Biden to nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead HHS: report


California attorney general Xavier Becerra speaks as California Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on during a news conference in Sacramento in September 2019.


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President-elect Joe Biden will nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his secretary for health and human services, the New York Times reported Sunday.

Politico, NBC News and other news organizations later confirmed the report.

The selection of Becerra is a bit of a surprise; there had been speculation had Becerra was under consideration for U.S. attorney general, as well as the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Also see: Rep. Marcia Fudge and former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in the mix as Biden weighs pick for agriculture chief from diverse slate

As head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Becerra would oversee both pandemic response and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has been responsible for the care of unaccompanied migrant children. As California’s attorney general, he has led efforts to protect the Affordable Care Act, has supported “Medicare for All” and and has defended immigrants’ rights, including the DACA program.

He was also a 12-term congressman who played a key role in getting the ACA approved in 2010.

Becerra, 62, would be the first Latino to lead the department. Biden has vowed to form the most diverse cabinet in U.S. history.





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Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state


WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning.

Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.

In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.

Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

Coons’ departure from the Senate would have come as other Democratic senators are being considered for administrative posts and the party is hoping to win back the Senate. Control hangs on the result of two runoff elections in Georgia in January.

Biden is likely to name his Cabinet picks in tranches, with groups of nominees focused on a specific top area, like the economy, national security or public health, being announced at once. Advisers to the president-elect’s transition have said they’ll make their first Cabinet announcements on Tuesday.

If Biden focuses on national security that day, Michèle Flournoy, a veteran of Pentagon policy jobs, is a top choice to lead the Defense Department. Jake Sullivan, a longtime adviser to Biden and Hillary Clinton, is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser.

For his part, Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.

Biden’s secretary of state would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.

Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.

A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.

“Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it’s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day,” Blinken told The Associated Press in September. “Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our adversaries. That difference would be felt on day one.”

Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America. He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.

Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the Cabinet selection process. Trump’s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election — a determination that would remove those roadblocks.

“We’re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s “This Week.”

Even some Republicans have broken with Trump in recent days and called on him to begin the transition. Joining the growing list were Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump supporter, told ABC that it was time for the president to stop contesting the outcome and called Trump’s legal team seeking to overturn the election a “national embarrassment.”

Meanwhile, planning was underway for a pandemic-modified inauguration Jan. 20. Klain said the Biden team was consulting with Democratic leadership in the House and Senate over their plans.

“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.

___

Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Washington, Alexandra Jaffe in Wilmington, Delaware, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.



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AFL Draft 2020 | Adelaide Crows decide not to nominate father-son prospect Luke Edwards


Adelaide have made the shock decision not to nominate Luke Edwards, the son of Crows’ premiership player Tyson, as a possible father-son selection at December’s national draft.

The decision means the 18-year-old who plays for Glenelg in the SANFL would automatically be added to the list of any club which picks him without the Crows being able to match the bid.

Adelaide have picks 1, 9, 22, 23, 40, 56 and 80 and their recruiting manager Hamish Ogilvie said their decision was a pragmatic football decision.

“We want to be fair to him and ensure he has every opportunity to enter the AFL system and the open draft looms as the best option,” Ogilvie said.

“Like every year, we will stay true to our talent order, which Luke remains part of, but we are not in a position to give a guarantee.”



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Trump vows to nominate ‘brilliant woman’ for Supreme Court this week


“It will be a woman – a very talented, very brilliant woman,” Trump said at the rally in Fayetteville. “We haven’t chosen yet, but we have numerous women on the list.”

Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump previously appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is seen as the front-runner for the spot.

Amy Coney Barrett, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit judge, is seen as the frontrunner to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat.Credit:South Bend Tribune

Barrett is a devout Catholic who has criticised the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision that legalised abortion across the US. She is only 48 years old – a factor that makes her especially appealing for conservatives given Supreme Court justices have lifetime terms.

Trump is also reportedly considering Barbara Lagoa, a Hispanic judge from Florida, and Allison Jones Rushing, who is in her late 30s.

Republican Senator Susan Collins – a moderate who is facing a tough re-election fight in her state of Maine – said that whoever wins the presidential election should nominate Ginsburg’s replacement.

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Democrats would have to convince another three Republicans to join Collins to stop Republicans filling Ginsburg’s seat on the nation’s most powerful court by the end of the year.

