not independently verify the existence of the centers but opposition senator Maria Eugenia Bajac said she would be “delighted” to have such establishments in the country.

“These are human beings damaged in their identity,” she told Reuters. “We must treat that deviation, or that inclination or that tendency, or that style, sexual choice, so that people could… be cured.”

In 1959 under Stroessner, authorities arrested 108 people “of dubious moral conduct” who were subjected to public derision. Since then the number 108 has been seen as pejorative and removed from vehicle plates, telephone numbers and houses.

Abdo’s Colorado Party, the dominant political force in the country, also ruled during Stroessner’s administration and the president is the son of the private secretary of the general.

The human rights directorate of Paraguay’s justice ministry admitted issues remain regarding LGBT communities, but said there had been advances, with projects to protect minorities and make them more visible.

“There are not only documents, but specific protection initiatives,” its director, María José Méndez, told Reuters. “There’s an idea of integration that didn’t exist 10 years ago, so really for me there have been significant advances.”

(Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Slovakia's presidential candidate Zuzana Caputova speaks with journalists after a televised debate with her opponent Maros Sefcovic (not pictured) ahead of an election run-off, at TV Markiza
FILE PHOTO: Slovakia’s presidential candidate Zuzana Caputova speaks with journalists after a televised debate with her opponent Maros Sefcovic (not pictured) ahead of an election run-off, at TV Markiza studio in Bratislava, Slovakia, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/File Photo

March 30, 2019

By Tatiana Jancarikova

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Riding a wave of public fury over corruption, liberal lawyer Zuzana Caputova looked set to win Slovakia’s presidential election on Saturday, bucking a trend that has seen populist, anti-European Union politicians make gains across the continent.

Corruption and change have been the main themes ahead of the run-off vote, which takes place a year after journalist Jan Kuciak, who investigated high-profile fraud cases, and his fiancee were murdered at their home.

Caputova, pro-European Union political novice who would become Slovakia’s first female president, won the election’s first round two weeks ago with 40.6 percent of the vote, ahead of European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic on 18.7 percent.

Sefcovic, a respected diplomat who is also pro-EU, is backed by the ruling party Smer, the largest grouping in parliament and which has dominated Slovak politics since 2006.

Caputova campaigned to end what she calls the capture of the state “by people pulling strings from behind”, a message that opinion polls show resonates with younger, educated voters.

Voting stations opened at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) and were due to close at 10 p.m., with results expected overnight.

“I was convinced by Caputova’s history. She knows what it is like to face injustice and she has always had the back of those who fought against the oligarchs,” said Zuzana Behrikova, voter at a polling station in Bratislava.

“I believe she will be able to resist the pressures that come with the position.”

Slovakia’s president wields little day-to-day power but appoints prime ministers and can veto appointments of senior prosecutors and judges.

Five people have been charged with the murders of Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova, including businessman Marian Kocner, who was investigated by Kuciak, and who has become a symbol of perceived impunity after more than a decade of rule by Smer. Kocner denies any wrongdoing.

The killings ignited the biggest protests in Slovakia’s post-communist history.

Caputova waged a 14-year fight with a company Kocner represented that wanted to build an illegal landfill in her home town. She eventually won the case, earning her the nickname “Slovakia’s Erin Brockovich”, after the American environmentalist famously portrayed by Julia Roberts in a 2000 film.

‘WILL TO CHANGE’

“Slovakia is waking up, showing great will to change and hope linked to this and the following election,” Caputova said in the last televised debate this week, hinting at the upcoming European Parliament vote and the 2020 general election.

An opinion poll by Median agency, the only survey released between the first and the second round of voting, put support for Caputova at 60.5 percent. Sefcovic, who has campaigned on his experience and personal relationships with foreign leaders, held a 39.5 percent vote share, according to the poll.

Courting voters who backed anti-immigration candidates in the first round of the presidential election, Sefcovic has said he rejects the vision of an EU “where the distribution of migrants would be decided by someone other than Slovakia”.

The Moscow-educated politician supported the government’s opposition to mandatory migrant quotas suggested by the European Commission, where he is a vice-president.

Sefcovic, who joined the Communist Party in what was then Czechoslovakia just months before communism collapsed in November 1989, has stressed his Christian beliefs in the campaign. He called Caputova’s support for abortion rights and LGBT rights “ultra-liberal”.

