Bollywood & Beyond: An Enigmatic Musical Experience Awaits You!

Indo-American Arts Council & The Town Hall Present
a fusion of Bollywood glamour with classical Indian music on Saturday, July 20, 2024  at The Town Hall, NYC

The Bollywood & Beyond concept has been curated considering the two different types of music blending together and bringing the flavours of Indian music to the audiences. Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam will start the concert with her famous Bollywood numbers followed by Dr. Subramaniam performing his original fusion compositions which are based on Indian ragas and performed with Indian & western instruments. Towards the end, both Dr. Subramaniam and Kavita ji will collaborate for some fusion compositions with voice with some really interesting alaaps and trade offs.

Global violin icon Dr. L. Subramaniam and multi-platinum singer Kavita Krishnamurthi, towering figures in Indian and world fusion music, will headline Bollywood & Beyond at The Town Hall in New York City on Saturday, July 20, at 8:00pm.

This concert is a presentation of Town Hall and the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC). A soulful, expressive singer with a powerful voice, Kavita has long been a star playback singer in the Indian film industry, interpreting offscreen the songs that the on-screen actors later lip sync.

It is a demanding art, as the vocalist must account for the actions and emotions that drive the film’s entire musical storyline. She followed her first major Bollywood hit, “TumseMilkar Na Jaane Kyon,” from the Hindi film Pyaar Jhukta Nahin (1985), with two enormously popular songs from the movie Mr. India (1986).

After giving voice to heroines and leading ladies in countless hit films, by the 1990s, Kavita had become a major star. But success in playback singing did not limit her. Kavita has also performed with orchestras, sung ghazals, devotionals, and Hindi pop, collaborated with jazz, pop, and classical Western artists, and

explored global music fusion, most notably with her husband, Dr. L. Subramaniam.

Born in a musical family (both his parents were accomplished musicians), Dr. L. Subramaniam was a child prodigy who followed in the footsteps of his father, a distinguished Carnatic violinist. He studied with his father and performed his first concert when he was six. “My mother would play the veena (a stringed instrument) but was also a singer,” he recalled in an interview, “and it was my father’s dream to bring the violin to the fore and make it a solo instrument.

Till then, the violin, in Carnatic South Indian music, was primarily used as an accompaniment. I wanted to play like him and be like him because he was my guru, teacher, and father.” Before fully dedicating to music, he completed his studies as a medical doctor. (For good measure, he later got a Masters degree in Western Classical music at CalArts and a PhD. for his thesis on Raga Harmony from Jain University, Bangalore.)

Fulfilling his father’s dream, “which was to bring the violin to the world stages,” Dr. Subramaniam seemed to cross musical borders from the beginning of his music career. He brought the Carnatic tradition of South India to Western Classical music, most notably as a soloist and composer for orchestras around the world, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (with a piece commissioned by Maestro Zubin Mehta), the Houston Symphony, and the Berlin State Opera.

“The idea here is not to make an orchestra play Indian music,” Dr. Subramaniam once explained. “But to create something where both Western and Indian musicians feel like they’re playing their own music while creating something unique. With this context, we combine elements of Carnatic music with parts of Western classical music, like harmony and counterpoint, to build something entirely original.”

He has written music for films, including Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala, and Little Buddha, and ballet, including the Kirov Ballet and the Alvin Ailey Company. He also collaborated with Western jazz and pop musicians (including the late Beatle George Harrison, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder), performed jugalbandis (classical music duets) with North Indian musicians, and explored global music fusion.

Backed by a seven-piece band comprising Indian and Western instruments, anchored by tabla player Tanmoy Bose, in Bollywood & Beyond Kavita Krishnamurti and Dr. Subramaniam will offer a program that will blend different types and genres of music, including Kavita’s Bollywood hits, Dr. Subramaniam’s original compositions based on Indian ragas and performed with Indian and Western instruments, and fusion-based duets. Bollywood & Beyond is a rare

opportunity to explore Indian music, from classical tradition to film music to global fusion, with two of its greatest stars.

