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    The culture war in North Carolina is playing out in the race for governor

    In front of a conservative talkshow host two weeks ago, Mark Robinson, North Carolina’s Republican candidate for governor, was grousing a bit about being snubbed by the state’s Democratic governor on a matter of race.“He talks a lot about diversity, equity and inclusion, but apparently the line for diversity, equity and inclusion stops at the Republican party,” Robinson told Lockwood Phillips. “Roy Cooper has had several chances to congratulate me on the accomplishment of being the first Black lieutenant governor, and he has never taken it.”Phillips, who is white, chuckled, then re-introduced Robinson to the audience, “who by the way is African American, Black, whatever. But, frankly, you don’t wear that. You really do not wear that in our entire conversation.”For a conservative speaking to a Black candidate, this is a compliment. For others, it is a jarring illustration of Robinson’s comfort with accommodating the racial anxieties of white Republicans and with the problematic – and at times inflammatory – rhetoric of the far right.But sitting for interviews and being perceived at all as a Black candidate is a different universe compared to the relative obscurity of Robinson’s life six years ago, before a viral video created his fateful star turn into the conservative cosmos. The former factory worker is now a national name, and drawing national attention, for his flame-throwing slurs against the LGBTQ+ community, antisemitic remarks and derision of other Black people.“The same people who support Robinson are the people who support Trump,” said Shelly Willingham, a Black state legislator from Rocky Mount. “It’s a cult. It’s not necessarily citizens supporting a candidate but following a cult leader.”Robinson’s political career began in an inspired four-minute flash in 2018 in front of the Greensboro city council, as he argued against the city’s effort to cancel a gun show in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.“I’ve heard a whole lot of people in here talking tonight about this group, that group, domestic violence, Blacks, these minorities, that minority. What I want to know is, when are you going to start standing up for the majority? Here’s who the majority is. I’m the majority. I’m a law-abiding citizen and I’ve never shot anybody,” he said.Robinson, now 55, invoked images of gang members terrorizing people who have given up their weapons under gun-control laws. He said he was there to “raise hell just like these loonies on the left do”.The speech became a social media hit after being shared by Mark Walker, the former North Carolina representative. Robinson drew the attention of the NRA, which was under fire for its callous response to the Parkland shooting and looking for champions.Born into poverty and working in a furniture factory while attending college, Robinson quit his job and dropped out of school to begin speaking at conservative events. (Robinson, if he wins, would be the first North Carolina governor without a college degree elected since 1937.)Robinson beat a host of competitors for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2020, winning about a third of the primary vote. He faced the state representative Yvonne Holley, an African American Democrat from Raleigh. Holley’s campaign focused on North Carolina’s urban territory while largely ignoring rural areas of the state, while Robinson barnstormed through each of the state’s 100 counties. He won narrowly but outperformed Trump’s margin over Biden by about 100,000 votes.View image in fullscreenAt a rally in Greensboro in March before the state’s primary election this year, Trump endorsed Robinson, referring to Robinson as “Martin Luther King on steroids”. But try to imagine King saying something like: “Racism is a tool used by the evil, to build up the ignorant, to try and tear down the strong,” as Robinson wrote in 2017.That sentiment helps explain his initial appeal to white conservatives in a political moment in which rolling back racial justice initiatives has become central to the Republican brand. The right had found the face of a man who could not be easily accused of bigotry, at least not until people began to pay attention to what he said.“He should not be governor of North Carolina or any other place,” said Shirl Mason, who was attending a Black fraternity invocation and scholarship ceremony by Omega Psi Phi for her grandson in Rocky Mount. Her nose wrinkled and her posture shifted at the thought, as she fought for composure in a way people conversant in the manners of church folks would recognize.“He really should not be a politician. Anybody who can say that race did not play a part in the political arena, they should not be in politics at all,” Mason said.Like Trump, Robinson has a litany of provocative outrages in speeches and on social media that have been resurfacing, from referring to school shooting survivors advocating for gun control reforms as “prosti-tots” and “spoiled little bastards”, to describing gay and transgender people as “filth”.Robinson has shared conspiracist comments about the moon landing and 9/11. He has attacked the idea of women in positions of leadership. His swipes at Black culture and public figures are talk-radio fodder, describing Barack Obama as a “worthless anti-American atheist” and suggesting Michelle Obama is a man.“Half of black Democrats don’t realize they are slaves and don’t know who their masters are. The other half don’t care,” he wrote in one Facebook post. He described the movie Black Panther in another as the product of “an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic marxist”, and wrote: “How can this trash, that was only created to pull the shekels out of your schvartze pockets, invoke any pride?”, using a derogatory Yiddish word to refer to Black people.View image in fullscreenThe antisemitism of that comment is not singular. He has repeated common antisemitic tropes about Jewish banking, posted Hitler quotes on Facebook and suggested the Holocaust was a hoax. “There is a REASON the liberal media fills the airwaves with programs about the NAZI and the ‘6 million Jews’ they murdered,” wrote Robinson, with scare quotes around the figure.Robinson’s campaign has pushed back on accusations of antisemitism, citing his support for Israel and criticism of protests against the war in Gaza. But his past comments are likely to be revisited throughout the campaign in no small part because his opponent, Josh Stein, could be the first Jewish governor of North Carolina.The two present a sharp contrast in policy, temperament and experience. After graduating from both Harvard Law and the Harvard Kennedy school of government, Stein managed John Edwards’ successful Senate campaign. Stein then served in the statehouse before winning the attorney general’s race in 2016, becoming the first Jewish person elected to statewide office in North Carolina.Stein, 57, is running as a conventional center-left Democrat. At a stump speech in pastoral Scotland county near the South Carolina line, Stein focused on fighting the opioid-addiction epidemic, the state’s backlog of untested rape kits, clean drinking water and early childhood education. But he had some words about Robinson’s rhetoric.