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Biden to meet with Manchin and Sinema on voting rights as Democrats face grim odds

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The White House said in a statement that President Biden plans to host Manchin and Sinema Thursday evening to discuss voting rights. And Manchin and Sinema are currently at the White House, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The meeting comes after both Manchin and Sinema made clear publicly on Thursday there has been no change in their position against changing Senate rules to clear the way for voting legislation to pass with a simple majority.

Biden vowed to keep fighting on voting rights during a visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday, but conceded that he doesn’t know if Democrats will be able to pass legislation they are pushing for.

«I hope we can get this done. The honest to god answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done,» Biden said. «I hope we can get this done, but I’m not sure. But one thing for certain, like every other major civil rights bill that came along if we miss the first time we can come back and try a second time.»

«I don’t know that we can get it done, but I know one thing: As long as I have a breath in me, as long as I’m in the White House as long as I’m engaged at all, I’m going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures are moving,» the President added.

Biden’s trip to Capitol Hill came after the President called on the Senate in a forceful speech on Tuesday to change its filibuster rules in order to pass voting legislation.

The problem facing Democrats is that they don’t have the votes to pass voting legislation under current Senate rules due to Republican opposition and they also do not appear to have the votes to change the rules.

Manchin and Sinema have long expressed opposition to eliminating the 60-vote threshold required to pass most legislation.

But Democratic leaders have so far been pressing ahead anyway with a plan to bring up voting legislation in the Senate. In the first step toward that, the House of Representatives passed voting legislation Thursday morning ahead of Biden’s visit.

The Democratic-controlled House approved a measure that combined key provisions of two voting bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. It will next be sent to the Senate where a high-profile fight awaits.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Sinema warned against further partisan division and calls to do away with the filibuster.

«Eliminating the 60-vote threshold on a party line with the thinnest of possible majorities to pass these bills that I support will not guarantee that we prevent demagogues from winning office,» she said. «Rather, eliminating the 60-vote threshold will simply guarantee that we lose a critical tool that we need to safeguard our democracy from threats in the years to come.»

Manchin later praised Sinema’s speech, telling reporters it was a «very good, excellent speech.»

Democrats are under intense pressure from grassroots activists and their voters to pass legislation to safeguard voting access but have continually hit a wall in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans would need to join with all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to pass voting legislation in order to overcome a filibuster. Most Senate Republicans have dismissed attempts by Democrats to pass voting bills as reckless partisan overreach.

Biden’s decision to make a high-profile push on voting rights comes as a major pillar of his domestic agenda has stalled out, raising questions over what Democrats will be able to accomplish now, while they still control the White House and narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress.

Late last year, Manchin said he could not support the sweeping social safety net expansion known as the Build Back Better Act. It is unclear if Democrats will be able to salvage any of the legislation in the aftermath of that setback.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.

CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Kaitlan Collins, Manu Raju, Sam Fossum and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.



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Actress Regina King’s son Ian Alexander Jr. has died at 26: «Our family is devastated at the deepest level»

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Regina King’s 26-year-old son, Ian Alexander Jr., has died, a spokesperson for the actor confirmed Saturday morning. 

«Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian,» the statement read. «He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others. Our family asks for respectful consideration during this private time.»

Alexander Jr. — King’s only child, whom she shared with ex-husband Ian Alexander Sr. — died by suicide, a spokesperson confirmed to The Associated Press.

The two were very close, with Alexander Jr. often accompanying his mother on the red carpet. They even had matching tattoos reading «unconditional love» in Aramaic, the AP reported.

Last year, Alexander Jr. posted a tribute to his mother on her birthday, writing, «To be able to watch you take this lifetime by its neck and make it yours is something i will forever be grateful for. But to have you as my mother is the greatest gift I could ask for. To be all that you are while always having the time to be there, love and support me unconditionally is truly remarkable.»

