India Floats Universal Basic Income to Eradicate Poverty

In India, the government has unveiled a radical proposal to eliminate poverty – providing a universal basic income for all its citizens, while stressing that this is only a concept.

The idea was floated in the country’s just-released annual economic survey that said guaranteeing a stipend to cover every individual’s basic needs would promote social justice.

Chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, the lead author of the survey, told reporters that the proposal has many challenges. “So it’s an idea whose time is right for further deliberation and discussion and not necessarily immediate implementation,” he said.

The survey suggests that a basic monthly income could replace a string of welfare subsidies for the poor that India currently has in place.

India spends billions of dollars on a rural work program that aims to ensure minimum employment for the poor and on subsidies such as food and fuel. The programs, however, have often been criticized for poor implementation, corruption, waste and very often failing to reach the intended beneficiaries.  

To eliminate intermediaries and officials who critics say often siphon off some of the benefits, both the federal and central governments have made efforts to replace the subsidies with direct cash transfers in recent years.

A universal basic income, however, would be much more ambitious and expensive than the current poverty welfare programs and many economists say India simply does not have the resources for such an initiative. Even if the middle class and rich are excluded, it would have to cover more than a billion people. India has a population of 1.3 billion. 

They say calculations in the survey show that ending the major subsidies for the poor would save 2.07 percent of GDP, but a universal basic income would need an outlay that would be more than double, amounting to 4.9 percent of GDP.

The survey considers various options such as covering only women at the start. “Women face worse prospects in almost every aspect of their daily lives – employment opportunities, education, health or financial inclusion,” the survey says.

Some other countries are experimenting with the idea of a universal basic income – Finland has launched a trial program for unemployed residents. In Switzerland, voters rejected such a proposal last year. 

The proponents of a basic income say every citizen has the right to a minimum income that ensures his or her basic needs; critics say it takes away the incentive to work.

The annual economic survey also suggested that the controversial currency ban implemented by the government last year has taken a toll on the economy. It estimated that growth would be one-quarter to one-half percentage points lower than the earlier forecast of 7 percent, but added that the adverse impact on gross domestic product “will be transitional.”

The government scrapped high value notes making up 86 percent of the country’s currency last November in a bid to crack down on illegal money. The biggest impact of the cash squeeze was on the country’s informal sector, which makes up more than two-thirds of the economy, employs millions and relies heavily on cash transactions.

Trump Presidency Thus Far? Russia, for One, Is Pleased

Russians have largely greeted Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House with high hopes for a new era of improved relations with the United States. And judging by this week’s reaction, the first telephone call between Presidents Trump and Putin has done nothing to diminish those expectations.


In his influential weekly news program Vesti Nedeli, anchor Dmitry Kiselev praised the 45-minute conversation as the “most awaited phone call on Earth.”


“Donald Trump is fulfilling his election promises and getting rid of Obama’s pathetic legacy,” Kiselev said during the broadcast.


Kremlin officials have been more circumspect, if only slightly.  


On Monday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the conversation as “constructive” with both men showing a desire to resolve “complex issues through dialogue.”


Peskov said such cooperation was not possible under the Obama administration, with whom the Kremlin sparred bitterly over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, military support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and allegations of interference in the U.S. presidential election, among other issues.


Indeed, following the phone call, statements from both the Kremlin and White House stressed a desire to find common ground.


Sanctions relief?


The Kremlin said the leaders expressed an interest in closer cooperation in fighting Islamic State terrorists, as well as dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iran nuclear deal, and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. There was no indication that the presidents discussed the charges that Russia tried to interfere with the U.S. election.


Nor do the two appear to have discussed Western sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, although the tone of the call fed into speculation that they could soon be eased.  


Key European allies – in line with the former Obama administration – have proposed partially lifting the sanctions only if Moscow fulfills its obligations under the Minsk Peace Accords aimed at ending the fighting in east Ukraine between Kyiv government forces and pro-Russian separatists.  


President Trump has suggested he could lift sanctions in exchange for a reduction in Russia’s nuclear arsenal or a commitment to fight the Islamic State.


In his press call Monday, Kremlin spokesman Peskov insisted sanctions were not raised during the Trump-Putin call.


A shift in tone


But many observers pointed hopefully to a Kremlin statement that the two leaders expressed a desire improve “economic cooperation.”


“To fully develop economic ties, it’s necessary to create the right climate and legal conditions,” said Russian lawmaker Dmitri Novikov in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.  “That requires canceling sanctions.”


Kremlin allies also contrasted the apparently warm rapport between Trump and Putin to the Russian president’s frosty relationships with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francoise Hollande.

Indeed, some argued that the budding Trump-Putin friendship had the potential to shake traditional U.S. allies to the core.


“Kyiv, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, Oslo, Stockholm, NATO – they’re all horrified by the results of the Putin-Trump call,” crowed Alexey Pushkov, a Russian lawmaker and former head of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs committee in a post to Twitter.

Hacking charges


Yet hovering over any budding detente are the accusations the Kremlin meddled in the U.S. election with the aim of helping Trump win the White House.


