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Gangster’s tale sheds light on India’s gritty grassroots politics

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Time had run out for Vikas Dubey, an Indian gangster whose sway over a swath of villages on the periphery of Kanpur, a declining industrial town, had long made him an appealing ally for local politicians in the populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The potbellied underworld don first gained notoriety in 2001, accused of gunning down a state government minister inside a crowded police station. He was acquitted at trial, as none of the many police officers in the station at the time of the murder testified against him.

In the following years, Dubey’s ability to deliver Brahmin voters in his stronghold ensured he was shielded from prosecution for a lengthening list of criminal cases, including multiple murder allegations. He was agnostic on party affiliation, blowing with prevailing political winds.

The precise cause of his fall from grace remains murky. But in early July, a police team went on a midnight raid of his home to arrest him for attempted murder. Tipped off by moles, Dubey was ready. In a gory shootout, Dubey and his henchmen killed eight officers, then slipped away.

This saga may seem preposterous — like a script for a Hollywood or Bollywood potboiler. But what is most extraordinary about the tale is just how banal it is in India, where powerful, thuggish criminals are a cornerstone of grassroots politics.

“There is a Vikas Dubey in probably every district across India,” says Milan Vaishnav, author of When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics. “The nexus between politicians, criminals and police is like an iron triangle.”

Gilles Verniers, a political-science professor at Ashoka University, called Dubey “the prototype of the kind of local muscle that political parties hire or recruit to mobilise votes or conduct their business”. Such figures often meet grim ends once they fall from favour or outlive their usefulness. By then “the incentives of doing away with them are quite high”, he says. “They are repositories of great knowledge about the dirty dealings of parties and politicians.”

The denouement of Dubey’s story followed the prescribed script. After his escape, he was on the run for nearly a week, until he was finally captured at a Hindu temple in a small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Some believe his arrest was staged and he had deliberately surrendered in a state where an old political contact is in the government.

That night, he was handed to the Uttar Pradesh police, who were supposed to drive him back to Kanpur to face justice. But, as had been widely predicted on social media, he never made it. Just outside his stronghold, the police shot three bullets into Dubey’s chest.

Police claimed afterwards that Dubey had attempted to grab a firearm and escape their custody after their car overturned when a driver swerved to avoid a herd of cattle. Authorities did not explain why such a dangerous man would not have been handcuffed for the journey.

Few Indians believe this convoluted account of his death, which came a day after another of his henchmen was killed in transit in similar circumstances. In that case, the police vehicle transporting the slain suspect had allegedly developed a flat tire. To most, the tale of Dubey’s attempted escape was a barely plausible figleaf for a deliberate and premeditated killing, either as an act of vengeance or to silence him, and ensure he could not spill the secrets of his erstwhile political patrons.

Dubey is said to be the 119th criminal suspect gunned down by Uttar Pradesh police since 2017, when controversial Hindu cleric Yogi Adityanath took charge as the state’s chief minister. The fiery leader has projected himself as a strongman willing to do what it takes to end lawlessness and impunity — even if it means transgressing democratic norms.

Last year, his administration even touted the rising number of extrajudicial killings — known in local parlance as “encounter killings” — as one of its big achievements, proof of its ability to “bring justice by any means necessary”.

But the Dubey saga is a powerful reminder that in India, law and order may not always go hand in hand.

Source: – Financial Times

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5 golden rules if you end up talking politics with your family this Thanksgiving and how 4 college students spent an unprecedented fall semester – MarketWatch

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Here are Tuesday’s top personal finance stories:

Personal Finance
Janet Yellen is poised to become Treasury secretary in a Biden cabinet — and here’s what that means for cash-strapped American families

‘We are in for very, very rough economic times,’ one analyst tells MarketWatch.

Older people, Black and Latinx Americans say they would be hesitant about getting a coronavirus vaccine

Many Americans say they’re hesitant to get a vaccine, even if one was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

5 golden rules if you end up talking politics with your family this Thanksgiving

‘Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t need two headless chickens fighting over the soul of the nation’

Pope Francis takes aim at anti-mask protestors: ‘They are incapable of moving outside of their own little world’

In his new book, the pontiff asks, ‘What matters more — to take care of people or keep the financial system going?’