‘Indian 2’ Reveals New Facets Of Kamal’s Milestone Films

On the eve of Kamal Haasan’s much-anticipated appearance in Shankar’s ‘Indian 2’, which follows the mega star delivering successive blockbuster hits — ‘Kalki 2898 AD’ this year and crime thriller ‘Vikram’ in 2022 — Audible has announced the release of a new audiobook titled ‘Kamal Haasan: A Cinematic Journey’.

Director-turned-educationist K. Hariharan explores Kamal Haasan’s evolution across 50-plus films, showcasing his ability to challenge stereotypes and push boundaries. Here are some lesser-known facts from the screen legend’s incredible journey from the audiobook:

  1. When veteran producer L.V. Prasad screened ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’ for the first time, it was a disaster.

Kamal Haasan bridged the north-south divide in India and made inroads into the Hindi film industry with ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ (1981), which was what we would now call a pan-India film. Despite the initial setbacks and sceptical distributors in Mumbai, the film eventually was greeted with packed cinemas and emotional reactions.

The audience response took the veteran producer L.V. Prasad by complete surprise. In the words of Hariharan, “Prasad realised that everyone had seen a wholesome tragedy after a long time on the Hindi screen and there was no difference in feelings between the Tamil and Hindi audiences … he immediately called his son to order another 40 prints to be released all over India the following Friday.”

The film went on to celebrate 50 weeks in the theatres (a golden jubilee in the terminology that was current then) and the rest is history.

  1. Shah Rukh Khan did not charge a paisa for his role in ‘Hey Ram’.

Kamal Haasan’s journey with ‘Hey Ram’ (2000) began with an idea akin to a crime thriller, but he soon realized that empathizing with Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, would be too reactionary.

“I changed it around completely and made the story get some respect for the protagonist. Undoubtedly, the film got me a lot of respect, but it flopped,” Kamal Haasan tells Hariharan. Shah Rukh Khan, however, “was so impressed by the vision of the film that he refused to charge a penny for his performance as Amjad, instead deeming it an honour to get an opportunity to work with a legend like Kamal.”

  1. Silent comedy ‘Pushpak’ was certified by the Censor Board multiple times in the same year in all Indian languages.

Inspired by the legacy of Charlie Chaplin, Kamal Haasan’s ‘Pushpak’ (1987) redefined silent comedy for Indian audiences. In the audiobook, Hariharan shares that the film’s release strategy was quite complex because of the absence of dialogue.

“The rule says that a talkie has to be in a certain language,” explains Hariharan. “In order to release this wordless film all over India, it was certified the same year by the Censor Board multiple times, in all Indian languages, with titles being changed and new censor certificates issued in all languages!”

  1. ‘Sathya’ almost got shelved because of Kamal Haasan’s financial difficulties.

The 1988 movie ‘Sathya’ was a bold move as it was the remake of the 1985 Bollywood hit ‘Arjun’, scripted by Javed Akhtar. Suresh Krishnaa was the director of the Tamil film and Kamal’s production house was helming the project. Kamal demonstrated his remarkable acting prowess, says Hariharan, but the film’s production faced a number of challenges.

“Kamal’s second production, a big-budget sci-fi venture titled ‘Vikram’ suffered on both critical and commercial fronts. His company had to comfort the distributors who had shouldered the risk of such an ambitious film,” writes Hariharan. But the film did well on all counts. With a stellar musical score by Ilaiyaraaja and Kamal’s relentless dedication, ‘Sathya’ became a defining film resonating deeply with audiences. (IANS)

India To Make Strides In Quantum Technology, AI With The US: Indian Minister

India is set to make great strides in quantum technology, artificial intelligence, critical metals and semiconductor sectors with the United States, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh, has told a visiting delegation of the US-India Business Council (USIBC).

The delegation led by Edward Knight, Executive Vice Chairman called on the Union Minister and discussed collaboration in different areas, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The minister recalled PM Modi’s recent visit to the US and highlighted the joint statement on the deployment of greenfield renewable energy, battery storage and emerging green technology projects in India.

