Posts Tagged politics

Rubio Fumbles, Governors Shine, Trump Untouched

ABC NewsThere have been no higher stakes on a Republican debate stage in the 2016 campaign for president than there were Saturday night.

Seven GOP Republican hopefuls faced off just three days before a make-or-break New Hampshire primary that some of them are not likely to survive.

Coming off a strong Iowa finish, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tripped up early under attack from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who are jockeying for the same Republican voters.

At the same time, the candidates on the still-crowded stage seemed unwilling to mix it up with Donald Trump, the national front-runner for months who needs a win in New Hampshire on Tuesday to avoid starting the 2016 race with two consecutive losses.

And then there was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the champion college debater who shared a deeply personal moment during an otherwise forgettable night while trying to build on his victory in the Iowa caucuses.

Rubio experienced his worst moment in a presidential debate at the worst time, stumbling badly when forced to answer the fundamental question posed by rivals of his candidacy: whether he has the experience necessary to lead the nation.

As a first-term senator with no executive experience, Rubio’s resume is remarkably similar to Barack Obama before he became president. Rubio tried to turn the question around by charging that Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing” by “undertaking a systematic effort to change this country.”

The answer was quickly challenged by Christie: “I like Marco Rubio, and he’s a smart person and a good guy, but he simply does not have the experience to be president of the United States.”

A clearly rattled Rubio responded by delivering the same line about Obama not once, but twice. And Christie made sure New Hampshire voters knew it: “There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

It was a cringe-worthy moment for Rubio three days before a New Hampshire contest in which he hopes to knock Christie, Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich from the race. Even if it doesn’t significantly change the contest in New Hampshire, the moment raises questions about Rubio’s readiness to take on Democrat Hillary Clinton in a general election debate.

He is barely registering in recent preference polls, but the New Jersey governor was the toughest candidate on the debate stage Saturday night. And that’s no small feat with the tough-talking Trump at center stage.

At seemingly every turn, Christie zeroed in on Rubio, pelting him with zingers about his inexperience and record in Washington. Calling out Rubio on his missed votes in the Senate, Christie charged, “That’s not leadership. That’s truancy.”

And when Rubio didn’t answer a moderator’s question about why he backpedaled on an immigration proposal he’d helped write when it appeared to become politically unpopular, Christie called him out.

“The question was, did he fight for his legislation. It’s abundantly clear that it he didn’t.” Then he twisted the knife: “That’s not what leadership is. That’s what Congress is.”

It was a performance Christie badly needed as he teeters on the edge of irrelevancy in the crowded Republican contest. Is it too little too late to rescue his campaign?

Trump’s rivals barely laid a glove on the frequent New Hampshire poll leader.

The decision to withhold fire was evident right from the start, when Cruz declined to repeat his assertion this week that Trump didn’t have the temperament to be commander in chief. Cruz dodged, saying everyone on the stage would be better leader of the U.S. military than Obama and Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Pressed by a moderator whether he stood by his words that Trump was too volatile to be president, Cruz said simply, “I think that is an assessment the voters are going to make.” Trump noted that Cruz refused to answer the question.

Bush was the only one who took it directly to Trump. After the billionaire real-estate developer defended the use of eminent domain as a necessary tool of government, Bush said the businessman was “downright wrong” when his company tried to use eminent domain to build an Atlantic City casino.

Trump scoffed, saying Bush “wants to be a tough guy.”

Bush fired back, “How tough is it to take property from an elderly woman?”

It was the only moment in which Trump flashed any of the rhetorical jabs he’s become known for on Twitter. For the most part, Trump was content to lay back and let those chasing him in the preference polls fight amongst themselves.

The champion college debater wasn’t much of a factor after a rough start to the debate, when he was asked about Trump’s temperament and allegations his campaign team engaged in “deceitful behavior” by suggesting in the moments before the Iowa caucuses started that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was leaving the race.

“When this transpired, I apologized to him then and I do so now,” Cruz said. “Ben, I’m sorry.”

Cruz returned to prominence when asked about substance abuse, and gave an answer that will be hard for some voters to forget.

The Texas senator shared the deeply personal story of his sister’s overdose death. He told New Hampshire voters, and a national television audience, that he and his father pulled his older sister out of a crack house. They pleaded with her to straighten out for the good of her son. But she didn’t listen.

“She died,” Cruz said.

It was a very human moment for a candidate sometimes criticized for not being likable.

And it was in line with his tone all night long, as he consistently rose above the mud-slinging, despite his near-daily attacks on his rivals on the campaign trail.


