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Republicans in control of Senate as Obama faces uncertain future


Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrate yesterday

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrate yesterday


Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrate yesterday

US: Republicans have won control of the US Senate, seizing seats from Democrats in mid-term elections shaped by deep voter discontent with President Barack Obama.

With Republicans strengthening their majority in the House of Representatives, Mr Obama will spend his final two years as president contending with a government fully controlled by opponents who have been determined to block his policies.

Republicans won at least seven seats now held by Democrats, while Democrats failed to pick up a single Republican seat. That assures the Republicans of at least 52 votes in the 100-member Senate.

They are also on track to expand their majority in the House to near-historic levels and won two high-profile gubernatorial - governorship - races, in Florida and Wisconsin, where Democrats thought they had a good shot at defeating the incumbents.

Among the Republicans re-elected was the man who will probably become Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Democrats once had high hopes of defeating him, but he pulled away in the final weeks.

Voters were "hungry for new leadership - they want a reason to be hopeful", Mr McConnell said.

The shift in control of the Senate is likely to result in a strong Republican assault on budget deficits, additional pressure on Democrats to accept sweeping changes to the health care law that stands as Mr Obama's signature domestic accomplishment, and a bid to reduce national regulations.

Republicans were more fired up in this election, united in opposition to a president they see as pushing the government too deeply into American lives.

But dissatisfaction went beyond the party.

Americans tend to be disgruntled these days, seeing the economy as stagnating or growing worse and besieged by troubling news, such as the beheading of Americans by Islamic extremists and worries about Ebola. While exit polls show voters dissatisfied with Republican leaders, it is the president who gets the brunt of the blame. Opinion polls show Mr Obama's popularity falling and, though he was not on the ballot, Republicans made him the focus of their campaigns.

"I'm just waiting for him to be gone," said Kristi Johnson, a 36-year-old pharmacist from North Carolina.

It was bound to be a difficult election for Democrats.

Governing parties historically lose seats in mid-term votes and a number of Democrats were defending seats in states that lean towards Republican.

Some were first elected to six-year terms in 2008, riding the wave of excitement over Mr Obama's initial candidacy, and he now faces two years of possible stagnation.

Work project focusing on ‘easier’ cases  

UK: Firms delivering the Government’s flagship Work Programme spend less than half what they originally promised on harder-to-help groups such as people with disabilities, according to a report.

They are focusing on people who are easier to help and “parking” other claimants, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had not succeeded in incentivising providers to support harder-to-help claimants find a job.

“Almost 90% of Employment and Support Allowance claimants on the Work Programme have not moved into jobs.

“Data from Work Programme providers shows that they are, on average, spending less than half what they originally promised on these harder to help groups.”

Ms Hodge said it was “a scandal that some of those in greatest need of support are not getting the help they need... because their case is deemed just too hard”.

Palestinian rams car into train platform

Israel: A Palestinian man has rammed his car into a crowded train platform in east Jerusalem.

The man then attacked people with an iron bar and injured at least six in what authorities called a terror attack before he was shot dead by police.

It was the second such attack in the past two weeks and deepened already heightened tensions between Arabs and Jews in the city.

Police said the motorist slammed his car into the train platform in east Jerusalem, backed out and proceeded to drive away, hitting several cars along the way.

He then got out of the car and attacked a group of police officers on the side of the road with a metal bar before he was shot and killed.

Police identified the man as a Palestinian from east Jerusalem.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility by any Palestinian organisation but the Islamic militant group Hamas praised the attack and called for more violence.

Rouble hits all-time low as Russia’s economy suffers

Russia: The rouble is hitting an all-time low as the country’s economy struggles with the combined blows of western sanctions and a fall in oil prices. In trading on the MICEX exchange, the rouble dropped to 44.9 to the US dollar late yesterday — about a 3% fall for the day. The rouble has lost more than 25% of its value this year. Vladimir Putin has been on a collision course with the US and the European Union over the Ukraine crisis and Russia has been hit by sanctions and falling oil prices. The Russian Central Bank has spent billions propping up the rouble.

Outspoken Vietnam War fighter pilot dies aged 89

US: Jack Broughton, the celebrated US Air Force fighter pilot who flew more than 200 missions in Korea and Vietnam and later became an outspoken critic of military leaders, has died. His son Mark said that Mr Broughton died on October 24 at a Laguna Hills hospital in California. He was 89 and had been treated for a variety of ailments. As a star pilot Mr Broughton received the Air Force Cross and two Silver Star citations. After leaving the Air Force, he criticised the Pentagon and President Lyndon Johnson for mismanagement of the war.

Belfast Telegraph