North Korea’s Crazy Boy Says He Is Close To Having ICBM Nuclear Capability

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS NETWORK)

North Korea’s Kim says close to test launch of ICBM

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a performance held for participants of the ruling party’s party meeting in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on December 29, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Sunday that the country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing and ICBM rocket test launch preparation is in its last stage,” Kim said during a televised speech.

North Korea tested ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate during 2016, although some experts have said it is years away from developing an ICBM fitted with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the United States.

(Reporting by Tony Munroe; Editing by Michael Perry)

Pakistan: 95% Of Women Didn’t Get To Vote In 17 Districts

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PAKISTAN’S DAWN NEWS AGENCY)

ISLAMABAD: Over 95 per cent of registered women voters in at least 17 National Assembly constituencies did not cast their votes in the 2013 general elections.

A document prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan, available with Dawn, reveals that turnout of women voters was less than one per cent in five of these constituencies.

According to disaggregated voters’ data, only one woman out of the total 138,910 registered in NA-33 (Upper Dir) had exercised her right to vote.

In the constituency adjacent to it, NA-34 (Lower Dir), women’s turnout was 0.11pc as only 231 out of 206,566 women voters had cast their ballots. In NA-37 (Kurram Agency), 459 out of 156,811 women voters had cast their votes or 0.29pc of the total registered women voters. However, the constituency registered an overall low turnout as 2,072 men out of 230,107 male registered voters had cast their ballots.

In NA-34, located in the troubled Bajaur Agency, women’s turnout was at 0.02pc and in NA-46, Khyber Agency, 0.2pc.

The trend wasn’t only limited to the tribal areas where certain cultural norms and the law and order situation could play a prohibitive role in this regard. Low women’s turnout was also reported in some constituencies of large cities in Punjab.

In NA-152 (Multan), the turnout of women voters was as low as 1.92pc as only 75,422 out of 3.9 million women voters had cast their ballots. The turnout for male voters in the constituency was 2.13pc.

The turnout of women voters was 2.13pc in NA-178 (Muzaffargarh), 2.24pc in the adjacent NA-177, 2.34pc in NA-175 (Rajanpur), 2.71pc in NA-174 (Rajanpur), and 2.82pc in NA-145 (Okara). The turnout recorded in NA-61 (Chakwal) was 4.42pc and 9.52pc in NA-64 (Sargodha).

The turnout of women voters in NA-271 (Kharan, Balochistan) was 3.51pc, but higher than the turnout for men, 3.04pc. In NA-31 (Shangla), 4.59pc of registered women voters had cast their ballots.

Interestingly enough, the turnout figures for women outstripped those of men in some constituencies, including NA-48 (Islamabad) where the women voters’ turnout was 61.75pc, compared to 61.01pc of male voters.

Similarly, in NA-51 (Rawalpindi) 53.24pc of registered women voters had cast their ballots compared to 52.31pc men. The difference in Attock’s NA-58 was even higher — the women’s turnout was 64.35pc while 61.81pc of registered male voters had cast their votes.

In NA-62 (Jhelum) 17.71pc women had voted, compared to 16.67pc men. Constituencies where the percentage of women voters was higher than that of male voters included NA-74 (Bhakkar), NA-93 (Toba Tek Singh), NA-101 (Gujranwala), NA-103 (Hafizabad), NA-111 and 112 (Sialkot), NA-115 and 116 (Narowal) and NA-180 (Muzaffargarh).

Areas with low female voters’ registration

The election commission has identified over 26,000 census blocks where the ratio of registered women voters is below 40pc of the total enrolled electorate.

The ECP’s gender affairs wing has shared the data with district election commissioners so that they could send it to district election commissioners. The district election commissioners will be asked to focus on the registration of women voters on priority and submit a progress report in four months.

According to another ECP document available with Dawn, 10,440 of these census blocks are in Punjab alone. Lahore tops in terms of the number of census blocks with low enrollment of women voters. The number of such blocks in provincial capital is 872, followed by Sialkot (755), Rahim Yar Khan (743), Sheikhupura (733), Narowal (620), Kasur (509), Bahawalnagar (501) and Jhang (490).

Sindh has 5,779 census blocks, including 1,575 in Karachi West, 629 in Karachi Central, 560 in Malir, 509 in Karachi East 401 in Korangi, 258 in Ghotki, 204 in Hyderabad, 131 in Khairpur and 117 in Kashmore.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the number of census blocks with less than 40pc registered women voters is 3,782, including 601 in Lower Dir, 600 in Kohistan, 469 in Upper Dir, 343 in Peshawar, 250 in Mardan, 147 in Mansehra, 138 in Chitral, 132 in Charsadda, 127 in Batagram and 103 in Bannu.

