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Nancy Pelosi’s unpopularity with House Democratic challengers threatens midterm hopes



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Connor Lamb was just the beginning. In the wake of Lamb’s upset victory in the Pennsylvania special election earlier in March, a slew of House Democratic challengers are refusing to say that they will vote for Rep. Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker if they are elected to Congress. NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald and Jon Allen found more than a dozen candidates who won’t back her — and even more who are ducking the question. That’s a big problem for Washington Democrats’ hopes of winning the House majority in the 2018 midterms.

President Donald Trump is unpopular. Democratic enthusiasm is surging. Republican Members of Congress are retiring in droves. But the so-called midterm “blue wave” is far from a sure bet.

In her own self-assessment, Pelosi noted, “I am a master legislator, I am a shrewd politician and I have a following in the country that, apart from a presidential candidate, nobody else can claim.” She’s certainly confident, but she’s also unpopular. And if she tries to cling to the leadership through November, she could very well ruin her party’s growing momentum.

President Donald Trump is unpopular. Republican Members of Congress are retiring in droves. But the so-called midterm “blue wave” is far from a sure bet.

The majority in the House of Representatives has changed three times in the past quarter century: 1994, 2006 and 2010. In each of those years, the opposition party won back the majority not just by offering a check on an unpopular president, but by offering a new and different governing agenda, rooted in the party principles.

In 1994, Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” helped blaze the trail for the first Republican House majority in 40 years. In 2006, against the backdrop of GOP ethics scandals and the unpopular war in Iraq, Pelosi’s Democrats retook that majority touting their “6 for ‘06” agenda. And yet, only four years later, in the wake of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and Affordable Care Act, as well as the rise of the Tea Party, John Boehner united House Republican candidates behind the “Pledge to America” and won a huge comeback victory.

The point is that, historically speaking, being the “party of no” has not been enough to win the House majority — you need a positive platform. In this context, the growing lack of support for Pelosi is problematic for two reasons: without a strong leader like Gingrich, Pelosi (in ‘06) or Boehner, it is impossible to forge that agenda. Worse for Democrats, the anti-Pelosi forces are a symbol of the deeper divides among Democratic voters.

Historically speaking, being the “party of no” has not been enough to win the House majority — you need a positive platform.

The “Better Deal” agenda briefly touted by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Pelosi last year is a long-forgotten punchline. And while broadly united by their white-hot hatred of Trump, the Democrats are divided on nearly everything else.

On health policy, single-payer advocates war with defenders of Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The wing led by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sees common-sense improvements in financial services regulation — backed by centrist Democrats — as an unconscionable giveaway to Wall Street. Some Democrats want a rollback of the recent tax reform law to fund higher government spending, while others want new, steep taxes on the rich to pay for far more generous and far-reaching new federal benefits.

And those are just the policy debates — which are far more genteel and mannerly than disagreements over race, class, gender, age and political tactics.

The Democratic challengers shunning Pelosi are not the cause of Democrats’ current “Hunger Games”-style internal conflicts — but they are a symptom. And if they can’t heal those divisions, when it comes to winning the House this year, the odds may actually not be in their favor.

A clean slate, and the promise of a leadership contest following the election would spur a healthy competition among potential new House Democratic leaders.

The best outcome for House Democrats would probably be a pledge from Pelosi that she will serve as Democratic leader in the House through Election Day, but will not take up the speaker’s gavel again if they win the majority. And, frankly, while neither of the other senior House Democratic leaders — Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn — are as polarizing as Pelosi, neither offers much hope for change. They, too, should pledge not to run for Speaker, and turn the reins over to the next generation of Democratic stars.

Pelosi loyalists would argue that the result of her stepping down would be a chaotic election-year leadership contest among House Democrats that would hurt their chances in the midterm election regardless. I disagree. A clean slate, and the promise of a leadership contest set to occur following the election would spur a healthy competition among potential new House Democratic leaders, and actually make victory more likely in November.