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European-Wide Protests Against Immigration

PegidaGermany’s anti-Islam PEGIDA movement staged rallies in several cities across Europe on Saturday to protest against the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

The movement, whose name stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, originated in the eastern German city of Dresden in 2014, with supporters seizing on a surge in asylum seekers to warn that Germany risks being overrun by Muslims.

After almost fizzling out early last year, the movement has regained momentum amid deepening public unease over whether Germany can cope with the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in the country during 2015.

The alleged involvement of migrants in assaults on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve has also spurred PEGIDA, which says it is proof that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance to refugees is flawed.

“We must succeed in guarding and controlling Europe’s external borders as well as its internal borders once again,” PEGIDA member Siegfried Daebritz told a crowd on the banks of the River Elbe who chanted “Merkel must go!”.

Police in Dresden declined to estimate the number of protesters. German media put the number at up to 8,000, well below the 15,000 originally expected by police.

Hundreds of counter-demonstrators also marched through Dresden under the motto “Solidarity instead of exclusion”, holding up placards saying “No place for Nazis”.

Far-right groups see Europe’s refugee crisis as an opportunity to broadcast their anti-immigrant message. There were 208 rallies in Germany in the last quarter of 2015, up from 95 a year earlier, Interior Ministry data showed.

Protests also took place on Saturday in other cities, including Amsterdam, Prague and the English city of Birmingham.

In Calais, in northern France, more than a dozen people were arrested during a protest that was attended by more than a hundred people despite being banned, local authorities said.

Thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East camp out in Calais, hoping for a chance to make the short trip across the English Channel to Britain.

In Prague, an estimated 2,200 people including both supporters and opponents of Pegida held a series of rival demonstrations around the Czech capital. Police had to intervene in one march when supporters of the migrants came under attack from around 20 people who threw bottles and stones.

Later, around 20 masked assailants threw Molotov cocktails during an attack on a center that collects donations for refugees, forcing the evacuation of the building and injuring one person who was hit by glass, police said.

In Warsaw, hundreds of people waved Polish flags and chanted “England and France are in tears, that’s how tolerance ends”.

“We’re demonstrating against the Islamisation of Europe, we’re demonstrating against immigration, against an invasion,” Robert Winnicki, leader of Poland’s far-right Ruch Narodowy (National Movement), told demonstrators.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have together taken a tough stance on migration and have been largely opposed to taking in significant numbers of refugees.


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Republican Presidential Nominee Carson’s Campaign Finance Chair Quits

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Carson officially launches bid for the Republican presidential nomination in DetroitRepublican presidential candidate Ben Carson lost another top adviser Thursday as his campaign continues to show signs of splintering in the weeks leading up to early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Campaign finance chairman Dean Parker has resigned amid increasing scrutiny over his spending habits. The campaign confirmed Parker’s departure as Carson prepared for Thursday night’s GOP primary debate in South Carolina, one of two final debates before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucus.

Parker’s resignation follows that of former campaign manager Barry Bennett and former communications chief Doug Watts, members of Carson’s inner circle who left the campaign after Christmas.

An Alabama-based entrepreneur, Parker helped Carson raise tens of millions of dollars, but he also presided over an operation known for exuberant spending, particularly for hiring consultants and in fundraising. Politico recently reported that Parker himself earned $20,000 per month.

Carson did not highlight any problems with Parker in a press statement Thursday, instead, praising him as a “valued” aide and “trusted friend.” No replacement for Parker was named.

“Our significant fundraising success has been due, in large part, to Dean’s dedication and commitment to ‘We the People,'” Carson said.

Still, Carson was implicitly critical of some of his campaign’s financial operations during a December interview, when he stated that his entire organization including top personnel was up for review.

“I recognize that nothing is perfect,” Carson said at the time. “And, yes, we’ve had enormous fundraising, but that requires that you be efficient in the way you utilize the funds. And, yes, we are looking at all those things.”

A week later, Bennett and Watts had resigned, with Bennett questioning Carson’s readiness for office and saying that running the campaign had been impossible because Carson leaned more on outside advisers, particularly his longtime business manager Armstrong Williams than on the political professionals he’d hired.

Parker served the campaign as both a friend and adviser to Carson. He often traveled with Carson, sometimes introducing the candidate at campaign rallies by describing his introduction to Carson several years ago and how they developed a close friendship. The two men’s wives sang together in a group called the “Carson Singers,” a quartet that performed patriotic numbers before Carson spoke.



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President Obama Delivers Final State of the Union Address But Sounds 2016 Caution to Democrats

Obama SOTUPresident Barack Obama admitted his regret that he will leave the US more, not less, polarised when he departs office a year from now, using his final State of the Union address to urge the nation not to succumb to demagogues.