“I chose Sefcovic because of his opposition to gay marriage and adoption,” said voter Juraj, 57, in Bratislava. “Family is the future of the nation. I don’t want gay people to be allowed to adopt children.”

(Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Frances Kerry and Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

People walk past an election poster in Bratislava
People walk past an election poster of Slovakian presidential candidate Zuzana Caputova in Bratislava, Slovakia, March 15, 2019. The poster reads: “President for fair Slovakia. Stand up against evil, together we can do it”. REUTERS/David W Cerny

March 15, 2019

By Tatiana Jancarikova

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – An anti-corruption campaigner with no previous experience of public office is set to win Slovakia’s presidential election on Saturday as voters spurn the ruling Smer party one year after the murder of a journalist sparked mass protests.

The killing of Jan Kuciak, who reported on fraud cases involving politically connected businessmen, triggered the biggest anti-government protests in Slovakia since communism ended three decades earlier. It also led to the resignation of then prime minister, Smer leader Robert Fico.

Fico’s government remains in power but Smer’s popularity has slumped. On the first anniversary of Kuciak’s murder, thousands of Slovaks rallied to protest against what they see as a lack of government action on the corruption he uncovered.

Polls show the Smer-backed candidate, European Union commissioner Maros Sefcovic, as trailing far behind political newcomer and lawyer Zuzana Caputova, whose endorsement by the protest movement has catapulted her to frontrunner position with support at over 50 percent.

If elected, the 45-year-old Caputova, a pro-European liberal who belongs to the small, non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia party, will stand out among the populist nationalist politicians on the rise across much of Europe.

A year ago she was best known for leading a long fight against an illegal landfill in her hometown. Now Caputova says her aim is to disrupt “state capture by figures pulling strings from behind instead of elected representatives”.

“This election is the first opportunity for change after last year’s murder and subsequent public calls for decency, justice and fairness,” Caputova said in a Reuters interview on March 4.

The president does not wield day-to-day power but has veto power over the appointments of senior prosecutors and judges, pivotal in that fight.

NEXT STEP

The murders of Kuciak and his fiancee, who was shot dead alongside him, is still under investigation. The biggest breakthrough to date came just two days before the vote, when special prosecutors said they had charged businessman Marian Kocner, a subject of Kuciak’s reporting with connections across the political scene including with Smer, with ordering the murder.

Grigorij Meseznikov, of the Institute for Public Affairs, said Saturday’s election was the next step in a process started a year ago.

“We will see a face-off between those who want fairness and justice for all and those who created the current system and want to maintain it,” he said.

Under Smer, which has held the majority in parliament since 2006, Slovakia joined the euro zone and its growing economy is now the world’s largest per capita car producer.

But corruption remains a problem and this has galvanized anti-establishment voters. Slovakia ranks 57th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, behind neighbors Poland and the Czech Republic but ahead of Hungary.

The last AKO agency poll before the vote published on March 1, showed support for Caputova at 52.9 percent and Sefcovic at 16.7 percent.

In third place at 11.4 percent, was supreme court judge and former justice minister Stefan Harabin, who is running as an independent candidate. He has gained support with promises to fight immigration and dismantle EU sanctions against Russia. He slams LGBT rights as “sick ideology” and says he would “renounce all international treaties that Slovakia joined under pressure”.

With the vote still likely to go to a run-off on March 30, some see Harabin beating Sefcovic for the challenger position. This could render Smer more vulnerable in the run-up to the next parliamentary election in 2020.

(Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Jason Hovet and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Source: OANN

Republicans are heading for a lively and rapid-fire faceoff to decide who'll represent the GOP in a new North Carolina congressional election mandated after a ballot-rigging scandal blocked the former Republican candidate's presumed victory in November.

Ten Republicans filed by Friday's deadline to run for their party's nomination in the 9th Congressional District special election. They include the sponsor of a 2016 state law limiting LGBT rights, the anointed choice of last year's GOP candidate, a Fayetteville medical products sales manager, two suburban Charlotte real estate agents and a former Marine who served on the county board that includes Charlotte.

They have two months to raise money and campaign while Dan McCready, the Democrat who seemed to narrowly lose November's election before it was voided, can meet with supporters and donors without a primary contest. He raised $487,000 at the end of 2018 while the result was in doubt.

With no other contests serving as a weather vane of political opinion, the election should draw tons of money and visits from presidential candidates looking for a platform, Western Carolina University political scientist Chris Cooper said.

