Global Population Projected To Exceed 8 Billion In 2022; Half Live In 7 Countries

By Conrad Hackett

The world’s population will cross 8 billion in November, according to recently released projections from the United Nations. And more than half of all people live in just seven countries.

China has the world’s largest population (1.426 billion), but India (1.417 billion) is expected to claim this title next year. The next five most populous nations – the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Brazil – together have fewer people than India or China. In fact, China’s population is greater than the entire population of Europe (744 million) or the Americas (1.04 billion) and roughly equivalent to that of all nations in Africa (1.427 billion).

As recently as 2015, half the world’s population was concentrated in just six countries – the same as above, with the exception of Nigeria, which was then the seventh most populous country and has since passed Brazil to move into sixth place. Recent population growth, however, has been faster in the rest of the world than in these nations, meaning that the top six now hold slightly less than half (49%) of the world’s people. Including Brazil’s 215 million people puts the world’s seven most populous countries at 51.7% of the global population.

In the UN’s “medium” scenario for future population growth – its middle-of-the-road estimate – the global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. Growth is expected to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 29% of all the world’s births happened last year. The 2021 total fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa, 4.6 births per woman, is double the global average of 2.3 births per woman and triple the average in Europe and Northern America (1.5) and in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (also 1.5).

The Vision Of A World Divided Into Two Blocs: China & Russia Vs Europe & The United States

(IPS) – For years, Russia’s relations with the European Union and the United States have been one of the main areas of conflict in the media. Washington and Brussels accuse Moscow of manipulation and disinformation and, after the invasion of Ukraine, decided to close their media outlets to Russian companies.
Excerpts from the Q&A: 

Q: What do you think about the way this issue has been handled and what repercussions could it have on the management of the media, especially non-mainstream media such as Inter Press Service (IPS) or OtherNews?

A: Information has always been used by power, both economic and political. Information is, by definition, top-down. Whoever transmits it, whether in print form in newspapers and magazines, or in electronic form on radio and TV, sends it to an audience that cannot intervene in the process. That is why power has always tried to use it. 

The Gutenberg era represented by this phenomenon lasted six centuries. Communication, which is a more recent phenomenon and which until now has only been possible with the Internet, is different. Communication is horizontal: I am a receiver, but I can also be a sender. There, power has much more power. 

The media that provide information are closer and closer to power, they are no longer a business, and every year they are less and less powerful. And politics today is increasingly oriented towards social media. The most recent example was former US President Donald Trump, who had 80 million followers with Twitter (during his tenure at the White House) and completely gave up control of the media. (Trump was permanently banned from twitter in January 2021, right after he supported the attack on the capitol. So, Trump doesn’t actually have any twitter followers now.).

It must be added, however, that the Internet has been captured by the market, which has eliminated the horizontality we all hailed in the beginning. Today we have moved from the era of Gutenberg to the era of Zuckerberg, and we users are data, not people. 

This is of great importance for young people, who today find themselves involved in vertically created turmoil, brought about by search engines, which divide users into affinity groups, thus eliminating dialogue, because when someone from part A meets someone from part B, they clash, end up insulting each other, without listening or sharing. And search engines, in order to keep the user, prioritise what generates the most impact, so that the strangest news ends up taking precedence. 

The extreme polarisation of America would not have been possible without social media. Newspapers increasingly focus on events and abandon processes, and international relations cannot be understood without analysing the process in which events take place. 

In Nairobi in 1973 there were 75 foreign correspondents; today there are three. No European TV has correspondents in Africa. It is therefore easy for a government to decide to expel correspondents, but it is almost impossible to shut down social networks, even if autocratic governments try to do so. That is why the Russian public knows little about the reality of the war. 

But if someone is determined, they can always find a way to overcome censorship, even if it is a skill of the young, the old are not on the Internet and still rely on traditional media.

In Italy, the main daily newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, had the front page for forty days with a nine-column headline dedicated to Ukraine. This was followed by the first twenty pages, all dedicated to Ukraine. The rest of the world had disappeared. And the same happened with most of the European media. 

Only with the French elections were newspapers forced to give significant space to Macron and not Zelensky. In this respect, representatives of the quality American press, such as the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have been more balanced. Of course, the longer the war goes on, the more the repetition of events in the media becomes insufficient. 

But the European press, like Europe itself, has sided with NATO, and with little argument. In Russia, of course, the press has been an amplifier for the government. The US media, for its part, often at odds with the government on domestic and national issues, tends to support the official foreign policy position. Factors such as national identity, nationalism and a lack of knowledge of international realities in newsrooms come into play.

It was surprising to see the European press become a megaphone of NATO positions. Putin was demonized as was Hitler, and Zelensky praised as a Greek hero. The Russians are portrayed as barbarians killing Minos. There has never been any negative news about Ukrainians, when in war violence and dereliction of ethics are inevitable and unfortunately widespread. 

It is as if the Cold War has never ended, and we are ready to accept an escalation that can become scorching hot. GDP has contracted, the cost of living is rising, inflation is on the rise, and so far, there has been no reaction. This is really surprising. 

For OtherNews, which is a news service on global issues, it was a very complex challenge. OtherNews represents a new design. The idea is that the non-profit association is owned by the readers, who can become members by paying a modest annual fee of 50 euros. 

They elect the board of directors and discuss the editorial line, thus guaranteeing full independence and a pluralistic and inclusive line. There are 12,000 readers, in 82 countries around the world: academics, international civil servants, global civil society activists, etc.

Q: How would you define the role of the media in covering the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?

A: The war in Ukraine is exclusively an affair of the global North. The global South is only a victim of the increase in food, energy and transport. In Africa it has reached 45% of the population. Articles from the North were criticized by readers from the South and vice versa. 

OtherNews lost almost 300 readers, almost all from the North, for publishing articles that criticized or questioned the war. I believe that this North-South divide will increase with the explosion of the multipolar world, as the values on which multilateralism was based are disappearing. 

An ‘active non-alignment’ could be recreated, which the press in Europe and the US will struggle to understand. The West still believes it is the centre of the world, the United States in particular.

But today, mainly because of the need to prioritise national interests over international cooperation, a path opened by (former President Ronald) Reagan and (former British Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher in 1981, we have moved from a multilateral to a multipolar world. In the Bush junior era, neo-conservatives preached the arrival of an American century, that the US should remain the dominant power. Since then, the US has lost in every conflict it has been involved in, from Iraq to Afghanistan. 

And Trump took the logic of the end of multilateralism to the extreme, advising all countries to put their own interests first. Today the result is that the multipolar world is not based on the idea of international cooperation for peace and development, but on the most brutal competition. 

And Biden now wants to revive multilateralism. But it is too late. Biden will lose the mid-term elections in November and become a lame duck, with a Congress of Trumpist Republicans vetoing everything. And in 2024 Trump is likely to return, and this whole NATO boom will go into deep crisis. But until November, if the war does not escalate and remain as it is, the European press will basically keep the war helmet on.

Q: After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the identity of the international blocs seems to have reconfigured: on the one hand, the United States and the European Union, which defend the liberal tradition, have drawn a very wide dividing line, at home and abroad, between ‘pro-Russian’ and ‘pro-democratic’; on the other hand, Russia, China and their allies are considered ‘illiberal’. What do you think of this construction and what can it lead to in the future?

A: This vision of a world divided into two blocs, China and Russia on one side and liberal democracies, Europe and the United States, on the other, is an easy illusion to see. In this multipolar world, countries stand alone. 

A good example is Turkey, which is part of NATO, but does not participate in the embargo against Russia and is very close to China. Or India, which continues to buy Russian arms, is on China’s New Silk Road, but does not want any problems with the US. Indonesia, which has always been a loyal US ally, continues to maintain Putin’s participation in G20 despite US protests. 

And also in Europe: Hungary and Poland are openly defying Brussels, splitting into a pro-NATO Poland and a pro-Russia Hungary. Saudi Arabia, Washington’s great ally, ignores Biden’s request to increase oil production, despite having been invited to the summit of democratic countries convened by Biden. This homogeneous bloc of liberal countries is a good marketing slogan, but it crumbles at the slightest analysis.

Q: How do you see the impact of US domestic political polarization on the international scene? Why?

A: The Cold War was a confrontation between two political and ideological visions that clashed in a proxy war. America is no longer Kennedy’s America and it is no longer Obama’s America. It is a country where political polarization has reached unprecedented extremes. In 1980, 12% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans told the Pew Institute that they would not want their daughter to marry a man of the other party. Today it is 91% of Democrats and 96% of Republicans. 

And the US Supreme Court is already part of this polarization. 72% of Republicans believe Trump was a victim of electoral fraud. And the crowd that stormed the Capitol is described by the Republican Party as a ‘display of political opinion’. Is this the exemplary leader of democracy’s fight against the world’s dictators? And we are only at the beginning of a process of radicalization. 

Right-wing states, with the endorsement of the Supreme Court, are banning abortion, reducing social protections, minority voting power and changing schoolbooks. With the return of Trump, or Trumpism, in two years the coexistence between the two camps will become even more difficult and few will see America as the beacon of the free world. And that won’t matter much to Trump either.

Q: What lessons do you see for Latin America, both politically and economically, after Donald Trump’s four years in office? And for Europe?

A: My opinion is that there will be great chaos in international relations, with a growing power struggle between the United States and China, with Russia, which we had the intelligence to push into Beijing’s arms. Of course, this struggle will be disguised as something political, but in reality, it will be a pure struggle for economic and military hegemony. 

It is a fight that the US cannot win. And China is a self-referential country that has never left its borders and has built walls to keep the enemy out. While the US has exploited its soft power, its music, food, clothing, sports and lifestyle, China has little interest in this kind of imperialism. 

I have been going to China since 1958 and have always been struck by how little they care to make a foreigner understand Chinese culture. But there are tens of thousands of Chinese students studying abroad, while the same cannot be said of Americans. The two countries are two big islands, which consider themselves surrounded by inferior nations. 

Latin America has always been considered a second-rate region by the US, despite many declarations, and I doubt that China sees the region beyond its raw materials and Latin Americans beyond its buyers.

My opinion, especially in light of Trump’s experience, is that Latin America should adopt a policy of active non-alignment, declaring that it will not get involved in a proxy war that is not in its interest, and that it will do exactly what the multipolar dynamic advises: put its interests as a region first. 

This would give it greater consideration and weight in international negotiations, and a clear advantage in a world divided by the New Cold War that is brewing. A war that, unlike the current NATO war against Russia, cannot be military, because it would mean the destruction of the planet. Of course, history and the present do not help to have great faith in the intelligence of power.

The big problem is that Latin America continues to be a continent divided by the inability to leave behind the experience of its ancestors. It is the most homogeneous region in the world, much more so than Asia and Africa, and in some ways more so than Europe and the United States, since the latter are experiencing a real disintegration. 

However, the Latin American integration process has been an optical illusion. Latin America is a region of permanent political experimentation, which has stifled any economic logic due to the rivalry between successive presidents, between whom there is a constant change of compass. 

I fear that instead of putting up a united front in the face of the next cold war, they will allow themselves to be bought off individually, convinced that they are doing what is best for their country. The only thing that can change the situation is a great popular movement. But this has always been directed at global issues, such as women or the environment, and of course at national issues: never at regional issues. 

And in the press, the issue of integration has at best been relegated to its bureaucratic aspects, to the various bodies that have sprung up and failed in modern times. So, in my opinion, I don’t think we have learnt a real lesson from what has happened in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall to express an inclusive regional policy, with a strong identity, and which places us as important players in the inter-national arena of this century.

(Sebastián Do Rosario and Federico Larsen are researchers at the Institute for International Relations of Mar del Plata, Argentina. The interview was first published in the newsletter of the Institute.. Courtesy: IPS UN Bureau)

Droupadi Murmu Is The President Of India

Droupadi Murmu, a tribal politician from the Odisha (Orissa) state was sworn in as the 10th successive president of the Republic of India on Monday, July 25th, 2022 in the central hall of Parliament in New Delhi. The 64-year-old former teacher, the country’s first tribal leader has become the constitutional head of India. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India N V Ramana administered the oath of office to the youngest ever President of India. Murmu replaces outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind, whose term ended on July 24th. 

India, a country with 1.4 billion people and the largest democracy in the world, has a constitutional framework of India is parliamentary, which is led by the elected representative and overseen by the first person of the country, the President of India.

In attendance at the solemn ceremony were: The outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind; Vice President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Members of the Council of Ministers, Governors, Chief Ministers, heads of diplomatic missions, Members of Parliament and principal civil and military officers of the government will attend the ceremony. After the oath ceremony, the President arrived at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where an inter-services guard of honor was given to her in the forecourt.

The swearing-in ceremony was marked by pomp and grandeur. It began with the arrival of two presidents – the outgoing Ram Nath Kovind and the incoming Droupadi Murmu – in a procession from Rashtrapati Bhavan to the Parliament building. Murmu was then escorted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice-President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha M Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to the Central Hall. After the short ceremony, Murmu and Kovind were escorted out of the Central Hall amid the roll of drums and blowing of trumpets.

Dressed in a white saree with green-and-red border,  in her address immediately after she took the oath as the President of India, Murmu thanked all MPs and MLAs who elected her to the highest office. Murmu, supported by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP was elected by the members of both the houses of parliament and of the legislative assemblies of states and federally-administered union territories. “I thank all of you. Your trust and cooperation is my strength. I am the first president who took birth in independent India,” she said.

Murmu said that she started her journey of life from a small tribal village in Odisha in the eastern part of the country. From the background that she came from, it was like a dream for her to get elementary education, she said. Her election to the top constitutional post proves that in India, the poor can not only dream but also fulfill those aspirations, she added. 

“I have been elected during an important time when the country is marking 75 years of Independence,” she noted. “Reaching this office is not my personal achievement but that of all the poor people in the country,” Murmu said. It is a matter of great satisfaction that those who have been deprived for centuries and those who have been denied the benefits of development, poor, downtrodden, backwards and tribals are seeing their reflection in her, she pointed out.

Tracing her background to the humble beginning, Murmu said, “I belong to the tribal society, and I have got the opportunity to become the President of India from the Ward Councilor. This is the greatness of India, the mother of democracy. It is the power of our democracy that a daughter born in a poor house, a daughter born in a remote tribal area, can reach the highest constitutional post of India.”

This is the first time that India has a tribal — considered the most original inhabitants of the land but have been on the margins of socio-economic development — as the President. This is happening in the 75th year of Independence, which marks the beginning of the government’s celebration of Amrit Kaal.

At 64, Murmu becomes the youngest person to be the President of India. She scripted history last week, defeating joint-opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha, a former Union minister, in a one-sided contest. She polled 6,76,803 votes against Sinha’s 3,80,177 votes to become India’s 15th President.

Born in 1958 in Baidaposi village of Mayurbhanj district, Murmu belongs to the Santhal community, one of India’s largest tribal groups. Daughter of a village council chief, she studied at the Ramadevi Women’s College in the state capital, Bhubaneswar. 

Beginning her career as a clerk for the Odisha government, Murmu served as a junior assistant in the irrigation and energy department from 1979-1983. After she quit her job in Bhubaneswar and returned to Rairangpur to take care of her family at the insistence of her mother-in-law, she took up a job as a teacher at the Sri Aurobindo Integral School.

Her political career began in 1997 when she was elected as a councillor in the local polls in Rairangpur. She was often seen personally supervising sanitation work in the town, standing in the sun as drains were cleaned and garbage cleared.

As a member of the BJP, she was elected to the state assembly twice – in 2000 and in 2009 – from the Rairangpur seat. Murmu came into the limelight in 2017 when it was rrumoreded that the BJP was considering her name for the presidential election that year. She was then serving as the governor of the state of Jharkhand.

Murmu devoted her life to serving society, empowering poor, downtrodden and marginalized sections of society. She has rich administrative experience and an outstanding gubernatorial tenure in Jharkhand. Murmu has made a special identity in public life by spreading awareness about education in tribal society and serving the public for a long time as a public representative.

The Indian president acts as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces but the prime minister holds executive powers. he president, nevertheless, has a key role during political crises, such as when a general election is inconclusive, by deciding which party is in the best position to form a government. “A daughter of India hailing from a tribal community born in a remote part of eastern India has been elected our President!” PM Modi said on Twitter.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was among the world leaders to congratulate Murmu and said he was “ready to work” with his new Indian counterpart to strengthen relations, according to Chinese state media.

After Droupadi Murmu took oath as India’s 15th President in Delhi on Monday, celebrations were held at her native place – Rairangpur. To celebrate Murmu’s oath, people from her native performed tribal dance on the beats of the folk music. Notably, Draupadi Murmu is the first tribal and second woman to hold the country’s highest constitutional office.

Most People Have Confidence In Kamala Harris Across 18 Surveyed Countries

By, Aidan Connaughton At PEW Research

A median of 55% of adults in these countries have confidence in Harris to do the right thing regarding world affairs, including half or more who hold that view in 14 countries. Confidence in Harris is particularly high in Sweden, where 77% of adults view her positively.

Trust in Harris is lowest in Hungary, where only 23% say they have confidence in the vice president to do the right thing regarding world affairs. Hungary is also the country where the greatest share did not answer the question (36%).

Confidence in Harris is roughly comparable to international confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. A median of about six-in-ten have confidence in each of those three leaders to do the right thing regarding world affairs – slightly more than the median of 55% who have confidence in the U.S. vice president. Harris’s ratings far outpace those of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is seen positively by a median of 18% of adults, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is seen positively by a median of just 9% across the surveyed countries.

Harris has taken on a variety of internationally focused responsibilities during her time as vice president. Those responsibilities have included a high-profile trip to Europe at the beginning of the war in Ukraine and coordination of relations with Central American leaders to stem the flow of migrants coming to the southern border of the United States.

Confidence in Harris is tied to gender in some countries, with women significantly more likely than men to express confidence in her handling of world affairs. For example, 68% of Canadian women have a positive view of Harris, while only about half of Canadian men (51%) say the same. Significant differences between men and women also appear in Singapore, Australia, Italy, Malaysia, Sweden and the Netherlands.

In some countries, older people are more likely to have confidence in Harris than younger people. This age gap is largest in Belgium, where 73% of those ages 50 and older have confidence in Harris, compared with just 51% of 18- to 29-year-olds. Older people are also more likely to have confidence in the U.S. vice president in Canada, France, Germany and Greece. In Singapore, Poland and Malaysia, the opposite is true: Younger people report more confidence in Harris than older people. Older adults in Malaysia are also less likely to provide a response to the question.

Ideology is also related to views of Harris in some places. In six countries, those who place themselves on the ideological left are significantly more likely than those on the right to have confidence in Harris. Greece is the only country where the reverse is true: 54% of Greeks on the ideological right are confident in Harris, compared with just 32% of those on the left.

In addition to gender, age and ideological differences in some places, views of Harris are closely related to views of the U.S. president.

For example, people in Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland report some of the most positive views of Harris, with around seven-in-ten or more saying they’re confident in her to do the right thing regarding world affairs. People in these countries also report some of the highest levels of confidence in Biden. On the opposite end of the spectrum, people in Hungary are the least likely to express confidence in both Harris and Biden.

Trump ‘Chose Not To Act’ As Mob Terrorized The Capitol

(AP) — Despite desperate pleas from aides, allies, a Republican congressional leader and even his family, Donald Trump refused to call off the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol, instead “pouring gasoline on the fire” by aggressively tweeting his false claims of a stolen election and celebrating his crowd of supporters as “very special,” the House investigating committee showed Thursday night.

The next day, he declared anew, “I don’t want to say the election is over.” That was in a previously unaired outtake of an address to the nation he was to give, shown at the prime-time hearing of the committee. 

The panel documented how for some 187 minutes, from the time Trump left a rally stage sending his supporters to the Capitol to the time he ultimately appeared in the Rose Garden video that day, nothing could compel the defeated president to act. Instead, he watched the violence unfold on TV.

“President Trump didn’t fail to act,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a fellow Republican but frequent Trump critic who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “He chose not to act.”

After months of work and weeks of hearings, the prime-time session started the way the committee began — laying blame for the deadly attack on Trump himself for summoning the mob to Washington and sending them to Capitol Hill.

The defeated president turned his supporters’ “love of country into a weapon,” said the panel’s Republican vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

Far from finishing its work after Thursday’s hearing, probably the last of the summer, the panel will start up again in September as more witnesses and information emerge. Cheney said “the dam has begun to break” on revealing what happened that fateful day, at the White House as well as in the violence at the Capitol.

“Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office,” Cheney declared.

“Every American must consider this: Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted in any position of authority in our great nation?” she asked.

Trump, who is considering another White House run, dismissed the committee as a “Kangaroo court,” and name-called the panel and witnesses for “many lies and misrepresentations.”

Plunging into its second prime-time hearing on the Capitol attack, the committee aimed to show a “minute by minute” accounting of Trump’s actions with new testimony, including from two White House aides, never-before-heard security radio transmissions of Secret Service officers fearing for their lives and behind-the-scenes discussions at the White House. 

With the Capitol siege raging, Trump was “giving the green light” to his supporters by tweeting condemnation of Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to go along with his plan to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, a former White House aide told the committee.

Two aides resigned on the spot. 

“I thought that Jan. 6 2021, was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Sarah Matthews told the panel. “And President Trump was treating it as a celebratory occasion. So it just further cemented my decision to resign.”

The committee played audio of Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reacting with surprise to the president’s inaction during the attack. 

 “You’re the commander-in-chief. You’ve got an assault going on on the Capitol of the United States of America. And there’s Nothing? No call? Nothing, Zero?” he said.

On Jan. 6, an irate Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol after his supporters had stormed the building, well aware of the deadly attack, but his security team refused.

“Within 15 minutes of leaving the stage, President Trump knew that the Capitol was besieged and under attack,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.

At the Capitol, the mob was chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” testified Matt Pottinger, the former deputy national security adviser, as Trump tweeted his condemnation of his vice president.

Pottinger, testifying Thursday, said that when he saw Trump’s tweet he immediately decided to resign, as did Matthews, who said she was a lifelong Republican but could not go along with what was going on. She was the witness who called the tweet “a green light” and “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

Meanwhile, recordings of Secret Service radio transmissions revealed agents at the Capitol trying to whisk Pence to safety amid the mayhem and asking for messages to be relayed telling their own families goodbye.

The panel showed previously unseen testimony from the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., with a text message to his father’s chief of staff Mark Meadows urging the president to call off the mob.

Sri Lanka Seeks Way Forward After President Quits

Sri Lanka is seeking a way out of political and economic chaos after its President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned and fled the country. Two days after former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka, his two brothers – former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa – were barred from leaving the island nation until July 28.

The country’s Supreme Court on Friday passed an order during the hearing of a petition filed by Transparency International, a global NGO, alleging that these persons were directly responsible for the unsustainability of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt, its debt default and the current economic crisis.

Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s acting president on July 15th after parliament accepted the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Secret vote: For the first time since 1978, Sri Lanka will elect its next president through a secret vote by the MPs and not through a popular mandate, on July 20. The new president will serve the remaining tenure of Gotabaya Rajapaksa till November 2024.

Sigh of relief: Rajapaksa’s departure from office marks a major victory for the anti-government protesters, who for months have demanded his removal. “We are so happy today that he resigned and we feel that when we, the people, come together, we can do everything,” said Arunanandan, 34, a school teacher told Reuters. “We are the real power in this country.” 

As people celebrated in the streets, Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana promised a swift and transparent political process that should be done within a week.

The new president could appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by Parliament. After Rajapaksa resigned, pressure on the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was rising.

In a televised statement, Wickremesinghe said he would initiate steps to change the constitution to curb presidential powers and strengthen Parliament, restore law and order and take legal action against “insurgents.”

It was unclear to whom he was referring, although he said true protesters would not have gotten involved in clashes Wednesday night near Parliament, where many soldiers reportedly were injured.

The process of parliament electing a new president began on Saturday, with MPs expected to take a vote on 20 July. The initial formal meeting lasted just 13 minutes, with a letter being read out from Mr Rajapaska defending his record.

“It is a matter of personal satisfaction for me that I was able to protect our people from the pandemic despite the economic crisis we were already facing,” he wrote.

According to news agency AFP, more than 16,500 people died during the pandemic in Sri Lanka, while the country’s official foreign exchange reserves dropped from $7.5bn (£6.3bn) to just $1m during his tenure.

After being sworn in as interim leader, Mr Wickremesinghe promised to act quickly to put a democratically elected president in place. “I will take immediate steps to establish the rule of law and peace in the country. I accept 100% the right to peaceful protests. But some are trying to do acts of sabotage,” he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore says ousted president Rajapaksa did not ask for political asylum when he arrived there.  The former president, who arrived with his wife and two bodyguards, no longer has legal immunity as a head of state and his position is now more precarious as he tries to find a safe country to shelter in. 

He is expected to stay in Singapore for some time before possibly moving to the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lankan security sources told AFP news agency.

Big Cities Saw Population Losses, Suburban Growth Declined During Pandemic

Much has been written about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on big-city populations. Brookings Metro’s recent analysis of large metropolitan area declines makes plain that during the prime year of the pandemic (from July 2020 to July 2021) there were outsized population losses in the nation’s biggest metropolitan areas. But more recent Census Bureau estimates focusing on cities (rather than metropolitan areas) show the pandemic’s impact to be even more dramatic, with unprecedented losses across the 88 U.S. cities with populations exceeding 250,000 residents.  

This analysis places these estimates in the context of recent decades’ trends, when America’s big cities experienced noticeable ups and downs. It then shifts the focus to the suburbs of major metropolitan areas, which—while benefitting somewhat from recent city population losses—tend to display growth slowdowns of their own. 

As a group, big cities experienced an absolute population loss during the pandemic 

Big-city growth has shown variations since the turn of the century. In the first part of the 2000-10 decade, big cities took a downturn as easy credit and growth in metro areas with large, sprawling suburbs brought on a suburban boom. This trend was reversed later in the decade due to the 2007-09 Great Recession and near collapse of the housing market, which negatively impacted suburban growth. This led many would-be suburbanites—especially millennials—to instead remain in big cities as they delayed family formation and suburban homeownership, which extended higher city growth rates though the early 2010s. 

As the economy and housing market picked up in the mid-2010s, growth in big cities slowed. The pandemic began to affect city growth in 2019-20, and even more so in 2020-21—the first year this century when large cities in aggregate registered a population loss, declining by 1%. 

Cities that showed the greatest percentage losses were San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Substantial losses also occurred in St. Louis and Atlanta (see Figure 2). 

While pandemic decreases in both immigration and natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) brought lower national population, domestic migration played a primary role in city population losses, as shown in Figure 3 for San Francisco and New York. 

The sharp 2020-21 growth slowdown occurred in far more cities than just the above. Among the 88 U.S. cities with populations exceeding 250,000, 77 showed either slower growth, greater declines, or a shift from growth to decline over the previous year. Sixty-two cities registered their lowest growth since at least 2010 (see downloadable Table A). Fourteen cities experienced their first population losses since at least 2010, including Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Seattle. Twenty-eight cites registered slower growth in 2020-21 than the previous year, including the high-growth cities of Fort Worth, Texas; San Antonio; Phoenix; Las Vegas; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Charlotte, N.C. (see Figure 4). 

Among the few cities that grew more rapidly in 2020-21 than in the previous year are four in interior California (Riverside, Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield), two in Nevada (Reno and North Las Vegas), as well as Gilbert, Arizona and Raleigh, N.C. Still, over the 2010-21 period, most cities achieved their highest growth rates in the earlier part of the 2010s decade (see downloadable Table A). 

A record number of big cities lost population 

Perhaps the most noteworthy finding for the prime pandemic year is the dramatic rise in the number of cities that lost population. In keeping with the ups and downs of city growth since 2000, there have been sharp changes in the number of big cities that lost population each year. 

The dispersion to smaller areas in the early 2000-10 decade led to increases in the number of big cities that lost population each year, ranging from 29 to 32 of all 88 cities between 2001 and 2005. This diminished to a range of just four to 10 population-losing cities during the post-recession period of 2009 to 2014. The number started to rise again in the mid-2010s, as 23 cities lost population in 2018-19 and 27 in the pandemic’s first year, 2019-20. Yet the sharp increase in number of population-losing cities in 2020-21 (to 51 of the 88 big cities) is of historic proportions for recent decades. 

Population-losing cities are located in all parts of the country, though those with greatest numeric losses (aside from Chicago) tend to be coastal or near coastal cities: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Calif., Philadelphia, Washington DC and Boston. Yet many are also in the center of the country, including cities with long-standing population declines (Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Buffalo, N.Y.) as well as newer entries such as Indianapolis and Omaha, Neb. Many others are in generally growing parts of the country, including Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Memphis, Tenn., and Miami in the South, and Denver and Albuquerque, N.M. in the West. 

It is also noteworthy how the list of population-gaining and population-losing cities changes over time (see downloadable Table B). In boom times for cities (such as 2000-01 and right after the Great Recession), New York ranked first in overall population gains, whereas during the down years, it ranked among the those with greatest population losses—fifth in 2005-06 and first in each year from 2016-17 to 2020-21. Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas also flipped from being among the greatest population-gaining cities in 2010-11 to those with population losses in 2020-21. Note as well that Phoenix, San Antonio, and Fort Worth were among the 10 highest-gaining cities for most years since 2005-06, though each showed far lower growth in 2020-21 than in earlier years 

Suburbs of large metro areas registered growth declines in 2020-21 

The sharp decline in city growth during the pandemic’s prime year did not generally lead to equivalent rises in suburban growth in the nation’s 56 major metropolitan areas (those with populations exceeding 1 million). This is because these areas also showed substantial metropolitan-wide growth slowdowns, affecting the suburbs as well as cities. 

Nonetheless, most suburban portions of metropolitan areas (the areas that lie outside of primary cities) continued to grow more rapidly than those cities. Figure 6 shows the annual growth of the aggregated primary city and suburban populations for the nation’s major metro areas between 2010 and 2021.[2]  For the first half of the 2010s, overall primary city growth exceeded suburban growth. This shifted in 2015-16, as primary city growth rates declined, continuing though 2020-21, when that growth became negative. 

Among the nation’s 56 major metro areas, primary city populations grew faster than their suburbs in 29 during the first two years of the 2010s decade. This fell to just six in 2020-21 (see downloadable Table C). 

While suburban growth remained higher than primary city growth though this latter period, it too began to decline, especially over the past two years. The combined suburban populations grew by nearly 1% annually during the first five years of the 2010s, but that rate shrunk to just 0.26% in 2020-21. 

Although many suburban areas received some in-migration from their primary cities, they also saw smaller contributions from immigration and natural increase. Between 2019-20 and 2020-21, 43 of the 56 major metro area suburbs showed either declining growth or increased population losses, and 31 experienced their slowest annual growth since at least 2010. Nineteen of the 56 suburbs sustained population losses in 2020-21, compared with just six or fewer in the early years of the decade. 

Among major metro areas experiencing suburban population declines in the last year are Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Each displayed somewhat different patterns since 2010. All four areas showed negative primary city growth in the last year (Seattle for the first time). In the Boston metro area, primary cities grew more rapidly than suburbs until 2019-20, though its suburban population declined then as well. In the Cleveland metro area, both the primary city and its suburbs displayed negative growth throughout the period, with the city seeing a bigger 2020-21 decline. In the Los Angeles metro area, the primary city grew more rapidly (or declined less) than its suburbs throughout the decade, though both took a huge dip in 2020-21. And in the Seattle metro area, the primary city outgrew its suburbs each year until 2020-21, when both displayed sharp population declines—the city’s being slightly larger than the suburbs’. 

The future of big cities in the post-pandemic period 

The historic population declines in the nation’s largest cities raise the question of how unusual this prime pandemic period was. Examining data going back two decades, there was no individual year that comes close to showing the population declines that these cities witnessed in 2020-21, alongside slower growth in their entire metro areas and suburbs. 

Recent analyses of statistics from the U.S. Postal Service and other sources suggest that this 12-month period might be an aberration, and that some of the reasons for a dispersion away from these cities (such as an escape from density for pandemic-related safety reasons) may no longer be salient. Still, the patterns of telecommuting that have begun to take hold may make a “return to the city” less inevitable than it would otherwise be. 

While many of those who fled cities may not return, future city gains may well be in the hands of younger generations and new immigrant waves—groups that in the past tended to choose big cities as their destinations.

Republican Governors Planning 2024 Run Aren’t Rushing Abortion Laws

By, Stephen Groves

(AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem had pledged to “immediately” call a special legislative session to “guarantee that every unborn child has a right to life in South Dakota” if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But nearly three weeks after that ruling, the first-term Republican remains unusually quiet about exactly what she wants lawmakers to pass.

Noem, widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate, isn’t the only GOP governor with national ambitions who followed up calls for swift action with hesitance when justices ended the constitutional right to abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years.

In Arkansas, which like South Dakota had an abortion ban immediately triggered by the court’s ruling, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he does not plan to put abortion on the agenda of next month’s special session focused on tax cuts. And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a top potential White House contender also running for reelection, has shied away from detailing whether he will push to completely ban abortions despite a pledge to “expand pro-life protections.”

Noem has given no indication of the date, proposals or whether a special session will even happen to anyone beyond a small group of Statehouse leaders. When asked whether the governor still plans to call lawmakers back to the Capitol, her office this week referred to a June statement that indicated it was being planned for “later this year.”

It’s a change of tack from when the Supreme Court’s decision first leaked in May and the governor fired off a tweet saying she would “immediately call for a special session to save lives” if Roe was overturned. The enthusiasm placed Noem, the first woman to hold the governor’s office in South Dakota, in a prominent spot in the anti-abortion movement.

However, as the abortion ban became reality last month, Noem kept her plans a secret besides saying “there is more work to do” and pledging “to help mothers in crisis.”

Some conservatives in the South Dakota Legislature wanted to take aggressive action, including trying to stop organizations or companies from paying for women to travel out of state for an abortion, changing the criminal punishment for performing an abortion and possibly clarifying state law to ensure the ban didn’t affect other medical procedures.

Republican state Sen. Brock Greenfield said many South Dakota lawmakers attending the state party’s convention on June 24, the same day as the Supreme Court ruling, expected Noem would call them back to Pierre this week for a special session, but “obviously that hasn’t come to fruition.”

“It might not be a bad idea to just let the dust settle and proceed very carefully, very strategically as we go forward,” said Greenfield, a former executive director of the state’s most influential anti-abortion group, South Dakota Right to Life.

The caution reflects the evolving landscape of abortion politics, as Republicans navigate an issue that threatens to divide the party while giving Democrats a potential election-year boost.

Nationwide polling conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research before the Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe showed it was unpopular, with a majority of Americans wanting to see the court leave the precedent intact. Subsequent polling since the ruling showed that a growing number of Americans, particularly Democrats, cited abortion or women’s rights as priorities at the ballot box.

In political battleground states, some other prominent GOP governors — including possible White House contenders — haven’t charged to enact abortion bans.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has said he considers the abortion question settled in his state, pointing to a 1991 law that protects abortion rights. However, he has resisted efforts by the Democratic-controlled legislature to expand abortion access.

Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, also considered a potential presidential contender, wants lawmakers in the politically divided General Assembly to take up legislation next year, saying he personally would favor banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

During an online forum with abortion opponents he said he would “gleefully” sign any bill “to protect life” but acknowledged that Virginia’s political reality might require compromise.  “My goal is that we … in fact get a bill to sign,” he said. “It won’t be the bill that we all want.”

In the wake of South Dakota banning abortions, Noem took a softer approach on the issue by launching a website for pregnant women. She even seemed warm to the idea of pushing for state-backed paid family leave.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is in a closely watched gubernatorial race with Democrat Beto O’Rourke, took a similar approach to the high court ruling that could make it the most populous state to ban abortions. He issued a statement saying Texas “prioritized supporting women’s healthcare and expectant mothers” and pointed to efforts to expand programs for women’s health as well as fund organizations that dissuade women from having an abortion.

States with the nation’s strictest abortion laws, such as Texas and South Dakota, also have some of the worst rates of first-trimester prenatal care, as well as uninsured children in poverty, according to an AP analysis of federal data.

South Dakota Right to Life’s current executive director Dale Bartscher suggested Noem’s action in a special session could be part of a turn in strategy: “An entirely new pro-life movement has just begun — we stand ready to serve women, the unborn and families.” He said he had been communicating with the governor’s office on her plans but declined to detail them.

But Noem in recent weeks has faced questioning for her stance that the only exception to the state’s abortion ban should be to save the life of a mother, even if she has been raped, became pregnant through incest or is a child. 

It’s also not clear where she stands on some conservative lawmakers’ desire to target organizations and companies that are helping women leave the state to access abortion services — a proposition that could undermine Noem’s efforts to attract businesses to the state.

Brockfield warned that a special legislative session could result in “a whole lot of arguments over whether we’re going too far, or whether we haven’t gone far enough.”

At the same time, abortion rights protesters have shown up at Noem’s campaign office and named her in chants decrying the state’s ban. They see momentum growing for an effort to restore some abortion rights in the state through a 2024 ballot measure, pointing out that South Dakota voters in 2006 and 2008 rejected Republican state lawmakers’ efforts to ban the procedure.

“I’ve lived in this state my whole life and I’ve never seen people show up to protest for this issue like they have in recent weeks,” said Kim Floren, who helps run an abortion access fund called Justice Empowerment N

The fund has also been strategizing for a special session, including hiring legal representation and planning protests in Pierre, Floren said.

Their desires may be dismissed in South Dakota’s Statehouse, where Republicans hold 90% of seats, but abortion rights advocates say there is a fresh urgency in alerting voters to the potential impact of the state abortion ban.

“We’re going to see people die,” said Callan Baxter, president of the South Dakota chapter of the National Organization for Women. “We’re going to see some real life consequences and the exposure is going to have a big impact legislatively going forward.”

Americans Are Discontented With Biden, Economy, State Of The Country

The summer of 2022 is a season of deepening and widespread discontent, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. The survey finds the public’s outlook on the state of the country the worst it’s been since 2009, while its view on the economy is the worst since 2011. And nearly 7 in 10 say President Joe Biden hasn’t paid enough attention to the nation’s most pressing problems. 

Biden’s approval rating in the poll stands at 38%, with 62% disapproving. His approval ratings for handling the economy (30%) and inflation (25%) are notably lower. Rising costs are a primary economic pressure for most Americans: 75% call inflation and the cost of living the most important economic problem facing their family. Last summer, that figure stood at 43%.

With midterm elections approaching, the poll finds no indication that Biden’s standing with the public is improving — and among some critical constituencies, it is worsening. Among Democrats, for example, Biden’s approval numbers have softened by 13 points since the spring (from 86% in a late April through early May poll to 73% now), while his numbers among independents and Republicans have held about even. Biden’s approval rating among Democrats for handling the economy is also on the decline (62% approve, down from 71% this spring). And on inflation, it is barely above water (51% of Democrats approve, 47% disapprove).

Among people of color, 45% now approve of Biden’s overall performance, down from 54% in the spring. That decline includes a 6-point dip among Black adults and a 9-point decline among Hispanic adults. Biden’s approval ratings for handling the economy and inflation now break negative among Black adults, who have been among the President’s strongest backers (47% approve and 52% disapprove on the economy, while 34% approve and 65% disapprove on inflation).

Few Americans who approve of Biden’s overall performance say they do so strongly. Overall, just 12% strongly approve of the way Biden is handling the presidency compared with 43% who say they strongly disapprove of his work. Only 28% of Democrats strongly approve, while among Republicans, strong disapproval is nearly universal at 84%. 

The public’s perceptions of the economy and of how things are going in the country overall are deeply negative and worsening. Since the spring, the share saying things are going badly for the country has climbed 11 points to 79%, the highest since February 2009, and shy of the all-time worst reached in November 2008 by just four points. That shift comes largely among Democrats. Just 38% of Democrats now say things are going well in the country, down from 61% this spring. Likewise, there’s been a steep drop among people of color, from 41% saying things were going well in the spring to 27% now. 

Only 18% of Americans describe the nation’s economy as in good shape, while 82% say economic conditions are poor. About 4 in 10 (41%) describe the economy as “very poor,” up 11 points since the spring and nearly doubled since December. As some economists warn of a looming recession, most Americans think the country is already there. The poll finds 64% of Americans feel the economy is currently in a recession, higher than the shares who said so just ahead of the Great Recession (46% felt that way in October 2007) and a recession that began in 2001 (44% said the country was already in a recession in February ’01). Majorities across parties say the country is already in a recession, including 56% of Democrats, 63% of independents and 76% of Republicans. 

Asked to name the biggest economic problem facing their family today, 75% call out an issue related to the cost of living or inflation, including 38% who mentioned inflation and rising costs generally, 29% who mention gas prices, and 18% who mention the cost of food. All of those figures have increased sharply since last summer. One poll participant said, “Prices on everything just keeps getting higher and higher. is it going to stop?” Another said, “I work 40+ hours and can barely afford to survive. With the price of gas and price of food so high, I don’t see how anyone can have extra money to do anything other than work.” And a third participant said, “Inflation causes so much pain with everything we buy and everything we do.” 

While the public’s attention has shifted sharply to inflation, few think the President’s focus has followed. In the poll, 68% say Biden has not paid enough attention to the country’s most important problems, up from 58% who said so last November. That outpaces the previous high in CNN polling saying a President’s attention has been misplaced (59% saying Donald Trump hadn’t paid attention to the most important problems in late summer 2017). 

On this question too, Biden is losing ground among his core support groups. Among Democrats, 57% say he has the right priorities, down nearly 20 points from 75% last fall. Among people of color, just 35% say he has the right priorities, and among those younger than 35, only 23% say the President has the right focus. 

The poll finds Biden’s approval ratings for handling immigration (39%) and the situation in Ukraine (46%) outperforming those for economic issues, but majorities disapprove on both issues. 

The survey also suggests both the President’s and vice president’s personal favorability has taken a hit. A year and a half ago, just before their inauguration, 59% held a favorable opinion of Biden and 51% had a favorable view of Kamala Harris. Now, those figures stand at 36% and 32% respectively. Meanwhile, the public’s view of first lady Jill Biden is mixed: 34% have a favorable opinion, 29% unfavorable and 37% are unsure how they feel about her. 

The new CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS June 13 through July 13 among a random national sample of 1,459 adults initially reached by mail, and is the third survey CNN has conducted using this methodology. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. (Courtesy; www.cnn.com)

Voice Of Dissent Is Necessary For A Healthy Democracy

A Delhi court In India granted bail to Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair in the case involving his 2018-tweet. The court invoked Hindu religion in its bail order to argue that his tweet did not appear violative of Section 153A (communal enmity) and 295A IPC (insulting religion).

He had posted an image from the 1983-movie Kissi Se Na Kehna, showing a hotel’s name changing from Honeymoon Hotel to Hanuman Hotel. He wrote: “Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel.”

“The voice of dissent is necessary for healthy democracy. Therefore, merely for the criticism of any political parties it is not justified to invoke Section 153A and 295A of Indian Penal Code,” the court said.

Zubair continues to be in jail over other FIRs registered against him in Uttar Pradesh, where he is facing six cases in Hathras (two), Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar, Lakhimpur Kheri, and Sitapur over his tweet or calling certain persons “hatemongers”.

“Hindu religion is one of the oldest religions and most tolerant. The followers of the Hindu religion are also tolerant. Hindu religion is so tolerant that its followers proudly name their institution/organization/facilities in the name of their Holy God or Goddess,” the court said.

“Naming of an institute, facility or organization or child in the name of Hindu deity on the face of it is not violative of Section 153A and 295A IPC, unless the same is done with malice/guilty intention.”

The court noted that the police have not identified the Twitter users who complained saying they were offended by Zubair’s tweet. “The statement of this aggrieved person/witness under Section 161 CrPC is not yet recorded. The police have failed to record the statement under the Section.”

On the charge of illegal foreign contribution, the court observed that prima facie the accused has taken all the safeguard to prevent the receipt of any foreign contribution.

India Elects New President

India held Presidential Elections on July 18th, 2022 with 99.18 percent voter turnout from the eligible voters to elect a new ceremonial head of the largest democracy in the world. The ruling coalition led by Shri Narendra Modi supported NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu has a clear edge over the Opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha as over 60 per cent votes are expected to be cast in her favor. With NDA Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu set for a near-certain win, she will be the 15th President of the Republic of India. 

As per media reports, over 99 per cent of the total 4,796 electors cast their votes in the presidential poll held at the Parliament House and the state legislative assemblies.  As many as 10 states and the Union Territory of Puducherry recorded a 100 per cent turnout.

Secretary General of Rajya Sabha PC Mody on Monday informed that out of the 736 electors comprising 727 MPs and 9 Legislative Assembly members, who were permitted by ECI to vote, 730 electors comprising 721 MPs & 9 Legislative Assembly members cast their votes. He also said that elector turnout was at 99.18%.

National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Droupadi Murmu has a clear edge over Sinha as over 60 per cent of votes are expected to be polled in her favor. She has the support of BJD, YSRCP, BSP, AIADMK, TDP, JD(S), Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and JMM.  If elected, she will become the first woman from the tribal community to hold the country’s top constitutional post.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, chief ministers from across the country, and other MPs and MLAs cast their votes on Monday morning. In all, around 4,800 MPs and MLAs have cast their votes to elect the 15th President of India. The counting of votes will take place on July 21 while the next President will take oath on July 25.

Appealing to lawmakers for support, Opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha stated, “I have repeatedly said that this election is very important as it will decide the direction as to whether democracy will remain in India or will slowly end.” 

BJP MP and film actor Sunny Deol and Union Minister Sanjay Dhotre were among those who missed casting their votes in the presidential poll. While Deol is abroad for medical treatment, Dhotre is in the ICU. Two MPs each from BJP and Shiv Sena, and one each from the BSP, Congress, SP and AIMIM were among those who did not cast their votes during the election, media reports stated.

BSP leader Atul Singh who is in jail could not vote. Shiv Sena leaders, Gajanan Kirtikar and Hemant Godse, also did not vote. AIMIM leader Imtiyaz Jaleel also was among the eight who did not vote. Senior leaders like Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman came in a PPE, while former PM Manmohan Singh and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav came in wheelchairs to cast their votes. 

Droupadi Murmu, a tribal leader from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district to trace her journey, is said to be the first girl in her village to go to college to now being possibly India’s first tribal president. Murmu is a former Governor of Jharkhand and a former Odisha minister. If elected, she will be the first tribal President of India and the country’s second female President.

The current President, Ram Nath Kovind, who was elected the 14th President in 2017, will remain President till July 24th 2022. As the country will get a new President on July 25th, here is a list of the previous Presidents, who occupied the Presidential Palace, Raisina Hill at the heart of India’s capital, New Delhi. 

Rajendra Prasad (1950 – 1962): Rajendra Prasad was the first President of Independent India and stayed in office for the longest term of around 12 years. Post the completion of his tenure, he quit the Congress and set up new guidelines for parliamentarians which are still followed. Prasad played a major role in forming the Bihari Students Conference in 1906 and served as the president of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution of India.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1962 – 1967): September 5, the birthday of Radhakrishnan, one of the most learned scholars and statesmen of the nation, is celebrated as ‘Teacher’s Day’ in India. He was one of the first to receive the Bharat Ratna, in 1954, and was also the first to lead the line of five Presidents to receive the Bharat Ratna till now. Shortly before his death in 1975, he was honoured with the Templeton Prize for his work.

Dr. Zakir Hussain (1967 – 1969): Dr. Hussain was the country’s first Muslim president, who occupied the office for the shortest period. His untimely death two years after being elected made VV Giri the first acting president of India.