So, too, are unsubstantiated claims the Kremlin possesses compromising sexual material on Trump from a visit to Moscow in 2013.


A U.S. investigation also is continuing into whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign team and Russian officials during the election campaign.


Moscow has repeatedly denied the hacking charges, and angrily dismissed related allegations as attempts to sabotage a new era in U.S.-Russian relations.


Still, the hacking scandal gained new intrigue with recent Russian news reports that two intelligence officers from the FSB’s cybersecurity unit were among six Russian nationals arrested and charged with treason.

According to sources quoted by the Interfax news agency, those arrested are suspected of providing information to the CIA – raising questions of its possible connections to the U.S. investigation into Russian hacking.

Kremlin officials have yet to comment.


Who is playing whom?


Warranted or not, the hacking scandal has made the Trump team sensitive to charges it is beholden to Moscow.  


Some Russia analysts point to the White House’s decision to release photos of Trump on the phone with Putin surrounded by Vice President Mike Pence and other advisors as a sign of the administration’s concerns over the optics of Russian rapprochement.


But Russian political analyst Feodor Krashenninkov argues the “Trump as Putin’s puppet” theory is overblown.  


In an interview with VOA, Krashenninkov noted that Trump’s actions are hemmed in by Republican lawmakers who favor a hardline approach to Russia.


“Putin – by contrast – can give away anything,” says Krashenninkov, who noted – in a twist – that it is Putin who would be more likely to embrace the title of Trump’s bestseller, The Art of the Deal.


Krashenninkov argued that Trump, in his introductory conversation with the Russian leader, borrowed from another book of American tycoon lore:  Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Wherever U.S.-Russian relations head next, some in Moscow were reveling in the domestic controversy arising during Trump’s first week in office – including mass protests against the administration’s decision to temporarily ban admission to the United States of all refugees and most citizens of seven Middle Eastern countries.


Maxim Shevchenko, a pro-Kremlin journalist, urged his government to enjoy – if not stoke – the chaos.

“Trump is a symbol of the deep, insurmountable and not easily defined confrontation of the societal, political, and economic split in America… therefore, greetings Trump!’  Shevchenko wrote in a post to his Facebook account.


“The more chaos, anger, and confrontation they have the better.”

Billionaire Buffett Breakfast Budget: Never More Than $3.17

A new documentary on legendary investor Warren Buffett sheds light on just how his spending habits may have made him wealthy.

In the documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett,” which airs on HBO, the billionaire said he never spends more than $3.17 for breakfast most days.

“I tell my wife, as I shave in the morning, I say, ‘Either $2.61, $2.95 or $3.17.’ And she puts that amount in the little cup by me here [in the car],” he explains in HBO’s documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett,” which first aired Monday.

The 86-year-old, who is the third richest man in the world, usually gets his breakfasts at McDonald’s on his way to work.

“When I’m not feeling quite so prosperous, I might go with the $2.61, which is two sausage patties, and then I put them together and pour myself a Coke,” Buffett said in the documentary. “$3.17 is a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, but the market’s down this morning, so I’ll pass up the $3.17 and go with the $2.95.”

The investing guru has long had a reputation for frugality, as he still lives in a 5-bedroom house in Omaha, Nebraska, which he bought for $31,000 in 1958.

Trump Pushes Drugmakers for Lower Prices, More US Production

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on the pharmaceutical industry to boost U.S. production and lower prices, while also vowing to speed up approval times for new medicines and appoint a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration leader soon.

Shares of five of the six drug companies at the White House meeting with Trump were up more than 1 percent on average following the president’s remarks, compared with a 0.5 percent drop in the broad S&P 500. The NASDAQ Biotech Index  was up 1.1 percent, reversing earlier losses, and the S&P 500 health care index gained 0.7 percent.

Attending the meeting were the CEOs of Novartis AG, Merck & Co., Johnson & Johnson, Celgene, Eli Lilly & Co. and Amgen as well as the head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America lobbying group.

Trump told the drugmakers that pricing had been “astronomical.”

“We have to get prices down for a lot of reasons. We have no choice, for Medicare and Medicaid,” Trump said at the meeting, citing the nation’s government insurance programs for the elderly, the poor and the disabled that together are the largest U.S. purchaser of medications.

WATCH: Trump on unreasonably high drug prices

Trump also said currency devaluation by other countries had increased drugmakers’ outsourcing their production and called on the companies to make more of their products in the United States.

He added that foreign countries must pay fair share for drug development costs.

“We’re going to end global freeloading,” Trump said. Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez, who is chairman-elect of the industry lobbying group, said last week that he wanted to talk to Trump about efforts to develop pricing models that would pay for clinical results rather than a flat price per pill, as well

as plans to replace the Affordable Care Act, which is popularly known as “Obamacare.”

Trump spooked investors in the pharmaceuticals and biotech sectors by saying on Jan. 11, before his inauguration, that drug companies were “getting away with murder” on what they charged the government for medicine and that he would do something about it.