Artists want to turn the Sunday after Thanksgiving into Black Friday for art

Thousands of artists and organizations across the country are coming together to encourage people to shop art Nov. 29

Lucky, stressed, and ready to graduate — How 4 college students spent an unprecedented fall semester

One is taking time off, another is racing to graduate, and one took classes while living in a state park on an island.

Dr. Fauci on Cuomo’s decision to review vaccines for New Yorkers after FDA approval: ‘Trust the process’

The veteran immunologist in a Washington Post video interview: ‘The numbers can be stark, sobering and, in many cases, they can be frightening.’

From jobs to child care: How this second surge in COVID-19 can damage your finances — as well as your health

More people were having trouble getting enough food on the table in early November compared to five weeks earlier.

Under Biden, CFPB will play a role in any student-debt cancelation — and help tackle student-loan servicers

Experts expect more aggressive oversight of the student-loan industry come January.

Elsewhere on MarketWatch
Officials plan to distribute 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in December, aiming for 40 million doses by end of year

The U.S. government plans to initially roll out 6.4 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine next month, while it is confident in meeting its goal of distributing about 40 million doses by the end of the year, federal officials said Tuesday.

There will be a ‘huge boom’ in the second quarter of 2021 if vaccines are effective, says investment strategist David Rosenberg

Market strategist’s near-term ‘value trade’ taps utilities, consumer staples, health care, Big Tech — plus long-term Treasurys and gold.

Beware of ‘zombie’ companies running rampant in the stock market

A total of 19%, or 571 companies, in the Russell 3000 Index are considered unviable, writes William Barritt.

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First on CNN: Key government agency acknowledges Biden's win and begins formal transition – CNN

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The letter is the first step the administration has taken to acknowledge President Donald Trump’s defeat, more than two weeks after Biden was declared the winner in the election.
Murphy said she had not been pressured by the White House to delay the formal transition and did not make a decision “out of fear or favoritism.”
“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts,” Murphy wrote. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision. To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination.”
The letter marks Murphy’s formal sign off on Biden’s victory, a normally perfunctory process known as ascertainment. The move will allow the transition to officially begin, permitting current administration agency officials to coordinate with the incoming Biden team, and providing millions in government funding for the transition.
The Biden team has not waited for the formal transition process to begin preparing for the presidency, as Biden announced several Cabinet picks on Monday. But the delay in ascertainment meant that Biden’s team was locked out from government data and could not make contact with federal agencies, nor could it spend $6.3 million in government funding now available for the transition. A Biden official said the most urgent need was for the transition to be given access to Covid-19 data and the vaccine distribution plans.
The Biden team will now have access to additional office space inside the agencies and the ability to use federal resources for background checks on Biden’s White House staff appointments and Cabinet picks.
Yohannes Abraham, executive director of Biden’s transition, said the start of the transition was a “needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”
“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies,” Abraham said. “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”
The ascertainment letter was sent Monday after Michigan formally certified its election results earlier in the day and more Trump lawsuits were dismissed. Georgia certified its razor-thin presidential results on Friday, and Pennsylvania is nearing certification of its election results, too.
It’s the latest sign that Trump’s conspiracy-laden legal bid, led by Rudy Giuliani, to circumvent the outcome of the election is nearing an end. The Trump campaign’s lawsuits to delay certification of the election have been dismissed in multiple states, as his legal team has failed to provide any evidence of widespread voter fraud.
But until now, Murphy had refused to move forward with the ascertainment process, despite Biden’s clear victory. Murphy, a Trump political appointee, has faced intense scrutiny and political pressure from Democrats and, in recent days, Republicans calling for the start of a smooth transition. In a statement Monday, Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said that “there is no evidence as of now of any widespread fraud or irregularities that would change the result in any state” and called on the transition process to begin.
In the letter, Murphy suggested that the ascertainment rules were vague and should be updated.
“GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified,” she wrote. “These are issues that the Constitution, federal laws, and state laws leave to the election certification process and decisions by courts of competent jurisdiction. I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based election process. I strongly urge Congress to consider amendments to the Act.”
Trump tweeted moments after the letter was reported, thanking Murphy for her work and affirming the decision to start the transition.
“I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country. She has been harassed, threatened, and abused — and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” Trump tweeted. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
Two Trump advisers said the President’s tweets are being read by people in his orbit as essentially a concession.
“A veiled attempt to justify continued fundraising solicitations,” the second adviser said.
The General Services Administration informed federal departments on Monday night that it has ascertained Biden to be the winner of the presidential election, according to an email obtained by CNN.
“In accordance with the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, today, November 23, 2020, the GSA Administrator has ascertained Joseph R. Biden and Senator Kamala Harris the apparent successful candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, respectively,” Mary Gibert, the federal transition coordinator, wrote in an email to federal department contacts.
A senior White House official said some staffers were initially caught off guard by the GSA letter, learning about it first from CNN. But the official said staffers will begin to cooperate with the Biden transition team, adding that they were seeking more information on next steps.
For two weeks after the election was called for Biden, Murphy was silent as the ascertainment delay dragged on, sparking public pressure from congressional Democrats and Biden himself, who warned that the delay could cost lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Democrats were demanding a briefing from Murphy on Tuesday to explain her decision-making, rejecting the GSA’s proposal earlier Monday for her deputy to brief Congress next week. Democratic committee chairmen sent a slew of new letters to Murphy on Tuesday demanding she allow the transition to begin and warning of the consequences for failing to do so.
This story has been updated with additional reporting on Monday.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mary Gibert’s name.