Varahagiri Venkata Giri (1969-1974): Giri resigned two months after being appointed as the acting President of India, following the death of Dr. Zakir Hussaian as he wanted to become an elected President. He was later elected as the fourth President of India in 1969.

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (1974 – 1977): Ahmed served as the President of India during the time of Emergency. He was the second Muslim to be elected as the President of India and also the second to die in state.

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (1977 – 1982): Reddy was the sixth President of India and the first to be elected unopposed and the youngest to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Giani Zail Singh (1982 – 1987): The only Sikh President of India till now, Singh also served as the Chief Minister of Punjab.

Ramaswamy Venkataraman (1987 – 1992): As a President of India, Venkataraman had the distinction of working with four Prime Ministers. Before being elected as the President, Venkataraman served a stint as the Governor of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Asian Development Bank.

Shankar Dayal Sharma (1992 – 1997): Shankar Dayal Sharma served as the eighth Vice-President of India and was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh state.

Kocheril Raman Narayanan (1997 – 2002): Popularly known as KR Narayanan, he was the first Dalit-origin President of India. Narayanan, who formerly served as a diplomat, served as India’s ambassador to China and the United States.

APJ Abdul Kalam (2002 – 2007): Known for his role in the development of India’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, APJ Abdul Kalam was the first scientist to become a President in 2002.

Pratibha Patil (2007 – 2012): Pratibha Patil was the first woman to become the President of India.

Pranab Mukherjee (2012 – 2017): Pranab Mukherjee served as the 13th President of India. Before entering into politics, Mukherjee worked as a lecturer and journalist. Mukherjee is the only President who served all the major portfolios as the Centre – Foreign, Defense, Commerce and Finance – at different times in his political career.

2 Billion Covid Vaccinations Given In India

India celebrated its dedication commitment to prevent Covid virus as it has now provided over two billion Billion Vaccines to its 1.4 billion people. Celebrations were across the nation, after India administered 2 billion doses of vaccinations against COVID-19. 

According to reports compiled by Reuters, Macau kicked off an 11th round of COVID-19 testing for residents on Monday, as the world’s biggest casino hub extended a lockdown of casinos and other businesses in the fight on its worst outbreak since the pandemic began.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

ASIA-PACIFIC

* The Indian government’s COVID-19 vaccinations hit 2 billion on Sunday, July 17yj with booster doses underway for all adults, as daily infections hit four-month high, official data showed.

* Japan’s daily COVID-19 infections hit a record of more than 110,000, Jiji news agency reported on Saturday. Faced with a seventh COVID wave, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has urged the public to exercise maximum vigilance.

* Shanghai will require residents across nine of the city’s districts and some smaller areas to undergo testing for COVID-19 over July 19-21 in an effort to stem any community spread of the virus, the city government said.

* North Korea is on the path to “finally defuse” a crisis stemming from its first acknowledged outbreak of COVID-19, the state news agency said, while Asian neighbours battle a fresh wave of infections driven by Omicron subvariants.

* China reported 598 new coronavirus cases for July 17, of which 167 were symptomatic and 431 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said.

EUROPE

* An estimated 3.5 million people in Britain had COVID-19 in the latest week of available data, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday, up nearly 30% on the 2.7 million recorded in the previous week.

* British athlete Morgan Lake was forced to pull out of the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday after the 25-year-old tested positive for COVID-19.

* The Czech Republic will begin offering a second COVID-19 boosters from July 18, recommending the shot for people over 60 and those in risk groups, the Health Ministry said.

AMERICAS

* Canada authorized Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for babies as young as 6 months old, making it the country’s first vaccine against coronavirus for children under 5, Health Canada said.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS* Patients with long COVID may see some improvement after breathing pure oxygen in a high-air-pressure environment, according to data from a small Israeli trial.

* The European Medicines Agency identified severe allergic reactions as potential side-effects of Novavax Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine, a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorised the use of the shot.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* China’s economy is facing pressure due to COVID-19 and external shocks, and the central bank will “increase implementation of prudent monetary policy” to support the real economy, China’s central bank Governor Yi Gang said.

* New Zealand’s consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in three decades, beating forecasts and raising the prospect of an unprecedented 75-basis-point interest rate hike at the central bank’s policy meeting next month.

* Asian shares inched higher on Monday following a much-needed bounce on Wall Street, but nerves are stretched ahead of a near-certain interest rate hike in Europe and another round of corporate earnings reports.

(Compiled by Rashmi Aich; editing by Uttaresh.V of Reuters: https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.)

A Senator Representing Less Than 2 Million People, Hijacks The Agenda Of 330 Million Americans Multiple Times

West Virginia’s population shrank 3.7% to 1,782,959 in 2021, from the 1.9 million people who lived there in 2010. In contrast, as per a report by The Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program, the population in the US grew 6.5% during that period to 330 Million people across all the 50 states and DC. The state of West Virginia ranks 50 out of all 50 US states in population. 

West Virginia’s gross state product (GSP) reached $72.2bn, with growth of 0.6% over the 5-years to 2019. West Virginia’s GSP growth ranks 45 out of all 50 US states. GSP is a measurement of a state’s output, or the sum of value added from all industries in the state. The state employs 0.9 million people with a growth rate of -0.2% over the five years to 2018, which ranks it 50 out of all US states.

Senator Joseph Manchin III, representing the state of West Virginia in the US Senate since 2010, is a politician and businessman. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the 34th governor of West Virginia from 2005 to 2010 and the 27th secretary of state of West Virginia from 2001 to 2005. As per his website, Senator Manchin currently serves as the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and also serves on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – four critical committees that tackle the important work of addressing our nation’s energy needs, overseeing discretionary spending, standing up for our Veterans, and defending our nation.

Democrats now have a thin majority in the US Senate, and passing sweeping legislation is not easy, due to a rule requiring votes from 60 of the Senate’s 100 members.  With just 50 members and a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Democrats will have the power to confirm executive and judicial nominees and launch investigations in a range of areas.

The current predicament of a 50/50 split in the Senate gives the ruling Democratic party very little scope for legislating President Biden’s Agenda. And that makes every one of the 50 Democratic Senatorall a strong voice, allowing them to choose to support or reject any agenda or policy of the Biden administration. Manchin is powerful in part because of circumstance — in a 50-50 Senate, his party can pass almost nothing without him.

In order to advance any legislation, President Joe Biden’s administration may need to modify its priorities on economic relief, climate change, gun laws, electoral reforms, racial equity and immigration in order to gain support from Republicans and moderate Democrats like Manchin. 

One senator, who has exploited this position to suit his narrow political  agenda, is Sen. Manchin, who represents the less than 2 million people of West Virginia, against the well-being of the 330 million Americans. 

For instance, Manchin’s decision last week to move ahead with a reconciliation deal that doesn’t involve climate change and raising taxes on the wealthy, risks consigning the entire world to a warmer future, said scientists and advocates for a safer world, said while reacting to the news. Democrats, activists and scientists reacting to the news worried that the inability of Congress to take meaningful reaction would consign the U.S. to more heatwaves, floods, droughts and intense storms.  

 

Democratic senate leaders have been negotiating with Manchin for over a year to try to get him on board with investments that would dramatically reduce U.S. contribution to climate change.  But on Friday last week, Manchin said he’s not interested in immediately moving forward with a deal that includes those investments. Manchin, relaying a discussion he’d had telling Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of his decision, suggested he might be able to agree to a deal at a later date. 

But those comments rang hollow with climate activists, who noted he has made similar remarks in the past. “Joe Manchin is waving the fate of human survival over our heads like a bone to hungry dogs and it’s really quite frightening,” John Paul Mejia, a national spokesperson for Sunrise Movement, told the media. 

Evergreen Action Executive Director Jamal Raad said in a statement that Manchin should not be considered a good-faith negotiator.  “Senator Manchin has lost all credibility and can no longer be trusted to prioritize the well-being of Americans and the planet over his own profiteering and political grandstanding,” Raad said.  

“Every ton matters,” said Dan Lashof, the U.S. director of the World Resources Institute, referring to tons of carbon emissions.  “Whether or not this bill gets done has a material impact on total emissions from the U.S. and that affects the magnitude of climate change that we will face,” he said.  Those who have studied the climate-saving potential of the Democrats’ climate bill agree that not passing it would likely lead to more emissions and a warmer planet.

Princeton professor Jesse Jenkins, who has modeled the potential emissions cuts of the legislation under consideration, told The Hill that based on what had been reported thus far, a climate deal would have probably cut emissions between 800 million and 1 billion metric tons in 2030. That’s the equivalent of taking between 172 million and 215 million cars off the roads for a year.  “We’re losing two-thirds to three-quarters of the progress we were hoping to make by 2030,” he said.  

Some argued that the rest of the world may be less inclined to take bold action without the U.S. participating as well.  “The U.S. is THE largest historical all-time emitter, and for that reason occupies a special role. We can’t expect other countries to act meaningfully if we fail to,” said climatologist Michael Mann.  

President Biden pledged “strong executive action” on climate change in reaction to Manchin’s move. But, with Trump appointed conservative Justices leading the US Supreme Court, Biden’s actions could be blocked and impact minimized. 

Most activists reacted in fury to the latest setback, castigating the West Virginia Democrat as potentially signing a death warrant for meaningful climate action against the backdrop of a generationally conservative court, the likely loss of a Democratic majority in Congress and the possible loss of the White House in 2025. 

“Joe Manchin has pretended to be supportive of certain investments for over a year now, and it turns out that that was bulls—,” Jamal Raad said.  “That will now be his lasting legacy — a person that tried to put his own profits and sense of his political standing over the planet.” 

This is not the first time, Manchin ditched Democrats. The 2018 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh were tumultuous even by the standards of the Trump era. Kavanaugh, a staunch conservative nominated to replace a more centrist figure, Justice Anthony Kennedy, faced sexual assault allegations dating back four decades from Christine Blasey Ford.

Republicans had held a 51-49 majority in the Senate, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) would ultimately refuse to back Kavanaugh. That left Manchin and moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) as the crucial votes. Manchin was the only Democrat confirming him to the highest court. Last month, after the Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision, Manchin said he was “alarmed” by the actions of Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, the other Trump nominee for whom he voted.

Again in December 2021, the West Virginia Senator’s single most dramatic intervention may have been his announcement that he would sink President Biden’s keystone legislation, the “Build Back Better” bill. The fact that he chose to announce his opposition on Fox News drove liberal Democrats to even more intense outrage.

Manchin said in a statement reiterating his opposition to the legislation, which would have extended an expanded child tax credit, helped with child care costs, taxed high earners more and taken significant action on climate change, among other things.

In June 2021, Manchin destroyed the potential party unity on ‘For the People’ voting reform legislation, one of the major goals of Democrats when they won back the White House — and control of the Senate — in the 2020 election. Many in the party see American democracy as being in existential danger. Schumer declared the protection of voting rights, and of elections themselves, to be a “top priority.” The legislation never had a clear path through the Senate, requiring 60 votes to pass in the absence of filibuster reform. But Manchin denied Democrats even the claim that they were unified behind the proposal. Manchin reiterated his opposition to filibuster reform, driving the final nail in the coffin of the “For the People” proposal.

Manchin has all along thwarted filibuster reform ever since he was elected to the Senate. Democrats often become enraged with Manchin because they believe he acts in bad faith.  In one of many statements outlining his position, Manchin’s office detailed his steady stance dating back to 2013, when he opposed such reform while Democrats held the Senate majority.

Manchin is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate — and perhaps the most controversial, at least with the rest of his party. He won reelection to a second full Senate term in 2018, just two years after President Trump carried his state by more than 40 points.

“Manchin is not particularly concerned about President Biden succeeding. He’s not particularly concerned about the needs of working people,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told SiriusXM’s “Dean Obeidallah Show” last week.  

Manchin’s refusal to back any climate proposal could doom action for years to come, given the strong likelihood of Republicans flipping the House in November. Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) independently used the same term to describe Manchin’s stance this week: “Infuriating.”

How India Keeps Both US And Russia Happy

The US House of Representatives has passed by voice vote a legislative amendment that approves waiver to New Delhi against the punitive CAATSA sanctions for its purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. However, the waiver will become effective only if the US Senate clears the amendment and the President signs it.

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA is a tough US law that authorises Washington to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defence hardware from Russia in response to the latter’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

The Trump administration sanctioned Turkey, a NATO ally, for purchasing the S-400 air defence systems from Russia.

In the face of a two-front military threat from China and Pakistan, India is procuring the Russian-made S-400 surface to-air missiles as part of a $5 billion deal signed in 2018. The systems will be deployed along northern and western borders.

The S-400 TRIUMF is considered one of the advanced air defense systems in the world. The long-range missile is capable of intercepting up to 36 targets simultaneously including aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs has said that New Delhi is pursuing an independent foreign policy and its defense acquisitions are guided by its national security interests.

India has abstained from voting against Russia, its trusted defence partner, at the UN over the issue of Ukraine war. At the same time, it has remained aligned with the US to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. Seen from this perspective, the CAATSA waiver could be a big boost for India’s strategic autonomy.

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a legislation measure that will urge the Biden administration to waive sanctions on India for purchasing Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

The measure passed in a voice vote as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023 (the defense budget). To make it to President Joe Biden’s desk for enactment, it must be a part of the final legislation that comes out of a process called reconciliation in which bills passed by the House and Senate are made into one.

India is potentially facing US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for its purchase of the Russian 3-400s. The 2017 law seeks to punish Russia for the 2016 election interference and other issues by scaring away buyers of its defence equipment with the threat of secondary sanctions. China and Turkey, a NATO ally, are the only two countries sanctioned by the US under this law yet.

India has started receiving these systems, which technically should have triggered CAATSA sanctions, but the Biden administration has not publicly declared its intentions, either way.

The amendment that passed Thursday was introduced by Ro Khanna, an Indian American lawmaker from California who is now widely believed to be considering a run for the White House in 2024 if Biden decides to not run again.

“The United States must stand with India in the face of escalating aggression from China. As Vice Chair of the India Caucus, I have been working to strengthen the partnership between our countries and ensure that India can defend itself along the Indian Chinese border,” Khanna said in a statement. “This amendment is of the utmost importance, and I am proud to see it pass the House on a bipartisan basis.”

The amendment says India relies on Russian weapons because it faces “immediate and serious regional border threats” from China. And the US should take further steps to encourage India to accelerate its “transition off Russian-built weapons and defense systems”.

The amendment argues then that it’s in the best interest of the US and the US-India partnership to waive the sanction. “While India faces immediate needs to maintain its heavily Russian-built weapons systems, a waiver to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act during this transition period is in the best interests of the United States and the United States-India defense partnership to deter aggressors in light of Russia and China’s close partnership,” it said as approved.

Talk of impending CAATSA sanctions has dogged India-US engagements from the time the law was enacted in 2017, under the Trump administration; it was a bipartisan congressional initiative and then President Donald Trump had no option but to sign. Then Defense Secretary James Mattis and then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had publicly pressed lawmakers to exempt India and other countries that used to be too heavily reliant on Russian military hardware.

Speculation about sanctions picked up in recent months as India began receiving the missiles. But there has been no public indication that the administration is considering them.

Rishi Sunak’s Rise Mirrors Britain’s New Growing Diversity

It could be called democracy’s diversity, or even colonialism’s counterblast. The race to succeed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson by becoming the new leader of the Conservative Party, which espoused the Empire, imperialism and British national identity, has been swamped with contenders from former colonies in Asia and Africa. And at the end of the preliminary rounds, the son of immigrants from British East Africa was on top.

Rishi Sunak, UK’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Finance Minister, whose sudden resignation set in motion the circumstances that forced an intransigent Johnson to finally bow out, has emerged the main contender at the end of two rounds of voting by the 358 Conservative MPs.

Picking up a quarter of the votes in the first round, he became the only one to get over three digits in the second round — and is followed by three women present and former ministers.

The initial race had a ethnically diverse list of candidates — British Pakistani ministers Sajid Javid and Rehman Chishti, Sunak’s Iraqi Kurd-born successor Nadhim Zahawi, Attorney General Suella Braverman, whose family’s roots are in Goa, and Nigerian-origin former minister Kemi Badenoch.

Sunak and Braverman’s fellow Indian-origin Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, chose to sit it out.

Javid and Chishti failed to get enough traction to even figure in the race, Zahawi bowed out after the first round, and Braverman after the second, leaving Sunak and Badenoch to contend against Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Tom Tugendhat, the backbench MP, who happens to be half-French.

It’s early days for Sunak, who has emphasised that identity of a person born in the UK but with origins elsewhere matters to him. He has to remain in the reckoning till there are only two contenders left in the race, at which point the decision will be left to the rank-and-file Conservative Party members across the cities, shires, hills and dales across the British Isles.

Suave, efficient, but also controversy-ridden, the former US-based investment banker, hedge fund operator, and three-time MP still has a chance to become the first non-ethnic Briton to become Prime Minister.

This, though, will not be entirely unusual — for such staunch British PMs as Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan happened to be half-American (on their mothers’ side) and Johnson was born in the US, becoming the first non-UK-born Prime Minister since Andrew Bonar Law nearly a century ago (Bonar Law, however, was born in Canada, which was a part of the Empire.)

Born in Southhampton on May 12, 1980, Sunak is the son of (the then British) Kenya-born Yashvir Sunak and his wife, Tanganyika-born Usha, who grandparents were born in the Punjab Province of British India, and migrated to East Africa, and from there to the UK in the 1960s.

“My parents emigrated here, so you’ve got this generation of people who are born here, their parents were not born here, and they’ve come to this country to make a life,” he said in an interview with the BBC in 2019.

“In terms of cultural upbringing, I’d be at the temple at the weekend — I’m a Hindu — but I’d also be at (Southampton Football Club) the Saints game as well on a Saturday — you do everything, you do both,” he said, also revealing that he was fortunate not to have endured a lot of racism growing up, save for one incident, when he was with his younger siblings.

With his father a general practitioner, and his mother, a pharmacist, he had an easy childhood. He studied at a prep school in Hampshire, and then he was at the prestigious Winchester College, where he was head boy and editor of the school paper; during vacations, he worked at local curry restaurant.

Oxford was the next stop and he graduated in 2001. The same year, he was interviewed along with his parents for the BBC documentary “Middle Classes: Their Rise and Sprawl”. He was an analyst at investment bank Goldman Sachs till 2004, and then a hedge fund management firm till 2009, when he left to join former colleagues at a new hedge fund launched in October 2010.

In 2009, he married Akshata, daughter of Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy and writer Sudha Murthy, who’s also the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. Sunak and Akshata have two daughters.

Engaged with the Conservative Party since his Oxford days, Sunak got into politics full-time in 2014 when was selected for the Richmond seat in north Yorkshire — one of the safest Conservative seats, which has been held by the party for more than a century — and won it in the 2015 elections by nearly 20,000 votes.

He retained it in the 2017, and 2019 elections, with increased majorities. His predecessor as Richmond MP was William Hague, now Baron Hague of Richmond, who held important cabinet position, Including Foreign Secretary, and was Leader of the House of Commons,

A staunch proponent of “Leave” in the Brexit referendum of 2016 and subsequent parliamentary votes, Sunak’s first government job was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government (2018-19) in the Theresa May government and then as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (2019-20) in the government of Johnson, whose leadership bid he had supported.

He replaced his boss Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020, and while he mostly earned plaudits for steering the government’s economic response to the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown, he also became the first Chancellor to be found to have broken the law while in office by breaching lockdown norms.

His wife’s non-domicile status, which let her save huge amount of taxes in the country, also became a major controversy for him.

It is Sunak’s “treachery”, which set off the spate of resignations that forced Johnson’s resignation, that may just queer his chances to become Prime Minister. (IANS)

Takeaways from Biden’s Middle East trip

By, Alex Gangitano, Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels At The Hill

President Biden on Saturday, July 13th capped his first trip to the Middle East since taking office, a four-day visit that saw both progress and controversy.

The president met with Israeli officials to promote ties between the U.S. and Israel, as well as Palestinian officials amid efforts to maintain peace and foster collaboration in the region.

And Biden, who pledged on the campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia a global pariah over human rights violations, met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials about energy and defense issues, highlighting the way political realities have necessitated cooperation between the U.S. and the kingdom.

Here are five takeaways from Biden’s trip:

Biden wades into controversy with Saudi crown prince

Biden and his team had for weeks disputed that he was meeting with the Saudi crown prince, instead arguing Crown Prince Mohammed would merely be present at meetings with other leaders.

But one of the defining images of the trip depicted Biden fist-bumping the crown prince, prompting outrage from critics who raised concerns about his involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

U.S. intelligence had concluded in a report released this year that the crown prince was involved in the plot to kill Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the country.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted that the fist bump was a “visual reminder of the continuing grip oil-rich autocrats have on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.” Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan called the fist bump “shameful.”

A short time after the greeting, the president sat across a table from the crown prince as part of a meeting with Saudi leaders.

Biden later told reporters he raised Khashoggi’s murder at the very start of the meeting, and that he told the crown prince that he believed him responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

“I said, very straightforwardly, for an American president to be silent on the issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am,” Biden said. “I’ll always stand up for our values.”

A White House fact sheet said that Biden in his meetings “received commitments with respect to reforms and institutional safeguards in place to guard against any such conduct in the future.”

No immediate breakthroughs on oil 

Biden emerged from his meetings in Saudi Arabia without an immediate deliverable on oil production, but he expressed optimism that oil-producing nations would take steps to boost the global supply in the coming months. 

White House officials downplayed the significance high gas prices would play in Biden’s trip, but high gas prices in the U.S. and global energy disruptions from Russia’s war in Ukraine were widely seen as primary motivators for the trip to Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest oil producers.

The president said in remarks Friday evening that he and Saudi ministers, as well as the crown prince, “had a good discussion on ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies.”

“I’m doing all I can to increase supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen,” Biden said in remarks from Jeddah. “The Saudis share that urgency and based on our discussions today I expect we’ll see further steps in the coming weeks.”

The White House also emphasized a new framework between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia on clean energy production.

Experts said Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia was unlikely to produce any major announcement on oil production on its own, but that the president could nudge the kingdom in the hopes of a future move to free up more supply.

The White House is eyeing an August meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+), a group of roughly a dozen nations that influence global oil supply, saying any major announcement would likely stem from that meeting.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday that any concrete action on oil supplies would need to result from a decision by OPEC+, of which Saudi Arabia is a de facto leader. 

During his meeting Saturday with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Biden said the nations agree on the need to ensure “adequate supplies to meet global needs” adding he was looking “forward to seeing what’s coming in the coming months.” 

Saudi Arabia, Israel inch toward normalization

Biden tried to carry on the work of his predecessor, former President Trump, to help Israel normalize relations with other Arab nations. His trip to the Middle East saw a modest, but meaningful, step in that direction. 

Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to all airlines, including those flying to and from Israel. The step was hailed by the White House as an important sign of progress toward normalization. Saudi Arabia is also reportedly going to allow direct flights from Israel transporting Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca. 

“This is the first tangible step on the path of what I hope will eventually be a broader normalization of relations,” Biden told reporters on Friday following meetings with Saudi officials. 

Biden in Israel also said he strongly supports the Abraham Accords, promoting the Trump-era normalization declarations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that the Biden administration hopes to expand to other Arab nations. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the Saudi announcement a positive “first step” and said the Israeli government would “continue working with necessary caution, for the sake of Israel’s economy, security and the good of our citizens.” 

Biden tries to display toughness on Iran

Biden sought to assure Israel that the U.S. is committed to its security and preventing a nuclear Iran, while vowing to continue diplomatic efforts to piece back together the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.  

Speaking alongside Lapid at a press conference Thursday, Biden affirmed his belief that diplomacy remained the best path to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but said the U.S. wouldn’t “wait forever” for Iran to return to the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“We’re not circling a date on the calendar. The deal is on the table. Should the Iranians choose to take it, we’re ready for a compliance-for-compliance return,” Sullivan told reporters on Friday, adding that the U.S. was not waiting to put “further economic pressure” on Iran even as Biden seeks a return to the deal. 

Israel is opposed to the Obama-era nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018. The cracks between the two countries over Iran were on display at Thursday’s press conference, as Lapid said at the same press conference that “diplomacy will not stop them.”

“The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force,” Lapid said. 

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Biden said the U.S. was willing to use force to prevent a nuclear Iran but only as a “last resort.” In a joint declaration signed by Biden and Lapid, the U.S. said it is “prepared to use all elements of its national power” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

Biden’s domestic agenda takes hit while he’s overseas

Biden’s trip came as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) delivered a tough blow to his agenda, saying he would reject the climate spending and tax hikes on the wealthy in the budget reconciliation package.

The president in response called on the Senate to move forward with the slimmed-down health only reconciliation package before August recess since Manchin said he would only support a provision to lower prescription drug prices and a two-year extension of expiring health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.  

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is pushing to move the reconciliation package to the floor before September. Biden vowed while on his trip to move on his climate agenda through executive action if it doesn’t pass in the Senate, which came during his conversations with Saudi leadership over energy security.

Gas prices in the U.S. have remained high, although are declining, but new inflation data this week showed that annual inflation hit 9.1 percent in June, the highest rate of price growth since November 1981. 

Biden returned to Washington with a sinking approval rating and support for his reelection in 2024 reaching record-lows among Democrats.

Sri Lanka In Political Vacuum As Talks Go On Amid Crisis

By, KRISHAN FRANCIS

(AP) — Sri Lanka was in a political vacuum for a second day Monday with opposition leaders yet to agree on who should replace its roundly rejected leaders, whose residences are occupied by protesters angry over the country’s deep economic woes. 

Protesters remained in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, his seaside office and the prime minister’s official home, which they stormed on Saturday demanding the two leaders step down. It marked the most dramatic day of protests during three months of a relentless crisis that has pushed many to the brink to despair amid acute shortages of fuel, food, medicine and other necessities. 

The protesters, who come from all walks of life, vowed to stay put until the resignations of the leaders are official. 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday he would leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said Rajapaksa would step down Wednesday. 

Wickremesinghe’s office said Monday that Rajapaksa had confirmed his earlier decision to resign on Wednesday.

Also Monday, a group of nine Cabinet ministers announced they will quit immediately to make way for an all-party government, outgoing Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe said. Wickremesinghe’s office said meanwhile that another group that met the prime minister decided to stay on until a new government is formed.

The president hasn’t been seen or heard publicly since Saturday and his location is unknown. But his office said Sunday that he ordered the immediate distribution of a cooking gas consignment to the public, suggesting that he was still at work.

Opposition party leaders have been in discussion to form an alternative unity government, an urgent requirement of a bankrupt nation to continue discussions with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program. 

Lawmaker Udaya Gammanpila said the main opposition United People’s Front and lawmakers who have defected Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition have had discussions and agreed to work together. Main opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and Dullas Alahapperuma, who was a minister under Rajapaksa, have been proposed to take over as president and prime minister and have been asked to decide on how to share the positions before a meeting with the parliamentary speaker later Monday.

“We can’t be in an anarchical condition. We have to somehow reach a consensus today,” Gammanpila said.

Opposition parties are also concerned over military leaders making statements about public security in the absence of a civil administration. 

Lawmakers have discussed Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Shavendra Silva’s statement over the weekend calling on people’s cooperation to maintain law and order, said Kavinda Makalanda, spokesperson for Premadasa.

“A civil administration is the need, not the military in a democratic country,” Makalanda said.

If opposition parties fail to form a government by the time Rajapaksa resigns, Wickremesinghe as prime minister will become acting president under the constitution. However, in line with the protesters’ demand, opposition parties are keen on not allowing him take over even as acting president.

They say Wickremesinghe should promptly resign and allow Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena take over as acting president — the next in line according to the constitution. 

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in an effort to solve the shortages and start economic recovery. But delays in alleviating the shortages of basic supplies has turned public anger against him with protesters accusing him of protecting the president.

Wickremesinghe had been part of crucial talks with the IMF for a bailout program and with the World Food Program to prepare for a predicted food crisis. The government must submit a plan on debt sustainability to the IMF in August before reaching an agreement.

Sri Lanka is relying on aid from India and other nations as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the IMF. Wickremesinghe said recently that negotiations with the IMF were complex because Sri Lanka was now a bankrupt state.

Sri Lanka announced in April that it was suspending repayment of foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage. Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 billion, of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.

Months of demonstrations have all but dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but is accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption.

Rishi Sunak, A Front Runner To Be The PM Of UK

Indian Origin, Rishi Sunak, the Finance Minister of Great Britain has formerly launched his bid to be the next Prime Minister of England, reports here suggest. Sunak was until last year the favorite to succeed Johnson. While Rishi Sunak, has been praised for a rescue package for the economy during the Coronavirus pandemic, including a jobs retention program, including a jobs retention program, which prevented mass unemployment that could cost as much as 410 billion pounds ($514 billion). He quit the government on Tuesday saying “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.

The son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, Sunak has faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households, his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status and a fine he received, along with Johnson, for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules. His tax-and-spend budget last year put Britain on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favor lower taxes.

Also, seeking the top jonb in UK is another person of Indian origin, Suella Braverman, the attorney general, who has signaled her intention to be the PM. In an interview with ITV, Suella Braverman had called for Johnson to quit and said that she would join a leadership race to replace him, saying “it would be the greatest honor.”

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of United Kingdom resigned on July 7th, 2022, bringing an acrimonious end to a nearly three-year premiership that has been beset by controversy and scandal. After many months of speculation, he quit as Conservative leader, saying it is “clearly now the will” of Tory MPs that there should be a new leader. And, he pledged to stay on as PM until a successor is chosen – but a growing number of Tory MPs say he has to leave now. Johnson’s decision to remain in office comes despite a clear lack of support from within his own party and a growing push across the political spectrum for him to step down immediately.

Johnson’s resignation came after Britain’s finance and health ministers resigned in quick succession on July 5, in moves that put the future of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in peril after a series of scandals that have damaged his administration. 

Speaking outside Downing Street, Johnson said the process for choosing the new leader of the Conservative Party should begin now, with a timetable to be announced next week. He said he intends to remain in place until a new Tory leader is elected. Johnson said that he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world,” but conceded that “no one is remotely indispensable” in politics.

As per reports, Chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat has launched his bid to become the next leader of the Conservative Party – and prime minister. In an article in the Telegraph newspaper, he stated he would bring a “clean start”. He wrote that he wants to build a “broad coalition of colleagues” to “bring new energy and ideas to government” and “bridge the Brexit divide”.

Setting out his stall, he wrote that “taxes, bluntly, are too high.” Specifically: “We should immediately reverse the recent National Insurance hike and let hard-working people, and employers, keep more of their money. Fuel tax must come down. And un-conservative tariffs, that push up prices for consumers, should be dropped.” He talks about the cost of living as an “national security issue” and says there should be more police on the streets to tackle crime.

Another leader hoping to fil the vacancy is Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who is the darling of the Conservatives’ grassroots and has regularly topped polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home. Truss has a carefully cultivated public image and was photographed in a tank last year, evoking a famous 1986 image of Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was also captured in such a pose.

Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary, 55, finished second to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest is  a likely contestant. He would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the turmoil of Johnson’s premiership. Over the last two years, Hunt has used his experience as a former health secretary to chair the health select committee and has not been tarnished by having served in the current government. Recently, said his ambition to become prime minister “hasn’t completely vanished”. Hunt said he would vote to oust Johnson in a confidence vote last month which Johnson narrowly won.

Ben Wallace, UK’s Defense minister, 52, has risen in recent months to be the most popular member of the government with Conservative Party members, according to Conservative Home, thanks to his handling of the Ukraine crisis. A former soldier himself, he served in Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Central America, and was mentioned in dispatches in 1992. He began his political career as a member of Scotland’s devolved assembly in May 1999, before being first elected to the Westminster parliament in 2005.

Nadhim Zahawi, the current education secretary impressed as vaccines minister when Britain had one of the fastest rollouts of COVID-19 jabs in the world. Zahawi’s personal story as a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child sets him apart from other Conservative contenders. He went on to co-found polling company YouGov before entering parliament in 2010. He said last week at some stage it would be a “privilege” to be prime minister.

Yet another contented for the top job in Britain is Penny Mordaunt, the former defense secretary, who was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she backed his rival Hunt during the last leadership contest. Mordaunt was a passionate supporter of leaving the European Union and made national headlines by taking part in now-defunct reality TV diving show. Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful”. She said voters wanted to see “professionalism and competence” from the government.

Meanwhile, Downing Street announced 12 new ministers, filling some of the posts left vacant by the recent wave of resignations. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – a possible leadership contender who has remained silent for days – says her party needs to keep governing until a new leader is elected by the Conservative Party MPS.

Sen. Schumer Keen On Passing Budegt Reconciliation Bill This Summer

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is making a last-ditch effort to pass a budget reconciliation bill during the July and early August work period.   

Schumer and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have made progress on proposals to lower the cost of prescription drugs, extend Medicare’s solvency and raise taxes on some high-income earners. 

  • The bill would include a 3.8 percent tax on individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $500,000 from pass-through businesses.  
  • Schumer and Manchin have not announced whether the package will include provisions to fight climate change such as clean energy manufacturing tax credits. 
  • Whether the climate piece gets done will depend largely on how many concessions Manchin will insist on for the fossil fuel industry, one source said. 

Sam Runyon, a spokesperson for Manchin, said her boss is glad that Democrats have agreed on a prescription drug proposal that they could pass with a simple-majority vote under special budget rules.  “Sen. Manchin has long advocated for proposals that would lower prescription drug costs for seniors and his support for this proposal has never been in question. He’s glad that all 50 Democrats agree,” she said. 

But the Manchin aide waved off speculation that Schumer and Manchin are close to a deal on a broader reconciliation package that would include bold proposals to tackle global warming, a top priority of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and other Senate Democrats.   

According The Hill, the budget reconciliation instructions will expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, which is the drop-dead deadline. Schumer is hoping to get the bill finalized before the August recess, but it’s competing with other key measures, including a bipartisan bill to boost U.S. competitiveness with China. 

Sam Runyon, a spokesperson for Manchin, said her boss is glad that Democrats have agreed on a prescription drug proposal that they could pass with a simple-majority vote under special budget rules.  

“Sen. Manchin has long advocated for proposals that would lower prescription drug costs for seniors and his support for this proposal has never been in question. He’s glad that all 50 Democrats agree,” she said. 

But the Manchin aide waved off speculation that Schumer and Manchin are close to a deal on a broader reconciliation package that would include bold proposals to tackle global warming, a top priority of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and other Senate Democrats.

Jan. 6 Panel Probes Trump’s ‘Siren Call’ To Extremists

By, LISA MASCARO

(AP) — The Jan. 6 committee is set to highlight the way violent far-right extremists answered Donald Trump’s “siren call” to come to Washington for a big rally, as some now face rare sedition charges over the deadly U.S. Capitol attack and effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol siege convenes Tuesday for a public hearing probing what it calls the final phase of Trump’s multi-pronged effort to halt Joe Biden’s victory. As dozens of lawsuits and false claims of voter fraud fizzled, Trump tweeted the rally invitation, a pivotal moment, the committee said. The far-right Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and others now facing criminal charges readily answered. 

“We will lay out the body of evidence that we have that talks about how the president’s tweet on the wee hours of December 19th of ‘Be there, be wild,’ was a siren call to these folks,” said one panel member, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., over the weekend on “Meet the Press.” In fact, Trump tweeted, “Be there, will be wild!”

Among those expected to testify is Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last month to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. He admitted that on Jan. 2, 2021, he posted an image stating that Trump was “calling on us to come back to Washington on January 6th for a big protest.” Another witness is Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes. The witnesses were confirmed by someone familiar with the testimony who spoke on condition of anonymity because the witnesses had not yet been announced.

This is the seventh hearing in a series that has presented numerous blockbuster revelations from the Jan. 6 committee. Over the past month, the panel has created a stark narrative of a defeated Trump “detached from reality,” clinging to his false claims of voter fraud and working feverishly to reverse his election defeat. It all culminated with the deadly attack on the Capitol, the committee said.

What the committee intends to probe Tuesday is whether the extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and QAnon adherents who had rallied for Trump before, coordinated with White House allies for Jan. 6. The Oath Keepers have denied there was any plan to storm the Capitol. 

The panel is also expected to highlight new testimony from Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel, who “was aware of every major move” Trump was making, said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who will lead the session. 

It’s the only hearing set for this week, as new details emerge. An expected prime-time hearing Thursday has been shelved for now. 

This week’s session comes after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provided stunning accounts under oath of an angry Trump who knowingly sent armed supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then refused to quickly call them off as violence erupted, siding with the rioters as they searched menacingly for Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump has said Cassidy’s account is not true. But Cipollone at Friday’s private session did not contradict earlier testimony. Raskin said the panel planned to use “a lot” of Cipollone’s testimony.

The panel is expected to highlight a meeting on Dec. 18, 2020, at the White House in which former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, one-time Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and others floated ideas for overturning the election results, Raskin told CBS over the weekend.

This was days after the Electoral College had met on Dec. 14 to certify the results for Biden — a time time when other key Republicans were announcing that the election and its challenges were over. 

On Dec. 19, Trump would send the tweet beckoning supporters to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally, the day Congress was set to certify the Electoral College count: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, extremist far-right groups whose leaders and others are now facing rare sedition charges for their roles in the attack, prepared to come to Washington, according to court filings.

On Dec. 29, the Proud Boys chairman posted a message on social media that said members planned to “turn out in record numbers on Jan. 6th,” according to a federal indictment.

The group planned to meet at the Washington Monument, its members instructed not to wear its traditional black and yellow colors, but be “incognito.”

The Proud Boys have contended that membership grew after Trump, during his first debate with Biden, refused to outright condemn the group but instead told them to “stand back and stand by.”

The night before Jan. 6, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio met with Rhodes at an underground parking garage, according to court filings along with images a documentary filmmaker trailing the group provided to the panel.

The Oath Keepers had also been organizing for Jan. 6 and established a “quick response force” at a nearby hotel in Virginia, according to court filings.

After the Capitol siege, Rhodes called someone with an urgent message for Trump, another group member has said. Rhodes was denied an chance to speak to Trump, but urged the person on the phone to tell the Republican president to call upon militia groups to fight to keep the president in power.

An attorney for Rhodes recently told the committee that their client wants to testify publicly. Rhodes was already interviewed by the committee privately, and it’s unlikely the panel will agree. 

The panel also intends to discuss the way many of the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 appeared to be QAnon believers. Federal authorities have explicitly linked at least 38 rioters to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory, according to an Associated Press review of court records.

One of the most recognizable figures from the Jan. 6 attack was a shirtless Arizona man who called himself the “QAnon Shaman,” carried a spear and wore face paint and a Viking hat with fur and horns.

A core belief among QAnon followers is that Trump was secretly fighting a cabal of deep state operatives, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites who worship Satan and engage in sex trafficking of children.

The panel has shown, over the course of fast-paced hearings and with eyewitness accounts from the former president’s inner circle, how Trump was told “over and over” again, as Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said, that he had lost the election and his false claims of voter fraud were just not true. Nevertheless, Trump summoned his supporters to Washington and then sent them to the Capitol in what Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has called an “attempted coup.”

(Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, contributed to this report.)

In Gun We Trust! Booming Guns Make US Unsafe

By, Matthew Adukanil At Indian Currents

Would it be an exaggeration to say that the US is a more dangerous place for living than Afghanistan? It may sound absurd but the abnormal is becoming the normal in a proud ‘civilised’ democratic nation like the US. President Biden vows to end ‘the gun violence’ time after time. Maybe before that the US needs to shed its Gun Blindness. His rival Donald Trump and the Republicans are hell bent on continuing the mayhem as they depend for their political prosperity on the massive funds from the gun lobby. The juvenile cowboy mentality of yesteryears continues to rule the national psyche in the US prioritising the right to carry arms in public over the lives of its citizens.

Two factors contribute potently to this assault on the lives of citizens. One, practically anyone over the age of 18 can bear arms in America, even military grade assault rifles, in public. Two, there are enough depressed and mentally deranged citizens in the US who will use the guns to cool their rage.  So, we have almost week after week chilling reports of some mass shooting or other in a mall or school or any other crowded place. The USA has become no doubt, a crazy ‘never never land’ where a former President recently organised an armed attack on the Capitol. Could you believe your eyes as they witnessed the violent and shocking visuals on our TV screens with security men running for cover like hunted-down rats? Has killing become a national obsession in the US? 

It is a country that is terribly upset over a recent Supreme Court ruling regarding so-called abortion rights for killing unborn humans. A cloud can only cover the sun, not wipe it out. The hidden behind-the -scene killings of the unborn could be at the root of all this national malaise. Maybe the offended spirits of the slain innocents have invaded the minds of deranged US citizens. Perhaps, this is a parallel to the boiling cauldron scene of the three witches in the tragedy of Macbeth

The latest episode in this mayhem was the July 4 mass shooting in Chicago during the Independence Day Parade. Maybe all the crazy citizens of the US are celebrating their independence with shooting at anyone in sight. And their remorseless inner demons find some solace   in the pitiful shrieks and wailing of scampering fellow citizens. You are comparatively safer in Afghanistan because at least civilians cannot carry arms there. You need to watch out only for the typically clad Taliban fighters. In the US, all can carry weapons  and use them at will  as we all carry  cell phones everywhere nowadays. In such a scenario, why do you need armed state police at all? Disband them and save money for the nation.  Citizens can administer whimsical cowboy justice themselves. 

The remedies suggested for this most worrying situation are still more baffling. To buffer up security in schools convert them into armed fortresses where you can carry more guns than school books. School masters have to turn into armed guards, maybe. Perhaps they should turn all their schools into military academies right from the KG and learn to shoot instead of getting shot. 

Who can advise this advanced world leader of nations about the absurdity of everyone bearing arms in public?  If you carry arms you must use them sometimes or else they grow rusty. If you are crazy you need them any time. It will sound cynical to say so, but it is the truth that frequent national lamentations over mass killings seem to be the current national occupation in the US. The rest of the world is wondering how such a great nation which considers itself the policeman of the world has regressed to being a callow political novice in keeping domestic peace. 

In such a self-created situation news of mass shootings in the US is no more news for the rest of the world. It is something like the ever-increasing petrol price notifications which have become routine exercise. This great nation is paradoxically wasting its time and energy monitoring freedom index in other nations when it has no clue as to how to protect its own citizens from maniacs. When your own house is in chaos preaching homilies to the rest of the world is a pointless waste of breath which will fall on deaf ears. What a fall for such a great nation, fellow citizens of the world!

Majority Disapproves Of Supreme Court’s Decision To Overturn Roe V. Wade

A majority of Americans disapprove of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, which had guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion for nearly 50 years. Public support for legal abortion remains largely unchanged since before the decision, with 62% saying it should be legal in all or most cases.

Nearly six-in-ten adults (57%) disapprove of the court’s sweeping decision, including 43% who strongly disapprove. About four-in-ten (41%) approve of the court’s decision (25% strongly approve).

Partisan differences on the legality of abortion have widened in recent years, and Republicans and Democrats are sharply divided in their initial views of the court’s decision.

About eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (82%) disapprove of the court’s decision, including nearly two-thirds (66%) who strongly disapprove. Most Republicans and Republican leaners (70%) approve of the court’s ruling; 48% strongly approve.

The new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted among 6,174 Americans between June 27 and July 4 on the nationally representative American Trends Panel, finds that most women (62%) disapprove of the decision to end the federal right to an abortion. More than twice as many women strongly disapprove of the court’s decision (47%) as strongly approve (21%). Opinion among men is more closely divided: 52% disapprove (37% strongly), while 47% approve (28% strongly).

The court’s decision to overturn Roe gives the states the authority to set their own abortion policies. These laws vary widely, and in several cases, state laws that prohibit or place tight restrictions on access to abortion are currently facing legal challenges.

The survey finds that adults living in the 17 states where abortion is newly largely prohibited (or where prohibitions are set to take effect soon) are divided in opinions about the court’s decision to overturn Roe: 46% approve of the court’s decision, while slightly more (52%) disapprove. 

Opinion also is divided among adults in the four states that have new gestational restrictions on abortion in effect (or set to soon take effect) but have not prohibited it outright: 52% in these states disapprove of the court’s decision, while 47% approve. The balance of opinion is similar in the nine states where the status of the state’s abortion laws are uncertain (in which further action may be taken in the near term by state governors, legislatures or public referendum).

In the 20 states (plus the District of Columbia) where abortions are legal through at least 24 weeks of pregnancy, 65% disapprove of the court’s decision, including half who strongly disapprove. About a third of adults in these states approve of the court’s decision (34%), with just 19% strongly approving.

The survey finds that a majority of adults nationally (62%) say abortion should be legal in all (29%) or most cases (33%); 36% say it should be illegal in all (8%) or most cases (28%). These views are little changed since March.

The partisan divide in abortion opinions remains wide. In the new survey, 84% of Democrats say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 38% of Republicans.

While the share of Democrats who favor legal abortion in either all or most cases has changed only modestly since March (from 80%), there has been a 7 percentage point increase in the share of Democrats saying abortion should be legal in all cases, from 38% to 45%; currently, a larger share of Democrats say it should be legal in all cases than say it should be legal in most cases (45% vs. 38%).

There has been virtually no change in Republicans’ views since earlier this year; a 60% majority say abortion should be illegal in most (48%) or all cases (13%).

Majorities in many demographic groups disapprove of decision to overturn Roe v. Wade; clear majority of White evangelicals approve

Americans’ opinions about the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – which ended the long-standing federal guarantee to abortion – differ widely by race and ethnicity, age, education, and religion.

Majorities of Asian American, Black, Hispanic and White adults disapprove of the decision, but opposition is most pronounced among Asian (72% disapprove) and Black adults (67%). Smaller shares of White (55%) and Hispanic adults (56%) disapprove.

The youngest adults are more likely than older people to disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. About two-thirds of adults under the age of 30 (69%) say they disapprove of the decision – including 55% who strongly disapprove. While 60% of those ages 30 to 49 also disapprove, those 50 and older are divided (51% disapprove, 48% approve).

Two-thirds of adults with a postgraduate degree say they disapprove of the Court’s decision, with a majority (55%) saying they strongly disapprove. Nearly six-in-ten adults with a college degree or some college experience (60% each) say they disapprove of the decision. Among those with a high school degree or less, views are nearly evenly divided: 48% approve and 50% disapprove.

Among religious groups, 71% of White Evangelical Protestants approve of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, including a 54% majority who strongly approve. Just 27% say they disapprove.

By contrast, White Protestants who are not evangelical are more divided in their views. About half (47%) say they approve of this decision, including 28% who strongly approve. A similar share (52%) say they disapprove, including four-in-ten who strongly disapprove. Catholics are similarly divided: 48% approve of the decision and 51% disapprove.

About two-thirds of Black Protestants (68%) disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision, including roughly half (48%) who strongly disapprove. About three-in-ten (29%) say they approve of the decision.

Similarly, a large majority of religiously unaffiliated adults (77%) disapprove of the court’s decision, with 63% saying they strongly disapprove. About two-in-ten (22%) approve.

Adults who are not married or living with a partner are 10 percentage points more likely to say they disapprove of the decision than those who are married or living with a partner (64% vs. 53%, respectively).

While women (62%) are more likely than men (52%) to disapprove of the Supreme Court decision on abortion, the gender gap varies by race and ethnicity. Among White adults, a 62% majority of women disapprove of the court’s decision, compared with 47% of White men. By contrast, comparable shares of Black men (66%) and women (69%) and Hispanic men (59%) and women (54%) disapprove.

While Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, there is variation in the extent to which subgroups of Republicans – particularly by gender and age – approve of the decision.

Among Republican women, 63% approve of the decision, while 36% disapprove. By comparison, 76% of GOP men approve and 23% disapprove. Roughly eight-in-ten Democratic and Democratic-leaning men (83%) and women (81%) disapprove of the decision.

