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Rivals make final push in Iowa ahead of first test against Trump

Rivals make final push in Iowa ahead of first test against Trump

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Rivals make final push in Iowa ahead of first test against Trump

Republicans vying to beat a dominant Donald Trump to be the party’s nominee in the 2024 US presidential election will crisscross a frozen Iowa this weekend in the final campaigning ahead of the first nominating contest on Monday.

His rivals will be trying to prevent a rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden for the leadership of the world’s most powerful country in what looks set to be a close and deeply acrimonious November vote that has raised questions about the depth of support for Europe and even basic democratic values.

Trump, the only current or ex-US president to be charged with criminal activity, holds a commanding lead over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who want to place a strong second in Iowa and show they can deliver an upset going forward.

Only four Republicans are left challenging Trump in an unusually truncated field at this initial stage of the nominating process, a sign of the deep support he holds among so many of the party faithful and its upper echelons.

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A nationwide Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday showed Trump with 49% support. Haley, aiming to be the first woman president, was at 12%, while DeSantis garnered 11%. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson polled at 4% and 0%, respectively.

An Iowa poll released on Thursday showed Trump 41 percentage points ahead of DeSantis and Haley, in second place at 14% each.

But the weather could throw a wrench into weekend campaign plans.

Blizzard conditions could see temperatures plunge to a low of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 degrees Celsius) on Monday, cancel more events and test the resolve of even the hardiest Midwesterners to go out to vote.

Iowans take pride in their first-in-nation status for the nominating contests and are used to dealing with snow, dressing in layers and driving trucks with four-wheel drives, but Monday is set to be the coldest day of caucuses ever, testing that mettle.

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Joy Burk, 43, a DeSantis supporter in Ankeny, said the weather might impact turnout but that if the snow has cleared by Monday, “it’s just the cold weather, which we are used to.”

Trump canceled two rallies in Iowa on Saturday, citing the weather.

“I’ll get there sometime around Saturday night or something, one way or the other I’m getting there. You have the worst weather I guess in recorded history, but maybe that’s good because our people are more committed than anyone else,” Trump said in a video posted to social media.

Haley and DeSantis will meet voters in smaller settings on Saturday, including a brewery and a farm.

On Sunday, Trump planned a rally in Indianola, a suburb of Des Moines, but canceled one in the city of Cherokee. Haley and DeSantis will begin the day in Dubuque in the east of the state near the Mississippi River, followed by another DeSantis event around 300 miles (500 km) away in Sioux City.

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From 7 p.m. CST on Monday (0100 GMT on Tuesday), Iowans will gather for two hours in school gymnasiums, bars and other locations to debate the candidates before ranking them in order of preference.

Results are typically announced within a few hours.

TRUMP FOCUSED ON RETRIBUTION

Trump continues to claim falsely that his 2020 loss to Biden was due to widespread fraud and has vowed if elected again to punish his political enemies, introduce new tariffs and end the Ukraine-Russia war in 24 hours, without saying how, according to his own comments, those of his campaign and media reports.

He has drawn criticism for increasingly authoritarian language that has echoed Nazi rhetoric, including comments that undocumented immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country.”

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Trump has used charges of unlawfully trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to fundraise and boost his support among Republican voters and elsewhere and claim a “witch hunt” as he protests his innocence.

He faces four prosecutions, setting up the unprecedented prospect of a president being convicted or even serving from behind bars, with the courts almost certainly weighing in at every stage.

DeSantis, who has tacked to the right of Trump especially on issues such as education and LGBTQ rights, has staked a huge amount on a strong performance in Iowa with associates of his saying he needs to finish at least second.

While DeSantis has been to all 99 counties, fiercely courted socially conservative voters in a state that is nearly 90% white and secured the backing of its governor, Trump has showed up a fraction of the time but has held larger rallies than his rivals have struggled to match.

Haley, who is the strongest challenge to Trump on the next stop, the Jan. 23 New Hampshire primary, has spoken of how voters there could “correct” Iowa’s decision as she hopes to defeat the favorite. 

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

 The African National Congress and its largest rival, the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance, agreed on Friday to work together in South Africa’s new government of national unity, a step change after 30 years of ANC majority rule.

Once unthinkable, the deal between two sharply antagonistic parties is the most momentous political shift in South Africa since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid.

“Today, South Africa is a better country than it was yesterday. For the first time since 1994, we’ve embarked on a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to a new government that will be different from the previous one,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a televised address.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” he said, adding that multi-party government was the “new normal”.

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The ANC lost its majority for the first time in an election on May 29 and has spent two weeks locked in intensive behind-the-scenes talks with other parties, which came down to the wire on Friday morning as the new parliament was convening.

The DA’s entry into national government is a big moment for a country still processing the legacy of the racist colonial and apartheid regimes. The party has struggled to shake off its image as a defender of rich white people and convince a broad spectrum of South Africans that it reflects their aspirations.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the unity government, they said. 

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Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

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Hamas' armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government “does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins,” the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

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The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. 

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base on Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and U.S. vessels in Cuba – a Communist-ruled island nation just 160 km (100 miles) from Florida – served up a reminder of old Cold War tensions and of current fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.

However, both the U.S. and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit…in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries”, adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”

Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union and tensions with Washington over Communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow, which has maintained ties with Havana, has questioned the apparent nervousness of the West over the warships this week. 

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