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In a first, 2 Muslim women elected to US Congress

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Chicago: A onetime Somali refugee and the daughter of Palestinian immigrants shared the historic distinction Tuesday of becoming the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress.

Both women — Ilhan Omar, 37, and Rashida Tlaib, 42 — are Democrats from the Midwest and outspoken advocates of minority communities that have found themselves in the sights of US President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

Omar won a House seat in a strongly Democratic district in Minneapolis, Minnesota, succeeding Keith Ellison who was himself the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.
Tlaib’s victory was no surprise. She ran unopposed in a congressional district that stretches from Detroit to Dearborn, Michigan.

Their stories trace a similar trail-blazing rise through local politics.

“I’m Muslim and black,” the hijab-wearing Omar said in a recent magazine interview.

“I decided to run because I was one of many people I knew who really wanted to demonstrate what representative democracies are supposed to be,” she said.

Omar fled Somalia’s civil war with her parents at the age of eight and spent four years at a refugee camp in Kenya.

Her family settled in Minnesota in 1997, where there is a sizable Somali population.

She won a seat in the state’s legislature in 2016, becoming the first Somali-American lawmaker in the country.

Before that, she had worked as a community organizer, a policy wonk for city leaders in Minneapolis, and as a leader in her local chapter of the NAACP — the African-American civil rights group.

She decided to run for Congress after Ellison, who is also black, decided to give up his seat after 12 years in Congress to run for attorney general of Minnesota.

Omar has forged a progressive political identity. She supports free college education, housing for all, and criminal justice reform.

She opposes Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, supports a universal health care system, and wants to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has conducted deportation raids.

Rashida Tlaib is the Detroit-born daughter of Palestinian immigrants — the eldest of 14 children.

A fighter who once heckled US President Donald Trump during a 2016 campaign stop in Detroit, she says she didn’t run to make history as Muslim.

“I ran because of injustices and because of my boys, who are questioning their (Muslim) identity and whether they belong,” Tlaib said in an US television interview in August.

“I’ve never been one to stand on the sidelines.”

Like Omar, she blazed a trail through Michigan politics, becoming the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan state legislature in 2008.

In August, she emerged as the winner of a Democratic primary for a seat vacated by John Conyers, a long-time liberal lion who stepped down in December amid sexual harassment allegations and failing health.

With no Republican challenger in the race, Tlaib’s election on Tuesday became a formality.

The seat she won is in a predominantly African-American congressional district with few Muslim voters.

She says her constituents were attracted to her progressive politics, which are the polar opposite of Republicans.

Tlaib has advocated for universal health care, a USD 15 national minimum wage, union protections, and tuition-free college education.

She also has been mindful of the historic nature of her candidacy.

During her tearful primary election victory speech in August, with her immigrant mother by her side, she said relatives in the West Bank were watching her success.

“It just shows how incredibly wonderful our country can be,” she said.


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PM Modi embraces Maldives as new leader Solih takes office, China out of favour

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Male/New Delhi: Maldives’ President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih takes office , seeking help from India and the United States to climb out from under a mountain of Chinese debt that his predecessor racked up in a breakneck development of the coral islands.

The surprise defeat of pro-China strongman Abdulla Yameen has opened a window for India, the strategic outpost’s traditional political partner, to regain ground lost to Beijing in their tussle for regional dominance.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the highest ranking visitor at the inauguration at the national soccer stadium in the capital Male. By contrast, China’s highest-ranking attendee will be Culture and Tourism Minister Luo Shugang.

“I will convey to the new Maldivian government … the desire of my government to work closely for realisation of their developmental priorities, especially in areas of infrastructure, health care, connectivity and human resource development,” the Prime Minister said in a post on Facebook.

PM Modi’s presence signals the end of years of frosty relations because of Yameen’s embrace of China, a relationship that had deepened India’s anxieties about being encircled by countries leaning towards Beijing.

In Sri Lanka, an island nation to the southeast of India, the rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing has been one of the triggers for a political crisis in recent weeks.

The low-key Solih, a veteran lawmaker, has promised an “India first” policy in the Maldives, saying the small nation of a little over 400,000 people needs solid ties with its immediate neighbour.

His team is also reviewing millions of dollars of investments from China, as well as the related debt that the country has run up from Chinese lenders and how to restructure it.

Solih has said investigations will be launched to find out what happened and fix accountability, Adam Azim, a member of his transition committee, told reporters.

