-Top News Politics USA

US Public Tuned In for Newsom-DeSantis Showdown

Democrats after all will still most likely prefer the California model and Republicans will still prefer Florida. …reports T.N. Ashok

Majority of the US population is looking forward to the debate of the year between Reformist Californian Governor Gavin Newsom and the restrictive Conservative Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Fox News at Thursday 9 p.m. They are not keyed in at all of the GOP presidential debate or the speeches of Trump theatrics and Bidenomics Biden for the potential 2024 match they don’t desire at all.

This is a debate every voter wants to watch, media reports said.

At the core of the debate is which model is suitable for the country, a model that would keep America stable over the years — the Californian model or the Florida model, reports added.

Democrats after all will still most likely prefer the California model and Republicans will still prefer Florida. But voters from both parties can look at the stage and see what could be the guiding factor for the future of the country.

There is still time. We are not yet trapped in the Biden vs Trump rematch nobody wants. Both parties can still choose better options. It is to be hoped that this Thursday will push them toward making that decision, the Washington Examiner said.

One man (California Governor Gavin Newsom) has made cutting carbon emissions his state’s top policy priority. The other (Florida Governor Ron DeSantis) has prioritised energy production (focusing on fossil fuels rather than green energy technologies). One made his state the most welcoming sanctuary jurisdiction for migrants from all over the world. The other signed one of the nation’s strictest anti-illegal immigration laws ever.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis.(photo:instagram)

One oversees a state higher education system that has abandoned standardised tests and embraced mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion loyalty oaths. The other is fighting the higher education cartel and returning academic standards to classrooms, the Examiner said.

The stark contrasts in policies between the California Governor Gavin Newsom and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis can be very diverse, but both being young in their 40’s, represent the future of America, they could be up for the presidency of the US at a later date, reports said.

Both politicians not only represent the future of their respective parties, but both also have track records guiding their states in new directions, the Examiner added.

Newsom versus DeSantis is a debate our country needs right now, the Examiner said, adding, “Do we keep mandating more expensive cars, homes and appliances while also prohibiting energy production from record amounts of public land? Or do we let people drive the cars they want, build the homes they want, and produce the energy they need to make a good life affordable for all?”

Do we keep our southern border open, releasing every migrant who claims asylum into the country — most of the claims are without merit — bankrupting cities from Denver to New York? Or do we return illegal immigrants to Mexico, eliminating the incentive that is causing a historic wave of mass migration across the hemisphere? These are issues that voters would be considering rather than aid Israel or Ukraine or be involved in a war overseas in which Americans have no stake or interest, the report said.

The Examiner said America is cruising towards a dismal presidential rematch. Biden, at 81, is too old and incapable to be president. Trump, at 77, is not far behind in age and is in a category of unsuitability (with his legal baggage and rhetoric bordering on racism). Both men are clearly slower than they were four years ago. Can either handle another four years in one of the most demanding jobs imaginable? Voters must be thinking about this all the time worrying about who should be the next President in 2024.

How have Hunter Biden or Donald Trump Junior or Jared Kushner exploited the families’ names to enjoy monetary benefits is a question on the top of the mind of young voters specially, the report said.

Important questions in their own right, people who have broken laws are accountable, but these are not questions that should determine who is the next Commander-in-Chief, the reports said.

ALSO READ: ‘No proof Hamas is using American hostages as leverage’

-Top News USA

Koch Network Backs Nikki Haley for GOP Primary

The decision is set to significantly reshape the Republican field just seven weeks before the Iowa caucuses, notably strengthening the organizational power of the Indian-origin leader….reports Asian Lite News

The influential network associated with billionaire Charles Koch has announced the endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley in the GOP primary, CNN reported.

The decision is expected to dramatically reshape the Republican field – roughly seven weeks before the Iowa caucuses – as the support will substantially increase the organisational strength of the Indian-origin leader.

Americans for Prosperity Action will be throwing its weight by deploying vast resources and a standing army of conservative activists on behalf of the former South Carolina governor, according to CNN.

The endorsement marks the latest sign that powerful Republican donors are coalescing behind the candidacy of the former US ambassador to the United Nations. She has seen prominent figures join her campaign in recent weeks, particularly after South Carolina Senator Tim Scott exited the race

Earlier this year, AFP Action – a political arm of Koch’s network – pledged to back a single contender in the GOP presidential primary for the first time in its history.