Dr Singh emphasised on the government’s vision in AI and Machine learning and expressed optimism over its integration with the AI task force developed by USIBC.

“Large Language Models (LLMs) are being worked upon by the Department of Science and Technology which are aligned with the task force,” the minister informed.

India is now a frontline nation in next-generation technologies.

He also informed the delegation about the ‘Anusandhan NRF’ on the similar lines of the National Research Foundation in the US.

Highlighting India’s progress in the last decade in science and technology, the minister recalled that the biotech industry has reached $140 billion with more than 4,000 companies.

NISAR — a joint mission between NASA and ISRO — is also evidence of India’s prowess in the space sector. He also referred to the new space policy and its benefits reaped in recent months.

Knight appreciated India’s model of ‘JAM’ (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and mobile) trinity and direct benefit transfer (DBT), and invited the Minister for the ‘49th India Ideas Summit 2024’. (IANS)

India Can Be World’s 2nd Largest Economy By 2031: RBI Deputy Governor

Given the country’s innate strengths, it is possible to imagine India striking out into the next decade to become the second largest economy in the world not by 2048, but by 2031, and the largest economy of the world by 2060, said Michael Debabrata Patra, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) during a program at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

“It is possible to imagine India striking out into the next decade to become the second largest economy in the world not by 2048, but by 2031 and the largest economy of the world by 2060,” said Mr Patra.

The deputy governor stated during an event of the Mid-Career Training Programme for officials of the Indian Administrative Service on July 9, at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration.

He also called India’s journey in economic development an eventful and arduous one and added that during the last financial year 2023-24, India became a USD 3.6 trillion-dollar economy.

“India had become a ₹ 295.4 lakh crore or USD 3.6 trillion dollars’ economy at current exchange rates. At a per capita income of ₹ 2,07,030 or USD 2,500, India belongs in the lower middle-income group of countries. Reaching here has been an eventful and arduous journey, marked by what statisticians call ‘structural breaks” said Mr Patra.

The deputy governor also added that if India wants to become a developed economy it will have to grow at a rate of 9.6 per cent per annum for the next ten years.

“If India can grow at the rate of 9.6 per cent per annum over the next ten years, it will break free of the shackles of the lower middle-income trap and become a developed economy,” he said.

“Historically, India’s investment has been financed by domestic savings, with households being the prime provider of resources to the rest of the economy. In the period 2021-23, the gross domestic saving rate has averaged 30.7 per cent of gross national disposable income. Thus, unlike many countries, India does not have to depend on foreign resources, which play a minor and supplemental role in the growth process,” he added.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) projects that in PPP (purchasing power parity) terms, India will overtake the US by 2048 to become the second-largest economy in the world.

For rising inflation in the Indian economy, the deputy governor stated that RBI is committed to aligning inflation with the target and the inflation will ease to 4.1 per cent in 2025-26.

“RBI has anchored expectations by remaining committed to aligning inflation with the target and regards the recent easing of price pressures as work in progress. It projects inflation to average 4.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 4.1 per cent in 2025-26. The taming of inflation lays the foundations of sustained high growth in the future” said the deputy governor.

He also shared that the Gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) in the banking system have steadily fallen from their peak in March 2018 to 2.8 per cent of total assets by March 2024. The adjusted for provisions, net NPAs are just 0.6 per cent. The capital and liquidity buffers of the country are well above the regulatory norms.

The current account gap in the balance of payments – has remained modest at around 1 per cent of GDP in 2023-24. This provides insulation to the Indian economy from external shocks and imparts viability and strength to the external sector. Illustratively, India’s gross external debt, which is the accumulation of current account deficits over time, is less than 20 per cent of GDP and almost entirely covered by the level of foreign exchange reserves, Patra explained.