"I think this is going to be a nationally prominent story," said Cooper, predicting the interest level could match the big-money 2017 Georgia race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. "I think we'll have probably relatively low voter turnout … but the media environment is so nationalized now that I think we're all looking for signs."

The district that has been in GOP hands since 1963 and President Donald Trump won it by 12 percentage points in 2016. Republican Mark Harris seemed in November to have won by 905 votes out of almost 278,000 cast. But that was before investigators found a political operative working for Harris collected an unknown number of mail-in ballots, making them vulnerable to being changed or discarded.

The bi-partisan state elections board last month unanimously declared the election tainted and ordered another.

Harris isn't running again. The incumbent he beat in last year's primary, Robert Pittenger, also ruled out running in the district which stretches from suburban Charlotte to suburban Fayetteville along the South Carolina border.

If none of the Republicans win more than 30 percent of the votes in May, a GOP runoff primary would be Sept. 10 and the general election Nov. 5. If there is a clear Republican winner, he or she would meet McCready and candidates of the Green and Libertarian parties on Sept. 10.

Harris urged his supporters to back Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, who like the former Baptist pastor is staunchly anti-abortion. Rushing, 47, said his conviction comes in part from the fact that his mother gave birth to him despite being just 16.

The firing range owner and licensed gun seller said he's had grass-roots contact with thousands of people across the district who have taken his hunter safety and concealed-carry courses.

The best-known Republican candidate is probably state Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte, the architect of one of the most controversial laws in recent state history. House Bill 2 repealed a Charlotte ordinance expanding LGBT rights and prevented similar anti-discrimination rules anywhere else in the state. A 2017 Associated Press analysis found the law will cost the state more than $3.76 billion over several years.

The law was partly repealed, but local governments can't regulate private employment or public accommodations until late next year.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited that partial repeal when barring swimmers attending state universities from lodging in North Carolina during a collegiate championship next week in Greensboro. Cuomo said banning nonessential state-funded travel to North Carolina remains because the state continues discrimination against the LGBT community.

Bishop said his HB2 advocacy proved he'll tell voters where he stands despite pushback.

"I think the people of North Carolina, they put that controversy behind them and they're ready to move on," Bishop said after filing as a candidate Thursday. "It did the state no good to have that controversy, but it's an exhausted issue. And as I said, everyone understands where I stand. But we're on to a new campaign and new issues."

A late entry was Chris Anglin, who had been a registered Democrat until shortly before he entered last year's race for a state Supreme Court seat as a Republican. He split GOP votes with the Republican incumbent and helped a Democrat get elected.

Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the NC Values Coalition, said her conservative lobbying organization hasn't decided who to endorse. Still, she said social conservatives are motivated to vote because their "votes were thrown out," even though it's unclear whether there were enough tainted ballots to swing the race last year.

Last year's narrow race in a district that favors Republicans suggests GOP voters need to rally behind a candidate who can appeal equally in the district's suburbs and rural hamlets, Republican strategist Patrick Sebastian said.

"Most of the Republicans in this race are fairly conservative but I don't think all of them can win against McCready, who's going to have a mountain of money behind him," Sebastian said. "So we have to nominate somebody that has a little bit of crossover appeal (to Democrats) but also can stop McCready from taking soft Republican voters. He clearly did that in 2018."

Source: NewsMax Politics

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said during his campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 that he thought President Donald Trump should be impeached, but now he thinks that maybe the best way to unseat the president is at the ballot box in 2020.

"How Congress chooses to address those sets of facts and the findings which I believe we are soon to see from the [Robert] Mueller report is up to them," the former Texas representative told CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King, in an interview airing Friday. "I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020, and perhaps that's the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions."

He added that he thinks it's "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that even if there was no collusion, there was the effort to collude, and that there was "certainly" the effort to obstruct justice.

O'Rourke said he's running because he wants to bring Americans together. He also pointed out that while there have been complaints about his experience, he's served in local government as an El Paso councilman and for six years in the U.S. House of Representatives in the minority party.

While in Congress, O'Rourke supported legalizing marijuana, investments in clean energy, LGBT rights, and pro-choice on abortion. He's also a critic of President Donald Trump's immigration policies and believes in universal healthcare that supplements private insurance with the ability to be covered under Medicare.

He also said he'd plan to raise taxes on the wealthy, particularly corporations, and promised a diverse Cabinet if elected.

Source: NewsMax Politics


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