President Donald Trump delivered a combative defense on Thursday of his COVID-19 response while election challenger Joe Biden — offering a glaring contrast in style in a rival town hall — accused him of doing “nothing” to end the pandemic.
The dueling appearances, scheduled at the same time on rival television networks, showed Biden giving unflashy, empathetic, often in-depth answers to voters in the audience, while Trump delivered a fiery, sometimes agitated defense of his presidency.
Trump, who trails in the polls ahead of the November 3 election, was especially under pressure about the coronavirus that has killed over 217,000 Americans and inflicted deep economic damage.
“We’re rounding the corner,” Trump insisted with his usual optimism, even as swaths of the United States see sharply rising caseloads.
But pressed by the host of the NBC town hall in Miami, he became quickly frustrated, especially when asked about his previous lukewarm denunciations of extremist rightwing groups in the country.
He notably refused to denounce QAnon, a conspiracy theory movement that claims Trump is waging a secret war against a global liberal cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.
“I know nothing about QAnon,” Trump said, and then continued to praise the shadowy group’s position being “very much against pedophilia.”
The president entered calmer waters when fielding a series of more comfortable questions from members of the audience, one of whom sparked applause by telling Trump: “You have a great smile.”
– ‘Grudges don’t work’ –
By contrast, Biden’s appearance on rival network ABC mirrored his steady and generally low-key campaign, with promises of bipartisan healing in divided Washington and aiming steady fire on Trump’s coronavirus record.
“We’re in a situation where we have 210,000 plus people dead and what’s he doing? Nothing. He’s still not wearing masks,” Biden said of Trump at the event in Philadelphia.
His standout comments at a time of profound political conflict in the country were when he vowed to improve the atmosphere, saying “grudges don’t work.”
“We’ve got to change the nature of the way we deal with one another,” Biden said.
“If I’m elected president, the first thing — and not a joke… I’m going to pick up the phone and call them and say, ‘Let’s get together.’”
Biden repeatedly came back to the theme of unity, saying he would be president to all Americans including those who voted against him.
“We’ve got to heal this nation,” he said. “If I’m elected president you’ll not hear me race baiting, you’ll not hear me dividing, I’ll be trying to unify.”
In a gesture to those in the audience, Biden stayed on stage for some 30 minutes after the town hall ended so he could answer more questions.
– No debate –
Originally, both candidates were meant to meet Thursday for what would have been their second of three presidential debates.
The first was a brutal affair in which Trump repeatedly talked over Biden and the Democrat told him to “shut up.”
The follow-up was scrapped after organizers switched to a virtual format, citing Trump’s coronavirus infection, and the president refused to accept the arrangement.
Trump, who says he is clear of Covid-19 and returned to the campaign trail Monday, has rallies booked in battleground states every night this week.
He predicted to supporters in North Carolina earlier Thursday that Biden would be given an easier time on ABC.
“I’m being set up tonight,” he said.
The decision by NBC to accept a Trump appearance at the same time as Biden’s town hall likely meant that few Americans would get to see and contrast both men.
With only 19 days until the election, Trump is now running out of time to overtake Biden.
Even a close ally to Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, said Thursday Biden may be on his way to victory.
“You all have a good chance of winning the White House,” he told Democratic colleagues at a hearing on Trump’s conservative Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Trump and Biden hold their final debate October 22, and Biden said that out of “decency” he expects both men will get coronavirus tests beforehand.
– Harris on hold –
Despite Trump’s insistence that the pandemic is in the rear view mirror, it continues to disrupt the election.
Following Trump’s temporary time out recovering, Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris has put her own travel on hold after her communications director and a flight crew member tested positive.
Harris did not need to quarantine, the campaign said, but “out of an abundance of caution” would suspend in-person campaigning until October 19.
Biden has reported multiple negative coronavirus tests since Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis on October 1, the latest on Thursday.
The campaign said that yet another person who tested positive had traveled on Biden’s plane this week but had been so far away that the candidate was in no danger and doctors said “there is no need” for him to quarantine.
Nigeria Barred From 2022 US Visa Lottery
Nigeria Is The Only African Country Barred From 2022 US Visa Lottery
Nigeria has been barred from the US visa lottery application for 2022, a document obtained from the US Government website showed.
In a 19-page document published on the website, Nigeria is the only African country barred from the visa lottery.
“For DV-2022, persons born in the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more than, 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam,” the document read. “Persons born in Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.”
Although natives of other African countries are allowed to apply, the document explained that “persons born in the areas administered prior to June 1967 by Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt are chargeable, respectively, to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt,” it said.
“Persons born in the Gaza Strip are chargeable to Egypt; persons born in the West Bank are chargeable to Jordan; persons born in the Golan Heights are chargeable to Syria.”
In the document captioned “Instructions for the 2022 diversity immigrant visa program (dv-2022),” applicants must meet certain guidelines to be eligible for the visa lottery.
“The Department of State determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing,” the statement added.
