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Wisconsin Republicans use rare lame-duck session to try and weaken incoming Democrats – National

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Still stinging from an election loss, Wisconsin Republicans on Monday tried to push through measures that would weaken the incoming Democratic administration and allow outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker to make one last major mark on the state’s political landscape after his re-election defeat in November.

The measures, part of a rare lame-duck session, would change the 2020 presidential primary date at a cost of millions of dollars to benefit a conservative state Supreme Court justice. They would also diminish the governor’s ability to adopt rules that enact state laws and shield the state jobs agency from his control.

Angry opponents filled the hallways of the Wisconsin Capitol, and the hearing room, banging on doors and chanting “Respect our votes!” and “Shame!”

READ MORE: These U.S. states were hit hard by Canadian tariffs. Here’s how they voted in the midterms

Republicans forged ahead despite threats of lawsuits, claims by Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and others that they were trying to invalidate the election results and howls of protest from hundreds of people who showed up for a public hearing.

The lame-duck maneuvering in Wisconsin is similar to action taken by Republicans in North Carolina two years ago and is being discussed in Michigan before a Democratic governor takes over there.

The protests, coming at the end of Walker’s eight years in office, were reminiscent of tumult that came shortly after he took office in 2011, when he moved to end collective bargaining powers for public sector unions.

WATCH: Tammy Baldwin wins another term as Wisconsin senator







Other measures would weaken the attorney general’s office by allowing Republican legislative leaders to intervene in cases and hire their own attorneys. A legislative committee, rather than the attorney general, would have to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits.

That would stop Evers and incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul from fulfilling their campaign promises to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald downplayed concerns about the lame-duck session, saying, “I don’t think it’s outrageous at all.”

“But listen, I’m concerned,” he said. “I think that Gov.-elect Evers is going to bring a liberal agenda to Wisconsin.”

READ MORE: Democrats win U.S. House, GOP retain Senate

Walker signaled support for the package.

“All the talk about reining in power, it really doesn’t,” Walker told reporters Monday afternoon at the executive mansion.

Fitzgerald said Walker and his chief of staff were deeply involved in crafting the measures.

Fitzgerald would not say whether there was enough support among Republicans for moving the 2020 presidential primary date, a change that would cost about $7 million and has drawn opposition from nearly every county election official.

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Last week, Fitzgerald said that Republicans want to move the 2020 presidential primary, when Democratic turnout is expected to be high, so it won’t be on the same date as an April election where Walker-appointed Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly is on the ballot, thereby improving his chances of victory.

Walker said he has always found it odd that the state holds partisan and nonpartisan races on the same date. The presidential primary is partisan, but state Supreme Court candidates are officially nonpartisan, although Kelly is part of a clear conservative-leaning majority on the high court.

The state Elections Commission unanimously adopted a motion Monday declaring that the shift would be “extraordinarily difficult” and costly without additional funding. Commissioner Mark Thomsen, a Democratic appointee, called the plan “the biggest waste of money for a single person that I can think of” during discussion preceding the vote.

READ MORE: Only black Republican congresswoman slams Trump, GOP after losing Utah race

Fitzgerald and other Republican leaders said changes to that proposal and others, including limiting early voting to two weeks before an election, were being considered and could be offered during floor debate Tuesday.

Similar limitations on early voting were found unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2016, and Democrats have threatened legal action again.

A news conference where Fitzgerald and other Republican leaders spoke was peppered with catcalls from protesters.

A Republican-controlled legislative committee planned to hold a public hearing for eight hours Monday, before taking votes late in the night to set up final approval in the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday.

The votes to pass the sweeping package of bills would come about a month before Evers is slated to take office.

It was the first lame-duck session in Wisconsin in eight years. The last such session happened just before Walker took office, when Democrats tried unsuccessfully to approve union contracts.

WATCH: Wisconsin divided by urban and rural voters for upcoming U.S. midterms







Last month, Democrats won every constitutional office, including governor and attorney general.

Evers vowed to fight the session, saying lawsuits were being explored. He called on the people of Wisconsin to contact their legislators even as the bills were speeding through. They were just made public late Friday .

“This is rancor and politics as usual,” Evers said in written testimony to the committee. “It flies in the face of democratic institutions and the checks and balances that are intended to prevent power-hungry politicians from clinging to control when they do not get their way.”

The executive director of One Wisconsin Now, which filed a lawsuit challenging the previous attempt to limit early voting, said the GOP’s latest effort shows they “refuse to accept the results of the 2018 elections” and are worried about large voter turnout.

About 565,000 people voted early in the November elections.

Democratic lawmakers who sit on the committee holding the hearing Monday said the scope of the lame-duck session was unprecedented.

“It’s a power grab,” said Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach. “They lost and they’re throwing a fit.”

Erpenbach said expected legal challenges to what is passed could “grind things to a halt” in the Legislature for as much as a year.

Republicans have had majorities in the state Senate and Assembly since 2011 and worked with Walker to pass a host of conservative priorities. The GOP will maintain its majorities in the Legislature next year when Evers takes over.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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