A slim majority (56%) of Republicans under the age of 30 approve of the court’s decision, while 43% say they disapprove. Older Republicans are more likely to approve of the decision. Among those ages 30 to 49, 64% approve, while 35% disapprove. And nearly eight-in-ten Republicans 50 and older (78%) approve of the decision, while just 22% disapprove. Sizable majorities of Democrats across all age groups – 80% or more – disapprove of the decision.

However, while large majorities of White, Black and Hispanic Democrats disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, opposition is higher among White Democrats (89% disapprove) than among Black (74%) or Hispanic Democrats (69%).

Americans’ views of abortion

The wide differences in support for legal abortion across race and ethnicity, educational attainment and religious groups are little changed since earlier this year.

About six-in-ten Americans (62%) say abortion should be legal in all (29%) or most (33%) cases. Around a third of the public (36%) says abortion should be illegal in all (8%) or most (28%) cases.

Two-thirds of women (66%) say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared with a narrower majority (57%) of men.

About seven-in-ten Black (71%) and Asian (78%) adults say abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Smaller majorities among White (60%) and Hispanic (61%) adults also say this.

Younger adults are more supportive of legal abortion than older adults. Seven-in-ten adults ages 18 to 29 say abortion should be legal in all or most cases (including 41% who say it should be legal in all cases), as do 64% of those 30 to 49. Among those 50 and older, 57% say abortion should be legal in at least most cases.

Americans with postgraduate degrees are particularly likely to say abortion should be legal in at least most cases; 72% say this, as do 65% of those with college degrees and an identical share (65%) of those with some college experience but no degree. Adults with a high school degree or less education (55%) are the least likely to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

There are wide gaps across religious groups in views of abortion. An overwhelming share of religiously unaffiliated adults (83%) support abortion being legal in all or most cases, as do six-in-ten Catholics. Overall, Protestants are divided in their views (48% legal in all or most cases, 50% illegal in all or most cases): About three-quarters of White evangelicals say abortion should be illegal in all (20%) or most cases (53%), while majorities of Black Protestants (71%) and White non-evangelical Protestants (61%) take the position that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Americans who are married or living with a partner are somewhat less supportive of legal access to abortion (59%) than those who are not married or living with a partner (67%). There is a similar gap between parents and people who do not have any children (67% of non-parents say abortion should be legal in all or most cases vs. 59% of parents).

About three-quarters of conservative Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (73%) say abortion should be illegal in all (16%) or most (56%) cases. By contrast, a majority of moderate and liberal Republicans (60%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

About three-quarters (77%) of conservative and moderate Democrats say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as do roughly nine-in-ten liberal Democrats (92%). However, liberal Democrats (59%) are much more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats (34%) to say abortion should be legal in all cases.

After Shinzo Abe Was Shot And Killed, His Party Wins Election In Japan

Three after Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was felled by a cowardly assassin in the course of a campaign trail for elections to the Upper House, the governing party and its coalition partner scored a major victory in a parliamentary election Sunday, July 10, 2022, possibly propelled by sympathy votes in the wake of the assassination.

Abe was shot in Nara on Friday, June 8th and was airlifted to a hospital but died of blood loss. Police arrested a former member of Japan’s navy at the scene and confiscated a homemade gun. Several others were later found at his apartment.

He became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006, at age 52. But his overly nationalistic first stint abruptly ended a year later, also because of his health, prompting six years of annual leadership change.

He returned to office in 2012, vowing to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms. He won six national elections and built a rock-solid grip on power.

Early results in the race for the parliament’s upper house showed Abe’s governing party and its junior coalition partner Komeito securing a majority in the chamber and adding more. The last day of campaigning on Saturday, a day after Abe was gunned down while delivering a speech, was held under heightened security as party leaders pledged to uphold democracy and renouncing violence.

According to reports, preliminary vote counts showed the governing Liberal Democratic Party on track to secure a coalition total of at least 143 seats in the 248-member upper house, the less powerful of the two chambers. Up for election was half of the upper house’s new six-year term. With a likely major boost, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stands to rule without interruption until a scheduled election in 2025.

That would allow Kishida to work on long-term policy goals such as national security, his signature but still vague “new capitalism” economic policy, and his party’s long-cherished goal to amend the U.S.-drafted postwar pacifist constitution.

“It was extremely meaningful that we carried out the election,” Kishida said. “Our endeavor to protect democracy continues.” Kishida welcomed early results and said responses to COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising prices will be his priorities. He said he will also steadily push for reinforcing Japan’s national security as well a constitutional amendment.

Mourners visited the LDP headquarters to lay flowers and pray for Abe as party officials prepared for vote counting inside. “We absolutely refuse to let violence shut out free speech,” Kishida said in his final rally in the northern city of Niigata on Saturday. “We must demonstrate that our democracy and election will not back down on violence.”

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators he acted because of Abe’s rumored connection to an organization that he resented, police said, but had no problem with the former leader’s political views. The man had developed hatred toward a religious group that his mother was obsessed about and that bankrupted a family business, according to media reports, including some that identified the group as the Unification Church.

Abe’s Legacy

Even after stepping down as prime minister in 2020, Abe was highly influential in the LDP and headed its largest faction. His absence could change the power balance in the governing party that has almost uninterruptedly ruled postwar Japan since its 1955 foundation, experts say.

Abe will be remembered for boosting defense spending and pushing through the most dramatic shift in Japanese military policy in 70 years. In 2015, his government passed a reinterpretation of Japan’s postwar, pacifist constitution, allowing Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat — with conditions — for the first time since World War II.

“This could be a turning point” for the LDP over its divisive policies on gender equality, same-sex marriages and other issues that Abe-backed ultra-conservatives with paternalistic family values had resisted, said Mitsuru Fukuda, a crisis management professor at Nihon University.

Japan’s current diplomatic and security stance is unlikely to be swayed because fundamental changes had already been made by Abe. His ultra-nationalist views and pragmatic policies made him a divisive figure to many, including in the Koreas and China.

Abe stepped down two years ago blaming a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager. He said he regretted leave many of his goals unfinished, including the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia, and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution that many conservatives consider a humiliation, because of poor public support.

Abe was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military through security alliance with the United States and bigger role in international affairs.

Japan is known for its strict gun laws. With a population of 125 million, it had only 21 gun-related criminal cases in 2020, according to the latest government crime paper. Experts say, however, some recent attacks involved use of consumer items such as gasoline, suggesting increased risks for ordinary people to be embroiled in mass attacks. The cancer of gun violence is spreading. The former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was felled by a cowardly assassin in the course of a campaign trail for elections to the Upper House. 

Abe had argued the change was needed to respond to a more challenging security environment, a nod to a more assertive China and frequent missile tests in North Korea. During his term, Abe sought to improve relations with Beijing and held a historic phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2018. At the same time, he tried to counter Chinese expansion in the region by uniting Pacific allies.

After leaving office, Abe remained head of the largest faction of the ruling LDP and remained influential within the party. He has continued to campaign for a stronger security policy and last year angered China by calling for a greater commitment from allies to defend democracy in Taiwan. In response, Beijing summoned Japan’s ambassador and accused Abe of openly challenging China’s sovereignty.

India’s bilateral ties with Japan grew closer during Shinzo Abe’s tenure, with the former Japanese Prime Minister visiting India four times. 

Abe was a prominent figure on the world stage. He cultivated strong ties with Washington — Tokyo’s traditional ally. Abe hailed the US-Japan alliance and said he wanted to “build trust” with the new President. He strongly supported Trump’s initial hard line on North Korea, which matched Abe’s own hawkish tendencies. 

More successful was Abe’s handling of the abdication of Emperor Akihito, the first Japanese monarch to step down in two centuries. He was succeeded by his son, Emperor Naruhito, in October 2019, starting the Reiwa era. 

“Like the flowers of the plum tree blooming proudly in spring after the cold winter, we wish the Japanese people to bloom like individual flowers with the (promise of the) future. With such a wish for Japan, we decided upon ‘Reiwa’,” Abe said on announcing the new era. 

Abe is survived by his wife Akie Abe, née Matsuzaki, who he married in 1987. The couple did not have children.

Will Biden’S Visit To Middle East Help Revive US Partnerships In The Region?

President Joe Biden prepares to travel to the Middle East, his administration faces several challenges in its relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regional (non-treaty) allies. At the most basic level, the United States and these allies do not share the same priorities. Part of why Biden is traveling to Saudi Arabia is to convince the country’s leaders to pump more oil as global prices soar. In addition, the United States seeks to maintain pressure on the Islamic State group (IS) to prevent the terror organization from rebuilding. Yet both the Russia-Ukraine war and the struggle against the remnants of IS are ancillary concerns for regional states, and they are concerned that the U.S. focus on Asia and Europe will make the United States a less useful security partner.

Iran, the foreign policy priority for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and many other regional states, is a major sticking point. Indeed, most regional allies oppose the Biden administration’s efforts to restore the Iran nuclear deal, seeing it as making too many concessions to Tehran and fearing that the United States in general will not stand up to Iranian aggression and subversion. With regular Iranian missile strikes on Iraq and missile strikes from Iran’s Houthi allies in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, this fear is quite strong. Nuclear talks appear to be floundering, and the Biden administration will need to decide whether to try to revive them at the risk of further alienating regional states or abandon them only to work on the next challenge — how to create other diplomatic —  and military — options that will stop the Iranian bomb and ensure regional security. Iran, for its part, will interpret the Biden visit as the United States further siding with its regional enemies.

Russia is another sticking point. The United States is trying to create a global coalition to oppose Russian aggression in Ukraine. Middle Eastern states, however, see Russia as a source of wheat, while their populations question why Ukraine should be the subject of global solidarity while Syria was not. Many are more anti-American than pro-Ukraine. Regardless of regime views on Ukraine, Russia is also a military player in Syria, and Israel works with Moscow to ensure that Israel can strike Iranian assets in Syria without interference from Russian forces.

In order to win over regional leaders, Biden will also need to curtail some of his critical rhetoric. This is especially true with his condemnation of the Saudi murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the brutal Saudi and UAE war in Yemen. These are the right stances from a human rights perspective, but Riyadh and its allies will not be accommodating in other areas if they are the subject of regular, public criticism.

Actually walking back his comments on these grave human rights issues would be politically difficult even if Biden were inclined to openly abandon the moral high ground. In practice, refraining from future criticism, the legitimacy bestowed by the trip itself, and other steps that make it clear that Riyadh is being embraced, not shunned. As in the past, the United States is again emphasizing that pragmatic concerns like oil prices and Iran, not human rights, will drive U.S. policy toward the kingdom.

Making these problems more difficult, the Biden administration inherited a weak hand from its predecessors. U.S. engagement with the Middle East has declined dramatically since the George W. Bush administration, when 9/11 and the Iraq War put the region at the center of U.S. foreign policy. President Barack Obama tried to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and President Donald Trump, while more sympathetic to autocratic Arab allies, also favored limited U.S. involvement in the region. The Biden administration has emphasized great power competition, with the war in Ukraine and the rivalry with China dominating strategic thinking. Biden’s trip is thus occurring with a regional perception that the United States is focused on other parts of the world and at home, with little appetite for resolving regional disputes and leading regional allies as it sought to in the past. Indeed, Biden’s understandable focus on energy and Russia will reinforce this, making it clear that it is non-regional concerns that are driving his visit rather than shared interests. The Biden administration also claims the trip is to encourage Saudi Arabia to formally make peace with Israel, though U.S. officials almost certainly recognize a formal peace is highly unlikely even though Riyadh and Israel have stepped up their security partnership.

Making the job even harder, Middle Eastern allies have preferred Republican presidents. Gulf state rulers believe Republican leaders are more anti-Iran and less concerned about human rights. Israeli leaders too believe Republicans are more pro-Israel and more likely to stand up to Tehran. In addition, regional allies rightly recognize that Trump or another disruptive leader may again assume the U.S. presidency. The United States, in other words, will be considered an erratic ally, with policies and interest in the Middle East varying wildly by administration.

One goal that may have more success is encouraging U.S. allies to work together. The United States historically has preferred bilateral cooperation, with countries working with Washington more than with one another. As the U.S. limits its involvement, however, it will want regional states to step up and combine their efforts, whether this is to counter Iran or to resolve regional wars like those in Yemen and Libya. Israel, with its formidable military and intelligence services, can play an important role here, offering high-end capabilities, such as providing radar systems to Bahrain and the UAE, when the United States is reluctant to do so for political reasons.

The United States is also likely to have help from partners in sustaining the fighting against IS and other dangerous jihadi groups. Although this struggle is less of a priority for allies, they too worry about violent jihadism and will continue longstanding intelligence and military cooperation. Jihadi groups also remain weak compared with their past selves, limiting the effort required.

Regional partners will be aware of U.S. pivoting to focus on Asia and Europe, and Biden’s visit will not change this perception. The best the administration can hope for is to make clear, both in private and in public, that the United States will remain diplomatically and militarily involved in the Middle East, whether it be to counter IS or deter Iran. The president’s visit is thus a useful signal, even if regional states will remain unsatisfied.

Perhaps the best that can be hoped from this trip is simply to restart the U.S. engagement with its allies in the region. Such a goal doesn’t promise big wins — there may at best be modest concessions like a Saudi announcement it will pump a small amount of additional oil — but it offers the hope of future improvements. For now, the U.S. relationship with regional allies is transactional, with little trust or respect on either side. Repeated visits by high-level officials will make them more likely to listen to Washington and consider U.S. interests rather than see U.S. concerns as irrelevant, or even opposed, to their day-to-day problems.

Sri Lanka Opposition Meets To Name New Gov’t Amid Turmoil

(AP) — Sri Lanka’s opposition parties met Sunday to agree on a new government a day after the president and prime minister offered to resign following the most dramatic day of monthslong turmoil, with protesters storming the leaders’ homes in rage over an economic crisis.

Protesters remained in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, his seaside office and the prime minister’s home, saying they would stay until the resignations are official. The president’s whereabouts were unknown, but a statement from his office said he ordered the immediate distribution of a cooking gas consignment to the public, suggesting that he was still at work.

Soldiers were deployed around the city but troops simply watched from afar as crowds of people splashed in the pool of Rajapaksa’s sprawling residence, lounged on beds and took selfies of themselves on their cellphones to capture the moment. The chief of defense staff, Shavendra Silva, called for public support to maintain law and order.

Occupants of the prime minister’s official residence cooked in an outdoor kitchen, played the tabletop game carrom and slept on sofas.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, a top official in the main opposition United People’s Force, said that separate discussions were held with other parties and lawmakers who broke away from Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition and more meetings were planned. It was unclear when an agreement might be reached.

Another opposition lawmaker, M. A. Sumanthiran, said earlier that all opposition parties combined could easily muster the 113 members needed for a majority in Parliament, at which point they would call on Rajapaksa to install the new government and resign. 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday he would leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said Rajapaksa would step down Wednesday. Pressure on both men had grown as the economic meltdown set off acute shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to obtain food, fuel and other necessities.

If both president and prime minister resign, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as temporary president, according to the constitution. 

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in an effort to solve the shortages and start economic recovery.

Wickremesinghe had been part of crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program and with the World Food Program to prepare for a predicted food crisis. The government must submit a plan on debt sustainability to the IMF in August before reaching an agreement.

Analysts say it is doubtful any new leader could do more than Wickremesinghe. His government’s efforts showed promise, with much-needed fertilizer being distributed to farmers for next season’s cultivation and cooking gas orders arriving in the country Sunday. 

“This kind of unrest could create confusion among international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank,” political analyst Ranga Kalansooriya said, adding that a new administration should agree on a common program for economic recovery. 

He said while Wickremesinghe was working in the right direction, his administration was not implementing a long-term plan to go with its focus on solving day-to-day problems. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington was tracking the developments in Sri Lanka and urged Parliament to work quickly to implement solutions and address the people’s discontent. 

Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, Blinken said the United States condemns attacks against the peaceful demonstrators while calling for a full investigation into any protest-related violence. 

Pope Francis opened his Sunday remarks after noon prayers at the Vatican by voicing concern about Sri Lanka.

“I unite myself to the pain of the people of Sri Lanka, who continue to suffer the effects of the political and economic instability,” the pontiff said. “Together with the bishops of the country, I renew my appeal for peace, and I implore those who have authority not to ignore the cry of the poor and the needs of the people.’’

After Boris Johnson Quits, Who Will Replace Him As PM of UK?

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of United Kingdom resigned on July 7th, 2022, bringing an acrimonious end to a nearly three-year premiership that has been beset by controversy and scandal. After many months of speculation, he quit as Conservative leader, saying it is “clearly now the will” of Tory MPs that there should be a new leader. And, he pledged to stay on as PM until a successor is chosen – but a growing number of Tory MPs say he has to leave now. Johnson’s decision to remain in office comes despite a clear lack of support from within his own party and a growing push across the political spectrum for him to step down immediately.

Johnson’s resignation came after Britain’s finance and health ministers resigned in quick succession on July 5, in moves that put the future of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in peril after a series of scandals that have damaged his administration.

Johnson survived a vote of confidence on June 6 this year, but more than 40% of Conservative lawmakers declared that they had lost confidence in his ability to govern. And, in the intervening month, those who most wanted to see his downfall have been jockeying for his job.

According to media reports, after the partygate scandal over illegal gatherings held at Downing Street in defiance of coronavirus lockdowns, several senior members of Johnson’s cabinet began quietly preparing for a future leadership contest, courting influential members of parliament and dining with donors who could fund their campaigns.

A dramatic cascade of nearly 60 resignations by lawmakers and government officials followed, ultimately forcing Johnson to begrudgingly announce on Thursday that he would step down. Johnson’s decision to step down as the leader of the ruling Conservative Party will trigger a leadership race, with the winner set to become the United Kingdom’s fourth prime minister in the six years since the June 2016 Brexit referendum.

Indian Origin, Rishi Sunak was until last year the favorite to succeed Johnson. While Rishi Sunak, UK’s Finance Minister has been praised for a rescue package for the economy during the Coronavirus pandemic, including a jobs retention program, including a jobs retention program, which prevented mass unemployment that could cost as much as 410 billion pounds ($514 billion). He quit the government on Tuesday saying “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.

The son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, Sunak has faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households, his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status and a fine he received, along with Johnson, for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules. His tax-and-spend budget last year put Britain on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favor lower taxes.

Speaking outside Downing Street, Johnson said the process for choosing the new leader of the Conservative Party should begin now, with a timetable to be announced next week. He said he intends to remain in place until a new Tory leader is elected. Johnson said that he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world,” but conceded that “no one is remotely indispensable” in politics.

Referring to members of his own ruling party who turned against him, Johnson said, “At Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.” Johnson thanked his wife Carrie Johnson, his children, the National Health Service, armed forces and Downing Street staff. “Above all, I want to thank you, the British public, for the immense privilege that you have given me.” He concluded his roughly six-minute speech by seeking to strike an upbeat tone. “Even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden.”

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer was among those calling for Johnson to go now, saying the Tory leader “cannot cling on for months.” “If the Conservative party do not get rid of him, then Labour will act in the national interest and bring a vote of no confidence,” Starmer said via Twitter.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivers a statement at the House of Commons in London, Britain May 26, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.

UK’s former PM Sir John Major says Johnson should go now for the good of the country. Johnson assured cabinet this afternoon he would only act as a caretaker PM while remaining in position, new Welsh Secretary Robert Buckland says

As per reports, Chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat has launched his bid to become the next leader of the Conservative Party – and prime minister. In an article in the Telegraph newspaper, he stated he would bring a “clean start”. He wrote that he wants to build a “broad coalition of colleagues” to “bring new energy and ideas to government” and “bridge the Brexit divide”.

Setting out his stall, he wrote that “taxes, bluntly, are too high.” Specifically: “We should immediately reverse the recent National Insurance hike and let hard-working people, and employers, keep more of their money. Fuel tax must come down. And un-conservative tariffs, that push up prices for consumers, should be dropped.” He talks about the cost of living as an “national security issue” and says there should be more police on the streets to tackle crime.

Another leader hoping to fil the vacancy is Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who is the darling of the Conservatives’ grassroots and has regularly topped polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home. Truss has a carefully cultivated public image and was photographed in a tank last year, evoking a famous 1986 image of Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was also captured in such a pose.

Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary, 55, finished second to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest is  a likely contestant. He would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the turmoil of Johnson’s premiership. Over the last two years, Hunt has used his experience as a former health secretary to chair the health select committee and has not been tarnished by having served in the current government. Recently, said his ambition to become prime minister “hasn’t completely vanished”. Hunt said he would vote to oust Johnson in a confidence vote last month which Johnson narrowly won.

Ben Wallace, UK’s Defense minister, 52, has risen in recent months to be the most popular member of the government with Conservative Party members, according to Conservative Home, thanks to his handling of the Ukraine crisis. A former soldier himself, he served in Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Central America, and was mentioned in dispatches in 1992. He began his political career as a member of Scotland’s devolved assembly in May 1999, before being first elected to the Westminster parliament in 2005.

Nadhim Zahawi, the current education secretary impressed as vaccines minister when Britain had one of the fastest rollouts of COVID-19 jabs in the world. Zahawi’s personal story as a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child sets him apart from other Conservative contenders. He went on to co-found polling company YouGov before entering parliament in 2010. He said last week at some stage it would be a “privilege” to be prime minister.

Yet another contented for the top job in Britain is Penny Mordaunt, the former defense secretary, who was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she backed his rival Hunt during the last leadership contest. Mordaunt was a passionate supporter of leaving the European Union and made national headlines by taking part in now-defunct reality TV diving show. Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful”. She said voters wanted to see “professionalism and competence” from the government.

Suella Braverman, the attorney general has signaled her intention to run in a future contest. In an interview with ITVSuella Braverman called for Johnson to quit and said that she would join a leadership race to replace him, saying “it would be the greatest honor.”

Meanwhile, Downing Street announced 12 new ministers, filling some of the posts left vacant by the recent wave of resignations. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – a possible leadership contender who has remained silent for days – says her party needs to keep governing until a new leader is elected by the Conservative Party MPS.

India’s Urban Population Will Be 675 Million In 2035

The United Nations-Habitat’s World Cities Report 2022, released last week claimed that India’s urban population is estimated to stand at 675 million in 2035, the second highest behind China’s 1 billion population. It said that the rapid urbanization was only temporarily delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic but the global urban population is back on track to grow by another 2.2 billion people by 2050.

“Urbanization remains a powerful 21st century mega-trend,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UN-Habitat.

According to the report, India’s urban population is projected to reach 67,54,56,000 in 2035 from 48,30,99,000 in 2020. At the same time, it is likely to be 54,27,43000 by 2025 and 60,73,42,000 by 2030. 

It states that by the year 2035, the percentage of people living in urban areas will be 43.2 percent of the total population.

The report says about China that by 2030 there will be an urban population of 1.05 billion. Whereas the population of people living in cities in Asia will be 2.99 billion. In South Asia this number will be 98.76 million. 

According to the United Nations report, large economies such as China and India account for a large share of the global population and economic growth in these countries has positively affected global inequality.

“The economic growth and urbanization of China and India have increased rapidly in Asia over the past two decades,” it said. This has significantly reduced the number of people living in poverty.

According to the report, the existing urban population will continue to grow as birth rates increase, especially in low-income countries. With this, the number of people living in cities is projected to reach 68 percent of the total global population by 2050, which is currently 56 percent.

It states that poverty and inequality are one of the most difficult and complex problems facing cities.

Highlights of the UN Report:

  • According to the World Cities Report 2022 by UN-Habitat, the pandemic only momentarily slowed down urbanization’s rapid pace.
  • According to the report, India’s urban population is expected to reach 675,456,000 in 2035, up from 483,099,000 in 2020, 542,743,000 in 2025, and 607,342,000 in 2030. 43.2 percent of India’s population will be living in urban areas by the middle of the year in 2035.
  • The report underlined the need to address urban inequality and climate change, citing “heatwaves in Delhi” and Mumbai’s “overcrowded slums.”

Ketanji Brown Jackson, 1st Black Woman Is Now A US Supreme Court Justice

Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in Thursday, June 30th as an associate justice to the United States Supreme Court, making history as the first Black woman on the highest court in the nation.

Jackson, 51, joins the court as its 116th member amid a time of heightened scrutiny of the court over recent decisions and the American public’s low confidence in the Supreme Court.

“With a full heart, I accept the solemn responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and administering justice without fear or favor, so help me God. I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great Nation,” Jackson said in a statement.  

In April, she was confirmed 53-47 by the Senate to the high court after a series of contentious hearings, where Republicans tried to paint her as soft on crime and Democrats praised her judicial record. During the confirmation hearing, she vowed to be fair and impartial as justice in deciding the law. 

“I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously. I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath,” she said in her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I know that my role as a judge is a limited one — that the Constitution empowers me only to decide cases and controversies that are properly presented. And I know that my judicial role is further constrained by careful adherence to precedent.”

President Joe Biden, who nominated Jackson but was not in attendance during her swearing in as he returned from the G7 and NATO summits in Europe, said in a statement later Thursday that “her historic swearing in today represents a profound step forward for our nation, for all the young, Black girls who now see themselves reflected on our highest court, and for all of us as Americans.”

Standing on the shoulders of her role models

Born in Washington, DC, on September 14, 1970, Jackson was raised in Miami, where she attended high school and participated in debate tournaments. Her love for debate led to her Harvard University, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1992 and cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1996. She was also supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review.

After college, the Harvard Law graduate not only clerked for Breyer but also Judge Bruce M. Selya, a federal judge in Massachusetts, and US District Judge Patti Saris in Massachusetts. She also worked as an assistant special counsel for the United States Sentencing Commission from 2003-2005 before becoming an assistant federal public defender and later vice chair and commissioner of the commission. In 2013, she was confirmed a United States District Judge under then-President Barack Obama before being confirmed a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2021. 

As a judge in DC — where some of the most politically charged cases are filed — Jackson issued notable rulings touching on Congress’ ability to investigate the White House. As a district court judge, she wrote a 2019 opinion siding with House lawmakers who sought the testimony of then-White House Counsel Don McGahn. Last year, she was on the unanimous circuit panel that ordered disclosure of certain Trump White House documents to the House January 6 committee.

A former federal public defender, Jackson sat on lower US courts for nearly a decade. As a judge, some other notable cases she has in her record are a 2018 case brought federal employee unions where she blocked parts of executive orders issued by then-President Donald Trump, and a case where she ruled against Trump policies that expand the categories of non-citizens who could be subject to expedited removal procedures without being able to appear before a judge.

Jackson penned more than 500 opinions in the eight years she spent on the district court.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, Republicans heavily scrutinized Jackson’s record, asserting she was too lenient in sentencing child pornography cases in which Jackson and Democrats forcefully pushed back on the accusations. At one point during the hearings, Jackson became visibly emotional and wiped away tears as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, talked about her path to the nomination and the obstacles she has had to overcome.

“My parents grew up in a time in this country in which Black children and White children were not allowed to go to school together,” Jackson told Booker after the senator asked what values her parents had impressed upon her. “They taught me hard work. They taught me perseverance. They taught me that anything is possible in this great country.”

After her confirmation to the high court, Jackson marked her historic nomination in a speech at the White House in which she celebrated the “hope and promise” of a nation and said her confirmation “all Americans can take great pride” in.

“I am standing on the shoulders of my own role models, generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity, but who got up every day and went to work believing in the promise of America. Showing others through their determination and, yes, their perseverance that good, good things can be done in this great country,” Jackson said. Quoting the late poet Maya Angelou, she continued, “I do so now while bringing the gifts my ancestors gave. I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

She has emphasized her family and faith, saying her life “had been blessed beyond measure.” She has been married to Patrick, whom she met in college, for 25 years and they have two children, Leila and Talia. (Courtesy: CNN.COM)

A Story Of Abortion Rights

(IPS) – On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which had declared abortion constitutional, and a woman’s right to abortion is no longer guaranteed. This is another example of the divisiveness that has surrounded abortion to date, and has sparked controversy on both sides of the issue. While it is politically perceived that this Supreme Court decision resulted from a majority of conservative judges appointed during the Trump administration, an important point is being forgotten.

A court based on the law will not make a proper decision if the issue is not properly framed in the first place. This is very strict, unlike the various judgments in our lives. If you are a jurist, you make decisions based on such a way of thinking. The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are first-rate jurists, regardless of whether they are conservatives or progressives, and they make decisions based on legal logic. In other words, if the construction is logically reasonable, they will reach the same decision regardless of their position.

The change in interpretation may have been a change to the question of whether abortion constitutes a right guided by the U.S. Constitution.  This question can be translated into the question of the relationship between basic human rights and abortion.

Human rights are regarded as rights, but they are different in nature from ordinary rights. In social life, most rights are defined by law and guaranteed by legitimacy. When it comes to human rights, however, they are often treated as universal or God-given rights, but their logical basis is not clear.

In response to this issue, the author believes that human rights are a necessity created by the cognitive structure of human beings. Because humans have the capacity for self-recognition, they are necessarily agnostic, unable to determine their own existence on their own. The other is absolutely indispensable in order to determine oneself. Based on this argument, it is logically impossible to protect human rights in the sense of affirming one’s own life without respecting other lives in the same way.

Much of the concept of rights is closely related to the issue of freedom from oppression. The history of modern civil society is the history of winning/ acquires freedom from various forms of oppression, and this process has been recognized as progressive in the Western value system. A woman’s right to abortion is part of this logic. When a woman becomes pregnant in a way she does not want or intend, she feels forced to do so and seeks freedom from it.

This is the view that modern Western intellectuals have held in the modern era, that women are in control of their own lives. Based on this concept, an unwanted pregnancy is a violation of a woman’s fundamental human rights. Therefore, the right to choose abortion is part of her fundamental human rights.

However, if we apply the definition of human rights as defined in this paper, the question arises whether abortion is a right and whether a woman can deny the right to an unborn child, no matter how different from herself, to exist as a life form. It is logically difficult to position abortion as a woman’s human right to choose.

However, another conclusion that can be drawn from the definition of human rights is that women are human beings before they are women, and their lives must be respected. It is on this issue that women are victimized because they are women, with crimes such as rape as an extreme example. Even though abortion is a burdensome and sad procedure for women, it is also a stark fact that if the procedure is not secured, it can lead to even worse misery.

In other words, abortion is not a matter that should be treated as part of fundamental human rights or as a right itself, but as an emergency refuge to avoid the worst possible outcome, and as a matter that should be properly secured in order to ensure human justice.

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development identified reproductive rights as the advancement of women, sexual education, and access to reproductive health for all. Once this is achieved, unintended pregnancies will be reduced to zero. However, to date, this commitment has not been fulfilled.

In the absence of full implementation of this commitment, the failure to ensure medically appropriate abortion as an emergency refuge is a lack of justice. Ensuring fairness is an important function of the law. The debate should not be about abortion as a right, but about allowing medically appropriate abortion as an emergency refuge/evacuation to ensure social justice and to avoid more tragic events as a rights. (Osamu Kusumoto, Ph.D, Lecturer, Nihon University, Founder, Global Advisors for Sustainable Development)

By, Osamu Kusumoto At IPS

US Officials, NRIs Ask Govt. Of India To Stop Discrimination

The demolition of the homes of Muslims in India was part of a continuing pattern of discrimination against Muslims and the US must ask the Indian government to end such action, United States Senator Ed Markey has said.

“In recent years we have seen a continuing pattern of discrimination against religious minorities [in India] and narrowing of the space for the practice of different religious beliefs,” Senator Markey said at the International Religious Freedom summit organized at Washington, DC, that concluded on Thursday.

“This includes the demolition of in predominantly Muslim cities, vandalism of mosques and churches, and the implementation of laws that specifically discriminate against religious minorities.”

Senator Markey said the United States “must encourage the Indian government to fulfill its commitment to its own citizens the right of all individuals to practice and propagate religious [beliefs] enshrined in India’s constitution.” Senator Markey said it was “incumbent on the Indian government to uphold the principles of pluralism and secularism which are embedded in the Indian constitution.”

Senator Markey made his remarks at a panel discussion “Religious Freedom in India: Challenges for the US” organized by the India Working Group of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable. This over-a-decade-old Roundtable is the world’s largest civil society collective for religious freedom.

The demolition of the homes of Muslims in India was part of a continuing pattern of discrimination against Muslims and the US must ask the Indian government to end such action, United States Senator Ed Markey has said. “In recent years we have seen a continuing pattern of discrimination against religious minorities [in India] and narrowing of the space for the practice of different religious beliefs,” Senator Markey said at the International Religious Freedom summit organized at Washington, DC, that concluded last week.

Also speaking at this discussion, Nadine Maenza, the former Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), pressed the Biden administration to immediately condemn the crimes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against Indian religious minorities.

Maenza, who recently finished her two year term as the chair of USCRIF stated that it was “disappointing” to see that the situation in India “has sharply worsened” since the release of USCIRF’s annual report documenting religious freedoms violations in 2021. This report included a recommendation to the Biden administration to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for ongoing and egregious crimes against religious minorities for the third year in row.

“We made clear that these recommendations are urgent due to the undemocratic manner in which Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and affiliated Hindu extremist groups have advocated, instituted, and enforced sectarian policies seeking to establish India as an overtly Hindu state, at grave danger to India’s religious minorities,” Maenza said. 

She said that it is long past time for the Biden administration to heed the recommendations made by USCIRF for three consecutive years. “If urgent action is not taken,” Maenza warned, “we could very well be staring down the barrel of yet another genocide”.

Islam Siddiqui, former Chief Agricultural Negotiator with the rank of ambassador at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives under the Obama administration questioned Biden administration’s reluctance to designate India as CPC. “Secretary Blinken should stop talking about [India as a] secular democracy… That was in the past. The Modi government’s actions clearly indicate that they do not uphold those values,” Amb. Siddiqui said.

Dr. Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch while calling Hindutva a Nazi project described Modi and other fascist world leaders as “racists dedicated to the triumph of their own race or religion [and] nationalists who would deny basic human rights to anyone not of their race or religion.” 

“We’re seeing from… our history of working on genocide, how media is being used in India like it was used in Bosnia, how Facebook is being used in India like it was used during the Rohingya genocide, how there are detention camps much like the Uyghur detention camps in China,” said Hena Zubairi, Director of Justice For All, an advocacy group that works to combat global Islamophobia and anti-Muslim violence.

“When Freedom House says that India is ‘Partly Free’… they are being polite and very subtle. India is not a democracy. India is formally known as a socialist, secular democratic republic. It is neither socialist now, nor secular; not democracy… Today India is ruled by the killers of Gandhi, and they come here wearing Gandhi’s mask,” said Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of IAMC.

John Prabhudoss, Chairman of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA), a Washington DC-based advocacy organization, called on the US churches to defend the rights of minorities in India. “What the church in America needs to understand is that the Muslims, the Christians, [and] the Sikhs are all in the same boat as far as India is concerned. One of them sinks, everybody sinks,” Prabhudoss said.

Speaking on behalf of Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), an organization that advocates for civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, Policy Director Ria Chakrabarty said, “We not only denounce Hindutva; we also believe that it is not encompassed by the Hinduism that we believe in. One of the things we hope for other Hindu Americans to do is join us to stand against majoritarian violence and support the fight for justice in India.”

The India Working Group of the IRF Roundtable comprises US-based religious freedom organizations including Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, Jubilee Campaign, Justice for All, American Muslim Institution, Association of Indian Muslims, International Christian Concern, Center for Pluralism, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Sunshine Ministries.

A Conservative US Supreme Court Concludes With Lasting Legacy

The United States Supreme Court this term seemed to embody William F. Buckley’s adage that “a conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling ‘Stop.’ ” In a country of 330 million people and 390 million guns, the conservative supermajority returned America to a historical moment of looser firearm laws. 

It delivered the country to an era where religious schools, even those which openly discriminate against LGBT students, must be eligible for state funding that is available to nonreligious schools. 

And at a time when an unwanted pregnancy can be medically terminated at home, the court has allowed states to make swallowing an abortion pill a crime.

The court’s monumental decisions this term shook the country and moved it sharply in a conservative direction, say observers from across the spectrum.

“Our country is deeply politically polarized and the court made clear that it is solidly on one side of this divide,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. “There is no way to know at this point what it will mean for the court or our society.” 

Before a historic series of rulings it was clear the Supreme Court, in its first full term with six conservative justices, was going to move to the right. It just wasn’t clear how far it would go or how fast. 

That picture came into focus quickly over the last two weeks, as the high court’s supermajority issued a landmark decision erasing the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade. The decision to strike down Roe was the most earth-shaking, but it was hardly alone.  

The court also enshrined a right to carry a handgun in a ruling striking down New York’s concealed carry permit law. It curbed the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and executive agencies more broadly. It issued rulings expanding religious liberty. 

The decisions sent chills through progressives and Democrats, as they were welcomed by conservatives. 

More broadly, they raised questions about the degree to which the court is in touch with the broader populace, and whether most of the electorate thinks the founding era is the best source of wisdom to guide a modern pluralistic democracy.  

Public confidence in the court has reached record lows, and polling shows that at least some of the ground-shifting rulings this term were opposed by majorities.  

“The Supreme Court, for the first time to many Americans, seems significantly out of touch with Americans’ values and interests,” said Michele Goodwin, a law professor at the University of California Irvine, who criticized the court for “selectively, if not opportunistically” applying its interpretative methods. 

In a sign of just how transformative this court term was, the National Conference of Bar Examiners issued a notice to upcoming bar exam test-takers that they “would not be required to be familiar with this term’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions.” Constitutional law professors were also flummoxed.  

“Religion has totally been turned on its head. Abortion, fundamental rights, totally turned on its head. Structural issues, the whole new idea of the ‘major questions doctrine,’ which wasn’t even a thing last year, now it’s got to be a new chapter,” said Steve Schwinn, a law professor at the University of Illinois Chicago. 

“I’m actually seriously considering is changing the focus of my class from a class on law to a class on constitutional politics,” he added. “The court has always been political, and I understand that. But these dramatic shifts in such a brief period of time, based only on the headcount on the Supreme Court — I don’t know how you explain this to students other than raw politics.” 

This court term marked a breakthrough moment for the conservative legal movement’s well-funded and norm-shattering effort to groom a generation of conservative lawyers, elevate reliable allies to the Supreme Court and reshape American life in fundamental ways.

Yet the 6-3 conservative supermajority Supreme Court at various points sought to downplay the transformational nature of their actions, as well as an internal dissension among the justices that was clear from their own written opinions.

Writing for the majority in overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito emphasized that his ruling was narrowly aimed at abortion. He insisted the decision would not threaten protections for same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), sex between gay couples (Lawrence v. Texas) or the right to contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut).

But Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, wrote that the reasoning underlying the opinion should call those other decisions into question. Thomas has long rejected the well-established principle that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment protects not only procedural safeguards but also substantive rights.

Legal experts said the court’s approach to law this term raised legitimate questions about whether rights that are seen as having a thin historical record and which are not explicitly referenced in the Constitution — so-called unenumerated rights — remained on firm footing after the decision.

“This really is the ‘YOLO’ (you only live once) court,” said Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan. “In their first full term together, they built out a doctrine to limit the authority of administrative agencies; overruled Roe v. Wade; significantly restricted states’ ability to regulate guns; bulldozed through the separation of church and state while requiring more state support for religion in schools; severely limited the mechanisms to enforce criminal procedure rights; and more. In one term. I don’t think people fathom just how much more they will do,” she added. (https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/3544422-supreme-court-concludes-revolutionary-term/)

By, John Kruzel, At THE HILL

AAPI’s Historic 40th Convention Begins In San Antonio, TX , Celebrating The Achievements of Indian American Physicians & Celebrating Unique Culture of India

(San Antonio, Tx. June 24, 2022) The historic 40th annual convention organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) began at the world famous Riverwalk Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio in Texas on Thursday, June 23rd, 2022, celebrating the achievements of Indian American Physicians and focusing on the theme, “Physician Heal Thyself” with several unique and first of a kind opportunities to help AAPI members self-care, especially in the context of Covid related physicians burn out.

There was a sense of joy and relief on the faces of the over 1,000 physicians who have come together to celebrate their achievements, contributions, and to network and deepen their relationship even as the Covid Pandemic is waning and people are able to mingle freely and interact with one another cautiously.

In her opening remarks at the beginning of the Gala organized by TIPS on the inaugural nite of the four days long convention, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, the President of AAPI said, “Our leadership team has worked diligently on so many wonderful projects and activities including educational, philanthropic, legislative, networking, and many more activities benefitting our members and communities. This has been possible because of the incredible work and support from the dedicated team of leaders, members, and our supporting office staff,” the only 4th woman President of AAPI in the four decades long history of AAPI, said.

Dr. Jack Resneck, President of American Medical Association praised the contributions and achievements of Indian American physicians, who serve and provide best healthcare to every 7th patient in the United States. “It’s time our nation renews our commitment to you for the incredible services you provide to our nation,” he said.

“Our physician members have worked very hard during the covid 19 pandemic. The 2022 convention is a perfect time to heal the healers with a special focus on wellness,” said Dr.  Jayesh Shah, Chair of AAPI Convention 2022. Dr. Shah praised the dedication and generosity of each member for giving their best, to make this Convention truly a memorable one for every participant.

Put together by a highly talented and dedicated team of Convention Committee members, the 4 days long event will be filled with programs and activities that cater to the body, mind and soul. The Convention is going to be a unique experience for everyone, he added.

Convention Committee members include Mr. Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention; Dr. Aruna Venkatesh, Convention Treasurer; Dr. Vijay Koli, Past President of AAPI & Convention Advisor; Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, Convention Advisor; Chief Operating Officers, R. Reddy Yeluru and Ram Joolukuntla; Dr. Rajeev Suri, President of TIPSSW & Co-Chair of the Convention, and the other Co-Chairs of the Convention, including Dr. Shankar Sanka, Dr. Hetal Nayak, and Kiran Cheruku. Each of them was honored on stage with a plaque appreciating their dedication and for putting together a fabulous convention.

Honoring India and its  75 years of Independence Day celebrations- co-sponsored by the Embassy of India & the Consulate General of India (CGI) – Houston, AAPI delegates had a rare glimpse to the rich cultural heritage of India through a video presentation depicting the unique diversity of India and a variety mesmerizing performance of Indian/Mexican Fusion Dances, ranging from Bharatnatyam, folk dances, and the traditional Indian dances in sync with Mexican pop dances, which were a treat to the hearts and souls  of everyone. National Spieling Bee Champion 2022 Harini Logan was recognized during the convention Gala.

The much anticipated wellness package in collaboration with all the 10 City Council Districts of San Antonio, TX and Mayor Ron Nirenberg and iDoYoga San Antonio is organizing its flagship Free Yoga Classes and Education on the benefits and ways to make yoga a part of one’s daily life during the course of the entire convention.

Led by internationally famed yoga gurus, including  Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, PhD, Spiritual leader, teacher and author; Paramaguru Sharath Jois, Lineage holder of Ashtanga Yoga; and, Eddie Stern, Yoga teacher, speaker and author, the highly anticipated and popular Yoga on the famous Riverwalk is part of the global celebration of the 8th International Day of Yoga (IDY).

The convention is focused on themes such as how to take care of self and find satisfaction and happiness in the challenging situations they are in, while serving hundreds of patients everyday of their dedicated and noble profession.

Accordingly, the wellness sessions at the convention include: Yoga and Meditation practices, welcome kit with books & self-care supplies, personal Reflexology Sessions, take home wellness routine, ailment based yoga therapy sessions, workshop on Spiritual well-being, book talk with Yoga Gurus, including on the science of Yoga & Lifestyle medicine, and a unique opportunity to visit first of its kind in San Antonio, Aum Ashram.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI said, “This is the first time in the AAPI convention we offer these exclusive wellness packages geared towards the well-being of Physicians and their families by bringing the essence of science and spirituality of yoga and lifestyle medicine into our self-care routine. As we all are aware, a calm mind and a refined intellect are essential for making right choices. We promise to leave you empowered with the tools required.”

Each day of the convention has a specific theme. On Thursday, the theme chosen is “Unity in Diversity” and the delegates showcased one’s own state dress code. Heritage India is the theme for Friday honoring and celebrating India’s rich culture and diversity. On Saturday, the focus is on the much loved Bollywood with special performance by popular Bollywood singer Shaan, The cuisine served each will day match the theme chosen for each day.

Some of the major events at the convention include: Workshops and hands-on sessions on well-being, 10-12 hours of CMEs, Women’s Forum, CEOs Forum, AAPI Got Talent, Mehfil, Bollywood Nite, Fashion Show, Medical Jeopardy, Poster/Research Contest, Alumni and Young Physicians events and Exhibition and Sale of Jewelry, Clothing, Medical Equipment, Pharma, Finance and many more.

Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally have convened and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year.

AAPI delegates have the opportunity to attend a multidisciplinary CME conference that allows specialists and primary care physicians to interact in an academic forum. World-renowned speakers will discuss gaps between current and best practice of wide-ranging topics at the CME sessions.

“Welcome to my home city, San Antonio and thank you for coming here to the annual convention offering extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” Dr. Gotimukula added. For more details, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org  and www.aapiusa.org

After Losing Thousands of Lives To Gun Violence, US Finally On Way to Regulate Guns

Bowing to public pressure, anger and frustration after series of mass shootings across the nation has claimed tens of thousands of lives every year, finally a bipartisan group of US Senators announced an agreement on principle for gun safety legislation on June 12th, which includes “needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons.”

A bipartisan group of Senate negotiators say they have reached a deal on a package of safety and gun-related measures narrowly focused on preventing future shootings similar to the one in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed in their school, media reports stated

The proposed legislation is expected to include support for state crisis intervention orders, funding for school safety resources, an enhanced review process for buyers under the age of 21 and penalties for straw purchasing.

The agreement has the support of at least 20 senators, including the support of 10 Republican senators, who worked closely over the past several weeks to find the areas of common ground that could pass the closely divided Senate. The agreement is significant given how divided lawmakers have been over the gun issue, but the actual legislative text is not yet written.

Critically, the legislation includes a so-called red flag provision, with the government providing “resources to states and tribes to create and administer laws that help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals whom a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others,” according to the release. The proposal would also include “major investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs; and other support services available in the community, including crisis and trauma intervention and recovery.”

The proposal, which has not been written into legislative text, includes money to encourage states to pass and implement so-called “red flag” laws to remove guns from potentially dangerous people, money for school safety and mental health resources, expanded background checks for gun purchases for people between the ages of 18 and 21 and penalties for illegal straw purchases by convicted criminals.

The negotiators called it a “commonsense” proposal that would reduce the threat of violence across the country. “Our plan increases needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons,” the group said in a statement. “Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.”

The framework calls for additional vetting for potential gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 to include previously blocked juvenile records on criminal activity and mental health. Lawmakers say the plan would also reduce what’s known as the “boyfriend loophole” to include dating partners in preventing convicted domestic abusers from buying a gun.

The school safety and mental health sections include funding for school-based programs like mental health support, violence prevention and training for students and educators. The plan would also expand telehealth for mental and behavioral treatment and investments in children and family mental health services through community health centers.

However, mental health experts, like the National Alliance for Mental Illness, say the majority of gun violence is not perpetrated by people with a history of mental illness. Aides have said that it could take weeks to go through the legal and technical process of turning a preliminary deal into a final bill. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democrat in the negotiations, told Reuters that aides would begin that work on Monday morning.

Growing support, despite detract

Senators have been broadly optimistic that any bipartisan agreement will eventually pass the Senate, but the ultimate fate of the bill is not entirely clear. President Biden expressed support for the deal in a statement. “Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades,” Biden said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pledged to put a bill on the floor as soon as possible once legislation is written. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released a statement praising the negotiators but stopped short of pledging support to an eventual bill.

