By David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The case of the Indian consul arrested and strip-searched in New York last month was handled "appallingly" and needs to be resolved, but the United States remains probably India's most important ally, the Indian ambassador to Washington said on Tuesday. "I won't underplay this incident, I won't overplay this incident. I think we need to see it in perspective," S. Jaishankar said in an interview. "I think we are in the midst of working this one out." Jaishankar said India was "perplexed" by the decisions of U.S. authorities to arrest and strip-search 39-year-old Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul in New York, after she was accused of visa fraud and underpaying her maid. "There was a fair measure of anger about both the substance of the problem and the way it was handled," he said. "It was not just done publicly; frankly it was done appallingly." But Jaishankar, who arrived in Washington in December after serving as Indian ambassador to China, played down the impact on the practical side of the relationship - emphasizing that the two sides were still talking despite the postponement of two high-level U.S. visits this month, including one by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "Frankly, it's probably the most important relationship," he said. "We are not holding up business, or Pentagon dealings, or congressional dealings ... or science programs and saying, 'They don't get done until things get sorted out.'" Jaishankar said, however, there was a need to resolve both the Khobragade case and the broader issue of the lesser level of diplomatic immunity accorded to Indian and other foreign consular staff in the United States compared with what Washington expects for its consular staff serving overseas. 'LARGER ISSUE' Asked if India supported a demand from Khobragade's lawyer for the charges against her to be dropped, he said, "That is an issue in respect of this diplomat, but I think there is a larger issue of immunities and privileges." "I think we need to sit down and work this one out." Khobragade left the United States this month after a complex deal in which her diplomatic status was switched to the United Nations, affording her a greater degree of immunity from prosecution. But U.S. authorities have so far refused to drop the charges against her. Until the issue was resolved, Jaishankar said, the level of immunity enjoyed by U.S. consular officials in India would be reduced to exactly the level granted in the United States. "Since our consular officials have no immunity against felonies, U.S. consular officials do not have immunity against serious crimes in India," he said. India sharply curbed privileges offered to U.S. diplomats in retaliation for Khobragade's treatment and asked Washington to withdraw a diplomat from New Delhi. It also ordered the U.S. Embassy to close a club for expatriate Americans in New Delhi, and a government source said it was also preparing steps against the American Embassy School, which it suspected may be employing some staff in violation of visa rules. Jaishankar noted that many Asian nations valued the U.S. presence in their region and that India was keeping a "watchful" eye on the debate over the U.S. budget, which has seen U.S. military leaders warning about the possible impact on Washington's ability to respond to global crises. "I think as uncertainties mount, as volatility grows, I think people do value a strong American presence," Jaishankar said. He noted efforts last year by then-U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to deepen bilateral defense ties, including proposed co-development of the next version of the Javelin anti-tank missile now built by Raytheon Co and Lockheed Martin Corp. Jaishankar called co-development of defense technologies with India "uncharted territory" and added it was a matter he had discussed in his initial interactions with the Pentagon since taking up his post. Still, he said such proposals would take time to develop. (Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; Writing by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Peter Cooney)
- Yahoo News
If it takes a miracle for Trump to stay in office, evangelicals like Michele Bachmann are fine with that
As the inevitability of President Trump’s loss became apparent even to his acolyte Kellyanne Conway in recent days, his supporters increasingly pinned their hopes for a second term on a last-ditch appeal, not to the Supreme Court, but to the one power that can outvote it: God.
- The Independent
Educator says she wants to keep on teaching when Joe Biden becomes president
Russia protested on Friday after Latvia charged several journalists from the Rossiya Segodnya news agency with violating European Union sanctions. The journalists were charged because of their association with Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads Rossiya Segodnya, said Sputnik Latvia, a subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya. The Kremlin media mogul was sanctioned by the EU for his role in Russia's seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
- Associated Press
The European Union’s aviation safety agency has extended a ban imposed on Pakistan's state-run airline this year barring it from flying to Europe after a plane crash that killed 97 people in the port city of Karachi, a spokesman said Friday. At the time — and while the probe into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash was still underway — authorities acknowledged that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots, 260 out of 860, had cheated on their pilot’s exams. Pakistan International Airlines subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots while a probe by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority into the other pilots is still ongoing.
