By Anurag Kotoky NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Student Mikael Haris is wrestling with the sort of question confronting others across India, including companies, investors and banks, following the 18 percent slump in the rupee this year. With plans to study for a masters degree in marketing in London from this month, he is trying to decide whether to pay his course fees up front and secure a discount, or to spread them out in the hope that a rebound in the rupee will ultimately reduce his costs. "We are kind of speculating how to pay the fee, to see whether the rupee will regain its strength. It is a strategy that makes you think, how to lower your expenses," Haris said. The slump in the rupee as the country struggles with decade-low economic growth and a record current account deficit has hit confidence across the country and among international investors. For the 800,000 or so Indian students who go overseas to study each year, the main question is whether they can still afford to do so as their costs in rupees have risen by as much as 20 percent. The top three destinations to study are the United States, Britain and Australia. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) estimated overseas Indian students spend the equivalent of about $15 billion a year to pursue their studies. "If the currency continues to depreciate, it will certainly put a doubt in the mind of students on whether to look at going abroad next year or not," said New Delhi-based Ajay Mittal, a director at International Placewell Consultants Pvt Ltd, a student placement company. "If the slide does not stop it may affect the January or next September admissions," Mittal said. "ONE EXTRA BEER" Students already studying overseas are looking to cut costs, rely on savings or find work to cover their shortfalls. Pooja Raman, who is studying International Business Law at the National University of Singapore, is worried about paying off her education loan after her expenses rose by 15 percent in recent months. Most Indian students take loans for their studies overseas. "If the rupee continues on this devaluation path, it would get difficult to repay it within the given time and I might have to take another one," Raman said. Adding to the pressure, state-run Indian banks have not raised the maximum limit on education loans to account for the fall in the rupee, meaning what used to be full-course funding now covers just a proportion. Foreign students are prized by U.S. academic institutions, particularly at the undergraduate level, because they often pay full tuition and board rather than counting on financial aid from universities, giving them an economic impact that outweighs their numbers - less than 4 percent of U.S. university enrolment. So far, U.S. schools say there has been no significant drop off in the number of Indian students, the second-largest population of foreign students after the Chinese. That does not mean there will not be a fall though, said Gary Hamme, associate vice president for enrolment management at the Florida Institute of Technology. "If this continues, it's going to get tough and obviously we would be concerned about the number of new students," he said. Foreign students make up about a third of the total enrolment at the institute and Indian students are among the top three most represented foreign nationalities. Shiva Balasubramanian from Mumbai, who is studying computer engineering at Arizona State University, says he is cutting his daily expenses to cope. "You avoid buying exotic vegetables, and that one extra beer, for example," he said. "It's a test of management in daily life." "BITE THE BULLET" In Australia, many look for part time work in restaurants, retail stores, gas stations and administration. "Indian students would come to class often very tired, and fall asleep in class, because when you look at it they're often working two or three part time jobs, (sometimes) illegally," said Phil Honeywood, executive director of the International Education Association of Australia. The rupee slump has also caught out those who had been cautious with budgeting. Ridhima Tomar, who will pursue a degree in Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics this month, thought she had made a conservative calculation on the exchange rate at 95 per pound. The rupee now trades at 103 and she estimated her costs have risen 20 percent compared with last year. "I am done with all my formalities and booked my tickets and got my visa. I guess I will have to bite the bullet," Tomar said. (Additional reporting by Aditi Shah in MUMBAI, Lincoln Feast in SYDNEY, Scott Malone in BOSTON and Nivedita Bhattacharjee in CHICAGO; Editing by Neil Fullick)
- Yahoo News
Early data on the rollout of the vaccines for COVID-19 shows that minority populations in the United States already disproportionately affected by the pandemic are not being immunized at the same rate as white Americans.