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How Trump's fundraising could benefit his post-White House political life – CNN

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All these missives from President Donald Trump’s political operation landed in supporters’ inboxes Monday morning claiming to solicit funds to help Trump fund recounts and legal challenges to overturn the election results.
But the legal fine print on each shows that a new Trump fundraising arm, Save America, actually will get the first cut of any money that comes in. And because spending rules for leadership PACs are so loose, campaign-finance experts warn that Save America could easily become a political slush fund for Trump and those close to him.
Here’s a closer look at the President’s recent fundraising efforts and his new fundraising vehicle Save America:

What’s Save America?

Save America is a leadership PAC that Trump launched less than a week after the election.
In an email to CNN earlier this month, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Trump “always planned” to create a leadership PAC “win or lose, so he can support candidates and issues he cares about, such as combating voter fraud.”
Team Trump has been on a fundraising spree in recent weeks, sending more than 330 fundraising emails and 92 text messages to supporters since 11 p.m. ET on Election Night.
The current solicitations direct the first 75% of each contribution up to $5,000 to Save America. Only after that threshold is met does money go into the campaign’s recount account.
Additionally, 25% of the funds go to the Republican National Committee’s operating account.

What’s a leadership PAC?

Leadership PACs are political action committees generally established by current and former politicians to raise money and to curry influence with others.
Political figures use these PACs donate to other candidates, helping maintain their profiles and build leverage within their own party. But they also have become vehicles for a campaigns-in-waiting, funding polling, staff and travel. Save America could become an avenue for Trump to continue funding political operations as he weighs a future presidential bid in 2024.

Are there fundraising limits on leadership PACs?

Yes, but fundraising limits are higher for leadership PACs than candidate committees.
An individual donor can contribute up to $5,000 a year to a leadership PAC — allowing a politician to collect up to $20,000 over a four-year period from a single contributor. By contrast, that same donor could only give a maximum of $2,800 at this point for a 2024 presidential campaign.

Does Trump have to spend the money in the leadership PAC on election challenges?

No. The rules on spending by leadership PACs also are far more relaxed than those for campaign committees and do not restrict politicians from using donors’ funds for personal expenses — a use forbidden in a presidential campaign account.
It’s one reason campaign-finance experts say donors should be leery of what they view as a Trump campaign bait-and-switch tactic: soliciting funds for legal challenges and instead first routing the money to his leadership PAC.
“The typical donor doesn’t read the legal fine print,” Paul Ryan, vice president of vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, told CNN.
Ryan said few restrictions apply on the PAC’s spending. Should they choose to do so, Trump and his family members could draw salaries from Save America funds or direct its donors’ money to his businesses by hosting PAC events at a Trump-owned properties.
“This money could easily — and legally — end up in his own pocket in the coming years,” Ryan said. And even after the long-shot legal challenges to the 2020 election end, Trump “could tease a 2024 run for years and continue milking his supporters for contributions to this slush fund,” he added.
Under federal election rules, Save America will have to file its first public report detailing fundraising and spending Dec. 3, but it will only cover the first fews weeks of its operations.

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