Second, the rising growth trajectory on which India is poised is entrenched by macroeconomic and financial stability as inflation has fallen back into the tolerance band around the target of 4 per cent. This reflects the cumulative impact of steadfast monetary policy actions and supply management. In fact, core inflation that excludes food and fuel and is most amenable to monetary policy has fallen to its lowest level ever.

Alongside macroeconomic stability, financial stability is getting reinforced by prudent financial policies and active on-site supervision complemented with off-site surveillance, which harnesses SupTech, big data analytics and cyber security drills. India’s financial sector is predominantly bank-based. Gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) in the banking system have steadily fallen from their peak in March 2018 to 2.8 per cent of total assets by March 2024, he added.

Patra pointed out that another growth multiplier is India’s digital revolution. India is emerging as a world leader in leveraging digital technologies for transformative change. The trinity of JAM – Jan Dhan (basic no-frills accounts); Aadhaar (universal unique identification); and mobile phone connections – is expanding the ambit of formal finance, boosting tech start-ups and enabling the targeting of direct benefit transfers. India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI), an open-ended system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application is propelling inter-bank peer-to-peer and person-to-merchant transactions seamlessly. Payment systems in India operate on a 24 by 7 by 365 basis. The internationalisation of the UPI is progressing rapidly, the RBI deputy Governor added.

76 Years of Independent India & the Vibrant Indian Diaspora in the United States

As India is celebrating its 76th Independence Day on August 15, 2024, it is time to reflect how far the vibrant Indian Diaspora in the United States has come during the past 50 years, and what its future role in the rapidly changing demographics of America is. With a population of 4.9 million (1.48% of the US population), the Indian Americans are the largest group of South Asian Americans or the second largest group of Asian Americans after Chinese. Given their highly successful careers in most spheres, the Indian Americans represent a unique force in shaping the future of the United States. Indian Americans also have a profound influence on contemporary issues in India. So, this 5 million cohort Indian Diaspora, although not a monolithic structure in the United States, nevertheless, is a defining force both in the USA and India in the 21st century. Like in India, the Indian Diaspora in the United States represents the unity in diversity.

The Luce-Celler Act of 1946 allowed a limited number of Indians per year to immigrate to the United States. However, it was not until the 1970s, there was a palpable emigration from India. The earliest immigrants from India to the United States were physicians, scientists, and other professionals, as well as businessmen. Most worked in universities or institutes of higher learning or medical schools or in the healthcare sector. Very few worked in corporate America. Initially, the feelings in India were different, as most Indians considered that emigration was a “brain drain” with negative consequences to the country. Even the Government of India was concerned that it was losing educated and talented people to other countries, especially the United States, the land of opportunities where an ordinary person can do extraordinary things. At that time most immigrants from India were those who completed their university studies, such as MBBS, or PhD or engineering, often at the expense of taxpayers’ money, and were looking for better job opportunities in their professions elsewhere. They were not coming to the United States for college studies. Most could not afford to study in the United States.

The early immigrants from India were traditional, nostalgic for a long time, culturally oriented and worked hard to preserve their values and pass them on to their children. Hailing from hard-working middle-class families, most of them shouldered substantial responsibilities to support their parents, and siblings back in India. All these made them to be responsible, humble, and loyal citizens in addition to their high level of KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) and studious working habits. Many of them sacrificed their own time and comforts of life for the sake of their beloved family members in the USA and India, and for their professions. They not only could establish themselves in institutes of the United States, but also could generate a thinking among American public that Indians are smart, skilled, hardworking, law-abiding and peace-loving people, a notion that became a bedrock as the time passed.

The subsequent generations of Indian Diaspora were fortunate to grow on these foundations laid by their predecessors and proved themselves as the most successful immigrant community in the United States. Because of this they thrived, and educated their children, who proved to be much more successful professionals occupying higher positions or taking up responsible roles at a relatively young age as compared to their parents. Many of the later arrivals started working in corporate America, where they ascended to new heights not seen before.

