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US midterm election: Democrats win House in setback for Trump

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Washington, Nov 7: Democrats have taken back control of the House of Representatives but not won a majority in the Senate as the historic “blue wave” they hoped for failed to materialise at the midterm elections.

The achievement means that the Republicans no longer hold both wings of the US Congress, handing Donald Trump’s political opponents a stronger foothold in Washington from which to oppose his presidency.

The Democrats now have the numbers to veto Trump’s proposed laws in the House and launch a string of damaging investigations into his administration through the committees they will control.

However in the Senate it was a different story, with Republicans unseating a string of Democratic senators up for re-election in states Trump won in 2016. It indicates many of the president’s supporters are still with him two years into office.

Projections suggested the Republicans could even increase their majority in the Senate, allowing them to push ahead with controversial judicial and cabinet appointments with less fear of rebellions.  Trump, quick to put his spin on a night of mixed results, tweeted: “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!”  Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “Anybody that was anticipating a blue wave tonight is not going to get it.”

In some of the most closely watched races, Democrats lost out.  Beto O’Rourke, who had become a pinup for American liberals by running a surprisingly competitive race in Texas, ultimately fell short, with Ted Cruz winning re-election as the state’s senator.

Andrew Gillum, the left-leaning Democrat who was hoping to become Florida’s first ever black governor, was also defeated, narrowly losing to Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis.  A number of historic landmarks were reached, with the first Muslim congresswomen, first openly gay male governor and the youngest ever congresswoman (aged 29) all being elected.

The story of the night was that of two different battles playing out – one for control of the House and another for the Senate.  In the House races, all eyes were on America’s suburbs. Democrats quickly made gains but failed to pick off seats which would have indicated they were on course for a landslide.

One Republican senator close to Trump, Lindsey Graham, admitted the party would have to address its “suburban women problem” as the Democrats gained seats. Their control of the House will be a huge headache for Trump. His legislative agenda will grind to a hold, with the chances of securing new funding for his US-Mexico border or another tax cut significantly diminished.

The White House is also braced for Democrat-controlled House committees to launch many probes that could damage the president on everything from his tax returns to ties to Russia, using their power to order witnesses to testify.  Nancy Pelosi, the woman expected to become the new Democrat Speaker of the House, said in a celebratory speech that Wednesday would be a “new day in America”, adding: “We’ve all had enough of division.”

However in the Senate, it was a different story. Here just a third of senators were up for re-election and the map heavily favoured Republicans, with many Democrats running in states Trump won in 2016.  In the end, Republicans appeared on course to exceed expectations. Democrat incumbents were ousted in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, while Republicans held seats in Tennessee and Texas.

With some states still to call, it was certain Republicans would hold the Senate majority and likely they would increase it by a few seats – a win which the president is sure to seize upon.   Trump was credited with energising his voters, countering the enthusiasm displayed by the Democrats.

It meant any hopes of a historic landslide from Trump’s opponents soon faded as results filtered in.  Graham said Trump should be “proud” of firing up his base, adding: “President Trump is well on his way to getting re-elected.”


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Unemployment compels doctors, engineers apply for banking-like jobs

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Nov 21: Junaid completed his Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) from Himachal Institute of Dental Sciences some years ago with a cost of around Rs 12 lakh.

After unsuccessfully looking for a job in the valley-based hospitals for over three years, he began preparations for the Banking Associate exam.

Danish Farooq suffered similar problems after doing B Tech from Chennai’s SRM College of Engineering, where he managed admission by taking Rs 15 lakh education loan.

“After an eight-month job hunt, I joined a coaching center to prepare for the bank exams,” said Danish.

Danish blames the systemic failure in various government departments, claiming “corruption and complacency” have allowed standards to fall resulting in unemployable graduates.

Aadil Ahmad (name changed) possesses a rare distinction in his village, a quiet hamlet in the higher reaches of north Kashmir.

He did his bachelors and masters in Arts and B. Ed, unlike his friends who dropped out of school.

He belongs to a poor family for whom higher education was once a pipe dream. But all his education hasn’t helped him attain his ultimate goal—become a government teacher.

Despite possessing the prerequisite skills and qualities that a specific job demands, and being technically proficient, the youth in the valley find themselves in a fix due to lack of job opportunities. As a result, the youth seek employment in other areas of work.

According to statistics, Jammu and Kashmir has 88,040 unemployed youth registered with various district employment and counseling centers in the state.

Adding fuel to the fire, various surveys reveal, more than 70 per cent of engineering graduates are not employable.

To make the matters worse, the problem of employability in Kashmir is rampant in both blue and white-collar jobs.

At 12.13 per cent, J&K had the highest unemployment rate in India in 2017, says the data compiled by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy in collaboration with Bombay Stock Exchange.

Educationist, Professor B A Dar said the state doesn’t have any manpower planning.

