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US adds Pakistan to blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom

WASHINGTON, Dec 11: The United States said Tuesday it has added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over its treatment of minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, a year after the State Department put Pakistan on a watchlist without legal consequences.

US should not even give one dollar till Pakistan acts on terrorism: Nikki Haley

NEW YORK, Dec 10: Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists that turn around and kill American soldiers, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has said, asserting that Washington should not give Islamabad even a dollar until it addresses the issue.

Haley, the first Indian-American ever appointed to a Cabinet position in any US presidential administration, said the US did not need to give money to countries that wish harm to America, go behind its back and try and “stop us from doing things”.

“...I think there should be a strategic view on which countries we partner with, which ones we count on to work with us on certain things, and move forward accordingly. I think we just blindly allow money to keep going without thinking that this is real leverage. We have to use it,” Haley told US magazine ‘The Atlantic’.

“The one example I’ll give you is, look at Pakistan. Giving them over a billion dollars, and they continue to harbour terrorists that turn around and kill our soldiers —that’s never okay. We shouldn’t even give them a dollar until they correct it. Use the billion dollars. That’s not a small amount of change,” she said.

Haley will step down as the UN envoy at the end of this year. US President Donald Trump last week nominated chief State Department spokeswoman and a former Fox News journalist Heather Nauert as Haley’s successor.

In October, Haley announced that she was leaving the post by the end of the year. The 46-year-old former South Carolina governor has served nearly two years in the post.

She said Pakistan should be told “you have to do these things before we will even start to help you with your military or start to help you on counterterrorism”.

Asked if she does not agree that foreign aid can turn an adversary into an ally, or can make a country more favourable than it would be otherwise, Haley said, “no, I think it absolutely can. I think that you do have to use it as leverage”.

“I don’t think you should blindly give it and then expect goodwill. You have to ask for goodwill and then give it when you see good things happen,” she said.

In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups active on its soil.

Last month, Trump defended his administration’s decision to stop hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan, saying Islamabad does not do “a damn thing” for the US and its government helped late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Referring to Laden and his former compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan, Trump told Fox News, “you know, living – think of this – living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, I don’t know, I’ve seen nicer”.

“But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there,” Trump said.

The US Naval Special Warfare Development Group forces, in a daring helicopter raid, killed Laden in 2011 and demolished the compound.

“We give Pakistan USD 1.3 billion a year... (Laden] lived in Pakistan, we’re supporting Pakistan, we’re giving them USD 1.3 billion a year - which we don’t give them anymore, by the way, I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us,” he said.

Trump began the new year by launching an attack on Islamabad in his first tweet of 2018, accusing it of “lies and deceit”.

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” he wrote.

“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Trump added.

People in power are not that smart: Michelle Obama

LONDON, Dec 4: After eight years in the White House as the first lady and attending various high-level events during the presidentship of her husband, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama let out a secret on Monday evening: people at the top are “not that smart”.

A sell-out audience in the Royal Festival Hall gave her something of a rock-star reception at an event to mark the London launch of her memoir, ‘Becoming’ (Penguin). Over 40,000 people tried to get tickets for the hall that accommodates about 2,700 people.

Billed as ‘An evening with Michelle Obama’, the event was marked by much wit, humour and frankness about her upbringing (“we discussed sex at the dinner table”), and issues such as ‘demons’ in her mind about not being good enough, her informal encounter with Queen Elizabeth, and marital problems (“trying to melt two lives together, that is hard”).

In conversation with noted Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Obama, who turns 55 in January, spoke of life lessons, the “art of re-invention” and insisted that she is “not here yet”, much remains to be done, which explains the title of her memoir, Becoming.

Asked for advice to young black women on navigating life, she said: “It’s still hard out there… We are demonised, we are too loud, we are too everything. I experienced that. Just having an opinion, how dare I have a voice and use it? It is a threat not just to white men but to women.”

“Some of my first pricks came from women journalists who accused me of emasculating my husband… You have to start by getting those demons out of your head. The question I ask myself is, am I good enough. That haunts. It is set from the time we are little.”

“Here’s the secret. I’ve been at every powerful table that you can think of. I have worked in non-profits. I have been in foundations, corporations, I’ve served on corporate boards, I’ve been at summits, I’ve sat in at the UN. They are not that smart.”

After a prolonged applause, she added: “They do a lot of things to keep their seats; they do not want to share their power. And that makes you feel that you don’t belong. I am not saying that there are no talented people out there.”