The man who declared “We are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America” while campaigning in Iowa in 2008 conceded that, as his presidency comes to close, the American political divide runs deeper than ever.

Obama urged Americans to rekindle their belief in the promise of change that first carried him to the White House, declaring that the country must not allow election-year fear and division to put economic and security progress at risk.

“All the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air,” Obama said in his final State of the Union address. “So is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker.”

“The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close,” he said.

The president’s address to lawmakers and a prime-time television audience was meant to both shape his legacy and put his imprint squarely on the race to succeed him. He defended his record and implicitly urged the public to elect another Democratic president to build on it, but acknowledged the persistent anxieties of Americans who feel shut out of a changing economy or at risk from an evolving terror threat.

While Obama did not directly call out Republicans, he sharply, and at times sarcastically, struck back at rivals who have challenged his economic and national security stewardship.

In one of his most pointed swipes at the GOP candidates running to succeed him, Obama warned against “voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us or pray like us or vote like we do or share the same background.”

His words were unexpectedly echoed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was selected to give the Republican response to Obama’s address. Underscoring how the heated campaign rhetoric about immigrants and minorities from GOP front-runner Donald Trump in particular has unnerved some Republican leaders, Haley called on Americans to resist the temptation “to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.”

“No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome,” said Haley, whose parents are Indian immigrants.

Focused on his own legacy, Obama ticked off a retrospective of his domestic and foreign policy actions in office, including helping lead the economy back from the brink of depression, muscling through a sweeping health care law, taking aggressive action on climate change and ending a Cold War freeze with Cuba.

He touted implementation of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, but made no mention of the 10 American sailors picked up by Iran Tuesday. The Pentagon said the sailors had drifted into Iranian waters after encountering mechanical problems and would be returned safely and promptly.

Tackling one of the most vexing foreign policy challenges of his presidency, Obama vowed a robust campaign to “take out” the Islamic State group, but chastised Republicans for “over the top claims” about the extremist group’s power.

“Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger and must be stopped,” he said. “But they do not threaten our national existence.”

The president’s words were unlikely to satisfy Republicans, as well as some Democrats, who say he underestimates the Islamic State’s power and is leaving the U.S. vulnerable to attacks at home.

Obama was frank about one of his biggest regrets: failing to ease the persistently deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP-led Congress Obama stood before Tuesday night is hostile to his ideas and angry about his executive orders on issues from guns to immigration.

On the campaign trail, Trump’s heated rhetoric is seen by some voters as a welcome contrast to Obama’s cool calls for civility. On his Twitter account Tuesday night, the candidate dismissed Obama’s speech as “really boring.”

As for political disagreement, Obama conceded, “The rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”

He specifically called for ending the gerrymandering of some congressional districts that gives parties an iron grip on House seats. He also urged steps to make voting easier and reduce the influence of money in politics.

Mindful of the scant prospect for major legislative action in an election year, Obama avoided the traditional litany of policy proposals. He did reiterate his call for working with Republicans on criminal justice reform and finalizing an Asia-Pacific trade pact, and he also vowed to keep pushing for action on politically fraught issues such as curbing gun violence and fixing the nation’s fractured immigration laws.

The president also touted a new effort led by Vice President Joe Biden to fight cancer, aimed at increasing public and private resources and breaking down barriers to collaboration among researchers. Biden’s 46-year-old son died last year from brain cancer.

Yet Obama was eager to look beyond his own presidency, casting the actions he’s taken as a springboard for future economic progress and national security. His optimism was meant to draw a contrast with what the White House sees as doom-and-gloom scenarios peddled by the GOP.

Republicans were largely dismissive of the president’s address. House Speaker Paul Ryan, assuming the speaker’s traditional seat behind the president for the first time, said Obama’s “lofty platitudes and nostalgic rhetoric may make for nice soundbites, but they don’t explain how to” solve problems.

Tuesday’s address was one of Obama’s last opportunities to claim a large television audience as president. However, the State of the Union has suffered a major drop-off in viewers in recent years. Last year, Obama’s speech reached 31.7 million viewers, according to Nielson, down from 52 million for his first State of the Union and 62 million for George W. Bush in 2003.

Obama’s final State of the Union address revived some of the gauzy nostalgia that was a hallmark of his political operation. Among those sitting in first lady Michelle Obama’s guest box was Edith Childs, the South Carolina woman who first introduced Obama to the “Fired up! Ready to go!” chant that was a staple of his 2008 campaign.

The president himself appeared to get momentarily caught up in the emotion of the moment. As he walked toward the exit after his hour-long speech, he turned back to the crowded House chamber and said, “Let me take one more look at this thing.”

