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Melania, Ivanka forego wearing headscarves in Saudi Arabia

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Melania Trump

Washington, May 22 : First lady Melania Trump and the oldest child of President Donald Trump, Ivanka, on Sunday created controversy in the US when they refused to wear headscarves in Saudi Arabia.

Interestingly, Trump had criticised former first lady Michelle Obama for failing to wear the head covering when she visited the Arab nation in 2015, Efe reported.

Melania and Ivanka are accompanying Trump on his first international trip as president, arriving in Riyadh on Saturday, the first stop on a journey that will take him to Israel, The Vatican and to NATO and G7 summits in Brussels and Sicily, respectively.

The first lady and Ivanka on Saturday appeared at several official events in the Saudi capital with uncovered heads, although they did conform to the conservative kingdom’s accepted modesty norms by wearing sober outfits consisting of loose-fitting pantsuits with long-sleeved blouses in dark colours.

According to the Saudi kingdom’s strict dress code, Saudi women who go out in public must wear the “abaya,” a loose over-garment or robe, and many also hide their hair by wearing the “hijab,” or Islamic headscarf.

However, it is normal for foreign women visiting the Arab country as part of international delegations not to cover their heads.

For instance, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not wear headscarves during their separate visits to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not cover her head on her several trips to the kingdom.

“Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies,” tweeted Trump on January 29, 2015, using a common social network abbreviation for the word “enough.”

On the other hand, some Republican politicians, including Senator Ted Cruz, at the time applauded Michelle Obama for her choice.

When asked about why Melania and Ivanka opted not to cover their heads in Saudi Arabia, the White House said that there was no requirement to wear such coverings, CNN reported.

On his first day in Riyadh, Trump was warmly welcomed and feted by the 81-year-old Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz.

The US and Saudi Arabia on Saturday signed a series of accords in various areas valued at $380 billion over the next 10 years.

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Saudi Arabia to hit back if US imposes sanctions

“The kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action,” the report added.

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Donald Trump Saudi Prince

Riyadh, Oct 14 : Saudi Arabia threatened on Sunday to hit back if the US were to impose sanctions on Riyadh in the wake of the disappearance of a Saudi journalist, according to the state-run SPA news agency.

US President Donald Trump had warned on Saturday that his administration could severely punish Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, if the kingdom was found responsible for the disappearance and possible murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, reports Efe news.

“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures or repeating false accusations,” the report by SPA said, citing an unnamed official source.

“The kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action,” the report added.

Earlier on Sunday, the Saudi stock market plunged nearly seven percent amid fears of imminent US sanctions.

Before Saturday’s comments, Trump had been reluctant to criticize Saudi Arabia and had said on Thursday that he was against cancelling the $110 billion US-Saudi arms deal over the journalist’s disappearance.

The possible murder of Khashoggi, a US permanent resident in self-imposed exile who had written critically against the Saudi monarchy, has generated a far stronger international backlash against the kingdom than the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has caused widespread famine in the already impoverished Arab country.

IANS

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Sugar mills worry over surplus, talk of ‘industry collapse’

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New Delhi, Oct 14 : With the availability of sugar set to reach an unprecedented level of 44 million tonnes thanks to huge unconsumed stock from last year and expected higher production this year, an imminent threat of “industry collapse” is being talked about. This has pushed mills to consider producing globally-accepted high-quality refined sugar as the most promising way to dispose off the surplus.

The decision of Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer, to lower production this year has given Indian industry an opportunity to fill the space. However, it will have to live up to global expectations, the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) has said.

It said the mills are planning to boost their exports by improving quality of sugar to 45 ICUMSA grade, a high quality refined grade and considered one of the highest purity levels globally.

“Currently, we produce sugar whose grade is between 100-150 ICUMSA. Till now, the domestic consumption offset the domestic output. So Indian sugar mills never bothered about producing high refined quality sugar as per the global standards,” NFCSF Managing Director Prakash Naiknavare told IANS.

ICUMSA is a global body and its rating is an international unit for expressing the purity of the sugar, which is directly related to the colour of the sweetener.

Brazil has decided to cut down sugar production by earmarking more cane for manufacturing ethanol, so India finds a space where the domestic surplus can be accommodated.

“To achieve it, we will have to produce sugar of 45 ICUMSA grade. It will take minimal efforts and capital to upgrade the existing machinery,” Naiknavare said.

India has a surplus (opening stock) of 10.5 million tonnes from the last season and it is expected to produce around 33.5 million tonnes of the sweetener in 2018-19 starting October.

So the total availability of sugar this year will be around 44 million tonnes against the expected domestic consumption of 26 million tonnes, thus putting a “burden” on the mills to clear huge sugar stocks in the backdrop of depressed retail prices — around Rs 37 per kg in the national capital compared to around Rs 40-43 a year ago.

As the sugar output in Brazil is to go down by almost 10 million tonnes, India is set to become the largest sugar producer in the world this year.