“The voters of North Carolina have an unbelievably stark choice before them this November, between two competing visions,” Stein said in an interview. “Mine is forward and it’s inclusive. It’s about tapping the potential of every person so that they have a chance to succeed where we have a thriving economy, safe neighborhoods, strong schools.“My opponent’s vision is divisive and hateful, and would be job-killing. I mean, he mocks school-shooting survivors. He questions the Holocaust. He wants to defund public education. He wants to completely ban abortion. And he speaks in a way that, frankly, is unfitting of any person, let alone a statewide elected leader.”Is Robinson an antisemite? “There are certainly people who are Jewish who feel that he does not like them,” Stein replied.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“He says vile things. He agreed that Jews were one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It’s unfathomable to me that someone would hold those beliefs and then feel comfortable saying them out loud.”North Carolina has a relationship with bilious conservatives; this is the state that produced Jesse Helms and Madison Cawthorn. But voters here have a temperamentally moderate streak and a long history of split-ticket voting that also produces the occasional John Edwards or Roy Cooper.In six of the last eight general elections, voters here chose a Democratic governor and a Republican president. Though every lieutenant governor in the last 60 years has run for governor, only three of 11 have won, each a Democrat. The last two attorneys general of North Carolina also have subsequently been elected governor, also both Democrats.But the margins are always maddeningly close. Stein won his first race for attorney general in 2016 – a Trump year – by about 25,000 votes. He won re-election four years later by about half that margin.Cooper, a Democratic moderate, has been a political fixture in North Carolina politics for a generation, and has been able to fend off some of the more radical impulses of Republicans over the years with a combination of veto power and moral suasion.But while Democrats hold the North Carolina governor’s mansion today, Republicans achieved a veto-proof majority in both legislative chambers in 2022 after Tricia Cotham, the newly elected state representative, switched parties shortly after winning an otherwise safely Democratic seat. Since that political shock, Cooper’s vetoes have been routinely overcome by a Republican supermajority.North Carolina’s political maps are also notoriously gerrymandered – manipulated in favor of Republicans – but winning two-thirds of house seats in the legislature is an open question in a year where abortion rights are emerging as a driving political issue. As of 1 May, North Carolina will be the only southern state remaining where an abortion can be obtained after six weeks of pregnancy.Given the stakes, Stein’s campaign hopes to avoid the pratfall of tradecraft that led to Robinson’s victory in the lieutenant governor’s race four years ago. For the moment, the tables have turned on the campaign trail in their favor.In one of Robinson’s three bankruptcy filings, reporters discovered that he had failed to file income taxes between 1998 and 2002. Questions have been raised about personal expenses charged to campaign funds from the 2020 race.His wife shuttered a nutrition non-profit after a conservative blogger began to raise questions about the Robinson family’s financial dependence on government contracts. Reporters later learned that the North Carolina department of health and human services is investigating the firm for questionable accounting.In the hothouse of abortion politics this year, video also surfaced of Robinson at a rally in February calling for an eventual ban on abortion. “We got to do it the same way they rolled it forward,” Robinson said. “We got to do it the same way with rolling it back. We’ve got it down to 12 weeks. The next goal is to get it down to six, and then just keep moving from there.”His campaign spokesperson later re-characterized those remarks as support for a ban beyond the six-week “heartbeat” stage of a pregnancy.Robinson acknowledged in 2022 paying for an abortion for his wife 33 years earlier.The question is whether Robinson’s full-throated anti-abortion stance hinders not just his own candidacy but that of Trump. Planned Parenthood plans to double its spending in North Carolina, to $10m, with an eye on defending the governorship and ending a veto-proof Republican legislative majority. Trump, meanwhile, has backed away from publicly endorsing the most extreme abortion bans.Down in the polls, Robinson has until this week apparently kept a light campaign schedule and stayed away from places where a reporter might pick up yet another unscripted comment. With the exception of an appearance at the Carteret County Speedway on 3 April and the radio interview on 9 April, there is scant evidence that Robinson has been campaigning at all since the March primary. A request to his campaign for a list of his recent campaign stops went unanswered, as did requests for an interview or comment for this story.Stein, meanwhile, has been averaging a campaign stop every two days – 22 events since the March primary – showing up in small towns and rural counties across the state. Stein’s father founded North Carolina’s first integrated law firm, and he spent many years in consumer protection and racial equity roles as a lawyer, a point he raises in rural Black communities.“I think his coming here alone says that he understands that he needs rural communities in order to be successful,” said Darrel “BJ” Gibson, vice-chair of the board of commissioners in Scotland county. “And I say it because so many times we get left out of these gatherings, and state candidates don’t understand that.”The question for both Stein and Robinson is whether the bombast of Robinson’s life as a self-described social media influencer will overshadow substantive policy discussions.When Phillips, the conservative talkshow host, asked Robinson in April about how his approach has changed over time, he described Robinson as more Trumpian than Trump.“My message has not changed,” Robinson replied. “Now, I can tell you clearly that my methods have, because I’ve switched buckets. I’ve gone from social media influencer to advocate, to now elected official. But my heart is still in the same place.” More