At least two prominent gun safety advocacy groups are backing the legislation. Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action both released statements supporting the proposal.

“If the framework announced today gets enacted into law, it will be the most significant piece of gun safety legislation to make it through Congress in 26 long and deadly years,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement.  Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, called the framework “a major step in finally getting federal action to address gun violence.”

The National Rifle Association has not yet released a position on the proposal. In a statement, the group said they do not weigh in on frameworks and will wait until the final bill is complete. “We encourage our elected officials to provide more resources to secure our schools, fix to our severely broken mental health system and support law enforcement,” the statement said. “The NRA will continue to oppose any effort to insert gun control policies, initiatives that override constitutional due process protections and efforts to deprive law-abiding citizens of their fundamental right to protect themselves and their loved ones into this or any other legislation.”

Other gun rights groups are already opposing the plan and criticizing the 10 Republican senators who are backing it. If they are able to convince any one of them to back away from the deal as the legislative details are hammered out, it could kill the legislation if no other Republicans join Democrats to support the proposal.

Attorney General Bill Barr Says, Trump Was ‘Detached From Reality’

The former US attorney general, Bill Barr says, Donald Trump was “detached from reality” after the 2020 election, a congressional panel has heard. Testimony from Bill Barr played at the 6 January Capitol riot inquiry revealed deep divisions at the Trump campaign over his election fraud claims.

Two camps emerged – a “Team Normal” that accepted Mr Trump’s loss, and loyalists who did not. The panel has accused Mr Trump of an attempted coup to remain in power.

The second of a series of public hearings, Monday’s session was preceded by the announcement that a star witness – Mr Trump’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien – would not be appearing because his wife had gone into labor

Instead, his lawyer gave a statement on his behalf and Mr Stepien’s previous private testimony was publicly played by the Democratic-led US House of Representatives select committee.

In it, Mr Stepien revealed that members of Mr Trump’s inner circle had advised him to not declare victory in the November 2020 election.

A faction of the campaign he dubbed “Team Normal” told the former president that he had lost the election, Mr Stepien said, but another group refused to accept the outcome.

It became known as “Rudy’s team”, after former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was among the most vocal of Mr Trump’s supporters to claim the election was stolen.

Both Mr Stepien and another witness, former Trump adviser Jason Miller, testified that Mr Giuliani appeared to be inebriated on the night of the election.

Mr Miller said that even with results still coming in, Mr Giuliani suggested that Trump “go and declare victory and say that we’d won it outright”.

Through a spokesman on Monday, Mr Giuliani denied that he was intoxicated on election night, saying he did not know why Mr Miller would “make such a false claim”.

Among those who warned the then-president not to declare victory was former Attorney General Bill Barr, who in videotaped testimony said that he had repeatedly told Mr Trump there was no basis to claims of rigged voting machines or ballot “dumps” – which Mr Barr referred to as “crazy stuff”.

Mr Trump, however, refused to acknowledge these concerns and continued to spread fraud claims, Mr Barr said. He testified that he was “demoralised” by his boss’ claims.

“I thought, ‘Boy if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with – he’s become detached from reality, if he really believes this stuff,'” he said.

The 6 January select committee is seeking to show that the ex-president’s election fraud claims directly led to an attack on the US Capitol.

“He and his closest advisers knew those claims were false,” California Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren said, referring to Mr Trump. “But they continued to peddle them anyway”.

The committee is scheduled to hold more hearings on Wednesday and Thursday later this week. Members of the select committee are laying out further evidence for their case that the former President Donald Trump was responsible for the chaotic attack on the US Capitol last year.

The hearing is quieter today – the second time that committee members are presenting their case to the public – and fewer members of Congress are here.

The challenge for the committee members is convincing Republicans of their point of view. About half of Republicans believe that the people who stormed the Capitol are patriots, according to a CBS News poll.

They have a deep animosity towards the federal government, and the number of “persuadables” – political-speak for those who can be convinced of another point of view – is small. On the way into the building, a protester held up a sign that seemed to sum up the feelings of many of these Republicans.  “Wake Up Federal scum,” it said.

The Democratic Paradox The Right To Say Anything Has Been A Challenge To Every Democracy That Has Ever Existed

On Jan. 6, 2021, a group of self-professed patriots stormed the U.S. Capitol, a building last raided by the British during the War of 1812. Some in the group were spangled with face paint and wore military garb. Some were toting Confederate flags. Many were taking selfies or livestreaming the rebellion. They erected a gallows and smashed up media equipment outside, then roamed the halls of Congress, screaming, “Stop the steal!” Offices were destroyed. A member of the mob was shot and killed. A Capitol Police officer died. It was a remarkable assault on the foundation of American democracy, staged at the very moment a peaceful transfer of power was under way.

We can now add the United States to the list of Athens, Rome, France, Spain, and Peru, among others, as democracies that have experienced a self-coup attempt. The people who invaded the Capitol did so because they believed—truly believed—that then-U.S. President Donald Trump had won a landslide victory in the 2020 presidential election, which subsequently was stolen.

This article is adapted from The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion by Zac Gershberg and Sean Illing (University of Chicago Press, 320 pp., $30, June 2022).

Trump had raised over $200 million in the month after the election by alleging voter fraud—what some termed the “Big Lie,” which gained widespread purchase in the United States’ fragmented information space and particularly in conservative media across radio, cable television, and social networking. Dozens of lawsuits echoing these charges struggled to gain standing in U.S. state and federal courts. Trump and his advisors then suggested the possibility that Vice President Mike Pence and Congress could overturn the election on Jan. 6, whereupon the president instructed his supporters to march on the Capitol, telling them to “fight like hell.”

American democracy is fortunate that the insurrection failed; that it happened at all is instructive. The event exposed the paradox at the center of every democratic culture: a free and open communication environment that, because of its openness, invites exploitation and subversion from within. This tension sits at the core of every democracy, and it cannot be resolved or circumnavigated. To put it another way, the essential democratic freedom—the freedom of expression—is both ingrained in and dangerous to democracy.

The belief that democracy is a fixed system with inherent features has led to a lot of confusion. Many still hold what’s often called the “folk theory of democracy”: Ordinary citizens have preferences about what the government ought to do, and they vote for leaders they think will carry out those preferences. The result of this process is a government that serves the majority. And all of this is supposed to take place in a culture of rules and norms that privileges minority rights, respects the rule of law, and welcomes peaceful transitions of power.

But that culture is precisely what we call “liberalism”—it is not democracy as such. Confusion on this point has obscured the nature and demands of democratic life.

Despite its flaws, democracy still affords freedom of expression and the possibility of confronting power in all its forms—that is democracy’s claim to superiority over all other political cultures. But democratic freedom contains the seeds of its own destruction. This is something the ancient Greeks understood long before us, and they even developed two frameworks for free speech that highlighted the problem. Isegoria described the right of citizens to participate in the public debate; parrhesia described the right to say anything one wanted, whenever one wanted, and to whomever one wanted. Isegoria created the political environment of democracy, while parrhesia actualized it.

But the right to say anything opened the door to all manners of subversion, and this has been a challenge to every democracy that has ever existed. The emergence of isegoria in Athens, for instance, was accompanied by the joint rituals of ostracism and tribalism. In today’s language, you might say that Socrates was the first notable citizen to be “canceled” by the same democratic forces that made his speech free in the first place. This is the defining tension of any democratic society.

Citizens, philosophers, and politicians have always fretted about democracy for exactly this reason. While it facilitates a culture in which deliberative discourse and collective judgment are possible, it can also be gamed and exploited, prompting crises from within. The panic today over democracy is no different. A whole genre of literature has emerged seeking to explain how democracies fall or why Western liberalism is in retreat. The consensus is that if democracy isn’t quite dead, it’s certainly under attack.

There’s no point in diminishing the reality of the crisis. We are surely living through a period of intense democratic disruption. All over the world, from the United Kingdom to Hungary to Poland to Brazil to the United States, populist insurgents are disordering democratic cultures. Liberal democracy, as a culturally dominant period, has died. So have many of the norms and institutions that undergird it.

But the discourse around this problem is far too circumscribed. To read many of the current books about democracy is to walk away with the impression that we’re in the midst of something new, something unique to our moment. It’s as though the default state of democracy is stability, and periods of disruption are the exception.

The reverse is much nearer to the truth.

To function properly, democracies require more than just voting. Citizens need comprehensive, accurate information as well as a healthy, open system of debate. But throughout history, when new forms of communications arrive—from the disingenuous use of rhetorical techniques developed in Athens to the social media-enabled spread of fake news today—they often undermine the practice of politics. The more widely accessible and democratic the media of a society, the more susceptible that society is to distraction, spectacle, and demagoguery. We see this time and again throughout history: Media continually evolve faster than politics, and the result is recurring patterns of democratic instability.

Classical rhetoric was a necessity for the early democratic cultures of Athens and Rome, but sophistry, a form of deceptive, crowd-pleasing speech, overwhelmed both societies and hastened their collapse. The printing press allowed for the mass production of books and the creation of newspapers, which ushered in the Enlightenment and the democratic revolutions of the 18th century, yet these public networks also sowed chaos in the aftermath of the American and French Revolutions. The former dealt with a deeply partisan press that threatened the viability of the United States in its infancy, and France exploded into the violence of the Reign of Terror.

In the 19th century, the telegraph’s speedy dissemination of news collapsed geographical distances and helped spread the norms of liberal society across Europe, but it also fomented nationalist discourses. Political leaders and news outlets generated narratives full of nativist fears and petty resentments to gain traction in place of actual debate, and the appeals of this mediated rhetoric would eventually speed Europe toward World War I. While cinema and radio further democratized media and created a more accessible mass culture, they also provided essential platforms for European fascists who were able to bypass traditional gatekeepers.

Television transformed politics so citizens could directly see and listen to representatives, with many positive results, but the imperatives of the medium also reshaped politics. To succeed, politicians in the TV era had to adapt to a new incentive structure in which branding, sound bites, and optics reigned.

The public sphere of the 21st century is more democratic and open than ever before. Political leaders communicate directly with the public; citizens provide immediate feedback and can publish or broadcast to mass audiences on their own. Yet the democratic openness of communication in the 21st century has destabilized political conversations. There are no longer any controls on the flow of information, and that has short-circuited a system built largely on the control of information. The public is now angry, distrustful of whether their representatives can even make sound decisions. That may be healthy from a democratic perspective, but with so much noise on social media and so many news outlets disseminating contradictory information, citizens are justifiably confused and cynical.

Liberal democracies have long been sustained by traditional mass media, such as newspapers and later radio and network television. Citizens remained somewhat passive while media gatekeepers and politicians hashed out a norm-driven discourse of information and debate in the public sphere. People absorbed what they read, listened to, and watched, then registered approval at the polls.

Then something changed. The rise of polarizing cable television news, the blogosphere, and the outrageous flows of social networking, now hooked to our palmed smartphones, let citizens in on the act of forging discourses and choosing what news they prefer. The result is a more democratic and less liberal world.

The belief that the democratic experiment was destined to end in something like liberal democracy was just that: a belief. It turns out there is nothing inexorable about the logic of democracy; it is just as likely to culminate in tyranny as it is freedom. And the rise of illiberalism foregrounds a crucial point: Our present crisis is as much about culture as it is politics.

Despite all our assumptions about the inherent value of democracy, a democratic culture guarantees no outcome. Democratic cultures can support liberal democratic governments, or they can just as easily spawn plutocratic or authoritarian systems. It might seem counterintuitive to think of democracies as breeding grounds for tyranny, but it’s no contradiction at all.

Democratic theorists often miss the depth of the connection between communication and political cultures. So many accounts of democracy emphasize legislative processes or policy outcomes. When culture is discussed, it’s often in the context of liberal democratic values. But we should always ask: What determines the valence of those values? If a democracy stands or falls on the quality of the culture propping it up, then we ought to know under what conditions those values are affirmed and rejected.

Those conditions are determined largely by a society’s tools of communication, facilitated through media. Indeed, democracies are defined by their cultures of communication. If a democracy consists of citizens deciding, collectively, what ought to be done, then the process by which they do so determines nearly everything else that follows. This is the key insight of media ecologists like Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman, both of whom warned of the impending disaster that was the age of television and the image. They sensed that the media environment decides not just what people pay attention to but also how people think and orient themselves in the world. For every form of media has its own epistemology, its own biases, and favors certain cognitive habits over others.

People like Postman were commenting on the sovereignty of television in American culture and how it transfigures everything it touches. But the internet and social media have now been added to that wasteland of spectacle, compounding the problem in a million different ways. The obsession with drama and entertainment is now buttressed by curated news feeds that carve out epistemological bubbles and foster tribal impulses. The United States and many other countries are now confronting the greatest structural challenge to democracy the world has ever seen: a truly open society. Without gatekeepers, there are no constraints on discourse. Digital technology has changed everything, and, consequently, reality is up for grabs in a way it never has been before.

To restate the paradox: Democracies cannot exist without an open communication environment; otherwise, citizens cannot carry out their deliberative responsibilities. This condition of informational freedom is central to any democratic culture worthy of the name. But this environment, precisely because it is free, is constantly exploited by demagogues and other anti-democratic actors. Democracies are thus constantly undermined by their constitutive conditions.

It’s not easy to live in this state of tension, especially in the wide-open rhetorical cultures we see in many countries around the world today. New media technologies have altered the social and psychic environment—and, by extension, the values and institutions that ground society. There is no going back; the winds of technological change will keep blowing whether we want them to or not.

The real challenge right now is not an absence of democracy. On the contrary, we’re confronting the true face of democracy: a totally unfettered culture of open communication. Nearly all democracies up until now have been democracies in name only; they’ve been mediated by institutions designed to check popular passions and control the flow of information. But those institutional walls were weakened by the electric revolution and later shattered by digital technology. It’s no longer possible to limit access to information or curate what is and isn’t news. The test is whether democratic institutions can withstand this kind of pressure—whether we can, somehow, keep pushing that democratic boulder up the hill. And that remains an open question.

Zac Gershberg is an associate professor of journalism and media studies at Idaho State University.

India To Have A New President Next Month

The successor of President Ram Nath Kovind will be decided next month as India’s 16th presidential election is scheduled to be held on July 18, and if needed the votes will be counted on July 21, according to a statement issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI). The new President will take oath on July 25, the ECI said.

India’s federal and state lawmakers will vote for a new president on July 18 to succeed Ram Nath Kovind, whose five-year term comes to an end next month. The counting of votes will take place on July 21, Rajiv Kumar, chief election commissioner of India, said at a press conference in Delhi last week.

While this is largely a ceremonial post, the president holds India’s highest constitutional office and is the supreme commander of the armed forces. The president plays a major role in deciding who forms government if there’s a hung parliament.

The Indian presidency differs from most presidencies across the world. The president does not exercise executive powers – he is the head of the state, and is required by the constitution to act on the advice of ministers.

So the role is more akin to that of the British monarch or monarchs in countries like the Netherlands or Spain: a referee over a parliamentary system where ministers possess the real power. Countries like Germany and Israel have presidencies similar to India’s.

How Does India Elect Its President?

The President of India, who is the titular head of state is elected by  an electoral college, comprising the elected members of Parliament and legislative assemblies of states and Union Territories (Delhi and Puducherry as Jammu and Kashmir is under President’s Rule).

Altogether, 776 MPs and 4,033 legislators will vote in the presidential election. Each vote of an MP or an MLA is assigned a value for electoral arithmetic.

Value of an MP’s vote depends on the number of MLAs in all assemblies. In 2017, an MP’s vote had a value of 708 – fixed since the 1997 presidential election. With J&K Assembly not there, the value is likely to go down to 700 this election, reports said.

The value of an MLA’s vote depends on its population as per 1971 Census and the number of MLAs in the current assembly. So, the value of a Uttar Pradesh MLA is 248 and of Sikkim 7.

The total vote value of legislators is 5,43,231 and that of MPs 5,43,200. So there will be 4,809 electors with a vote value of 10,86,431.

Who could be the next President?

There is no clarity yet. Incumbent Ram Nath Kovind’s term ends on July 24. Only Rajendra Prasad, the first President, has been elected to the office twice.

With a consensus candidate unlikely, the presidential election is expected to be a close contest. As of now, the ruling BJP-led NDA is close to the half-way mark with about 49% votes.

Mamata’s invitation Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress chief, has called a meeting of top non-BJP leaders to formulate a common strategy for the July-18 presidential election. She has invited eight chief ministers, and wrote to 22 non-BJP leaders.

She has invited her counterparts Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Bhagwant Mann (AAP), Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), Naveen Patnaik (Odisha), K Chandrashekar Rao (Telangana), MK Stalin (Tamil Nadu), Uddhav Thackeray and Hemant Soren (Jharkhand). She has also invited Sonia Gandhi, who is undergoing treatment at a Delhi hospital for Covid-19.

Sonia in picture The Congress president, too, has reached out to a number of Opposition leaders to put up a fight against the BJP in the presidential election. One of the leaders she reached out to was Mamata Banerjee, who has her own plans ready.

While Banerjee called the election “monumental”, Sonia Gandhi’s party described it as an opportunity to “elect a President, who can apply a healing touch to its fractured social fabric and defend our Constitution”.

Exit before meet Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, a key Opposition leader currently smarting under a setback in the Rajya Sabha election, will not join the deliberations that her West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee has announced to be held this week in New Delhi over the presidential election.

Uddhav Thackeray will be in Ayodhya – where a Ram temple is being constructed for which the BJP takes the credit to boost its Hindutva credentials – that day, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said on Sunday. The Shiv Sena has been BJP’s old ally and a rival Hindutva-based party.

In 2017, the ruling coalition had the support of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) of K Chandrashekhar Rao, the YSR Congress of Jagan Reddy and the BJD of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. In a critical difference this time round, Telangana Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao, or KCR, is leading efforts to gather opposition forces to take on the BJP jointly.

The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the main opposition Congress party have not yet put forward their nominees.

Meanwhile reports suggest, The opposition’s search for a Presidential candidate has picked up pace with a series of meetings and phone calls in the run-up to the election next month. With these discussions pivoting around former Union Minister Sharad Pawar, there is speculation that he could be the opposition’s pick for India’s top post.

Sharad Pawar’s Maharashtra allies Congress and Shiv Sena are reportedly on board with the idea. Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge met with Sharad Pawar last Thursday, with a message from party chief Sonia Gandhi. The two met at Pawar’s Mumbai home “Silver Oaks”, say sources. Pawar, one of India’s senior most and – many say, craftiest – politicians, has been credited with making and breaking many alliances and coalition governments over the past few decades. He was the creator of Maharashtra’s ruling coalition, bringing together ideologically opposed parties Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress together to thwart the BJP’s bid for power.

The BJP has authorized its party chief JP Nadda and Union Minister Rajnath Singh to hold discussions with parties across the spectrum and steer them towards a consensus. In 2017, the BJP had nominated Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu for a similar outreach. Later, Venkaiah Naidu was named the NDA’s Vice Presidential candidate.

Many fear that governments with overwhelming majorities – like the present BJP – could easily lead to weakening of presidents. That may not be entirely true. Ruling parties have enjoyed hefty majorities for most of the period since 1947. “This alone has not led – under Congress or the BJP – to a weakening of the presidency. When a party or an alliance has a Lok Sabha majority, the president is supposed to have very limited powers,” says Prof Manor.

While the search is on for a candidate by both the Ruling BJP and the Opposition, if there is no consensus, the BJP and the Opposition will choose their own candidates and will prepare for an election.

India’s Dark Turn From Model Of Religious Pluralism To Cautionary Tale

Born in India, I’ve spent most of my life in the United States, including 20 years in academia writing about religion in America. For years, I imagined a “someday” project to write a book comparing and contrasting my two home countries’ religious landscapes. Two of the world’s largest democracies, they are both officially secular while also being dominated by one faith group that wields almost all the legal and social power: Christians in the United States, Hindus in India.

India, I once thought, could offer Americans another model of religious pluralism. While far from having a perfect record on religious liberty, in its 75 years the Hindu-majority country has had a Sikh prime minister and multiple Muslim presidents, with popular movie and sports stars of all religious backgrounds. The U.S., in nearly 250 years, has had only Christian heads of state, all but two of them Protestant. You can almost count our minority-faith movie stars on one hand.

My dream of that study has faded in recent years, because India looks today less like a model than a cautionary tale. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist elected in 2014 and now in his second term, has made India an increasingly difficult place to be a religious minority.

At the institutional level, the Citizen Amendment Act challenges Muslims’ Indian citizenship; the government has also shown a clear pattern of staying silent when communal violence occurs. At the societal level, Hindu mobs have harassed religious minorities on holidays such as Eid al-Fitr and Maundy Thursday. At the individual level, there are attempts to control what people eat by enforcing Hinduism’s dietary standards on all Indians.

When one of my cousins in Mumbai attended a Catholic school in the 1970s and 1980s, his circle of friends included people of numerous religions — Hindus, Muslims and Parsis, among others. They would go to each other’s homes and to each other’s houses of worship — even to pray, if there was an exam coming up!

When this same group of friends gathers today, they talk about the fact that their children, who attend schools with just as much religious diversity, don’t hang out with kids of other religions. Today’s Hindu kids would not dream of going to a mosque; the Muslim kids never think of praying at a Hindu temple. “We all agree, it’s really sad,” my cousin tells me.

In Modi’s India, as in the U.S. political right, the culture is bound up in nationalism, and specifically in the manufacture of a national identity tied to religion. Instead of the model I envisioned years ago, India has become an object lesson in what could have happened if Donald Trump had been re-elected — and could still happen, if he or another leader from America’s theocratic right wing is elected in 2024.

Members of JK Awami Aawaz Party hold placards as they take part in a protest against minority killings, in Srinagar, Indian -ontrolled Kashmir, Thursday, June 2, 2022. Assailants fatally shot a Hindu bank manager in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Thursday, said police, who blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the attack. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

For somebody who writes about white Christian privilege, who has examined the historical and legal landscape of the U.S., the parallels are easy to see. India is Hindu like the United States is Christian: officially not so in its founding documents but with a history of state-sanctioned violence against religious minorities and the majority faith’s privilege embedded deeply in the laws, mores and culture.

I’m not arguing that Hindus in India never experience discrimination or that no one in the U.S. has ever been targeted for being Christian. But power lies with the majority and in the legal and social infrastructure it has built.

Indian American Hindus know what it feels like to be discriminated against. We’ve seen our mandirs vandalized. We’ve heard our faith ridiculed and trivialized. And we have suffered the indignities and marginalization that shape our everyday lives as non-white and non-Christian Americans. If you’ve been treated like you have divided loyalties because of your religion, you know what Indian Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are experiencing.

Given that experience, it’s incumbent on Indian Americans to take a clear-eyed look at what’s going on in India. We need to remove the blinders of nostalgia — stop seeing only the India we left in the 1970s, ’80s or ’90s. We need to act on the lessons of our experience in America and see ourselves in India’s religious minorities.

Many Indian American Hindus have strong transnational ties. We have family there, are involved in diasporic politics, have investments in India or stay connected through philanthropy and remittances. We all have a responsibility to exert our power in support of religious minorities in India.

If you’re against states like Georgia purging minority voters from the rolls, you have to be just as active when Assam purges 2 million Muslims from its national registry. If you won’t shop at Abercrombie & Fitch or Hobby Lobby because of their histories of religious discrimination, you’d better speak up when Indian schools force girls to choose between wearing hijab and going to class.

In short, if you’re someone in the Hindu diaspora who has economic or social power and you don’t speak up against state-sanctioned violence and discrimination in India, you might as well be participating in it. If you’re against discrimination here, then you’ve got to be against discrimination there.

These days, many of us worry about the loss of American democracy, and especially about the ways that white Christian nationalists feel emboldened to talk about going back to segregation, targeting immigrants and restoring an America where LGBTQ people were marginalized and women “knew their place.”

We need to worry as much about Hindu nationalism in Modi’s India. And we need to be just as involved in steering clear of that dark future — before it’s too late for both our democracies.

How Christian Nationalism Paved The Way For Jan. 6

On June 1, 2020, then-President Donald Trump marched across Lafayette Square outside the White House, trailed by an anxious-looking team of advisers and military aides. The group shuffled past detritus left by racial justice protesters after a frantic mass expulsion executed by police minutes prior with clubs, pepper balls and tear gas.

The dignitaries stopped in front of St. John’s Church, where presidents, including Trump, have traditionally attended services on their Inauguration Day. St. John’s, which had suffered a minor fire the day before, was closed. But Trump took up a position in front of its sign and turned toward the cameras, a Bible held aloft.

“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump said. In the distance, sirens wailed.

Washington’s Episcopal bishop, whose diocese includes St. John’s, condemned Trump’s stunt, saying it left her “horrified.” But White House chief of staff Mark Meadows declared he was “never prouder” of the president than in that moment, calling it a rejection of “the degradation of our heritage or the burning of churches.” Trump’s evangelical Christian advisers were similarly effusive, lauding the photo op as “important” and “absolutely correct.”

In retrospect, the “symbolic” message of Trump’s Bible photo op, as he termed it, operates as a bookend to the Christian nationalism on display at the attack on the U.S. Capitol seven months later. It communicated, however histrionically, that the president was leading an existential fight against politically liberal foes calling for a racial reckoning, but at the center of which was an attack on Christian faith. From that moment on, Christian nationalism — in the broadest sense, a belief that Christianity is integral to America as a nation and should remain as such — provided a theological framework for the effort to deny Democrats the White House.

As Trump’s poll numbers dipped the same month as the photo op, his campaign redoubled efforts to stir up support among his conservative Christian supporters. Then-Vice President Mike Pence embarked on a “Faith in America” tour, while Trump conducted interviews with conservative Christian outlets and held rallies at white evangelical churches.

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, a man holds a Bible as Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol in Washington. The Christian imagery and rhetoric on view during the Capitol insurrection are sparking renewed debate about the societal effects of melding Christian faith with an exclusionary breed of nationalism. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Referring to “American patriots,” Trump told rallygoers at Dream City Church in Phoenix: “We don’t back down from left-wing bullies. And the only authority we worship is our God.”

In August at the Republican National Convention, Trump described early American heroes as people who “knew that our country is blessed by God and has a special purpose in this world.” Pence, in his speech, adapted Christian Scripture by swapping out references to Jesus with patriotic platitudes.

Despite then-candidate Joe Biden’s public discussion of his Catholic faith, and the overt religiosity of the Democratic National Convention, Donald Trump Jr. told the GOP crowd that “People of faith are under attack” in the United States, pointing to restrictions on large gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet it was Trump’s religious supporters who did the attacking the final night of the RNC. After leaving the convention’s fireworks-filled celebration at the White House, conservative Christian commentator and Trump loyalist Eric Metaxas was filmed punching an anti-Trump protester off his bike and fleeing into the night, only admitting to the assault days later in an email to Religion Unplugged.

After Trump lost the election in November, a report from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Freedom From Religion Foundation concluded that Christian nationalism, also referred to as white Christian nationalism, was used to “bolster, justify and intensify the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” according to BJC’s Amanda Tyler.

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, Pastor Paula White leads a prayer in Washington, at a rally in support of then-President Donald Trump called the “Save America Rally.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

In the days after the vote, Florida pastor Paula White, leader of the White House faith office, preached a sermon from her home church in which she called on “angels” from Africa and other nations to assist in overturning the election results. The next night, insisting she was only addressing “spiritual” matters, White vacillated between the ethereal and the electoral: She entreated the Almighty to “keep the feet of POTUS in his purpose and in his position” and decry any “fraud” or “demonic agenda” that “has been released over this election.”

“We override the will of man for the will of God right now, and we ask, by the mercy and the blood of Jesus, that you overturn it, overturn it, overturn it, overturn it, overturn it, overturn it, overturn it,” she said.

The religious rhetoric ramped up with the effort to “Stop the Steal.” Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on Washington in mid-November for the “Million MAGA March,” where Ed Martin, a conservative politician and an executive at the Eagle Forum, flanked by signs reading “Jesus matters,” argued that the United States was “founded on Judeo-Christian values” and should not be led by “CNN … or fake news.” Martin called on God to “bless us in our work” and asked God to “strengthen us in our fight” to defend Trump because the “powers of darkness are descending.”

Around the same time, activists began planning a series of  “Jericho Marches” across the country, invoking the biblical story of Israelites besieging the city of Jericho. In Pennsylvania, demonstrators marched around the state Capitol waving Trump flags and blowing on Jewish ritual horns called shofars. Verses of the hymn “How Great Is Our God” mixed with chants about electoral fraud.

The largest “Jericho March,” on Dec. 12 in Washington, was emceed by Metaxas and included Trump-circle figures such as disgraced former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and current Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano. Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the militant group Oath Keepers, who now faces sedition charges for his alleged role in the Capitol attack, called for the marchers to join him in a “bloody war” if the election results weren’t overturned.

Several groups took on a religious bent as Jan. 6 approached. Members of the Proud Boys, a right-wing group known for clashes with leftist protesters, prayed near the Washington Monument in December, comparing their “sacrifice” to Jesus’ crucifixion. “God will watch over us as we become proud,” one man shouted into a bullhorn. (The next evening, Proud Boys — after being prayed over by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — tore “Black Lives Matter” signs from Washington-area churches, setting one on fire.)

Jericho Marchers were among the thousands who descended on Washington in January, some traveling on buses paid for by Mastriano. On Jan. 5, a group processed around the U.S. Capitol, holding signs emblazoned with Trump’s face while once again blowing shofars and singing “How Great Is Our God.” That night, Tennessee pastor Greg Locke —in addition to lifting up prayers for the Proud Boys — preached to a raucous crowd, describing America as “the last bastion of Christian freedom” and declaring that Trump would stay “for four more years in the White House.”

The next day on the National Mall and the Capitol steps, Christian nationalist iconography was unavoidable. Men and women waving flags that read “An Appeal to Heaven” or “Proud American Christian” surged past Capitol police as the officers tried to halt those entering the Capitol building. When people adorned in Oath Keepers attire stormed into the Capitol rotunda, they appealed to the Almighty for “letting us stand up for our country.”

In the Senate chamber, the invaders invoked Jesus’ name and bowed their heads as a self-described “shaman” associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement thanked Jesus for “allowing” them “to get rid of the communists, the globalists and the traitors within our government.”

As District of Columbia police officer Daniel Hodges, who was crushed in a door by insurrectionists that day, put it: “It was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians.”

That was certainly the case with Jenny Cudd, who was later tried and convicted for her actions at the Capitol. In a video posted to Facebook on Jan. 6, Cudd, draped in Trump-branded gear, said: “We were founded as a Christian country. And we see how far we have come from that. … We are a godly country, and we are founded on godly principles. And if we do not have our country, nothing else matters. “To me, God and country are tied — to me they’re one and the same,” said Cudd.

An Open Borders World

A world with open borders, as some strongly advocate while others insist on maintaining controlled borders, is an interesting exercise to consider given its potential consequences for nations, the planet’s 8 billion human inhabitants, climate change, and the environment.

Based on international surveys of 152 countries taken several years ago before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 15 percent of the world’s adults said that they would like to migrate permanently to another country if they could. Based on that percentage for adults plus their family members, the estimated number of people who want to migrate in 2022 is likely to be no less than 1.5 billion.

Seven destination countries attract half of those wanting to migrate to another country. The top destination country at 21 percent of those wanting to migrate is the United States. Substantially lower, Canada and Germany are next at 6 percent, followed by France and Australia at 5 percent, the United Kingdom at 4 percent, and Saudi Arabia at 3 percent

The figure of 1.5 billion wanting to migrate is more than 5 times the estimated number of immigrants in the world in 2020, or about 281 million. The figure of potential immigrants is also approximately 500 times the annual flow of immigrants globally.

The two regions with the highest proportions wanting to migrate to another country if they had the chance are sub-Saharan Africa at 33 percent and Latin America and the Caribbean at 27 percent. In addition, in 13 countries at least half of their populations would like to migrate to another country.

The top three countries with the proportion of their adult populations wanting to migrate are Sierra Leone at 71 percent, Liberia at 66 percent, and Haiti at 63 percent. They are followed by Albania at 60 percent, El Salvador at 52 percent, the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 50 percent.

Seven destination countries attract half of those wanting to migrate to another country. The top destination country at 21 percent of those wanting to migrate is the United States. Substantially lower, Canada and Germany are next at 6 percent, followed by France and Australia at 5 percent, the United Kingdom at 4 percent, and Saudi Arabia at 3 percent.

Among those seven destination countries, the numbers wanting to migrate are greater than the current populations of five of them. For example, the number of people wanting to migrate to Canada is 90 million versus its current population of 38 million. Similarly, the number wanting to migrate to Germany is 94 million versus its current population of 84 million. In the remaining two countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, the numbers wanting to migrate are nearly the same size as their current populations.

Source: United Nations and Gallup.

In addition to its impact on the size of populations, open borders would alter the ethnic, religious, and linguistic composition of populations, leading to increased cultural diversity. Past and present international migration flows have demonstrated alterations in the cultural composition of populations.

In the United States, for example, since 1965 when the Immigration and National Act on country of origin was passed, the proportion Hispanic increased nearly five-fold, from 4 percent to 19 percent in 2020, and the proportion non-Hispanic white declined from 84 percent to 58 percent. Similarly in Germany, the proportion Muslim since 1965 has increased five-fold, from less than 1 percent to 5 percent of the population in 2020.

Various reasons have been offered both in support and in opposition to an open borders world. For example, those opposed believe open borders would increase security threats, damage domestic economies, benefit big business and elites, increase societal costs, encourage brain drain, facilitate illegal trade, reduce labor wages, undermine cultural integrity, and create integration problems (Table 1).

Source: Author’s compilation.

In contrast, those in support believe open borders would provide a basic human right, reduce poverty, increase GDP growth, reduce border control costs, increase the labor supply, provide talented workers, promote travel, reduce time and costs of travel, raise a country’s tax base, promote cultural diversity, and contribute to global interdependence.

Open borders would certainly impact the cultural composition of populations. Even without open borders, the current changes in the cultural composition of populations being brought about by international migration have not only raised public concerns but have also contributed to the growing influence of nativist and far-right political parties.

The nativist parties are typically opposed to immigration, seeing it as a threat to their national cultural integrity. In contrast, those supportive of immigration welcome the arrival of people with differing backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. They view immigration it as a natural, ongoing human phenomenon that enriches societies.

Open borders would also have consequences on climate change and the environment. Large numbers of people would be migrating to countries with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions per capita. For example, while the world average of tons of CO2 equivalent per person is about 6, the level in the United States is about three times as large at 19.

Similarly, open borders would impact the environment. The migration to the high consumption destination countries would lead to increased biodiversity loss, pollution, and congestion.

An open borders world is not likely to happen any time soon. However, recent large-scale immigration flows, both legal and illegal, are substantially impacting government programs, domestic politics, international relations, and public opinion as well as the size and composition of the populations.

In virtually every region, governments appear to be at a loss on how best to address international migration, especially the waves of illegal migration arriving daily at international borders and the many already residing unlawfully within their countries. International conventions, agreements, and compacts concerning international migration are largely viewed as being outdated, unrealistic, and ineffective in dealing with today’s international migration issues.

The supply of men, women, and children in poor developing countries wanting to migrate greatly exceeds the demand for those migrants in wealthy developed countries by a factor of about five hundred.

The result is the Great Migration Clash, i.e., a worldwide struggle between those who “want out” of their countries and those who want others to “keep out” of their countries.

Given the enormous difference in supply and demand, the Migration Clash is unlikely to be resolved by simply asking destination countries to raise their immigration levels. To resolve the Migration Clash will require considerably improving the social, economic, political, and environmental conditions of the populations in the migrant sending countries.

Achieving those desirable development goals any time soon, however, appears as unlikely as establishing an open borders world. Therefore, countries will continue dealing the best they can with the consequences of controlled borders and the Great Migration Clash.

Joseph Chamie is a consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters.”

British PM Boris Johnson Survives Vote In Parliament, Overcoming Tory Rebellion

Boris Johnson held off a challenge by Tory rebels to remain leader of the Conservative Party, though the margin of victory leaves the British prime minister weakened and laid bare the divisions that may still sink him.

The vote was called after Johnson’s premiership has been derailed by the “Partygate” scandal, criticism over his response to a cost of living crisis and a series of local election defeats.

In a secret ballot in the UK Parliament on Monday, June 6th, 211 Tory MPs voted for Johnson while an astonishing 148 of Johnson’s own lawmakers turned against him on Monday night.  The rebellion was bigger than the one suffered by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, who was ousted as premier six months later after failing to unite the party.

Boris Johnson, whose premiership has been engulfed in scandal for months after it emerged he attended illegal parties during lockdown — and who subsequently, became the first sitting UK Prime Minister to be found guilty of breaking the law — was able to appear at legitimate gatherings outside Buckingham Palace on Saturday and Sunday, enjoying a brief respite from the constant speculation about his job security.

In response to the narrow victory in Parliament, Johnson told reporters it’s “an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on to talk “exclusively” about things that matter to the British people.  “What it means is that as a government, we can move on and focus on the stuff that really matters to people,” Johnson said.

However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Conservatives had to decide whether or not to “show some backbone or to back Boris Johnson,” and he argued that the public were “fed up with a prime minister who promises big but never delivers.” Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey said the result meant Conservative MPs are now “fully responsible for the prime minister’s behavior – they have narrowly voted to keep a lawbreaker and liar in No 10”

The SNP has said: “Tory MPs should have drawn a line under Boris Johnson’s disastrous time as prime minister but instead they’ve bottled it”, adding “the UK is now stuck in limbo with a lame duck prime minister who has lost the confidence of the public – and more than 40% of his own MPs”

The no-confidence vote itself has come as a blow to Johnson. It was triggered by 15% of Conservative MPs submitting letters of no confidence in a leader who steered the party to its biggest general election win in more than three decades in 2019.

And the pressure will mount again when a cross-party committee soon begins to probe whether he deliberately mislead Parliament over Partygate.

The PM will try to drown out that noise with a range of policy announcements – and possibly promotions for some who stayed loyal in a pre-summer reshuffle.

But the breadth of opposition to the PM – some of those who backed Brexit, some who backed Remain, some of the 2019 intake, some long-standing MPs – means that policies designed to appeal to one wing of his party might alienate others.

Under current rules, Tory MPs would not be allowed to hold another confidence vote for a year. However, it would be possible to to change the rules in order to hold another vote sooner. As per analysts, recent history suggests his time in office could come to an end before he gets a chance to fight the next election, currently scheduled for 2024.

Frequent Mass Shootings Across The U.S. Gives Elevated Hope For Gun Control Law

“Some 156 days into 2022, the country has now seen at least 246 mass shootings, according to the group’s tally. That puts the U.S. on track for one of the deadliest years on record since the archive began tracking gun deaths. The site defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are killed or injured by a gun,” wrote Ela Lee of the USA Today, summarizing the American lives lost to Gun Violence in the year 2022 alone.

Since May 14, when a racist attack at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket took the lives of 10 people, there have been at least four dozen mass shootings in the U.S., according to data from the group. That includes the attack on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

A string of shootings left at least 15 people dead and more than 60 others wounded in eight states last weekend, a spasm of gun violence that came as the nation continues mourning the lives lost in mass shootings last month in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.

In Pennsylvania, police say multiple shooters fired into a crowd late Saturday night on South Street, a famous Philadelphia drag known for its nightlife, character and vibrancy. Authorities said three people were killed by the gunfire, and at least 11 others were wounded. Police said multiple handguns were recovered at the scene, but no arrests have been made.

“Once again, we see lives lost and people injured in yet another horrendous, brazen and despicable act of gun violence,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement on Sunday. In Chattanooga, Tenn., police responded early Sunday to a shooting near a nightclub. Three people were killed and 14 others were injured, according to police chief Celeste Murphy.

Two people died from gunshot wounds, while a third person died of injuries after being hit by a vehicle, Murphy said. The police chief said multiple people are thought to have opened fire, but no arrests had been made as of Sunday afternoon. Last week, six people were wounded in a gunfire exchange in downtown Chattanooga.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, at least eight people were shot at a graduation party in what authorities in Clarendon County described as a suspected drive-by shooting. A 32-year-old woman was killed, while seven others were wounded. Six of the seven injured were age 17 or younger, authorities said.

A 14-year-old girl was killed and eight others were injured during a shooting early Saturday at a Phoenix strip mall, The Associated Press reported. Nine people were hospitalized, including the 14 year-old girl, who later died. Two women were transported with life-threatening injuries.  The next day, a shooting outside a bar in Mesa, Ariz. early Sunday morning left two people dead and two others injured, according to the AP.  Mass shootings also happened in Texas, Georgia, New York and Michigan over the weekend, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a group that tracks mass shootings.

All these murders and losses of precious lives seem to move US lawmakers to rethink the need for Gun Control Legislation. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Sunday that negotiations on gun control legislation with Republican senators in the aftermath of multiple mass shootings have so far remained on track, though it seems unlikely that the talks will result in sweeping gun reform.

“We’re not going to do anything that compromises people’s Second Amendment rights,” Murphy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re not going to do anything that compromises the ability of a law-abiding Americans to be able to buy a weapon. What we’re talking about is trying to make sure that dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals don’t have their hands on weapons.”

Murphy listed popular gun control reforms like an assault weapon ban and comprehensive background checks as measures that are not being considered. But the Connecticut senator, whose district includes Sandy Hook, suggested moving forward on any type of legislation is better than nothing and that “people in this country want us to make progress.”

Though Murphy admitted it’s possible that the gun reform negotiations could fall through, he said that Republican Party members are taking the conversation seriously, discussing a “meaningful change” on gun laws, mental health issues and school security.

“I’ve never been part of negotiations as serious as these,” Murphy said. “There are more Republicans at the table talking about changing our gun laws and investing in mental health than at any time since Sandy Hook now.”

India has stated in a statement, “It is unfortunate that vote bank politics in practiced in international relations.”

Boycott In Arab World Forces India To Sack BJP Leaders For Blasphemous Comments

In response to facing major diplomatic outrage and calls for boycott from Muslim-majority countries after top officials in the governing Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made derogatory references to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, Narendra Modi-led Hindu nationalistic government has sacked the  Party’s National Spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Sunday, June 5th.

The anger and outrage has been growing in the past week after the two BJP spokespeople, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal made speculative remarks that were seen as insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha. The remarks made by Sharma during a TV program in India and Jindal in a tweet risk damaging India’s ties with Arab nations.

Their remarks have been drawing accusations of blasphemy across some Arab nations that have left New Delhi struggling to contain the damaging fallout. At least five Arab nations have lodged official protests against India.

Modi’s party took no action against the two BJP leaders until Sunday, when a sudden chorus of diplomatic outrage began with Qatar and Kuwait summoning their Indian ambassadors to protest. The BJP suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal and issued a rare statement saying it “strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities,” a move that was welcomed by Qatar and Kuwait.

While Pakistan and Afghanistan, India’s neighbors reacted strongly Monday to the comments made by two prominent spokespeople from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, anger has poured out on social media, and calls for a boycott of Indian goods have surfaced in some Arab nations. At home, it has led to protests against Modi’s party in some parts of the country.

The controversial remarks follow increasing violence targeting India’s Muslim minority carried out by Hindu nationalists who have been emboldened by Modi’s silence about such attacks since he was first elected in 2014. Over the years, Indian Muslims have often been targeted for everything from their food and clothing style to inter-religious marriages. Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have warned that attacks could escalate.

They have also accused Modi’s governing party of looking the other way and sometimes enabling hate speech against Muslims, who comprise 14% of India’s 1.4 billion people but are still numerous enough to be the second-largest Muslim population of any nation.  Modi’s party denies the accusations, but India’s Muslims say attacks against them and their faith have increased sharply.

Anti-Muslim sentiments and attacks have risen across India under Modi. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said India was seeing “rising attacks on people and places of worship,” eliciting a response from New Delhi, which called the comments “ill-informed.”

Later, Saudi Arabia and Iran also lodged complaints with India, and the Jeddha-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation said the remarks came in a “context of intensifying hatred and abuse toward Islam in India and systematic practices against Muslims.”

India’s Foreign Ministry on Monday rejected the comments by the OIC as “unwarranted” and “narrow-minded.” On Sunday, India’s embassies in Qatar and Kuwait released a statement saying the views expressed about the Prophet Muhammad and Islam were not those of the Indian government and were made by “fringe elements.” The statement said that strong action had already been taken against those who made the derogatory remarks.

The criticism from Muslim countries, however, was severe, indicating that insulting Prophet Muhammad was a red line. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said it expected a public apology from the Indian government, and Kuwait warned that if the comments go unpunished, India would see “an increase of extremism and hatred.” The Grand Mufti of Oman described the “obscene rudeness” of Modi’s party toward Islam as a form of “war.” Riyadh said the comments were insulting and called for “respect for beliefs and religions.” And Egypt’s Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni world’s foremost institution of religious learning, described the remarks as “real terrorism (that) can plunge the entire world into severe crises and deadly wars.”

India maintains strong relations with Gulf countries, which rely on millions of migrant workers from India and elsewhere in South Asia to serve their tiny local populations and drive the machinery of daily life. India also depends on oil-rich Gulf Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, to power its energy-thirsty economy. “India accords the highest respect to all religions,” ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

Modi’s party also faced anger from some of its own supporters, but it was for a different reason. Many Hindu nationalists posted comments on social media saying the government was buckling under international pressure.

More recently, religious tensions have escalated after some Hindu groups went to a local court in northern Varanasi city to seek permission to pray at a 17th century mosque, claiming that it was built by demolishing a temple. Critics say these tensions have been further exacerbated by Indian television anchors during raucous debates.

January 6th Capitol Attack Leaders Charged With Seditious Conspiracy

The leader of the far-right Proud Boys group and four associates have been charged with seditious conspiracy related to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack that was intended to block Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election, the Justice Department said on Monday.

A federal grand jury in Washington also charged them with conspiring to prevent an officer from discharging any duties.

It’s the second group tied to the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol to face the rare and serious charge of conspiring to overthrow the government or prevent the execution of U.S. law. Eleven members of the Oath Keepers group, including leader Stewart Rhodes, were charged with seditious conspiracy earlier this year.

Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio wasn’t on the Capitol grounds during the insurrection, but prosecutors say he helped coordinate the violent effort to disrupt the electoral count that day. As the violence unfolded, Tarrio allegedly posted “Proud of my boys and my country” on social media.

Tarrio was already arrested in March for his alleged role in planning the attack. Besides Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola were charged.

All five men faced previous federal charges related to the insurrection. The latest two bring their tallies up to nine, according to the Justice Department. Pezzalo has also been charged with robbery.

They have been detained and pleaded not guilty. The five are scheduled for a hearing on June 9, the same day that the House select committee investigating the deadly riot will hold its first public hearing on what it has found so far.

The new indictment, handed down Monday by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., doesn’t appear to contain explosive new details about the riot or the planning.

But in one passage, the court filing quotes correspondence from a private messaging group for the Proud Boys on the evening of Jan. 6.  “Dude, did we just influence history?” an unnamed person texted Tarrio at 7:39 p.m.  Tarrio replied, “Let’s first see how this plays out.” The Senate returned around 8 p.m. that evening to resume the certification process.

US State Department Reports Religious Freedom Woes, Wins Across The Globe

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announcing a new global religious freedom report, said many governments are continuing to disregard the rights and the faiths of their citizens.

The 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom points out both failures and progress across the world on religious freedom, which Blinken called “a vital foreign policy priority” in remarks Thursday (June 2) in the department’s Benjamin Franklin Room.