“We were led to believe it’s about USD 1.5 billion, the Chinese debt, but it could be worse,” said another member of Solih’s top economic team, which has been holding discussions with finance ministry officials during the transition following the election in September.

He said the team had already reached out to India, the United States and Saudi Arabia for financial assistance so it could tackle the debt.

“We straightaway need 200-300 million dollars to kick start the budgetary support,” the adviser said.

Debt of USD 1.5 billion would be more than a quarter of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Another member of the incoming president’s economic team said firm proposals for assistance had been discussed with Indian and US officials.

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Cyclone Gaja hits Tamil Nadu, 30 killed, many homeless

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Chennai: When ‘Gaja’ hovered over the Bay of Bengal near Nagapattinam district for the past one week, the public and all government stakeholders did little realise its ferocity.

With 30 persons dead, heavy winds uprooting thousands of trees in the delta districts and collapsed power lines, ‘Gaja’ tore into districts like Nagapattinam, Cudd-alore, Ramanathapuram, Pudukkottai and Tiruvarur districts. Nagapattinam district bore the major brunt of the storm.

‘Gaja’, played hide and seek for over a week and finally struck with winds speeds touching 110 kmph, as earlier warned by the Indian Meteorological Department and Regional Meteorological Centre, which were closely monitoring the situation throughout the day. Both agencies kept updating revenue officials about ‘Gaja’ trail.

Revenue officials who have had kept their eyes peeled over the stormy development, had quickly evacuated around 81,000 people to safety across the delta districts. The storm did not spare livestock, as a huge numbers of cattle were killed across these districts.

The IMD, in its bulletin, said that the cyclone made landfall between 12.30 am and 2.30 am, after which it trundled on its way westwards, and is slowly poised to weaken.

Further, districts like Pudukkottai, Tiruchy and Ramanathapuram had on Thursday and Friday mornings, received mild rain.

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LED TV, coconut water and more: Inspection reveals Unitech directors ‘enjoying’ Tihar jail

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New Delhi: LED TV, coconut water, crates of mineral water, badminton rackets and household items were among the prohibited things found in the prison cell of Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra and his brother Ajay, lodged in Tihar Jail for allegedly cheating home buyers.

This was communicated to the Delhi High Court by Additional Sessions Judge Ramesh Kumar, who carried out inspection on September 4 following complaints from other inmates that Chandra brothers and others jailed for white collar crimes were enjoying “luxurious lifestyle”.

He said in a report that the circumstances indicated “corruption” and “grave misuse of power” on the part of DG Prisons and Tihar Jail officials.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao on Friday issued notice to the AAP government, Director General (DG) Prisons and senior officials of Tihar Jail seeking their stand on the matter by February 1, 2019.

In the report, Kumar-II has recommended that an FIR be registered against DG Prisons and officials of Tihar Jail as such activities also pose an “extra burden on the public exchequer”.

He has said that apart from household amenities, including mattresses, mustard oil, foot-mats and stools, in their cell, the brothers also enjoyed a separate “office” room having a computer with internet, a printer as well as eatables and Aquafina mineral water.

On the brothers’ claim that they had bought the Aquafina mineral water from the jail canteen, the judicial officer found that only Bisleri was sold there.

Apart from that, the steel nets in the barracks housing the Chandra brothers were covered with blankets and boards “to avoid smell or outer air” from going into their cell, the report said.

It also said that such facilities cannot be provided to any inmate without the “involvement” and “knowledge” of the DG Prisons and other officials of Tihar Jail and proved as “positive” the complaint made by 25 inmates of Tihar Jail in their letter.

The report also indicates that the jail officials had told the ASJ that the letter was written by the inmates to pressurise them into providing extra facilities to the other prisoners which was not permissible under the jail manual.

The report also said that some of the complainant inmates were shifted to Mandoli Jail after they had sent the letter.

The High Court took suo motu cognisance of the report and the letter written by the inmates and turned it into a public interest litigation.

The inmates in their letter had claimed that while those arrested for financial crimes, like the Chandra brothers, were “enjoying an extra luxurious life in Tihar Jail” with a “separate VIP ward” for them, other prisoners were allegedly not getting sufficient food, drinking water, fruits and other necessities, including medical treatment.

However, those arrested for white collar crimes were getting specialised medical treatment for even minor ailments, had access to smart phones, could regularly communicate and meet with family members without hindrance, have home cooked meals, watch TV, play badminton and enjoyed a “luxurious life”, the letter said.

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