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    I left my suit in San Francisco: thieves swipe bags from Adam Schiff’s car

    San Francisco has earned an unwelcome national reputation for car burglaries, which Adam Schiff was reminded of the hard way: the Democratic representative had his luggage swiped from his car while it was parked in a downtown garage.With his formal clothing gone, Schiff ended up at a fundraising dinner Thursday for his US Senate campaign dressed like he was headed to a Los Angeles Dodgers game – in shirtsleeves and an insulated vest. Others who attended the event were mostly decked out in suit jackets and ties.Schiff’s campaign confirmed the burglary and declined further comment, citing an ongoing investigation.“Yes, they took my bags,” the representative lamented to the San Francisco Chronicle.Statistically, reported auto break-ins are down in San Francisco, but vehicles with busted windows leaving sprinkles of broken glass remain a common sight in the city. Visitors and residents are constantly reminded to remove valuables from parked cars.It was advice Schiff neglected to follow.In August, the city’s police chief announced a crackdown on auto smash-and-grabs. The San Francisco police department reported nearly 900 break-ins in February, down from 1,850 in July. There were more than 3,000 reported thefts in September 2022. More

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    Senior Democrat calls for arrests of ‘leftwing fascists’ urging Gaza ceasefire

    Protesters calling for Israel to cease fire in its war with Hamas who have disrupted US public events and infrastructure are practicing “leftwing fascism” or “leftwing totalitarianism”, a senior US House Democrat said, adding that such protesters are “challenging representative democracy” and should be arrested.“Intimidation is the tactic,” said Adam Smith of Washington state, the ranking Democrat on the House armed services committee. “Intimidation and an effort to silence opposition … I don’t know if there’s such a thing as leftwing fascism. If you want to just call it leftwing totalitarianism, then that’s what it is. It is a direct challenge to representative democracy now.”Smith was speaking – before the outbreak this week of mass protests on US college campuses, many producing arrests – to the One Decision Podcast and its guest host Christina Ruffini, a CBS News reporter.Ruffini asked Smith about protests in his district, including vandalism at his home and a town hall meeting disrupted by protesters demanding an end to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza prompted by attacks by Hamas on 7 October.Disruptive, aggressive protests are “illegal … completely wrong … and enormously dangerous”, Smith said, adding: “I really want people to understand – and I put out a statement after they shut down a town hall meeting that I was trying to have [in March] – what’s going on here.“And everyone’s like, ‘Well, you understand their passion and all that. And I do understand that, I do. This is a life-or-death situation. It is certainly not the only life-or-death situation that I and all policymakers deal with. But it is one that is important. But that’s not what [the protesters are] doing.“What they are trying to do is they are trying to silence opposition and intimidate decision-makers. I’ve been doing town hall meetings for 34 years now, in some pretty hotly contested environments … [but] I have never had a town hall that I couldn’t keep under control enough so that people had the chance to say their piece.“But [the protesters’] goal and their objective was not to get their point across. It was to silence anyone who dared to disagree with them, to make sure that only one voice was heard. And their other goal was to intimidate. That’s why they’re showing up at member’s houses.”More than 1,100 people were killed on 7 October when Hamas attacked Israel, also taking hostages. Since then, more than 34,000 people have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza, where the population also faces displacement and starvation.Protesters, Smith said, “would say, ‘Children are dying. This is a huge humanitarian crisis.’ And they’re right about that … and by the way, I do have some sympathy with these people. If there are members of Congress who won’t meet with them, I meet with them. All the time. So they have an opportunity to be heard. They’re not trying to be heard. They’re trying to silence people who disagree with them.”Asked what kind of protest might be appropriate, Smith cited a recent instance in an armed services hearing in which “people came in and they didn’t say anything, they just held up bloody hands. And the chairman noticed that and said, ‘You can’t do that, you’re out, and they got up and left.”But he said: “You go back to the civil rights movement, they expected to be arrested, they knew they were violating the law. And also … you have to enforce the law. You have to make clear … that this is about more than just the issue. You know, they can be heard, but then other people get to be heard.“You come to our town hall meeting, it’s one thing to try to get attention. They got their attention. But literally, they wouldn’t stop screaming insults at me. They wouldn’t … even let me answer the very questions they were raising.“I got two words into it and they started screaming at me again. So this is a different thing than your standard protest. In my view, the solution to it is if they are committing a crime – which by the way, shutting down a freeway, shutting down an airport, intimidating people, there’s a crime – [they] ought to be arrested.”Protesting at public figures’ homes should also be subject to arrest, Smith said.“The point of it is intimidation. And I think it is harassment. It’s a crime, and I think [they should] be arrested for it.“… But you know, when you are shutting down freeways, shutting down airports, frankly putting people’s lives at risk – If you’re an ambulance trying to get through to hospital – then that’s going beyond getting your point across, and you’re trying to intimidate and silence people in a way that I think is troubling.” More