“The Department of State distributes diversity visas among six geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven per cent of the available DVs in any one year.”
WTO: 79 Countries Endorse Okonjo-iweala’s Candidacy
Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala voiced confidence on Friday in her quest to lead the crisis-wracked World Trade Organisation after all of Africa backed her candidacy, vowing she would champion reform.
“I feel the wind behind my back,” she told a virtual press briefing after the 55-member African Union officially supported her over her sole remaining opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.
Okonjo-Iweala said she was thrilled to learn that “all African countries are getting behind me.”
According to her, a group of Caribbean and Pacific states had also said they would back her, bringing the number of countries officially endorsing her candidacy to 79 out of the 164 states that comprise the WTO.
She also said she felt “optimistic” about her support in Latin America, and said she felt she had gotten “very good traction and good support” in Asia so far.
“I feel quite confident that across the regions, we will be able to attract” support, Okonjo-Iweala added while hinting that the European Union was due to announce its preference of the last two candidates “soon”.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Monday, assured Okonjo-Iweala during her visit to Aso Villa in Abuja that he would do all within his powers to ensure she gets the job.
The global trade body is set to be led by a woman for the first time whichever of the two candidates is successful in their bid to follow Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director-general in August a year ahead of schedule.
Okonjo-Iweala, 66, who served as Nigeria’s first female finance and foreign minister and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank, said it would be good if WTO could also boast its first African leader.
“If that person is African and a woman, I think that is great. Because… neither an African nor a woman has led the organisation,” she said.
But at a time when the WTO is engulfed by multiple crises, she stressed that the new chief must above all be highly skilled in political and diplomatic negotiations, as well as at the managerial level.
“The WTO at this time with the challenges it confronts needs a very competent Director General who is able to have the political reach and stature to be able to do reforms and deal at very high levels.
“It is not only having those skills but having them all meet in one person at this juncture when the WTO needs that,” she said.
Even before the Covid-19 crisis hit, the WTO was already grappling with stalled trade talks and struggling to curb tensions between the United States and China.
The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington, which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organisation altogether.
Okonjo-Iweala said she had broad experience in championing reform and was the right person to help put the WTO back on track.
“I am a reform candidate and I think the WTO needs the reform credentials and skills now.”
The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO’s top post, which has been whittled down over two rounds of consultations, had included three Africans, and the AU had until now refrained from offering an official endorsement.
The third and final round of consultations seeking to establish consensus around one candidate is due to begin next week and end on October 27, with the announcement due in early November.
Guinea President Names Street After Buhari For His ‘fear Of God’
President Umaro Embalo has expressed appreciation to President Buhari for his support and the fatherly advice he had been receiving from him before and after his inauguration as president of Guinea Bissau.
President Embalo explained that he named a street in Bissau, capital of Guinea Bissau, after President Buhari as a mark of honour and respect he has for the Nigerian leader due to his honesty, discipline and fear of God.
On his part, President Macky Sall of Senegal commended the way and manner Nigeria is supporting the cost of war against insurgency and terrorist activities in all the Lake Chad Basin areas.
The Senegalese leader gave the commendation at the end of a dinner meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and President Umaro Embalo of Guinea Bissau at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday night.
He also lauded Nigeria for supporting the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) toward the restoration of peace and constitutional order in Mali.
He said, “What I can say on Mali is that I did know that ECOWAS was very involved since the beginning (of the political crisis). Of course Mali is one of our great countries in ECOWAS.
“As you know, Mali is under occupation by terrorists, even Niger Republic, and I want to salute the great action of Nigeria against Boko Haram and how Nigeria is supporting the cost of war even in all the Lake Chad Basin area.
*“Nigeria is also supporting ECOWAS including Mali, Niger and in Burkina Faso where we have a very serious situation.”
Sall reiterated the commitment of the ECOWAS leaders to continue to support the transitional government in Mali to enable it meet the December 2021 deadline of conducting elections in that country.
The visiting president said: “Although, we had a big political crisis in Mali, but hopefully today everything there is better as we continue to give support to the country’s transitional arrangements.
“So we will help and we will continue to support and we hope by the end of December of next year they will come back to the normal constitutional order and they will have elections and they can come back very strongly with the nations of ECOWAS.
“So, what I can say is today everybody is helping Mali, we lifted the sanctions and ECOWAS has shown a big leadership during this crisis.’’
The Senegalese leader further revealed that they had fruitful bilateral talks with President Buhari bordering on security, economic, COVID-19 as well as regional and global issues.
“I’m not here for summit. I came with my young brother, President Embalo, to pay this visit, to discuss with him (President Buhari), of course, about bilateral relations and also about the region, Africa, about the COVID-19 and all problems we are having in this world.
“So, let me thank President Buhari for hosting us on African traditional way and it’s a big honour for me again to tell him; `thank you President Buhari, thank you for hospitality; thank you also for the officials you brought this evening.’
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