Debating in the shadow of the death of conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a downsized and more combative Republican presidential field battled in South Carolina over foreign policy, abortion, truthfulness, campaign tactics and blame for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The ninth debate featured just six candidates, including an even louder than usual Donald Trump, who blamed former President George W. Bush for the 9/11 attack, a not-so-indirect hit at the candidacy of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida joined the fray, saying the president most to blame for the terrorist attack was former President Bill Clinton — husband of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton — because he missed a chance to kill Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.
Coming just a week before the South Carolina primary, the debate featured some of the most intense personal attacks between the candidates, with Rubio accusing Texas Senator Ted Cruz of lying and carrying out dirty tricks on the campaign trail. Ohio Governor John Kasich said the bitter sniping risked throwing the election to the Democrats.
“I think we’re fixing to lose the election to Hillary Clinton if we don’t stop
this,” he warned.
Cruz said Trump was a longtime backer of legal abortion, including partial-birth abortion, as well as European-style socialized health care.
“You are the single biggest liar,” Trump said to Cruz. “You probably are worse than Jeb Bush.”
Trump added: “Nasty guy. Now, I know why he doesn’t have one endorsement from any of his colleagues.”
Cruz fired back, saying Trump didn’t address the substance of Cruz’s criticisms over abortion and health care.
The stakes of the election were highlighted just hours before the debate with news of the death of the conservative justice, making appointments to the high court no longer a theoretical issue in the 2016 campaign.
Even before taking the stage, Rubio and Cruz said the next president, rather than Democratic incumbent Barack Obama, should name Scalia’s successor.
Obama said Saturday he plans to fulfill his constitutional duty and nominate a replacement for Scalia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said he will block a vote this year.
Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, said he fully expects Obama to nominate someone and called on the Senate to stop it. “I think he’s going to do it whether I’m OK with it or not. I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell and everybody to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay,” Trump said.
Cruz said Scalia’s passing “underscores the stakes of this election,” adding that the nation is “one justice away from a Supreme Court that will strike down every restriction on abortion adopted by the states.”
Kasich said it was unfortunate how quickly the death of Scalia turned political, and said Obama could nominate someone who could be approved unanimously.
“It’s not even two minutes after the death of Justice Scalia. I just wish we hadn’t run so fast into politics,” Kasich said. “The country is so divided right now and we’re going to see another partisan fight take place.”
Debate moderator John Dickerson of CBS News opened the debate with a moment of silence for Scalia.
During a discussion about how the U.S. should deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump was booed repeatedly after saying that Bush was “wrong” in his statements about the billionaire’s views.
“That’s Jeb’s special interests and lobbyists talking,” a more combative Trump said after the boos. “I only tell the truth, lobbyists.”
Bush countered that Trump gets his foreign-policy views “from the shows,” a reference to Sunday morning news programming. The back-and-forth got nastier from there.
“It’s blood-sport for him,” Bush said. “While Donald Trump was building a reality TV show my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe.”
Trump shot back, “The World Trade Center came down during his reign. Remember that.”
Bush went on to say, “My mother is the strongest woman I know.”
Trump replied: “She should be running.”
Kasich and Bush tussled over Medicaid expansion, which was a key part of Obama’s health care plan. Kasich, who pushed through an expansion in his home state despite objections from Republican legislative members, said his changes saved prison costs by helping the drug addicted and mentally ill.
“We’ve gone from an $8 billion hole, to a $2 billion surplus,” Kasich said.
Bush interrupted, saying Kasich is “creating further debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren” by expanding Obamacare in Ohio. “We should be fighting Obamacare, repealing Obamacare, replacing it with something totally different,” he said.
After leaving New Hampshire with a decisive victory — his first — Trump enjoys an even more comfortable lead in early polling in South Carolina, a state where politics is known as blood sport.
The establishment candidates — Rubio, Bush and Kasich — are determined to make a stand in South Carolina in order to convince donors and supporters that they have a legitimate shot at winning the nomination, and stopping Trump or Cruz.
Republican leaders in the state have said they expect the debate to be closely watched by those trying to make their voting decisions before the Feb. 20 balloting.
Since 1980, the winner of the state’s Republican primary has gone on to become the nominee every time, with one exception. That was in 2012, when a pair of strong debate performances just ahead of the primary lifted Newt Gingrich to a first-place finish over eventual nominee Mitt Romney.
Before the debate shifted from Scalia, Rubio and Cruz both erred when explaining why Obama shouldn’t get to name a successor to Scalia.
“It’s been over 80 years since a lame duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice,” Rubio said.
Cruz said: “We have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year.”
In fact, the Senate confirmed Anthony Kennedy, a nominee of President Ronald Reagan, on Feb 3, 1988, during an election year.
When Dickerson followed up to note that Kennedy was confirmed in 1988, Cruz incorrectly said, “Kennedy was confirmed in ’87.”
Sponsored by CBS and the Republican National Committee, the session also included retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Dickerson was joined by CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett and Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel.
John McCormick—With assistance from James Nash, Kevin Cirilli, Michael C. Bender, and Sahil Kapur.
FG Resumes Conditional Cash Transfer Programme Across Six Local Govt. In Kebbi
The Federal Government has resumed the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme in Kebbi State, commencing with a payment of N9.24bn to 76,107 CCT beneficiaries.