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    Dozens arrested in California and Texas as campus administrators move to shut down protests – as it happened

    Police in Texas have arrested a journalist who was covering the protest at the University of Texas at Austin. A Fox 7 photographer was reportedly arrested after getting caught between protesters and law enforcement.Officers have clashed with students after dozens of local police and state troopers formed a line to stop protesters from marching through campus. They have detained multiple people. Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, said arrests would continue until “the crowd disperses”.“These protesters belong in jail,” he said.Police arrested dozens participating in peaceful student-led protests against the war on Gaza on Wednesday.Students have set up encampments at a number of universities in recent days to protest the war on Gaza and demand the schools divest from companies that are closely linked to Israel’s military operations.Here’s the latest:
    At least 34 protesters, including a member of the media from a local news station, were arrested during demonstrations at University of Texas in Austin on Wednesday.
    Faculty at University of Texas, Austin have announced a strike in response to what they called a “militarized response” to a “peaceful, planned action” on campus.
    At least 50 protesters were detained by Los Angeles police at University of Southern California (USC) during peaceful protests. Earlier in the day, police responding to a demonstration at USC got into a back-and-forth tugging match with protesters over tents.
    Last week at Columbia University, the focal point of national student demonstrations, more than 100 students, faculty members and others were arrested.
    More than 140 additional people were arrested on Monday night at a separate protest at New York University’s Manhattan campus.
    House speaker Mike Johnson appeared at Columbia University on Wednesday where he called for the resignation of the president of the university over her handling of the protests at the school.
    Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez assailed authorities for the “reckless and dangerous act” of calling police to non-violent demonstrations.
    US schools where protests have been reported include: University of Minnesota, Harvard University, Ohio State, University of California-Berkeley, University of Southern California, University of Texas-Austin, University of Michigan; Emerson College, MIT, Tufts University, Yale University, the New School, New York University, and Columbia University. Students at Sciences Po in Paris also began a solidarity protest on Wednesday.
    The number of protesters arrested on USC’s campus has surpassed 50, according to a LA Times reporter on the scene.LAPD has arrested at least 15 protesters on the USC campus, according to a Los Angeles Times reporter on the scene.The arrests came after law enforcement and university leadership told protesters to disperse. Protesters began to clash with law enforcement, some of whom shoved students, video shows.The number of people arrested as part of the University of Texas protests on Wednesday is at least 54, according to a reporter for local news publication the Austin American-Statesman.The number comes from the Austin Lawyers Guild, a leftist group that provides protest legal defense. The Guardian has reached out to the group for more details.Some USC protesters dispersed after the arrival of LAPD officers on campus, but dozens who remained are now facing off with law enforcement.In a statement posted on X at 5.50pm PST, the university said anyone remaining at the center of campus would be arrested.Los Angeles police officers are moving onto the USC campus to arrest protesters for trespassing, as they believe many demonstrators are not students, they said.In an announcement made via helicopter, LAPD officers told the protesters “Your time is up. Leave the area or you will be arrested for trespassing.”Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israel prime minister, said on Wednesday that student protests against the war in Gaza were “horrific”, characterizing protesters as “antisemitic mobs”.While there have been reports of antisemitism on campuses in recent weeks, protest organizers have blamed such incidents on outside agitators, insisting that their movements are peaceful. A group of professors at New York University released an open letter denying that any NYU-affiliated protesters had engaged in antisemitism or intimidation of others.Many Jewish-led groups protesting the war in Gaza have also pushed back against such allegations. As protests aligned with the Jewish Passover holiday this week, encampments at Yale and Columbia held Passover seders on Monday.When asked this week whether he condemned “the antisemitic protests”, President Joe Biden said he did. “I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians,” he said.Local news station Fox 7 Austin has confirmed that one of its photographers was arrested on campus during the protests Wednesday.A video shows the photographer being pulled backwards to the ground by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers. The station says he was then detained and taken to jail.Members of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin have condemned what they call a “militarized response” to pro-Palestine protests on campus Wednesday.The statement said the peaceful, planned action was disrupted by police and state troopers, who responded violently and “made our entire community unsafe”.