As time passed, the Indian Diaspora became very wealthy, established their own societies and associations, built their businesses, companies, temples and other places of worship, community centers and made the United States their comfortable new home. They are also supporting several service projects in their native places or alma maters, and charitable activities in India, and remitting billions of dollars every year. Ordinary people in the United States understand India as they see it through the activities and personalities of Indian Americans. In other words, the reputation of India in the United States was enormously boosted by the Indian Diaspora. Now the people of India as well as the Government of India consider that the Indian Diaspora abroad, especially in the United States is an “asset” not brain-drain, of India.

Now the question is what should be the next stage of evolution of Indian Diaspora in the United States? Can it afford to stay in the same course in a rapidly changing demographics and needs of the United States? What should be the future direction of the Indian Diaspora in the United States, if it must continue to be the most successful and respected immigrant community with unique values to their adopted land?

One can list several points to address this question. But, I have only one point to emphasize, the implementation of which will dramatically change the course of the Indian Diaspora and make it a much more formidable power in the 21st century United States. The Indian Diaspora in the United States should become more US centric in their activities and social life. They may be minorities only by their numbers, but not by any other metric. So, they have many assets to give to their adopted land, other than money. There is no need to guard their Indian identity or communities so closely.

They are not just Indians. They are Indian Americans playing pivotal roles in all spheres in the United States.  Language is not a barrier for them in the United States. So, they should step outside of their communities or “bubbles” and actively participate and lead mainstream America in nation building. Otherwise, they may hit a wall and stop moving forward. Following the same course as they have been doing for decades may not help them to rise to a higher level of respect and value in America. Because the 21st-century needs of America are very different. It does not need immigrants that can just do their jobs splendidly.

The 21st century America needs people who can create opportunities for others, and thus help them move up on an upscale value with passion. The Indian Diaspora should innovate itself by focusing on uplifting other minorities who are not blessed like them in education, wealth and other aspects of life. Being the most successful minority, the Indian Diaspora is uniquely positioned to uplift other minorities with them.

For instance, lack of mentorship is the single most cause by which even motivated minority children cannot find their way in the current society. The benefits of mentoring to mentees, mentors, and the community are well documented. Every minority child or student we mentor is an asset added to the treasure of our adopted land. Of course, there are other ways the Indian Diaspora can uplift less fortunate minorities, such as offering financial assistance for education, free or subsidized healthcare, conducting educational camps etc. No need to say that they should not limit these activities to only minorities, but extend to anyone in need, irrespective of their racial or ethnic background.

By following the above path, the Indian Diaspora will win the hearts of the less fortunate people in the United States, and thus foster long-lasting and healthy bonds with them, which is crucial for sustaining their respectable positions in the community, as well as securing the future and welfare of the children and grandchildren of the Indian Diaspora.

This path is also in line with our tradition, which preaches Vasudaivakutabakam and Sarvejana Sukinobhavatu. This is the best and practical way to spread Sanathana Dharma in the land of opportunities and freedom. This path speaks for itself, with no explanation from us what our Sanathana Dharma means. This path is also in line with the vision and mission of Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendranath Modi ji – Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. Thus, this is a great opportunity for the Indian Diaspora to kindle the lamp of Santhana Dharma on the land of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Let us all move to a higher realm of existence while serving both our motherland and adopted land.  Jai Hind. God bless America.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are that of the author only, and they need not reflect the views of the organizations with which he is affiliated, such as the NRI Welfare Society of India, University of Utah Health, ePurines, Inc., and theunn.com.

Author: Prof. Bellamkonda K. Kishore, M.D., Ph.D., MBA is an academician and innovator turned toPicture1 entrepreneurship. He is an Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Utah Health; Co-Founder, President, CEO & CSO of ePurines, Inc., in Salt Lake City, Utah; and a Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors. Dr. Kishore received several academic and community awards and honors for his contributions, such as induction as a Fellow of professional bodies, citations in Marquis Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare and European Biographical Directory,  Nelson Mandela Leadership and Hind Rattan (Jewel of India) awards from the NRI Welfare Society of India, New Delhi. Currently, he is  Vice President of the US Chapter of the NRI Welfare Society of India, which was started with the noble objective of strengthening the emotional bonds between India and Non-Resident Indians. Dr. Kishore was also conferred Global Unity Ambassador by the Indian.Community.