Balochistan has 3,539 such blocks, including 554 in Khuzdar, 315 in Kalat, 223 in Quetta, 208 in Dera Bugti, 196 in Killa Abdullah, 188 in Kohlu, 162 in Pishin, 143 in Awaran, 137 in Matung, 132 in Lehri, 125 in Loralai, 121 in Labella, 114 in Kachhi and 105 in Jhal Magsi.

In Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the number of census blocks is 2,410. They include 736 clocks in North Waziristan, 350 in Bajaur, 337 in Mohmand, 266 in South Waziristan, 240 in Khyber agency, 141 in FR Bannu and 121 in Kurram agency. The Federal Capital has 53 such constituencies.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2017

Pennsylvania state police fatally shoot suspect in trooper’s death

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN NEWS)

Pennsylvania state police fatally shoot suspect in trooper’s death

Trooper Landon Weaver of the Pennsylvania State Police was shot and killed Friday while on duty.

Story highlights

  • Nearly 100 law enforcement members sought the suspect
  • Trooper Landon Weaver was fatally shot while responding to a call

(CNN)A 32-year-old man suspected of killing a Pennsylvania state trooper was shot to death by law enforcement officers Saturday, Pennsylvania State Police Capt. David Cain said.

Jason Robison was wanted in connection with the shooting death of Trooper Landon Weaver, 23, on Friday. Nearly 100 members of law enforcement — from game commissioners to FBI agents — participated in the search before troopers found Robison at about 10 a.m. Saturday near the shooting site in central Pennsylvania, Cain told reporters.
Robison refused to surrender and threatened the troopers before being shot, Cain said.
“Faced with a deadly situation, troopers were forced to discharge their weapons,” he said.
“Trooper Weaver was interviewing the suspect inside the residence when the suspect gained access to a firearm and shot Trooper Weaver,” Cain said.
On its Facebook page, Pennsylvania State Police said Weaver was “tragically shot and killed while investigating a domestic-related incident.”
Weaver, who enlisted as a state trooper in December 2015, is the 97th member of the Pennsylvania State Police to be killed in the line of duty, the state police’s Facebook page said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf offered his condolences in a statement released Friday.
“Landon will always be remembered for his bravery, his sacrifice, and his willingness to serve,” Wolf said.

Israeli ministers approve ‘Facebook bill’ to restrict online ‘incitement’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PALESTINIAN NEWS PAPER MA’AN)

 

Israeli ministers approve ‘Facebook bill’ to restrict online ‘incitement’

DEC. 27, 2016 5:38 P.M. (UPDATED: DEC. 29, 2016 1:21 P.M.)

Picture of the homepage of Facebook website. (AFP Photo / Juan Mabromata)

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel advanced the so-called “Facebook bill” that would allow Israeli officials to force the social media giant to remove certain content through a court order if there are suspicions of “incitement.” after an Israeli ministerial committee approved the bill on Sunday.