“We have witnessed police punching a female student, knocking over a legal observer, dragging a student over a chain-link fence, and violently arresting students for simply standing at the front of the crowd,” the statement said.In response, the faculty members stated that on Thursday there would be “no business as usual”, suspending classes, grading and homework. They called for a gathering on campus at 12.15pm on Thursday.Many of the protesters at the University of Texas have dispersed, but others have returned to the south lawn as the large police presence has waned. The department of public safety confirmed in a public statement that there were 20 arrests as a result of protests today.As protests continue at the University of Texas in Austin, police have encouraged occupants to disperse via an audio announcement that could be heard across campus. From local news reporter Ryan Chandler:Here are photos from Austin where police, including some on horses and holding batons, blocked the main lawn at the University of Texas and pulled several students to the ground to stop demonstrators from marching through campus.Police in Texas have arrested a journalist who was covering the protest at the University of Texas at Austin. A Fox 7 photographer was reportedly arrested after getting caught between protesters and law enforcement.Officers have clashed with students after dozens of local police and state troopers formed a line to stop protesters from marching through campus. They have detained multiple people. Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, said arrests would continue until “the crowd disperses”.“These protesters belong in jail,” he said.Cal Poly Humboldt, a public university on the far northern coast of California, where pro-Palestinian students are occupying a campus building, said on Wednesday that it would remain closed through the weekend.Protesters have barricaded themselves in Siemens Hall since Monday evening despite a large showing of local law enforcement who unsuccessfully attempted to force them out. Police have arrested three protesters.Students are reportedly also holding a sit-in in another campus building.The university said it is considering keeping the campus closed beyond the weekend, and accused students of stealing items and breaking “numerous laws”.Aside from the confrontation with police, media outlets report the mood on campus has been festive. Students there told the Sacramento Bee they felt compelled to take action.“I think the solution is to get involved, because at least I can feel like I’m doing my part. Even if it’s not enough, I’m doing the best I can to make something of it. I find peace in that,” one student said.With protests under way at universities across the US, the White House said on Wednesday that Joe Biden supports freedom of expression on college campuses.“The president believes that free speech, debate and nondiscrimination on college campuses are important,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary, said at a briefing.At least 10 protesters have been arrested at the University of Texas at Austin, according to the school.Dozens of state troopers and police officers in riot gear were at the scene after hundreds of students walked out of class to protest the war in Gaza and demand the university divest from companies that manufacture machinery used in Israel’s war.“UT Austin does not tolerate disruptions of campus activities or operations like we have seen at other campuses,” a statement by the university’s division of student affairs said.
    This is an important time in our semester with students finishing classes and studying for finals and we will act first and foremost to allow those critical functions to proceed without interruption.
    House speaker Mike Johnson, speaking on the steps outside the Low Library at Columbia University, called for the resignation of the president of the university, Minouche Shafik, over her handling of the protests at the school. Johnson said:
    I am here today, joining my colleagues and calling on President Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos.
    Johnson’s speech was repeatedly interrupted by a crowd of protesters. “Enjoy your free speech,” the speaker replied.The House speaker, Mike Johnson, is giving a news conference surrounded by a group of House Republicans, amid boos and chants of “We can’t hear you” and “Free, free Palestine”.Johnson urged that the “madness has to stop” and said Jewish students had shared with him experiences of “heinous acts of bigotry” because of their faith.Quoting Winston Churchill, Johnson said “it is manifestly right that the Jews should have a National Home where some of them may be reunited.”Johnson claimed Columbia University is being “overtaken by radical extreme ideologies” that “place a target on the backs of Jewish students”, adding:
    Let me say this very simply: no American of any color or creed should ever have to live under those kinds of threats. That is not who we are in this country.
    He said he met briefly with the president of Columbia University and encouraged her to take more action against the protesters. More