Personal Website: https://www.bkkishore.online/

Obama and Pelosi Privately Question Biden’s 2024 Chances, Urged to Intervene by Anxious

Democrats

Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi have held private discussions about Joe Biden and the future of his 2024 campaign. Both the former president and the ex-speaker have voiced concerns over the increasing difficulty they foresee in Biden’s ability to defeat Donald Trump. However, neither has determined a clear course of action.

Democrats are eager to end the internal discord to focus on defeating Trump. They are urging either Obama or Pelosi to step in, given that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer lacks Biden’s trust and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries doesn’t have a strong enough relationship with Biden to effectively deliver the message.

CNN interviewed over a dozen members of Congress, operatives, and individuals close to both Obama and Pelosi. Many feel Biden’s candidacy is nearing its end, and it’s now a matter of how it unfolds, despite Thursday night’s news conference.

If Obama and Pelosi think otherwise, several leading Democrats argue they must clearly communicate this soon to prevent further damage, with less than four months until the election.

Pelosi’s colleagues hope she can resolve the turmoil that has plagued Democrats for the past two weeks. Many believe this can happen if she convinces Biden to withdraw. While Pelosi has spoken to Biden since the debate, she has indicated that she does not view Biden’s decision to stay in the race as final. Nonetheless, through an aide, she declined to comment further.

Obama’s silence over the past two weeks has left many leading Democrats feeling abandoned. After the debate, he posted on X, “Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know,” echoing this sentiment at a fundraiser for House Democrats. Obama’s reluctance to publicly address the situation has heightened the anxiety within the party.

Despite his public silence, Obama’s skepticism about Biden’s chances is widely known in Washington. When the history of this turbulent period in American politics is documented, Obama and Pelosi’s influence will be more evident, according to sources familiar with the matter. They have acted as guiding figures for a panicked party.

“They are watching and waiting for President Biden to reach a decision on his own,” a longtime Democrat close to them told CNN, under the condition of anonymity to avoid appearing disrespectful to Biden.

The Biden campaign declined to comment.

While acknowledging that Obama and Pelosi have discussed Biden, a spokesperson for Pelosi told CNN, “There is no member of Congress who would have any knowledge of any conversation that Speaker Pelosi would have with President Obama. Anyone who says they do is not speaking the truth.”

Obama has been receiving more calls than he’s making, according to those who have spoken to him. When he does talk to anxious Democratic donors and officials, he listens more than he speaks, carefully avoiding taking positions that might leak.

This approach was also evident in his call with Biden after the debate. While Biden suggested to others that Obama was supportive of him weathering the storm, others familiar with the call said Obama maintained his role as a “sounding board and private counselor.” He prodded and played devil’s advocate but did not take a position.

In recent conversations with Democrats, Obama has dismissed the idea that he could influence Biden’s decision even if he wanted to. This highlights their complicated, yet loyal, relationship. Their relationship has grown more complex since Obama left office and their weekly lunches at the White House ended. The two now speak far less frequently than their advisers often suggest.

If Obama were to try to steer Biden to step down, he is aware of how it might be perceived. Biden has previously written that he felt Obama was not encouraging when he considered entering the Democratic primaries after his son Beau’s death in 2015. Though Obama believed he was helping Biden focus on his grief and avoid a tough primary campaign against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Biden might view another such conversation differently.

“Biden would say, ‘Well, Mr. President, you already used that chip in 2015 and it got us Donald Trump,’” speculated a longtime 2020 campaign aide. “I think it would harden him more.”

Obama is also cautious about giving Trump any new material to use against him.

Historically, Obama has seen his role as unifying the party and validating its direction to skeptical members. So far, he has not committed to playing this role in the debate over Biden’s candidacy. “Well he’s known as no-drama Obama,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat. “So if there’s drama, then he’s the one to deal with it.”