According to the Israeli media outlet the Times of Israel, the bill, proposed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — members of right-wing Israeli parties Jewish Home and Likud respectively — would “only be invoked in cases of suspected incitement, where there is a real possibility that the material in question endangers the public or national security.”
Despite Facebook complying with 95 percent of the Israeli government’s removal requests in recent months, members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, have consistently expressed their indignation that Facebook has not taken enough action to remove content inciting “acts of terror against Jews.”
The Times of Israel reported that Erdan said on Sunday that France, Germany, and other European countries already have adopted similar legislation. However, critics have accused the Israeli government of utilizing “terrorism” discourse in order to justify and further entrench the Israeli military’s half-century occupation of the West Bank and near decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip.
Erdan also defended the bill’s application to Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory, using the Israeli term “Judea and Samaria,” and underscored his concerns that Facebook did not recognize Israeli military control over the West Bank.
“If someone writes something problematic and they live in Judea and Samaria, [Facebook] won’t cooperate with us and they say it’s outside of Israel and therefore they can’t cooperate,” the Times of Israel reported Erdan as saying.
In recent months, Israel has detained scores of Palestinians for social media activity, alleging that a wave of unrest that first swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged largely by “incitement.” The violence has left 245 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers, as well as some 34 Israelis killed by Palestinians.
Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon as reasons for the rise of unrest.
Israel has responded to the perceived threat of social media incitement by blaming Facebook for not doing more to censor posts promoting “terrorism” against Israelis.
Following a series of deadly incidents, Erdan reportedly said that Facebook chairman and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg had “blood on his hands” for not adequately cooperating with Israel to remove content.
In July, an Israeli lawyer filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook Inc., claiming that the social media platform allowed members of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas to plan and carry out attacks against Americans and Israelis.Commenting on the suit against them, Facebook referenced its community standards, and highlighted its ‘report’ tool, which allows and encourages Facebook users to flag content that they deem as encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech.
Facebook also cited its track record regarding incitement, referencing a case in March when the company took down a page promoting a Palestinian uprising against Israel because it made “direct calls for violence,” in violation of company policies.
In September, Erdan and Shaked met with Facebook executives to discuss the matter, reportedly looking to having the terms “intifada,” “Nazis,” “stabbings,” “shahid” (martyr), and “death to Jews,” censored as incitement against the state of Israel.
Shaked and Erdan also allegedly included the phrase “death to Arabs” — a slogan often heard in protests and mobs of extremist Israelis — saying that it too, led to incitement in general.
In response to incitement claims against Palestinians, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat condemned the current Israeli government for its failure to “entrench a culture of peace and coexistence within Israeli society” in July, holding Israel responsible for incitement, saying “official Israeli discourse entrenches hatred, racism, and discriminatory attitudes against Palestinians. The discourse is only further entrenched by the institutional protection that is given to those who commit or incite violence against Palestinians.”
Shaked herself has used Facebook in the past to advocate for the killing of the mothers of slain Palestinians, referring to them as ‘snakes.’
“They should follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go as should the physical houses in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise more little snakes are raised,” she wrote on the social media platform in the summer of 2014, just one day before a group of Israeli settlers attacked, beat, and burned alive Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager from occupied East Jerusalem

India slams Pak for calling RSS ‘terrorist elements’ – Kashmir Times

NEW DELHI, Dec 30 (Agencies): India today slammed Pakistan for labeling certain Indian political parties and social organisations as terror outfits, calling it a “desperate attempt” at deflecting international focus from Islamabad’s complicity in “spawning” terrorist groups like LeT, JuD and JeM. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Pakistan Foreign Ministry’s statement yesterday linking political parties and social organisations to terror was “Absurd even by Pakistan’s standards”. “Labelling bonafide Indian political parties and social and cultural organisations as terrorist organisations seems a desperate attempt to deflect international focus from Pakistan’s own complicity in spawning internationally proscribed organisations like LeT, JuD and JeM, which continue to target Pakistan’s neighbours from territory under Pakistan’s control,” he said. Swarup was responding to a query on Pakistan’s comments yesterday on Jammu and Kashmir and allegations against certain political parties and organisations. The official spokesperson of Pakistan Foreign Ministry had yesterday said, “Terrorist organisations such as RSS, Vishwa Hindu Prasad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and othe

Source: India slams Pak for calling RSS ‘terrorist elements’ – Kashmir Times

School boy killed as Pak troops open fire, shell Poonch village – Kashmir Times

POONCH, Dec 30: A teenaged student was killed after Pakistan troops resorted to heavy firing and shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Degwar sector of Poonch district. Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing using light, medium and heavy weapons this evening at around 4.05 PM. A youth identified as Tanvir Hussain, 15, (ninth standard student), son of Faiz Hussain resident of Noorkote lost his life in the firing. Official sources said troops of 154 Mujahidin and 24 ST Army opened unprovoked firing from their forward Bakri-I, Bakri-II, Bakri-III and Mirza Complex Posts with small and medium arms upon Indian Posts Nool, Maidan, Hathi, Sarla Pir, Begum, Cheeta and Ghora. Troops of 15 MLI and 12 JAT here initially restrained themselves from firing but when they observed suspicious movement on the other side of fence they responded with equal caliber and the exchange of fire continued till late night. Earlier, Army said that Pakistani army resorted to indiscriminate firing of small arms, automatics and mortars at 4.55 p.m. on Indian army posts along the LoC in Poonch sector. “The Indian Army posts are retaliating strongly and effectively and heavy firing exchanges are pres

Source: School boy killed as Pak troops open fire, shell Poonch village – Kashmir Times

