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Trump impeachment: Key witness says he was offered Ukraine defence minister’s post

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Donald Trump MSNBC

New York, Nov. Nov 19 : A key witness in the impeachment hearing against US President Donald Trump said on Tuesady that he had been offered the post of Ukrainian Defence Minister.

National Security Council official Lt Col Alexander Vindman said while being questioned during his testimony that Oleksandr Danyliuk, an influential Ukrainian politician, had made the offer.

At that time Danyliuk was close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but subsequently had a falling out and was ousted as Finance Minister.

Vindman was born in Ukraine and his family fled to the US when he was a child.

He and another official, who had officially listened on the contentious call between Trump and Zelensky, testified that they were concerned about the request he made to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son with regard to their involvement in a Ukrainian business.

Vindman said that Trump’s request was “improper” and could affect bipartisan support for that country leading to undermining “national security, and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”

“It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent,” he said.

He also said that when he met Zelensky, he advised him to stay out of US domestic politics.

Vice President Mike Pence’s foreign policy staffer Jennifer Williams said that she found the request to Zelensky for the investigations as political.

A dramatic moment came when House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff was preparing to question Williams about a call between Trump and Zelensky on September 18. A lawyer said Pence had declared it classified which could not be discussed in a public hearing.

The impeachment case centres around Biden’s son Hunter becoming a director of the Ukraine gas company Burisma and receiving $83,000 a month from it, and the Vice President’s successful effort to have a prosecutor looking into the company removed.

Hunter, who was allegedly removed from the Navy for drug use, had no expertise in energy or Ukraine when he was appointed.

The Republicans want Hunter Biden to testify at the impeachment hearing, but the Democrats, who control the House, have blocked it.

The Republican leader on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, tried to put the focus on Hunter Biden by asking several leading questions to the two officials about his activities and Burisma’s corruption.

They asserted that they had no direct knowledge of the matters involving the Bidens, but the issue got a public hearing on national television and got on the record.

Another matter that Trump wanted to be investigated was if Ukraine was involved in leaking embarrassing Democratic Party emails during the 2016 elections, rather than Russia.

Schiff in his questioning of the witnesses emphasised that the US Intelligence Committee’s conclusion was that it was only Russia, and that Moscow was trying to shift the responsibility to Kyiv.

Vindman agreed that it was Russia and not Ukraine that was involved in the leaks.

Schiff also brought up the withholding of $1 billion in aid to Ukraine — which was subsequently released.

He said that releasing the aid was made conditional on Ukraine launching the probe — a point Democrats had made linking it to accusations of bribery against Trump.

The witnesses were non-committal on this aspect.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “To press a foreign leader to announce an investigation into his political rival, President Trump put his own personal and political interests above those of the nation. He undermined our military and diplomatic support for a key ally, and undercut US anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine.”

Nunes began with a scorching criticism of the mainstream media accusing it of being “puppets” of the Democratic Party.

After highlighting accusations since discredited about Trump’s campaign involvement with Russia during the 2016 elections as “hoax”, he said the mainstream media outlets are now playing up the impeachment hearings and the Ukraine factor.

Schiff has blocked the Republican request to call the anonymous whistleblower, who had set off the impeachment probe by complaining that from what he had heard about the July 25 call that an improper request had been made .

Nunes asked a series of questions about Vindman’s contacts with a member of the intelligence community regarding the call.

Vindman refused to answer it, and the refusal was upheld by Schiff.

Earlier in a tweet, Trump had hinted that Williams was a “Never Trumper,” one of those vehemently opposed to this his election.

His tweet said, “Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released statement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Last month, Trump had also called Vindman a “Never Trumper”. He had tweeted, “Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!”

Schiff reiterated at the start of the hearing that the committee would protect witnesses against reprisals and cautioned against threatening them.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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FM Sitharaman may push for Rs 30K cr interim dividend from RBI to meet low revenue generation, slowdown

The government is fighting a six year low growth, subdued demand and consumption leading to projections of 5 per cent growth in current fiscal which is an 11 year drop.

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RBI governor Shaktikanta Das and FM Nirmala Sitharaman RBI governor Shaktikanta Das and FM Nirmala Sitharaman and at the post-Budget meeting (Picture Credit DNA)

The Finance Ministry is likely to push for Rs 25,000-30,000 crore interim dividend from RBI, for the third time in a row, to check slippages in the fiscal deficit of 3.3 per cent in 2019-20.

The central bank and government may touch upon the issue when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will meet RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das at post Budget Vision customary meeting.

Government has a Budget estimate of Rs 90,000 crore dividend from RBI in FY20. RBI follows a fiscal of July-June. The interim dividend of the RBI’s total dividend for 2019-20 (July-June) can help the government check 3.3 per cent fiscal deficit target slippage.

In the past RBI has paid a total Rs 38,000 crore as interim dividend (Rs 28,000 crore in FY19 and Rs 10,000 crore in FY18).

“If the RBI board recommends, then it will be the third time when interim payout will be given to the government,” said sources.

The central bank had paid Rs 28,000 crore as interim dividend from its 2018-19 fiscal accounts (July-June) in February, which helped the government contain deficit at 3.4 per cent in the last fiscal.

The Reserve Bank follows July-June financial year and usually distributes the dividend in August after annual accounts are finalised and interim dividends if any, they are given around February to the government.

Seeking interim dividends are not common. The Bimal Jalan-led committee on the RBI’s economic capital framework recommended in August that an interim dividend should be paid to the government only in “exceptional circumstances”.