“When we announced our decision to engage in our first ever Republican presidential primary, we made it clear that we’d be looking for a candidate who can turn the page on our political dysfunction – and win. It’s clear that candidate is Nikki Haley,” Siedel said Tuesday.

“We can’t keep looking to the politicians of the past to fix the problems of today. Nikki Haley represents a new generation of leadership and offers a bold, positive vision for our future. AFP Action is proud to be endorsing her and we will be doing everything we can to help make her the next President of the United States,” CNN quoted Siedel as saying.

Seidel did not disclose a budget on behalf of Haley, but the network has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in previous election cycles, rivalling the financial might of the Republican National Committee.

“AFP Action’s members know that there is too much at stake in this election to sit on the sidelines. This is a choice between freedom and socialism, individual liberty and big government, fiscal responsibility and spiralling debt. We have a country to save, and I’m grateful to have AFP Action by our side,” Haley said in a statement to CNN.

The effort will begin with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in support of Haley launching this week in all early and several Super Tuesday states, and the group touted its data capabilities – including a contact database with millions of voters – and its extensive grassroots reach.

In addition to attempting to stir doubts about Trump among the GOP faithful, network officials have said part of their 2024 strategy is to bring a broader range of voters – those who reliably vote in general elections but not Republican primaries – into the GOP primary process to help alter the outcome of early contests.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to be the frontrunner in Republican primaries in both national and early state polling, with Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis each jockeying to emerge as the main Trump alternative, according to CNN.

During his White House tenure, Trump often sparred with Koch officials, who sharply criticized his administration’s trade and hardline immigration policies. But the network supported the Trump administration on other priorities, including a tax cut bill he signed into law in late 2017 and a criminal justice overhaul. The network also backed his nominees to the US Supreme Court. (ANI)

ALSO READ: ‘No proof Hamas is using American hostages as leverage’

-Top News USA

Trump Invokes Constitutional Right for Self-Defence

Trump said that the threats to the judge and his law clerk did not “justify” limiting his constitutional right to defend himself….reports Asian Lite News

Former President Donald Trump pleaded with a New York appeals court to continue to pause the gag order against him in his $250 million civil fraud trial.

Trump said that the threats to the judge and his law clerk did not “justify” limiting his constitutional right to defend himself.

Lawyers for the New York attorney general’s office and the court last week urged the appeals court to reinforce the gag order on Trump following “serious and credible” threats that have inundated Judge Arthur Engoron’s chambers since the trial began in October, media reports said.

Trump’s attorneys filed a plea on Monday before the appeals court — consisting of two judges appointed by Barack Obama and one by Joe Biden — that the former president never threatened the judge or his principal law clerk and he can’t be held responsible for others actions.

They invoked the first amendment of right to free speech arguing Trump had the right to criticize and call out his perception of bias by the judge and his law clerk without retribution. It is “essential” to maintain public confidence in the trial, they argued.

“At base, the disturbing behaviour engaged in by anonymous, third-party actors towards the judge and Principal Law Clerk publicly presiding over an extremely polarizing and high-profile trial merits appropriate security measures,” Trump’s attorneys wrote as reported by CNN.

“However, it does not justify the wholesale abrogation of Petitioners’ First Amendment rights in a proceeding of immense stakes to Petitioners, which has been compromised by the introduction of partisan bias on the bench, ” the report quoted Trump’s legal team as saying.

Monday’s filing is the first in a series of hundreds of messages harassing Judge Engoron and a law clerk that were made public last week. Engoron’s clerk has received 20-30 calls per day to her personal cell phone and 30-50 messages daily on social media platforms and two personal email addresses, according to court papers.

A New York appeals court judge had earlier this month temporarily lifted the gag order imposed on Trump and his attorneys that blocked them from making public statements about the judge’s staff, specifically the principal law clerk who he consults with on the bench.

Trump and his lawyers have argued that the law clerk is biased against Trump based on political donations she made to some organizations that support the New York attorney general, Letitia James who sued Trump for $250 million for punitive damages in the civil fraud trials case.

They alleged she was “co-judging” the case based on frequent consultations she had with the judge.

The appeals court judge then ruled he would lift the gag order to allow a fuller panel of judges to weigh in given the constitutional issues at play, reports said.

