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US govt shuts down for second time

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US govt shuts down

Washington, Feb 9: The US federal government officially shut down on Friday for the second time in three weeks after a single senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, held up a vote on a far-reaching budget deal that would have staved it off.

Senators are still expected to vote in favour of the deal in a series of votes that will most likely begin around 1 a.m., reports The New York Times.

If the House approves the deal, the government would have reopened before the workday begins.

Angered at the huge spending increases at the centre of the deal, Paul, a Republican, delayed passage for hours with a demand to vote on an amendment that would keep in place strict caps on spending that the deal would raise.

“The reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot,” Paul said.

“I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, ‘How come you were against President Obama’s deficits and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?'”

The shutdown comes on the heels of a three-day closure brought about by Senate Democrats last month, The New York Times reported.

As midnight approached, Paul did not relent, bemoaning from the Senate floor what he saw as out-of-control government spending and repeatedly rebuffing attempts by his fellow senators to move ahead with a vote.

The text of the deal, stretching more than 600 pages, was released late Wednesday night, revealing provisions large and small that would go far beyond the basic budget numbers.

The accord would raise strict spending caps on domestic and military spending in this fiscal year and the next one by about $300 billion in total. It would also lift the federal debt limit until March 2019 and includes almost $90 billion in disaster relief in response to last year’s hurricanes and wildfires.

The deal had been expected to sail through the Senate, and the House had planned to vote on it later Thursday, until Paul took his stand.

In last month’s closure, the vast majority of Senate Democrats voted to block a bill that would have kept the government open, only to retreat a few days later and agree to end the closure.

IANS

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Indian teenager among 3 killed in US plane collision

Nisha Sejwal, 19, was killed in the accident on Tuesday along with Jorge Sanchez, 22, and Ralph Knight, 72, the Federal Aviation Administration said. 

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Washington, July 18: An Indian teenager has been killed along with two other persons after two small planes collided mid-air in the US state of Florida, authorities have said.

Nisha Sejwal, 19, was killed in the accident on Tuesday along with Jorge Sanchez, 22, and Ralph Knight, 72, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The police said they were trying to trace the whereabouts of a possible fourth passenger after both planes belonging to the Dean International flight school crashed mid-air, Xinhua news agency reported.

The search and rescue effort that were suspended due to low visibility late on Tuesday, would resume on Wednesday, an officer said.

The police established the identity of Sejwal from her social media page, while Sanchez was found to be a resident from the area.

The debris of the crashed planes was located in a region only accessible by airboats. Photos circulating online showed the wreckage resting on top of a swampy terrain covered by long grass.

Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez told the media that the flight school has a history of more than two dozen incidents and accidents between 2007 and 2017.

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Obama slams Trump-era, warns of ‘strongman politics’

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Barrack Obama

Johannesburg (South Africa), July 18: Barack Obama has used his first high-profile speech since stepping down as US president to take swipes at “strongman politics” and politicians’ disregard for facts.

Obama on Tuesday here mounted a passionate defence of democracy and warned against the politics of the day as his successor, Donald Trump, was heavily criticised for a humiliating news conference on Monday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the BBC reported.

In his address in honour of the late Nelson Mandela ahead of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Obama slammed populist movements toward authoritarianism around the world and ridiculed the “utter loss of shame among political leaders” who lie.

Obama, who has made an art of criticising Trump’s values without explicitly naming him, peppered his speech on Tuesday with warnings against some of his successor’s key policies, including protectionism, climate change denial and closed borders.

“The politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment is on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago,” he told the crowd of around 15,000 people in Johannesburg.

“I am not being alarmist, I’m simply stating the facts. Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretence of democracy are maintained,… those in powers seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

His remarks followed Trump’s news conference in Helsinki, Finland, in which the US leader sided with Putin over his own country’s intelligence agencies on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 US election, the CNN reported.

Dashing expectations of him confronting Putin over the issue after the US indicted 12 Russians, accused of hacking the Democrat’s emails and computer networks to target Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Trump sort of toed the Russian line.

“You have to believe in facts. Without facts there’s no basis for cooperation. If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it’s going to be hard for us to cooperate,” he said.

“I can’t find common ground if somebody says that climate change just isn’t happening, when almost all the world’s scientists tell us it is. I don’t know where to start talking to you about this. If you say it’s an elaborate hoax, where do we start?”

He said politics today often reject the concept of objective truth. “People just make stuff up. We see it in the growth of state sponsored propaganda, internet fabrications, the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, the utter loss of shame among political leaders…,” he said, to laughter in the crowd.

Obama had opened his speech reflecting on the recent chaos of the world that gave him the opportunity to seek perspective.

“But in the strange and uncertain times that we are in — with each day’s news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines — I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective,” Obama added.

He warned that the press was under attack, that censorship and state control of media is on the rise and that social media was being used to promote hate, propaganda and conspiracy theories.

“So, on Madiba’s 100 birthday, we now stand at a crossroads,” he said, using a clan name of affection for Mandela.

He said that there was a choice between two visions of humanity’s future that the world must choose between.

“Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision, I believe in a vision shared by (Mahatma) Gandhi and (Martin Luther) King (Jr), and Abraham Lincoln,” he said.

He talked about equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on the premise that all people were created equal and were endowed with certain inalienable rights.

Obama’s speech at the 16th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture, is one of his highest-profile appearances and his first return to Africa since he left office in 2017.

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Trump under fire for defending Putin over poll meddling, casts doubt on US intelligence

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Washington, July 17 : United States President Donald Trump has refused to blame Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for meddling in the 2016 elections, casting doubt on the findings of his own intelligence agencies and sparking a storm of criticism at home.

At a joint news conference with Putin following their summit in Finland on Monday, Trump refused to denounce the Russian leader for interfering in the presidential campaign and instead contradicted American intelligence agencies, the US media reported on Tuesday.

Russia had no reason to meddle, Trump said.

His remarks sparked an enormous amount of backlash from his critics, Republicans and Democrats, warning that his actions could ultimately hurt national security interests.

“The President must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “The US must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

Russia is responsible for “ongoing, pervasive attempts” to undermine US democracy, said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Republican Senator John McCain, a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it was a “disgraceful performance”.

“No prior President has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” he said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that it was a “missed opportunity… to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling”.

“Shameful,” tweeted Republican Senator Jeff Flake. “Bizarre and flat-out wrong,” wrote Senator Ben Sasse in reference to Trump’s separate assertion that both countries were to blame for their deteriorating relationship.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s actions had “strengthened our adversaries while weakening our defences and those of our allies”.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said: “… Our President had the chance to confront an adversary who has attacked – and continues to attack – our democracy and our allies. He could have stood up for American interests and values. He chose not to.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s performance an “embarrassment”.

Former CIA director John Brennan said Trump’s news conference “was nothing short of treasonous”.

“Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Mike Pence defended the summit and praised Trump.

During the press conference, Putin offered to allow US investigators to visit Russia to question the officers regarding poll medding.

In a later interview with Fox News, he said it was “ridiculous” that some people thought Russia could have influenced the US elections.

Putin said the US-Russian relations should not be “held hostage” to an internal political struggle in America.

He also dismissed longstanding reports that Russian intelligence may hold compromising material on Trump.

The Russian leader described the Helsinki meeting as “candid and useful” while Trump said there had been “deeply productive dialogue”.

Trump said US-Russia relations had “never been worse” than before they met, but that had now changed.

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