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Washington (AFP) — Washington (AFP) — The so-called “Islamic State” released a video on Tuesday showing a masked militant apparently beheading an American journalist and threatening to kill a British captive.

The footage, seen by AFP after it was found online by private terrorism monitor SITE, shows 31-year-old freelance reporter Steven Sotloff dressed in orange and on his knees in a desert landscape.

The masked militant condemns the ongoing U.S. strikes against the Islamic State — a Sunni jihadist group that operates in Iraq and Syria — and cuts Sotloff’s throat.

He then introduces a second captive, identified in a caption by name as a British citizen.

“I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State,” the militant says, speaking in what sounds like a London accent.

This was an apparent reference to a previous video in which U.S. journalist James Foley was murdered, again by a suspected British foreign fighter and in an almost identical fashion.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the latest video depicted an “absolutely disgusting, despicable act.”

The previous video was released last month after U.S .President Barack Obama ordered air strikes against the Islamic State.

It showed 40-year-old Foley’s death at the hands of a masked militant who then threatened Sotloff, a Miami-born freelance reporter who has written for Time magazine, Foreign Policy, and other outlets.

U.S. officials said they were working to confirm the authenticity of the latest video, and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington would be “sickened” if it proved genuine.

American air strikes against IS positions and vehicles continued in the wake of Foley’s death, and more than 120 have been carried out, most of them hitting targets around Iraq’s largest dam north of Mosul.

The video, shot with the same high production values as its predecessor, is entitled: “A second message to America.”

It opens with a clip of Obama vowing to be “relentless” in his determination to protect U.S. citizens from IS attacks.

Sotloff identifies himself in English and calmly explains that he is paying the price for Obama’s policy. His killer also speaks in English.

Sotloff was kidnapped in northern Syria more than a year ago, on August 4, 2013. His family only publicly revealed his captivity last month, having previously requested a media blackout.

This story has been updated.

AFP Photo

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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