The prosecuting lawyers submitted filings last week urging the appeals court to put the gag order back in place saying since it was lifted on November 16 the number of harassing messages increased and half of them the clerk received were anti-Semitic. Trump’s attorneys said Trump can’t be blamed for others’ comments.

“However, none of the contemptible dross reflected in those messages can be attributed to President Trump or his counsel. Nor have President Trump or his counsel ever made a statement referencing the Principal Law Clerk’s religion, appearance, or private activities,” they told the appeals court.

ALSO READ: ‘No proof Hamas is using American hostages as leverage’

-Top News Arab News USA

‘No proof Hamas is using American hostages as leverage’

The United States believes Hamas is holding eight to nine Americans as hostages after the release of a four-year-old girl…reports Asian Lite News

The White House said on Tuesday that US officials see no indications that Hamas militants are refusing to release American hostages in Gaza in order to use them as leverage.

The United States believes Hamas is holding eight to nine Americans as hostages after the release of a four-year-old girl.

Meanwhile, the United States supports further extension in the operational pause between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of all the hostages in captivity, the White House said on Tuesday.

“We want to see all the hostages released. And so, if there can be extended pauses beyond these two-day extensions…we’re in favour of that. And we’re going to keep working on this, as I said, hour by hour with all our partners in the region,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said.

On being asked about the upcoming visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the Middle East, Kirby said that his fourth visit will primarily focus on reaffirming US support to Israel and facilitating humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

He further added that Blinken will meet with his Israeli counterparts and other counterparts in the region.

“It is about making sure that, number one, Israel knows that they continue to have the support of the United States, that they continue to get the tools, the capabilities, and the weapon systems that they need to continue to defend themselves against Hamas. Number two, it’s all about getting that humanitarian assistance in,” Kirby said.

He added, “And so, the President has directed the entire team all across the administration, certainly in the national security agencies, to continue to work that. And I think you’ll see that those will be the prime focuses of Secretary Blinken on his trip”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be making his fourth visit to Israel this week. He will also visit West Bank, Belgium, North Macedonia and UAE during his trip.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that President Biden and the entire national security team are engaged in the situation in the Middle East regarding humanitarian aid, operational pause and the release of hostages.

He further informed that the first of three military flights, C-17s, landed in Egypt on Tuesday with humanitarian assistance: food, water, medicine, and supplies.

“Some 54,000 pounds on the first aircraft. We expect two more aircraft to come in coming days,” Kirby said.

ALSO READ: Putin gives nod to law revoking Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

-Top News India News USA

NASA Chief Says US Ready to Help India Build Own Space Station

Nelson’s visit will mark a series of strategic discussions aimed at strengthening the partnership between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)….reports Asian Lite News

The US is ready to help India build its own space station, said NASA chief Bill Nelson, who is on his maiden visit to the country.

Nelson’s visit will mark a series of strategic discussions aimed at strengthening the partnership between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

“Touchdown in India! Ready to embark on a week of engaging meetings and events to grow @NASA’s partnership with @ISRO. India is a leader in space and we’re looking forward to a productive visit,” Nelson wrote in a post on X.

Speaking to the media, he congratulated India for landing on the South Pole of the moon, noting that “the US will be sending private landers to the south pole in 2024, but India has already done it.”

He said that “India is a great partner for NASA,” and that the US space agency will help India’s vision to build its own space station by 2040.

“Commercial space stations can open a lot of avenues for research including pharma research in zero gravity. If India wants, we can collaborate and share our experience.”

Nelson is expected to visit Bengaluru’s NISAR spacecraft facilities — the first ever collaboration between NASA and ISTo over hardware development on the Earth-observing mission.

NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) set to launch in 2024 is pivotal for understanding various aspects of Earth’s ecosystems, natural hazards, and climate change.

NASA will also train an Indian astronaut to fly to the International Space Station in 2024.

The NASA chief is also expected to meet Indian private companies operating in the space sector, students and discuss STEM to inspire the next generation of space explorers, known as the Artemis Generation.

ALSO READ: Maiden EU-India Navy Exercise in Gulf of Guinea

-Top News USA

Trump’s Stance on Obamacare Faces Skepticism

Gift said Trump’s pledge “flies in the face of clear polling showing that most Americans, including many Republicans, aren’t interested in ‘repeal and replace'”…reports Asian Lite News

Former US President Donald Trump’s attack on his predecessor Obama’s “healthcare insurance policy” could backfire spectacularly with voters as it is very popular with the urban middle classes in America.