- The Week
Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
The new Biden administration has yet not disclosed the secrets of Area 51 or explained what the Air Force really knows about UFOs, but it did clarify, at least, the mystery of the vanished "Diet Coke button" former President Donald Trump would use to summon refreshments in the Oval Office. The usher button, as it is formally known, is not gone, even if it is no longer used to summon Diet Cokes, a White House official tells Politico.The White House official "unfortunately wouldn't say what Biden will use the button for," Politico's Daniel Lippman writes, suggesting Biden might summon Orange Gatorade and not the obvious answer, ice cream — or, let's get real, coffee. What's more, there are evidently two usher buttons in the Oval Office, one at the Resolute Desk and the other next to the chair by the fireplace, a former White House official told Politico, adding that Trump didn't actually use the Diet Coke button all that much because "he would usually just verbally ask the valets, who were around all day, for what he needed."In any case, it is not the placement of the button that matters, of course, but how you use it. And Biden will presumably know better than to order ice cream treats during a top-secret national security briefing.More stories from theweek.com Democrats are getting Chuck Grassleyed MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell permanently banned from Twitter Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing
- The Independent
Biden officials struggle to understand why doses have not been administered, says report, as president promises to ramp-up vaccination rate
President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services. Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What they're saying: "President Biden is ensuring that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars they are spent on American made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts," the White House said in a fact sheet.The big picture: Biden’s action kick offs another week in which the president will seek to undo many Trump policies with executive actions, while signaling the direction that he wants to take the country. * Biden will also reaffirm his support for the Jones Act, which requires maritime shipments between American ports to be carried on U.S. vessels. * Last week, Biden signed an order to attempt to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and workers to $15 an hour.The bottom line: Former President Trump also attempted to force the federal government to rely on U.S. manufacturers for procurement with "buy American" provisions. * But supply chains — with some parts and components made outside of the U.S. — require long and complicated efforts to boost domestic manufacturing. Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
Britain will be able to work with the European Union to ensure there is no disruption to vaccine supplies, Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Tuesday, arguing protectionism was not right during a pandemic. German Health Minister Jens Spahn earlier said he backed proposals to restrict vaccines leaving the EU, saying Europe should have its "fair share". The European Commission later said it had no plans to impose an export ban, explaining its proposal would require firms to register vaccine exports.
- Associated Press
A priest who livestreamed exorcisms aimed at rooting out what he, former President Donald Trump and some Trump supporters have falsely claimed was widespread voting fraud in the presidential election has left a Roman Catholic diocese in Wisconsin. The Diocese of Madison said it and the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf reached a mutual decision on his departure. Zuhlsdorf will relocate from the diocese ”to pursue other opportunities,” the diocese said in a statement earlier this month.
- The Guardian
Trump ally, who claims lawsuit against him is ‘act of intimidation to censor the exercise of free speech’, threatened New York Post Giuliani in Washington in November. On Monday, Dominion sued Giuliani in federal court in Washington, over his claims about supposed electoral fraud. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP On Monday, Rudy Giuliani called a $1.3bn lawsuit brought against him by Dominion Voting Systems “another act of intimidation by the hate-filled left wing to wipe out and censor the exercise of free speech”. But Giuliani has himself previously threatened to censor the exercise of free speech with legal action. The former New York mayor turned Trump attorney was invoking current rightwing complaints against so-called “cancel culture”, in which freedom of speech is supposedly curtailed. But in June 2001, the New York Post ran a story about an extra-marital affair. Giuliani told reporters: “I will consider suing them for libel – defamation. What the New York Post did is scurrilous, I believe it’s malicious and I’m prepared to prove that in court if I have to.” First amendment protection of freedom of the press makes it difficult for US public officials to mount libel lawsuits, even if reports are proved to be wrong. Giuliani did not take the Post to court. On Monday, Dominion sued Giuliani in federal court in Washington, over his claims about supposed electoral fraud, made as part of Donald Trump’s baseless attempts to overturn defeat by Joe Biden, efforts which culminated in the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6 January. “Dominion brings this action to set the record straight,” the complaint said, “to vindicate the company’s rights under civil law, to recover compensatory and punitive damages, and to stand up for itself, its employees, and the electoral process.” Dominion’s lawyer, Thomas Clare, told the New York Times the company could sue others, including Trump. “We’re not ruling anybody out,” he said. “Obviously, this lawsuit against the president’s lawyer moves one step closer to the former president and understanding what his role was and wasn’t.” Some experts said Dominion might itself count as a public figure, and thus have a hard time winning its case. Giuliani said he might counter-sue Dominion. “The amount being asked for is, quite obviously, intended to frighten people of faint heart. It is another act of intimidation by the hate-filled left wing to wipe out and censor the exercise of free speech, as well as the ability of lawyers to defend their clients vigorously. As such, we will investigate a countersuit against them for violating these constitutional rights,” he said. It remains to be seen if Giuliani will follow through. Nearly 20 years ago, he did not. Giuliani threatened to sue the Post over its story about how, as the New York Daily News described it, the mayor and his “girlfriend Judith Nathan [were] using the posh St Regis Hotel as a ‘secret love nest’”. Negotiations between Giuliani and the Post followed but nearly six weeks later, on 18 July, the Daily News reported that Giuliani had not made good on his threat. “When I’m ready to decide, you’ll be the first to know,” he said. “But I don’t get rushed into anything.”
- Los Angeles Times Opinion
Gov. Newsom needs to do a better job communicating California's statewide COVID restrictions with the public, and with other state officials.