The National Coordinator of the programme, Hajiya Halima Shehu, made the announcement during a state visit to Governor Atiku Bagudu in Birnin Kebbi.
“As at now, payment to CCT beneficiaries is ongoing in the state. A total number of 76,107 beneficiaries across six local government areas of Bagudu, Danko, Wasagu, Dandi, Jega, and Shanga, will be receiving the payment. The beneficiaries will be receiving 26 months of payment circles, starting from January to February 2020.
“The payment will be in two batches of those 60,000 beneficiaries for four payment cycles, using the virtual account. The second batch has 70,107 beneficiaries for nine payment cycles through the debit cards. The total amount for the two batches in the state, according to Shehu, was over N9.24 billion.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the World Bank in 2016, designed and developed a safety net programme for Nigeria under the platform of National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).
“One of the components of NASSP is the national conditional cash transfer office responsible for implementing the household uplifting- conditional cash transfer to the poor and the vulnerable households across the country,” she said.
Shehu commended the governor for providing her an audience and the chance to update him on the commencement of payments and the state’s successful implementation of the program.
Responding, Gov. Bagudu, represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Samaila Yombe-Dabai, thanked the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, for actualising the programme in the state.
“I assure you that the state government will do all it takes to support the success of the programme in the state.
“We are looking forward to getting more local governments to be involved in the cash transfer programme,” Bagudu said.
Ukraine/Russian War: Twitter Heightens Fight Against Misinformation
In the wake of the Russia-Ukarine crisis, Twitter has stepped up its effort to put an end to misleading tweets from official accounts about the war.
Investors King gathered that Twitter has already limited content from more than 300 Russian government accounts, including President Putin. The new change will be effected under the company’s new “crisis” policies.
Twitter will also prioritise labelling false posts from accounts with wide reach, like state media or official government accounts, while preserving them for “accountability” reasons.
Twitter users will now be required to click through the warning notice to view the post and Twitter will disable the ability to like, retweet or share the content. The company said it would also change its search and explore features to avoid amplifying false tweets.
Twitter’s head of security and safety, Yoel Roth, wrote in a blog post announcing the changes saying “Today, we’re introducing our crisis misinformation policy – a global policy that will guide our efforts to elevate credible, authoritative information, and will help to ensure viral misinformation isn’t amplified or recommended by us during crises. In times of crisis, misleading information can undermine public trust and cause further harm to already vulnerable communities.
“Alongside our existing work to make reliable information more accessible during crisis events, this new approach will help to slow the spread by us of the most visible, misleading content, particularly that which could lead to severe harms.
“While this first iteration is focused on international armed conflict, starting with the war in Ukraine, we plan to update and expand the policy to include additional forms of crisis,” Twitter said examples of problematic posts included false or misleading allegations of war crimes, false information regarding the international response and false allegations regarding use of force.
The company said it would rely on multiple sources to determine when claims are misleading. Strong commentary and first person accounts are among the types of tweets that would not be challenged by the policy, it said.
Twitter has approved a $44bn takeover by billionaire Elon Musk, who has criticised its content moderation policies
The new policies come just weeks after Twitter’s board agreed to a $44bn (£34.5bn) takeover offer from billionaire businessman Elon Musk, who has called for less moderated speech on the platform.
Musk had said in the past week that he would revoke Twitter’s suspension of former United States president, Donald Trump.
Modest Increase in the FAAC Payout – Coronation Economic Note
The gross monthly distribution by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) to the three tiers of government and public agencies amounted to N725.6bn in April (from March revenue). This shows an increase of 4.4% or N30.6bn from the previous payout.
Based on data in the local media, it was observed that companies’ income tax (CIT), petroleum profit tax (PPT), value-added tax (VAT), oil and gas royalties, import and excise duties recorded increases over the previous month. The FGN received a total of N277.1bn and state governments received N227.2bn, including N53.4bn representing the 13% derivation for the few oil producing states.
The headline figure consists of N337.4bn in gross statutory distribution, N165.6bn from the VAT Pool, and excess bank charges of N7.5bn was recovered. The total deductions for cost of collection was N44.4bn and the total deductions for statutory transfers, refunds and savings was N382.8bn.
The committee disclosed that the balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) is USD35.4m.
The average monthly FAAC distribution (N665.1bn in Q1 ‘22) declined from an average of N682.5bn in Q4 ’21 but is slightly above the average of N647.0bn recorded in Q1 ’21.
Based on local newswires, the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) has not made any remittance to the federation account this year due to the high fuel subsidy costs. The NNPC spent N210.4bn (USD500.1m), N219.8bn (USD522.9m) and N245.8bn (USD584.8m) as subsidies on petrol in January, February, and March respectively. This is a total of N675.9bn (USD1.6bn) in Q1 ’22.
The NNPC is expected to deduct N671.9bn from its remittance to FAAC for April which is due for sharing at the May ‘22 FAAC meeting. The estimated total shortfall of N671.9bn comprises of shortfalls recorded in February (N152bn) and March (N519bn).
Money markets saw an inflow of N391bn in early-May ‘22, representing the net distribution to state and local governments. The FGN’s share is directly to the treasury single account.
Analysts at Coronation expect continuous strain with regards to FAAC payouts. According to them, it is imperative for states that depend solely on the inadequate monthly FAAC distribution to seek ways to boost their internally generated revenue. The FGN’s primary objective should be to create a conducive business environment as IGR sustainability is a by-product of an enabling environment.
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