That prompted the pharmaceutical lobbying group to unveil a new TV marketing campaign last week to improve its image by focusing attention on strides in research.

Company executives, meanwhile, have tried to tread a careful line in defending their industry while expressing optimism that the United States would continue to reward scientific advances.

Asia Targets Tourism, Education Boost from Trump Travel Ban

Seeking to capitalize on U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial new travel restrictions, companies and officials in Asia said they would target greater tourism and education ties with Muslims worried about the curbs.

Trump’s Friday directive put a 120-day hold on allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

In Muslim-majority Malaysia, the group CEO of Asia’s largest budget airline, AirAsia, suggested countries in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could cash in.

“With the world now getting more isolationist it’s time for ASEAN to start making it easier for tourists to come,” Tony Fernandes said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Malaysia is a popular destination for tourists from the Middle East, with nearly 200,000 arriving in 2016 from countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Qatar.

The country is also a key destination for medical tourism and halal tourism, with food and other products largely halal-certified.

In neighboring Thailand, tourism officials said the U.S. ban could lift visitor numbers.

“The Middle East is a big market for us, especially in the medical tourism sector. They may choose to visit Thailand more and this may also boost our sector,” Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.

Safety and security

Trump has presented his ban as a way to protect the United States from Islamist militants, but it has been condemned by a growing list of foreign leaders and drawn protests by tens of thousands in American cities.


With concerns about safety and security building, some Asians were reconsidering U.S. travel plans and seeking alternatives, even though their countries were not subject to the restrictions.

“When you want to travel, especially for leisure, then you want peace of mind,” said Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Singapore’s Dynasty Travel. S.M. Tareque, managing director of Orchid, a travel agency in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, said he had cancelled his own trip fearing harassment at U.S. airports.

He said he knew of five people who were immigrating to the United States who had put their plans on hold.

Tougher vetting

Trump has argued tougher vetting of immigrants is needed to protect America from attacks, but critics complain that his order unfairly singles out Muslims and defiles America’s historic reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants.

Keysar Trad, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said Trump’s travel restrictions were not only hurting innocent people but were “bringing great damage to his own economy and to the standings of Americans internationally”.

“Everyone who has relatives in America, whether they are from the countries listed or not, they are petrified of what this man is going to do to America and to their relatives,” Trad told Reuters.

Some education providers had seen early signs of an impact. Ajay Mital, director at International Placewell Consultants in New Delhi, which places Indian students in universities abroad, said Germany and Singapore had stepped up efforts to recruit students.

Prospective students were worried that, even if they were able to go to the United States for education, they would not get a job at the end of their studies with the tighter work visa rules that the new administration has said it may bring in.

“Trump has created panic here,” Mital said. “Of particular concern are plans to review the Optional Practical Training, or OPT, program which gives foreign graduates in fields like science, technology, engineering or maths the right to find jobs in the U.S. for up to 36 months. Tomorrow he may end the OPT.”

Looking elsewhere

Delhi-based IT professional Kanishk Singh had applied to more than a dozen U.S. universities for a master’s course in creative writing. He received an email from Indiana University warning him that visa processing for international students was going to be hit after President Trump’s latest orders.

“If I don’t get to the U.S., I will apply for U.K.,” he said. Rod Jones, CEO of Australian-listed education firm Navitas Ltd., said the company had seen a downturn in inquiries for their U.S.-based English language courses.

“We have started to see students back off from the U.S. because of their concerns about potential issues they may face,” Jones told analysts on an earnings call.

“But they still want to go somewhere,” Jones added, identifying Canada and Australia as important alternatives. “The Canadian prime minister has come out and said ‘if the U.S. doesn’t want you, we’d love to have you’ and I think it is the approach of Australia too.”

Aulia Adila, 24, a young professional in the media industry in Jakarta, had been considering the United States as an option for postgraduate study.

“When Trump had a chance of winning the election this made me reconsider going to the States to study. Now that he won, and with the Muslim ban and the new migrant policy, it’s becoming even more impossible and unsafe to be in America,” Adila said.

“I’m considering another country where I’ll feel safe.”

Kenyan Artist Depicts Suffering From Doctor’s Strike

A national strike has paralyzed Kenya’s public health system. The doctors are demanding the government live up to a 2013 agreement to increase their salaries and address other issues like the lack of adequate medical equipment. But the strike has left tens of thousands of Kenyans without access to affordable medical care for almost two months. VOA’s Jill Craig reports from Nairobi on one artist who is using his creativity to show the impact of the strike on ordinary people.

Ex-tycoon Batista Jailed in Graft Probe on Return to Brazil

Eike Batista, once the richest and most outspoken cheerleader for Brazil’s ill-fated commodities bubble, flew back to Rio de Janeiro Monday and was arrested at the airport by federal police over corruption allegations after four days as a fugitive.

Batista, a brash entrepreneur whose meteoric rise and fall made him the poster boy of a decade-long boom in Brazil that turned to bust three years ago, is accused of paying a former Rio state governor millions in bribes. A warrant for his arrest was issued on Thursday.