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump summed up his response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address with a 140 character tweet calling the president’s speech “really boring.”

Trump wasn’t the only Republican presidential candidate to bash the president’s speech. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who opted to skip the speech and instead held his own State of the Union-themed campaign event, also took to Twitter with a scathing review of the presidential address.

Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson replied mockingly to the president on Twitter, criticizing Obama for “excessively” using executive actions.

And former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said in a Facebook post that the president’s speech “again proved that he is a politician, not a leader. Instead of talking about solutions, he talked politics.”

“It is time to elect a leader who has been tested, who will see and speak and act on the truth. We need a President who will be a clear-eyed advocate for policies formed by principles, not by polls and politics,” Fiorina said.


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New Poll shows Clinton and Sanders Neck and Neck in Iowa, New Hampshire

Bernie SandersJust weeks from the first nominating contests in the country, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are nearly head-to-head in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to a new poll released Sunday.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey shows that, among likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers, Clinton edges out the Vermont senator by just three points, 48 percent to 45 percent — a lead within the poll’s margin of error of 4.8 percentage points. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley comes in with five percent of support.

Sanders’ numbers have creeped up on Clinton since the last survey was taken in October, when the former secretary of state had an 11 point lead over Sanders.

The Vermont senator has also eclipsed her in general election match-ups with top Republican contenders in the state. While Clinton tops Trump by eight points among registered voters (48 percent to 40 percent), Sanders leads him by 13 points (51 percent to 38 percent). Texas Sen. Ted Cruz leads Clinton by four points at 47 percent to 44 percent but loses to Sanders by five (42 percent to 47 percent).

Among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, Sanders trumps Clinton by just four points. At 50 percent to the former secretary of state’s 46 percent, Sanders’ narrow lead is also within the poll’s margin of error of 4.8 percent.

The poll shows Clinton is gaining on Sanders in the Granite State, where he once held a lead of nine points over the former secretary.

Similar to Iowans, likely New Hampshire voters give Sanders a greater edge than Clinton over Republicans Trump and Cruz. Clinton-Trump results in a near tie of 45 percent to 44 percent, with Sanders-Trump at 56 percent to 37 percent. Cruz bests Clinton by four points, but loses to Sanders by 19.

The race among Republicans in the early-voting states is also tight, with Cruz polling slightly ahead of national front-runner Trump in Iowa, where caucuses will be held on Feb. 1.

Cruz leads Trump by four points among likely Republican caucus-goers at 28 percent to 24 percent, within the margin of error of 4.6 percentage points. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gets 13 percent of support, while Ben Carson trails behind at 11 percent. No other candidates break five percent in Iowa.

In New Hampshire, Trump remains at the top of the pack with 30 percent of likely Republican primary voters throwing in their hats with him.

Rubio follows in second place at 14 percent, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 12 percent, and Cruz at 10 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are tied with nine percent of support each.


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Hague Warns on Brexit Implications

William HagueLeaving the European Union could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom while “gravely weakening” its former continental partners, former foreign secretary William Hague has warned.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Lord Hague said Scottish nationalists would jump at the chance to re-open the independence debate if there was a vote to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum on Britain’s continued membership – now expected next year.

At the same time, he said, the loss of one of the EU’s only two “respected military powers” would leave the bloc seriously weakened at a time of political turbulence and economic volatility.

“To end up destroying the United Kingdom and gravely weakening the European Union would not be a very clever day’s work. So, even as a long-standing critic of so much of that struggling organisation, I am unlikely in 2016 to vote to leave it,” he wrote.

Lord Hague is the latest senior Conservative to enter the increasingly intense debate on Britain’s EU future, amid warnings it could open up a new “civil war” within the party.

While he insisted that he remained a Eurosceptic – describing the EU as “remote, expensive and over-regulating” – he said it was “manifestly not in our interests” for it EU to fail.

“There is no doubt that without the United Kingdom, the EU would be weaker,” he wrote.

“We will have to ask, disliking so many aspects of it as we do, whether we really want to weaken it, and at the same time increase the chances, if the UK left the EU, of Scotland leaving the UK.

“Scottish nationalists would jump at the chance to reverse the argument of last year’s referendum – now it would be them saying they would stay in Europe without us.

They would have the pretext for their second referendum, and the result of it could well be too close to call.”

Meanwhile Conservative Party vice-chairman Mark Field rejected calls for ministers to be given a free vote in the referendum and said that any who were not prepared to back David Cameron’s re-negotiation should resign from the Government.