Joined by Rashad Hussain, the new ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Blinken said signs of progress include Morocco’s launch last year of an initiative to feature Jewish history in its public school curriculum and to renovate synagogues, cemeteries and other heritage sites. He also noted Pope Francis’ journey to Iraq for the first papal visit there.

But Blinken said the 2,000-plus-page report notes numerous ways in which freedom of religion needs to be improved.

“From Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia; Jews in Europe; Baha’is in Iran; Christians in North Korea, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia; Muslims in Burma and China; Catholics in Nicaragua; and atheists and humanists around the world, no community has been immune from these abuses,” he said.

Blinken and Hussain, who was confirmed for his role in December, expressed concern about an increase in antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred in many countries, including the United States.

Each year, most recently in November, the department designates “countries of particular concern” that it determines are the most egregious violators of religious freedom. Russia joined the last list that includes Myanmar (referred to as Burma by the department), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Hussain said Russia, which began its war against Ukraine 100 days ago Friday, has “doubled down on its violations of religious freedom rather than reverse course” since the designation.

“President (Vladimir) Putin sought to justify the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine through the blatantly false pretext of de-Nazification,” he said. “The world clearly sees through this lie and is instead witnessing Russia’s brutal suppression, including suppression of religious leaders and the appalling destruction of religious sites.”

Blinken noted that when the State Department produced its first report in 1998, its religious freedom office was the only government entity focused on such monitoring. He said 35 governments and organizations now have similar offices advocating for religious freedom.

“We’ll keep working alongside other governments, multilateral organizations, civil society to do so, including next month at the United Kingdom’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” said Hussain.

‘Vote Bank Politics In International Relations’: India Hits Out At US Report On Attacks On Minorities

India’s Ministry of External Affairs has reacted sharply to the US State Department’s report alleging attacks on minorities in India, calling it “ill-informed comments” by senior US officials.

The MEA, in its statement, said: “It is unfortunate that vote bank politics is practiced in international relations.”

“We have noted the release of the US State Department 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom, and ill-informed comments by senior US officials. It is unfortunate that vote bank politics is being practiced in international relations. We would urge that assessments based on motivated inputs and biased views be avoided,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

“As a naturally pluralistic society, India values religious freedom and human rights. In our discussions with the US, we have regularly highlighted issues of concern there, including racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes and gun violence,” the official asserted via the statement.

The US State Department 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom, released by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, alleges that in India, attacks on minority communities, including killings, assaults and intimidation, continued throughout the year.

India previously rejected the US religious freedom report, saying it sees no locus standi for a foreign government to pronounce on the state of its citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.

Modi’s Multipolar Moment Has Arrived India, Now Courted By All Sides, Is The Clear Beneficiary Of Russia’s War

In every crisis, someone always benefits. In the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that someone is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. By refusing to condemn Moscow and join Western-led sanctions, Modi has managed to elevate India’s global stature. Each of the other major powers—the United States, Russia, and China—are intensely courting India to deny a strategic advantage to their adversaries. Relishing the spotlight, Modi and his Hindu-nationalist government will surely look to keep the momentum going. Their likely goal is to carve out an independent superpower role for India, hasten the transition to a multipolar international system, and ultimately cement its new status with a permanent United Nations Security Council seat for India.

None of this negates the fact that the United States has become India’s most important strategic partner. The two nations have made enormous progress in recent years. Since 2018, New Delhi and Washington have held annual summits and signed numerous groundbreaking security agreements. Both nations are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad), along with Australia and Japan.

At the Quad summit in Tokyo last month, Modi met U.S. President Joe Biden in person for the second time, complementing the two nations’ ongoing virtual discussions. New Delhi also joined Washington’s recently unveiled Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, which aims to intensify economic relations in the region short of a formal trade treaty. Throughout their blossoming partnership, India and the United States, as the world’s two largest democracies, have pledged to channel their shared values (and strategic interest in containing China) into upholding the rules-based liberal international order.

But when Russia invaded Ukraine, India decided to pursue an ultra-realist policy and protect Indian interests above all else—not least its deep dependence on Russia for military equipment. Rather than condemning one sovereign nation for invading and seeking to destroy another—an indisputable violation of the rules-based order—India demurred. At first, the Modi government’s strategy appeared destined to damage the U.S.-India partnership. In March, Biden described India’s commitment on punishing Russia as “somewhat shaky.” In early April, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh visited New Delhi and warned of potential “consequences” for countries that attempt to undermine U.S. sanctions.

By mid-April, however, the Biden administration had dramatically changed its tune. Biden and Modi met virtually during the kickoff of the so-called 2+2 dialogue in Washington. Following the meeting, it was clear that Biden had accepted Modi’s position. The U.S. readout noted the two leaders would continue their “close consultations” on Russia, with no indication that Washington was prepared to take any action against New Delhi. Additionally, India did not have to condemn Russia or make any other concessions, such as curbing or terminating its import of cheap Russian oil.

Subsequent statements from the White House clearly indicate that Washington will not be pushing New Delhi any further, probably for fear of ruining cooperation on countering China in the Indo-Pacific. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for instance, said in April that “India has to make its own decisions about how it approaches this challenge.” And in Tokyo last month, Biden said, “I am committed to make the U.S.-India partnership among the closest we have on Earth” in spite of differences regarding Russia. In their joint statement, only Biden condemned Russia; Modi did not. It was the only instance of glaring daylight between the two leaders’ positions.

Over the last few months, India has also preserved its close ties to Russia by repeatedly abstaining at the United Nations when Western countries tabled resolutions against Russia. Russia and India have a long-standing partnership that dates back to the Cold War, when New Delhi believed Washington was actively supporting archrival Pakistan. India has always appreciated Russian support, particularly in the U.N. Security Council, where the territorial status of Jammu and Kashmir has routinely come up.

India also has a long history of leveraging its partnership with Russia against its other archrival, China, with which it has ongoing border tensions. For decades, India has purchased Russian arms. According to one recent estimate, approximately 85 percent of India’s military hardware is Russian. As of last month, the Biden administration was reportedly considering $500 million in military financing to India to wean it off of Russian-made equipment. Washington has also, thus far, looked the other way on enforcing the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act for New Delhi’s purchase of Moscow’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system, suggesting India is simply too important to the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy to risk angering it with sanctions.

India has further benefited from discounted Russian oil and coal since the outbreak of war. Although Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar quipped in April that India probably imports less Russian oil in a month than Europe does in an afternoon, New Delhi’s oil imports from Russia rose sharply following Western-led sanctioning of Moscow. The same is true for coal, where India’s stocks may be running alarmingly low. India is certainly grateful to have Russian energy to fuel its development. Western criticism of these imports, coming after decades of haranguing India on fossil fuel emissions, has only irritated the world’s largest post-colonial state—one that still holds deep sensitivities when rich, majority-white nations appear to tell it to abandon its national interest in energy security and energy-fueled development.

To thank New Delhi for its unwavering support in shielding Moscow at the United Nations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited India in April. While there, he praised the rupee-ruble currency exchange system, which provides an alternative means of conducting transactions with sanctioned Russian banks. Additionally, Lavrov said, “We will be ready to supply any goods which India wants to buy.” And given Modi’s ongoing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war, Lavrov even raised the possibility of India playing a mediator role in the Russian-Ukrainian war, which would place India in a very prominent position on the world stage.

Because India’s neutral stance is so obviously at odds with U.S. policy, Beijing has also sensed a strategic opportunity to engage New Delhi—with the primary goal of prying it from Washington’s tightening embrace. In March, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was the first senior Chinese official since 2019 to visit India, where he made Beijing’s courtship explicit. “If the two countries join hands, the whole world will pay attention,” he said. In the runup to Wang’s visit, the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language mouthpiece, the Global Times, also struck an unusually conciliatory tone, writing: “China and India share common interests on many fronts. For instance, the West recently pointed the finger at India for reportedly considering buying Russian oil at a discounted price. But it is India’s legitimate right.”

Indian officials, however, were not prepared to cozy up to China in part because of the benefits they were receiving by staying neutral, most notably from the United States. After Wang’s visit, Jaishankar rhetorically asked: “Do the Americans distinguish and differentiate between India and China over [their] respective stands on Russia amid [the] Ukraine crisis? Obviously, they do.” Notwithstanding closer U.S.-Indian ties, preserving India’s strategic autonomy through a nonaligned policy remains a long-standing objective for New Delhi. In the Russia context and as great-power competition intensifies, that stance is proving especially beneficial vis-à-vis China. Furthermore, China and India have a lingering border conflict that New Delhi has argued must be resolved prior to normalizing bilateral ties. Wang did himself no favors by stopping in Pakistan first and making anti-India comments about the status of Jammu and Kashmir. Rather than agree with Beijing’s openly pro-Russian stance, New Delhi decided to move ahead on a different Chinese request: Modi’s continued participation in the BRICS forum, which joins Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Beyond the great powers, India has essentially won the argument with key countries in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, visited India in April and remarked, “Russia-India ties are historically well-known, and [New Delhi’s actions] are not going to change that.” Modi’s three-nation tour through Germany, Denmark, and France last month further demonstrated that India won’t be sidelined by its Russia policy. To the contrary, in all three nations, Modi received the red-carpet treatment. In the case of Germany, Modi remains on the guest list to join the G-7 nations later this month in the Bavarian Alps.

And in the Indo-Pacific, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, when asked about India at last month’s Quad summit, said: “Each country has its own historical developments as well as geographical situation. Even amongst like-minded countries, the positions may not agree fully. That is only natural.” Although Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has only been on the job for a few weeks, he met with Modi on the sidelines of the Quad summit and boasted that bilateral relations “have never been closer” in spite of what Albanese said were “strong views” exchanged on Russia during the Quad’s proceedings.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has undoubtedly benefited India as great powers are competing more vigorously for New Delhi’s affection, particularly the United States and China. India has also prevented its Russia policy from spoiling partnerships with key European and Indo-Pacific partners. These trends, if sustained, will contribute to India’s rise to great-power status and, in turn, shift the global system toward even greater multipolarity. What could derail New Delhi’s success is a serious escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which might finally force India to choose sides among great powers. Partners that have so far tolerated India’s aloof, realpolitik approach could become frustrated that New Delhi is refusing to carry its weight as an emerging great power. But unless or until this happens, Modi’s India is set to continue benefiting from this horrific crisis.

Derek Grossman is a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp., an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, and a former daily intelligence briefer to the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs. Twitter: @DerekJGrossman

Biden Assures “To Continue To Push’ For Gun Control

President Joe Biden told reporters on May 30th that he spent more than three and a half hours with survivors and the families of victims of last week’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.

The president spoke with reporters moments after stepping off Marine One, a day after his visit to Uvalde, where he told a crowd of demonstrators “we will” as they chanted for him to “do something” about gun violence.

The massacre in Texas was preceded less than two weeks earlier by another mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. Ten Black people were killed in a grocery store in what authorities suspect was a racially motivated attack.

Returning to Washington, Biden said the pain he witnessed in Uvalde was “palpable” and “unnecessary” and that he was — and always had been — committed to gun control efforts intended to reduce more violence.

But there was only so much he could do as a president, he said. Major changes would need to be authorized by Congress, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers are again in negotiations over a possible bill despite how divided they remain over guns.

When a reporter asked Biden outside the White House if he felt more motivated to act on legislation now, in the wake of recent shootings such as Uvalde, he said he has been “motivated all along. I’m going to continue to push and we’ll see how this works,” he said.

“I can’t outlaw a weapon. I can’t change the background checks,” he said. This is where the legislature should act, he said. For example, he said, “It makes no sense to be able to purchase something that can fire up to 300 rounds.”

He told reporters how as a senator he once spoke with trauma doctors who showed him an X-Ray of the damage a high-caliber weapon can inflict on the body — how “a .22-caliber bullet will lodge in a lung and we could probably get it out, may be able to get it and save the life, [but] a 9 mm bullet blows the lung out of the body. The idea of these high-caliber weapon, there’s simply no rational basis for it, in terms of whether this be about self-protection, hunting,” he said.

“The Constitution, the Second Amendment, was never absolute,” Biden said. “You couldn’t buy a canon when the Second Amendment was passed. You couldn’t go out and purchase a lot of weapons.”

Those killings have prompted a group of bipartisan senators — four Republicans and five Democrats — to engage in initial conversations about new gun laws. Democrats need at least some GOP support, though conservatives largely oppose legislating the issue, instead focusing on the so-called “hardening” of school security and other measures.

The group of lawmakers intended to meet via video over the recess to continue hashing out where they stand and where a possible compromise could be brokered. “We’re getting started to try to figure out if there’s a path to getting to a consensus, and we’ll see where it takes us,” Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said last week.

The White House, which took a more direct role in previous legislative priorities, has said the president will observe the process as it proceeds. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked repeatedly what the administration saw as its role in pushing for a new law.

“We really, truly leave the mechanics up to Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi,” Jean-Pierre said last week, referring to the Senate majority leader and House speaker. “We are confident that Sen. Schumer will bring this forward. And again, it is time for Congress to act. This is what the president has been calling for since the beginning of his administration.”

Biden, who based his 2020 campaign in part on his record of working across the aisle as a senator, was asked on Monday if he thought Republicans would approach the issue differently this time. He said that he hadn’t spoken to any of them, “but my guess is yes, I think they’re going to take a hard look.”

QUAD Statement By U.S., India, Japan And Australia Offers Broader Global Vision

Australia, India, Japan and the United States wrapped their second Quad Leaders’ Summit on Tuesday last week in Tokyo. The Quad countries and others in Asia made clear over the last five days that while things like maritime defense are important, real security has to heed Asian countries’ economic wants and needs.

“We reiterate our condemnation of terrorist attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks,” the statement jointly issued today by U.S. President Joe Biden, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“We, the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, convened today in person as “the Quad” for the first time. On this historic occasion we recommit to our partnership, and to a region that is a bedrock of our shared security and prosperity—a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is also inclusive and resilient.”

Somewhat unusually and likely at India’s behest the Quad joint leaders’ statement specifically condemns November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai as well as January 2, 2016, terrorist attack in Pathankot.

The Quad is an informal security alignment of four major democracies that came about in response to China’s rising strength in the Indo-Pacific region. As CNBC reported before the group’s first Leaders’ Summit last September, the Quad wants to branch into areas including tech, trade, the environment and pandemic response.

The Biden administration has tried to demonstrate that economic priorities can be addressed within the Quad, between countries one-on-one, or as part of new, multilateral arrangements — though the United States hasn’t gone as far as all of its Asian partners would like.

“The focus is now on establishing overlapping multilateral relationships that operate in meshwork,” said Jonathan Grady, founding principal of forecasting firm The Canary Group. “The players involved are often the same, however we see them participating in many different groupings from security to economic issues. There is strength in numbers.”

The joint statement added: “The occasion of the Quad summit is an opportunity to refocus ourselves and the world on the Indo-Pacific and on our vision for what we hope to achieve. Together, we recommit to promoting the free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.”

Choosing The West Over Russia Could Make New Delhi A Great Power

India’s neutrality over the war in Ukraine has exposed its vulnerability. New Delhi depends on Russia for military supplies, and so, even though Russia is blatantly violating Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty in an attempt to re-create its erstwhile empire, India has opted to stay silent. It has done so even though India, as a former colony, knows all too well what it’s like to be the victim of imperialism. It has done so even though its own territorial integrity is threatened by another authoritarian power—namely, China. India, it seems, feels caught in a vise grip by Moscow.

To some extent, New Delhi’s concerns are understandable. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been shy about cutting trade with states that condemn his invasion. But viewed more broadly, New Delhi’s approach is shortsighted and risky. It ignores the dangerous precedent that Russia’s reckless behavior is setting in other parts of the world. It provides diplomatic cover to China—Moscow’s most conspicuous international backer—to also ignore Russia’s bad behavior. And although criticizing the invasion might worsen relations with Russia, refusing to take a stand could alienate an even more powerful country: the United States.

The prospect of upsetting Washington should be particularly concerning for Indian policymakers. The United States has become one of New Delhi’s most important partners, particularly as India tries to stand up to Chinese aggression in the Himalayas. But although Washington is not happy that New Delhi has refused to condemn Russian aggression, Indian policymakers have calculated that their country is so central to U.S. efforts to counterbalance China that India will remain immune to a potential backlash. So far, they’ve been right; the United States has issued only muted criticisms of Indian neutrality. Yet Washington’s patience is not endless, and the longer Russia prosecutes its war without India changing its position, the more likely the United States will be to view India as an unreliable partner. It may not want to, but ultimately New Delhi will have to pick between Russia and the West.

Stay informed.

In-depth analysis delivered weekly. It should choose the West. The United States and its allies can offer India more—diplomatically, financially, and militarily—than can Russia. They can better help New Delhi stand up to China. In the short term, this reorientation may make procurement difficult for India’s military, but Russia’s invasion has already weakened Moscow’s ability to provide India with supplies. New Delhi, then, has little to lose by throwing its lot in with the United States and Europe, and it ought to use Russia’s invasion as an opportunity to boldly shift away from Moscow.

GO WEST

When it comes to the war, India is something of an outlier among the world’s democracies. The United States, Canada, almost all of Europe, and multiple countries in Asia and the Pacific—including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan—have condemned and sanctioned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. India, by contrast, has remained neutral.

Indeed, New Delhi has arguably even supported Moscow. Unlike most of the world, it has actively increased its economic ties to Russia since the war began. According to The New York Times, India’s crude oil purchases from Russia went from 33,000 barrels per day in 2021 to 300,000 barrels a day in March and then to 700,000 a day in April. Indian importers are purchasing Russian liquified natural gas on the so-called spot market at reduced prices. India’s buys are still far smaller than those made by European countries, but the latter states are working to drastically reduce their dependence on Moscow. India, by contrast, has handed Russia a possible lifeline. It’s no surprise, then, that Moscow has praised New Delhi for, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it, “taking this situation in the entirety of facts, not just in a one-sided way.”

For now, U.S. officials have been tolerant of India’s behavior. They understand that the country relies on Russian military hardware, and they recognize that India cannot break its dependence overnight. But there’s a difference between neutrality and support, and as Russian atrocities mount and India continues to import large amounts of Russian crude oil and gas, Washington may begin to see New Delhi as an enabler. To preserve the United States’ deepening relationship with India, U.S. policymakers will want to ensure that India is not facilitating Russia’s invasion.

They will also want New Delhi to turn to other military suppliers. If India doesn’t do so, it will become more difficult for the United States to increase its transfer of sophisticated defense technologies to New Delhi, since Washington cannot expose its high-tech equipment to Russian systems. Under the U.S. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, India could even face economic penalties for its ties to Moscow. India recently purchased an S-400 air defense system from Russia, and unless U.S. President Joe Biden decides to waive the penalties for national security reasons, Indian officials could be hit with restrictions on access to U.S. loans from U.S. financial institutions and prohibitions on bank transactions subject to U.S. jurisdictions, among other sanctions. The White House appeared to be on a path to waive the sanctions, but that was before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Now, it is no longer clear what the administration will do.

New Delhi has arguably supported Moscow.

Thankfully for Indian-U.S. relations, there are signs that India may be starting to reduce its military ties with Moscow. The country has been gradually cutting its defense imports from Russia over the last several years, and Indian media recently reported that the country has cancelled plans to upgrade its Russian Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft because the war has made it harder for Moscow to supply New Delhi with spare parts. This month, India halted negotiations with Russia to acquire ten Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters, also over concerns about Moscow’s ability to fulfill the order. But 80 percent of the country’s current military stocks still consist of Russian-origin equipment.

For India, curtailing dependence on Russian military gear is not just the right move for moral reasons. Ultimately, it will also help advance the Indian’s military modernization goals. As Russia becomes poorer and increasingly isolated, it will be less and less able to assist the Indian military (a fact that the canceled orders illustrate). That’s because Russia will have fewer high-quality weapons to sell, and it will need to focus more on replenishing its own military stocks, particularly as it loses access to critical Western technologies. New Delhi, then, should move quickly to find other countries that manufacture spares and upgrades for Russian-made equipment. And over the long term, India should focus on building up domestic military production so that it becomes less dependent on other countries for its national defense.

CARROTS WITHOUT STICKS

India has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion for reasons beyond just its military needs. Moscow has long offered diplomatic support to India, including over the issue of Kashmir, and New Delhi is reticent to antagonize a friend. But in recent years, Russia has become far less dependable. For example, Russia has recently made overtures to Pakistan, perhaps India’s biggest antagonist. Last year, Lavrov visited Islamabad, and he pledged that Moscow would boost military cooperation and construct a $2.5 billion gas pipeline between Pakistani cities—Russia’s first major economic investment in Pakistan in 50 years.

Even more alarming for New Delhi was the release of Beijing and Moscow’s historic joint manifesto. Announced on February 4, following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the 5,000-plus word document heralded an era of newly deep Chinese-Russian relations. For India, this partnership could not come at a worse time. In June 2020, Beijing and New Delhi came to blows after China spent months deliberately building up its forces at several points along the Line of Actual Control that divides the two nations. The resulting fight killed 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops—the first deaths along the disputed border since 1975.

Following the clash, New Delhi turned to Moscow for diplomatic assistance, hoping that Russia could defuse tensions and prevent an all-out conflict. Indian officials calculated that Russia had more influence and leverage with Beijing than did any other country, and that it might therefore be able to get China to step back. And Moscow did host a virtual Russia-China-India trilateral meeting of foreign ministers shortly after the fight.

Moscow has long offered support to India, and New Delhi is reticent to antagonize a friend.

But ultimately it was Washington that backed India with robust material and moral support in its time of crisis. It publicly vowed to stand with India in the country’s efforts to protect its territorial sovereignty, and it expedited the leasing of two MQ-9B surveillance drones. It gave winter military gear to Indian troops. Most important, Washington enhanced information and intelligence sharing with New Delhi. This marked a turning point in Indian-U.S. relations. Before the clash, Indian policymakers had actively debated whether India could count on the United States for support in a conflict with China. Washington’s response made it clear that the answer is yes.

In the years since, ties between the two countries have only grown stronger. The U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, released in mid-February, made clear that India plays a critical role in Washington’s efforts to compete with Beijing. The Biden administration further affirmed U.S.-Indian ties in April by hosting a 2+2 dialogue between the U.S. secretary of state, the U.S. secretary of defense, and their Indian counterparts. It added a virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the last minute, further signaling the importance of U.S.-Indian relations.

The United States’ allies have largely followed its lead. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a visit to India in April to advance negotiations on a British-Indian trade deal and to streamline licensing for British military exports. Three days later, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited New Delhi, where she and Modi agreed to establish a joint trade and technology council and to resume negotiations on an EU-Indian free trade agreement.

Washington should not pressure India to criticize Russia.

These steps have all signaled to India that it is welcome to partner with the West. But if the United States wants to move New Delhi further into its camp and away from Moscow’s, it should take additional measures. Washington could give New Delhi even more access to sensitive U.S. technologies that would enhance Indian defense capabilities. It could also provide incentives to U.S. private companies to co-develop and co-produce additional high-tech military equipment in India. It might make its military gear more affordable for India. Recent media reports indicate Washington may be getting ready to take a step in this direction by providing a $500 million Foreign Military Financing package to incentivize India to purchase U.S. weapons. (Given India’s robust defense requirements, however, this is still a small amount.)

What Washington should not do is pressure India to criticize Russia. New Delhi strongly values having an independent foreign policy, and so it would bristle at being told how to act. But U.S. officials can be clear that they will offer India more help, more quickly, if the country reduces its reliance on Russian military systems.

The United States can also help woo India by encouraging the Quad to cooperate on Ukraine in policy domains where all members can agree. During the 2+2 talks, for example, Indian and U.S. officials discussed how to deal with global fuel and food shortages stemming from the war. Biden, Modi, and the Quad’s other two leaders (the prime ministers of Australia and Japan) should also discuss these brewing crises. Talking about such issues will be productive—every member of the Quad has a strong incentive in stopping famines—while avoiding excoriations of India for its neutral position on the war. India wants to be engaged, not shamed, and so this lighter approach is Washington’s best bet for bringing India’s response to the war in Ukraine into alignment with its own.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

For India, closely embracing the West may be discomforting. New Delhi has a proud tradition of strategic autonomy, and it prefers a multipolar world in which it does not have to choose between major geopolitical blocs. Beijing knows this and has been happy to play into India’s concerns. It relishes the current situation in no small part because it views the conflict as an opportunity to woo India with promises of a multipolar world while at the same time driving a wedge between New Delhi and Washington.

But India should recognize that it would be a loser in such a system. China and Russia’s version of multipolarity would make it easier for authoritarian powers with revisionist goals to redraw borders, as China hopes to do in the Himalayas. Beijing and Moscow’s manifesto should underscore these risks. As part of the document, both states criticized the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy—which promises stronger cooperation with India.

But the best way for the country to protect itself is to not play into China’s and Russia’s hands. It is, instead, to exude strength—including by speaking out against Russian aggression, rather than being cowed by Moscow. And that means New Delhi should deepen its partnership with the United States, the country best positioned to help India achieve its great-power ambitions.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin Losing Eyesight, Has 3 Years To Live”

A Russian intelligence officer has claimed that President Vladimir Putin has been given three years to live as he has a “rapidly progressing cancer”, the Independent said in a report. The FSB (Russian Federal Security Service) officer also alleged that 69-year-old Vladimir Putin is losing is sight.

Vladimir Putin, who has been in power in Russia for over two decades, sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, sending shock waves around the world.  The report of failing health comes amid growing speculation that Putin’s health is deteriorating rapidly. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday denied speculation that President Putin was ill, saying there were no signs pointing to any ailment.

Independent further said in its report that the FSB official revealed the latest about Mr Putin’s health in a message to former Russian spy Boris Karpichkov, who lives in the UK. “We are told he is suffering from headaches and when he appears on TV he needs pieces of paper with everything written in huge letters to read what he’s going to say. They are so big each page can only hold a couple of sentences. His eyesight is seriously worsening,” according to a part of the message released by news.com.au.

Metro and Express further reported that Mr Putin’s limbs are “now also shaking uncontrollably”. Earlier this month, Express carried a report which said that Mr Putin underwent a surgery to remove fluid from his abdomen. The operation “went well and without complications”, the report further said, attributing the information to Telegram channel General SVR linked to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

However, Mr Lavrov denied the speculation around the Russian President’s health. “I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment,” Russia’s top diplomat said, answering a question from France’s broadcaster TF1.

Mr Lavrov said that Mr Putin, who will turn 70 in October, appears in public “every day”. “You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches,” the foreign minister said in comments released by the Russian foreign ministry.

Moscow’s offensive has killed thousands of people, sparked the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II and led to unprecedented Western sanctions against Russia.

Why Gun Control Efforts Have Mostly Failed In USA For 30 Years: TIMELINE

After the latest massacre in America — this time in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two adults were killed — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed his chamber would again take up legislation to address gun violence despite Republican opponents arguing the regulations are misguided.

Congress’ current divide on the issue is deeply rooted, tracing back to the mid-1990s, and has been shaped by electoral politics including the Democratic rout in the 1994 midterms that saw them lose the House for the first time in 40 years.

While Democratic lawmakers have at various times urged more federal gun reforms — mostly focused on assault-style or military-grade weapons and munitions and expanding the screening process for who can and cannot have a gun — Republicans say the focus should be elsewhere, on increasing public security and awareness of mental health and social issues.

Still the shootings continue, with new rounds of legislation often proposed in the wake of the worst killings: in Uvalde and in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school a decade earlier; and at Columbine High School 13 years before that, among other examples.

The prospect of a new federal law appears at the least very uncertain, given the partisan split. But legislators on both sides of the aisle are again talking, led by Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy. Areas of focus and possible agreement include expanding background checks on gun sales — which has been voted down in Congress multiple times — and so-called “red” and “yellow flag” laws that would prevent someone from possessing a firearm if they have certain histories of concerning behavior.

Here is a look back at notable pieces of federal gun legislation that either passed or were defeated in Congress. The timeline reflects in part how the politics around guns, and the coalitions of politicians focusing on it, have shifted over time — from anxieties about crime in the ’90s that drew bipartisan backing to major support for gun manufacturers in the early 2000s to outcry about reducing school killings, and beyond.

2021: The House Democratic majority passes two lightly bipartisan measures expanding background checks, despite Republicans reiterating objections on Second Amendment grounds. One bill increases the window for review on a sale from three to 10 business days; the other bill essentially requires background checks on all transactions by barring the sale or transfer of firearms by non-federally licensed entities (closing so-called private loopholes). House Democrats vote to approve the first bill along with two Republicans (and two Democrats voting no). All Democrats except for one along with eight Republicans vote yes on the second bill, which previously passed the House in 2019, also under Democratic control.

2018: Congress passes and President Donald Trump signs into law an incremental boost to the federal background check system for potential gun owners. (The legislation is included as part of a necessary government spending package approved by wide bipartisan margins.)

2017: Trump signs into law a congressional reversal of an Obama-era rule which would have added an estimated 75,000 people to the federal background check system who were receiving Social Security mental disability benefits through a representative. Republican majorities in the House and Senate are joined by a few Democrats — four in the Senate and and six in the House — in blocking the impending regulation, which is opposed by both civil liberties and gun rights advocates.

2017: The House Republican majority is joined by six Democrats — with 14 Republicans opposing, arguing federal overreach — in backing a measure expanding concealed carry permits across the country via a reciprocity law requiring states to honor permits issued elsewhere. The bill dies in the Senate.

2013-2016: Partially prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Pulse nightclub killings, Congress takes up and then votes down various measures to expand background checks for sales online and at gun shows and to block people on no-fly and terrorism watch lists from being able to buy firearms. In one representative set of votes, in 2016, Democratic and Republican senators (with Republicans in the majority) each advance two proposals that are blocked along party lines. While some of those measures garner a majority, none get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster as a potential winning compromise is frayed by differences over tactics and approach. Still, Susan Collins, R-Maine, reiterates hope — somewhere down the line — citing “tremendous interest from both sides of the aisle.”

2013: A bipartisan group in the Senate fails to approve their own expansion of concealed carry permits across the country, similar to what the House later takes up in 2017 and earlier tries to pass in 2011. Republicans, then in the minority, are joined by 12 Democrats — many of whom later say they oppose the expansion as the party and its base recommits to messaging around reducing guns and shootings.

2005: Congress’ Republican majority is joined by dozens of Democrats in passing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The legislation shields gun manufacturers from legal liability in almost all instances where their firearms are criminally used — with exceptions for defects in gun design, breach of contract and negligence. (PLCAA has since become a major target of Democratic ire, singled out by President Joe Biden, though such protections are not unheard of for other industries.)

1999: Previewing failed efforts to come, Congress votes down legislation to institute background checks and waiting periods for purchases at gun shows.

1994: In what would become the last major piece of federal gun legislation enacted by Congress, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban bars the manufacture and possession of a broad swath of semiautomatic weapons. The provision is included as part of the sweeping 1994 crime bill, shepherded by then-Sen. Biden and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Gun legislation in this era is politically intertwined with federal efforts to curb crime. While the House narrowly passes the assault ban on its own and then later, successfully, via the overall crime legislation — in the first case, with most of the Democratic majority being joined by 38 Republicans; later, along with 46 Republicans — the crime bill is approved overwhelmingly in the Senate, with only two Democrats and two Republicans voting against and one Democrat, North Dakota’s Byron L. Dorgan, abstaining. The Senate approves with slimmer margins a reconciled version with the House in late 1994, with seven Republicans joining the Democratic majority. Clinton signs it shortly after. The assault ban includes some exemptions on the outlawed weapons along with a sunset date after 10 years, in what were seen as necessary concessions. Subsequent efforts to reauthorize the ban have failed.

1993: A year before the assault weapon ban, and amid sharp public concern about street-level crime, the House and Senate back the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (named for President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary James Brady, who was gravely wounded in Reagan’s attempted assassination in 1981). Commonly known as the Brady bill, it institutes background checks for federally licensed sellers and initially imposes a five-day waiting period on sales — a provision that is later sunset with the launch of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Two-thirds of House Democrats are joined by a third of House Republicans in voting yes on the legislation. Although eight Democratic senators vote no (and one abstains), 16 Senate Republicans approve its passage along with the Democratic majority. President Clinton signs it into law.

Dispute Over Mosque Becomes Religious Flashpoint In India

For nearly three centuries, Muslims and Hindus in India’s northern Varanasi city have prayed to their gods in a mosque and a temple that are separated by one wall. Many see it as an example of religious coexistence in a country where bouts of deadly communal violence are common.

That coexistence is now under threat due to a controversial court case. A local court earlier this month began hearing a petition filed by a group of Hindus that seeks access to pray inside the Gyanvapi mosque compound, arguing it was built on top of the ruins of a medieval-era temple that was razed by a Mughal emperor. The petitioners say the complex still houses Hindu idols and motifs, a claim that has been contested by the mosque’s authorities.

The legal battle is the latest instance of a growing phenomenon in which Hindu groups petition courts demanding land they claim belongs to Hindus. Critics say such cases spark fears over the status of religious places for India’s Muslims, a minority community that has come under attack in recent years by Hindu nationalists who seek to turn officially secular India into an avowedly Hindu nation.

“The idea to bombard the courts with so many petitions is to keep the Muslims in check and the communal pot simmering,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst and commentator. “It is a way to tell Muslims that their public display of faith in India is no more accepted and that the alleged humiliation heaped on them by Muslim rulers of the medieval past should be redressed now.”

The court case involving the 17th century Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, in many ways embodies India’s contemporary religious strife. The widely accepted consensus among historians is that it was built on top of a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva after it was demolished by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.

The two communities have in the past stuck to their claims but also made sure the dispute didn’t worsen. That changed last week when a local court in Varanasi ordered the mosque to be surveyed after five Hindu women filed a petition seeking permission to offer prayers there.

A video survey found a stone shaft alleged to be a symbol of Shiva inside a reservoir in the mosque used by Muslim devotees for ablution before offering prayers, according to Hari Shankar Jain, a lawyer representing the Hindu women. “The land on which the mosque is built belongs to Hindus and should be returned to us,” Jain said.

Mosque representatives have refuted the claims. Rais Ahmad Ansari, a lawyer for the mosque’s committee, said the alleged stone shaft found in the reservoir was the base of a fountain. The discovery of the alleged Hindu symbol led the local court in Varanasi to seal the premises, banning large Muslim gatherings inside. India’s Supreme Court later overturned that judgment and allowed Muslims to pray in the mosque. But it also ordered local authorities to seal off and protect the area where the stone shaft was found, dispossessing Muslims of a portion of the mosque they had used until this month.

The dispute over the mosque and survey has now been taken up by a higher court in Varanasi, with hearings set to continue Thursday. Lawyers representing the Muslim side have questioned the legal basis for the survey, arguing that it was against the law and a precedent most recently upheld by the Supreme Court in 2019.

India’s Hindu nationalists have long claimed that thousands of medieval-era mosques are built on the sites of prominent temples that were demolished by Mughal rulers. Many historians have said the numbers are exaggerated, arguing that a few dozen temples were indeed razed but largely for political reasons and not religious.

In the late 1980s, Hindu nationalist groups started campaigns to reclaim these mosques. One such campaign culminated in 1992 with the destruction of the 16th century Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya by Hindu mobs.

Hindus believe the site of the mosque was the exact birthplace of their god Ram. Its demolition sparked massive communal violence across India that left more than 2,000 people dead — mostly Muslims — and catapulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to national prominence.

A grand Hindu temple is now being constructed on the site after India’s Supreme Court handed over the disputed land to Hindus in a controversial 2019 judgement. However, the court assured Muslims that the order would not be used as a precedent or pave the way for more such contentious cases.

The court in its judgment cited the 1991 Places of Worship Act, which forbids the conversion of a place of worship and stipulates that its religious character should be maintained as “it existed” on August 15, 1947, the day India won its independence from British colonialists.
Lawyers representing the Muslim side say the Gyanvapi mosque court case goes against that very judicial commitment.

“The act was seen as sacrosanct, that it was there to not reopen old controversies. But allowing a survey is doing exactly that — you are scraping at old wounds. This is what it was meant to prohibit,” said Nizam Pasha, a lawyer representing the mosque’s committee.

The Gyanvapi mosque case also fits into a narrative of Modi’s party, which has long campaigned to reclaim what it calls India’s lost Hindu past. Many party leaders have openly suggested they would take such legal battles head on.

Critics say the party does so by providing support to Hindu nationalist groups that often contest such cases in court. Modi’s party has denied this, saying it cannot stop people from going to the courts.

Pasha, the lawyer, said the filing of such court cases was a “very carefully thought out pattern” meant to bolster Hindu nationalists.

He said the cases are brought by ordinary Hindu citizens as plaintiffs who say they are devotees of a deity asking for the right to pray at disputed sites. Once the matter goes to court, the Hindu plaintiffs then push for searches of the sites and present evidence that is used to build a media narrative and galvanize the public, he said.

“It is very difficult to convince a public then, already influenced by the media, that this is not true, that this is a fountain,” Pasha said of the Gyanvapi mosque case. Meanwhile, Hindu nationalists have begun eyeing more such mosques.

Last week, a local court accepted a petition to hear a case on the site of another mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura city, located next to a temple, that some Hindus claim is built on the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna. Similarly, another court in New Delhi heard arguments this week on restoring a temple that Hindu petitioners say existed under a mosque built at the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Qutub Minar. The court said it will deliver a verdict next month.

Many other cases are expected to take years to resolve, but critics say they will help Modi’s party as it prepares for elections in 2024. “These cases help Hindu nationalists with a groundswell of support for their divisive politics. And that’s what they need,” said Mukhopadhyay, the political analyst.

Dislodging China, US Becomes India’s Biggest Trading Partner

The US has surpassed China to become India’s top trading partner in 2021-22, according to the data of the commerce ministry. The India-US bilateral trade stood at $119.42 billion, a sharp jump from $80.51 billion in 2020-21.

India’s exports to the US grew from $51.62 billion in 2020-21 to $76.11 billion in 2021-22. Similarly, imports rose from about $29 billion to $43.31 billion over the same period.

India-China trade also grew during the period but with a lower rate, from $86.4 billion in 2020-21 to $115.42 billion in 2021-22. India’s export to China increased only marginally, from $21.18 billion to $21.25 billion in 2021-22. Imports jumped from about $65.21 billion in 2020-21 to $94.16 billion in 2021-22.

India’s trade deficit with China continued to grow, from $44 billion in 2020-21 to $72.91 billion in 2021-22.  The US is, however, one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. In 2021-22, India recorded a positive trade balance of $32.8 billion with the US.

China was India’s top trading partner from 2013-14 till 2017-18 and also in 2020-21. Before that the UAE was the country’s largest trading partner. The UAE was the third largest trading partner of India in 2021-22 with $72.9 billion of trade, followed by Saudi Arabia ($42,85 billion), Iraq ($34.33 billion) and Singapore ($30 billion).

With the ongoing geo-strategic churning that is witnessing economic and strategic realignment, Trade experts believe that the trend of increasing India-US bilateral trade will continue in the coming years. Several top global firms are reducing their overwhelming dependence on China for business. During 2021-22, India’s two-way commerce with China aggregated at $115.42 billion as compared to $86.4 billion in 2020-21, the data showed.

Exports to China marginally increased to $21.25 billion last fiscal year from $21.18 billion in 2020-21, while imports jumped to $94.16 billion from about $65.21 billion in 2020-21. Trade gap rose to $72.91 billion in 2021-22 from $44 billion in previous fiscal year. Trade experts believe that the trend of increasing bilateral trade with the US will continue in the coming years also as New Delhi and Washington are engaged in further strengthening the economic ties.

Federation of Indian Export Organisations Vice President Khalid Khan said India is emerging as a trusted trading partner and global firms are reducing their dependence only on China for their supplies and are diversifying business into other countries like India.

In 2021-22, the UAE with $72.9 billion, was the third largest trading partner of India. It was followed by Saudi Arabia ($42,85 billion), Iraq ($34.33 billion) and Singapore ($30 billion).

“In the coming years, the bilateral trade between India and the US will continue to grow. India has joined a US-led initiative to set up an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and this move would help boost economic ties further,” Khan said. America is one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. In 2021-22, India had a trade surplus of $32.8 billion with the US. —With PTI

What Do Americans Know About International Affairs?

Americans know a great deal about certain global leaders and institutions. For example, nearly eight-in-ten U.S. adults can look at a photo of Kim Jong Un and correctly identify him as the leader of North Korea, and nearly two-thirds know that Boris Johnson is the current prime minister of the United Kingdom. A slim majority also know that Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

However, as a new Pew Research Center survey shows, Americans are less familiar with other topics. Despite the U.S. government labeling the events in Xinjiang, China, as genocide, only around one-in-five Americans are aware that it is the region in China with the most Muslims per capita. And only 41% can identify the flag of the second most populous country in the world, India.

On average, Americans give more correct than incorrect answers to the 12 questions in the study. The mean number of correct answers is 6.3, while the median is 7. But the survey finds that levels of international knowledge vary based on who is answering. Americans with more education tend to score higher, for example, than those with less formal education. Men also tend to get more questions correct than women. Older Americans and those who are more interested in foreign policy also tend to perform better.

Political party groups are roughly similar in their overall levels of international knowledge, although conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats tend to score higher on the scale than do their more moderate counterparts.

International knowledge is also related to people’s general interest in foreign policy: Those who report being very or somewhat interested in the topic answer a mean of 7.4 questions correctly, compared with only 4.6 correct questions for those who are not too or not at all interested in foreign policy. Those who follow international news also tend to have higher international knowledge than those who are less engaged. Those who have visited at least one country outside of the United States also score higher on the international knowledge scale than those who have not traveled abroad, even after accounting for differences in education and income.

Part of the goal of the survey was simply to understand these factors: what Americans know about international affairs and, more specifically, how knowledge varies across demographic subgroups. But another goal of the survey was also to understand how knowledge might affect attitudes.

We find that people who know more about an issue often have different views about that issue. For example, people who are aware that Ukraine is not a member of NATO are more likely to have a favorable view of NATO and more likely to say that the U.S. benefits a great deal from its membership in the organization relative to those who do not know Ukraine is not a member nation. This same group is also more likely to have negative views of Russia, to have no confidence at all in Russian President Vladimir Putin and to describe Russia as an enemy.

Similarly, the survey also finds that those who know the capital of Afghanistan are more critical of the U.S. withdrawal and how it was handled than those who do not know the capital. Those who are aware of where the U.S. Embassy in Israel is located (following the 2018 move) are also more likely to say U.S.-Israel relations are good than those who do not know. But there are few differences between the 17% of Americans who know that Xinjiang is the region of China with the most Muslims per capita and those who do not when it comes to views of China or Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beyond the issue of how specific knowledge questions are related to attitudes about that topical area – e.g., how knowledge about NATO is related to views about NATO – we can also explore, more generally, whether people who have more international knowledge feel differently about myriad global issues than those with less international knowledge. To do this, we can use the entire 12-question scale, breaking people into groups of high (those who answered 9-12 questions correctly), medium (5-8 questions) and low knowledge (0-4 questions). Around a third of the American public falls into each of these three groups, respectively.

Generally speaking, we see that international knowledge is related to attitudes about a host of issues. People with higher levels of knowledge have more positive views of the European Union (EU), NATO and Israel. They also have more confidence in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden.

When it comes to both Russia and China, though, those with higher levels of knowledge tend to be more critical. They are more likely to see the two countries unfavorably, to describe both countries as enemies of the U.S. and to have little or no confidence in Putin and Xi. And, whereas Americans overall are equally likely to describe China and the U.S. as the world’s top economy, people with high levels of international knowledge are significantly more likely than those with less knowledge to say the U.S. is the world’s leading economic power – mirroring the gross domestic product assessments compiled by the International Monetary Fund.

These are among the key findings of a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center on the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel among 3,581 adults from March 21 to 27, 2022. The survey also finds that when it comes to the four questions that we have previously asked, Americans’ level of international knowledge is similar – or higher – than it was in the past.1 In the case of identifying the leader of North Korea or the euro currency symbol, American knowledge has not changed significantly since the questions were last asked in 2015 and 2013, respectively. But when it comes to identifying the U.S. secretary of state, more can identify Secretary Antony Blinken (51%) than could identify Secretary Rex Tillerson (44%) in June 2017.2 More Americans are also able to identify the British prime minister now (65%) than were able to do so in 2017 (56%) – though this most recent survey was conducted following a scandal that kept Johnson in the news.

International knowledge varies markedly across demographic groups

Americans with more education tend to score higher on the international knowledge scale compared with those with less education. College graduates get an average of 8.0 out of 12 international knowledge questions right, including around half (49%) who get at least nine of the 12 correct. Within this group, people who have a postgraduate degree do especially well, averaging 8.2 questions correct, including 55% who get at least nine questions right.

Scores are lower among Americans with less education. Among people who have some college experience, the average number of correct answers is 6.3. Those who have a high school diploma or less education get 5.0 questions right, on average. These large education differences are consistent with past Center surveys on science knowledge and religious knowledge.

Men tend to perform better on the international knowledge scale than women

Overall, men tend to score higher on the knowledge scale than women. On average, men answer 7.3 questions correctly out of 12, compared with an average of 5.4 correct answers for women. In fact, for each of the 12 questions individually, a higher share of men than women answer correctly. This mirrors previous findings for both scientific knowledge and religious knowledge in which men tended to score higher than women.

Multiple studies have found that men are more likely than women to guess on knowledge questions, even if they don’t know the answer. If given the option, women are often more likely than men to say they don’t know. Indeed, on each of the 12 items tested in this survey, women are more likely than men to say they are not sure of the correct answer. On only four questions are women more likely to give an incorrect answer.

While men are more likely than women to answer each item correctly, this gap is larger on some questions than others. The largest gap between men and women is identifying the predecessor of the USMCA trade agreement. Nearly three-in-four men correctly answer NAFTA, compared with 44% of women. About half (52%) of women say they are not sure which trade agreement preceded the USMCA.

Older Americans have higher levels of international knowledge than younger ones

Overall, compared with younger Americans, older Americans – those ages 65 and older – perform best on the international knowledge scale, averaging 6.7 questions correctly relative to 6.2 for those ages 50 to 64, 6.4 for those 30 to 49, and 5.8 for those under 30. Around a third of this oldest age group answers at least nine of the 12 questions correctly, placing them in the “high” knowledge category, while only around a quarter of the youngest age group falls into the same group.

Across nearly all of the 12 questions, older adults are more likely than younger adults to answer them correctly. The gap is largest when it comes to three specific questions: current location of the U.S. embassy in Israel, prime minister of the UK and secretary of state of the U.S. In all three cases, the oldest age group is more than 20 percentage points more likely to answer correctly than the youngest group. But there are also three questions where younger adults noticeably outperform their older counterparts. Two of them are questions that relate to pictures: one identifying the euro symbol and the other identifying the Indian flag. Younger adults are also more likely to correctly identify the region of China with the highest per capita Muslim population.

While younger people are somewhat more likely to say they are not sure when it comes to six of the questions, they are also more likely to give incorrect answers for seven of the 12 questions. For example, when it comes to identifying the current U.S. secretary of state, 51% of those under age 30 said they were not sure, compared with 37% of those 30 to 49 and around three-in-ten or fewer of those ages 50 and older. But this youngest age group is also more likely to be wrong: 19% chose an incorrect multiple-choice answer from the list provided, while only 10% of those ages 65 and older chose an incorrect answer.

International knowledge highest at ends of the political spectrum

Republicans and Democrats have roughly the same levels of international knowledge. On the 12-point scale, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents answer an average of 6.5 questions correctly, while Democrats and Democratic leaners get an average of 6.4 right.