Batista has not been formally charged. Under Brazilian law, only prosecutors can file charges, after police conclude an investigation.

The 60-year-old businessman, who has sold or forfeited his stakes in the energy, mining and logistics empire known as EBX Group, was once married to a Carnival queen and is the son of a former chief executive officer of mining company Vale SA.

Five years ago, he had a net worth exceeding $30 billion and was considered one of the world’s 10 richest people. On Monday, he had his hair implants shaved off before he was locked in a shared cell in Rio’s notorious Bangu prison, authorities said.

“I am returning to answer to the courts, as is my duty,” Batista told the Globo television network at New York’s JFK airport. “It’s time for me to clear this up.”

In May, Batista showed up at the southern Brazil offices of federal prosecutors leading a huge probe into political kickbacks made by scores of major companies, in return for lucrative contracts from state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Batista told prosecutors at the time that former Finance Minister Guido Mantega had requested, and he had made, a contribution of 5 million reais ($1.60 million) to cover debts from the successful 2010 presidential campaign of former President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached last year for breaking budget rules.

Mantega was charged with corruption in September, due in large part to Batista’s testimony, prosecutors said. Both Mantega and Rousseff deny wrongdoing.

The sweeping corruption investigation, which now covers several state-run companies, has jailed prestigious CEOs and major political figures, convicted more than 80 people and confirmed some $2 billion in bribes paid over several years.

New testimony from plea bargains approved on Monday is expected to implicate more than 100 sitting politicians.

“I think federal prosecutors are cleaning up Brazil in a fantastic manner,” Batista told Globo TV. “The Brazil that is being born now will be different.”

He added that he never intended to flee and was in New York on business. Batista declined to answer a reporter’s question about whether he considered himself guilty or innocent.

Batista’s lawyer, Fernando Martins, told reporters outside a prison where the businessman initially was taken that he had not yet spoken with his client but that he was worried about his safety.

Inmates with a college degree, which Batista lacks, are usually separated from the rest of the population in Brazil’s crowded prison system, where a series of violent riots have erupted this year.

A former wildcat gold miner, Batista attracted ravenous demand for shares in his mining and energy ventures, which were forced into bankruptcy court as oil and mineral prices crashed.

Police accuse Batista of paying $16 million to former Rio Governor Sergio Cabral in exchange for support of the businessman’s many Rio-based endeavors.

Cabral, who resigned from office in 2014, has been jailed since last year in connection with other corruption charges. His lawyers have denied he committed any crimes.

The oil companies OGX Petroleo e Gas SA and Oleo e Gas Participações SA  and mining company MMX, which were founded by Batista, said on Monday that he no longer held administrative roles, and his arrest would have no impact on them.

($1 = 3.1153 reais)

Wall Street Indices Post Largest Single-day Drop Since Trump Election

Wall Street’s most popular stock indices posted their largest single-day drop of the year Monday, as investors fretted about the potential impact of President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries identified by the administration as “sources of terror.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 122.65 points, or more than half a percent, to close at 19,971. The broader S&P 500 (SPX) lost 13.8 points, also more than half a percent, to close at 2,280.89.

U.S. stock prices have rallied strongly since Trump won the White House in November, encouraged by the promise of tax cuts and fewer regulations. Monday’s decline comes as potential risks from Trump’s more controversial policies hammered airline stocks and raised Wall Street’s volatility index.

Stocks in American Airlines fell 4.4 percent. United Continental was down 3.6 percent. And Delta Airlines, which suffered a systems outage that grounded nearly 300 flights over the weekend, fell 4.1 percent.

Trump’s executive order Friday, which temporarily banned immigration from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan, has created massive delays for legal residents and visa holders, and temporarily halted the entry of refugees from some of those countries.

Thousands of people descended on major U.S. cities and airports to protest the surprise presidential decree, dampening some of the enthusiasm for the Trump-inspired rally in equity markets.

“Investors focused on the pro-growth Trump proposals and not those detrimental to economic activity, like protectionism,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.

Another analyst cited worries of expanded travel restrictions and even possible retaliation by countries affected by the bans.

“The concern is that [Trump’s] travel ban starts to encompass more countries or that there are more stringent restrictions on travel to the U.S.,” said Stifel analyst Joseph DeNardi.

The Dow broke through the symbolic threshold of 20,000 points last Wednesday and stayed above that mark until Tuesday.

UK: Trump Visit Still on Amid Outcry Over Travel Ban

A state visit to Britain by President Donald Trump later this year will go ahead, the prime minister’s office said Monday, despite increasing calls for it to be canceled over his temporary ban on residents of seven majority-Muslim countries entering the U.S.


Furor over the travel ban has tarnished what British officials had considered a highly successful trip to Washington by Prime Minister Theresa May. She met Trump at the White House on Friday and announced that he had been invited to come to Britain later this year as the guest of Queen Elizabeth II.


May’s Downing St. office said Monday that “an invitation has been extended and accepted,” and the visit is still on.