Alexander Jr. was a DJ who went by desduné. He had just recently released a song called «Green Eyes,» which King posted about on her Instagram last week. According to Alexander Jr.’s Instagram, he had a show scheduled for January 28 in Los Angeles.

King is known for her roles in the movie «If Beale Street Could Talk» and on the television show «Watchmen.» She also directed the 2020 film «One Night in Miami…» She has won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, four Primetime Emmy Awards and two NAACP Image Awards over the course of her more than 30-year career.





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German navy chief resigns over Putin comments

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Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht visits the navy base in Warnemuende, Germany, December 17, 2021. Bernd Wuestneck/Pool via REUTERS

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BERLIN, Jan 22 (Reuters) – Germany’s navy chief stepped down on Saturday after drawing criticism for saying Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved respect and that Kyiv would never win back annexed Crimea from Moscow.

«I have asked Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht to relieve me from my duties with immediate effect,» Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach said in a statement. «The minister has accepted my request.»

Schoenbach made the remarks to a think-tank discussion in India on Friday, and video was published on social media. The comments came at a sensitive time as Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders.

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Diplomatic efforts are focused on preventing an escalation. Russia denies it is planning to invade Ukraine.

In New Delhi, Schoenbach, speaking in English, said Putin seeks to be treated as an equal by the West.

«What he (Putin) really wants is respect,» Schoenbach said.

«And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost… It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,» Schoenbach said, calling Russia an old and important country.

Schoenbach conceded Russia’s actions in Ukraine needed to be addressed. But he added that «the Crimea peninsula is gone, it will never come back, this is a fact,» contradicting the joint Western position that Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 cannot be accepted and must be reversed.

Prior to Schoenbach’s resignation, the defence ministry publicly criticised his remarks, saying they did not reflect Germany’s position in either content or wording.

Schoenbach apologized for his comments.

«My rash remarks in India … are increasingly putting a strain on my office,» he said. «I consider this step (the resignation) necessary to avert further damage to the German navy, the German forces, and, in particular, the Federal Republic of Germany.»

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had called on Germany to publicly reject the navy chief’s comments. Schoenbach’s comments could impair Western efforts to de-escalate the situation, Ukraine said in a statement.

«Ukraine is grateful to Germany for the support it has already provided since 2014, as well as for the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. But Germany’s current statements are disappointing and run counter to that support and effort,» Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said separately in tweet.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Catherine Evans and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Butler announces retirement

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Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler announced his retirement on Saturday evening in a statement released by the team.

«It is an emotional day as I announce I am retiring from my football coaching career,» said Butler. «I have spent every year since 1990 as a coach in the NFL and the NCAA, but the time is right for me to walk away after a successful career both playing and coaching the game I love.

«I want to thank the Rooney Family, Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin and all the coaches and players that I have been involved with over my entire coaching career. I look forward to spending more time with my family, whom have been so supportive of me throughout the years. I wish nothing but the best to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I will be cheering them on during my retirement.»

Butler served as the team’s defensive coordinator since being promoted to that role in January 2015. He had previously served as the team’s linebackers coach for 12 seasons from 2003-14. Butler was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams with the Steelers (Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII).

The Steelers lead, or tied for the lead, in overall sacks for the last five years under Butler, setting an NFL record in 2020 when they did it a league-high four years in a row.

In 2020 the Steelers broke an NFL record with a streak of 70 games with at least one sack, breaking the record set by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 69 straight games with at least one sack (1999-2003). The team extended the streak to 75 games, which is still the NFL record.

He came to the Steelers after an NFL coaching career that began with the Cleveland Browns (1999-2002) and before that in the college ranks at Arkansas State (1998) and Memphis (1990-97).

Butler played in the NFL for 10 seasons (1978-87) for the Seattle Seahawks.

Butler was a three-year starter at inside linebacker for the University of Memphis, leading the team in tackles his junior and senior seasons and being named as Associated Press All-American in 1977.



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