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Trump ordered to pay $2 million to charities

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Donald Trump

New York, Nov 8 A New York judge has ordered President Donald Trump to pay $2 million for persistently violating state charities laws as part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit.

The payment is the settlement – and thus the final resolution – in a case filed by the New York Attorney General’s Office after the Trump Foundation, during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, organised a fundraiser for military veterans and collected almost $3 million that was subsequently disbursed on the eve of the Iowa caucuses at the direction of then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Efe news reported on Thursday.

Judge Saliann Scarpulla ruled that the $2 million settlement must be personally paid by Trump for breaching his fiduciary duty to properly oversee the activities of the Trump Foundation.

“I direct Mr. Trump to pay the $2,000,000, which would have gone to the Foundation if it were still in existence, on a pro rata basis to the Approved Recipients,” Scarpulla wrote in her ruling.

The Foundation previously agreed to cease its operations and must pay the settlement to a group of nonprofit organizations.

On November 23, 2018, Scarpulla had refused to throw out the case launched the previous June against Trump, his children Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric and the foundation bearing his name after defence attorneys argued that a sitting president could not be sued in state court.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James confirmed in a statement an agreement according to which Trump would be fined for damages and improperly using the charitable donations for personal, political and business purposes, including legal settlements, campaign contributions and – in a move that, when it became public, was widely mocked – even to purchase a portrait of himself to hang at one of his hotels.

James wrote that Trump will remain subject to continuous supervision by her office and his childen had to submit to measures to ensure that this type of illegal activity never recurs.

She also wrote that the court decision, along with other agreements that her office is negotiating, were a significant victory in protecting charitable assets and holding accountable anyone who abuses charitable organisations for their personal benefit.

Trump’s attorneys argued that the lawsuit was politically motivated and all donations were used for charitable purposes according to law. Regarding the Trump portrait, the defence team claimed that the real estate mogul bid $10,000 of Foundation money on a portrait of himself at a 2014 charity auction merely to kick off the bidding, but when no one else would bid on the work the Foundation found itself forced to “buy” the painting.

Meanwhile, Trump has consistently attacked the lawsuit, blaming it on “sleazy New York Democrats.”

The $1.78 million in assets currently in the possession of the Trump Foundation, along with the $2 million that Trump will have to personally pay will be disbursed in equal measure to eight charitable organisations: Army Emergency Relief, Children’s Aid Society, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Give an Hour, Martha’s Table, the United Negro College Fund, the United Way of National Capital Area and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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Residential lockdowns cover half of China’s population: Reports

NHC spokesperson Mi Feng made the remarks at a press conference in Beijing, citing the epidemic data in the province over the past week.

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Japan China Pneumonia

Beijing, Feb 19 : More than half of China’s population now faces some form of restrictions due to the country’s ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), say reports based on analysis of government announcements.

According to a report in The New York Times over the weekend, about 760 million people are dealing with restrictions that may vary from one area to another. If at one place, residents may find checkpoints at building entrances, at another place, they may be dealing with hard limits on going outdoors.

As per a CNN analysis published on Monday, more than 780 million people in the country face various forms of travel restrictions including self-quarantines and limits on who can enter and leave a particular neighbourhood.

The death toll due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in China rose to over 2,000 on Wednesday as 136 new deaths from the disease were reported, while the confirmed cases stood at 74,185, the health authorities announced.

The restrictions are particularly strict in four cities of Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, according to the CNN analysis.

The use of non-essential vehicles on local roadways is also banned in these four cities — Wuhan, Huanggang, Shiyan and Xiaogan.

People in these cities are not allowed to leave their residential complexes and they get their daily necessities from neighbourhood and community communities.

These restrictions are often enforced by thousands of volunteers and Communist Party workers, according to The New York Times report.

While these restrictions have been imposed to reduce the spread of the virus, they have also prevented people from returning to their work, adversely affecting the country’s economy.

An official with China’s National Health Commission said the COVID-19 epidemic in Hubei province has been gradually brought under control, Xinhua reported on Wednesday.

NHC spokesperson Mi Feng made the remarks at a press conference in Beijing, citing the epidemic data in the province over the past week.

The daily count of newly cured and discharged cases in Hubei, excluding the capital city of Wuhan, has exceeded the number of newly confirmed cases for four consecutive days as of Wednesday, said Mi.

He also noted that the number of newly confirmed cases has decreased significantly since February 13 in areas besides Wuhan, and the increase in the cumulative number of confirmed cases has remained flat.

It shows that with the implementation of various prevention and control measures and the strengthening of incoming medical support, the epidemic situation in Hubei has been brought under control and the recovery rate has continuously improved, said Mi.