Michael Steel is a managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies, a Washington-based public affairs firm. He served as a spokesman for former House Speaker John Boehner and senior roles on Republican statewide and presidential campaigns, including for Governor Jeb Bush and the Romney-Ryan campaign in 2012. He appears frequently on MSNBC.

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COVID-19: Millions of Indians travel to celebrate Maha Kumbh Mela despite rising coronavirus rates | World News



They have gathered in their millions in the temple town of Haridwar, in Uttarakhand.

Hindu pilgrims have come to celebrate Maha Kumbh Mela, a religious festival that happens once every 12 years.

And today is a very auspicious day in the religious calendar to take a dip in India‘s River Ganges.

Live COVID updates from across the UK and around the world

Millions will gather this month to celebrate a Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it
Coronavirus rates have increased in India the last few months, with the country in the midst of a second wave

All this amid a raging pandemic.

The festival has been been flagged as a super spreader as more than 50 million people are expected to attend this month-long event.

The country registered almost 170,000 new cases in the last 24 hours, the highest number of COVID-19 cases anywhere in the world.

With more than 13.5 million cases, India is second only to the United States.

In the same period, 839 people died, taking the total number of COVID-19 related deaths to 170,209.

Millions will gather this month to celebrate a Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it
Millions will gather this month to celebrate the Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it

Sarasswati Dattani, 56, has travelled over 400 miles (644km) from Rajasthan with her husband.

She tells Sky News: “Our children had tried to stop us because of coronavirus.

“I am not afraid, Mother Ganga is with us all the time.

“People are getting the virus sitting at home. We have to die once, it’s all in God’s hands.”

Raghav, 25, from Jalandhar in Punjab, says “coronavirus could not stop me from my belief in God, our faith is far stronger than anything at the moment.

“I have also come to pray that this pandemic gets over soon.”

The devotees come from every part of the country and a majority are from smaller towns and villages.

The fear among health activists is that rural India will be exposed to the virus.

Speaking to Sky News, Dr Atulya Mishra, who is the medical officer in charge of a section of the banks, said: “People are very irresponsible, they do not follow any of the COVID-19 behaviour protocols.

Millions will gather this month to celebrate a Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it
Health experts have urged people not to travel but people are not following guidance

“We provide them with face masks but people don’t wear them.

“We put our lives on the line while the public takes the virus very lightly. It is very frustrating for us health workers.”

The administration has enforced COVID-19 protocols – pilgrims must wear face masks and are only allowed to attend with a negative PCR test result.

Millions will gather this month to celebrate a Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it
People will take a dip in the River Ganges during the month-long festival

But in reality, social distancing is almost impossible to enforce.

India is in the midst of a second wave.

The low number of cases in the winter months had lulled people into believing it’s over.

Opening up society, a low fatality rate and vaccinations have led to Indians letting their guard down.

The festival will also mean people take a dip in the River Ganges
The festival is seen as a super spreader event

For many weeks the country has been immersed in state elections.

The prime minister, his cabinet and leaders of all political parties are campaigning at rallies with thousands in attendance.

Roadshows expose every nook and corner.

Experts have also said the new variants of the virus are far more infectious but less lethal.

Genome sequencing of all cases in Punjab show around 80% of them are due to the UK variant.

While millions will make their way to the Maha Kumbh over the next few weeks, the rising number of cases are sure of grave concern for the government.

India began its vaccination programme on 16 January but less than 1% of the population have been fully vaccinated.

Though the process had a slow start it has picked up pace over the last few weeks.

India may have one of the lowest fatality rates in the world, but it can ill afford a severe burden on its already inadequate and creaking public health care system.

For decades successive governments have spent just over 1.2% of the GDP on healthcare.

Over 70% of its citizens rely on expensive private health care and one illness can push a family into poverty.

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China deploys jets and bombers into Taiwanese airspace in ‘biggest incursion to date’ | World News



Twenty-five Chinese military aircraft have entered Taiwanese airspace in the largest reported incursion to date, according to officials.

