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Trump takes lead over Clinton

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The US Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has come out of his convention ahead of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, topping her 44 per cent to 39 per cent in a four-way matchup including Gary Johnson (nine per cent) and Jill Stein (three per cent) and by three points in a two-way head-to-head, 48 per cent to 45 per cent, a media report said.

That latter finding represents a six-point convention bounce for Trump, which were traditionally measured in two-way matchups, CNN reported on Monday.

Trump’s new edge rests largely on increased support among independents, 43 per cent of whom said that Trump’s convention in Cleveland left them more likely to back him, while 41 per cent were dissuaded.

Pre-convention, independents split 34 per cent Clinton to 31 per cent Trump, with sizable numbers behind Johnson (22 per cent) and Stein (10 per cent). Currently, 46 per cent say they back Trump, 28 per cent Clinton, 15 per cent Johnson and 4 per cent Stein, CNN reported.

The poll also reflected a sharpening of the education divide among whites that had been prevalent throughout the campaign. Among white voters with college degrees, Clinton actually gained ground compared with pre-convention results, going from an even 40 per cent to 40 per cent split to a 44 per cent to 39 per cent edge over Trump. That while Trump expanded his lead with white voters who did not hold a college degree from a 51 per cent to 31 per cent lead before the convention to a 62 per cent to 23 per cent lead now.

Trump’s favourability rating is also on the rise — 46 per cent of registered voters say they have a positive view, up from 39 per cent pre-convention, while his advantage over Clinton on handling top issues climbs. He now holds double-digit margins over Clinton as more trusted on the economy and terrorism. Trump also cut into Clinton’s edge on managing foreign policy — 50 per cent said they trusted her more, down from 57 per cent pre-convention.

The convention also helped Trump make strides in his personal image. A majority (52 per cent) said that Trump was running for President for the good of the country rather than personal gain, just 44 per cent say the same about Clinton.

Despite Democratic criticism of the Republican convention’s message as divisive, the percentage who say Trump will unite the country rather than divide it has increased to 42 per cent, compared with 34 per cent pre-convention.

Clinton’s ratings on these same measures took a hit, though in most cases her drop-off was not quite as large as Trump’s gain. Perhaps most troubling for the Clinton supporters gathering in Philadelphia this week — 68 per cent say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, her worst rating, CNN reported.

Those positives for Trump come despite some sharply negative reviews for the convention itself. Almost 6 in 10 (58 per cent) said the Republican convention spent too much time attacking Democrats, and 18 per cent called Trump’s speech “terrible”.

At least, 40 per cent called the speech excellent or good and about 45 per cent said Trump’s speech reflected the way they feel about things in the US today; 48 per cent said it did not reflect their views.

The public rendered a split decision on whether the convention made them more or less likely to back Trump, 42 per cent said more likely while 44 per cent said less so, but the shift in voter preferences suggests the “more likely” side carried more weight. And most came away feeling ready to decide about Trump’s fitness for the job: 78 per cent say they already know enough to know whether he’d be a good president. Another 20 per cent think they need more information.

Two prominent convention speakers saw their stock rise post-convention as well. Favourability ratings for Trump’s wife, Melania, climbed from 27 per cent pre-convention to 43 per cent post-convention, despite news that her Monday night speech contained passages lifted from Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic convention speech.

The CNN/ORC poll suggests a large share of Republican voters still need to be won over. The share of Republicans who say their party is “united now” climbed from 16 per cent pre-convention to 24 per cent post-convention, but about 49 per cent say that it is not united, but will be by November, and there are still about a quarter who say the party won’t unite at all. Further, 45 per cent continue to say they did prefer someone other than Trump as the nominee.

The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted from July 22-24 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Results for the sample of 882 registered voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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Trump calls US court system ‘unfair’ after ‘Dreamers’ ruling: AFP

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — US President Donald Trump lashed out Wednesday at the US judicial system as “broken and unfair” after a judge blocked his decision to end a program that protects so-called “Dreamers” from deportation.

Earlier, the White House had called the ruling Tuesday by US District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco “outrageous,” coming the same day Trump met lawmakers from both camps on the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts,” Trump said in a tweet.

The DACA program, instituted by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama in 2012, protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children.

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American aid cuts to Pakistan won’t change its policy toward terrorism

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On Thursday, the State Department announced a freeze on most of Washington’s security aid to Pakistan. The decision won’t torpedo the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, as a rupture in relations would more likely result from a more drastic measure, such as designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror.