No date has been announced for the state visit, which involves lavish pomp and ceremony, generally with a stay at Buckingham Palace.


The visit was hailed by government officials as a sign of the close trans-Atlantic relationship, which was also reflected in May’s invitation to meet Trump just a week after his inauguration.


But criticism of May’s wooing of Trump erupted when – only hours after the prime minister had left the White House – the president signed an executive order suspending all travel to the U.S. of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya for 90 days. The order also bars all refugees entering the country for 120 days.


Britain’s three biggest opposition parties have all called for Trump’s state visit to be canceled and an online petition opposing the trip has more than 1 million signatures. Protests against the travel ban are planned Monday in London and other British cities.


Any petition with more than 100,000 signatures must be considered for a debate in Parliament, though not a binding vote.


Last year, Parliament debated whether to ban Trump, then a presidential candidate, from visiting Britain after a similar online petition was filed.


Trump’s travel ban sparked protests at airports across the U.S., along with expressions of condemnation and concern from around the world.


There was widespread confusion about whether the ban applied to dual nationals. Somali-born British Olympic champion runner Mo Farah said he feared it would prevent him returning to the U.S., where he lives.


Late Sunday, Britain’s Foreign Office said U.S. authorities had clarified that the ban didn’t apply to British citizens who are also nationals of one of the seven countries. Canada’s foreign minister said he had been told the same about Canadian dual nationals.


However, the website of the U.S. Embassy in London advised nationals of the seven countries – “including dual nationals” – not to book visa appointments, saying their applications would not be processed.


The U.S. Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


The British exemption didn’t end the storm of opposition, with prominent members of May’s Conservative Party joining in calls for Trump’s visit to be scrapped.


Sayeeda Warsi, a former government minister and Conservative member of the House of Lords, said it was “sending out a wrong signal” to invite Trump, a leaders whose values “are not the same as British values.”


Conservative lawmaker Sarah Wollaston said Trump should not be invited to address both houses of Parliament, an honor given to many visiting foreign leaders.


She said that “those who wish to fawn over him” should do so elsewhere.


Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, a Trump ally, said “British politicians are sheer hypocrites” to oppose the travel ban as they had not objected when President Barack Obama imposed what Farage called a six-month ban on Iraqis.


In 2011 the U.S. imposed stringent checks on Iraqi refugees after two Iraqis were charged with terrorism offenses in Kentucky. It did not ban all travelers from Iraq, however.

Trump Travel Ban Presents Dilemma for Europe’s Leaders

U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries has European governments scrambling to respond to the measure. The ban presents a major dilemma for these governments, under pressure by their growing Muslim populations on side and, on the other, rising nationalist sentiments among those who oppose further Muslim immigration.  VOA Europe Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Угорська опозиція продовжила готувати протести через візит Путіна попри владні перешкоди

В Угорщині керівництво опозиційної парламентської партії «Разом» заявило, що кроки виконавчої влади з метою перешкодити проведенню демонстрації, де маніфестанти збираються освистати прем’єра Угорщини Віктора Орбана і президента Росії Володимира Путіна, якого чекають із візитом у четвер, є неконституційними, повідомляє кореспондент Радіо Свобода.

Заступник голови цієї лівоцентристської політичної сили Пейтер Югас заявив: «Подання заявки на демонстрацію обов’язкове, що ми і зробили в поліції 9 січня. З цього моменту вони мають повідомити нас протягом 72 годин, які в них є застороги щодо цього. Ми зрозуміли, що нема. Відтак заявлена нами демонстрація на майдані Лайоша Кошута 2 лютого о шостій годині вечора отримала законний дозвіл, що б не стверджував ЦЗТ (Центр запобігання тероризму)».

Про свій намір протестувати проти будівництва АЕС «Пакш-2» на російські кредити заявила угорська партія «зелених». Член проводу цієї партії (самоназва «Можлива інша політика») Іштван Ференцеші повідомив, що його фракція також вийде на вулицю, щоб на весь голос заявити, що не вважає правильним, як чинний угорський уряд «путінізує» процес діалогу з неурядовими організаціями Угорщини.

Зі свого боку, командування сил спецпризначення наполягає на неможливості проведення будь-яких масових зібрань у цьому місці, оскільки територія оголошена місцем проведення спеціальної операції ЦЗТ.

На четвер, 2 лютого, через очікуване перебування Путіна в Будапешті поліція також заборонила проїзд і паркування автомобільного транспорту в кількох кварталах, які прилягають до будівлі парламенту в середмісті угорської столиці.

США: штат Вашингтон вирішив позиватися проти указу Трампа проти імміграції

У США влада штату Вашингтон на північному заході країни повідомила, що подає до суду на президента Дональда Трампа через його указ про тимчасову заборону на імміграцію з семи переважно мусульманських країн.

У разі успіху позову рішення федерального суду в цій справі матиме за наслідок позбавлення чинності «незаконного» указу по всіх США, сказав генеральний прокурор штату Вашингтон Боб Ферґусон, який оголосив про позов.