There are, however, a few questions where members of one party perform markedly better than the other. More Republicans and GOP leaners know that the USMCA trade agreement replaced NAFTA and that the U.S. Embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem in 2018 – both changes made under former U.S. President Donald Trump and pillars of his international policy. Republicans are also more likely to know the capital of Afghanistan. On the other hand, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely to correctly identify the flag of India and the euro symbol.

Generally, though, there are greater differences within parties than between them. Those at the ends of the political spectrum – conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats – score more than a point higher, on average, than the more moderate groups. While these groups both tend to be more likely to follow international news and interested in foreign affairs, this difference in knowledge persists even after statistically controlling for these factors. Liberal Democrats answer all but one of the 12 questions correctly at a higher rate than conservative and moderate Democrats. The same is true for conservative Republicans relative to liberal and moderate Republicans on three-quarters of the scale items. These patterns are largely consistent with measures of scientific knowledge conducted by the Center.

International engagement tied to higher international knowledge

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Americans who are more internationally engaged on a variety of fronts are more likely to have higher international knowledge than Americans who are not as engaged. For example, Americans who say they follow international news very or somewhat closely answer an average of 7.3 questions correctly; Americans who follow international news less closely answer only 5.2 questions correctly, on average. Only when it comes to identifying the flag of India are those who follow international news closely and those who do not equally likely to answer correctly. Following international news is a significant factor in international knowledge even after controlling for education and other key demographics including age, race and gender.

Interest in foreign policy also plays a part in international knowledge. Those who say they are very or somewhat interested in foreign policy answer a mean of 7.4 questions correctly, compared with only 4.6 correct questions for those who are not too or not at all interested in foreign policy. In some cases, the difference between those who are interested in foreign policy and those who are not can be quite large. On the question of which trade agreement the USMCA replaced, 72% of those interested in foreign policy correctly answer NAFTA, while only 37% of those not interested in foreign policy are able to identify the correct answer. Once again, interest in foreign policy remains a significant factor in international knowledge even after controlling for education.3

These differences don’t just extend to hypothetical interest. Americans who have visited at least one other country outside of the U.S. answer an average of 7.1 questions correctly, compared with an average score of 4.3 correct for those who have never visited another country. And while international travel is associated with more education and higher incomes, this gap is significant even when controlling for those factors.

International knowledge and attitudes about foreign countries and leaders

Based on the individual performance of the 12 international knowledge questions, we are able to divide people into three roughly equal groups: those who answered at least nine of the 12 questions correctly (31%) are termed “high” knowledge; those who answered five to eight questions correctly (37%) or the “medium” knowledge group; and those who answered fewer than five questions correctly (32%) or the “low” knowledge group.

Performance on the international knowledge scale relates to views of other countries and multinational entities. Those who have a high score on the knowledge scale are more likely than those with a low score to hold favorable views of the EU, NATO and Israel. For example, 73% of those who answer at least nine of 12 questions correctly hold a favorable view of NATO, compared with 58% of those who answer four or fewer questions correctly. However, knowledge is not related to views of the United Nations: Those with high levels of international knowledge are as likely to feel favorable toward the UN as those with low levels of international knowledge.

Americans who score better on the international knowledge scale differ in their assessments of countries’ place in the world. High scorers are 37 percentage points more likely than those who have a low score to say China’s influence in the world in recent years has been increasing. They are also significantly more likely to say India and Germany’s influence has been growing stronger. Conversely, they are 10 points less likely than Americans who answered four or fewer questions correctly to say the United States’ influence in the world has increased.

Evaluations of world leaders similarly differ by performance on the international knowledge scale. Confidence in Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is higher among Americans who answer at least nine questions correctly, compared with those with four or fewer correct responses. The same relationship holds for views of German Chancellor Scholz, French President Macron and U.S. President Biden.

High scores on the knowledge scale relate to more critical evaluations of Russia. While a majority of Americans see Russia very unfavorably, those with a high level of knowledge are 10 points more likely than those with low knowledge to have a very negative view of the country. These unfavorable views are reflected in how Americans see Russia’s relationship with the U.S.: Americans who score highly on the international knowledge scale are more likely than those who have a low score to consider Russia an enemy. They are also more likely to say Russia’s influence in the world has been getting weaker in recent years. While 30% of those with low knowledge say Russia’s international influence is waning, 42% of those with high knowledge hold this opinion. Attitudes toward Russia’s leader show the same pattern. Majorities across all groups say they have no confidence at all in Russian President Putin, but those with higher scores are 15 points more likely than those with four or fewer correct answers to hold this view.

Views of China are also related to international knowledge. Those who have high levels of international knowledge are more likely to describe China as an enemy of the U.S., to say that current U.S.-China relations are bad and to say economic relations between the two countries are bad. And when it comes to seven potential issues in the U.S.-China relationship asked about, the low knowledge group is the least likely to call any one of them a very serious problem. The gap is particularly large when it comes to tensions between China and Taiwan, which those in the high knowledge group are 30 points more likely to describe as a very serious problem than those in the low knowledge group.

Americans, overall, are equally likely to describe China and the U.S. as the world’s leading economy, but people with high international knowledge are significantly more likely than those with lower levels of knowledge to describe the U.S. as the top economic power (55% vs. 37%). Notably, this accords with the actual size of the two country’s GDP’s, according to IMF estimates.

Volcanic Islands Of Hate Have Brought India To A Boil, Warns Catholic Union

The All India Catholic Union is deeply disturbed at the targeted hate against religious minorities which has in recent months erupted like so many volcanoes in the sea of religious harmony in India. If not checked now, it may do untold damage to national peace and damage.

Mr. Lancy D Cunha, the National President of the 103-year-old Catholic group, has called upon the Prime Minister of India and the chief ministers of the states to take urgent steps to end targeted hate and provocative steps taken by state and non-state actors seemingly acting in concert.

It has gone far beyond the polarisation through the so-called Freedom of Religion laws which have been criminalized inter religious marriages on the pretext of curbing conversions by force or by fraud. These anti-conversion Acts, the most recent of which have been in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Haryana, empowered hoodlums, vigilantes and political leaders in villages, small towns, and districts to terrorize minority communities, their clergy, and their institutions.

The Catholic Union has, with other Christian groups, already challenged in the Supreme Court the terrible laws that deny Dalit Christians the protection of Constitutional provisions as given to their counterparts professing Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist religions as well as those not practicing any religion at all.

The AICU will now once again with other religious groups and civil society movements challenge the anti-conversion laws which go against the letter and spirit of the Constitution and trigger targeted violence.

The Catholic Union in its span of over a century seen the nation face challenges such as Partition, the 1984 anti-Sikh Violence, the bloodshed in the name of caste, and the fuse of death and destruction lit by the Rath Yatra and Babri mosque demolition. The nation has always come back to the path of peace and has assured its minorities, Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised communities that their future is safe under the Constitution and culture of India.

The history of any nation is beset with great violence. Most nations, and specially ancient civilizations such as India, have emerged from those fires to become leaders of peace and development.

Nothing good can come of digging into history to relive its horrors, or to scour its wounds till they again bleed. We must learn from mistakes other nations have made, which have ruined their economies and social fabric, and brought them to the brink more than once.

The political and religious leaders must act in concert to strengthen peace and amity. They cannot look away from their responsibility. The Catholic Union is committed to work towards peace, harmony between religious and social groups, and the integrity and progress of our country.

Released to the Media by Mr. Lancy D’Cunha, National President, All India catholic Union and Official Spokesman Dr John Dayal

Please feel free to contact Dr John Dayal at [email protected]  +91-9811021072

At Indian American Impact Summit, Kamala Harris Calls On South Asians To “Continue To Lead With Conviction, Continue To Strive To Do The Impossible”

Vice President Kamala Harris praised Indian-Americans for providing leadership in the country and engaging political system at the Indian American Impact Project summit and gala held at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Indian American Impact Project hosted a first of its kind ‘Dream with Ambition’ summit and gala with a call by Vice President Kamala Harris to “continue to lead with conviction, continue to strive to do the impossible.”

The event, which began May 18, 2022, was attended by more than 300 prominent community members including celebrities, politicians, philanthropists and organizers in a first-of-its- kind event by Impact during AAPI Heritage Month, a press release from Impact said.

In her pre-recorded speech played on May 18, Harris recalled her mother’s work in cancer research and how she and her sister were taught to “Dream with Ambition,” by their mother.

“Every day, in communities across our nation, you are advancing equality, opportunity and justice. You are inspiring the next generation of leaders, and in particular — the next generation of South Asian leaders,” Harris lauded the attendees.

“Today my message to you is this — let us always remember, what brought us to this moment and continue to dream with ambition, continue to lead with conviction, continue to strive to do the impossible. Because you, and we all, are standing on the shoulders of so many who came before, and living their dreams. Our nation is counting on you, on Impact, and all of us to lead us forward,” Harris said.

Besides Harris, all four Indian American US House members Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Ami Bera as also celebrities, politicians, philanthropists and organizers attended.

The ‘Dream with Ambition’ summit was a successful educational experience for the guests as they explored the policy & advocacy and constituency subtopics of their choice, according to the release.

The event, it said, is Impact’s latest push to energize and prepare the largest growing voting bloc in the country — South Asians — to integrate into their communities with knowledge on running for office, combating misinformation, mobilizing locally and all the tools with which to lead.

“As you all know, when my mother was 19, she came to the United States from India to become a breast cancer researcher,” Harris, the first Indian American and first African American vice president recalled.

“She raised my sister and me to believe that we could be anything and do anything, if we set our minds to it. She taught us to ‘Dream with Ambition’ and so many of you gathered here today have something special in common. You see what can be unburdened by what has been.”

“Every day, in communities across our nation, you are advancing equality, opportunity and justice. You are inspiring the next generation of leaders, and in particular — the next generation of South Asian leaders,” Harris said.

“Today my message to you is this — let us always remember, what brought us to this moment and continue to dream with ambition, continue to lead with conviction, continue to strive to do the impossible.”

“Because you, and we all, are standing on the shoulders of so many who came before, and living their dreams,” Harris said. “Our nation is counting on you, on Impact, and all of us to lead us forward.”

“Historically, South Asians have been overlooked, underestimated, and underrepresented politically,” said Indian American Impact executive-director Neil Makhija.

“But after witnessing so many community members and future leaders come together this week, it is clear that is a thing of the past,” he said. “At Impact, it is crucial for us to empower young South Asians to mobilize their friends and families to get involved in the political process.”

“As the fastest growing voting bloc in the country, we have strength in numbers and the future of the Democratic party needs to be reflective of the communities they serve.”

“The significance of this event was made possible by our extensive panel of guest speakers and attendees,” Makhija said. “Countless voices this week proved that our community is stronger when we collaborate and celebrate our intersectionality. It’s incredibly encouraging to imagine the possibilities for our collective futures.”

Policy sessions during the Summit including the Climate Crisis, Healthcare Access and Equity, Civil Rights and Voting Rights, and Educational Equity.

After lunch, sessions on women leaders, running for office, combating misinformation, youth leaders mobilizing the pan-South Asian community,

Organizers said in a press release that the event is Impact’s latest push to energize and prepare the largest growing voting bloc in the country — South Asians—and to raise awareness on how to join the political system.

Neil Makhija, executive director of Indian-American Impact contended that historically, South Asians had been overlooked, underestimated, and underrepresented politically, “But after witnessing so many community members and future leaders come together this week, it is clear that is a thing of the past.”

The Summit, he noted was significant because of the high profile lineup of speakers and attendees.

“Countless voices this week proved that our community is stronger when we collaborate and celebrate our intersectionality. It’s incredibly encouraging to imagine the possibilities for our collective futures,” Makhija said.

“Thank you to the Indian American Impact Project for inviting me to take part in their panel discussion on the importance of representation and public service, as well as the pressing issues that our country faces today,” Rep. Krishnamoorthi tweeted May 18.

Hindupact To Host Panel Discussion On Diaspora Geopolitics

HinduPACT Executive Director Utsav Chakrabarti and CHINGARI Director Rakhi Israni will speak on a panel at the Gold Institute for International Strategy (GIIS) on May 25 titled, “How the Indian American Diaspora is Affected by Issues on the Indian Subcontinent.”

“As the United States and the Indo-Pacific region become increasingly interconnected, the Indian American community will become an important player in the exchange of soft power between the two regions. At the same time the Indian American community has to watch out for growing efforts to vilify and marginalize them using disinformation, by India’s geopolitical adversaries” said HinduPACT Executive Director Utsav Chakrabarti. “Mutual respect” and “greater interdependability” are going to be the watchwords in this growing relationship.

Issues affecting Indians on the subcontinent also impact the immigrant diaspora communities in the United States. More than 5 million Indian Americans now deal with the impact of geopolitical issues from the Indo-Pacific and South Asian regions in their everyday lives, on campuses, and in the public square.

“As Indian Americans are increasingly being viewed and handled in America as an extension of the Indian subcontinent, it becomes increasingly important to talk about the other side of that same region: Pakistan,” said CHINGARI Director Rakhi Israni. “Until 1947, the people of both India and Pakistan were one people: sharing similar languages, food, and overall customs. The daily atrocities faced by Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs in Pakistan after partition should naturally affect all people from that region. The gross and severe injustices being committed against one part of a cultural people must be a part of any discussion about the region as a whole.”

“As a daughter of immigrants, I understand all too well how issues in the homeland affect and impact the diaspora community,” said Adelle Nazarian, Media Fellow at the Gold Institute for International Strategies. “I look forward to discussing this important topic so that we may find ways to improve the situation for immigrants here in the United States and to foster a healthier environment for all.”

This panel discussion dives into some of those issues and how the Indian American community deals with them.

Abortion Ruling Leak Did Little To Change Americans’ Voting Intentions

When the leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization hit the press, suggesting the court is likely to overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent guaranteeing women the right to abortions, much of the conversation focused on how such a ruling would give Democrats a boost in the 2022 congressional elections.

However, despite intense political discourse in the media, the leak does not appear to have changed the minds of voters about the importance of the abortion issue. The finding is part of a forthcoming study conducted by marketing researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The research also highlights how Democrats might better frame the abortion issue to attract new supporters and motivate their base ahead of elections.

Anticipating a controversial summer ruling in the Dobbs case, Raphael Thomadsen and Song Yao at WashU’s Olin Business School and Robert Zeithammer at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, surveyed 350 potential voters — prior to the May 2 leak — about their support for hypothetical candidates based on salient issues including taxes, illegal immigration, climate change, health insurance, poverty and abortion. According to the authors, an advantage of this conjoint style of polling is that it reveals not only which candidate the respondent supports, but also how strongly the respondent feels about each issue.

Shortly after the leak, the team surveyed potential voters again — 300 in all — to see how the news had affected candidate preference. Even before the leak, abortion was an important issue to most voters. The polls showed that abortion had, on average, a 30% weight in respondents’ candidate preference.

Much to their surprise, though, the authors discovered the leak did not significantly increase the weight voters place on abortion in comparison with other issues the poll considered. For Democrats, that number remained steady at 32% following the leak. For Republicans, that number dipped modestly from 29% to 27% following the leak.

“While the average importance of abortion to voters was incredibly consistent, there is some evidence that abortion became slightly less important of an issue to Republicans after the leak, although the shift is still fairly small,” said Yao, associate professor of marketing at Olin Business School.

“Further, we see that abortion became a more important issue for voters who voted for someone other than Biden or Trump,” Yao said. “However, that group represents just under 2% of the voting population, so even if the Democrats captured these individuals’ votes, it would be hard to see the impact of this shift in the balance of power that would emerge this fall.”

According to Thomadsen, professor of marketing at Olin Business School, there are two issues with the way that Democrats are trying to frame the abortion debate to gain an electoral advantage.

“First, we see the Democrats trying to brand the Republicans as being anti-choice. However, this preference is already baked into the support that Democrats and Republicans are currently getting,” Thomadsen said.

“What would really change the abortion debate, however, is that Americans, as a whole, are strongly against abortion prohibitions in the case of rape, incest or to save the health of a mother. Even many Republicans would prefer abortion being legal for a short amount of time — we tested 12 weeks — to having no exceptions made to the law.”

The team’s most recent simulations suggest that if Democrats can paint the Republican-enacted laws as not allowing for these exceptions, they could increase their net electoral advantage by up to 6%.

“This 6% would reflect a small increase in Democratic votes, but a sizable shift in Republicans who would decide not to vote,” Thomadsen said.

‘Even many Republicans would prefer abortion being legal for a short amount of time — we tested 12 weeks — to having no exceptions made to the law.’

Democrats also need to include men in their abortion messaging, Thomadsen said.

“Abortion is framed as an issue for women. However, we find that men are nearly as passionate — and pro-choice — about abortion as women,” he said. “While abortion is an issue about women’s rights, it is important for Democrats to use the issue to rally both men and women, not just women.”

Finally, Thomadsen noted that Democrats also could make inroads with voters on economic issues.

“While the focus of this study was to see how Americans’ preferences shifted toward abortion, we also measured the preferences for many other policies,” he said.  

“We find that fixing health insurance by expanding Medicare to everyone who is not insured is fairly popular,” Thomadsen said. “Similarly, if the Democrats proposed cutting taxes, that would also bring a lot of support.

“This could be done in a very progressive way. For example, reducing each household’s taxes by $2,000, and providing refundable tax credits for those who owe less than a full $2,000 in taxes, is a very popular idea.” Republicans also gain from lowering taxes, Thomadsen noted, but that is baked into their status quo numbers.

Abortion Debate Divides A Deeply Divided Nation

The leaked news about the reported Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide,  based on the Constitution that protects a pregnant woman’s right to choose abortion without excessive government restriction, has divided the nation, which has been already polarized and divided in recent times.

As per reports, a draft opinion written by conservative US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is expected to fundamentally alter reproductive rights, states’ authority and American politics, startled Supreme Court lawyers, court experts, members of Congress and journalists. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft opinion states. It was signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

If the nation is divided on one of the most important cases that has been debated in the top Court, the justices who occupy the highest court are even more divided on the case and its implications for the millions of women who are impacted by the court that has once again proved to be a political organization, based on the ideologies of the Justices rather than the true spirit of the Constitution.

As per the leaked documents, all the Republican appointed Justices on the Court, except Chief Justice John Roberts are said to be in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, and in the process denying women their right decide on their health and wellbeing. The justices voting with Alito are all Justices appointed by Republican Presidents: Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanagh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

The Democratic-appointed justices on the court, Stephen Breyer, who will retire this summer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, are working on one or more dissents, Politico reported, noting that Chief Justice John Roberts’ ultimate vote is unclear.

According to CNN sources, Roberts did not want to overturn Roe and would likely side with Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor. Instead, he is willing to uphold the Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, per the report.

Overturning Roe would strike down what many abortion rights defenders, including Supreme Court justices appointed by presidents of both political parties, have long described as settled law. It would limit access to abortions across much of the country, including parts of the South and Midwest. In at least 13 states, abortion would immediately become illegal. As Alito’s opinion notes, the ruling would allow each state to set its own laws and restrictions. One of those restrictions deals with medication abortion, accompanied by criminal penalties.

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” the Alito draft states. “Roe and [1992’s Planned Parenthood v.] Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

The draft opinion in effect states there is no constitutional right to abortion services and would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” it states, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that affirmed Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion services but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The document was labeled a “1st Draft” of the “Opinion of the Court” in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

An AP-NORC poll in December found that Democrats increasingly see protecting abortion rights as a high priority for the government. Other polling shows relatively few Americans want to see Roe overturned. In 2020, AP VoteCast found that 69% of voters in the presidential election said the Supreme Court should leave the Roe v. Wade decision as is; just 29% said the court should overturn the decision. In general, AP-NORC polling finds a majority of the public favors abortion being legal in most or all cases.

Still, when asked about abortion policy generally, Americans have nuanced attitudes on the issue, and many don’t think that abortion should be possible after the first trimester or that women should be able to obtain a legal abortion for any reason.

Alito, in the draft, said the court can’t predict how the public might react and shouldn’t try. “We cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work,” Alito wrote in the draft opinion, according to Politico.

People on both sides of the issue quickly gathered outside the Supreme Court waving signs and chanting on a balmy spring night, following the release of the Politico report.

Planned Parenthood, in a statement late Monday, said, “The leaked opinion is horrifying and unprecedented, and it confirms our worst fears.”  A majority of Americans oppose overturning the 49-year-old ruling, according to recent surveys. A CNN poll in January found that 69 percent of respondents were against doing away with Roe while 30 percent were in favor.

The leak jumpstarted the intense political reverberations that the high court’s ultimate decision was expected to have in the midterm election year. Already, politicians on both sides of the aisle were seizing on the report to fundraise and energize their supporters on either side of the hot-button issue.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a joint statement, said a majority vote to overturn Roe “would go down as an abomination,” adding that it would be “one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”

Senate Judiciary Committee member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) tweeted Monday night that the published Alito opinion pointed to a role for Congress. “It is a fundamental right for a woman to make her own health decisions. We must protect the right to choose and codify Roe v Wade into law,” she said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, also a Democrat, said people seeking abortions could head to New York. “For anyone who needs access to care, our state will welcome you with open arms. Abortion will always be safe & accessible in New York,” Hochul said in a tweet.

On the GOP side, lawmakers were incensed with the disclosure of the high court’s draft. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said that the court and the Justice Department “must get to the bottom of this leak immediately using every investigative tool necessary” (The Hill).

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a statement, “We will let the Supreme Court speak for itself and wait for the Court’s official opinion.” But local officials were praising the draft. “This puts the decision making back into the hands of the states, which is where it should have always been,” said Mississippi state Rep. Becky Currie.

A decision to overrule Roe would lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states and could have huge ramifications for this year’s elections. But it’s unclear if the draft represents the court’s final word on the matter — opinions often change in ways big and small in the drafting process. The court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.

Indian Americans Condemn Connecticut Statement On ‘Sikh Independence’

Several groups of Indian Americans have come together to condemn a statement by the Connecticut State General Assembly purporting to show support for what it called the “Declaration of Sikh Independence.”

The Indian Consulate General in New York has described it an attempt to use the name of the Assembly to “promote bigotry and hatred. We condemn the so-called citation of the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut in the USA regarding an illegal act.” It said that the Consulate and the Embassy in Washington “will take up this issue appropriately with the concerned US lawmakers”.

The Consulate said that the adoption of the General Assembly’s statement “is an attempt by some mischievous elements to use the name of the Assembly for their nefarious purposes. These vested interests seek to divide communities and promote bigotry and hatred”.

“Their agenda of violence has no place in democratic societies like the USA and India.”

Thomas Abraham, the Chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin said that the group’s Connecticut chapter will meet the legislators behind the statement and explain the situation. He deplored the statement calling it “terrible”. Abraham, who is based in Connecticut, said that a “fringe group got it adopted at the tail-end of the Assembly session without the knowledge of most elected officials”.

Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) – Connecticut Chapter has deplored the citation by a few members of Connecticut General Assembly congratulating declaration of Sikh Independence.  “This initiative is from a few fringe elements who have no interest in the State of Connecticut, but promoting their own personal divisive agenda,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin and Trustee of GOPIO-CT.

“Indian American community in Connecticut consists of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsees. All these communities live together as one Indian community and Connecticut state has no business to comment on issues pertaining to local issues in India or supporting fringe elements to promote their divisive agenda,” Dr. Abraham added. “There are 20 million Sikhs living peacefully with all other communities all over India and this citation goes against the integrity of India,” said Ashok Nichani, President of GOPIO-CT

The statement by the CT Assembly attributed to the Democratic Party-controlled State General Assembly comprising both the House of Representatives and the Senate was read out at a ceremony in front of the Norwich City Hall on April 29, according to a video by TV84, a New York Punjabi online media.

“Connecticut General Assembly offers its sincerest congratulations to the World Sikh Parliament in recognition of the 36th anniversary of the declaration of Sikh Independence”, said the statement purportedly signed by Senate President Pro-tem Mark Looney, Speaker Matthew Ridder and Secretary of State Denise Merril, according to the video.

“We join with you and your friends and family in commemorating the historic resolution passed on April 29th 1986 by the collective Sikh nation,” it added. The World Sikh Parliament is a Khalistani organization.

The Day newspaper in New London said that Democrat Swaranjit Singh, who is a Norwich Alderman (the equivalent of council member), participated in the observances in Norwich. The newspaper said that World Sikh Parliament leaders hoisted what it called a “Punjab flag” in front of the City Hall.

As of May 1, the General Assembly statement could not be found in its online records or on the websites of legislators who could have sponsored it. Nor were there any US media reports about the statement.

Sikh issues have come up in the past in Connecticut. Its legislature passed a resolution in 2018 declaring November 1 as “Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day” for those killed in the 1984 Indian government action against Sikh separatists in the Golden Temple.

The public library in Norwich put up a “1984 Sikh Genocide Memorial” that featured a large portrait of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Khalistan separatist leader in 2019.

But the display donated by Swaranjit Singh was removed within weeks after the Indian consulate protested. Last month, a Sikh issue also made it to the US House of Representatives in Washington.

On April 18, Massachusetts Democrat member of the House Richard Neal made a statement wishing the World Sikh Parliament for Baisakhi and declared: “Despite their beliefs of good-will, Sikhs have been subjected to violence and have fought relentlessly to defend their faith, most notably in 1984 with Sikh genocide during the anti-Sikh riots in India”.

The statement is in the Congressional Record and it is not clear if he actually made it on the House floor or if it was added to the record as many such statements are because of the tight schedule of Congress.

India’s Covid-19 Death Tally Estimated To Over 4.74 Million; WHO

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report on excess COVID-19 mortality has estimated 4.74 million deaths for India in 2020 and 2021, nearly 10 times higher than the country’s official coronavirus toll of 4.84 lakh during the two years.

India, according to the report, had the highest excess COVID-19 deaths, followed by Russia and Indonesia. Globally, the world health body has estimated that almost three times more people have died of COVID-19 than the official data.

As per the UN body, there were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by end-2021. The official count of deaths directly attributable to COVID-19 and reported to WHO in that period — from January 2020 to the end of December 2021 — is slightly more than 5.4 million. This means that the estimated toll is 9.5 million higher than the recorded fatalities.

Health ministers of several Indian states, cutting across party lines, appear to be united in questioning the veracity of the World Health Organization (WHO) report on Covid-19 fatalities worldwide, with India’s fatality count pegged at 4.74 million between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 — labelling it “fabricated” and “devoid of facts”.

But why is the death tally doubtful?

The WHO report isn’t the first to question the death tally due to Covid-19 in India. Earlier too, several reports have come out with estimates of India’s Covid-19 death toll that has been at wide variance with the official figures. According to a University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, India’s fatality count due to the pandemic between March 2020 and early May 2021 stood at 6.54 lakh. A New York Times analysis, based on sero surveys, put the figure at closer to 4.2 million, up to May 24 last year while another study by The Lancet pegged the number at 4.07 million, between January 2020 and December 2021.

The gaps: 8% of all deaths in India are never registered, according to government data with just 20% of deaths being medically certified. In certain states like Bihar, Nagaland and Manipur, the registration of deaths with the civil registration system (CRS) is less than 50%. In fact, just one state — Goa — has a 100% record in registering all its deaths with the CRS. The Centre and the states, while dismissing WHO’s report, cited the death registration figures from the CRS to buttress their claims that India’s official Covid-19 fatality count is up to date.

Counting methodology: In the initial days of the pandemic, in 2020, only those people who tested positive for Covid-19 and later succumbed to it were counted as pandemic casualties. All those who may have died without being tested, whether at home or in a hospital — testing facilities were limited leading to delays in getting test reports — but who may have shown clear symptoms of the disease, as also those who had underlying health conditions such as diabetes or weakened immune systems due to cancer treatments were not counted as Covid-19 fatalities.

Revised guidelines following a direction by the Supreme Court, to both the Centre and the states to be more liberal in recording Covid-19 deaths coupled with the apex court’s order for paying Rs 50,000 as compensation for Covid-19 deaths led to a surge in claims being filed, which were higher than the official death count in several states, such as Gujarat. Some states, such as Kerala, have in fact regularly carried out ‘reconciliation’ exercises to update their official fatality figures.

Biden’s Approval Ratings Rise, GOP Preferred On Economy, Poll Finds

Republicans lose ground when it comes to which party voters see themselves casting ballots for in November and the parties are now at rough parity. President Biden’s standing with Americans has improved slightly over the past two months, but he remains in negative territory in most assessments of his performance in office and Republicans hold substantial advantages over Democrats on key economic indicators that are shaping the midterm election year, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The new survey, while better for the president and his party than his low point two months ago, nonetheless underscores the head winds Democratic candidates are facing ahead of the November balloting. With a 42 percent approval rating overall, Biden gets low marks on his handling of the economy and inflation and Republicans are significantly more trusted than Democrats on both measures.

More than 9 in 10 Americans say they are concerned, at minimum, about the rate of inflation, which has been at a 40-year high in recent months. That includes 44 percent who categorize themselves as “upset.” Republicans are far more likely to call themselves upset over inflation than either independents or Democrats.

At the same time, half of all Americans (50 percent) say good-paying jobs are easy to find in their communities, findings that reflect the unemployment rate standing near a half-century low and, anecdotally, the many “hiring” signs in business windows across the country. A lesser 43 percent say those jobs are hard to find. Republicans, who generally rate the economy more negatively than Democrats, are, perhaps surprisingly, more likely to say good-paying jobs are easy to find.

In a positive indicator for Biden and his party, the Post-ABC poll also shows Democrats moving to rough parity with Republicans on intentions to vote in House races in November, often seen as a key indicator of the size of the potential shifts in the balance of power. Republicans need a net gain of five seats to capture control of the House from the Democrats, which would allow them to block Biden’s agenda for the last half of his term.

Today, 46 percent of registered voters say they would vote for the Democrat in their congressional district, compared with 45 percent who say they would vote for the Republican. Based on historical patterns, Democrats would likely need a bigger advantage to avoid losing their majority.

Yet last fall, Republicans held a 10-point edge and in February led by seven points on this question, known as the generic ballot. Nearly all of the change since February is the result of a shift toward the Democrats among self-identified independents, a group that can be volatile in public opinion polls.

Democrats have a 12-point margin among voters ages 18 to 39; in February, those voters were split about evenly between the two parties. Democrats have an advantage with these younger voters even though they disapprove of Biden’s performance by a 13-point margin, 52 percent to 39 percent.

The same pattern appears among independent registered voters. This group disapproves of Biden by a 21-point margin but splits 42-42 on the congressional vote.

Despite the vanishing gap between the two sides on which party people say they will support in November, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents continue to say they are more certain to vote in November than Democrats, by a margin of 10 percentage points in the latest poll.

Biden’s overall approval rating among voting-age adults is five points higher than in February, when 37 percent of Americans said they approved of his job performance. His disapproval rate is now at 52 percent, slightly lower than February’s 55 percent, but that shift is within the margin of error. He has ticked up among men and women and shown improvement among independents and slight improvement among Democrats — but has made no gains among Republicans.

Still, there is a significant difference in the passions people bring to their assessments of the president. Overall, 42 percent say they strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 21 percent say they strongly approve.

Biden gets higher marks for his handling of the war in Ukraine than two months ago — up from 33 percent approval in February to 42 percent in the latest survey. But 47 percent disapprove, identical to February. The improvement is due primarily to a drop in the percentage of people who had no opinion two months ago.

An even bigger change comes in assessments of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, 51 percent approve of his performance in this area, compared with 44 percent in February. Overall there has been a shift of 14 points in two months, taking Biden from negative to positive territory on the coronavirus, and the approval level is now similar to where he stood last September.

On the economy, however, there has been no real change, as 38 percent say they approve of Biden’s handling compared with 37 percent two months ago. His ratings on job creation are better but still net negative overall, with 41 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving.

Biden’s worst ratings come on the dominant issue of inflation, with 68 percent saying they disapprove compared with 28 percent who give him positive marks. The president is notably weak on this issue among independents, who could hold the key to the outcome in many contested House and Senate races in November. Just over 1 in 5 independents, 22 percent, say they approve of how Biden has been dealing with rising prices.

Each political party enjoys advantages in how the public sees their ability to deal with different issues and problems, but Republicans hold the edge on some of the issues that are driving the election.

On the economy, 50 percent of Americans say they trust the Republican Party to do a better job, compared with 36 percent who say they trust the Democratic Party more. On inflation, 50 percent say they trust the GOP more compared with 31 percent who say that of the Democrats. Republicans hold a 12-point advantage (47 percent to 35 percent) on the issue of crime, which many GOP candidates are stressing in their campaigns.

On immigration, the public is closely divided, with 43 percent saying they trust Republicans and 40 percent saying they trust Democrats. Republicans and Democrats are deeply polarized on this issue while independents are evenly split, with 39 percent saying they trust Democrats and 39 percent siding with the GOP.

Education issues came to the forefront of political debate over the past year and played a role in the victory of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) last November. Democrats were put on the defensive over a variety of aspects of education, from the teaching of the history of racism to the role of parents in school curriculums to school closings and mask mandates due to the pandemic.

Democrats long have held an advantage on the issue of education, but that eroded in Post-ABC surveys after last November’s elections and in February, with Democrats holding just a three-point advantage in both cases. The new poll finds Democrats with an eight-point advantage (47 percent to 39 percent). While an improvement, the margin is still significantly smaller than the average advantage Democrats had in polls dating back to 1990.

The biggest Democratic advantages are on the issue of equal treatment of racial and ethnic groups (52 percent to 31 percent over Republicans) and on equal treatment of groups regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity (55 percent to 26 percent).

The latter have become political flash points, with Republican governors and Republican-led legislatures moving to restrict discussion of gender issues to schoolchildren and taking action to bar transgender students from participating in school sports.

With the Supreme Court nearing a decision on Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law, Americans say they trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the issue, by 47 percent to 37 percent.

Democrats regained a slight advantage in party identification after losing ground over the past year. The current poll finds 48 percent identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic, which is identical to last April but up from a low of 43 percent in February. Meanwhile, 43 percent identify as Republicans or Republican leaners, ticking down slightly from 46 percent in February but still above the 40 percent mark of one year ago.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 24-28 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults, reached on cellphones and landlines. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for overall results and among the sample of 907 registered voters.

Jaishankar’s Tough Talk On India’s Foreign Policy Priorities

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has had geopolitical, military, and economic consequences for every nation on earth. The economic consequences is impacting every market and causing disruptions that will take time to recover. More than anything else, the invasion is causing a massive humanitarian crisis. Over two months into the war, with no end to the war in sight, the impact of the war has been felt in every corner of the earth.

As in any war, uncertainty of the outcome of this violent conflict is high. The escalation of conflict has triggered an immediate and steep rise in humanitarian needs as essential supplies and services are disrupted and civilians flee the fighting. The UN estimates that 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection, while more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees may need protection and assistance in neighboring countries in the coming months.

“I am here to focus on ways on how the UN can expand support for the people of Ukraine, saving lives, reduce suffering and help find the path of peace. I want the Ukrainian people to know that the world sees you, hears you, and is in awe of your resilience and resolve, UN Secretary-General António Guterres in remarks at a press encounter with the President of Ukraine in Kyiv, said on April 28th.

Countries across the globe have reacted to this situation in ways that suit their interests, based on their long standing relationship with Russia and the Western Alliance led by the United States. The message of the United Nations General Assembly is loud and clear:  End hostilities in Ukraine — now. Silence the guns — now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy — now.

President Joe Biden has condemned Russia for an “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine while promising that his country and its allies “will hold Russia accountable”.

The Group of Seven industrialised nations strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said they would bring forward severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions against Moscow.

“This crisis is a serious threat to the rules-based international order, with ramifications well beyond Europe,” the G7 leaders said in a joint statement, adding Russian President Vladimir Putin had re-introduced war to the European continent.

A majority of the nations at the United Nations were  unanimous in their condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked invasion and the implications of its war crimes on the innocent. However, India, the rising power on world stage, abstained on all the 12 United Nations resolutions condemning the invasion. Its initial statements at the UN Security Council were decidedly mild, while the Indian ambassador did not even mention Russia by name, and avoided criticizing Russia for the invasion. Another major world player, China rejected calling Russia’s moves on Ukraine an “invasion” and urged all sides to exercise restraint.

There has been mounting pressure on India to condemn Russia. The Western nations have implied that there could be consequences for India’s ambivalence. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden warned, “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.” During a virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early April, Biden pressed India to align itself with the Western nations in condemning Russia. Despite leaders from several Western during their recent visits to New Delhi expressing understanding for the Indian position, India has not heeded to the wishes of the West.

India has been focused on seeking to establish itself as a major player on the world stage, trying to be a moderate voice on international affairs, responding to the new realities of the world, establishing friendship with the US, sometimes in its own terms, less reliant on Russia and diversifying its dependence for military needs and trade with multiple nations.

India’s career diplomat turned politician, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has been talking tough on India’s position on Russia-Ukraine conflict. While responding to questions from world leaders on the crisis Jaishankar pointed to challenges in Asia and India’s neighborhood — in Afghanistan, and from China — and said it was a “wake-up call” for Europe to look at these instances where “problems have been happening”.

For instance, in response to Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi last week, Jaishankar said, “You talked about Ukraine. I remember less than a year ago what happened in Afghanistan, where the entire civil society was thrown under the bus by the world. We in Asia face our own sets of challenges, which often has an impact on the rules-based order.”

“For India, the past week, without a doubt, belonged to external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. It is hard to recall another foreign affairs minister who articulated India’s views so firmly and well in international for a,” Sandipan Deb  wrote in the popular magazine, The Mint.

“In recent weeks, Jaishankar has been sharp in his comments on Europe. In Washington DC, he said India’s total purchase of Russian energy for the month was “less than what Europe does in an afternoon”. Days earlier, speaking on the issue of sanctions as British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss listened, he said “it looks like a campaign,” Deb pointed out.

According to Jaishankar, India is prepared to take a much bigger role in global affairs and would help the world with more supplies of wheat to tame food inflation if WTO rules allow. He asserted the West has been oblivious to the pressing challenges facing Asia including last year’s events in Afghanistan and the continuous pressure on the rules-based order in the region.

However, while refraining from condemning Russia and not offering to mediate in the conflict just as some other neutral nations have done, it has been noted by analysts on foreign policy that  India is abdicating its rising role as a model democracy and world leader.

“Despite the rhetorical care the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted to appear neutral, the time may have come for India, in its own interest, to rethink its stance,” Shashi Tharoor, an opposition member of India’s Parliament, a former Undersecretary General of the United Nations, who has served as Minister of the Government of India and Chair of the Indian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in “Foreign Affairs.”

In recent days, India, still without naming Russia has criticized what is being done in Ukraine, in an effort to uphold the principles of international law India has traditionally upheld, especially, respect for the UN Charter and the sovereignty of states, the inviolability of borders, and opposition to the use of force to resolve political issues.

While pointing to the remarks by diplomat Shivshankar Menon, who stated, “Asia’s sense of its own difference—its focus on stability, trade, and the bottom line that has served Asian countries so well in the last 40 years,” Tharoor rightly says, “But it would be wrong to look at the reluctance to take sides that India and other developing countries in Asia have shown and conclude that a faraway war in Europe simply does not matter to the rest of the world. India’s dilemma is more complicated than its repeated abstentions on the Ukraine question imply, and it illustrates why the world order cannot simply remain what it was before the invasion.”

While describing India’s growing importance on world stage, Tharoor pointed out how in recent years has gained prominence and admiration. Tharoor wrote, India became a founding member of the G-20 when that organization was established in 1999; concluded a nuclear deal with the United States in 2005 that was portrayed as enshrining an “Indian exception”; took over the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2006, dubbing itself “the world’s fastest-growing free market democracy”; won then President Barack Obama’s endorsement of India’s claims to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2010; got the UN to adopt an International Day of Yoga in 2015, showcasing its cultural soft power; and joined the quadrilateral security dialogue with the United States, Australia, and Japan known as the Quad.

With India’s recent stand in failing to condemn and isolate Russia, there are fears that India may face consequences for its ambivalence. Shortly after the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden warned, “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.”

“India’s lack of influence on Russia and failure to take a clear stand on the war have also undermined its case for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council,” Tharoor writes.

One way for India to salvage its reputation in the West would be to leverage its nonaligned position to play peacemaker on Ukraine. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba had asked “India to use all influence in its relations with Russia to force it to cease military aggression against Ukraine.”

I am reminded of what Jaishankar elaborated in what has come to be called the “Jaishankar doctrine” in his 2020 book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World. “Asserting national interests and securing strategic goals through various means is the dharma of a state,” he wrote. India must discard “political romanticism” and think in realpolitik terms. There are no true friends or allies; the world is a “transactional bazaar”, a fact that India has long been in denial of. In this marketplace, India must advance and maximize its “national interests by identifying and exploiting opportunities created by global contradictions,” he wrote.

If that principle “no true friends or allies” in the world market place, it is time for India to come out of the shadow of past dependence on Soviet Union and show the world that India stands with truth, condemn aggression, deny autocracy and tyranny, respect true freedom, human rights and true democracy, and stand with and lead by example in India and around the world, India respects and appreciates freedom and democracy in letter and spirit.

Emmanuel Macron’s Reelection In France To Make Him A Powerful Player In EU

Soon after his victory was announced, French President Emmanuel Macron took the stage to the sound of the European Union’s anthem, the “Ode to Joy.” The symbolism was strong: The 44-year-old centrist’s election to a second term bolsters his standing as a senior player in Europe.

Macron is now expected to push for strengthening the 27-nation bloc and throw all his weight behind efforts to put an end to the war in Ukraine.

In his victory speech Sunday evening, he thanked the majority of French voters who chose him and vowed to lead a project for “a stronger Europe.”

“Europe is a framework for peace and stability. It’s our safer asset for today and tomorrow,” he said at a campaign rally in Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament. “Europe is what’s protecting us from crisis and war.”

Angela Merkel’s departure in December after 16 years as Germany’s chancellor, in addition to the United Kingdom’s exit from the bloc in 2020, positioned Macron to play a dominant role in the EU, where the Franco-German relationship is key.

Boosted by his victory, Macron figures to be in the spotlight when he pays an expected visit to Berlin in the coming days to meet with new Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has had a low-profile debut on the international stage. French presidents traditionally make their first post-election trip abroad to Germany as a celebration of the countries’ friendship after multiple wars.

Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda for the encounter with Scholz, whose spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, praised Macron’s victory over far-right, nationalist rival Marine Le Pen as “a good day for Europe.” Hebestreit added: “The French people made a good choice.”

France holds the rotating presidency of the European Council until June 30. Macron is scheduled to make a speech on Europe on May 9 in Strasbourg.

At some point, he may also travel to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Macron has long advocated for the EU to take more responsibility for its own defense, something he sees as complementary to the NATO alliance, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only further strengthened that argument.

His victory “means the pursuit of an ambitious project for Europe,” said Tara Varma, who heads the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

“He will be advocating to double down on the European sovereignty agenda: on tech, on defense, on fighting economic coercion,” she said.

Varma added that an upcoming conference on the Western Balkans to be organized in June will provide “an opportunity to start rethinking the EU’s enlargement policy.”

Georgina Wright, director of the Europe Program at the Paris-based think tank Institut Montaigne, said that “Europe will obviously continue to be a key and central pillar to Macron’s mandate. I suspect he wants to go further and faster than he has in the past five years.”

However, he may encounter “tricky discussions” ahead, she said.

The introduction of a bloc-wide minimum wage, a carbon tax on imports and fiscal reform are among the main policies France wants to promote. France also wants to accelerate talks on a stalled overhaul of the EU’s asylum system.

To achieve such progress on touchy topics, Macron will need to seek international consensus among his counterparts.

“His challenge would be to get others to follow him,” Wright said. “He really needs to get Germany on board.”

But challenges loom. The leaders of Hungary and Poland, at loggerheads with Brussels over their rule of law standards, have expressed strong disagreement with Macron in the past. Tensions with Britain over the post-Brexit deal and migrants crossing the English Channel, meanwhile, are unlikely to calm down.

“Macron won’t have everything his own way,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. “Some Central and Eastern European member states will oppose French policies, the British will remain a headache and the Germans may thwart some French ideas.”

Areas of Franco-German divergence include key topics such as energy strategy. Macron is pushing to promote nuclear power as a way of becoming greener and more energy-independent, while Scholz’s government plans to shut down Germany’s last nuclear plants this year.

Germany is also expected to oppose a French proposal involving the use of shared EU debt for an investment plan aimed at coping with the impact of the war in Ukraine. The proposal is modeled on the unprecedented plan launched to get the bloc through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Macron may find a key ally in Italian Premier Mario Draghi, who has been pushing for tighter ties with Paris, including a pact signed with Macron in Rome last fall that was meant to establish Italy and France as the new motor of EU cooperation.

In congratulatory remarks following Macron’s reelection, Draghi emphasized the role of both countries, “working side by side with all of the other partners” to construct a stronger EU.

Nuclear Expert Cautions Against Unfamiliar New Nuclear Age

High-tech advances in weapons technologies and a return of ‘great power nuclear politics’, risk the world ‘sleepwalking’ into a nuclear age vastly different from the established order of the Cold War, according to new research undertaken at the University of Leicester.

Andrew Futter, Professor of International Politics at the University of Leicester, makes the warning in a research paper for the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace (HOPe), published today (Friday).

While stockpiles are much reduced from the peak of up to 70,000 nuclear weapons seen in the 1980s, progress in a number of new or ‘disruptive’ technologies threatens to fundamentally change the central pillars on which nuclear order, stability and risk reduction are based.

Modern nuclear weapons – acknowledged to be held by nine countries including the USA, Russia and UK – are more capable and more precise than their Cold War counterparts, and at the same time, are being augmented by a new suite of strategic non-nuclear weapons that might be used against or instead of nuclear weapons.

Advances in offensive capabilities have, however, been matched in increasingly sophisticated sensing, tracking and processing technologies designed to detect, prevent and in some cases respond to a nuclear strike – often using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Professor Futter said: “While we’ve seen a substantial reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held across the world, it’s important to remember that this reduction came about as much as a result of rationalisation than a genuine drive to disarm. After all, you can’t destroy a city twice, and it takes an enormous amount of money to build and maintain this technology.

“We’ve seen massive advances in the capabilities of these weapons and their support systems in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War, and there’s a danger that this means the established rulebook of nuclear doctrine could be thrown out of the window.”

However, there are potential political solutions as the world prepares to enter what Professor Futter terms a ‘Third Nuclear Age’. He continued: “Choosing the correct pathway for our nuclear future was hard enough in the past and there is no suggestion it will become any easier as we move into a new, potentially more complex and dynamic chapter in the nuclear story.

“Policy proposals to manage the challenges of the Third Nuclear Age are therefore inherently bound by whether one believes the best approach is to take our nuclear world as it is and seek to manage it through restraint, arms control, and norms; or whether it is possible to transition to a world where nuclear weapons no longer exist through sustained moral, ethical, legal and perhaps technological pressure.”

Deterrence, Disruptive Technology and Disarmament in the Third Nuclear Age’ is published by the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace.

Disruptive Technologies and Nuclear Risks: What’s New and What Matters’, in which Professor Futter further explores the themes of new nuclear capabilities and their impact, is published in the journal Survival.

The Third Nuclear Age research project is funded by the European Research Council. Find out more at thirdnuclearage.com.

A New Dawn In Indo-UK Relationship

In Persian there is an old proverb: “Amad’an, nashist’am, ghuft’am, barkhas’tam’”, meaning “they came, they sat, they talked and then dispersed”. It actually means to say that nothing substantial was achieved by the visit or the talks. The same could be said about UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent visit to India, after his two previous trips scheduled last year were cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The diplomacy nowadays, thrives on optics. On this count the BoJo visit clicked all the boxes, but was also marred by angry reactions on the social media on photos showing him in the driver’s seat at a JCB bulldozer. Perhaps his advisers were unable to connect the continuing controversy over bulldozers being used by the establishment against the minorities across India, or his close connections with the owner of the JCB, Anthony Bamford, an old Conservative Party donor and supporter, overweighed the local sensibilities.

