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  Theresa May wins Parliament’s backing to hold snap polls on June 8

 London, Apr 19: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday won the overwhelming backing of MPs to hold a snap election on June 8, which she said is in the country’s “national interest” and will strengthen her hand in the complex Brexit negotiations.
After debating the motion put forward by May in the House of Commons, 522 of the 650 sitting MPs voted in favour of the June 8 election, passing the threshold of two-thirds needed to approve the plan.
Thirteen voted against the motion.
The Parliament’s backing for snap polls plunged Britain back into political uncertainty weeks before the start of negotiations on leaving the European Union.
May, 60, had stunned her allies as well as opponents when she called for a snap poll on Tuesday.
There was a short debate on the motion in the House of Commons to over-ride the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act, which would have seen an election being held only in 2020.
Opening the debate, May said a snap general election was “in our country’s national interest” and urged MPs to do the “right and responsible thing” and back an early poll.
She told MPs: “There are three things a country needs, a strong economy, strong defence and strong, stable leadership. That is what our plans for Brexit and our plan for Britain will deliver, and that is what the Conservative Party will be offering at this election.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “We welcome the general election but this is a Prime Minister who promised there wouldn’t be one, a Prime Minister who cannot be trusted. She says it’s about leadership, yet is refusing to defend her record in television debates and it’s not hard to see why.”
The vote came soon after former UK Chancellor George Osborne announced that he intends to quit as an MP. He had come under fire for taking on a role at the ‘Evening Standard’ newspaper while still being an MP for Tatton.
“I am stepping down from the House of Commons – for now. But I will remain active in the debate about our country’s future and on the issues I care about,” he said. Earlier, May had called on the electorate to trust her on her decision to call an early general election on June 8 as it will strengthen her hand in the complex Brexit negotiations. (Agencies)


   Chinese President Xi Jinping asks new People's Liberation Army units to be ready for combat, modern warfare

 BEIJING, Apr 19: Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked the PLA's newly-formed 84 large military units to prepare themselves for combat and give priority to building "new-type" fighting capabilities in electronic, information and space warfare. Xi, also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the 2.3 million-strong military, spoke to the commanders of the new units on Tuesday and asked them to improve their joint operation capabilities and technology level. He said the new units of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) must prepare themselves for combat and study wars. The President told the new forces to conduct more combat exercises and give priority to building "new-type" fighting capabilities, state-run China Daily reported. In PLA terminology, "new-type" fighting capabilities generally refers to capabilities of engaging in electronic, information and space operations.
Xi's call for building "new-type" fighting capabilities of the world's largest military came as Beijing prepares to counter the US deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) interceptor missiles in South Korea, whose powerful radars could see through most of the part of China including its missile development programme. As it expanded strategic influence, China is also flexing its military might especially in the neighbourhood over the territorial disputes with India, Japan and countries in the South China Sea. All 84 of the new units are at combined corps level, which means their commanders have or soon will be promoted to a rank of either major general in the Ground Force, Air Force and Rocket Force or rear admiral in the Navy. (Agencies)


    Donald Trump is considering military options for North Korea and they are all grim

London, Apr 19: Three weeks before becoming president, Donald Trump weighed in on the threat of North Korea developing a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the US: “It won’t happen,” he vowed on Twitter. Now planners are contemplating what a US strike to prevent that development might look like, and the options are grim.
Analysts estimate North Korea may now possess between 10 and 25 nuclear weapons, with launch vehicles, air force jets, troops and artillery scattered across the country, hidden in caves and massed along the border with South Korea. That’s on top of what the US estimates to be one of the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpiles, a biological weapons research program and an active cyberwarfare capability. And with Seoul and its 10 million residents just 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of the border -- well within North Korea’s artillery range -- any eruption of hostilities could have devastating human and economic costs. That’s why the North Korean dynasty founded by Kim Il Sung has long hinged its survival, in part, on a warning that any attack could provoke all-out war.
“Unless you were in a crisis situation where we thought the North Koreans were getting ready to attack us, a preemptive strike against the North Korean nuclear and missile program is simply not a practical option,” said Gary Samore, a former White House coordinator for weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, who’s now at Harvard University’s Belfer Center. (Agencies)