Він хоче домогтися визнання неконституційними головних засад указу, а на час розгляду – також рішення суду, що негайно тимчасово зупинило б виконання указу.

За словами Ферґусона, ніхто не може бути вище за закон, навіть президент, а в залі суду перемагає не найгучніший голос, а Конституція.

На його думку, указ порушує конституційну гарантію рівного захисту, конституційне положення про свободу релігії, конституційне право особи на належний судовий процес і суперечить федеральному законові США про імміграцію і громадянство.

На прес-конференції, присвяченій цьому, генпрокурора штату Вашингтон підтримав і губернатор штату Джей Інслі.

Таким чином, штат Вашингтон стане першим, який оскаржить указ про тимчасове обмеження імміграції.

У неділю Боб Ферґусон ініціював заяву генпрокурорів загалом 15 штатів і федерального округу Колумбія, в якій вони засудили указ Дональда Трампа як «неконституційний, антиамериканський і незаконний» і пообіцяли спільно боротися за те, щоб федеральна влада США «дотримувалася Конституції, поважала історію США як держави іммігрантів і не перетворювала незаконно нікого на ціль переслідування через громадянство чи віру».

У суботу федеральний суддя у штаті Нью-Йорк уже видала термінову вказівку, що тимчасово заборонила органам влади депортувати біженців чи подорожніх, яких торкнувся указ Трампа. Але те рішення стосувалося тільки тих людей, хто вже в’їхав до США і був зупинений на прикордонному контролі. Воно заборонило працівникам прикордонного контролю завертати людей, які вже прибули до США з чинними візами, схваленими заявами біженця, а також «інших осіб, що мають законне право на вступ на територію США», з семи країн, про які йдеться в указі.

Дональд Трамп, посилаючись на необхідність захищати США від «іноземних терористів», підписав у п’ятницю низку указів про різкі обмеження на імміграцію, прийняття біженців і навіть просто на в’їзд до США мусульман-громадян низки переважно мусульманських країн. Заборона не стосується носіїв інших вір із цих же країн, у першу чергу цей виняток діє щодо сирійських християн.

За повідомленнями офіційного Вашингтона, зокрема, за одним із цих указів мусульмани-громадяни Сирії, Ірану, Іраку, Лівії, Сомалі, Судану й Ємену на 90 днів втрачають право в’їзду до США, і навіть ті з них, хто має дозвіл на постійне мешкання у США, неформально відомий як «ґрін-кард», муситимуть пройти ретельну перевірку, перш ніж їм можуть дозволити в’їзд. За ці 90 днів процедура ретельної перевірки має бути запроваджена щодо всіх мусульман із цих країн.

Ці рішення викликали різку критику не тільки правозахисників і громадянських активістів, але й урядів країн-союзниць США в Європі, не кажучи про країни, яких стосуються обмеження.

Прокуратура Києва отримала дозвіл на затримання екс-голови банку «Михайлівський»

Прокуратура міста Києва повідомила, що за її клопотанням суд надав дозвіл на затримання колишнього голови банку «Михайлівський» Ігоря Дорошенка. Мета затримання – примусовий привід для подальшого вирішення питання щодо зміни запобіжного заходу з домашнього арешту на тримання під вартою, мовиться в повідомленні у фейсбуці.

У п’ятницю, 27 січня, Дорошенко не з’явився до слідчого прокуратури для оголошення нової підозри – окрім розкрадання майна, йому додатково інкримінується доведення банку до банкрутства, повідомили у прокуратурі Києва.

Перевіркою інформації про хворобу Дорошенка, що була надана його адвокатом, отримані документальні підтвердження про відсутність підстав для його госпіталізації, заявила прес-служба прокуратури. На даний час органи прокуратури та СБУ вживають заходів, щоб встановити місце перебування підозрюваного та виконати рішення суду про його затримання, мовиться в повідомленні.

5 грудня 2016 року прокуратура Києва подала апеляційну скаргу на рішення суду, яким колишнього голову правління банку «Михайлівський» Ігоря Дорошенка звільнили під домашній арешт.

Шевченківський районний суд Києва 3 грудня змінив запобіжний захід Дорошенкові з тримання під вартою на домашній арешт.

12 серпня силовики затримали голову правління банку «Михайлівський». Його підозрюють у розкраданні 870 мільйонів гривень банківських коштів та доведення банку до неплатоспроможності. 13 серпня Шевченківський райсуд Києва арештував екс-голову правління банку «Михайлівський» на два місяці з можливістю внесення застави у розмірі 137,8 мільйона гривень.

23 травня Національний банк України своєю постановою визнав банк «Михайлівський» неплатоспроможним і запровадив у ньому тимчасову адміністрацію. Однак із того часу, за словами вкладників банку, вони ані не можуть отримати своїх депозитів чи коштів на карткових рахунках, ані навіть використовувати їх у безготівкових розрахунках.

Trump-Putin Phone Call: ‘A Toe in the Water’

Saturday’s phone conversation between presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has raised the hopes of many Russian politicians for a U.S.-Russian rapprochement. But other observers in Moscow remain more cautious about the prospects for bilateral relations in the Trump era.

