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Republicans shelve move to weaken ethics office after Trump’s criticism

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Washington, Jan 4, 2017: House Republicans on Tuesday shelved their plan to weaken the independent ethics entity — known as the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) — that investigates accusations of inappropriate conduct by congressmen and other personnel just two hours after President-elect Donald Trump questioned the move.

According to EFE news, to question the original motives of the lawmakers in his party, Trump wrote on twitter: “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority.”

“Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance,” the President-elect urged GOP lawmakers.

The magnate signed his latest tweet with the letters “DTS”, an abbreviation for his campaign slogan of “Drain the swamp”, a reference to rooting out corruption in Washington political circles.

In an urgent meeting behind closed doors, Republican House leaders — Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — managed to impose their will on their fellow lawmakers and postpone the debate on the measure scheduled for Tuesday, a move that quells the mini-rebellion launched on Monday night by House Republicans in another closed-door meeting.

In that Monday evening meeting, GOP lawmakers had voted to significantly restrict the power of the ethics office.

The vote, taken behind closed doors and with no prior announcement, came during a meeting at which Ryan and McCarthy opposed the measure.

On Tuesday, the newly-installed Congress goes back into session, with the Republicans having maintained its majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the November 8 elections.

The measure to “gut” the OCE adopted by Republicans at the Monday meeting was proposed by lawmaker Bob Goodlatte and would have placed the independent entity under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee, EFE news added.

In that way, GOP lawmakers were apparently seeking to gain control over the OCE’s monitoring role, ostensibly because the office in the past has ignored credible accusations of improper practices by certain lawmakers.

The OCE was established as a non-partisan and independent entity within Congress in 2008 under the leadership of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, after several corruption and other scandals involving congressmen.

In a statement on Tuesday, Pelosi had denounced the vote to weaken the office’s power, saying that it indicates that “ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, had defended the move, saying that it is not intended to “impede” the work of the OCE.

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North Korea suspends nuclear, ballistic missile testing

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North Korean Kim Jong un

Seoul, April 21: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday announced the immediate suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests.

“From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Efe quoted Kim as saying.

According to the report, North Korea will also close a nuclear test site in the country’s northern side in a bid to guarantee transparency in suspending nuclear tests.

Having established a nuclear deterrent, North Korea can now turn to overhauling its economy, Kim said.

Pyongyang’s decision comes ahead of Kim’s April 27 summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the demilitarized zone that divides the two countries.

The last bilateral talks between the leaders of North and South Korea took place 11 years ago.

US President Donald Trump, who accepted Kim’s proposal for a meeting after months that saw the two men trade insults and threats, praised the announcement from Pyongyang.

“North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World — big progress! Look forward to our Summit,” Trump said in a tweet.

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DJ Avicii dead at 28

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Madrid, April 21: World-renowned Swedish DJ and electronic music producer Avicii was found dead in Muscat, Oman, his agent said on Friday. He was 28.

“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii,” Efe quoted Diana Baron as saying.

“The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time,” Baron said. “No further statements will be given.”

Bergling had struggled with health problems, some caused by excessive drinking and was hospitalized for 11 days in 2012 for treatment of acute pancreatitis.

In early 2016, he announced his temporary retirement from touring, citing a desire to “explore other interests.”

“To me it was something I had to do for my health,” Bergling told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016, adding that he had taken on board “too much negative energy” from the music scene.

Avicii achieved global fame in 2011 with the release of his smash hit “Levels,” which was followed by other chart sensations, such as “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother”.

He was known for his collaborations with other artists, including Coldplay, David Guetta, Lenny Kravitz, Robbie Williams and Rita Ora.

In 2014, he teamed up with Carlos Santana, Wyclef Jean and Alexandre Pires on the official FIFA World Cup anthem, “We Will Find a Way”.

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IMF expects India’s role to expand in Indo-Pacific region

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International Monetary Fund

United Nations, April 21: The International Monetary Fund expects India’s role in the Indo-Pacific region’s development to continue to expand because of its robust growth, but it has to carry out more trade reforms, Ken Kang, the deputy director in IMF’s Asia Pacific Department said on Friday.

“Given our robust growth forecast where we see India’s growth rising from 7.4 per cent in 2017-18 to 7.8 per cent in 2019, we do expect India’s role in the region to continue to expand,” he said at a news conference in Washington.

“That being said, India does have room to expand its export orientation and to reduce further trade and non-trade barriers,” he added.

“The statutory tariff rate in India is relatively high at about 15 per cent, and higher than those in the rest of the region,” he added. “So there is room to do more on trade reform.”

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