The Gujarat leg of his visit, a carbon copy of his Home Secretary Priti Patel’s 2015 trip to the state, was in essence aimed at garnering the support of the Gujarati electorate back home, keeping an eye on his uncertain political future.

In Gujarat he also met Gautam Adani at his company’s head quarters. BoJo described the feeling of being in Ahmedabad similar to as those of Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan, two Indian icons used for boosting his own public image and trying to resonate or connect with the Indian audiences.

In New Delhi, he referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “khaas dost” and continuously as Narendra during his speech at Hyderabad House. But no more “khaas” treatment to the Indian demands of a relaxed visa regime and post study work for the Indian students, an indication towards which was given in Ahmedabad, but not granted finally.

Bilateral Cooperation

His main focus remained the FTA between the two countries, as he expected to take back home something substantial in economic terms, particularly after his failed Brexit strategy. He urged the negotiators on both sides to hasten the pace of negotiations so as to have a final document ready for signing by Diwali in October. Certainly an over ambitious demand for an agreement, which has been under negotiations for more than last ten years.

Though the Indian side stated that it would demonstrate the same speed and urgency that it did in concluding recent FTAs with the UAE and Australia in recent months, yet nothing can’t be said for sure about an Indo-UK FTA, as there are many thorny issues on both sides.

British trade with India, the world’s second-most populous country with nearly 1.3 billion people, was worth 23 billion pounds ($29.93 billion) in 2019, much lower than the UK’s trade with some much smaller economies such as Ireland and India’s trade with smaller countries like Belgium which stands at 18 billion pounds.

Russian-Ukraine War

In addition, though not expressed overtly by the British side and neither by BoJo, the Russia-Ukraine war had an ominous shadow over the visit. Though his foreign secretary was very firmly told by New Delhi just 22 days before his visit that India is not going to change stand on its ties with Russia, BoJo thought he might be able to convince New Delhi to do so.

However, predicting the Indian response he had set the tone for this when even before meeting Modi he had said that he understands India’s historic ties with Russia, but still chose to lecture New Delhi on its relationship with ‘autocratic’ states, though this time also New Delhi politely stood its ground.

The manner in which the visit was seen by both sides, was remarkable by the manner in which the two prime ministers delivered their speeches at Hyderabad House. While BoJo avoided mentioning Russia, Modi reaffirmed the ties with Russia.

India-focused issues

Though the British side is referring to a host of agreements signed in different sectors, and BoJo’s statements on counter-terrorism task force being constituted and against the Indian economic fugitives currently at home in the UK, everyone is certain that they are just mere words, nothing substantial. His announcement of One billion pounds trade deals and creating 11,000 jobs is just peanuts for India.

Both sides also agreed to deepen bilateral defence and security cooperation. India welcomed Britain’s Indo-Pacific tilt and joining the Indo-Pacific Economic Initiative; on its part Britain announced the decision to ease the transfer of defence equipment and technology for India and also for developing an advanced jet fighter. But overall, nothing concrete was inked down by both the sides and the technology transfer could be viewed as just a gimmick to wean India away from Russia.

Overall, the two sides showed commitment to joint research, development and production of advanced weapons and related technologies. The two Prime Ministers also issued a statement on strengthening partnership in cyber-security domain, and plans to boost cooperation on mitigating climate change and promoting clean energy. But these agreements should be seen as just part of a normal bureaucratic visit.

The visit seems to be a hastily stitched plan, with no long-term goals and no narrative setting, and was unable to achieve anything bilaterally. In the end BoJo was unable to get anything substantial from India and his political troubles back home persists. The coming days will show how he’ll be able to deal with them and survive as even his closest Asian origin lieutenants like Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel, who were predicted to take over from him, are facing politically damaging controversies of their own.

India Deemed A ‘Country Of Particular Concern’ Over Religious Freedom Violations

A US watchdog has for the second year running recommended that the State Department should designate India as a “country of particular concern”, a category it uses for countries whose governments engage in “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations” of religious freedoms.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended this designation for 15 countries in its annual report for 2022 released on April 25.

Ten of them were declared countries of particular concern by the State Department in 2021 — Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The rest were Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam.

The USCIRF report also recommended in the case of India that the US should impose “targeted sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ or entities’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States”.

In 2021, the report said in its key findings, “The Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies — including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda — that negatively affected Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities. The government continued to systemize its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels through the use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities”.

The report added: “In 2021, the Indian government repressed critical voices — especially religious minorities and those reporting on and advocating for them — through harassment, investigation, detention, and prosecution under laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Sedition Law.”

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US federal government agency created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. It monitors the state of religious freedom around the world and makes policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state and congress.

The USCIRF had made the same recommendation for India — to be declared a country of particular concern — in 2021 as well, but it was not accepted. The commission’s recommendations are not binding on the US government or the Congress. The State Department compiles its own international religious freedom report every year.

“We are disheartened by the deterioration of freedom of religion or belief in some countries, especially Afghanistan under the Taliban’s de facto government since August. Religious minorities have faced harassment, detention, and even death due to their faith or beliefs, and years of progress toward more equitable access to education and representation of women and girls have disappeared,” USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza said in a statement announcing the release of the 2022 report.

Trump Held In Contempt For Failing To Comply With NY AG Subpoena

A New York state judge has found former President Trump in contempt of court for not turning over documents after he was ordered to comply with a subpoena from the New York attorney general’s office.

New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to pay $10,000 a day until he’s shown that he’s complied with the document demands.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) applauded the ruling. “Today, justice prevailed,” James said in a statement. “For years, Donald Trump has tried to evade the law and stop our lawful investigation into him and his company’s financial dealings. Today’s ruling makes clear: No one is above the law.”

Engoron had rejected Trump’s challenge to the subpoena for his records and testimony in February, ordering the former president to sit for a deposition and turn over any requested records in his control. Trump appealed the part of the ruling requiring him to be deposed, but didn’t challenge the order to turn over documents.

Alina Habba, Trump’s attorney, said the former president will appeal Engoron’s contempt ruling. “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision,” Habba said in a statement. “All documents responsive to the subpoena were produced to the attorney general months ago. The only issue raised by the attorney general at today’s hearing was with an affidavit submitted which copied the form mandated by the attorney general. This does not even come close to meeting the standard on a motion for contempt and, thus, we intend to appeal.”

Earlier this month, James’s office asked Engoron to hold Trump in contempt after he blew a deadline for providing the documents and said that the former president’s attorney had even objected to the terms of the subpoena weeks after the judge found it to be valid.

Derek Chauvin asks court to overturn conviction in George Floyd killing Trump appeals NY judge’s contempt ruling

“Mr. Trump’s purported ‘Response’ violates the Court’s order; it is not full compliance, or any degree of compliance, but simply more delay and obfuscation,” James’s office wrote in its contempt motion.
Trump’s attorney Alina Habba told the court that a search for any relevant documents in Trump’s possession found that they were all under the control of his company.

“After conducting a diligent search and review, Respondent’s counsel determined that Respondent was not in possession of any documents responsive to the Subpoena and that all potentially responsive documents were in the possession, custody or control of the Trump Organization,” Habba wrote in a court filing last week.

UN Chief And Putin Agree On Key Ukraine Evacuation

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one Tuesday for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the United Nations said they agreed on arranging evacuations from a besieged steel plant in the battered city of Mariupol.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Russian leader and U.N. chief discussed “proposals for humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, namely in relation to the situation in Mariupol.”

They also agreed in principle, he said, that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel complex where Ukrainian defenders in the southeastern city are making a dogged stand.

Discussions will be held with the U.N. humanitarian office and the Russian Defense Ministry on the evacuation, Dujarric said.

Guterres criticized Russia’s military action in Ukraine as a flagrant violation of its neighbor’s territorial integrity and urged Russia to allow the evacuation of civilians trapped at the steel mill.

Putin responded by claiming that Russian troops have offered humanitarian corridors to civilians holed up at the plant. But, he said, the Ukrainian defenders of the plant were using civilians as shields and not allowing them to leave.

The sprawling Azovstal site has been almost completely destroyed by Russian attacks, but it is the last pocket of organized Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. An estimated 2,000 soldiers and 1,000 civilians are said to be holed up in fortified positions underneath the wrecked structures.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday ahead of Guterres’ visit, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba noted the failure of other foreign officials who visited Moscow to achieve results, and he urged the U.N. chief to press Russia for an evacuation of Mariupol. “This is really something that the U.N. is capable to do,” Kuleba said.

Guterres flew to Rzeszow, Poland, from Moscow late Tuesday and was met by Polish President Andrzej Duda. He is to go to Kyiv for meetings Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Kuleba, and his meeting with Putin is expected to top the agenda.

Many analysts have low expectations for Guterres’ diplomatic foray into the Ukraine war. But U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq was unusually optimistic Monday ahead of the Moscow meetings, telling reporters Guterres “thinks there is an opportunity now” and “will make the most” of his time on the ground talking to the leaders and see what can be achieved.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Guterres has accused the Russians of violating the U.N. Charter, which calls for peaceful settlement of disputes.

He also has repeatedly called for a cessation of hostilities, most recently appealing unsuccessfully last Tuesday for a four-day “humanitarian pause” leading up to the Orthodox Easter holiday on Sunday.

The U.N. crisis coordinator in Ukraine, Amin Awad, followed up Sunday by calling for an immediate halt to fighting in Mariupol to allow an estimated 100,000 trapped civilians to evacuate.

Guterres said at a news conference after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier Tuesday that safe and effective humanitarian corridors are urgently needed to evacuate civilians and deliver aid.

To deal with “the crisis within a crisis in Mariupol,” he proposed coordination between the U.N., Red Cross, and Ukrainian and Russian forces to enable the evacuation of civilians who want to leave “both inside and outside the Azovstal plant and in the city, in any direction they choose, and to deliver the humanitarian aid required.”

The U.N. chief also proposed establishing a Humanitarian Contact Group comprising Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations “to look for opportunities for the opening of safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to guarantee that they are actually effective.”

Dujarric made no mention of a broader evacuation of civilians from Mariupol or Guterres’ Humanitarian Contact Group, but getting civilians out of the steel plant would be an important step.

On Saturday, a Ukrainian military unit released a video reportedly taken two days earlier in which women and children holed up underground in the plant, some for as long as two months, said they longed to see the sun.

Treatment Of Muslims In India Has Echoes From The Holocaust, Says Genocide Expert

Washington, DC– The Indian government is gearing up for genocide of Muslims similar to the Holocaust through discriminatory policies and acts of state-sponsored violence, said Dr. Ellen Kennedy, founder and Executive Director of World Without Genocide, during a Congressional Briefing on April 26.

“I speak to you as a Jew… We must pay attention to what is happening to Muslims in India today because it is beginning to echo what happened to Europe’s Jews 80 years ago,” said Dr. Kennedy, while speaking on the decision of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to recommend India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) in its 2022 annual report for egregious violations of religious freedom for the third year in a row.

Drawing parallels between the Indian government’s policies of forced statelessness for Muslims and Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg laws, Dr. Kennedy stated that India’s growing Hindu extremist movement had “created anti-Muslim hate and official support and impunity for anti-Muslim violence.”

“In the past few months, violence against Muslims in India has escalated to the point that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ranks India second in the world in this year’s Early Warning statistical risk assessment second in the world. Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch warns that a genocide of Muslims in India is about to take place,” she said.

Professor Rohit Chopra, academic and author, drew attention to the infiltration of the Hindu supremacist ideology in all levels of the government, legacy media, and social media.

“What has happened is essentially the BJP has fused with the Indian state… This is extremely, extremely alarming because it actually not just excuses violence or turns a blind eye to it, but actually calls upon Hindus to perform violence against Muslims… as proof of being a good Indian and being a good Hindu. Lower level leaders have openly bayed for Muslim blood and nothing has happened to them,” he said.

“[Hindu nationalists] defy their Constitution… by devoting themselves to creating a Hindu nationalist state where Hindu people have more rights than anyone else. And they will do anything, including the barring of non-Hindu visitors to India… to carry out their discriminatory and violent practices,” said Rev. Peter Cook, Executive Director of the New York State Council of Churches.

“USCIRF has made this recommendation three years in a row, and things are getting worse, not better, for religious minorities in India… Congress must hold hearings on human rights in India. Through its power of the purse, Congress can condition foreign and security aid to India based on religious freedom issues,” said Ria Chakrabarty, Policy Director at Hindus for Human Rights.

“Nearly every single pillar of democracy in India seems to have crumbled under the weight of Hindu nationalism…  United States foreign policy is going to suffer immeasurably if it continues to behave in an ostrich-like manner and ignore the violations of human rights and religious freedom in India,” said Ajit Sahi, Advocacy Director at Indian American Muslim Council.

The briefing was co-hosted by Genocide Watch, World Without Genocide, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign,  21Wilberforce, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, India Civil Watch International, Center for Pluralism, American Muslim Institution, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, International Society for Peace and Justice, The Humanism Project and Association of Indian Muslims of America.

HinduPACT Demands USCIRF Stop Outsourcing its Research on India to the “Islamist Lobby”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has again recommended placing India on the “blacklist” as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC), a practice that began in 2020. HinduPACT condemns the continued outsourcing of the USCIRF report and recommendations on India, comparing it to propaganda narratives provided by Jamaat-e-Islami linked groups.”

Utsav Chakrabarti, Executive Director of HinduPACT said, “This year’s report follows a pattern of reports that have appeared in previous years. Based on publicly available information on topics like Citizen’s Amendment Act (CAA) and Kashmir, the USCIRF report is a ‘copy-and-paste’ of talking points peddled by an agglomeration of Islamist groups working with radical Islamist-linked group “Justice for All”, on whose platform USCIRF commissioners are known to appear regularly.

Ironically, the USCIRF report chose to use images of Sikh victims of Islamist terror, and Muslim Afghan women – living peacefully in India – who fled their nation at the onset of the Taliban’s takeover, protesting with signs in English and Pashto (in October 2021) to demand better rights for women in Afghanistan, on its cover page.

Ajay Shah, President of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) and Convenor of HinduPACT, sharply criticized the report and said, “It is now obvious that the USCIRF has been taken over by the Indophobic and Hinduphobic members. Many of these members have attended India and Hindu bashing events. It is no surprise that their selective observations are meant to promote a political agenda and further their electoral reach in selected communities.” He further asked: “If for example, Sikhs were discriminated against in India, why did the Afghan Sikhs fleeing the Taliban seek refuge in India taking advantage of preferential immigration that USCIRF criticizes? Why would the report ignore the violence against Hindus in West Bengal, Rajasthan, or Kerala? And why would they report on a purely internal economic issue of India such as ‘Farm Bills’?” Shah concluded, “We are confident that the State Department will reject this religious fundamentalist driven, corrupt NGO-promoted report on India.”

We hope that USCIRF will regain some of its credibility in future reports, if it refrains from becoming an instrument of propaganda promotion targeting democratically elected leaders in diverse, peaceful multi-ethnic countries around the world, HinduPact said in a statement.

“India And Indian Americans Need To Think About The Possibility Of A Reduction In Defense Supplies From Russia:” Dr. Sampat Shivangi

The world order has changed since the Ukraine war, said Dr. Sampat Shivangi, National President of Indian American Forum and a past Legislative Committee Chairman of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) after he attended a breakfast meeting last week with Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican Senator from Mississippi.

“Here is a great opportunity for India that Senator Roger Wicker who is a great friend of India can help India in providing the defense needs of the country and with better technologies than Russia, even though Russia has been a steady partner of India,” said Shivangi, after his 1:1 meeting with the Ranking Member of the Senate Arms Services Committee last week.

“In a changing world order, post-Ukraine invasion, India and Indian Americans think about the possibility of reduction in defense supplies from Russia to India a steady friend and partner of India for many decades,” the veteran AAPI leader told this writer. “With plummeting and devastating effects of war, can Russia provide assured suppliers to India especially possible ban of Western digital supplies to Russia in their defense production?” Dr. Shivangi, a physician, and an influential Indian-American community leader asked.

The ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia has exposed the vulnerabilities of Russia made weapons and their effectiveness. While India has been a long-time friend and defense purchaser of Russia. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, since 2010, Russia has been the source of nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of all Indian arms imports and India has been the largest Russian arms importer, accounting for nearly one-third (32 per cent) of all Russian arms exports.

Between 2016 and 2020, India accounted for nearly one-quarter (23 per cent) of Russia’s total arms exports and Russia accounted for roughly half (49 per cent) of Indian imports, the CRS report said.

Dr. Shivangi is of the opinion that “It is apt time India should think alternative suppliers source. What can be a better source than US? We have a great opportunity here as our Senior Senator from Mississippi has been elected as a Ranking member of the US Armed Service Committee of the US Senate.  With his assistance and good offices, especially after 2+2 summit, I hope and look forward to such increased collaboration with the successful Indo pacific QUAD treaty.

With India being in a tough neighborhood, Russia will not be able to provide or be a major supplier to India as with its war with Ukraine it has lost an enormous amount of its war machinery and a Western ban on high tech imports. As a result, it will be tougher for Russia to provide its arms and technology to India, Shivangi said in a statement after his meeting with Wicker. It’s noteworthy that during Monday’s 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, India and the US have agreed to step up military-to-military cooperation.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi has been a conservative life-long member of the Republican party, hailing from a strong Republican state of Mississippi.  He is the founding president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian-origin in Mississippi and is the past president and chair of the India Association of Mississippi. Advisor to US department of Health & Human Services at NHSC Washington, DC 2005-2008 President Bush Administration

A conservative life-long member of the Republican Party, Dr. Shivangi is the founding member of the Republican Indian Council and the Republican Indian National Council, which aim to work to help and assist in promoting President Elect Trump’s agenda and support his advocacy in the coming months.

As the National President of Indian American Forum for Political Education, one of the oldest Indian American Associations, Dr. Shivangi, has lobbied for several Bills in the US Congress on behalf of India through his enormous contacts with US Senators and Congressmen over the past three decades.

A close friend to the Bush family, Dr. Shivangi has been instrumental in lobbying for first Diwali celebration in the White House and for President George W. Bush to make his trip to India. He had accompanied President Bill Clinton during his historic visit to India.

Dr. Shivangi is a champion for women’s health and mental health, whose work has been recognized nationwide. Dr. Shivangi has worked enthusiastically in promoting India Civil Nuclear Treaty and recently the US India Defense Treaty that was passed in US Congress and signed by President Obama.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, an obstetrician/gynecologist, has been elected by a US state Republican Party as a full delegate to the National Convention. He is one of the top fund-raisers in Mississipi state for the Republican Party. Besides being a politician by choice, the medical practitioner is also the first Indian to be on the American Medical Association, the apex law making body.

Days after the high-profile visit to India and the remarks by Mr. Daleep Singh, Deputy National Security Advisor to President Joe Biden at the White House recently, Dr. Shivangi hoped that this would not have a major impact on the Indo-US ties. “Many in India and many Indian Americans felt that Daleep Singh’s remarks were abrasive, coming from a fellow Indian American. Hopefully, his remarks have not muddled the water as reported in Indian media,” Mississippi-based Shivangi said in a statement. “India is a major QUAD partner of the US and will continue to have strong ties and mutual respect and friendship in the coming days,” he added.

Singh got front-page attention as the architect of economic sanctions against Russia in its war against Ukraine, he said. During his visit to India, Daleep Singh, in his interaction with reporters, cautioned India against expecting Russia to come to the country’s defense if China were to violate the Line of Actual Control as the two countries are now in a “no limits partnership”.

While moderating a session on “Latte with Legislators” organized by AAPI, Dr. Shivangi lamented that there is “a new wave of Anti-Indian American sentiments especially against Indian Physician group which makes up 15% of Doctors in the US,” Dr. Shivangi, feels, “IIt may be due to Indian Americans have the highest per capita income and highest education level in the nation.”

Calling it as “prejudicial” Dr. Shivangi, urged that “we need to resolve this prejudice against minorities. With this in mind, I requested Congressmen Jamie Ruskin from Maryland to seek his advice and possible way to resolve this. Congressman Ruskin was very supportive and offered his unconditional support.”

After meeting with the top Republican Senator, Dr. Shivangi thanked the Senator Roger Wicker for advocating that the US should help India address its defense needs so as to reduce its dependence on Russia. Recently, Wicker introduced a Bill in the US Senate to cut the backlog of thousands of Indians who are waiting on their Green Cards for decades. “He was gracious enough to introduce this Bill at my request, which was a great honor for me and many Indian Americans. He continues to fight for the cause of Indian Immigrants,” Dr. Shivangi said.

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Advocates For Regulating Cryptocurrencies At A Global Level

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is on an official visit to the USA to attend spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. She will also participate in G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meetings.

During her visit, Sitharaman will take part in bilateral meetings with several countries, including Indonesia, South Korea, Sri Lanka and South Africa. The FM is scheduled to hold one-on-one meetings with top executives from the semiconductor, energy and other sectors of priority for the Indian government, the ministry said.

Sitharaman on Tuesday made a case for regulating cryptocurrencies at a global level to mitigate the risk of money laundering and terror funding. Participating at a high-level panel discussion organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Sitharaman said: “The risk which worries me more on the non-governmental domain is essentially you’re looking at unhosted wallets across the borders, across the globe… So, regulation cannot be done by a single country within its terrain through some effective method and for doing it across the borders, technology doesn’t have a solution which will be acceptable to various sovereigns at the same time applicable within each of the territories,” she said.

“I harp on that very much because I think the biggest risk for all countries across the board will be on the money laundering aspect, and also on the aspect of currency being used for financing terror,” she said.

However, she said, cross border payments between countries will become very effective through Central Bank-driven digital currencies. RBI is planning to come out with a central bank-backed digital currency using blockchain technology in 2022-23.

During the current visdit, Sitharaman will participate in the meetings of the finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 nations, apart from holding bilateral meetings with many countries, the finance ministry said in a statement. Sitharaman will also be attending an event at the Atlantic Council and meeting with faculty members and students at Stanford University in California.

The FM is scheduled to hold one-on-one meetings with top executives from the semiconductor, energy and other sectors of priority for the Indian government, the ministry said.

She is also scheduled to meet World Bank president David Malpass and take part in a high-level panel discussion on “Money at a Crossroad” hosted by IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva.

She will be also meeting with CEOs from the semiconductor, energy, and other industries the Indian government is concerned with.  “In a high-level meeting, the Finance Minister will also meet Mr. David Malpass, President, World Bank. During the course of the visit, Smt. Sitharaman will participate in a high-level panel discussion on ‘Money at a Crossroad’ hosted by the Managing Director, IMF,” the statement read.

The visit comes amid Washington and NATO’s pressures to push India into taking an anti-Russia stance on the Ukraine conflict, in addition to pressing New Delhi to join the West-led sanctions against Moscow. India has been pushing back against such pressures, aligning itself with its interests with Russia.

Last Monday, US President Joe Biden met with Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi virtually.  Biden underlined that Washington and New Delhi share “common values and resilient democratic institutions” before the meeting.

However, many are saying that no matter how much Washington emphasizes the strategic partnership with India, the differences between the two on their approach to the Ukraine conflict is the elephant in the room. It also does not change the fact that Washington, throughout the meeting, pressured India to condemn Russia. In fact, it was the theme of the meeting.

Over the past 2 years, the US and India have had close interactions, amid Washington’s attempts to contain China in Asia. However, their “friendship” could not withstand the tough tides of the Ukraine war and thus the two are now at odds.

India has refused to participate in Washington’s and Europe’s sanctions against Russia. Furthermore, unlike a plethora of countries that have cut economic ties with Russia, India maintained it and, actually, increased Russian energy imports and helped keep the Russian ruble stable. 

Jaishankar’s Parting Message To US: “We Know What We Are Doing”

Indian’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar delivered a clear message to both US officials and non-officials during his visit this week: India follows global developments closely, it is fully aware of its national security interests, and, lastly, it knows how to protect and pursue them.

In short: please stop thinking for us, stop telling us what is in our best interest, what isn’t, and what is it that we should do.

Countless US officials, lawmakers, policy experts and media personalities had taken upon themselves in recent weeks to tell India what is in its best interest regarding the Russia-Ukraine war, why it should condemn Moscow and drastically reduce its reliance on Russian military hardware or its support, specially in any future conflict with China.

“Thank you for the advice and suggestions in your question. I prefer to do it my way and articulate it my way,” Jaishankar said at a joint press availability with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh  last week.

A reporter had asked him if condemning Russia for invading Ukraine would “best reflect India’s foreign policy goals and international standing”. If Jaishankar seemed snappy, he probably meant it.

“This seems to be my day to get a lot of advice and suggestions from the press, so thank you for joining that,” the minister said to another reporter at the availability. “But look, we watch what’s happening in the world, like any country does, and we draw our conclusions and make our assessments. And believe me, we have a decent sense of what is in our interest and know how to protect it and advance it. So I think part of what has changed is we have more options than we did before.”

This reporter had asked if India was concerned over the growing diplomatic, military and economic ties between China and Russia. And in light of that concern, is India going to reduce its reliance on Russia economically and militarily?

Though directed at reporters, Jaishankar’s remarks could not have been lost on the two US officials on the stage with him, Blinken and Austin. Multiple American officials including Under-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh  had pressed India in recent weeks to forcefully condemn Russian invasion suggesting that Moscow cannot be a reliable partner any longer because of its growing ties with Beijing; they underscored the vow of “no-limits” in the relationship professed recently by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Singh kicked up a furor during a visit to India in March when he tried to hard-sell this line with a threat of “consequences”. Nuland sought to clean up the mess left behind by Singh telling NPR last week: “In our conversations with India, whether it was my conversations to Daleep Singh’s or Secretary Blinken, it is not a matter of warning. It’s simply a matter of reminding India that Russia will try to abuse their longstanding defence relationship to get advantages here, and that it is not a good bet to help Russia out during this brutal conflict.”

Jaishankar did not name any of the US officials or mention their remarks, but probably meant them as well for trying to “remind” India of its security concerns as if India was unable to see them for itself.

So the minister continued in the same vein Wednesday when he said this in an interaction with Indian media reporters: “We follow everything and international relations which are of interest to us, which affects us. And obviously, you know, where there are developments or interactions. You mentioned Russia and China, we also follow America and China. So, and rightly so, because that then gives us a view of, you know, what is happening in the world and how our interests are impacted in some way, from that. So, we do monitor and do assess and do on where, where it is warranted, respond to what happens in international relations, especially between major, major states.”

The career diplomat-turned-politician left Washington DC and all who live and work here and fret about India with a clear and unequivocal message: We know what is best for us and we know what we are doing. (IANS)

Time For A Higher Poverty Line In India

The time has come for India to raise its poverty line from the existing extreme poverty line of $1.90 per person per day to the lower-middle income (LMI) poverty line of $3.20, a level some 68 percent higher. This may seem odd to aspire to in what is not even the first post-pandemic year, but that is the main message coming out of our recent IMF working paper “Pandemic, Poverty and Inequality: Evidence from India.”

No one should be surprised at this need for a higher poverty line. Per capita GDP growth in India averaged 3.5 percent per annum for twenty years from 1983 to 2003. In 2004, the official poverty line was raised by 18 percent, when the head count ratio (HCR) was 27.5 percent. Rapid growth (5.3 percent per annum) and an improved method of measurement of consumption (the modified mixed recall period (MMRP) rather than the Uniform Recall Period (URP)), resulted in the HCR reaching the low teens in 2011-12.

The poverty line should have been raised then, as Bhalla (2010) argued. Most countries change from the concept of absolute poverty to relative poverty as they get richer, and India should too. Relative poverty—subject to minor debate—is mostly chosen to mean an HCR level of around a quarter or a third of the population. Hence, the$1.90 poverty line was already too low in 2011-12 and is extremely low today.

The HCR of the $1.90 poverty line (Figure 1) has shown a steep decline since 2004—from approximately a third of the population in 2004 to less than 1.5 percent in 2019. These numbers are lower than those shown in the World Bank’s Povcal database, the most commonly used source, because Povcal does not correct for the misleading uniform recall period used or for the provision of food subsidies.

Figure 1. The poverty rate in India steeply declined starting in 2004

Source: NSS 2011-12 MMRP data; Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  growth rates for estimates of monthly per capita consumption; authors’ calculations.

By our estimates, in the pre-pandemic year 2019, extreme poverty was already below 1 percent and despite the significant economic recession in India in 2020, we believe that the impact on poverty was small. This is because we estimate poverty (HCR) after incorporating the benefits of in-kind food (wheat and rice) subsidies for approximately 800 million individuals (75 percent of rural and 50 percent of urban residents). This food subsidy was not small and rose to close to 14 percent of the poverty line for the average subsidy recipient (Figure 2) in 2020. This was enough to contain any rise in poverty even in the pandemic year 2020.

Figure 2. Food subsidies contained any increases in poverty

Source: NSS 2011-12 MMRP data; Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  growth rates for estimates of monthly per capita consumption; Indian poverty line very close to PPP $1.9 per capita per month; authors’ calculations.

A notable feature of the pandemic response was the provision of a free extra 5 kilograms of wheat or rice per person per month via the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) program plus 1 kg of pulses. This was in addition to the existing food transfers of 5 kg per capita per month of wheat or rice at subsidized prices. Total subsidized food grain in 2020 therefore amounted to 10 kg, which is the average per capita level of food (wheat and rice) consumption by Indian citizens for the last three decades.

The additional food subsidy was a pandemic-centric response. We would conjecture that a cross-country comparative study could show that this policy response was possibly the most effective in the world. Hence, the Indian experience can provide lessons for individual countries, and multilateral agencies concerned with effective redistribution of income.

Poverty measurement) in India was in 2011-12. The following survey conducted in 2017-18 generated results that have not been officially released, on the grounds that the data were not of acceptable quality. Our paper has an extensive discussion on the validity of the evidence regarding this controversial decision where we conclude that the data is indeed unreliable and of extremely questionable quality and hence should not be released. A very recent World Bank April 2022 study by Edochie et. al. suggests support for our conclusion and inference.

Our paper presents a consistent time series of poverty and (real) inequality in India for each of the years 2004-2020. Our estimate of real inequality (Figure 3) shows that consumption inequality has also declined, and in 2020 is very close to the lowest historical level of 0.28. Poverty and inequality trends can be emotive, controversial, and confusing. Consumption inequality is lower than income inequality, which itself is lower than wealth inequality. And each can show different trends. The levels and trends are different, and intermingled use should carry a warning about this when discussing “inequality.”

Our results are different than most of the commentary and analysis of poverty in India. All the estimates are made in the absence of an official survey post-2011-12. A large part of the explanation for the difference in results is because of differences in definition. Our paper makes a strong case for the acceptance of the official consumption definition (accepted by most countries and also recommended by the World Bank); it should be measured according to the classification of consumption according to the nature of the good or service consumed. This is the MMRP method for obtaining consumption expenditures.

The Indian government has officially adopted this method, and the above mentioned “ill-fated” 2017-18 survey was the first time when the National Statistical Organization exclusively measured consumption (and poverty) according to the MMRP definition.

However, many studies continue to rely on the now obsolete uniform reference period (URP or 30-day recall for all items) method. For example, a very recent World Bank study estimated the HCR to be around 10 percent in 2019; it uses the outdated (URP) definition of consumption and does not adjust for food subsidies. Incidentally, both in 2009-10 and 2011-12, the URP and MMRP poverty estimates diverged by approximately 10 percentage points, as did their respective estimates of mean consumption.

Thus, given the approximate magnitude of definition differences observed both in 2009-10 and 2011-12 and making the necessary adjustment for food subsidies, the World Bank poverty estimate for 2019 is likely to be very close to our estimate.

Inclusive growth is a very relevant policy goal for all economies. With the pandemic ebbing and the IMF’s expected growth for India rebounding very strongly for three successive years from 2021-23, Indian policymakers will soon be confronted with a policy choice—how long should they keep the extra PMGKY subsidy? This query is part of a huge success story of poverty decline. Additionally, another query pertains to whether policies should move toward targeted cash transfers instead of subsidized food grains.

In the past, the key argument in support of a policy shift to cash transfers was to reduce leakages, but our results indicate that leakages have substantially been reduced over the last decade even in the in-kind food transfer scheme. In fact, the recent food transfer program was a very successful intervention, especially during the pandemic when supply chains were breaking down and there was heightened uncertainty. Under normal circumstances, cash transfers are likely to be more efficient, and they retain broadly the same allocative outcomes as food transfers. The debate therefore now should be on the efficiency trade-offs associated with use of either in-kind or cash transfers as the key instrument of poverty alleviation.

These debates are significant given the improvement in targeting of transfers and are consistent with the objective of building a modern social security architecture in developing countries.

Accumulating all the evidence, the strong conclusion from our work is that Indian policy has effectively delivered both growth and inclusion, and in a fundamental sense has faithfully followed the Rawlsian maximin principle—maximizing the welfare of the poorest.

Deepening The Educational Ties Between India And The United States

This week I visited Howard University to talk about how to deepen the educational ties between India and the United States. As I have come to learn throughout its history, Howard University has played an important role in building bonds between our countries. And really, it’s hard to overstate the importance of those bonds not just as we look back but, I believe, as we go forward.

Let me tell you about one key figure from what has been already a very storied past. Howard Thurman, former dean of Rankin Chapel here at Howard. Going back to September of 1935, Thurman led a four-member delegation on what was a monthslong pilgrimage to India. He was trying to find lessons from the country’s independence movement that might be relevant to the racial justice movement in the United States.

Near the end of the trip, Thurman met with Mahatma Gandhi. They talked, the books record, for about three hours, covering a wide range of issues: segregation, faith, nonviolent resistance. The conversation and the trip made a lasting impression on Thurman. So when he came back to Howard, he developed his interpretation of nonviolence – not as a political tactic, but as a spiritual lifestyle. He shared his views with sermons, speeches, and eventually what came to be an incredibly influential book, Jesus and the Disinherited.

Gandhi’s views and Thurman’s interpretation of those views – of nonviolence – would influence one of the greatest figures in our nation’s journey, Martin Luther King, Jr. As he traveled the country laying bare the sins of segregation, Dr. King carried two books with him. One was the Bible, the other – Jesus and the Disinherited.

These connections and so many others across our shared history make clear that our people do share a special bond, and that as the world’s oldest and largest democracies, our countries always have something to learn from each other.

That’s why we see our cultural and educational ties continue to grow every single year. We’re incredibly fortunate in the United States to have 200,000 Indians studying at our universities, enriching our campuses, enriching our fellow citizens. And we see many American students studying and working in India through programs like Fulbright, the Gilman fellowships, including some who are here today.

To make it easier for people to continue learning from each other, Indian Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar and I announced yesterday the Working Group on Education and Skill Training, which will bring academic institutions in the United States and India together to develop new joint research programs. The group will also focus on creating more opportunities for universities to partner on exchange programs that the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield runs so that ultimately more of our people can learn alongside each other.

I know the importance of building stronger bonds between U.S. and Indian higher education systems. Many students have benefited from studying in both countries. Students are using that knowledge now to teach in the United States and Indian respectively. That’s a very powerful thing. Students are developing recommendations on how India and the United States can support each other’s clean energy transitions. They are promoting trade between our countries and more equitable opportunities that flow from that trade. And that’s just to name a few examples of the things that people are working on.

So in foreign policy, one of the things we talk a lot about is the importance, the strength, the imperative of people-to-people ties. We do a lot of work as diplomats between our countries, but ultimately what really matters are those bonds between our people – between students, between businessmen and women, between academics, between tourists and others. This is what really brings us together.

And when we’re talking about that, in effect we’re talking about students: those who do the daily work of sharing their perspectives, sharing their knowledge with each other, and in so doing, building what are really lifelong personal and professional relationships with one another. That’s what makes all the difference because these kinds of connections, the people-to-people connections, many of them fostered by the exchange programs that we run, they actually build lifelong connections and a lifelong appreciation for each other’s countries, cultures, histories, and futures. And as a result, we are better able to take on shared challenges together.

I believe firmly that the United States and India need continued collaboration, hard work, and leadership for the biggest challenges both countries face, whether it’s combating COVID, whether it’s building a more inclusive global economy, whether it’s tackling the climate crisis.

To put it another way, the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership, I am convinced, is absolutely crucial, essential, for addressing the problems of the 21st century, and the work of students at institutions like Howard University, is at the heart of that relationship.

I’m looking forward to staying connected in the months to come. And I’d love to hear your thoughts – please share them by writing to me and my team at [email protected]

(Secretary Anthony Blinken is the 171st Secretary of State and delivered this speech at Howard University where he was joined by India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar April 12, 2022, in a discussion on U.S.-India higher education development)

Pope Francis Makes Plea For Ukraine Peace, Cites Nuclear Risk

On what is supposed to be Christianity’s most joyful day, Pope Francis made an anguished Easter Sunday plea for peace in the “senseless” war in Ukraine and in other armed conflicts raging in the world, and voiced worry about the risk of nuclear warfare.

“May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of this cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,” Francis said, speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square.

The pontiff had just finished celebrating Easter Mass in the square packed by faithful for the holiday for the first time since the pandemic began in early 2020. Applause erupted from many of the crowd, estimated by the Vatican to number 100,000 in the square and on a nearby avenue, when he mentioned Ukraine.

“Please, please, let us not get used to war,″ Francis pleaded, after denouncing ”the flexing of muscles while people are suffering.” Yet again, the pontiff didn’t cite Russian President Vladimir Putin for the decision to launch the invasion and attacks against Ukraine on Feb. 24.

People’s hearts are filled with “fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing,” the pontiff said.

“Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets,″ Francis said. ”May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”

In a clear reference to the threat of nuclear warfare, Francis quoted from a noted declaration of 1955: “‘Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?’”

He was quoting from a manifesto written by philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Albert Einstein. The manifesto’s text, sounding a grim warning against the consequences of nuclear warfare, was issued a few months after Einstein died.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the leader of the Anglican church, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, called for Russia to declare a cease-fire and withdraw from Ukraine.

Noting that in the Eastern Orthodox church followed by many in Russia and Ukraine Sunday marks the start of Holy Week — with Easter coming on April 24 — Welby exhorted Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and commit to talks.

Francis also drew attention to other wars in the speech known by its Latin name “Urbi et Orbi” — to the city and to the world.

“May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect all too many areas of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget,″ Francis said.

Two days after Palestinians and Israeli police clashed in Jerusalem, Francis prayed that “Israelis, Palestinians and all the inhabitants of the Holy City, together with pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, of living in brotherhood and of accessing Holy Places” in reciprocal respect.

He called for peace and reconciliation for the peoples of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Francis spoke plaintively about Yemen, “which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with continuous victims.” He expressed hope that a recent truce would restore hope to that country’s people.

He also prayed that God grant “reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence persists,” and for Afghanistan, which is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, including food shortages.

Francis denounced the exploitation of the African continent and “terrorist attacks — particularly in the Sahel region,” as well as the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and violence in Congo.

In Latin America, many have seen their plight worsen during the coronavirus pandemic, aggravating social problems stemming from corruption, violence and drug trafficking, the pontiff said.

But Francis found hope in the “open doors of all those families and communities that are welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe,″ referring to the some 10 million people who have either fled Ukraine or are internally displaced by the war.

At the Polish border station of Medyka, a paramedic from Warsaw helped set out a traditional Easter breakfast with ham, cheese and Easter cakes for some of the latest refugees from Ukraine, the majority of whom have streamed into neighboring Poland.

“They lost their homes. They are seeking refuge in our country,” said volunteer Agnieszka Kuszaj. She hoped that the meal would help them “forget for a moment about all the terrible things” that have happened.

Maria Dontsova, 31, who is from Kharviv, the heavily bombed city in eastern Ukraine said: “I wish all families peace who are suffering in Ukraine at this great holiday Easter.” Speaking in English, she expressed hope that war will end “as soon as possible, and people stop suffering, and we can prevent the war (from) spreading to Europe”

Earlier, the pontiff, who has a knee ligament problem, limped badly as he made his way to an altar set up in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. After Easter morning Mass, Francis boarded the white popemobile for a whirl through the square among the cheering ranks of the crowd.

In Spain, believers and secular enthusiasts flocked back in large numbers to Holy Week processions this week for the first time since the start of the pandemic after most health restrictions were lifted.

U.S. Monitoring Rise In Rights Abuses In India

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was monitoring what he described as a rise in human rights abuses in India by some officials, in a rare direct rebuke by Washington of the Asian nation’s rights record.

“We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values (of human rights) and to that end, we are monitoring some recent concerning developments in India including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials,” Blinken said on Monday in a joint press briefing with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.

Blinken did not elaborate. Singh and Jaishankar, who spoke after Blinken at the briefing, did not comment on the human rights issue. Blinken’s remarks came days after U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar questioned the alleged reluctance of the U.S. government to criticize Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on human rights.

“What does Modi need to do to India’s Muslim population before we will stop considering them a partner in peace?” Omar, who belongs to President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, said last week.

Modi’s critics say his Hindu nationalist ruling party has fostered religious polarization since coming to power in 2014. Since Modi came to power, right-wing Hindu groups have launched attacks on minorities claiming they are trying to prevent religious conversions. Several Indian states have passed or are considering anti-conversion laws that challenge the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief.

In 2019, the government passed a citizenship law that critics said undermined India’s secular constitution by excluding Muslim migrants from neighboring countries. The law was meant to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.

In the same year, soon after his 2019 re-election win, Modi’s government revoked the special status of Kashmir in a bid to fully integrate the Muslim-majority region with the rest of the country. To keep a lid on protests, the administration detained many Kashmir political leaders and sent many more paramilitary police and soldiers to the Himalayan region also claimed by Pakistan.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently banned wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka state. Hardline Hindu groups later demanded such restrictions in more Indian states.

Ukrainian Refugee Crisis Ranks Among The World’s Worst In Recent History

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created one of the biggest refugee crises of modern times. A month into the war, more than 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries – the sixth-largest refugee outflow over the past 60-plus years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of United Nations data.

There are now almost as many Ukrainian refugees as there were Afghan refugees fleeing the (first) Taliban regime in 2001, according to figures compiled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They represent about 9.1% of Ukraine’s pre-invasion population of about 41.1 million – ranking the current crisis 16th among 28 major refugee crises by share of population.

The Center examined all cases in the UNHCR’s database since 1960 where there were at least 500,000 refugees and similarly displaced people from a given country in a given year. The analysis doesn’t include “internally displaced persons” – those who have fled or been forced from their usual homes but haven’t yet crossed an international border. (Earlier this week, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi estimated that, all told, 10 million Ukrainians – nearly a quarter of the population – had been displaced either internally or externally by the war.)

How we did this

Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011, has created more refugees than any other crisis since the early 1960s, when UNHCR began keeping data on individual countries. Nearly 6.9 million Syrians – about a third of the country’s prewar population – are living as refugees or asylum-seekers outside their home country, with almost 3.7 million now in Turkey. An additional 6.8 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes but are living elsewhere in the country – meaning the civil war has uprooted about two-thirds of Syria’s entire population.

Afghanistan, which has been at war either with itself or with outside forces for more than four decades, has had more than 2 million refugees every year since 1981. The peak year was 1990, after Soviet troops had withdrawn from the country and the USSR-backed government was battling to hang onto power against a coalition of mujahedeen groups. That year, more than half the country’s total estimated population – 6.3 million people – were listed as refugees.

Venezuela has also seen massive population outflows over the past several years as the country’s economy has all but collapsed, its government has cracked down on dissent, and opposition efforts to unseat President Nicolas Maduro’s government have stalled. According to the UNHCR, more than 5 million Venezuelans are refugees in other countries, are seeking asylum, or have been otherwise displaced abroad – all told, about 15% of the current estimated population.

‘Why Indians Are Falling For BJP’s ‘Politics Of Negation’ That Shifts Focus From Governance Failures’

Away from the electoral gains earned through the freebie-based welfarism, there should be no mistaking that the making of a Hindu rashtra is under way at full swing at all levels – by attempted legal changes and by weapon sing one minority community by subsuming it under the majoritarian impulse against another minority community through films.

Linking “parivaarvaad”, or dynasty politics, with democracy, as Narendra Modi has done, shows the obsession which the Congress occupies within the ruling dispensation. While the Congress’s party structure has been put under the national scanner – for all the right reasons – the media and citizens have little interest in knowing about the kind of authoritarianism developing within the BJP. Linking the fate of Indian democracy to the Congress’s mode of functioning is an extremely clever way to keep the focus away from matters of governance.

Evidently, the negation – talking about the opponent’s past and not their own present – is the core of the mobilization technique of the BJP and its supporters, which shifts the onus of evaluation from the present to the past.

This new political culture has been nurtured diligently by the ruling dispensation through various mechanisms: control over the media, making institutions pliable, criminalising dissent and activating the hydra-like tentacles of hate in which a command from the top is no longer required to naturalize religious conflict in neighbourhoods and mohallas.

In this regard, people have become active shapers and consumers of this new political culture. They, therefore, should not escape the weight of analysis. They should not be treated merely as docile receivers of political campaigns and programmes. They cannot have it both ways: to act as passive agents of good or bad communication strategies of political parties when suitable, and yet become the bearers of hatred-filled divisive politics that is on display in the physical as well as virtual worlds.

I had earlier mentioned that there are two types of people who use the Congress-BJP tussle to think about the current situation. The second type does not need too many words. They are those who mock the Congress under the shade of being liberal – more as a sign of their suffering, frustration, and lament at the unchanging nature of the party in relation to the power which a dynasty holds over it. Some of them, not so ironically, also praise Modi for his great oratory and communication skills. Some of them, still further, see hope in the rising electoral success of the Aam Aadmi Party.

As it appears currently, the electoral success of the Aam Aadmi Party (or even the Trinamool Congress) would fail to change the new political culture. Borrowing a leaf from the playbook of the BJP will not necessarily change the content and texture of that leaf.

Political choices based on religious majoritarianism, punitive hyper nationalism, and the institutional and moral policing of dissent have shaken social faith in the values and practices of togetherness (and equally importantly, weakened the ways in which conflicts were resolved). The current politics of India is hardly political in its scope and ambition, in its effect and reach. As politics has become emotive, the social appears to be perilously mangled. It is the future of the social that requires raising uncomfortable questions of the people. (Excerpted from: <https://amp.scroll.in/article/1021873/how-the-bjps-politics-of-negation-discredits-opponents-and-shifts-focus-from-governance-failures>.)

Persecution Of Christians In India As World Observes Good Friday

Today, over two thousand years ago Jesus Christ was persecuted or believed to be crucified on this day. Followers of Jesus are even today being persecuted in certain parts of the world including in India wherein vested groups of people are spreading hatred against minorities for their political gains.

2014          127
2015          142
2016          226
2017          248
2018          292
2019          328
2020          279
2021          502
2022          127

(till April 13)

The persecution of Christians in India is intensifying which is leading to a systemic and carefully orchestrated violence against Christians, including use of social media to spread disinformation and stir up hatred.

The strong infiltration of hatred against Christians, have witnessed 127 incidents of violence in 2014 which increased to five hundred fold in 2021 as 502 incidents of violence was reported in 2021 on UCF toll-free helpline number 1800-208-4545.

Most church leaders are men, and being a pastor is understood to be one of the riskiest vocations in India. Pastors and their families are targeted to instill fear among them.