The death of Ginsburg, a progressive icon who played a crucial role in the development of laws against sex discrimination in the US, has led to an outpouring of grief among Democrats and prompted a surge of donations to the party.

Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy given they blocked Barack Obama from attempting fill a vacant Supreme Court seat in 2016 because it was an election year.

ActBlue – a website that helps Democratic candidates, committees and organisations raise money – reported processing donations worth nearly US$57 million ($78 million) in the half-day following the announcement Ginsburg’s death.

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In a video to Instagram followers, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pleaded with young voters to show up on November 3 rather than feel demoralised by Ginsburg’s death.

“November is about survival,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Voting for Joe Biden is no longer about whether you agree with him. It’s a vote to let our democracy live another day.”

Some Democrats are already threatening radical steps – such as expanding the number of Supreme Court judges – if Republicans fill the seat this year. There have traditionally been nine judges on the Supreme court, but this can be changed.

“If Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump ram through someone from Trump’s horrifying shortlist during this legislative session, the next Congress must respond by expanding the Supreme Court,” Mondaire Jones, the Democratic candidate for a safe House of Representatives seat in New York, said in a statement.

“We must expand the Supreme Court to 13 seats, and allow President Biden to fill those vacancies.”

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Last chance to nominate for Ag Town of the Year


The race for the title of South Australian Agricultural Town of the Year is heating up, with nominations for the award closing on Friday 18 September.

The South Australian Agricultural Town of the Year Awards celebrates South Australian towns excelling in agricultural practices and the vital role agriculture plays in the regional landscape.

Chief Executive of the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of SA and Ag Town of the Year judge, John Rothwell says agriculture is the backbone of most regional communities.

“There’s an interrelationship that is very strong between the agricultural industries and the service providers and professionals that make those regions work as a community,” he said.

“The Ag Town of the Year Program is about finding and flushing out the really good examples of where agriculture is evolving and sharing those ideas with the wider community,” Rothwell said.

An initiative of the Government of South Australia, and managed by Solstice Media, the publisher of InDaily, the program provides an opportunity for communities to learn from one another, to build capacity and increase growth in South Australia.

Rothwell said learning from each other was important since the onset of the pandemic has seen dramatic changes across SA and regional and border-town communities have been hit hard.

“South Australians are known for being innovative and while it has been a challenging year for the industry, we’ve seen some of the highest quality production and commitment in the nation,” Rothwell said.

“We’ve got something pretty special that should be shared and celebrated.” 

Any town in South Australia can be nominated as the Ag Town of the Year, by anyone via the online voting platform.

So far, 44 different towns have been nominated from a total of 66 eligible nominations.  

The public will then have a chance to vote online in October for the nominated town they feel best helped grow primary industries and driven regional growth, with the five towns garnering the most votes selected as this year’s finalists. 

The winner of the award will be crowned in February 2021.

The Ag Town of the Year Award Program will run alongside Solstice Media’s South Australian Regional Showcase program.

To nominate, visit www.agtown.com.au.

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I.Coast Parties Nominate Former President, Ex-PM For Election


Ivory Coast ex-president Henri Konan Bedie and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro were officially nominated on the weekend as the candidates of their opposition parties for next month’s tense presidential election.

The vote in the country with a recent history of post-election violence has turned volatile after President Alassane Ouattara’s handpicked successor died unexpectedly, prompting the incumbent to run for a contentious third term.

Former prime minister Soro, who intends to run from exile in France because he faces a long list of legal difficulties at home, was nominated as the candidate of his Generations and People in Solidarity (GPS) party on Sunday.

But the country’s electoral commission has barred Soro from running in the October 31 vote as he was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison for “concealment of embezzlement of public funds”.

GPS formally nominated Soro at a gathering of hundreds of supporters at a hotel in Abidjan.

“Our candidate is eligible for the next presidential election and he will win it,” said party spokeswoman Minata Kone Zie.

“Let us unite our energies and our actions to impose a democratic alternative.”

The country’s main opposition party, PDCI, meanwhile nominated the 86-year-old Bedie as its candidate on Saturday.

In front of tens of thousands of supporters in the capital Yamoussoukro, Bedie called for opposition parties to unite behind him.

“I invite all political formations and political platforms, that want to, to support my candidacy,” he said.

He pledged his government would take “concrete and immediate measures for the unconditional return of all exiles, as well as the release of all political, civilian and military prisoners from the post-election crisis”.