Violent clashes in many areas as strike hits life in Kashmir – Kashmir Times

SRINAGAR, Dec 30: Normal life was affected in Kashmir today due to a separatist sponsored general strike. Cashes occurred between protestors and security forces after Friday prayers at several places. JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik was arrested in Pulwama. After five days of normalcy, routine life was again affected today in Valley due to a strike. Subsequently most shops and other business establishments in most parts remained closed. Public and private transport was mostly off the roads. The separatist leadership Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik had asked the people to hold strong protest demonstrations against what they called as issuing of “domicile certificates” to non-state subject West Pakistani Refugees residing in Jammu areas. The state government has said no such certificates are being issued to them. Reports said clashes and protests erupted shortly after Friday prayers in Pulwama while police arrested JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik when he tried to lead a protest march in the town. He had reached Pulwama town in the middle of the night, came out of the Jamia Masjid after congregational Friday prayers to lead the protest ral

Source: Violent clashes in many areas as strike hits life in Kashmir – Kashmir Times

Police Say Pilot on Canadian Airline Found Passed Out Drunk

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

CALGARY, Alberta — Canadian police have charged a pilot for Sunwing Airlines with impairment after he was allegedly found passed out over his seat before takeoff early Saturday.

Police said the pilot boarded the Boeing 737 with 99 passengers and six crew members in Calgary, Alberta for a flight that was scheduled to make stops in Regina, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, Manitoba before continuing on to Cancun, Mexico.

But before it took off, police said the gate crew as well as crewmembers on the aircraft indicated he was behaving strangely.

Police allege the co-pilot found the pilot passed out in the cockpit.

“They found him slumped over in the seat. He was the captain,” Calgary Sgt. Paul Stacey told a news conference.

The pilot was escorted from the plane and has been charged with having care and control of an aircraft while being impaired, as well as having a blood-alcohol level exceeding .08 while in care and control of an aircraft.

Stacey said police allege the suspect had three times the legal amount of alcohol in his system.

“Because he has as much alcohol in his system as he does, they’re going to wait for him to sober up somewhat before he goes before a justice of the peace,” Stacey said.

Police said the pilot’s name will be released after he has appeared in court.

Sunwing spokeswoman Janine Massey praised the rest of the crew for handling what she called a “very unfortunate matter.”

“We can confirm that shortly before 7 a.m. local time, the gate agents, first officer and crew of Sunwing flight 595, departing from Calgary and destined for Cancun, determined that the captain was unfit to fly and reported this accordingly,” Massey stated.

Sunwing, a low cost Canadian carrier, said the plane took off a short time later with another captain.

“We are very apologetic for any upset that this has caused and would like to assure our customers that safety remains our utmost priority,” Massey said.

Stacey said Transport Canada has been contacted and he expected the suspect could face additional charges.

“It had all the potential for a disaster but I’ll tell you this much — the likelihood of a pilot on a major airline like this actually being able to take off when they’re impaired like that is pretty slim, because there’s a lot of checks and balances. There’s the other flight crew and there’s gate crew and they’re all about safety,” Stacey said.

“So, I’m not surprised that he got caught before (the plane) left the terminal.”

Transport Canada spokesman Dan Dugas said in an email that it is a criminal offence in Canada for a flight crew to work within eight hours of consuming alcohol or while under the influence.

Dugas said Transport Canada is reviewing the pilot’s records and Sunwing Airlines’ procedures and protocols.

With Trump, Russia Goes From Thursday’s Foe of U.S. to Friday’s Friend

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with President Obama in Hangzhou, China, in September.CreditAlexei Druzhinin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MOSCOW — The diatribe against the Obama administration on prime-time television by a Russian Foreign Ministry official was hardly unusual in the long history of rocky relations between the United States and Russia.

The administration “demonstrated the belief that the strongest has the right to create evil,” Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said on the Christmas Day broadcast.

From Washington’s perspective, it is the Kremlin that generally personifies evil, a point President Obama made on Thursday in punishing Russia for cyberattacks by directing new sanctions against Moscow and expelling 35 Russian diplomats. “The United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

The two statements appeared to be business as usual — each side representing enemy No. 1 for the other. By Friday that mood had been abruptly cast aside, however. President Vladimir V. Putin announced that Russia would do nothing in response to the new American measures, awaiting the next administration, prompting President-elect Donald J. Trump to call him “very smart” in a Twitter post.

Continue reading the main story

With the sitting president calling Russia a national security threat and the incoming one praising Mr. Putin, many American voters, long accustomed to being suspicious about Russia, are understandably confused and uneasy. Russia was an enemy on Friday morning, and a friend by the afternoon.