Obamacare or Affordable Care Act (ACA) as it is known, sought to bring down the cost of healthcare for urban middle classes in cities by subsidising the programme taxing the rich.

Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican primaries, in a post on Truth Social criticised former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy, which was established as the ACA in 2010 and offers US citizens discounts on government-sponsored health insurance plans, calling it “out of control”.

“The cost of Obamacare is out of control, plus, it’s not good Healthcare,” Trump wrote.

“I’m seriously looking at alternatives. We had a couple of Republican Senators who campaigned for six years against it, and then raised their hands not to terminate it. It was a low point for the Republican Party, but we should never give up,” Trump said.

The hardliner Republican had been consistent in opposing the healthcare policy, pledging to repeal it during his 2016 Presidential campaign. In 2017, a Senate vote to repeal and replace the law failed and in 2021, the Supreme Court rejected Trump administration backed by Republicans to invalidate Obamacare.

According to latest polling by KFF Health Tracking in May 2023, 59 per cent of US adults have a favourable opinion about the policy when it is described as the “Affordable Care Act or Obamacare,” while 40 per cent view the act unfavourably, suggesting Trump could fail to drum up support by attacking it, Newsweek said in an analysis of Trump’s various campaigns for 2024 presidency.

KFF data also shows the proportion of people enrolled in the ACA is high in key battleground states like Georgia and North Carolina. Differing stances on Obamacare could swing voters in the 2024 election, and Thomas Gift, a politics professor at University College London, told Newsweek that Trump will “need swing states to retake the White House”.

Reacting to Trump’s post on Truth Social, President Joe Biden’s campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa suggested the Biden administration may focus on Obamacare as part of the re-election campaign.

He said on X: “Donald Trump is right back to talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act.”

In a statement issued to Semafor, he said, “40 million people — more than one in 10 Americans — have health insurance today because of the Affordable Care Act and Trump wants to rip it away if he returns to power.”

“He was one vote away from getting it done when he was president — and we should take him at his word that he’ll try to do it again.”

It is notable that while Trump used the term “Obamacare,” Moussa’s response used the term “Affordable Care Act”. Polling has indicated that favourability depends to some extent on which term is used, even though they refer to exactly the same policy, reports said.

For example, a poll by Gallup in 2013 found that when respondents were asked if they favoured the ACA, with no mention of Obamacare, 45 per cent approved of it and 49 per cent disapproved. Asked if they favoured Obamacare, with no mention of the ACA, 38 per cent approved of it and 54 per cent disapproved.

Robert Shrum, a former Democrat political consultant and professor of political science, wanted Democrats to protect “Obamacare from renewed Trump’s pledge to repeal it” and said it’s one of the factors that will drive the 2024 presidential election.

Gift said Trump’s pledge “flies in the face of clear polling showing that most Americans, including many Republicans, aren’t interested in ‘repeal and replace'”.

The former President seems to have warped himself into a time machine back to 2012 where that was a smart Republican talking point. No longer. Especially if Trump is trying to set himself up for the general election — and he should, given his near lock on the GOP nomination — it’s an odd pivot for a candidate who’s going to need swing votes to retake the White House, Gift was quoted as saying.

Re-litigating Obamacare only appeals to a small sliver of the hard right who Trump already has in his back pocket.

According to the latest figures this year, more than 40 million Americans rely on the ACA.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden vowed to expand and strengthen it. In 2021, he signed two executive orders aimed at restoring healthcare policies that were weakened during the Trump administration regarding the ACA, Medicaid and protections to women’s reproductive health.

Earlier this month, he celebrated the number of Americans enrolling for ACA plans.

ALSO READ-Trump Dominates Headlines with Clemson Stadium Appearance

-Top News India News USA

US Eases Visa Renewal for 20,000 Indian H1B Workers

Due to heavy visa backlogs, some H-1B workers have pursued work-arounds such as traveling to nearby countries with fewer backlogs to secure appointments…reports Asian Lite News

In a move likely to benefit Indian professionals, 20,000 H1B specialty occupation workers will be able to renew their visas in the US beginning from January next year, according to State Department officials.

