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Biden Vows U.S. Response Following Iran-Backed Drone Strike that Kills 3 American Troops in Jordan

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In a tragic incident on Sunday, three U.S. troops lost their lives, and 25 others were injured in a drone strike near the Syrian border in northeast Jordan. President Joe Biden, currently in South Carolina, expressed condolences and pointed the finger at Iran-backed militias for the attack, marking the first U.S. fatalities after months of strikes against American forces in the Middle East during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

During an appearance at a Baptist church’s banquet hall, Biden called for a moment of silence, acknowledging the loss. “We had a tough day last night in the Middle East. We lost three brave souls in an attack on one of our bases,” he said, emphasizing that the U.S. “shall respond.”

As the risk of military escalation looms, U.S. officials are working to identify the specific group responsible for the attack. Although no conclusive determination has been made, it is assessed that one of several Iranian-backed groups orchestrated the strike.

In a written statement, President Biden asserted that the United States “will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner [of] our choosing.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoed this sentiment, stating that the U.S. would take all necessary actions to defend its troops and interests.

The drone strike targeted a military base known as Tower 22 in Jordan, near the Syrian border. The base serves as a crucial logistical hub for U.S. forces operating in Syria, particularly at the nearby al-Tanf base. Approximately 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel were deployed at Tower 22, with the casualties predominantly being Army soldiers.

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Jordan condemned the attack through its state-run Petra news agency, emphasizing its commitment to counter terrorism and protect its borders. The U.S. military base at al-Tanf, just 20 kilometers north of Tower 22, plays a strategic role in the region.

The incident adds to the series of attacks by Iranian-backed militias during the Israel-Hamas war, with strikes occurring over 60 times in Iraq and 90 times in Syria against American military installations. This marks the first time American troops in Jordan have been targeted, resulting in casualties.

As the U.S. assesses its response, tensions in the region continue to escalate. President Biden, briefed by top security officials, is expected to navigate a measured and proportional course of action. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress call for a reset of Middle East policy, while some advocate for stronger measures against Iran in response to the attack.

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Republicans Seek Black Voter Support, Prompting Biden Campaign Mobilization

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Donald Trump’s historical disconnect with the Black community hasn’t deterred him from pursuing an unexpected demographic in his bid for a third presidential term. Despite facing accusations of racist practices throughout his career, Trump is actively targeting Black voters, asserting increased enthusiasm for his candidacy during recent rallies.

“Have you seen our poll numbers with African Americans and with Hispanic Americans? But I’m not that surprised because I see it, I feel it,” Trump declared during a rally in Atkinson, New Hampshire, days before the state’s primary. “We did great in 2016, we did much better in 2020 but there is much more enthusiasm now.”

There’s scant evidence of significant inroads among Black voters for Trump, with polls indicating that Black voters overwhelmingly support President Joe Biden. However, even slight shifts in voting patterns in crucial states could impact the race.

For Biden, the primary concern is not a substantial migration of Black voters to Trump, but rather the risk that these voters, frustrated by various issues, may not show up to vote at all. In closely contested states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, minor changes in turnout could influence the election outcome.

A December AP-NORC poll indicated that only 50% of Black adults nationally approve of Biden, down from 86% in July 2021. While this decline is more significant than among adults overall and white adults, only 25% of Black adults expressed a favorable view of Trump.

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Trump’s campaign advisers assert that they aim to leverage these shifts to prompt a political realignment, potentially challenging the Democratic Party’s longstanding advantage with Black voters.

“We are creating a massive problem for the Democratic Party’s base that … could be altering for a generation,” said Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser on the Trump campaign. “That’s just an opportunity that we would be remiss if we didn’t exploit.”

Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster, acknowledged the challenges faced by Obama in 2012, where young voters and voters of color expressed frustration with the slow pace of progress on key goals.

“I’m not surprised that Joe Biden right now starts off underperforming among young voters and voters of color. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. But that’s what campaigns are for,” Belcher said.

While Trump is intensifying efforts to present a more diverse group of supporters, he continues to face criticism for inflammatory rhetoric and racially charged remarks. Despite this, he often highlights endorsements from Black celebrities, positioning them as evidence of his appeal to the Black community.

As Trump approaches a potential rematch against Biden, diversifying his support base and appealing beyond the overwhelmingly white Republican base becomes a priority. Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, has emerged as a prominent surrogate for Trump, and his selection as a vice-presidential running mate is among the considerations.

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Biden and Democrats are not relinquishing their efforts to secure Black voter support. Biden launched his reelection bid at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a tragic shooting occurred in 2015.