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    US House speaker jeered at Columbia as tensions rise over campus protests

    Mike Johnson, the Republican House speaker, was jeered by pro-Palestinian protesters at New York’s Columbia University on Wednesday afternoon as he condemned what he called a “virus of antisemitism” at colleges nationwide.His appearance came amid rising tensions over a wave of protests at campuses across the US.The demonstrations began last week after students at Columbia set up encampments calling for the university to divest from weapons manufacturers with ties to Israel. The protests have led to mass suspensions and arrests of students in New York and several other cities.As temperatures rose, Kathy Hochul, the Democratic governor of New York, called Johnson’s trip “divisive”, while the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez assailed authorities for the “reckless and dangerous act” of calling police to non-violent demonstrations, resulting in hundreds of arrests.Also on Wednesday afternoon, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said that Joe Biden believes free speech, debate and nondiscrimination are important on college campuses, adding that “students should feel safe on college campuses”.Johnson, flanked by a number of Republican members of Congress, drew booing as he also called for the resignation of Minouche Shafik, Columbia’s president. He accused her of failing to protect Jewish students and allowing protests that led to the arrest of dozens of people there last week.“Things have gotten so out of control that the school has canceled in-person classes, and now they’ve come up with this hybrid model, where they will discriminate against Jewish students,” he said.“They are not allowed to come to class any more for fear of their lives. And it’s detestable, as Columbia has allowed these lawless agitators and radicals to take over.”The jeering continued as Johnson condemned what he saw as the “intimidation of mob rule” at Columbia and elsewhere. “The cherished traditions of this university are being overtaken right now by radical and extreme ideologies. The madness has to stop,” he said.Hochul accused Johnson of “politicizing” the issue, and “adding to the division”, according to the New York Post.“There’s a lot more responsibilities and crises to be dealt with in Washington,” she said.Campus protests have grown across the US this week, with thousands attending marches or setting up encampments at universities from Massachusetts to California, leading to scores of arrests. Students in Los Angeles posted to X, formerly Twitter, photographs of their occupation of the University of Southern California’s Alumni Park.View image in fullscreen“We, the USC Divest from Death Coalition, establish our occupation most fundamentally in solidarity with the people of Palestine as they resist genocide and continue in their struggle for liberation,” the group, calling itself the People’s City Council, wrote.Signs around the encampment laid out the students’ demands to the university, including full transparency of USC endowment and investments, as well as divesting from Israel. Students also protested against university’s cancellation of the valedictorian speech of Muslim student Asna Tabassum, who had posted on social media in support of Palestine, earlier this month.There have also been protests at the University of California, Berkeley, and at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, where protesters barricaded themselves in a university building using furniture, tents, chains and zip ties.Rows of tents have been added to a cluster set up on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall at the center of campus. Starting with just a dozen, more students have joined the “Free Palestine Camp” over the last three days, a sit-in demanding their school sever its financial connections to BlackRock and other asset managers they see as complicit for financing genocide in Gaza.UC Berkeley holds a $427m investment in a BlackRock portfolio and school officials have commented that a change in their investment strategy is not on the table. There is minimal police or security presence on site, but the students say they are bracing for that to change. The group is determined to stay even if the university tries to have them forcibly removed.The protesters are also calling for an academic boycott, which would end collaborations with Israeli universities and the establishment of a new Palestinian studies program.On Wednesday, Shafik said she had extended by 48 hours a deadline for talks with protest leaders for the dismantling of a tent encampment on Columbia’s west lawn. More than 100 people were arrested at the university last week after she brought in the police, and more than 140 students, faculty members and others were arrested on Monday night at a separate protest at New York University’s Manhattan campus.“Calling in police enforcement on nonviolent demonstrations of young students on campus is an escalatory, reckless and dangerous act,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet.Some Jewish students at Columbia, meanwhile, said they had been physically blocked by protesters from attending classes, and subjected to racial hatred by demonstrators demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and for the university to divest from companies linked to Israel’s military operations.Protest organizers blame outside actors for particularly inflammatory rhetoric against Jewish students.Johnson’s visit to Columbia follows a number of other trips there this week by bipartisan groups of politicians. Three competing delegations attended on Monday, Axios reported, with the entirety of New York’s Republican congressional delegation demanding Shafik’s resignation, and Democrats criticizing her for not protecting Jewish students and faculty.The White House has labeled any calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community “blatantly antisemitic”.Hochul, who called the Columbia protest “visceral” following a visit on Monday, told reporters on Wednesday that Johnson was politicizing the issue, adding: “I’d encourage the speaker to go back and perhaps take up the migrant bill, the bill to deal with closing the border, so we can deal with a real crisis that New York has.She said her Monday visit was private: “I did not bring press with me. I wanted to have a substantive conversation about public safety with the [university] president, with campus security, with the NYPD.” More

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    Arizona house votes to repeal near-total ban on abortion