The Finance Ministry’s contention is that this year has “exceptional circumstances” because of the slowdown, low revenue generation and outgo of Rs 1.45 lakh crore due to corporate tax cuts.

For 2018-19 (July-June), the RBI transferred a total of Rs 1.76 trillion to the central government, including a one-time transfer of Rs 52,637 crore which was deemed as excess reserves and comprising Rs 1,23,414 crore of surplus for the year 2018-19.

The government is fighting a six year low growth, subdued demand and consumption leading to projections of 5 per cent growth in current fiscal which is an 11 year drop.

On Monday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) slashed India’s FY20 growth forecast to 4.8 per cent, besides trimming global outlook and said India’s slow growth is dragging down the world economy.

The Finance Ministry might seek the interim dividend from the RBI to meet some of the financial pressure due to the low revenue generation from taxes and disinvestment and slowdown, said the sources.

The RBI largely earns profits on its trading of currencies and government bonds. Part of these earnings are set aside by the RBI for its operational and contingency needs while the rest is transferred to the government in the form of dividends.

The Union Budget 2019-20 had pegged dividend or surplus of the RBI, nationalised banks and financial institutions at Rs 1.06 lakh crore up from Rs 74,140.37 crore realised in the previous fiscal.

(Anjana Das can be contacted at [email protected])

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31% Goa IT workers battle hypertension, 40% overweight: Study

“Thirty seven (31.4 per cent) had hypertension, 50 (42.4 per cent) suffered from pre-hypertension… 13 (11.2 per cent) had diabetes mellitus and three (2.5 per cent) blood sugar in pre-diabetic range,” the study noted.

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Panaji, Jan 20 : Nearly 31 per cent of the IT sector workforce in Goa suffers from hypertension whereas more than 40 per cent are either overweight or obese, a cross-sectional study of IT professionals working in the coastal state has revealed.

“A majority of the 118 surveyed employees — 63 (53.4 per cent) — had normal range body mass index, seven (5.9 per cent ) were underweight, 40 (33.9 per cent) overweight, six (5.1 per cent) class I obesity and two (1.7 per cent ) class II obesity,” the study by Preksha P Vernekar, Kalyani and Jagadish A Cacodcar said.

“Thirty seven (31.4 per cent) had hypertension, 50 (42.4 per cent) suffered from pre-hypertension… 13 (11.2 per cent) had diabetes mellitus and three (2.5 per cent) blood sugar in pre-diabetic range,” the study noted.

“A significant prevalence of lifestyle diseases is noticed among the participants in the study. Lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidaemia and overweight/obesity are major risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease,” as per the study published in the Epidemiology International journal.

Considerable pre-hypertension cases raised concern over possible cardiovascular morbidities along with complications in due course of time, the research paper’s authors pointed out.

The study data was collected from health records of 118 IT professionals working in four top Information Technology firms in Goa, whose government is pitching the coastal state as a destination for IT start-ups.

The study authors, all medical professionals working at the state’s top government-run medical facility, also underlined the need for periodic health checkups to ensure timely detection and early management of health problems.

“The companies should have mandatory periodic health check-ups of their employees, preferably at their health centres, to gain better insight into their general health status.

“Pre-placement examination of employees is must to know their working capacity so as to ensure ergonomics as well as to procure first-hand knowledge on health problems workers may be suffering from before employment,” the study recommended.

The study suggested the introduction of stress-busting modules in the IT work space to ensure better physical and mental health of staff, which ensured better performance by the workforce.

“Health education on diet, physical activity and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation can be imparted to employees. These steps will finally improve their performance and in turn lead to decreased incidence of morbidities, absenteeism due to sickness and job stress, thereby leading to optimum work output,” the study said.

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BJP denies tickets to 3-time MLA Kulwant Rana, 25 others

Rana became the youngest candidate to win the elections in 2003, while he retained his seat from Rithala constituency in 2008 and 2013 too.

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New Delhi, Jan 17 : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday announced the first list of candidates for the Delhi Assembly elections to be held on February 8.

In its first list, the party announced 57 candidates while it denied tickets to 26 leaders, including former state vice president and three time MLA Kulwant Rana.

Rana became the youngest candidate to win the elections in 2003, while he retained his seat from Rithala constituency in 2008 and 2013 too.

The BJP has still not announced its candidates for 13 seats, including New Delhi, Mehrauli and Sangam Vihar.

The party has fielded Manish Chaudhary in place of Rana from Rithala. Sources said the party denied a ticket to Rana as he was involved in some controversies.

Similarly, Rajni Abbi has been replaced by Surendra Singh Bittu in Timarpur, while Rajesh Yadav from Badli, Gugan Singh Ranga from Bawana, Prabhu Dayal from Sultanpur Majra, Surjeet from Mangolpuri and Nandkishor from Trinagar have not been given tickets for the upcoming Assembly polls.

The party has also denied the ticket to Vivek Garg, who lost the elections in 2015 from the Model Town seat, and fielded former AAP Minister Kapil Mishra, who joined the BJP after quitting AAP.

The party has also denied tickets to Praveen Jain from Sadar Bazar, Shyam Lal from Ballimaran, B.B. Tyagi from Laxmi Nagar, Jitendra Chaudhary from Gandhi Nagar, Sanjay Jain from Seelampur, Ajay Mahawat from Ghonda and Krishna Teerath from Patel Nagar.

The party has also changed the candidates in Janakpuri, Uttam Nagar, Palam, Jangpura, Malviya Nagar, Ambedkar Nagar, Greater Kailash, Kondli and Patparganj.

(Navneet Mishra can be reached at [email protected])

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