On Wednesday, 1,693 new confirmed cases were reported in Hubei, including 1,660 in Wuhan.

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Hardline Iran and aggressive nationalism

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s parliamentary polls are likely to elect a hardline Parliament when the country goes to the polls to choose a new Majlis on February 21. With an economy battered by renewed American sanctions and US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, Iran will turn more conservative after the new Parliament is elected.

The Guardian Council, appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected more than half the candidates, leaving an electoral arena dominated by hardliners. The large scale disqualification of reformist candidates has led to public disinterest in the polls and demands from dissident groups to boycott the elections.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has appealed to the people to cast their ballot in the February 21 election, but there is growing concern in Tehran that polling levels may drop sharply due to the voters ire at the high level of disqualifications. The present Majlis has about 100 reformists in the 290-member house, while the rest comprise hardline conservatives as well as a sizeable number of independents.

The Guardian Council has vetted the candidates in all parliamentary elections, and has usually rejected from 15 per cent to 40 per cent of the candidates in any election. But this time the rejection rate is much higher than before, leading to general disenchantment with the forthcoming elections. More than half the candidates for the parliamentary elections have not been approved and the rejections include many members of the existing Parliament.

The Majlis enacts legislation, approves the budget and ratifies international agreements. The election of a conservative legislature would affect the functioning of the government led by President Rouhani. The election result would also act as an indicator for the next presidential elections that are due in just over a year in mid-2021.

Iran has suffered under the additional sanctions imposed by the US after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement in 2018. The additional sanctions severely impacted Iran’s economy, which has led to increasing unrest among the people. Public anger erupted in November last year when thousands of Iranians staged street protests in different parts of the country over hikes in fuel prices. The protests were put down through harsh action by the security forces. Tensions with the US escalated after Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani was killed in a targeted US air strike in January. Soleimani, a leader and General was deeply admired in Iran and the region, and his assassination had shocked most Iranians. But in the confrontation with the US, Iranian forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet plane killing all 176 passengers near Teheran. There was outrage in Iran and angry protests as officials first sought to deny and cover-up the incident before admitting that the passenger aircraft had been shot down by mistake.

Iran has gone through economic and political crisis; the reformists have been under pressure ever since the US quit the nuclear agreement. Though there was widespread support for the nuclear agreement in Iran, many hardliners had opposed the agreement. Trump’s rejection of the agreement seemed to validate the objections of the hardliners. Rouhani’s government has been criticised by the reformists for failing to fulfil election promises of providing greater freedoms and easing social restrictions, while the hardliners have attacked him for negotiating with western powers on the nuclear agreement which collapsed after Trump targeted Iran and reimposed sanctions.

The current Parliament was elected in 2016 when the moderates gained ground after a spell of conservative rule under President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. In 2016, a combination of reformists, centrists and moderate conservatives had won about 41 per cent of the seats, while the hardliners won 29 per cent and 28 per cent went to independent candidates. In 2004, large-scale disqualification of candidates before the polls had marginalised the reformist sections for several years and created the conditions for the election of hardliner, Ahmedinejad.

The 2016 elections brought back the reformists and moderates to power. The 2016 election was seen as Iran moving towards a more open society with greater social freedoms. A conservative or hardline Parliament will set the path to a more aggressively nationalist policy towards the US, and make it increasingly difficult for any government to make any moves towards engaging with the US.

(Shubha Singh is a foreign policy and strategic affairs commentator. The views expressed are personal. She can be reached at [email protected])

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Trump may land in Jaipur if Delhi weather is poor

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Donald Trump
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Jaipur, Air Force One carrying United States President Donald Trump may land in Jaipur in Rajasthan at the start of his scheduled visit to India this month in case weather conditions at the Delhi International Airport are poor, airport officials here confirmed on Wednesday.

US Embassy’s three-member team visited the Jaipur airport on Monday, followed by another visit by a four-member team on Tuesday to check on infrastructure and other facilities.

Official sources confirmed that the team had given its consent to use the city airport as an alternative landing spot for the plane carrying the visiting dignitary and his entourage.

Jaideep Singh Balhara, Director, Airports Authority of India, Jaipur, said: “The airport is well-equipped to handle the VVIP flight as we have a reserved bay for the purpose. We shall use all standard operating procedure necessary for the safe landing of such flights.”

Airport officials revealed that they have been asked to remain on alert mode from February 23 to 24. Trump is scheduled to visit India on February 24 and 25.

“An aircraft carrying the US President’s security detail is likely to land in Jaipur on February 23, which shall be on a standby mode in case the flight carrying Trump lands here,” said an official.

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