“I have the greatest respect for all those in my party who believe we should leave the EU, but clearly such a position is incompatible with holding a ministerial office in advance of the referendum,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“What I don’t accept is individual ministers believing they should publicly have a free rein or that they can, in an off-the-record way, spend the next few months undermining the Prime Minister’s package of renegotiation. That is quite wrong.”

John Redwood said he “knew” of six Cabinet members who believe the Prime Minister will not get a good enough deal from other European leaders to support staying in the EU.

Mr Redwood added that there were “many more” junior ministers who held the same view.

He told the BBC: “I don’t think Mr Cameron would want to [continue as leader], because you would need someone who believes in leaving, who could go to France and Germany, who could sort it out in an amicable but firm way.

”We know that Mr Cameron wishes to retire from the job of Prime Minister before the general election anyway, so I’m sure we would then choose a new leader who really believed in leaving and who would do us a really good deal.”

The ‘In campaigners’ fear dislike of the Government could increase support for the ‘Out campaign’ and its followers would be further motivated if they believed Mr Cameron would be ousted by a vote to quit the EU.

Mr Redwood said there was a feeling among Tory MPs that the deal Mr Cameron hopes to make in February will not be enough to persuade them to back him.



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Argentine President Mauricio Macri sworn in

Mauricio MacriMauricio Macri was sworn in Thursday as Argentina’s president, promising to end an era of combative politics and bring Argentines together even as his predecessor and many of her supporters shunned his inauguration.

With tens of thousands of supporters waving blue-and-white flags in the streets, Mr. Macri, 56, said he would pragmatically tackle a host of thorny economic problems and protect the poorest Argentines.

After receiving a ceremonial scepter and sash at the Casa Rosada, the country’s presidential palace, Mr. Macri joined his wife, Julieta Awada, 41, in waving to supporters from a balcony. Reprising a frequent feature of his campaign, Mr. Macri danced a solo performance before meeting with foreign dignitaries.

“Our point of encounter will be the truth,” Mr. Macri said in his first speech as president. During his campaign, Mr. Macri repeatedly accused his predecessor, Cristina Kirchner, of lying about government statistics.

Missing from his inaugural was Mrs. Kirchner, whose decision to shun the event was seen as the first challenge to his administration as it ends 12 years of populist rule and tries to pursue more business-friendly economic policies.

Congressional members of Mrs. Kirchner’s Victory Front party also snubbed the ceremony. Mr. Macri will need broad legislative support to resolve a legal conflict with U.S. hedge funds that has prevented Argentina from borrowing money in global credit markets.

Mr. Macri’s opposition “Let’s Change” coalition narrowly beat Mrs. Kirchner’s ruling party candidate, Daniel Scioli, in a runoff election last month. In his inaugural address, Mr. Macri sought to reassure voters who fear he will abandon Mrs. Kirchner’s popular social welfare programs.

“We are going to take care of everyone,” he said. “The state is going to be present where it has to be for every Argentine, especially for the neediest of us.”

Huge numbers of Argentines participated in Mr. Macri’s inaugural parade, singing patriotic songs and chanting, “Yes we can.” Most spoke enthusiastically about him.

“We have a lot of faith in Macri,” said Lidia Iluminati, 60, a schoolteacher. “He did a good job as the mayor of Buenos Aires and I’m confident he will inspire foreign companies to invest in Argentina.”

But he faces an uphill battle with Kirchner supporters and the nearly 49% of Argentines who didn’t vote for him. Many of those people worry he will favor rich people and investors.

“I watched his speech and thought he looked like an aristocrat. His policies will hurt people,” said Melina Shombron, 23, a student.

Mr. Macri didn’t make any policy announcements on Thursday. His new finance minister,Alfonso Prat-Gay, told reporters that the government will “not overwhelm anyone with a package of policies.”

Mr. Prat-Gay said he would need some time in office to study government accounts before announcing new plans. “After that, we’ll be making the economic decisions we need to make,” he said.

Mr. Macri confronts Latin America’s most dysfunctional economy except Venezuela’s, with rising poverty and inflation nearing 25%. The Argentine economy contracted 3.1% in per capita terms between 2011 and 2014, the deepest drop in Latin America, according to local consultancy Orlando J. Ferreres & Asociados.

Mr. Macri has vowed to cut inflation to a single digit within two years, though advisers are trying to find way to do so without weakening the economy.

Mr. Prat-Gay previously said the government would eliminate a burdensome system of currency controls “as soon as feasible.” Mr. Macri’s advisers also said his administration will cut income taxes for lower-to-middle-income workers, seeking to boost consumer spending before a devaluation that is widely expected to accompany the elimination of currency controls.


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