Both parties are refining strategies to engage Black voters. The Republican National Committee has established outreach centers in minority areas since 2013, with plans to add two more in 2024. The Biden campaign, in contrast to previous Democratic approaches, has invested early in engaging core constituencies, including Black voters, with significant outreach and investments in African American media in key swing states.

DNC chair Jaime Harrison dismissed Republican efforts, accusing them of promoting “fairy tales about their plan to win over Black voters.” He emphasized the commitment of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to securing every vote, recognizing the high stakes of the election.

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Biden Commends Black Churches, Highlights Their Impact on Faith and Unity

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President Joe Biden expressed admiration for Black churches on Sunday, emphasizing the transformative influence they have had on the world through the demonstration of faith during challenging periods. Speaking at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, on the concluding day of a two-day visit, the Democratic president aimed to energize Black voters ahead of the upcoming party primary on February 3.

During his visit, Biden also toured a predominantly Black barbershop and delivered a speech at a state Democratic Party dinner. The president, acknowledging the crucial role South Carolina played in rescuing his 2020 campaign, is striving to reconnect with Black voters who played a pivotal role in his election but may exhibit less enthusiasm this time.

A devout Roman Catholic who attends Mass regularly, Biden lauded Black churches during his address to the Baptist congregation, underscoring their teachings on the “power of faith.” He invited the worshippers to contemplate a world without Black churches, envisioning the absence of these institutions during challenging times.

In his speech, Biden invoked the spirit of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., expressing gratitude for the Black churches that provide a mountaintop, a promised land, and a faith that “we shall overcome.” He credited these churches with propelling the nation and the world toward a more perfect union and justice.

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Biden concluded his remarks by emphasizing the significance of the prayers offered by the Black churches, stating, “Your prayers mean everything.”

Following his address, the president released a written statement addressing the recent drone strike near the Syrian border in northeast Jordan, which resulted in the deaths of three U.S. service members and injuries to several others. Biden attributed the attack to Iran-backed militia groups.

Later in the day, while appearing at the banquet hall of Brookland Baptist Church, Biden briefly discussed the drone strike and called for a moment of silence. He shares a longstanding relationship with Pastor Charles Jackson, whose wife, Robin, serves as First Lady Jill Biden’s prayer partner. Earlier this month, Biden delivered a campaign speech at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, where a tragic shooting claimed the lives of nine Black parishioners in 2015.

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Republican-Led States Employ Tactics to Keep Abortion Off the Ballot

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Efforts are underway in Missouri and Mississippi to curtail voters’ influence on abortion rights, echoing strategies seen in other states, notably Ohio last year. Democrats and advocates for abortion rights argue that these endeavors reflect attempts by Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists to undermine democratic processes designed to involve voters in shaping state laws.

Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, criticizes these efforts, stating, “They’re scared of the people and their voices, so their response is to prevent their voices from being heard.” She identifies a pattern reminiscent of tactics used in other states, including Ohio.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion, voters in seven states have either safeguarded abortion rights or defeated attempts to restrict them through statewide votes. Democrats plan to make the issue a focal point in the 2024 campaign.

A proposal recently passed by the Mississippi House aims to prohibit residents from initiating abortion-related measures on the statewide ballot. This move comes in the context of Mississippi having stringent abortion restrictions, allowing the procedure only to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest. Democrats argue that this legislation undermines the democratic process by limiting the people’s voice.

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In Missouri, anti-abortion groups support a plan that would require initiatives to secure a majority vote in five of the state’s eight congressional districts, in addition to a simple statewide majority. This proposal coincides with an abortion-rights campaign launching a ballot measure effort to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. Abortion rights groups in Missouri criticize Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, accusing him of attempting to obstruct the initiative by manipulating the measure’s ballot summary.

These attempts to prevent abortion-related measures from reaching the ballot mirror strategies employed in other states to target the ballot initiative process, a form of direct democracy available to voters in about half the states. Similar actions have been witnessed in Florida and Nevada, where efforts were made to keep abortion rights amendments off the ballot.

Ohio’s experience with a statewide vote on abortion rights last year is cited as a precedent for these tactics. After voters approved the abortion protections, Republican lawmakers sought to block the amendment from overturning the state’s existing restrictions. In a special election, attempts were made to raise the threshold for passing future constitutional amendments, but the effort was defeated.

Deirdre Schifeling, Chief Political and Advocacy Officer of the ACLU, emphasized the broader implications of such actions, stating, “It’s about, ‘Will the majority be heard?’” Democrats and abortion rights advocates view these efforts as attacks on democracy itself.

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