Naiknavare said it was “a god-sent” gift, which had provided India “with an opportunity to make perception that India can be a great destination” for high-quality refined sugar.

As per the initial estimates of the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), which represents private sugar mills in the country, India is set to produce around 35 million tonnes in the 2018-19 season starting October against 32.25 million tonnes in the previous year.

The NFCSF, however, said that the 2018-19 production figures would be around 33.5 million tonnes owing to the infection of white grub in Maharashtra and Karnataka, which damages roots leading to the death of cane.

The government can store three million tonnes. It will also help mills to export five million tonnes under the Minimum Indicative Export Quota (MIEQ) by compensating expenses towards internal transport, freight handling and other charges.

“The government’s assistance and incentives have been helpful to the industry. Even if we take all these into account, including 26 million tonnes of domestic consumption, there will be surplus of 10 million tonnes. If it is not disposed, the industry will collapse,” said Naiknavare, adding all stakeholders, including the ISMA, had started brainstorming on how to dispose the surplus.

The government, while announcing a bail-out package for the industry in June this year, had fixed minimum selling price (MSP) at the mill gate of Rs 2,900 per tonnes to ensure that retail prices do not fall further.

The average price sugar received at global market in last 15 days is roughly Rs 2,200- 2,400 per tonne.

However, the prices have been on the increase from last few days — 10.97 cents per pound on September 28 to 13.11 cents per pound on October 9 according to the International Sugar Organisation — a trend the Indian sugar industry finds positive.

Acting on the industry’s request, the central government had given a subsidy of Rs 55 per tonne of sugarcane to help mills to clear cane farmers’ arrears.

(Saurabh Katkurwar can be contacted at [email protected])

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Nikki Haley exits Trump administration with her reputation significantly enhanced

The clearest expression of her independence came in April over the question of whether the administration would impose new sanctions on Russia in response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria, which is effectively a client state of Moscow.

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Trump and Nikki Haley

Chicago, Oct 10 : Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN and the highest-ranking woman official in the Trump administration, is leaving with her reputation not only intact but even significantly enhanced.

As she prepares to leave at the end of 2018 after two years at the UN, the 46-year-old daughter of Indian American Sikh parents named Namrata, Haley is being widely seen as greatly skillful in negotiating the often incendiary and capricious administration under President Donald Trump.

With six years as the governor of South Carolina before her UN assignment, Haley is the first administration official who successfully carved out a reputation for independence even while not stepping on Trump’s toes.

If anything, she exits with Trump expressing sanguine fondness for her, calling her “very special to me”.

Even though Haley charted her own course as a UN diplomat in an administration run on presidential whims, she managed rather well in not attracting unvarnished attention of her boss.

The clearest expression of her independence came in April over the question of whether the administration would impose new sanctions on Russia in response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria, which is effectively a client state of Moscow.

In an interview with CBS News on April 15, Haley had said: “Russia sanctions will be coming down. (Treasury) Secretary (Steven) Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he has not already, and they will be going directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to (Syrian leader Bashar al-) Assad and chemical weapons use.”

“So I think everyone is going to be feeling it at this point. I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message, and our hope is that they listen to us,” she had said.

The comments apparently put the White House and openly Russia-friendly Trump in a bind, prompting top White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow to say that Haley had “got ahead of the curve”, adding, “There might have been some momentary confusion about that.”

Stung by the “momentary confusion” comment, Haley swatted right back in a memorable counter — “With all due respect, I don’t get confused” — in an interview with Fox News.

That strong but succinct rejoinder from Haley was her way of saying that while she may broadly support the President’s agenda she was not going to be a pushover.

Throughout her two years as the top US diplomat at the UN, Haley managed to strike a delicate balance between executing the Trump doctrine, such as it is, and maintaining her personal credibility with world diplomats.

She may not have intended it that way originally, but once in the job, she assiduously built up her foreign policy credentials for a future presidential run.

Of course, during a West Wing announcement of her departure in the presence of Trump on Tuesday, she pre-emptively said: “I don’t have anything set where I am going to go… And I will say this to all of you that are going to ask about 2020: No, I am not running for 2020.

“I can promise you what I’ll be doing is campaigning for this one.” While saying “this one” she pointed to Trump sitting to her left.

That was as definitive as it can get in politics and, as of now, there are no expectations that she might still run for president in 2020. Even if she chooses to run in 2024, Haley would be only 52. It is unlikely that she would fade out for the next five years.

She was expected to take a break after an intensive eight years of public service during which she has emerged as a star of the Republican Party at a time when Trump snuffs all the oxygen out.

She made it a point to praise Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner during the brief West Wing media interaction for their various engagements behind-the-scenes, perhaps making sure that she can ride some of the president’s base if she does indeed run in 2024.

(Mayank Chhaya can be contacted at [email protected])

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