“We are in a whiplash moment right now, and I think it is unprecedented in several respects,” said Cliff Kupchan, the chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk assessment firm in Washington, and a former State Department official from the Clinton administration. “The most important one is that the baton is about to be passed from an administration with a very hard line on Russia to one that is very much more sympathetic.”

No clear agreements or even offers are on the table yet, however, bringing uncertainty. “Russia’s relations with the U.S. are currently up in the air — both sides have no clear strategy about how to move them forward,” said Aleksandr Morozov, an independent Russian political analyst.

Until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and even for years afterward, matters were more black and white. A young American diplomat stationed in Moscow named George F. Kennan established the parameters of the relationship for decades with a famous 1947 policy paper. The Soviet Union was bent on expansion, he wrote, so the main element of any United States policy had to be containment.

Thus began a long roller coaster ride for the two countries, full of periodic upswings as friends when détente was in vogue, inevitably followed by precipitous plummets as foes that left the world shuddering about the prospects of a nuclear Armageddon.

Tensions eased periodically, but it never seemed to last.

President Ronald Reagan, an implacable anti-Communist, surprised the world by reaching out to the man who turned out to be the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to begin negotiations for far-reaching arms control agreements between the two sides.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Russian Federation that emerged entered into an extended period of decline and, inevitably, friendship with the United States as a kind of junior partner.

That “junior” aspect rankled, however, particular after Mr. Obama went from seeking to reset relations to dismissing Russia as a “regional power.”

The latest crisis began in 2014, with a revolution in Ukraine that Mr. Putin labeled an American plot — he, as many Soviet leaders have, sees the hidden hand of Washington everywhere. Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and armed rebels in eastern Ukraine, prompting Western economic sanctions, which Mr. Trump has disparaged.

The last confrontation under the Obama administration between Moscow and Washington came to a head this fall after American intelligence agencies concluded that hacking by their Russian counterparts had breached national security, cracking open the computers of the Democratic National Committee to reveal emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump initially encouraged the Kremlin to hack even more, breaking with all precedents, not least the Republican tradition of painting Russia as the evil empire, as Mr. Reagan called it.

Mr. Obama waited to react until last week, and it looked as if he might leave his successor a diplomatic tempest, until Mr. Putin, long the master of the unexpected stroke, defused it.

Mr. Trump suddenly gained room to maneuver.

“Trump’s spirit is already here, and already changing Russia’s policies,” said Igor M. Bunin, the director of the Center for Political Technologies, a Moscow research institute. “This will be a great plus for future relations.”

There are still potential pitfalls, however, not least that Congress does not share an affectionate view of Mr. Putin.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, plans to open hearings on Thursday on Russia’s efforts to manipulate the presidential election. Much of the Republican establishment in Congress endorsed the new sanctions imposed against Russia, putting them at odds with Mr. Trump.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, was with Mr. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, last week to tour the Baltic States, which fear being the next target of the Russian military.

“The Russian cyberattack, and the misinformation and propaganda — they have been living with this for decades,” Ms. Klobuchar said in an interview.

American voters have heard Mr. Trump praise Russia, and some in the far right have hailed Mr. Putin as a hero for espousing conservative values. Yet old instincts die hard.

“I worry about what our relationship with other countries is going to be with a Trump presidency, if we buddy-buddy up to Russia and a leader who is not so democratic in nature,” said Alexis Matter, 35, walking through a Denver shopping mall.

In Sandy Springs, Ga., Chase Williams, 26, the manager of a pet supply store, said that Russia had fallen off the radar in recent years. His fears now were less of the old Cold War over a nuclear weapons attack than a sense that Mr. Putin could outfox the American administration.

“When I say Russia scares me, it’s not because I’m scared of them coming over here and doing something,” Mr. Williams said. “I’m scared when I see a chess player playing checkers — and we are checkers.”

Mr. Putin has made no secret of the fact that he would like to re-establish the consensus reached with the United States at the 1945 Yalta conference that carved the globe into spheres of influence.

Russia no longer has the might needed to assert its right to be a superpower, analysts say, but if nothing else, cyberattacks have underscored that you do not need nuclear weapons or a strong economy to assert global influence.

Some Russian analysts wonder what Mr. Putin can offer Mr. Trump. A former K.G.B. agent, he tends to view the world order as a series of special operations, coming from a different arena than Mr. Trump’s world of business deals. “I don’t think that Putin has a plan,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst and former media adviser to Mr. Putin. “I think that he is stunned by the number of bonus points that he has gotten.”

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad is on the verge of reasserting control over much of the country, thanks largely to Mr. Putin’s intervention. Ukraine presents some problems, but has essentially boiled down into the kind of frozen conflict that Russia uses to destabilize independent-minded neighbors. And all of the attention on the cyberattacks made Mr. Putin look strong.