- Yahoo News 360
Media reports suggest President Trump is eyeing another bid for the White House in four years. Will Trump 2024 become a reality?
- The Week
There appears to be growing support among Senate Republicans for a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill introduced earlier this week, reports The Washington Post.The $908 billion package — championed by moderate Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (D-Maine), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) — is in between what Democratic leadership is pushing for and what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has suggested. The moderates suggested an unemployment boost and money for state governments, but no stimulus checks.While McConnell on Thursday continued to resist the bipartisan bill, pushing instead for his version, which the White House has endorsed, other Republican senators got on board with the package. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) signaled they were open to the bipartisan bill.Democratic leaders said they believed the $908 billion package should be the basis for negotiations. Several Republicans echoed that, saying it wasn't exactly what they wanted but it made for a good starting point.McConnell didn't comment directly on the bipartisan proposal, but instead urged lawmakers to pull the trigger on his version, which he called "a serious and highly targeted relief proposal including elements which we know the president is ready and willing to sign into law."More stories from theweek.com What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims The Donald goes down to Georgia
- LA Times
Jewish art dealers under pressure from Nazis sold medieval relics to Germany in 1935: Can their heirs sue to recover now?
Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of its deal with major powers, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Friday, a move that will raise pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, which was apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.
- Associated Press
After interviewing Dan Quayle in Arizona for his documentary on the vice presidency, filmmaker Jeffrey Roth was rushing to the airport to catch a flight to Wyoming, where he had an appointment with Dick Cheney the next morning. It was Vice President Mike Pence and his entourage. “Ben Franklin, when the Constitution was written, said, ‘we should refer to the vice president as ’his superfluous excellency,'” President-elect Joe Biden, who served eight years as Barack Obama's vice president, says in the film.
- The Week
President Trump reportedly needs no encouragement to start praising the dangerous, baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.The most pressing matter for federal Republicans right now is the upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia, which will determine control of the body. But in a meeting with advisers and top Senate Republicans about that matter, Trump totally derailed the conversation by bringing up QAnon, people familiar with the discussion tell The Washington Post.Trump is reportedly not thrilled with Georgia and that fact that it flipped for President-elect Joe Biden, and is publicly upset with Republican leaders in the state who haven't somehow overturned the election for him. So even though Republican advisers say Trump's help is "key to convincing his die-hard supporters to vote for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue" in the January runoff election, the president isn't thrilled about doing so, the Post reports. "Advisers say he has been frustrated at how some GOP senators have criticized him," leading Trump to appear "disinterested" when discussing Senate campaign plans, the Post continues.That was clear in a recent meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), and other aides. As they discussed Georgia's Senate races, Trump brought up the QAnon-supporting soon-to-be congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene. Trump mispronounced the name of the group as "Q-an-uhn," and then said supporters of the theory that purports Democrats are a cannibalistic, pedophilic cabal "basically believe in good government," people familiar tell the Post. Everyone reportedly went silent until White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows mentioned he had "never heard it described that way," the Post reports.Trump has been asked to denounce QAnon several times, but usually gives the theory his tacit approval instead.More stories from theweek.com What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims The Donald goes down to Georgia
- Yahoo News Video
As a pair of critical Senate runoff races approach on Jan. 5, Georgia Republican leaders find themselves in a conundrum, trying to balance indulging President Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud with supporting state GOP election officials. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, is frustrated with the misinformation about the election process in his state. “I’m actually embarrassed at the amount of misinformation that continues to show up on Twitter feeds and Facebook posts and blogs that takes literally 10 seconds to debunk,” Duncan told Yahoo News. “Anybody could debunk it, but because they’ve let themselves get to a point where they’re more worried about flipping an election result than they are following the truth, that’s how we’ve gotten here.”
