Body of former US President Bush returns to Houston for funeral

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The flag-draped casket of former President George H.W. Bush is carried by a military honor guard past former President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush, President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter during a State Funeral at the National Cathedral on Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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The remains of President George H.W. Bush arrive at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, on Dec. 5, 2018 after lying in state in Washington D. C. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018
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Body of former US President Bush returns to Houston for funeral

  • Both Republican and Democratic politicians honored a president who called for a “kinder, gentler” nation
  • Trump shook hands with his predecessor, Barack Obama, but ignored two former Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter

WASHINGTON: Former US President George H.W. Bush was hailed at his state funeral on Wednesday as a warrior-statesman of uncommon personal kindness who went from being a hero of American conflicts to representing a bygone era of civility in politics.
Amid an unusual bipartisan spirit at the service at Washington’s National Cathedral, both Republican and Democratic politicians honored a president who called for a “kinder, gentler” nation.
Later on Wednesday, a plane carrying the body of Bush, who died last week in Texas aged 94, landed in Houston where there will be a funeral service on Thursday at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. Afterward, he will be laid to rest at his presidential library in College Station, Texas.
There will be a public viewing on Wednesday night at the Houston church where Bush and his late wife, Barbara Bush, were longtime worshippers.
Bush, the 41st US president, occupied the White House from 1989 to 1993, navigating the collapse of the Soviet Union and expelling former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s forces from oil-rich Kuwait.
“George H.W. Bush was America’s last great soldier-statesman,” Jon Meacham, a presidential biographer, said in a eulogy. “He stood in the breach in the Cold War against totalitarianism. He stood in the breach in Washington against unthinking partisanship,” he said.
At a ceremony full of pomp but also peppered with laughter, the capital’s current political feuds were briefly set aside in honor of the late president, a naval aviator who survived being shot down by Japanese forces over the Pacific Ocean in World War Two, and a former head of the CIA during the Cold War.
Still, there were reminders of lingering tensions.
President Donald Trump shook hands with his predecessor, Barack Obama, and former first lady Michelle Obama. But he did not greet the other two former Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, sharing the front pew, or their spouses, including Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 election opponent.
A patrician figure, Bush was voted out of office in part for failing to connect with ordinary Americans during an economic recession.
But he has been remembered as representing an earlier era of civility in American politics, an image burnished in recent years by the divisiveness and anger in the United States that accompanied the rise of Trump.
Former President George W. Bush said his father “valued character over pedigree, and he was no cynic. He’d look for the good in each person, and he usually found it.”
“The best father a son or daughter could ever have,” the former president said in his eulogy, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke near his father’s flag-draped coffin.

Clinton wipes away tears
Trump, like Bush a Republican, infuriated the late president by attacking his sons, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, a rival in the 2016 Republican primary campaign. Trump sat mostly motionless next to first lady Melania Trump throughout much of the service.
He had tweeted earlier that he was “Looking forward to being with the Bush family. This is not a funeral, this is a day of celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life. He will be missed!“
Bush did not endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential election but sent him a letter in January 2017 saying he would not be able to attend his inauguration because of health concerns, but wishing him the best.
All surviving former US presidents were at the cathedral. During one of the eulogies, Bill Clinton wiped away tears and Michelle Obama leaned over to pat him on the arm.
Canadian former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney lauded Bush’s role in handling the end of the Cold War and helping the delicate reunification of Germany.
Bush put together a US-led international coalition that ousted invading Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991 and was president when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
“When George Bush was president of the United States of America, every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader, one who was distinguished, resolute and brave,” Mulroney said.
The guest list included Britain’s Prince Charles and leaders from Germany, Jordan, Australia and Poland, along with a host of former world leaders, such as former British Prime Minister John Major, who was in office during Bush’s term.
Trump closed the federal government on Wednesday to mark a day of mourning for Bush, and several US financial exchanges were closed.
During his presidency, Bush was dogged by domestic problems, including a sluggish economy, and he faced criticism for not doing enough to stem the tens of thousands of deaths from the AIDS virus ravaging America.
When he ran for re-election in 1992, he was pilloried by Democrats and many Republicans for violating a famous 1988 campaign promise: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” His opponent Bill Clinton coasted to victory.
Before Wednesday’s service, his body lay in state since Monday evening in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington.
Thousands of people filed past to pay their respects, some getting a chance to see Sully, a service dog who was Bush’s friendly companion. Sully became an Internet sensation after being photographed lying next to his late master’s coffin.


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.