This development comes months after the White House announced a pilot programme for domestic renewal of certain categories of H-1B visas during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June this year.

The visa renewal pilot programme is one of multiple measures the State Department is looking to add or continue with the aim of driving down wait times for travel to the US, Bloomberg Law reported, citing officials.

It would allow H-1B holders to renew their visas by mailing them to the State Department rather than travel outside the US and face uncertain wait times to secure an appointment at a US consular office before returning.

“We really need to get proof of concept that it works before we can extend it to a larger group,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Julie Stufft told reporters on Monday.

“This is a huge change for folks who live here and previously would have had to leave the US,” she added.

Due to heavy visa backlogs, some H-1B workers have pursued work-arounds such as traveling to nearby countries with fewer backlogs to secure appointments.

According to Stufft, the domestic renewal option would help consular offices in those countries as well as India.

The average wait time to secure a visa appointment for travel to the US fell to 130 days last year, a drop of 70 days from fiscal year 2022.

The State Department considers acceptable wait times to be closer to 90 days.

ALSO READ-US Embassy in India Issues Over 140,000 Student Visas

-Top News USA

US Embassy in India Issues Over 140,000 Student Visas

According to the Department statement, international visitors contributed as much as $239 billion in annual spending to the US economy and supported an estimated 9.5 million American jobs…reports Asian Lite News

 The US Embassy and Consulates in India issued an all-time record of more than 140,000 student visas from October 2022 through September 2023, the State Department announced.

Stating that international students at US colleges and universities inject up to $38 billion annually into the country’s economy, the Department said on Tuesday that it issued more than 600,000 student visas — the highest in any year since FY 2017.

During the main student visa season of June-August 2023, consular officers across India issued 95,269 visas in the F, M, and J categories — an 18 per cent increase over 2022 during the same timeframe.

According to Open Doors Report data, India surpassed China to become the largest source of international graduate students in the US for the first time since 2009/10.

The number of Indian graduate students rose by 63 per cent to 165,936 students — an increase of nearly 64,000 students, compared to last year, while Indian undergraduate students also increased by 16 per cent.

The 2023 federal fiscal year saw the State Department issuing a near record level of non-immigrant visas — more than 10 million globally, and half of the US embassies and consulates adjudicated more non-immigrant visas than ever before.

In addition, nearly eight million visitor visas for business and tourism were issued — more than in any fiscal year since 2016.

Additionally, the US Embassy issued nearly eight million visitor visas for business and tourism, more than in any fiscal year since 2015, the statement said.

According to the Department statement, international visitors contributed as much as $239 billion in annual spending to the US economy and supported an estimated 9.5 million American jobs.

A record-breaking 442,000 visas were issued to temporary and seasonal workers, addressing the need for workers in agriculture and other sectors where too few US workers are available — contributing to the American economy while addressing the root causes of irregular migration, the Department stated in its release.

A total of 590,000 non-immigrant visas were issued to high-skilled workers and executives to work alongside American experts in some of the US’ most critical fields, ranging from emerging technology to healthcare.

Nearly 365,000 non-immigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crew members, who are essential for maintaining global transportation and the supply chains that support the US and global economies.

According to the Department, “these achievements were possible because of innovative solutions, such as expanding interview waiver authorities that allow frequent travelers who meet strict national security standards to renew their visas without having to visit an Embassy or Consulate”.

The US is increasing the staff strength and opening new consulates to reduce waiting time for visa issuance from India, US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, said earlier this month.

He also said that the embassy is likely to issue 10-15 per cent more visas than usual in the current calendar year, and that the number of visas issued in India also increased one-third in recent weeks.

ALSO READ-Sunak praises ‘competitive visa regime’

-Top News USA

Stoltenberg Urges Swift Approval for Sweden’s NATO Membership

Currently, Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members yet to ratify Sweden’s membership, despite it applying over 18 months ago…report Asian Lite News

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged swift approval of Sweden’s membership by Turkey.

Stoltenberg emphasised that Sweden has fulfilled its commitments, urging Turkey to complete the accession process promptly.

Currently, Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members yet to ratify Sweden’s membership, despite it applying over 18 months ago.

While the Turkish parliament is debating Sweden’s bid initiated by President Erdogan, Stoltenberg expressed a desire for a quicker ratification process.