According to the White House, the two leaders discussed topics ranging from “cooperation in defeating ISIS [Islamic State]to efforts in working together to achieve more peace throughout the world including Syria,” in a phone call that was “a significant start to improving the relationship between the United States and Russia that is in need of repair.”

The Kremlin said the two presidents “expressed their readiness to make active joint efforts to stabilize and develop Russia-U.S. cooperation on a constructive, equitable and mutually beneficial basis.”

It also said they discussed the fight against terrorism, the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict, strategic stability and non-proliferation, Iran’s nuclear program, the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and “the main aspects of the Ukrainian crisis.”

Trump and Putin called for “real coordination of actions” aimed at “defeating ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria,” and “stressed the importance of rebuilding mutually beneficial trade and economic ties between the two counties’ business communities,” the Kremlin reported.

Anti-IS coalition

Following the call, Leonid Slutsky, head of the international affairs committee of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, said he expects Washington and Moscow to forge a joint fight against Islamic State.

“The next step, I am sure, will be negotiations to create a broad anti-terrorist coalition in Syria, the formation of which the Russian president called for in 2015 from the rostrum of the U.N. General Assembly,” Slutsky said.

Slutsky also said he believes that references to economic issues in the conversation between Trump and Putin were a “positive signal for investors and, in general, for the prospects of mending relations between our countries.”

No word on sanctions

Some Russian parliamentarians suggested the two presidents intentionally — and rightly — avoided discussing sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia for annexing Crimea and backing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

“For tactical reasons, it was premature to raise the issue of lifting the sanctions in the first conversation,” Mikhail Emelyanov, deputy head of the Just Russia party’s faction in the Duma, told the Interfax news agency. “I think that in the process of improving Russian-American relations, in the process solving international problems of mutual interest, the issue of sanctions will be resolved of its own accord.”

While it is no surprise that leading Russian politicians spoke approvingly of the Trump-Putin phone conversation, some Russian foreign policy experts say it is premature to make favorable forecasts about the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

“It seems to me that neither Putin nor Trump knows what constitutes the crux of the matter in our relations with America,” Viktor Kremeniuk, deputy director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, told VOA’s Russian service. “The fact that we will necessarily cooperate in the fight against ISIS helps us find some common ground. But, in my opinion, it doesn’t go beyond that, neither with the Americans, nor with us.

“Trump probably wants expand cooperation with Russia,” Kremeniuk added. “But I’m not sure that he has a program for such an expansion, and I’m not sure that what he can offer will appeal to Putin.”

Thorny issues remain

Thorny issues like the annexation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine are unlikely to continue to “color” the U.S.-Russian relationship, he said, adding that he believes the Trump administration is willing to soften the U.S. position on Crimea.

Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center told VOA’s Russian service it is no accident the issue of lifting sanctions was not discussed in the two leaders’ phone call.

“The conversation took place amid rumors that Trump had already prepared a draft document on lifting the sanctions, and everyone understandably got worked up, because he was showing that he is strictly carrying out his agenda, from a wall with Mexico to anti-immigrant legislation,” he said. “But, apparently, it is precisely with this issue — the issue of lifting sanctions against Russia — that something needs to be coordinated with partners from the EU and the U.K. in general, with partners in the Western world.” 

He added, “Apparently, [British Prime Minister] Theresa May is not thrilled with this idea, and the EU is clearly strongly against it. Perhaps Trump decided to back off a little bit in this matter, although in the Kremlin’s press release there is a phrase, very vague, about the importance of establishing mutually beneficial trade and economic ties.”

According to the Kremlin, the two presidents agreed to issue instructions to work out the possible date and venue for a face-to-face meeting.

“There was apparently nothing extraordinary in this conversation,” Kolesnikov said. “This is called ‘putting a toe in the water.’ If the water is warm, you can move farther in.”

Hotel Rooms for Groundhog Day, Top Super Bowl Rates

A hotel room for Groundhog Day will cost more than one for the Super Bowl.

Travel website Trivago says the average price of a room in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where Groundhog Day is marked February 2, is about $450. A room for Super Bowl 51 Sunday in Houston will set you back $340, according to the site.

Groundhog Day, which is Thursday, dates back to at least the 19th century and is ostensibly a predictor of when spring will arrive. The story goes, if the day is cloudy, and the groundhog can not see its shadow, spring will arrive early, before March 21. If it can see its shadow, winter supposedly will last another six weeks.

The Super Bowl will feature the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons vying for the U.S. National Football League championship.

“Because Houston has so many hotels, the city is better equipped to handle large inflows of people, as opposed to smaller cities with fewer rooms available,” said Jon Eichelberger, Trivago’s Americas Head. “Historically, we see smaller rate increases for cities with a lot of hotels versus those with fewer, even when they host an event as large as the Super Bowl.”

Room prices in Punxsutawney are expected to drop by at least $300 after Groundhog day.

Trump Signs Order to Cut Business Regulations

U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order cutting regulations on businesses.