In those successes, analysts see fodder for Mr. Putin to offer Mr. Trump a manner of foreign policy victory that would give the American leader something tangible to crow about at home in an arena where he lacks experience.

Russia, Iran and Turkey cut Washington out of the Syria negotiations, so Mr. Putin could bring the United States back in and forge a deal on fighting the Islamic State. Mr. Trump has stated that he wants to join forces with Russia in crushing the jihadists. Or the Kremlin could offer some sort of cyberspace deal.

“I think that Putin is in a strong position,” said Nicolai Petrov, a Russian political scientist. “He looks strong in relation to the United States and he has freedom to maneuver, and he can do what he wants to demonstrate that the United States should recognize that Russia is not a regional power but a great power that should be taken into account.”

So, for the moment, Mr. Putin appears a potential friend to Mr. Trump.

Few expect it to last, however. First of all, Mr. Trump is unpredictable. And fundamentally, the two countries are destined to be at odds, because they view the world through different lenses.

291COMMENTS

Russian policy in recent years has been trying to sow doubt and undermine public faith in Western governments. The Kremlin has relied on a variety of levers — disinformation campaigns, buying influence, cyberattacks — which many analysts expect to show up in crucial elections in the coming year in France and Germany.

“They are trying to create more of a level playing field not by raising Russia up, but through a declining West,” Mr. Kupchan said. “I don’t think Putin is out to make America great again.”

PM Modi rings in new year with mini-budget of sops, focuses on poor

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

PM Modi rings in new year with mini-budget of sops, focuses on poor

INDIA Updated: Dec 31, 2016 23:57 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Highlight Story

People watching live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at an electronic shop in Patna on Saturday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a slew of schemes on Saturday evening to herald a prosperous 2017 for the urban and rural poor, farmers, small businessmen, senior citizens and pregnant women.Modi started on a sombre note. For the first 23 minutes, he mainly thanked his countrymen for braving the cash crunch, iterated why demonetisation was a necessary weapon in his fight against black money and corruption and warned of more action against the dishonest.

“The law will take its course with full force. The government will help the honest, protect them, and see that their difficulties are eased,” he said.

Read: Full transcript of PM Narendra Modi’s New Year’s eve speech

In his address made to the nation on the very day the demonetisation exercise ended, the Prime Minister did not say much about curbs on withdrawals. He only said everyone in the government has been told that banking operations must return to normal as soon as possible.

Then he switched to announcement mode, rattling out enough measures to make his speech sound like a mini-budget.

The first in his list for 2017 were two housing schemes under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana (PMAY). For the urban poor, home loans up to Rs 9 lakh will get 4% interest exemption, and loans up to Rs 12 lakh will get 3%. In villages, home loans up to Rs 2 lakh will get 3% interest exemption. This would apply not only to loans for building new houses but also those taken for renovating or expanding an existing one.

In all, Modi said 33% more homes will be built in rural areas under the PMAY.

There was more for the rural poor, who got the lion’s share of the announcements. The govt will pay interest for 60 days on loans taken by farmers for Rabi farming from district cooperative banks and societies. It will give the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (Nabard) Rs 20,000 crore, which the bank will use for giving loans to cooperatives at low interest rates. Some 30 million kisan credit cards will be converted to RuPay cards, so their holders can make non-cash transactions at a large number of places.

Read: Focus on poor, small businesses: 5 highlights from PM Modi’s New Year’s eve speech

There was also a fair bit for small businessmen, generally referred to as MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). In a scheme under which the government guarantees loans raised by them, the limit has been doubled to Rs 2 crore. This will also cover loans from NBFCs. Banks have been told to raise the cash credit limit to small businesses from 20% to 25%.

Banks, the Prime Minister noted, tend to decrease interest payable on deposits when they are flush with funds – as they are now. The government will not allow them to pay senior citizens anything less than 8% on deposits up to Rs 7.5 lakh made for 10 years.

To reduce deaths during child birth, the government will deposit Rs 6,000 into the accounts of pregnant women. It can be used for registration and vaccination, among other things.

Modi also packed a punch for his political rivals. “The time has come for all political parties and leaders to respect the feelings of honest citizens and understand their anger. I urge them to move away from their holier-than-thou approach, and take actual steps towards reforming the system and getting rid of black money and corruption,” he said.

Read: BJP compliments, rivals criticise PM Modi’s New Year’s eve address