    Lawmakers in the Arizona house have voted to repeal a controversial 1864 law banning nearly all abortions, amid mounting pressure from the state’s Republicans.Three Republicans joined in with all 29 Democrats on Wednesday to support the repeal of the law, which predates Arizona’s statehood and provides no exceptions for rape or incest.The move follows weeks of effort in the state legislature to address an issue that put Republicans on the defensive in a battleground state for the presidential election. The measure will now head to the state senate, where it is expected to pass, and then to the governor’s desk.The Arizona supreme court earlier this month concluded the state can enforce a long-dormant law that permits abortions only to save the pregnant patient’s life. The ruling suggested doctors could be prosecuted under the law, first approved in 1864, and anyone who assists in an abortion could face two to five years in prison.The ruling put enormous pressure on Republicans in the state, who on the one hand are under fire from some conservatives in their base who firmly support the abortion ban, and from swing voters who strongly oppose the measure and will decide crucial races including the presidency, the US Senate and the GOP’s control of the legislature.Some prominent Republicans, including the GOP candidate for Senate, Kari Lake, have come out against the ban. But Republicans in the statehouse so far have blocked efforts by Democratic lawmakers to repeal the law.A week ago, one Republican in the Arizona house joined 29 Democrats to bring the repeal measure to a vote, but the effort failed twice on 30-30 votes. Democrats hoped one more Republican would cross party lines on Wednesday so that the repeal bill can be brought up for a vote. There appears to be enough support for repeal in the Arizona senate.Meanwhile, the office of the Arizona attorney general, Kris Mayes, on Tuesday asked the state supreme court to reconsider its decision, the Arizona Republic reported.View image in fullscreenOn Wednesday, dozens of people gathered outside the state capitol before the House and Senate were scheduled to meet, many of them carrying signs or wearing shirts showing their opposition to abortion rights.The civil war-era law had been blocked since the US supreme court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion nationwide.After Roe v Wade was overturned in June 2022, the then Arizona attorney general, Mark Brnovich, a Republican, persuaded a state judge that the 1864 ban could be enforced. Still, the law has not actually been enforced while the case makes its way through the courts. Mayes urged the state’s highest court not to revive the law.Mayes has said the earliest the law could be enforced was 8 June, though the anti-abortion group defending the ban, the Alliance Defending Freedom, maintains county prosecutors can begin enforcing it once the supreme court’s decision becomes final, which is expected to occur this week.If the proposed repeal is signed into law by the Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, a 2022 statute banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy would become the prevailing abortion law.Many abortion providers in the state have vowed to continue providing the procedure until the ban goes into effect. In neighboring California, providers are gearing up to treat Arizona patients seeking abortion care when the ban goes into effect. The California governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Wednesday he’s introducing a proposal that would allow Arizona doctors to perform abortions for their clients in California. The change would only apply to doctors licensed in good standing in Arizona and their patients, and last through the end of November.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionView image in fullscreenThe battle over abortion access in Arizona will ultimately be decided in November. Abortion rights advocates are pushing an effort to ask Arizona voters to create a constitutional right to abortion. They have collected about 500,000 signatures, more than the almost 384,000 needed to put it on the ballot.The proposed constitutional amendment would guarantee abortion rights until a fetus could survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks. It also would allow later abortions to save the parent’s life, or to protect her physical or mental health.Republican lawmakers, in turn, are considering putting one or more competing abortion proposals on the November ballot.A leaked planning document outlined the approaches being considered by house Republicans, such as codifying existing abortion regulations, proposing a 14-week ban that would be “disguised as a 15-week law” because it would allow abortions until the beginning of the 15th week, and a measure that would prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant.House Republicans have not yet publicly released any such proposed ballot measures.Reproductive rights advocates say the issue has mobilized voters and report that people are seeking out signature-gatherers and asking about locations where their friends and family can sign to put abortion access on the ballot.“I’ve had women come up with three kids, and they’re signing. And I tell them, moms are the most important signature here, because they understand what this issue is, and what pregnancy does to the body, what pregnancy does to your life,” Susan Anthony, who has been gathering signatures in Arizona, told the Guardian.The Associated Press contributed reporting More

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    New Jersey congressman Donald Payne Jr dies aged 65

    Donald Payne Jr, a US congressman from New Jersey, died on Wednesday, more than two weeks after a heart attack. He was 65.Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, paid tribute to his fellow Democrat, whom he called a friend and “steadfast champion for the people” of his state.“With his signature bow tie, big heart and tenacious spirit, Donald embodied the very best of public service,” Murphy said.“As a former union worker and toll collector, he deeply understood the struggles our working families face, and he fought valiantly to serve their needs, every single day.”Payne had a heart attack on 6 April. Taken to hospital in Newark, he did not regain consciousness.He was first elected to Congress in 2012, succeeding his father, Donald Payne Sr, the first Black congressman ever elected in New Jersey who also died in office.Reporting Payne Jr’s death, the New Jersey Globe said he had “checked all the boxes for support among progressive voters: he supported Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, racial justice, equal rights for all, reproductive freedom, public transportation, and free college tuition.”The paper also saluted Payne’s work to fund clean drinking water projects, with notable success in his own city, Newark, and his sponsorship of gun safety legislation.Among Payne’s fellow Democrats in Congress, Joe Neguse of Colorado said he was “devastated to learn of the passing of my dear friend and colleague … a giant, a true public servant whose kindness, good humor and commitment to his constituents knew no bounds”.Jasmine Crockett, from Texas, said Payne was “a progressive leader on transportation and infrastructure” and said: “I join his family, friends, and constituents in mourning a great man and fighter for the people of New Jersey.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionThe Rev Al Sharpton, the New York-based civil rights leader, called Payne “my friend and brother for many years”.In his statement, Governor Murphy said: “It was my great honor to work side-by-side with Donald to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey, and we will hold his memory close to our hearts as we build upon the Payne family’s deep legacy of service in advocating for the communities they served so dearly.“Donald’s love will live on in the homes of his neighbors in Newark, who now have access to safe drinking water, and in the good-paying jobs he helped create for his brothers and sisters in labor. And it will live on in his wife Beatrice, and their three children, Donald III, Jack, and Yvonne, who were the pride of his life.“Our heartfelt prayers are with his family during this difficult time.” More

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    Biden and Trump clinch Pennsylvania primaries shortly after polls close