“To say that the number of jobs is decreasing here is not true. There are huge vacancies in the private sector but we don’t opt for such jobs. We are getting the degrees, but not the competence that should come with them,” said Dar.

“If you the competence and expertise, why should you settle for something less?”

However, he said, there is no harm in applying for banking exams and low designation jobs.

“Getting the coveted government job is not always possible. So, I don’t think there is anything wrong in appearing for these exams,” said Dar.

 

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Nearly 400 paramilitary personnel killed in action in 2015-17: MHA

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Nov 21:Nearly 400 paramilitary personnel were killed due to firing  from across the Indo-Pak border, and nilitant and insurgency violence in the country in the last three years, officials said Wednesday.

The highest number of personnel killed in action were from the Border Security Force (BSF).

The force lost 167 personnel between 2015 and 2017, and a majority of them were killed while guarding the highly sensitive border.

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has lost 103 personnel in the last three years, mostly while fighting Naxals and militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, a Home Ministry official said.

While the BSF lost 62 personnel in action in 2015, 58 in 2016 and 47 in 2017, the CRPF lost nine personnel in action in 2015, 42 in 2016 and 52 in 2017.

As many as 48 personnel of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) were killed in action in the last three years of whom 16 were killed in 2015, 15 in 2016 and 17 in 2017, the official said.

The SSB guards the Indo-Bhutan and Indo-Nepal border. The troops of the force is also deployed in internal security duties.

A total of 40 personnel belonging to the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which guards the Sino-Indian border, were killed in action between 2015 and 2017. Among them, 15 personnel were killed in 2015, 10 in 2016 and 15 in 2017.

Altogether 35 personnel of the Assam Rifles, which guards the Indo-Myanmar border and fights militants in the northeast, were killed in action in the last three years.

Eighteen personnel of the Assam Rifles were killed in 2015, nine in 2016 and eight in 2017.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has lost two personnel in action in the last three years — one each in 2016 and 2017.

There were no casualties in 2015 from the CISF, which guards, airports, nuclear installations, metro services and other sensitive locations, another official said.

 

 

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US suspends 1.66 bn dollar security aid to Pakistan: Pentagon

Agencies

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Washington, Nov 21:The US has suspended USD 1.66 billion in security assistance to Pakistan after President Donald Trump’s directive, the Pentagon has said, in what experts believe is a strong signal of American frustration.

The Pentagon’s statement came days after President Trump said Pakistan did not do “a damn thing” for the US, alleging that its government had helped al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Abbottabad.

“USD 1.66 billion of security assistance to Pakistan is suspended,” Col Rob Manning, spokesman of the Department of Defence, told reporters in an e-mail response to questions on Tuesday.

No further breakdown of the suspended security assistance to Pakistan was provided.

According to David Sedney, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary Defence for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia during the previous Obama administration, the blocking of military assistance to Pakistan, which began in January this year, is a strong signal of American frustration.

“But, so far Pakistan has taken no serious steps to address the core US concern–that Pakistan tolerates and often encourages groups which use violence against Pakistan’s neighbours,” Sedney told PTI.

“Pakistan’s leaders have promised cooperation, but beyond words, serious cooperation has not happened, therefore President Trump is frustrated and so are most Americans,” he said in response to a question.

“This frustration does not ignore the suffering that Pakistani people have undergone. It just asks Pakistan to recognise that it should act to help stop the suffering of others,” said the Senior Associate at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Previously, Sedney was at the Department of State and the National Security Council, as well as Acting President of American University of Afghanistan. He was part of the Pentagon when Laden was killed in a raid by US commandoes in Pakistan’s Abbottabad.

Over the last few days, Trump has said that people in Pakistan knew about the presence of Laden.

“I agree with the views of Carlotta Gall of the New York Times who reported in her book ‘The Wrong Enemy’ that a very small group of very senior Pakistani military leaders knew about Laden’s presence in Pakistan. I have not seen any evidence that his presence in Abbottabad was widely known by many in Pakistan,” Sedney told PTI in an interview.

While Pakistan has suffered terribly from terrorism by Islamic extremists, Islamabad has also enabled extremist groups that attack its neighbours, he observed.

After years of dithering, in recent years, Pakistan’s security forces have moved strongly against the extremists that threaten the Pakistani state, Sedney said.

“What the US seeks, what President Trump is asking for, is for Pakistan to take the same kind of measures against the Taliban, Lashkhar-e-Taiba and against all groups in Pakistan that threaten Pakistan’s neighbours,” he said.

“But, we still see the Taliban moving weapons, fighters and money through Pakistan. We still see Taliban commanders taking refuge in Pakistan, keeping their families in Pakistan, holding meetings and conducting training in Pakistan and shipping explosives from Pakistan into Afghanistan,” Sedney alleged, adding that leaders of sanctioned organisations were acting freely in Pakistan and speaking publicly in favour of violence.

If Pakistan took some strong measures against the Taliban, peace would come to Afghanistan quickly, he said.

 

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