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Trump to pardon controversial Indian American pundit Dinesh D’Souza

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D’Souza’s pardon is also possibly the first for the Indian American community. US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he will grant a full pardon to controversial Indian American conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating campaign funding law. “Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today,” Trump tweeted. “He was treated very unfairly by our government!” This is Trump’s fifth pardon. Beneficiaries include controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of criminal contempt of a court, and Scooter Lobby, a George W Bush White House staffer convicted in 2007 of leaking the identity of an undercover CIA officer. D’Souza’s pardon is also possibly the first for Indian Americans, a tiny but prosperous community of 4 million that has been called a model minority for staying on the right side of law, among other things. D’Souza, who came to the US as a student from Mumbai and went on to work in the Reagan White House, pleaded …

Pakistan signs $1.5 billion defence deal with Turkey

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Following sharp cuts in military aid from the United States, Pakistan has turned to other countries for purchasing military hardware. Pakistan has signed a deal with Turkey for the purchase of 30 attack helicopters estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion, against the backdrop of a massive cut in military aid for Islamabad from Washington. The confirmation of the deal that had been in the pipeline for more than three years was made in the manifesto released by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) ahead of the general election scheduled for June, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported. The manifesto said that “a very short while ago a contract for the sale of 30 attack helicopters was signed with Pakistan”. It did not give further details. The Turkish government did not disclose the cost of the deal for the T129 ATAK helicopters, but aerospace industry sources estimated the contract to be worth about $1.5 billion, almost equivalent to Turkey’s annual defence exports. This w…

Kairana bypoll results blot BJP’s election playbook ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha test

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The BJP won two of four seats in the Lok Sabha bypolls, and just one of 10 seats in the assembly by-elections, while losing the critical Kairana seat in Uttar Pradesh. The results of the latest round of by-elections to the Lok Sabha before the 2019 general elections, a set of nine assembly by-elections, and an election for one assembly seat in Karnataka delivered a major political setback to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), raised questions about the sustainability of its electoral dominance, and generated much cheer in the opposition ranks on Thursday. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance won two of the four Lok Sabha bypolls (Palghar in Maharashtra and the sole seat in Nagaland) and only one of the 10 assembly seats (Tharali in Uttarakhand). The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), in alliance with the Congress, won the Bhandara-Gondia parliamentary seat in Maharashtra. But in what is being seen as the most politically significant outcome, and a boost to prospects of opposition un…

Israel-Iran flare-up raises spectre of major confrontation

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Deadly strikes by Israel against alleged Iranian sites in Syria have raised fears of a dramatic escalation in regional conflict
Deadly strikes by Israel against alleged Iranian sites in Syria have raised fears of a dramatic escalation in regional conflict, but the situation remains shrouded by conflicting accounts and uncertainty. Israel says its raids early Thursday were in immediate response to Iranian missiles raining down on the occupied Golan Heights. But there has been no official statement from Iran, and analysts in Tehran say any missile strikes were conducted by the Syrian military. Outside observers see a dangerous game of brinkmanship. “The rules of the game are worked out by trial and error, by push and shove. The pushing and shoving has become more intense,” said Heiko Wimmen, of the International Crisis Group. “We are getting closer to the brink,” he said. Israel has repeatedly warned that it considers an entrenched Iranian military presence in war-ravaged Syria to be a …

Australian police find 7 dead, including 4 children, with gunshot wounds

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Australian police found seven dead people on Friday, including four children, in a rural town in the Margaret River wine-growing region

India at greater risk of crude prices staying high for a long period

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Oil is India’s biggest import and elevated prices along with a weaker rupee will widen the trade deficit, fuel imported inflation and squeeze government finances. India sees a greater probability of global crude oil prices remaining high for a longer period, a scenario that threatens to dent growth and fan inflation in Asia’s third-largest economy. The government will have to watch crude prices before preparing any policy response, a finance ministry official told reporters in New Delhi, asking not to be identified, citing rules. Oil supplies from Iran are also likely to be constrained after the US reinstated financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic, the official said. Brent crude rose as much as 3.1% Wednesday to $77.20 per barrel, its highest level since November 2014. India’s central bank estimates oil at $78 a barrel would shave off 10 basis points from its 7.4% forecast for gross domestic product growth in the year to March 2019. Moreover, it expects costly crude could stoke i…