Firefighters battled to tame a wildfire on hillsides southeast of Los Angeles late on Thursday, some 24 hours after it broke out in a wooded canyon, apparently triggered by a faulty domestic generator. Two of some 500 firefighters deployed to control it had been hospitalized with injuries, the Orange County Fire Authority said on Twitter. The Bond Fire, named for the street in Silverado Canyon where it started, ignited late on Wednesday evening and was quickly whipped up by dry Santa Ana winds.
- Associated Press
The Army Corps of Engineers reversed course on an Obama-era proposal to charge for water drawn from reservoirs the Corps manages, North Dakota’s attorney general said Friday. Attorneys general from a dozen Western and Plains states sent a letter last year to the Trump administration asking that the proposal be withdrawn. Republican North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem headed the effort, which was backed by attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
- The Week
President-elect Joe Biden said when it comes to the Department of Justice, he is "not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do."Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, and the discussion turned to reports that President Trump is contemplating preemptively pardoning his adult children, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Biden said this "concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks [at] us as a nation of laws and justice."Biden promised that he is "not going to be saying, 'Go prosecute A, B, or C,' I'm not going to be telling them. That's not the role, it's not my Justice Department, it's the people's Justice Department. So the persons or person I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted, who doesn't."Harris, who once served as California's attorney general, added that the administration will assume that "any decision coming out of the Justice Department ... should be based on the law, it should not be influence by politics, period."More stories from theweek.com What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims The Donald goes down to Georgia
The once successful trade story now represents a worst case scenario of the bilateral tensions.
Philippine police on Friday threatened to cane people who violate social distancing protocols as the Southeast Asian nation fights the spread of the coronavirus during the festive season. The Philippines celebrates one of the world's longest Christmas seasons, starting as early as September, and crowds have started to flock to sprawling malls and shopping centres despite the pandemic. Police general Cesar Binag, commander of the coronavirus task force, told a news conference that police and soldiers would patrol in public areas in the capital Manila, the hotspot of COVID-19 cases, carrying 1 meter rattan sticks to measure distancing.
- Associated Press
The United Nations' human rights chief lamented a deteriorating situation in Belarus and said Friday that reported beatings of protesters by security forces may in some cases amount to torture. Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Human Rights Council there has been no improvement since a September debate about Belarus and “recent weeks have seen continued deterioration, particularly with respect to the right of peaceful assembly.”
- USA TODAY
Five executions are scheduled before Joe Biden, who opposes capital punishment, takes office. Ninety current and former law officials want a halt.
- The Telegraph
China is conducting "human testing" to create "biologically enhanced soldiers," the head of US intelligence has claimed as he warned that Beijing poses the biggest threat to America's national security. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, warned that the US must be prepared for an "open-ended" confrontation with China which he likened to the Cold War. Mr Ratcliffe, who oversees America's intelligence agencies, said he believed China's intention was to "dominate" the planet in every sense: economically, militarily and technologically. He claimed that US intelligence showed China has "conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities". "There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power," he said. Mr Ratcliffe said his unique vantage point on the current security threats facing the US had led him to conclude that "the People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom world-wide since World War II". He went on to outline in granular detail China's strategy of economic espionage, which he framed as: “rob, replicate and replace.” “China robs US companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the US firms in the global marketplace,” he said.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he would not replace his outgoing chief-of-staff Alfonso Romo and will close down his office in order to save money. Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday that Romo, a longtime ally and millionaire entrepreneur known for his outreach to business groups, would step down after two years in the job. The leftist president said Romo would continue to act as a go-between for the government and the private sector, a role that has often been strained over Lopez Obrador's skepticism about private sector involvement in areas such as energy.