Bedie is seeking to return to the presidency after he was ousted in the country’s first coup in 1999.

Laurent Gbagbo was then elected president in 2000, but when Gbagbo refused to recognise Ouattara’s 2010 election victory, months of violence followed in which around 3,000 people lost their lives.





Former rebel leader Guillaume Soro intends to run from exile in France as he faces a long list of legal difficulties at home
 AFP / Lionel BONAVENTURE

Gbagbo’s supporters have filed for him to run in next month’s election.

But he is also living in exile, sentenced in absentia to a 20-year term last year over the looting of the local branch of the Central Bank of West African States during the post-election crisis.

Soro’s lawyers filed several requests to Ivory Coast’s constitutional council over the past week to try to allow him in stand in the election.

But the electoral commission has said that anyone convicted of a crime cannot contest, and judicial sources have told AFP that Soro or Gbagbo are unlikely to be allowed to run.

The constitutional council is expected to release the list of validated candidates this week.

Unrest and uncertainty ahead of October’s election has sparked fears that political violence could again return to the country.

Ouattara’s announcement last month that he would run for a third term provoked protests that degenerated into violence, leaving around 15 dead.

Although the constitution limits presidents to two terms, Ouattara and his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional tweak reset the clock.

The president had previously committed to not running again, but he changed his mind after the sudden death of prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly from a heart attack in July.

Bedie called Ouattara’s tilt at a third term a “violation” of the constitution.





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Democrats nominate Biden for epic challenge to oust Trump


WILMINGTON, DEL. —
Democrats formally nominated Joe Biden as their presidential candidate, with party elders, a new generation of politicians and voters in every state joining in an extraordinary, pandemic-cramped virtual convention to send him into the general election campaign to oust U.S. President Donald Trump.

For someone who has spent more than three decades eyeing the presidency, the moment Tuesday night was the realization of a long-sought goal. But it occurred in a way that the 77-year-old Biden couldn’t have imagined just months ago as the coronavirus pandemic prompted profound change across the country and in his presidential campaign.

Instead of a Milwaukee convention hall as initially planned, the roll call of convention delegates played out in a combination of live and recorded video feeds from American landmarks packed with meaning: Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, a Puerto Rican community still recovering from a hurricane and Washington’s Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Biden celebrated his new status as the Democratic nominee alongside his wife and grandchildren in a Delaware school library. His wife of more than 40 years, Jill Biden, later spoke of her husband in deeply personal terms, reintroducing the lifelong politician as a man of deep empathy, faith and resilience to American voters less than three months before votes are counted.

“There are times when I couldn’t imagine how he did it — how he put one foot in front of the other and kept going,” she said. “But I’ve always understood why he did it. He does it for you.”

The convention’s most highly anticipated moments will unfold on the next two nights. Kamala Harris will accept her nomination as Biden’s running mate on Wednesday, the first Black woman to join a major party ticket. Former President Barack Obama will also speak as part of his stepped-up efforts to defeat his successor.

Biden will deliver his acceptance speech Thursday night in a mostly empty convention hall near his Delaware home.

Biden used the second night of the four-day convention to feature a mix of party elders, Republican as well as Democratic, to make the case that he has the experience and energy to repair chaos that Trump has created at home and abroad.

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry — and former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell — were among the heavy hitters on a schedule that emphasized a simple theme: Leadership matters. Former President Jimmy Carter, now 95 years old, also made a brief appearance.

Some of them delivered attacks against Trump that were unusually personal, all in an effort to establish Biden as the competent, moral counter to the president.

“Donald Trump inherited a growing economy and a more peaceful world,” Kerry said. “And like everything else he inherited, he bankrupted it. When this president goes oversees it isn’t a goodwill mission. It’s a blooper reel.”

Clinton said Trump’s Oval Office is a place of chaos, not a command centre.

“If you want a president who defines the job as spending hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media, he’s your man,” Clinton said.

For his part, Trump spent Tuesday courting battleground voters in an effort to distract from Biden’s convention. Appearing in Arizona near the Mexican border during the day, the Republican president claimed a Biden presidency would trigger “a flood of illegal immigration like the world has never seen.”

Such divisive rhetoric, which is not supported by Biden’s positions, has become a hallmark of Trump’s presidency, which has inflamed tensions at home and alienated allies around the world.