Obama’s public restraint is seen by some close to him as a way to preserve his position if he needs to have a frank, difficult conversation with Biden.

“He is going to be all in for the Democratic ticket. No matter who our nominee is, he will be busting his a** helping to make sure that person wins in November,” said one person who speaks with Obama regularly.

Obama has supported Biden at fundraising events this year, including one in Los Angeles where George Clooney later expressed concerns about Biden’s performance.

Biden had traveled from Italy after several days of G-7 meetings, flying overnight across five time zones to attend the fundraiser, because campaign co-chair Jeffrey Katzenberg insisted on the Hollywood-themed event, and Clooney was only available on that day. Obama questioned the logic of such a grueling schedule for any presidential candidate.

“He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate,” Clooney wrote in an essay in The New York Times, urging Biden to step aside.

Clooney’s comments angered some Biden loyalists, who suspected Obama’s involvement. Though Obama was aware of the op-ed, he did not try to stop it, which some see as maintaining neutrality, while others view it as betrayal.

Obama spent more time with Biden backstage and on stage than Clooney did. Those present attributed Biden’s condition to jet lag. The infamous video of Obama leading Biden off stage was more about Obama wanting to leave.

An Obama aide declined to comment on whether Obama still believed Biden’s condition was due to jet lag.

Pelosi re-broke the dam when she appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and cast doubt on Biden’s candidacy. Privately, she advised colleagues to avoid embarrassing Biden during the NATO summit. Yet, her comments were taken as a green light by more Democrats to call for Biden to step aside.

Pelosi has known Biden for decades and has been one of his staunchest defenders. She has nothing to lose now that she’s no longer speaker.

“I think at this moment, if Biden ends up stepping down as the nominee, she will prove to be the most important Democratic leader,” said one House Democrat. “She’s the one in a situation like this, especially generationally, who has the credibility to weigh in on something that is so sensitive and important.”

Pelosi plans to return to San Francisco on Friday.

Frail Biden’s NATO Summit Dominates Amid Fears of Trump Return

At his final NATO Summit, President Joe Biden, facing political and physical frailty, presides over an alliance at its strongest point. This juxtaposition hasn’t gone unnoticed among NATO officials from multiple European nations, who express alarm at Biden’s apparent decline and worry about a potential replacement by a hostile Donald Trump in November.

NATO officials are saddened by Biden’s deteriorating situation and frustrated that it detracts from what was meant to be a celebratory summit. They are increasingly resigned to his potential defeat in November, fearing it could halt or reverse the alliance’s recent progress, jeopardizing Ukraine’s defense against Russia and the broader stability that has been a cornerstone of NATO since its inception during the Cold War.

“It’s a very weird feeling to be in Europe listening to the president of the United States, and you’re more stressed about whether he will go off script than being excited to listen to the leader of the free world,” a senior European diplomat said. “You’re worried if he knows which direction he’s going or whether he’s going to fall or what he’s going to forget or if he’ll say ‘North Korea’ when he meant ‘South Korea.’ It’s just a weird experience.”

As visiting leaders applauded Biden’s speech, they and their aides were acutely aware of the context. They noted the fallout from Biden’s poor debate performance on June 27, ongoing doubts among Democrats about his ability to defeat Trump, and the precariousness of his candidacy hinging on every word and step.

“He didn’t look good,” remarked a Washington-based diplomat from one of the European countries.

Biden’s solo press conference Thursday evening will be critical, both for him politically and for the alliance.

“We would prefer a more stable situation in the U.S.,” said an official granted anonymity.

The focus on Biden distracts from Trump and the implications of his potential return, which worries officials. Trump, who criticized NATO allies for not spending enough on defense and threatened to withdraw from the alliance, remains a significant concern.

“Everyone’s focusing on Biden’s appearance and less on Trump’s statements about NATO,” the senior European diplomat added. “He’s not that much younger.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy referenced November’s presidential election as critical, urging NATO members to act with urgency and “not to wait for November.”

Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO under President Barack Obama, noted that NATO allies are accelerating defense spending in response to the war in Ukraine and the increasing likelihood of a Trump victory.

“NATO allies understand that the probability of a Trump administration has gone up dramatically since the debate,” Daalder said. “That’s just a reality people have to deal with, so that means more outreach to the Trump camp in the short term and more determination by European allies to get to a place where those countries are doing more things on their own.”

During the first working session of NATO’s 75th anniversary summit, heads of state offered remarks focused on alliance unity and support for Ukraine. However, many faced awkward questions about Biden’s weakened political position and the implications of his potential electoral loss.

“I’m not going to comment on this topic,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, walking off after a brief statement. Other leaders responded with platitudes about respecting America’s democratic process and expressed faith that NATO would endure even if Trump returns to office.

Alexander Stubb, president of Finland, lamented the “toxic” level of U.S. political polarization but expressed optimism that Washington will continue to need European allies even if Trump wins.

“Of course we’re looking at elections throughout the world, and the American elections are very important,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “But let’s be extremely clear, it’s the American citizens who will make their choice and that is a choice we will respect.”

De Croo, who recently met with Biden, praised his speech before NATO leaders but avoided commenting on Biden’s shaky debate performance.

“It’s incredibly awkward for our allies to get asked these questions about Biden’s mental acuity,” said Brett Bruen, a former State Department official under Obama. “They have their prepared pivot points, but it isn’t easy.”

The NATO summit, ending Thursday, provided a distraction for Biden as he faces growing Democratic resistance to his reelection bid. Despite limited time for outreach to lawmakers and donors, his role on the world stage aimed to assuage doubts and remind political allies of the importance of experience and shared values.

His forceful opening speech emphasized NATO’s commitment to Ukraine and was well-received by lawmakers and pundits.

“Everyone was watching with bated breath as he took the stage,” said Rachel Rizzo, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center. “He successfully quelled concerns because he came across as forceful and presidential. But his age and his ability to do this job for another four years are certainly questions European leaders are still asking themselves.”

Biden’s aides recognize the critical importance of avoiding public stumbles, particularly during Thursday’s news conference. Even so, the growing chorus of supporters urging him to end his campaign might prove insurmountable.

As Biden greeted 31 leaders and posed for photos, foreign diplomats closely monitored his movements and tone, waiting to see the version of the president they saw in the first debate.

Several leaders have addressed the possibility of Trump’s return, noting that 23 of 32 member nations have met or exceeded the defense spending goal, a major issue for Trump.

Denmark’s foreign minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, recalled Trump’s criticism of NATO spending levels in 2018, suggesting that the notion of “Trump-proofing” the alliance should be seen as “future-proofing.”

“We have to understand it is in our own best interests to spend more…and that will give us an upper hand toward anyone in the White House,” Rasmussen said.

However, the focus on Biden may overshadow the broader message NATO leaders want to convey to the American public during this summit on U.S. soil.

“The Americans need to hear from us all that the problem is not Ukraine,” said Latvian Foreign Minister Baiba Braže. “The problem is Russia.”

An anonymous official from a NATO country expressed concern that the summit’s substantive actions might not resonate with a U.S. audience.

“All the Americans are looking for at this summit is the photo op of Biden with allies,” the official said. “We’re really concerned that the world will essentially be leaderless for the next several months, and then we don’t know what comes after that.”

The prospect of Trump leading NATO’s most indispensable member country again creates deep anxiety among officials and heads of state, despite confident statements about maintaining recent momentum.

“I am hoping, praying for, expecting the transatlantic alliance will be strong and alive also in the coming years,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. “Hopefully, no matter what happens in the U.S., that will be the case.”

Many officials now believe Biden will not be reelected if he remains in the race. Estonia’s defense minister, Hanno Pevkur, addressed the uncertainty of future U.S. support for Ukraine, speaking of Trump’s return as a foregone conclusion.

“I would like to see what the new administration will do,” Pevkur said. “What happens in January when the new president takes office?”

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