Trump held a closed door meeting at the White House with small business owners before the signing. 

The president repeated his desire to cut business regulations by as much as 75 percent.  He said it is his desire to make it as easy as possible to open businesses in the United States.

Surrounded by the small business owners for the signing, Trump said for every new federal regulation proposed, two must be revoked.

“If you have a regulation you want, number one, we are not going to approve it, because it has already been approved probably in 17 different forms, but if we do, the only way you have a chance is we have to knock out two regulations for every new regulation, so if there is a new regulation, they have to knock out two, but it goes far beyond that,” Trump said.  

“We are cutting regulations massively for small business, and for large business, but they are different, but for small business.  And that is what this is about today, and this will be the biggest such act that our country has ever seen,” he added.


‘Stranger Things’ is Upset Winner of SAG Awards’ TV Prize

Youth was served as the kid-dominated “Stranger Things” proved the surprise Screen Actors Guild Awards top TV winner Sunday, with “Shameless” star William H. Macy scoring his own upset victory over Jeffrey Tambor of “Transparent.”

“Stranger Things,” Netflix’s supernatural thriller that earned breakout buzz in its freshman season, deprived three-time consecutive winner “Downton Abbey” of one last trophy for its concluding year. The streaming service claimed a leading four awards as the traditional broadcast networks were shut out, something they’re getting used to.

Awards ceremony viewers may have to get used to politics amid the glitz.

“In light of all that’s going on in the world today, it’s difficult to celebrate the already celebrated “Stranger Things,” said the show’s David Harbour, accepting the award for best TV drama series ensemble on behalf of 15 fellow cast members heavy on teens.

In a lengthy speech that reflected the evening’s consistently activist tone, Harbour suggested that people follow the lead of his lawman character and “punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the weak and the disenfranchised and the marginalized.”

Macy’s win as best TV comedy actor came despite Tambor’s hefty awards haul for his portrayal of a transgender character, including last year’s SAG trophy, two Emmys and a Golden Globe.

“I’m shocked. I’m probably not as shocked as Jeffrey, but I’m pretty shocked. I would like to go against the strain this evening and thank President Donald Trump for making Frank Gallagher seem so normal,” the actor said, referring to the reprobate dad he plays in Showtime’s “Shameless.”

Louis-Dreyfus, who was honored as best TV comedy actress for HBO’s “Veep,” also started off on a lighter note.

“Whether the Russians did or did not hack the voting of tonight’s SAG Awards, I look out on the million or probably even the million and a half people in this room and I say this award is legitimate and I won. I won, the winner is me, landslide,” she said, referring to Trump’s preoccupation with his loss of the popular vote.

Turning serious, Louis-Dreyfus called herself an immigrant’s daughter and an American patriot who feels compelled to say “this immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American,” a reference to Trump’s order to halt immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Netflix’s big night included “Orange Is the New Black,” which won best ensemble in a comedy series for the third consecutive year, and star Taylor Schilling had something to say.

“We stand up here representing a diverse group of people, representing generations of families who have sought a better life here from places like Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ireland,” Schilling said, “and we know that it’s going to be up to us and all of you, probably, to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that divide us.”

Two stars of Netflix’s British royal saga “The Crown” were winners: Claire Foy, who starred as Queen Elizabeth II, and John Lithgow for his portrayal of Winston Churchill.

Sarah Paulson, an Emmy winner for her role as prosecutor Marcia Clark in FX’s “The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” proved a winner again and used part of her time on stage to call for donations to the ACLU.

Bryan Cranston, honored for playing President Lyndon Johnson in HBO’s “All the Way,” offered wry guidance for the new U.S. president.

“I’m often asked how would Lyndon Johnson think about Donald Trump. And I honestly feel that (president No.) 36 would put his arm around (president No.) 45 and earnestly wish him success,” Cranston said. “And he would also whisper in his ear something he said often, as a form of encouragement and a cautionary tale, “Just don’t piss in the soup that all of us gotta eat.”’

French Socialists Pick Presidential Candidate

Socialists in France have chosen former junior minister Benoit Hamon as their candidate for president, in a victory that analysts say is not likely to boost his election chances when French voters begin first-round balloting for a new president in April.

With 60 percent of votes tallied in Sunday’s Socialist primary, Hamon was holding near 59 percent of the vote, while rival Manuel Valls, a former prime minister, was winning 41 percent. A short while later, Valls conceded defeat.

Analysts give the Socialist party, weakened and divided by the widely unpopular presidency of Francois Hollande, little or no chance of moving past the first round of voting April 23. If no one wins 50 percent of that vote, the two top vote getters will face off for the presidency May 7.

Early polls shows Hamon trailing four others in opinion polls.

The Hamon candidacy and the apparent lack of enthusiasm for his party are expected to boost the chances of independent centrist Emmanuel Macron in a faceoff with leading rivals on the right and far-right.

Opinion polls show those rivals — Conservative Francois Fillon, the Republican candidate, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen — headed for a likely showdown in the May 7 election.