Still, a fragile partnership already on tenterhooks will now grow ever more tenuous, especially because cutting aid to the Pakistanis is unlikely to compel them to crack down on the terrorists that target American troops in Afghanistan. In other words, Pakistan won’t do what America wants it to do. That’s because Pakistan’s links to the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network, groups based in Pakistan that stage attacks in Afghanistan, serve longstanding national interests that are all but immutable.

Consider that these groups push back against the presence of Pakistan’s archenemy, India, in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Haqqani network may be fighting Afghan and American troops, but they’re also virulently anti-Indian and have attacked Indian targets in Afghanistan. Pakistan views India as an existential threat, and as the less powerful of the two, it must rely on asymmetric means to push back against India. Using non-state militant actors against its fearsome foe serves that purpose.
Additionally, Pakistan rightly believes U.S. forces will eventually leave Afghanistan. Amid the large-scale destabilization, including civil war, that may ensue, Pakistan wants to ensure it retains influence with and ties to the Taliban, arguably the most powerful non-state actor in Afghanistan. So the very terrorists that America wants Pakistan to eliminate are embraced by Pakistan as assets to be deployed against India, and as hedges against an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

For Pakistan, ties to terrorists amount to a strategic imperative. Being deprived of aid, even hundreds of millions of dollars of it, won’t change this calculus. It’s not as if the aid suspension will deliver a devastating blow to Pakistan. It can compensate by tapping into its deep security partnerships with Saudi Arabia and China. Pakistan has weathered previous U.S. aid suspensions, and this time around should be no different.

It’s hard to say what can be done to change Pakistan’s policy toward terrorists. The Trump administration has suggested it may resort to punitive actions that go beyond aid cuts. The implication is that draconian measures could eventually bring Pakistan to its knees and cause it to capitulate to U.S. demands.

These tough steps may include expanding drone strikes, revoking Pakistan’s non-NATO ally status, sanctioning Pakistani military officers with ties to terror, and designating Pakistan as a sponsor of terror. They could also entail non-security punitive measures such as getting the International Monetary Fund, where Washington enjoys strong influence, to stop providing lifelines, in the form of loans and bailout packages, to Pakistan’s fragile economy.

Yet, if provoked by these draconian policies, an outraged Pakistan may be inclined to tighten rather than ease its embrace of militants. It could help the Taliban and Haqqani Network intensify violence in Afghanistan. Indeed, for Washington, taking a harder line on Pakistan is risky business and could exacerbate the already-immense challenges of its warfighting efforts in Afghanistan.

Pakistan may contend it would be more willing to address U.S. concerns about terror if America helped advance Pakistan’s interests, such as by actively pursuing a solution to the Kashmir dispute, or by cutting back on its rapidly growing ties with India. In reality, because of its own interests, these are non-starters for Washington.

But this all amounts to putting the cart before the horse. For now, the Trump administration has restricted itself to suspending security assistance. In the coming days, expect angry statements from the Pakistani government, but perhaps not much else. Some analysts have suggested Pakistan may retaliate by shutting down the supply routes on its soil used by NATO vehicles to access Afghanistan. That is certainly possible.

However, Pakistan may also opt to hold its fire, preferring to keep its prime tool of leverage in reserve as a deterrent to forestall the possibility of Washington resorting to more draconian moves. For now, Pakistan may instead retaliate with softer measures, such as issuing fewer visas to Americans.

There are lessons in all of this, and particularly for members of Congress, including most recently Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who plans to introduce legislation to end aid to Pakistan. Aid cuts to Pakistan can convey strong messages of unhappiness about Pakistan’s policy toward terrorism, but they can’t be expected to induce changes in Pakistan’s behavior. In the context of U.S.-Pakistan relations, the core impacts of aid cuts are symbolic more than substantive.

So the best way to pitch a bill to Americans about ending aid to Pakistan is to emphasize the benefit not for U.S. foreign policy, but for the U.S. economy: It puts money back in the hands of the American taxpayer.

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Donald Trump denounces ex-aide Steve Bannon, says he’s ‘lost his mind’

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US President Donald Trump unleashed a spectacular denunciation of one of his closest political allies Wednesday, describing his former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as insane and irrelevant.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said in a statement that was notably abrasive, even for America’s combative 45th president.

Trump said Bannon — who engineered the New York real estate mogul’s link to the nationalist far right and helped create a pro-Trump media ecosystem — was “only in it for himself.”

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