Taiwan‘s government has complained in recent months after repeated missions by China‘s air force near the island.

The incursions have been concentrated in the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence zone.

Pic AP
Chinese vessels and aircrafts have conducted drills near Taiwan for several years, but in the last 12 months the actions have stepped up. Pic AP

The latest mission on Monday involved 14 J-16 and four J-10 fighter jets – and four H-6K bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons.

Two anti-submarine aircraft and an early warning aircraft also took part, Taiwan’s defence minister said.

It is believed to be the largest incursion by the Chinese air force into Taiwanese airspace, and officials said combat aircraft were dispatched to intercept and warn the intruders away.

Missile systems were also deployed to monitor the Chinese vessels as the aircraft flew in an area close to Thailand’s Pratas Islands, according to the defence ministry.

It came just three days after the US issued new guidelines that will deepen its ties with Taiwan.

The latest guidelines from the US State Department will mean American officials can meet more freely with their Taiwanese counterparts.

America, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but it has watched on as tensions between Beijing and the island nation have stepped up in recent years.

Pic Reuters
Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu has vowed the island nation will ‘fight to the very last day’ if China attacks

Washington’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last Friday that the US is concerned about China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan – and warned it would be a “serious mistake” for anyone to try to change the status quo in the Western Pacific by force.

Mr Blinken’s statement came after Taiwan scrambled an aircraft to broadcast a warning message after 12 Chinese jets flew over its airspace on 7 April.

The tense start to 2021 comes after a report released by a government-backed think tank found that China made a record 380 incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone last year.

China describes Taiwan as its most sensitive territorial issue and a red line the US should not cross.

Beijing sees the island as a breakaway province that will one day become part of the country again. It has never renounced the possible use of force to bring about eventual unification.

However, Taiwanese people see themselves an independent state and the dispute with their giant neighbour has left relations frayed with the constant threat of violence.

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January 2021: Taiwan military simulates China attack

China has in the past described its missions as being to protect the country’s sovereignty and deal with “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.

Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu has previously said the country will fight “to the very last day” if China attacks.

More widely, China continues to exercise its muscle in the South China Sea.

Over the weekend, military activity near the Philippines spiked as a Chinese aircraft carrier entered the region, and the US military is preparing joint drills with the Philippine military nearby.

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Off-duty Italian police officers find stolen Roman statue in Belgium – a decade after it vanished | World News



A first-century Roman statue has been recovered by two off-duty Italian police officers almost a decade after it was stolen.

The statue was stolen from the Villa Marini Dettina, an archaeological site on the outskirts of Rome, in November 2011 and has now been found in an antique shop in Belgium.

It was discovered by the off-duty officers from the Italian police’s archaeological unit.

The Togatus statue, featuring a headless Roman wearing a draped toga, is valued at €100,000 (£86,000).

The statue is believed to be worth 100,000 (£860,000) and was stolen from an archaeological site near Rome. Pic: AP
The statue is believed to be worth 100,000 (£860,000) and was stolen from an archaeological site near Rome. Pic: AP

The two officers were on assignment in Brussels when they took a walk after work in the Sablon neighbourhood, known for its antique shops.

They spotted a statue that they suspected was from Italy and confirmed their suspicions when they cross-referenced it with their stolen antique database.

An Italian businessman, who used a Spanish alias, has been referred to prosecutors for further investigation. He is alleged to have received and exported the statue abroad, police said.

Italian authorities have been attempting to recover stolen antiques for years.

In 2019, a dozen pieces of artwork were returned to Italy by private auction house Christie’s. The items featured a marble fragment from the sarcophagus in Rome’s catacombs of St Callixtus, a piece worth £50,000.

In June 2020, officials found a stolen Banksy mural in Italy that was taken from the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

The image was created in memory of the victims of the 2015 terrorist attack in the French capital. It was cut out and removed from the concert hall in 2019.

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