    Joe Biden and Donald Trump both won their primaries in Pennsylvania shortly after polls closed.Pennsylvanians had gone to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the state’s primary races – the results provide a window into where voters in the crucial battleground stand roughly six months out from the general election.Biden and Trump had already locked up their parties’ nominations, but Pennsylvania voters still had other options in the presidential primaries.With nearly 50% of the votes counted, Biden got 491,892 votes, or 94.4%, according to state election data. Dean Phillips, a Democratic congressman who dropped out of the race, got 29,333 votes, or 5.6%.Trump got 268,670 votes, or 79.4%, with 33% of the votes counted, while Nikki Haley, who dropped out the race, got 70,648 votes, or 20.6%, data shows.Haley, a former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador, remained on the Pennsylvania ballot after dropping out of the race in March. Primary voting in the state is confined to registered Republicans, locking out the independent voters who favored her.Her results show that a number of Republicans continue to be unhappy with Trump, who is on trial on 34 criminal counts in New York.Biden faced challenges of his own in Pennsylvania, which he won in 2020 by about 80,000 votes, or 1.2 points. A group of progressive activists had run a campaign to encourage Democrats to write in “uncommitted” on Tuesday to protest against Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza. The effort, based on the similar Listen to Michigan campaign, hopes to get at least 40,000 Democrats to write in “uncommitted”, but it may take weeks to get those ballots counted.On Tuesday, voters had the economy and foreign policy on their minds as they cast their ballots.Karen Lau, a 70-year-old retired educator in Kingston, said she would be voting for Trump. She said Biden’s handling of the conflict in Gaza was a top issue. “Biden’s destroying our country,” she said. “The hypocrisy with Israel of saying one thing and meaning another with Biden.”Even though Trump has been quiet on what exactly he would do in Israel, Lau said she was convinced he would handle it better. “He’s always been a supporter of Israel,” she said, citing the Abraham accords and Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. “I just have a lot more trust in what he will do.”Lau, who is Jewish, added that she was “very concerned” with pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses. “The rise of antisemitism is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” she said.Richard K, a 69-year-old retired security guard in Kingston who declined to give his last name, also said he was unbothered that Trump was not that much younger than Biden.“Trump plays golf when he can, he has a lot more energy,” he said. “Biden walks like an old man.” He also dismissed the criminal cases against Trump, calling them “election interference”.“If he wasn’t ahead, they wouldn’t be going after him,” he said.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionBiden and Trump recently held events in Pennsylvania before the primary, underscoring the state’s pivotal role in the election. At a campaign stop last week in Scranton, where Biden was born, the president used the setting to contrast his vision for the country’s future with Trump’s.“When I look at the economy, I don’t see it through the eyes of Mar-a-Lago, I see it through the eyes of Scranton,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s Florida resort home. “Scranton values or Mar-a-Lago values: these are the competing visions for our economy that raise fundamental questions of fairness at the heart of this campaign.”Farther down the ballot, Pennsylvanians will cast votes in congressional primaries that will help determine control of the Senate and the House in November. In the Senate race, incumbent Bob Casey ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, while Dave McCormick was the sole candidate in the Republican primary.McCormick ran for Pennsylvania’s other Senate seat in 2022, but he lost the primary to the celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who was later defeated by the Democrat John Fetterman in the general election. The Pennsylvania Senate race will probably be one of the most expensive in the country, as Casey reported having nearly $12m in cash on hand earlier this month while McCormick’s campaign has more than $6m in the bank. The Cook Political Report rates the race as “lean Democrat”.Several House races will provide additional clues about Pennsylvania voters’ leanings ahead of the general election. In the Pittsburgh-based 12th district, the progressive congresswoman and “Squad” member Summer Lee faces a challenge from local council member Bhavini Patel, who has attacked the incumbent over her support for a ceasefire in Gaza. The Moderate Pac, a group that supports centrist Democrats and is largely funded by the Republican mega-donor Jeffrey Yass, has spent more than $600,000 supporting Patel, and the race will be closely scrutinized as an early test for progressives facing primary challenges this year.In south-eastern Pennsylvania, the Republican representative Brian Fitzpatrick won his primary after attracting a threat from an anti-abortion activist, Mark Houck, who criticized the incumbent for being too centrist. In 2022, Fitzpatrick won re-election by 10 points in a district that Biden carried by 4.6 points two years earlier, according to the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Cook rates the first district as “likely Republican” in the general election. Fitzpatrick will face Democrat Ashley Ehasz, who ran uncontested in the Democratic primary, in November.Elsewhere in the state, Ryan Mackenzie, a Republican state representative, won the seventh-district GOP primary, vying for the chance to face off against the Democratic incumbent Susan Wild. The Lehigh Valley district is considered a “toss-up” in the general election, per Cook’s ratings.In the 10th district, based around the city of Harrisburg, Democrat Janelle Stelson won the crowded Democratic primary. The former news anchor will face the Republican incumbent and former House freedom caucus chair Scott Perry. Cook rates Perry’s race as “lean Republican” in the general election.Reuters contributed to this report More