- The Telegraph
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the establishment of its embassy in Tel Aviv as the US national security advisor announced that America hopes to build “on the success of Israel’s normalisation agreements” under the Biden administration. The UAE cabinet decision to approve establishing the embassy comes after they signed the Abraham Accords in September, becoming the first Gulf state to establish a full diplomatic relationship with Israel. No further details about the embassy were given in UAE media. While Israel’s government recognises Jerusalem as its capital, the international community does not, with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Most countries base their embassies in Tel Aviv. Before the deal, Israel only had peace deals with only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan - where it has fortified embassies. Most Arab countries had previously refrained from recognising Israel, believing that recognition should only be granted if serious concessions are made in the Palestinian peace process. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco later agreed to follow in the UAE’s footsteps and normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.
- Associated Press
Indonesian authorities have detained the Iranian and Chinese crewmembers of two tankers that were seized for illegally transferring oil in Indonesian waters, an official said Tuesday. “MT Freya did the oil spilling,” Pramandita said.
- The Independent
Giuliani slams ‘hate-filled left-wing’ as he responds to $1.3bn defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer claims legal action is intended to ‘frighten people of faint heart’
Venezuela's Juan Guaido is a "privileged interlocutor" but no longer considered interim president, European Union states said in a statement on Monday, sticking by their decision to downgrade his status. The EU's 27 states had said on Jan. 6 they could no longer legally recognise Guaido as after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December, despite the EU not recognising that vote. Following the disputed re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018, Guaido, as head of parliament, became interim president.
- Associated Press
A North Korean diplomat who served as the country’s acting ambassador to Kuwait has defected to South Korea, according to South Korean lawmakers who were briefed by Seoul’s spy agency. Ha Tae-keung, a conservative opposition lawmaker and an executive secretary of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, said Tuesday he was told by officials from the National Intelligence Service that the diplomat arrived in South Korea in September 2019 with his wife and at least one child. Ha said he was told that the diplomat, who changed his name to Ryu Hyun-woo after arriving in the South, had escaped through a South Korean diplomatic mission but that spy officials didn’t specify where.
- Yahoo News Video
Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
- The Week
The CEO of MyPillow will no longer be able to use his Twitter.MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has been permanently banned from Twitter for "repeated violations of our Civic Integrity Policy," the company told CNN.While Twitter didn't specify what tweet prompted Lindell's final suspension, he has in recent weeks been pushing false claims about widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Twitter's Civic Integrity Policy states that users may not use the platform "for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes," including by posting "false or misleading information about the procedures or circumstances around participation in" elections. Under this policy, five or more strikes will lead to a permanent suspension.Lindell, who visited former President Donald Trump at the White House earlier this month and was seen with notes referencing "martial law," also could soon be hit with a potential defamation lawsuit for his election claims. Dominion Voting Systems has threatened to sue the MyPillow boss over his promotion of a false conspiracy theory that the company's machines were used to change the outcome of the presidential race. Dominion on Monday sued Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who also promoted the false claims. Lindell told The New York Times he would "welcome" a lawsuit from Dominion.Twitter's suspension of Lindell comes after the company earlier this month permanently banned Trump due to the "risk of further incitement of violence" following the deadly Capitol riot. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has defended the decision, while at the same time saying that "a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation."More stories from theweek.com Democrats are getting Chuck Grassleyed Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing
- NBC News
He said he spotted a carseat on the curb while delivering package, but at first did not realize there was a baby in it.
A U.S. aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entered the South China Sea over the weekend to promote "freedom of the seas" at a time of U.S. concern about China-Taiwan tensions and Beijing asserting its maritime agenda. The patrol comes just days after Joe Biden was sworn in as U.S. president and follows a year of repeated demonstrations of military power by both Beijing and Washington. China has complained about U.S. vessels in the South China Sea close to islands it controls, claims, or constructed and turned into military installations.
- Associated Press
Indianapolis police arrested a 17-year-old boy Monday in the killings of five people, including a pregnant woman, who were shot to death inside a home in what the city's mayor called a “devastating act of violence.” The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that the name of the suspect in Sunday's killings was “not being released at this time since the suspect is a juvenile." As officers were investigating, police received information about 4:40 a.m. that led them to a nearby home, where they found multiple adults dead inside from apparent gunshot wounds, Sgt. Shane Foley said Sunday.
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
Backers of the union of the United Kingdom's four nations should boycott any "wildcat" independence referendum for Scotland, the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party said on Monday, after the nation's first minister pressed ahead with plans for a vote. Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Sunday she was hoping a strong performance by her Scottish National Party (SNP) in an election in May would give her the mandate to hold a second referendum. To get a legal referendum, any such vote must be approved by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has ruled out doing so.