The formal welcome of Sweden into NATO, initially expected at a foreign ministers’ meeting, is delayed due to the ongoing parliamentary procedures in Turkey.

Meanwhile, tensions have risen as Sweden’s Prime Minister Kristersson criticized a far-right leader, Akesson, for calling to demolish some mosques, labelling it as “disrespectful” and “polarising.”

Recently, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo and his Swedish counterpart, Ulf Kristersson, held discussions here which focused on bilateral relations, security issues and other topical international and EU affairs.

Orpo stressed the importance of closer contact between Finland and Sweden, especially on security issues, reports Xinhua news agency.

During a joint press conference on Monday, Orpo mentioned Finland’s consideration of new measures to address unauthorised immigration, emphasizing the importance of proportionate and effective actions.

For his part, Kristersson said the EU external border is “no longer a matter for Italy, Greece and Spain” only, but also a concern for the Nordics.

He expressed strong support for Finland’s efforts in protecting the EU border, saying: “We have a common interest.”

Both leaders stressed the importance of the 2024 European Parliament election.

“Finland and Sweden are cooperating to have a strong impact on the future European Union agenda,” Orpo said.

They also discussed their roles as NATO members, with Kristersson emphasizing that the transition “from following NATO to shaping NATO” represents a new identity.

“You have to be there when the decisions at NATO are de facto being taken,” he said.

On the same day, the Prime Ministers also held a joint meeting with the Foreign and Defence Ministers of the two Nordic nations.

The Swedish delegation also met Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

ALSO READ: Blinken looks to conclude “durable” peace between Azerbaijan, Armenia

-Top News Arab News USA

US Cops Arrest Suspect in Shooting of 3 Palestinian Men

Authorities had been investigating whether the shooting may have been a hate crime, officials said, but they did not go into any detail on what charges the suspect is facing as of now….reports Asian Lite News

The suspect in the killing of three Palestinian college students in Burlington, Vermont, was arrested on Sunday (local time), according to CNN.

The Burlington Police Department said in a news release that Jason J Eaton, 48 was arrested near the scene of the attack. A search of Eaton’s home uncovered evidence that gave investigators “probable cause to believe that Eaton perpetrated the shooting.”

Authorities had been investigating whether the shooting may have been a hate crime, officials said, but they did not go into any detail on what charges the suspect is facing as of now.

Eaton is expected to be arraigned in court on Monday. Police are also planning to hold a news conference Monday to discuss the case, according to CNN.

According to information, the students, all 20 years old were walking on Prospect Street after visiting a relative in Burlington for the Thanksgiving holiday when “they were confronted by a white man with a handgun.”

“The victims, two of whom are US citizens and one a legal resident, were taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center for medical care”, according to a statement issued by the police on Sunday, as reported by CNN.

“Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot,” police said after the attack on Saturday evening.

Two of the students were in stable condition over the weekend but the third received “much more serious injuries,” police said, noting two were shot in the torso and another in the lower extremities.

The students shot were identified as Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Ahmad, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut, according to the Institute for Middle East Understanding, which has provided statements on behalf of the victims’ families.

Families of the victims as well as numerous civil rights groups continue to urge investigators to carefully examine whether the shooting was a hate crime, as the attack came amid a reported rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias incidents in the US since the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas ignited last month.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said investigators were considering whether the attack may have been motivated by hate. “That there is an indication this shooting could have been motivated by hate is chilling, and this possibility is being prioritized in the investigation,” Weinberger said in a statement.

“In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime,” reported CNN citing Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad, in an earlier news release.

An attorney for the victims’ families, Abed Ayoub, said he believes the students were targeted, in part, because two of them were wearing keffiyehs – traditional Palestinian scarves.

“The suspect walked up to them and shot them. They weren’t robbed, they weren’t mugged,” Ayoub said on “CNN Newsroom” Sunday before the arrest was announced. “It was a targeted shooting and a targeted crime.”

The FBI has been investigating alongside local police and is providing resources, including computer and cell phone analysis, victims services and other forensic tools, the agency’s field office in Albany, New York, said.

Ballistic evidence was recovered from the scene to be run through a federal database, police said. Investigators also worked to interview witnesses and canvas the neighborhood for a second time. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Blinken looks to conclude “durable” peace between Azerbaijan, Armenia