Biden has the support of a sprawling political coalition, as demonstrated again during Tuesday’s convention, although neither history nor enthusiasm is on his side.

Just one incumbent president has been defeated since 1992, George H.W. Bush. And Biden’s supporters consistently report that they’re motivated more by opposition to Trump than excitement about Biden.

A collection of younger Democrats, including former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were given a few minutes to shine. But overall, there was little room on Tuesday’s program for the younger stars of the party’s far-left wing.

“In a democracy, we do not elect saviours. We cast our ballots for those who see our struggles and pledge to serve,” said Abrams, 46, who emerged as a national player during her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018 and was among those considered to be Biden’s running mate.

For a second night, the Democrats featured Republicans.

Powell, who served as secretary of state under George W. Bush and appeared at multiple Republican conventions in years past, endorsed the Democratic candidate. He joined the wife of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, Cindy McCain, who stopped short of a formal endorsement but spoke in a video of the mutual respect and friendship her husband and Biden shared.

While there have been individual members of the opposing party featured at presidential conventions before, a half dozen Republicans, including the former two-term governor of Ohio, have now spoken for Democrat Biden.

The Democrats’ party elders played a prominent role throughout the night.

Clinton, who turns 74 on Tuesday, hasn’t held office in two decades. Kerry, 76, was the Democratic presidential nominee back in 2004 when the youngest voters this fall were still in diapers. And Carter left office in 1981.

Biden’s team did not give the night’s coveted keynote address to a single fresh face, preferring instead to pack the slot with more than a dozen Democrats in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The younger leaders included Abrams, Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., and the president of the Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez.

It remains to be seen whether the unconventional convention will give Biden the momentum he’s looking for.

Preliminary estimates show that television viewership for the first night of the virtual convention was down compared with the opening of Hillary Clinton’s onsite nominating party four years ago.

An estimated 18.7 million people watched coverage between 10 and 11 p.m. on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, the Nielsen company said. Four years ago, the opening night drew just under 26 million viewers.

Biden’s campaign said an additional 10.2 million streamed the convention online Monday night.

“We are producing a digital convention, and people are watching,” Biden spokesman T.J. Ducklo tweeted.

——

Price reported from Las Vegas and Peoples from New York. AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace contributed to this report.



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Liberal Party draws last for Eden Monaro ballot paper as 14 candidates nominate to contest by-election


Fourteen people will contest the upcoming Eden Monaro by-election, which was triggered by the resignation of Labor MP Mike Kelly due to health issues.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate, Matthew Stadtmiller, drew number one on the ballot paper, with Labor’s Kristy McBain in eighth position and Liberal Party candidate, Fiona Kotvojs, last.

ABC election analyst Antony Green said it was a large field of candidates for a by-election.

Mr Green said it helped to be at the top of the ballot paper in order to receive the donkey vote, which could add around 0.5 per cent to a candidate’s tally.

But he said he did not expect the order of the ballot paper to make a big impact because it followed the same order as the ballot paper at the 2019 federal election.

Preferences awaited

All eyes will be on where the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers preferences sends its preferences, with the receiving party potentially able to benefit from the number one ballot draw.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Matthew Stadtmiller said the party has not released any details yet about where it will direct its preferences.

“It’s always good to end up with the number one position but I don’t think it will make a huge difference,” he said.

The Australian Electoral Commission said 114,244 people were enrolled to vote in the July 4 poll, with early voting starting on Monday.

An AEC ballot draw shows candidate names stuck next to a list of numbers 1–14.
The Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party has drawn number one on the ballot paper.(Supplied: Australian Electoral Commission)

The order of the ballot paper:

  1. 1.Matthew Stadtmiller — Shooters Fishers and Farmers
  2. 2.James Jansson — Science Party
  3. 3.Michael Balderstone — Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party
  4. 4.James Holgate — Independent
  5. 5.Trevor Hicks — Nationals
  6. 6.Dean McCrae — Liberal Democrats
  7. 7.Joy Angel — Sustainable Australia Party
  8. 8.Kristy McBain — Labor
  9. 9.Riccardo Bosi — Independent
  10. 10.Karen Porter — Independent
  11. 11.Cathy Griff — Greens
  12. 12.Narelle Storey — Christian Democratic Party
  13. 13.Jason Potter — Australian Federation Party
  14. 14.Fiona Kotvojs — Liberal Party



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