Donald Trump’s H-1B hacking gets hammered by critics, but supporters gush over 'America First'

WASHINGTON, Apr 19: US President Donald Trump is getting hammered by critics for what they say is his dubious commitment to the ''Buy American, Hire American'' policy that he is promoting on faulty premise, even as his hardline nationalist supporters are in raptures that he is putting ''America First.''
From pointing out that the product line from his own companies are made abroad (including Made in India sports coats) to taunting that his properties, estates, and businesses employ a large number of immigrants, detractors eviscerated the US President for double standards after he went on a blue-collar road show on Tuesday to expound American First vision. He promoted it with an executive diktat aimed, among other things, at reforming the H-1B visa programme that has helped grow the Indian IT industry.
That vision is faulty, industry leaders both in manufacturing and services said, echoing similar views from Trump's political opponents and academics with expertise in the matter, all of whom argued that foreign workers actually contributed to the US economy and rejected the claim that they took over ''American jobs.'' While industry leaders said Trump's executive order to ''Buy American'' will simply bump up the cost of the $1 trillion infrastructure spending (or yield less from it) that he has proposed, analysts such as Linda Lim, a University of Michigan scholar who studies political economy, warned that it will also result in foreign governments enacting similar strictures against American products, throwing sand in the global trade engine. (Agencies)


Panamagate verdict to decide Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s future

Islamabad, Apr 19: Pakistan is awaiting with growing suspense the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case on Thursday, with talk in Islamabad even suggesting the ruling could force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down and make way for an interim premier from his party.
At a meeting of the PML-N party held in Islamabad on Wednesday and chaired by Sharif, leaders debated whether the party should go for early elections or for an interim prime minister, in which case the choice of candidate would have to be finalised.
The two favourites for the position are finance minister Ishaq Dar, related to the Sharif family through marriage, and Nawaz Sharif's younger brother, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. Other candidates are also being considered, PML-N officials said.
The case pertains to leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm of Mossack Fonseca that showed Sharif’s children, including heir apparent Maryam Nawaz, owned offshore assets worth millions of dollars. The Supreme Court has raised questions about Maryam’s finances.
Anticipating an adverse verdict, the Karachi Stock Exchange, the premier bourse, continued to fall. At the end of trading on Tuesday, the Pakistan Stock Exchange’s (PSX) benchmark index recorded a fall of 250.75 points to end at 46,874.37. The market also registered a fall when it reopened on Wednesday morning. (Agencies)


Australia, New Zealand step up nationalist rhetoric with visa curbs on skilled workers


Sydney, Apr 19: Australia and New Zealand have tightened visa conditions for skilled migrants in a bid to woo nationalist-leaning voters, echoing the United States’ “America First” policy, but critics have decried the move as mostly political posturing. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday abolished a temporary work visa popular with foreigners, replacing it with a new programme. New Zealand also tightened access to skilled work visas, taking a “Kiwis-first approach.”
The changes are likely to hurt small businesses and Australian tech start-ups, industry officials said, but both countries will continue to see a surge in foreigners. Recent population growth in Australia has been driven by student visas, which offer a path for people to study, work and eventually become permanent residents. In the six months to December, the country granted 156,453 student visas. This compares with just 12,866 of the so-called 457 skilled work visas approved in the year to September 2016.
More than 95,000 foreigners are now employed under the 457 visa, making up a mere 0.8 percent of Australia’s labour force. “This is just a change of name, nothing else,” said Shamim Ahmed, a Sydney-based migration agent at AIC Education Services. “They cannot really abolish this visa, because it is demanded by employers.”
The 457 visa has been axed with immediate effect, and replaced by two new visas with a shorter skills shortage list and a tougher English language requirement, Turnbull announced on Tuesday. Additional details are still awaited.
Turnbull, who broke the news on social media site Facebook, expects fewer entrants to Australia under the new scheme, he said in a radio interview on Wednesday. “There will be a short-term skills visa for two years and it can only be renewed once. And then the person holding it has to go back to their home country,” Turnbull said, repeating the “Australian jobs for Australians” rhetoric 16 times.
Another 4-year visa will have stricter eligibility criteria. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has labelled the announcement “cosmetic” and a “con job” that will make no real difference. (Agencies)


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