“But I am here to tell you that their ideas are no more exciting. They don’t solve problems any better. There is still a lot of brokenness in the hands of people in power who make us feel that we don’t belong. They haven’t fixed it yet because they need our voices to make that happen.”

Obama recalled the challenges her husband faced before being elected president but did not dwell on life under the current president, Donald Trump, except to say that she is “hopeful. Change is not a straight line”.

“We mistakenly thought that Barack Obama was going to erase hundreds of years of history in eight years; that’s ridiculous. We are putting down markers and we make progress. Going back doesn’t mean that progress wasn’t real.”

“It just means that it is just hard what we are trying to do, which is to shift culture. We are trying to overcome hundreds of years of racism and segregation borne out of slavery.”

Recalling one of her first trips to London as the first lady, Obama said it was “incredibly irritating” that British journalists, including women journalists, focused on what she was wearing rather than on the work she was trying to do.

Obama recalled many protocol briefings before meeting Queen Elizabeth during a state visit, when the later, driving her car, picked them up from their helicopter at Windsor and told them: “Sit wherever … it’s all rubbish, just get in.”

First Indian-American senator Kamala Harris ‘to decide on 2020 US presidential race’

WASHINGTON, Dec 3: Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American US senator, will decide whether she will run for the White House in 2020 “over the holiday”. “It will ultimately be a family decision,” she said at an event in San Francisco on Saturday. “And over the holiday, I will make that decision with my family.”

If Harris decides to run, as has been speculated from the time she was elected to the Senate in 2016, she will notch up a pair of firsts: the first Indian American woman and the first African-American woman to mount a bid for the White House. Her mother is from India and father from Jamaica. The California senator has been frequently mentioned along with a growing list of Democrats said to be planning a run for the Democrat party nomination to go up against Republican Donald Trump in 2020, and deny him a second term.

It’s a packed field at present. But Harris is among the favourites, coming in at Number 3 in a poll by CNN in October, behind former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, in the first and second positions respectively. She narrowly edged out Senator Elizabeth Warren, the firebrand lawmaker who has clashed with Trump.

Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Hawaii, did not figure in that early poll by CNN. But she is said to be considering a run as well, according to some Indian Americans sounded out by her. If she decides to, she will be the first Hindu to run for the country’s elective top office. Bobby Jindal, the first Indian American to get into the race, in 2016, is Christian.

Democrats are rushing to the starting line more and more as President Trump has appeared vulnerable, besieged by an unending litany of scandals and probes. The 2018 midterm elections last month did not help him much. Though he sought to portray it as a victory as Republicans improved their tally in the Senate, the party lost the House of Representatives by a wide margin. There is talk of Republicans planning to “primary” him as well, run against him in the primaries, which is rare for a sitting president.

‘BIG leap forward,’ says Donald Trump on US-China relations

WASHINGTON, Dec 3: US President Donald Trump on Monday said that America’s relationship with China has taken a “BIG leap forward” and he was willing to have a trilateral discussion involving Russia to reduce the arms race, a day after his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Argentina.

“My meeting in Argentina with President Xi of China was an extraordinary one. Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward!” Trump tweeted.

During the meeting on Saturday, Xi and Trump agreed to suspend any new tariffs and take steps to address the trade disputes, which over the past few months had threatened to spill over into a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump agreed that on January 1, 2019, he will leave the tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of product at the 10 per cent rate, and not raise it to 25 per cent at this time.

“Very good things will happen. We are dealing from great strength, but China likewise has much to gain if and when a deal is completed. Level the field!” Trump said.

“Farmers will be a a very BIG and FAST beneficiary of our deal with China. They intend to start purchasing agricultural product immediately. We make the finest and cleanest product in the World, and that is what China wants. Farmers, I LOVE YOU!” the US president tweeted.

Trump said he and Xi “have a very strong and personal” relationship.

“He and I are the only two people that can bring about massive and very positive change, on trade and far beyond, between our two great Nations. A solution for North Korea is a great thing for China and ALL!” he asserted.

Trump also talked about reducing arms race between US, China and Russia.

“I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The US spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!” Trump tweeted.

 

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Trump cancels Putin meeting at upcoming G20 summit in Argentina over Ukraine crisis
Trump cancels Putin meeting at upcoming G20 summit in Argentina over Ukraine crisis
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