In the first 103 days of 2022 we have already witnessed 127 incidents of violence against Christians. January saw 40 incidents, 35 incidents in February, 34 incidents in March and just in 13 days of April 18 incidents of violence were reported on UCF helpline. In which 89 Pastors were beaten up and threatened from conducting prayers for which they became pastors. 68 Churches were attacked in which 367 women and 366 children received injuries. Out of 127 incidents 82 incidents were mob violence.

There are 42 cases pending in various courts challenging the constitutional validity of the so-called “Freedom of Religion Act against” which have been framed with a malafide intention to harass the Christian community who are falsely accused of forceful conversion. Whereas, till today, not a single Christian has been convicted for forcing any one to convert. Moreover, census after census have shown that Christian population remained 2.3 percent of India’s population of 1.2 billion.

There are many false cases that were filed against Christians which the courts have found untrue and pulled up the police and the authorities for misusing the poser. One example is in May 2017, 72 Christian children going for Christian camp from Madhya Pradesh to Nagpur accompanied by six elders were detained on charges of being “kidnapped to be converted’. The Madhya Pradesh High Court granting bail to children and elders directed the police to come back with evidence to prove their claim that children are not Christians and that they were being kidnapped to be converted. Till today, the police have not come back to Court.

In another judgement, beginning of 2019, the Delhi High Court while restoring the status of Overseas Citizen of India said that the government could not show any proof whatsoever of having forcefully or fraudulently converting even a single person. Under similar charges, there were over 40 Churches in Jaunpur District of Uttar Pradesh that were shut down in 2018. Even though pastors and other Christian leaders are out on bail, the police are yet to file the charge sheets against any of them as they do not have any evidence to prove fraud or forceful conversions. There are hundreds of such cases, if not in thousands, that are lying in front of various courts across India due to the absence of proof of fraud or forceful conversions.

The various courts in India in the last 15 months – January 2021 to March 2022 have acquitted Christians of false allegations of conversions in 59 cases (41 in 2021 and 18 till March 2022).

There are racial and ethnic differences in college graduation patterns, as well as in the reasons for not completing a degree. Among adults ages 25 and older, 61% of Asian Americans have a bachelor’s degree or more education, along with 42% of White adults, 28% of Black adults and 21% of Hispanic adults, according to 2021 Current Population Survey data. The share of bachelor’s degree holders in each group has increased since 2010. That year, 52% of Asian Americans had a four-year degree or more, compared with a third of White adults, 20% of Black adults and 14% of Hispanic adults.

The October 2021 Center survey found that among adults without a bachelor’s degree, Hispanic adults (52%) were more likely than those who are White (39%) or Black (41%) to say a major reason they didn’t graduate from a four-year college is that they couldn’t afford it. Hispanic and Black adults were more likely than their White counterparts to say needing to work to support their family was a major reason.

While a third of White adults said not wanting to go to school was a major reason they didn’t complete a four-year degree, smaller shares of Black (22%) and Hispanic (23%) adults said the same. White adults were also more likely to cite not needing more education for the job or career they wanted. (There weren’t enough Asian adults without a bachelor’s degree in the sample to analyze separately.)

Only 62% of students who start a degree or certificate program finish their program within six years, according to the most recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit verification and research organization that tracked first-time college students who enrolled in fall 2015 with the intent of pursuing a degree or certificate. The degree completion rate for this group was highest among students who started at four-year, private, nonprofit schools (78.3%), and lowest among those who started at two-year public institutions (42.2%).

Business is the most commonly held bachelor’s degree, followed by health professions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth (19%) of the roughly 2 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2019-20 were in business. Health professions and related programs were the second most-popular field, making up 12.6% of degrees conferred that year. Business has been the single most common major since 1980-81; before that, education led the way.

The least common bachelor’s degrees in 2019-20 were in military technologies and applied sciences (1,156 degrees conferred in 2019-20), library science (118), and precision production (39).

There is a growing earnings gap between young college graduates and their counterparts without degrees. In 2021, full-time workers ages 22 to 27 who held a bachelor’s degree, but no further education, made a median annual wage of $52,000, compared with $30,000 for full-time workers of the same age with a high school diploma and no degree, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This gap has widened over time. Young bachelor’s degree holders earned a median annual wage of $48,481 in 1990, compared with $35,257 for full-time workers ages 22 to 27 with a high school diploma.

The unemployment rate is lower for college graduates than for workers without a bachelor’s degree, and that gap widened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In February 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak began in the U.S., only 1.9% of college graduates ages 25 and older were unemployed, compared with 3.1% of workers who completed some college but not a four-year degree, and 3.7% of workers with only a high school diploma. By June 2020, after the pandemic hit, 6.8% of college grads, 10.8% of workers with some college, and 12.2% of high school grads were unemployed.

By March 2022, the unemployment rate had nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels for college graduates (2%) while dropping to 3% among those with some college education but no four-year degree, and 4% among those with only a high school diploma.

Recent college graduates are more likely than graduates overall to be underemployed – that is, working in jobs that typically do not require a college degree, according to an analysis of Census Bureau and BLS data by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of December 2021, 41% of college graduates ages 22 to 27 were underemployed, compared with 34% among all college graduates. The underemployment rates for recent college grads rose in 2020 as the COVID-19 outbreak strained the job market, but have since returned to pre-pandemic levels.

As of the end of 2021, only 34% of underemployed graduates ages 22 to 27 worked what the Fed defines as “good non-college jobs” – those paying at least $45,000 a year – down from around half in the 1990s. The share of underemployed graduates ages 22 to 27 in low-wage jobs – those earning less than $25,000 annually – rose from about 9% in 1990 to 11% last year.

When it comes to income and wealth accumulation, first-generation college graduates lag substantially behind those with college-educated parents, according to a May 2021 Pew Research Center analysis. Households headed by a first-generation college graduate – that is, someone who has completed at least a bachelor’s degree but does not have a parent with a college degree – had a median annual income of $99,600 in 2019, compared with $135,800 for households headed by those with at least one parent who graduated from college. The median wealth of households headed by first-generation college graduates ($152,000) also trailed that of households headed by someone with a parent who graduated from college ($244,500). The higher household income of the latter facilitates saving and wealth accumulation.

The gap also reflects differences in how individuals finance their education. Second-generation college graduates tend to come from more affluent families, while first-generation college graduates are more likely to incur education debt than those with a college-educated parent.

Most Americans with college degrees see value in their experience. In the Center’s October 2021 survey, majorities of graduates said their college education was extremely or very useful when it came to helping them grow personally and intellectually (79%), opening doors to job opportunities (70%) and developing specific skills and knowledge that could be used in the workplace (65%).

Younger college graduates were less likely than older ones to see value in their college education. For example, only a third of college graduates younger than 50 said their college experience was extremely useful in helping them develop skills and knowledge that could be used in the workplace. Among college graduates ages 50 and older, 45% said this.

Ukraine Main Theme During Modi-Biden Talks

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden met virtually on Monday, April 11, 2022, as India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh were in Washington for the fourth ‘2+ 2’ foreign and defense ministry dialogues with their U.S. counterparts. The war between Russia and Ukraine featured prominently in the opening remarks of both, media reports here stated.

During the opening segment of the bilateral meeting, Jaishankar, Singh, India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan were seen seated at the table with Biden.

The meeting also involved a discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy and climate action, as well as regional and global issues, including those in South Asia and the Indo Pacific. The U.S. official briefing reporters said that Sri Lanka and Pakistan were discussed, but not in detail, with more detailed discussions expected over the next day and a half, i.e., during the course of the 2+2 meetings..

According to reports, U.S. President Joe Biden told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that buying more Russian oil is not in India’s interest, as the United States pushes New Delhi to take a harder line against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden told Modi during an hour-long video call Monday that the U.S. is ready to help India diversify its sources of energy, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “The president also made clear that he doesn’t believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy or other commodities,” Psaki said.

The statement from the government of India regarding the meeting said the two leaders had discussed Ukraine at the meeting, as well as regional and global issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy, climate and “recent developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region”. Speaking to reporters on a briefing call, a Senior U.S. administration official said that developments in Sri Lanka and Pakistan had been “touched on” but not discussed in a detailed manner.

Modi, who spoke via videolink to Biden, described the situation in Ukraine as “very worrying” and said he had spoken, several times, with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin and had not just urged peace, but also direct talks between them. India’s unwillingness to call out Russia by name for its attack on Ukraine has not gone down well in Washington, but U.S. officials have also said that they hoped countries that have relationships with Moscow might leverage them to bring about a resolution to the situation.

“The United States and India are going to continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war,” Biden said in his opening remarks. The US government’s readout of the meeting said that Ukraine was also discussed. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, a senior U.S. administration official said there was a “pretty detailed and candid exchange of views” on Ukraine but added that Biden made no “concrete ask” of India and Modi gave no “concrete answer”.

India has also continued to purchase Russian oil and gas, despite pressure from the United States and other Western countries to refrain. Russia has offered steep discounts on its energy supplies, and India has bought at least 13 million barrels of Russian crude oil since the invasion of Ukraine, compared with the 16 million barrels it bought in 2021, according to data compiled by Reuters.

The comment by the official was in response to a reporter’s question on whether any explicit commitments were sought from India in terms of Russian oil, and also with regard to condemning Russia for attacking Ukraine. Both the official and Press Secretary Jen Psaki emphasized that while payments for energy from Russia were not sanctioned, the U.S. was discouraging India from increasing its purchases of Russian energy.  In comments shortly after the bilateral meeting, Psaki said that Biden had “made clear” what the impact of US sanctions would be, adding, “We expect everybody to abide by those”.

“The President made clear that he does not believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” Psaki said, adding that Mr. Biden had reiterated a U.S. offer to help India diversity its energy imports. India currently imports only a small 1-2% of its energy from Russia as per official estimates. Psaki used the words “constructive”  “productive” and “direct” to describe the conversation. She said the call was not “adversarial”.

Referring to Biden’s slogan, ‘Democracies can deliver,’ Modi said, ‘The success of the India-America partnership is the best means to make this slogan meaningful.” “At the root of our partnership is a deep connection between our people, ties of family, of friendship, and of shared values,” Biden said. The President was seen nodding as Modi outlined the humanitarian assistance that India had provided Ukraine.

“I want to welcome India’s humanitarian support for the people Ukraine, who are suffering a horrific assault, including a tragic shelling on a train station last week that killed dozens … attempting to flee the violence,” Biden said.

Modi expressed growing concern about the situation in Ukraine, particularly in Bucha, where the remains of many civilians have been found. “Recently, the news of the killings of innocent civilians in the city of Bucha was very worrying. We immediately condemned it and have asked for an independent probe,” Modi said.

A U.S. official described the call between the two leaders as “warm and productive,” saying Biden stopped short of making a “concrete ask” of Modi on Russian energy imports. During a short portion of the call open to reporters, Biden started the conversation by highlighting the partnership between the U.S. and India, saying the nations would “continue our close consultation on how to manage the destabilizing effects of this Russian war.”

Imran Khan Forced To Resign, Shehbaz Sharif To Be Pak PM

Members of the Pakistan Parliament are set to choose Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif as the next prime minister of Pakistan after former cricket star Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote that ended his four-year run. According to media reports, Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house for the no-confidence motion, giving them the majority they needed to vote against Khan after Sunday midnight in Islamabad, two more than required to remove him from office.

PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif has been nominated as the joint opposition candidate for the prime minister’s election. The 70-year-old is the younger brother of former Pak PM Nawaz Sharif. Reuters reported that Shehbaz Sharif has submitted his nomination to be Pakistan’s next prime minister to the legislature, after incumbent Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Khan’s party also submitted papers nominating the former foreign minister as a candidate, saying their members of parliament would resign en masse should he lose, potentially creating the need for urgent by-elections for their seats. Khan, the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted by a no confidence vote, had clung on for almost a week after a united opposition first tried to remove him.

Khan’s ouster came after a fallout with Pakistan’s army over a range of issues, including interference in military promotions, his rocky relationship with the U.S. and management of the economy that saw inflation rise at the second fastest pace in Asia. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for almost half of its 75-year history, and no prime minister has completed a full term in that time.

On Sunday, he repeated allegations that a foreign conspiracy was behind the regime change.  “The freedom struggle begins again today,” he said via his Twitter account, which is followed by more than 15 million and still describes him as Prime Minister of Pakistan in his biography section.

Parliament members will convene on Monday to pick his replacement, after Khan rallied supporters in cities across the nation on Sunday night against what he called “U.S.-backed regime change.”

Media reports stated, the vote that ousted Khan went ahead after the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, met Khan, as criticism mounted over the delay to the parliamentary process. The Supreme Court has also ordered parliament to convene and hold the vote. The military has ruled the country of 220 million people for almost half its nearly 75-year history.

The military had viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favorably when he won the election in 2018, but that support waned after a falling-out over the appointment of the influential military intelligence chief and economic troubles that led to the largest interest rate rise in decades this week.

Khan had antagonized the United States throughout his tenure, welcoming the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year and more recently accusing the United States of being behind the attempt to oust him. Washington dismissed the accusation.

He thanked all the opposition leaders after the vote and promised that his new administration, if confirmed, would look forward. “This alliance will rebuild Pakistan and we will not indulge in the political victimization of the opponents,” he said.

“I don’t want to discuss the bitterness of the past. We want to forget them and move forward. We will not take revenge or do an injustice; we will not send people to jail for no reason. Law and justice will take their own course,” Sharif added. Shehbaz Sharif said Khan’s departure was a chance for a new beginning.

Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Join More Diverse And Conservative High Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will join a Supreme Court that is both more diverse than ever and more conservative than it’s been since the 1930s.

She’s likely to be on the losing end of a bunch of important cases, including examinations of the role of race in college admissions and voting rights that the high court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, will take up next term.

Jackson, 51, is the first Black woman confirmed to the Supreme Court following Thursday’s 53-47 vote by the Senate. She won’t join the court for several months, until Justice Stephen Breyer retires once the court wraps up its work for the summer — including its verdict on whether to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights.

When Jackson takes the bench as a justice for the first time, in October, she will be one of four women and two Black justices — both high court firsts.

And the nine-member court as a whole will be younger than it’s been for nearly 30 years, when Breyer, now 83, came on board.

Among the younger justices are three appointees of former President Donald Trump, and the court’s historic diversity won’t obscure its conservative tilt.

In Breyer’s final term, the conservative justices already have left their mark even before deciding major cases on abortion, guns, religion and climate change. By 5-4 or 6-3 votes, they allowed an unusual Texas law to remain in effect that bans abortions after roughly six weeks; stopped the

Biden administration from requiring large employers to have a workforce that is vaccinated against COVID-19 or be masked and tested; and left in place redrawn Alabama congressional districts that a lower court with two Trump appointees found shortchanged Black voters in violation of federal law.

Jackson’s replacement of Breyer, for whom she once worked as a law clerk, won’t alter that Supreme Court math.

“She’s just going to be swimming against the tide every day. That’s a lot to take on,” said Robin Walker Sterling, a Northwestern University law professor.

But Jackson’s presence could make a difference in the perspective she brings and how she expresses herself in her opinions, said Payvand Ahdout, a University of Virginia law professor.

Jackson, who was raised in Miami, may see the high court’s cases about race “from the lens of being a Black woman who grew up in the South. She has an opportunity early on to show how representation matters,” Ahdout said.

During her Senate confirmation hearings, Jackson pledged to sit out the court’s consideration of Harvard’s admissions program, since she is a member of its board of overseers. But the court could split off a second case involving a challenge to the University of North Carolina’s admissions process, which might allow her to weigh in on the issue.

“Historically, the court goes to some length to try to get as much participation as possible. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two dealt with separately,” said Ahdout, who was a clerk to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the last time the court dealt with race in college admissions, in 2016. Just seven justices took part in that case, because Justice Antonin Scalia died before it was decided and Justice Elena Kagan had been involved as a Justice Department official before joining the court.

For now, Jackson might not have much to do. She remains a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, but she stepped away from cases there when President Joe Biden nominated her to the Supreme Court in February and will continue to do so, a White House official said.

That could reduce the number of times Jackson has to recuse herself from any of her old cases that later make their way to the Supreme Court.

Breyer said in January that he would retire once his successor had been confirmed, but not before the end of the term. With a bare Senate majority, Democrats didn’t want to risk waiting until the summer for confirmation hearings and a vote.

That leaves Jackson in a situation that is “unprecedented in modern times,” said Marin Levy, a Duke University law professor who studies the federal judiciary.

Most new justices begin work a few days after they are confirmed, Levy said. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to the court just a few hours after his tumultuous Senate vote.

Jackson could spend time arranging for her clerks and other staff for the Supreme Court, and closing down her current office.

But she won’t have to find new housing or upend the lives of her husband and children. Her new workplace is less than a mile from the court of appeals.

Opposition Grows To Imposing Hindi On Indian States

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent statement that time has come to make official language Hindi, an important part of the country’s unity, which has come under severe criticism from main Opposition leaders in India, several state leaders and Bollywood and media persons from across the nation.

While the main opposition parties called it an assault on India’s pluralism and asserting they will thwart the move to impose “Hindi imperialism,” Oscar-winner and one of India’s top music directors A R Rahman has tweeted a poster highlighting the significance of Tamil and what the language means to Tamilians. The tweet is being seen as a strong response to Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent statement on Hindi being an alternative to English.

Rahman tweeted the poster of a woman holding a staff with the Tamil letter ‘a’ (lazha) on it. Interestingly, the letter is unique to Tamil language. The poster, titled ‘Tamizhanangu’, also had lines from a poem by revolutionary poet Bharathidasan. The line, “Inba Thamizh Engal Urimai Sempayirukku Vaer” (Delightful Tamil is the root of the staple crop of our rights). Thousands have liked the tweet that Rahman has put out with several other top writers, actors, journalists retweeting the tweet to voice their support for Rahman’s statement.

India’s multilingual Bollywood actor Prakash Raj has responded strongly to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent remarks that Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English. “Amit Shah ji, I want to know where do you want us to speak Hindi, learn Hindi,” asked the actor. The actor joins us on this episode of ‘Left, Right and Centre’.

India’s main opposition party, Congress accused Shah of trying to impose Hindi, and said in doing so he is doing a disservice to the language. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh contended Hindi is ‘Raj Bhasha’ (official language) and not ‘Rashtra Bhasha’ (national language), as Rajnath Singh had noted in Parliament when he was the home minister. “Hindi imperialism will be the death knell for India. I’m very comfortable with Hindi, but I don’t want it rammed down anybody’s throat. Amit Shah is doing a disservice to Hindi by imposing it,” Ramesh said on Twitter.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the home minister has tried to sermonize about Hindi which he should not. He also alleged that by raking up the issue of Hindi, the home minister is also trying to divert people’s attention from inflation and price rise. “Don’t conflagrate…don’t give us sermons,” he said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, whose DMK has been at the forefront of anti-Hindi agitations which often turned violent, said Shah’s thrust on Hindi went against India’s ‘integrity and pluralism’. Reacting to Shah’s April 7 statement, Stalin said it will wreck the nation’s integrity. The BJP top brass is continuously working towards causing damage to India’s pluralism, Stalin, who is also the DMK president, said on Twitter.

The main opposition in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK said people may learn Hindi on their own volition but imposition of the language is unacceptable. Quoting Dravidian icon, the late C N Annadurai, AIADMK top leader O Panneerselvam said if needed, people willing to learn Hindi may do so voluntarily. However, foisting Hindi on people is never acceptable, the AIADMK coordinator tweeted.

A TMC spokesman said, BJP’s agenda of “one nation, one language and one religion” will remain unfulfilled. “If Amit Shah and the BJP try to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states, it will be resisted. The people of this country, where there is so much diversity, will never accept such a thing. “Even India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had said that Hindi will not be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states until they are willing to accept it,” senior TMC leader Sougata Roy said.

In India’s restive northeastern region, where people speak at least 220 languages or dialects, separatist rebel groups have always detested the use of Hindi, calling it an instrument of so-called “colonial Delhi” to suppress indigenous people and their cultures. In the past, many Hindi-speakers were gunned down by outlawed groups.

Shah’s recent remark has sparked a huge backlash in the region. The Asom Sahitya Sabha, Assam’s apex literary body, said in a statement, “The Union home minister should have instead taken steps to develop Assamese and other indigenous languages. Such steps spell a bleak future for Assamese and all indigenous languages in the Northeast. The Sabha demands that the decision to make Hindi mandatory till Class X be revoked.”

The influential North-East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella body of the various student outfits in the region, said Hindi can be an optional subject, but they are against any kind of “imposition”.

Noted academician Pabitra Sarkar claimed that the statement was “premature” and “unacceptable”. He said, “This is a very premature statement made without taking into cognizance the views of others. There is a history of resistance in southern India against the imposition of Hindi.”

Presiding over the 37th meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee in New Delhi, Amit Shah had said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided that the medium of running the government is the official language and this will definitely increase the importance of Hindi, according to a statement issued by the Union Home Ministry. He informed the members that now 70 per cent of the agenda of the Cabinet is prepared in Hindi.

Shah said now the time has come to make the official language Hindi an important part of the unity of the country, adding Hindi should be accepted as an alternative to English and not to local languages.

This isn’t the first time A R Rahman has commented on the language debate. In June 2019, when there were plans to make a three-language policy mandatory for all states, Rahman had tweeted: “AUTONOMOUS | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary,” with web link of the word’s meaning in the dictionary. His tweet triggered a popular hashtag, ‘#autonomousTamilNadu’ by his fans worldwide.

Similarly, when the Centre decided to drop the provision of compulsory teaching of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states, Rahman had tweeted in praise of Tamil Nadu’s two language policy: “Good decision. Hindi is not compulsory in Tamil Nadu. The draft has been corrected.”

The two-language policy that is being followed in Tamil Nadu was born out of a peculiar pride in the Mother Tongue, Tamil, which is based on an assertion that Tamil is the oldest language and cannot be placed lesser than Hindi or any other language in India. For majoritarian reasons and a perception that a single native language will make the governance easier, Delhi had been consistently pushing for Hindi on various levels for several decades. But most Tamil parties and almost all Tamil politicians continue to resist efforts to impose or bring in a single national language in the country, Hindi.

During Easter Week, Pope Francis Pushes For Peace In Ukraine

Pope Francis opened Holy Week Sunday with a call for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make room for a negotiated peace, highlighting the need for leaders to “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass before crowds in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since the pandemic, Pope Francis called for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting, no! A truce to reach peace through real negotiations.”

Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the reference was clear, and he has repeatedly denounced the war and the suffering brought to innocent civilians. During the traditional Sunday blessing following Palm Sunday Mass, the pontiff said leaders should be “willing to make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

“In fact, what a victory would that be, who plants a flag under a pile of rubble?” During his Palm Sunday homily, the pontiff denounced “the folly of war” that leads people to commit “senseless acts of cruelty.”

“When we resort to violence  we lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty. We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time,” he said. Francis lamented “the unjust death of husbands and sons” “refugees fleeing bombs” “young people deprived of a future”  and “soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”

After two years of celebrating Palm Sunday Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica without a crowd due to pandemic distancing measures, the solemn celebration returned to the square outside. Tens of thousands pilgrims and tourists clutched olive branches and braided palms emblematic of the ceremony that recalls Jesus’ return to Jerusalem.

Traditionally, the pope leads a Palm Sunday procession through St. Peter’s Square before celebrating Mass. Francis has been suffering from a strained ligament in his right knee that has caused him to limp, and he was driven in a black car to the altar, which he then reached with the help of an aide. He left the Mass on the open-top popemobile, waving to the faithful in the piazza and along part of the via della Conciliazione.

Palm Sunday opens Holy Week leading up to Easter, which this year falls on April 17, and features the Good Friday Way of the Cross Procession.

India Critical Of Russian Invasion, But Will Not Name It

India appeared to be giving up its diplomatic equivocation by offering its strongest criticism on the crisis in Ukraine yet by “unequivocally” condemning the killings of civilians in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, media reports stated.

The statement by India’s Permanent Representative T S Tirumurti last week at the UN Security Council came after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky described in stark detail the atrocities in Bucha. Tirumurti said, “Recent reports of civilian killings in Bucha are deeply disturbing. We unequivocally condemn these killings and support the call for an independent investigation.”

Tirumurti still managed to walk the fine line of delicately calibrated neutrality by not naming Russia even though the implication of his statement was obvious. “India continues to remain deeply concerned at the worsening situation and reiterates its call for an immediate cessation of violence and end to hostilities”, he said.

“We continue to emphasize to all member states of the UN that the global order is anchored on international law, UN Charter and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of states”, he said reiterating the stance New Delhi has taken during earlier U.N. discussions and votes over Ukraine.

India on Saturday abstained on a US-sponsored resolution at the United Nations Security Council that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, but sharpened its language by flagging three important concerns — respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, the UN charter and international law—without naming Russia.

Hours later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that he “urged India to give political support in the UN Security Council”. “Spoke with Prime Minister @narendramodi. Informed of the course of Ukraine repulsing Russian aggression. More than 100,000 invaders are on our land. They insidiously fire on residential buildings. Urged India to give us political support in UN Security Council. Stop the aggressor together!” he tweeted.

Zelensky made a video address to the U.N. Security Council during which he said there were dozens of other communities other than Bucha where the Russian troops had committed atrocities.

He said “there is not a single crime that they would not commit” and went on to describe in graphic terms what he claimed were Russian atrocities on the civilians of Ukraine. Quite strikingly, he likened the atrocities to those committed by the Islamic State terrorist organizations in the Middle East. He also showed the Security Council a video documenting what he described as war crimes with piles of bodies, some of whose hands were tied.

But Russia’s Permanent Representative Vasily Nebenzia offered Moscow’s familiar argument that images in the video were staged. He also claimed that those were victims of Ukrainian forces or “neo-Nazis”. It might be recalled that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had made a manifestly exaggerated claim that his military operation was aimed at “denazifying” Ukraine even though Zelensky and other members of his cabinet are Jewish.

Both, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo spoke of their horror at the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. Guterres said, “I will never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha”.

“I am also deeply shocked by the personal testimony of rapes and sexual violence that are now emerging”, he said while calling for an independent inquiry.

DiCarlo said, “The horror deepened this past week as shocking images emerged of dead civilians, some with hands bound, lying in the streets of Bucha, the town near Kyiv formerly held by Russian forces. Many bodies were also found in a mass grave in the same locality”.

“Reports by non-governmental organizations and media also allege summary executions of civilians, rape and looting in the Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions” she added.

Although there is no prospect of New Delhi acknowledging that its statement today was a clear departure from its careful neutral tone so far, it was quite clear that the Indian government’s concern at the atrocities had crept in more assertively.

Tirumurti said, “The situation in Ukraine has not shown any significant improvement since the Council last discussed the issue. The security situation has only deteriorated, as well as its humanitarian consequences”.

“When innocent human lives are at stake, diplomacy must prevail as the only viable option. In this context, we take note of the ongoing efforts, including the meetings held recently between the parties,” he said.

Tirumurti yet again pointed out that New Delhi had sent medicines and other relief supplies to Ukraine and will continue to do so.

It has been exacting diplomatic calisthenics for New Delhi since the invasion of Ukraine some 40 days ago because its historically robust relations with Moscow as well as its inordinate dependence on Russian manufactured armaments. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visit New Delhi last week in an obvious continuing effort to keep India on his country’s side.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Zelenskyy had “briefed” Modi about the conflict in Ukraine. Modi expressed his deep anguish about the loss of lives and property due to the conflict, it said and reiterated his call for an “immediate cessation of violence” and a return to dialogue, and “expressed India’s willingness to contribute in any way towards peace efforts”.

While Modi had appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for “immediate cessation of violence”, this is the first time that he has expressed his willingness to participate in peace process. Modi also conveyed deep concern for the safety and security of Indian citizens, including students, present in Ukraine. “He sought facilitation by Ukrainian authorities to expeditiously and safely evacuate Indian citizens,” the PMO said.

Though India’s statement after the vote did not name Russia, it is stronger than previous statements made at the Security Council on the issue in the last one month or so. The vote and the explanation by TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN in New York, came after sustained diplomatic pressure was mounted by the US-led Western bloc as well as Russia.

How Putin Underestimated Ukraine

In the eyes of the Kremlin leadership, the basic precondition of the successful war against Ukraine has been the perceived power of the Russian Armed Forces and possible superiority over the Ukrainian forces.

This idea is clearly visible in the numerous pre-war statements in which it was assumed that Ukrainian people would not fight, that they would welcome Russians, and that they would and should be ‘liberated’ or ‘protected’.

The reality showed the opposite. Not only did Ukrainian Armed Forces fight back, but Ukrainian society demonstrates unity and resistance, something that definitely contradicts the notion of a ‘divided East and West’ promoted by Russian propaganda for years.

Do Ukrainians still have different views regarding politicians, economic development, and even the state of their foreign policy? Yes, absolutely, as any other democratic nation should.

Still, according to the latest sociological surveys (March), 76 per cent of Ukrainian think that their country is going in the right direction, in February, this number was just 25 per cent.

Moreover, Ukrainians are not ready to give up Crimea and the occupied territories of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions: 86 per cent think that Ukraine should use all means necessary to return Donbas, and 80 per cent – to return Crimea – these numbers are also higher than they were before the war started.

A united Ukrainian people

The imperative of the Russian leadership was that Russian-speaking cities such as Kharkiv and Odesa would surrender first. Just before the invasion, there had been rumours in Odesa’s social networks that a mayor bought one million roses to greet Russian soldiers.

Moreover, Kharkiv appeared in the Ukrainian president’s interview with the Washington Post as a city that has the potential to be occupied by the Russian Federation. The latter provoked strong opposition among the local politicians and activists who have been publicly confirming the readiness to resist and the pro-Ukrainian mood of the city.

Some experts now consider that the brutal Russian shelling of Kharkiv is a punishment for that January position. In Odesa too, sociological polls on the third week of the war demonstrated that 91 per cent agreed that Russia is at war with Ukraine, 74 per cent absolutely disagreed that Russia is liberating Ukraine from ‘nationalists’, and 93 per cent supported the actions of President Zelenskyy.

Moreover, an initial plan that these occupied cities would quickly follow ‘the Crimea scenario’ of the fake referendum and the instalment of proxies as heads of the municipality did not work out.

The occupied cities of Kherson, Kahovka, and Energodar have seen daily participation of pro-Ukrainian demonstrations against the Russian forces. Mayors of several towns in Eastern Ukraine, including Melitopol, were kidnapped, but local inhabitants still did not support a new ‘leadership’.

In 2013, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians came to the Maidan after the brutal attack against a small group of students. In 2022, millions of Ukrainians, despite ethnicity, religion, or language preferences, came out in support of the towns that have been under constant attack.

While in January, the newly established Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine was trying to attract 100 thousand reservists, in March, it is almost impossible to join the TDF because of quantity of applications.

These volunteers now have an experience of eight years of continuous war with Russia and bring both humanitarian aid and military supply. But what is most important is that people believe in the Armed Forces, and this trust and support is what makes the situation so difficult for the Kremlin.

2014 is not 2022

In the development of different strategic documents for the Armed Forces or diplomats of Ukraine, we always emphasised an important element – personnel and their motivation. Air superiority or outnumbering in personnel and missiles are important, but only if you have personnel ready to fight and with an understanding for what the country is fighting.

After three weeks of the Russian invasion, it seemed that despite military superiority, the Russian army is confused and demoralised. But unfortunately, not their leadership.

These examples clearly demonstrate the how the Russian leadership underestimated Ukraine’s military, as most conclusions were based on the 2014 situation. Ill-equipped Armed Forces, significant support of the pro-Russian political parties, misunderstanding of the undemocratic processes happening in Russia itself have diminished gradually after eight years of the occupation of Crimea and the war in Donbas.

The desire for peace cannot be confused with the willingness to surrender, and the desire for stability should not be confused with willingness to suppress a democratic and sovereign choice of people.

‘It is our land, it is our home’. ‘We are not contesting anybody or disputing over something. We defend our family’. ‘Don’t ask how is my family, my family is 44 million Ukrainians’. These are the most popular slogans these days. It is not nationalism or excessive patriotism.

This is the type of resilience which experts and politicians have been discussing during the last years. Ukraine adopted its first National Resilience Concept in September 2021. Six months later came a reason to check its validity.

Dr. Hanna Shelest is editor-in-chief of Ukraine Analytica and heads the security policy department at the Ukrainian think tank Ukrainian Prism. Source: International Politics and Society (IPS), published by the Global and European Policy Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

7 In 10 Americans See Russia as Enemy, While NATO Is Seen More Positively

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a dramatic shift in American public opinion: 70% of Americans now consider Russia an enemy of the United States, up from 41% in January. And on this topic, Democrats and Republicans largely agree, with 72% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans describing Russia as an enemy.

A new Pew Research Center survey, conducted March 21-27, finds that just 7% of U.S. adults have an overall favorable opinion of Russia. Only 6% express confidence in its leader, President Vladimir Putin. In contrast, 72% have confidence in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The ongoing war has brought renewed attention to NATO. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it borders several member states, and NATO leaders have worked together in recent weeks to coordinate their responses to the crisis. Attitudes toward the alliance have grown more positive since Russia’s invasion: 67% express a favorable opinion of the organization, up from 61% in 2021. Meanwhile, 69% say the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from being a NATO member.

While both Democrats and Republicans (including those who lean to each party) hold largely positive views about NATO and U.S. membership in the organization, Democrats are consistently more positive, especially liberal Democrats. For instance, 85% of liberal Democrats think the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from NATO membership; among conservative Republicans, only 51% hold this view.

Still, partisan differences over NATO have shrunk somewhat over the past year. The share of Democrats and Democratic leaners with a favorable overall opinion of NATO has held steady at nearly eight-in-ten, but among Republicans and GOP leaners, positive views have increased from 44% in spring 2021 to 55% today.

The partisan gap on Russia favorability has also decreased. In 2020 – the last time this question was asked – there was a 17 percentage point difference between the share of Democrats with a very unfavorable opinion of Russia and the share of Republicans with that view; now the gap is only 5 points.

Democrats and Republicans are also now more closely aligned on views about the threat posed by Russia. In the current survey, 66% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say Russia is a major threat to the U.S., similar to the 61% registered among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. However, when this question was last asked in 2020, only 48% of Republicans considered Russia a major threat, compared with 68% of Democrats.

These are among the key findings of a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center on the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel among 3,581 adults from March 21 to 27, 2022.

Most Americans have a very unfavorable opinion of Russia

Public opinion of Russia is overwhelmingly negative: 92% of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of the country, including 69% who have a very unfavorable view. Since the last time this question was asked on Pew Research Center’s online panel in 2020, almost two years prior to Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, this strongly negative sentiment has increased by 28 percentage points.

Before switching to online surveys, Pew Research Center tracked Americans’ ratings of Russia in phone surveys between 2007 and 2020. In that time, assessments of Russia were never very positive, but they turned sharply negative in the spring of 2014, immediately following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which few countries have recognized – and never recovered.

While negative sentiment toward Russia has increased substantially among both Democrats and Republicans since 2020, Republicans’ views have changed more drastically. Around a third of Republicans and Republican leaners had a very unfavorable view of Russia in 2020, compared with 67% who now hold this view – a 35 percentage point increase. In the same period, the share of Democrats with a very negative view of Russia increased by 23  points. A small partisan gap in views of Russia remains, but Republicans and Democrats are not as divided on Russia as they once were.

Americans ages 65 and older (83%) are much more likely than adults under 30 (55%) to have a very unfavorable view of Russia.

A large majority of Americans now see Russia as an enemy

Changes in overall views of Russia have come alongside changes in how Americans perceive relations between the two countries. Just two months ago, Americans were more likely to describe Russia as a competitor of the U.S. rather than its enemy (49% vs. 41% at the time). Now, Americans overwhelmingly call Russia an enemy: 70% say so, with just 24% preferring to call Russia a competitor of the U.S. Merely 3% of Americans see Russia as a partner, down from 7% two months ago.

While broad cross-sections of Americans primarily see Russia as the United States’ enemy, those ages 65 and older are especially likely to hold this view, with 83% saying so. And while a majority of the youngest adults polled agree that Russia is an enemy (59%), they are far more likely than older adults to label Russia as a competitor.

More educated Americans are also particularly likely to name Russia an enemy – 77% of those with a postgraduate degree say this, while roughly two-thirds of both those with some college education and those with a high school degree or less education say the same.

While Democrats and Republicans largely agree that Russia is an enemy, there are some differences between partisan and ideological camps. Moderate and liberal Republicans are the least likely to name Russia an enemy (63% say this), while liberal Democrats are the most likely (78%).

Perception of Russia as a major threat at all-time high

With most Americans viewing Russia as an enemy, the share who believe that Russia is a threat to the U.S. is higher now than it has ever been since the Center first began polling on this topic in 2008. Overall, 64% of Americans say that Russia’s power and influence is a major threat to their country, 30% say it is a minor threat and only 5% say Russia is not a threat.

Mirroring overall views of Russia, Americans became more wary of the country in 2014, when just over half said it was a major threat to the U.S. At that time and in 2016, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to be concerned. This partisan difference both widened and flipped in following years, however, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to view Russia as a major threat in each survey between 2017 to 2020. Since then, the share of Republicans who see Russia as a threat has increased, narrowing the partisan gap.

Though views of Russia as a major threat have shifted somewhat over time, the share of Americans who say Russia is not a threat to U.S. interests has never been higher than 10%.

Majorities of adults in all age groups see Russia as a significant threat, but this view is even more common among adults ages 65 and older (70% vs. 57% among those ages 18 to 29).

Amid Russia-Ukraine war, Americans positive on NATO, though partisan divides persist

As NATO faces increased scrutiny in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the political and military alliance is seen in a positive light by most Americans. Two-thirds have a favorable opinion of NATO. This marks a significant increase from the roughly six-in-ten who said the same of the organization in 2020 and 2021.

Prior to 2020, U.S. opinion of NATO was somewhat mixed. Roughly half or more of Americans expressed a favorable view of the organization, with opinion ranging from 49% in 2013 and 2015 to 64% in 2018. However, these figures are from phone surveys and are not directly comparable to more recent online American Trends Panel data.

While Democrats and Republicans are both generally more favorable toward NATO than not, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republican counterparts to have a positive view. About eight-in-ten (78%) Democrats see NATO in a positive light, compared with 55% of Republicans. This pattern was observed in 2021, though Republicans have grown somewhat more favorable on NATO since this question was last asked.

There are notable differences within each partisan coalition: Liberal Democrats are somewhat more likely to hold a favorable opinion of the alliance than conservative or moderate Democrats (83% vs. 75%, respectively). Among Republicans, those who describe their political views as moderate or liberal are more positive about NATO than conservatives (61% vs. 53%, respectively).

Americans of all ages tend to have favorable opinions of NATO overall, but those ages 65 and older are more likely to hold a favorable view of NATO than younger adults. Roughly three-quarters (73%) of older Americans have a positive opinion of the organization, compared with 64% of those ages 18 to 29. Eight-in-ten of those with a postgraduate degree express a favorable opinion of NATO – significantly more than the share with a bachelor’s degree (73%), some college (64%) or a high school degree or less (59%).

The degree to which U.S. adults pay attention to world affairs impacts NATO favorability. Those who are interested in foreign policy (71%) are more likely to express a positive view than those who are not (56%).

About seven-in-ten Americans (69%) say the U.S. benefits a great deal or a fair amount from being a member of NATO, with 31% saying the U.S. benefits a great deal. In contrast, 29% say the U.S. benefits not too much or doesn’t benefit at all. The share who believe the U.S. benefits from NATO membership has held steady since 2021, when 71% held the same view.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to believe the U.S. benefits from belonging to the alliance. Roughly eight-in-ten Democrats (82%) express this opinion, compared with 55% of Republicans who say the same.

Age and education impact the way NATO membership is perceived. Older Americans (those ages 65 and older) are more likely than younger adults to believe the U.S. benefits from being a member of NATO. About three-quarters of those 65 and older (77%) hold this view, compared with 69% of those ages 18 to 29. And 79% of those with a postgraduate degree are positive about NATO membership – significantly more than in any other education group.

Interest in international affairs is also linked to support for NATO membership. U.S. adults who say they are interested in keeping up to date on foreign affairs are more likely than those who are not to believe the U.S. benefits from membership in NATO (72% vs. 64%, respectively). Similarly, those who follow international news very or somewhat closely are more likely to have a favorable view of U.S. NATO membership than those who do not (72% vs. 66%, respectively).

With Religious Tensions Worsening in India, Understanding Caste Is More Urgent Than Ever

A new Bollywood movie is galvanizing Hindu audiences and stirring up a fresh wave of anti-Muslim bigotry. In the name of India’s Hindu majority, hijabs are banned in one Indian state and Muslims attacked for praying publicly in New Delhi. A hardline Hindu supremacist, infamous for his anti-Muslim comments and for policies that demonize or exclude Muslims, wins a second term as chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. His victory is seen as a ringing endorsement of the ideology of Hindutva.

The belief that India is not a secular nation, or even multi-religious, but an intrinsically Hindu country, is the central platform of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But the “Hindu majority” invoked by supporters of Hindutva, in their agitation against Muslims and other minorities, is not a monolithic bloc. In fact, it is highly stratified, with elite groups of Hindus exploiting the vulnerability of marginalized communities for their own political ends.

If Hindu unity is a facade, it also follows that the Hindu-Muslim binary, while a common framing for the discussion of Indian politics, cannot be as straightforward as it appears.

To understand the nuances of Indian politics, one needs to understand the complex caste system. At three thousand years old, this system of organizing Hindus by their professions and obligations is the world’s longest running hierarchy and probably the most rigid. By some estimates, there are 3,000 main castes and as many as 25,000 sub-castes, with Brahmins (intellectuals) at the top and Shudras (menials) at the bottom.

Lying outside this system are the Dalits (formerly called “untouchables”) and the Adivasi (indigenous tribes), together totaling 350 million people, or just over a quarter of India’s population. They are the most socio-economically marginalized groups in the country, but they are also contested over by Hindu nationalists, who see them as useful foot soldiers in the struggle against Islam.

“Hindu nationalism is led by the upper castes and their incitement of all Hindus against the Muslim minority is a ploy that enables them to keep their grip on Hindu society,” says the welfare economist Jean Drèze. “It makes it all the more difficult for Dalits and other exploited groups to question their own oppression by the upper castes and revolt against it.”

Some 200 members of Dalit and other castes attend a religious program to convert to Buddhism in Ahmedabad, India, on Sept. 30, 2017.

At the same time, there is a fear that other religions will prove more attractive to the disadvantaged communities who, being outside the caste system, need not have any particular loyalty to Hinduism. Dalits are not even allowed to enter many Hindu temples. Small wonder that Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), a revered Dalit leader and the head of the committee that drafted Indian constitution, urged every Dalit to convert to Buddhism.

If the 25% of the population represented by such communities were to become Buddhists or Christians, the idea of Hindutva would be seriously weakened. Mass Dalit conversions have already taken place. In response, legal moves have been made in several Indian states to prevent people from leaving the Hindu religion.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu Nationalist group and the parent organization of the BJP, is also making strenuous if belated efforts to include Dalits and the Adivasis in the Hindu fold. Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the RSS, told a gathering in January that the caste system was “an obstacle to Hindu unity.” Last year, he also said “we consider every Indian a Hindu.”

Using such language, the RSS is able to appeal to emotionally vulnerable Dalits, helping them feel accepted in a society that has historically excluded them. Dalits are told that they are “the real warriors of Hinduism.”

The next step is conversion “into active anti-Muslim sentiments,” says Bhanwar Meghwanshi. Today a Dalit-rights activist, Meghwanshi formerly served in the organization and wrote a book about his experiences entitled I Could Not Be Hindu: The Story of a Dalit in the RSS.

“We were trained to hate Muslims,” he says, “so we could be [RSS] foot soldiers in anti-Muslim riots.” (Tellingly, the great majority of those arrested in the 2002 Gujurat riots were from Dalit and other disadvantaged groups.)

Ironically, its middle initial stands for swayamsevak or “self-reliance,” when the RSS is heavily reliant on Dalits and Adivasis to do its dirty work during periods of communal violence.

Compounding the issue is the fact that the Muslim community is also stratified on caste lines, in ways that mirror the Hindu system. Indian Islam has its ashrafs (nobles), ajlafs (commoners), and arzals (“despicables”).

The political manipulation of disadvantaged castes will continue so long as they refuse to see that they are “simply pawns in the middle,” being led by “oppressor castes,” says Suraj Kumar Bauddh, an anti-caste activist and the founder of Mission Ambedkar. “Whether they are Hindu lower-caste communities, or Muslim lower-caste communities, they are only told to kill and die, to gain acceptance within either fold.”

The existence of a ready supply of expendable fighters can only exacerbate India’s spiraling religious tensions. Now more than ever, Dalits, Adivasis—and disadvantaged Muslims—must reframe the political debate.

United Nations & Its Leadership Challenged By An Existential Crisis

The other day a friend asked me “Can Russia be expelled from the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority?”  Almost impossible to do that, I responded.

Two of the articles of the Charter of the United Nations relate to the issue of possible exclusion of Russia from the United Nations. Article 5 talks about suspension and Article 6 talks about expulsion. According to those articles, the action needs be taken by the General Assembly with two-thirds majority, upon the recommendation of the Security Council. That recommendation of the Council cannot be made as it is subject to veto by the Russian Federation as one of the five Permanent Members.

The obvious follow-up question was “Has any country been ever expelled or suspended from the General Assembly?”  The U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) has effectively excluded a state on three occasions: Cambodia in 1997, Yugoslavia in 1992 and South Africa in 1974.

UNGA Resolution 47/1 was adopted on 22 September 1992 expelled Yugoslavia from the UN General Assembly. In this case, the Security Council by its Resolution 777 (1992) recommended action under Article 6 of the UN Charter, considering that the nation known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had ceased to exist and therefore recommended to the General Assembly to exclude Yugoslavia from General Assembly and asked the country as constituted to apply for membership in the United Nations.

Some countries tried to expel South Africa, which was one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations in 1945, because of its policy of apartheid, but the three permanent members of the Security Council – France, UK, and US – used their veto power to block that move.

After the Council informed the General Assembly on its failure to adopt a resolution, the then President of the General Assembly, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, ruled that the delegation of South Africa should be refused participation in the work of the General Assembly. His ruling was upheld by 91 votes to 22, with 19 abstentions on 12 November 1974.

Although remaining a member of the UN, South Africa was not represented at subsequent sessions of the General Assembly. Following South Africa’s successful democratic elections of May 1994, after 20 years of refusing to accept the credentials of the South African delegation, the General Assembly unanimously welcomed South Africa back to full participation in the United Nations on 23 June 1994. It also deleted its agenda item on “the elimination of apartheid and the establishment of a united, democratic and nonracial South Africa.”

It is also important recall that in 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on all member states to impose a trade boycott against South Africa. A US Congressional legislation aimed to ban all new U.S. trade and investment in South Africa and that acted as a catalyst for similar sanctions in Europe and Japan. In 1963, the UN Security Council called for partial arms ban against South Africa, but this was not mandatory under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Deadlock but not dead-end – other courses of action

As mentioned earlier, the suspension or expulsion of Russia is “almost impossible” according to the UN Charter. To that, I would add that it is a deadlock but not a dead-end.

Some UN watchers are of the opinion that there are still ways to limit Russia’s presence in the U.N. beyond the Security Council as has been decided today (7 April) by the UNGA to suspend its membership in the UN Human Rights Council.

According to the General Assembly’s 1950 resolution 377A (V), widely known as ‘Uniting for Peace’, if the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members, the Assembly has the power to make recommendations to the wider UN membership for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.

For instance. most frequently, the Security Council determines when and where a UN peace operation should be deployed, but historically, when the Council has been unable to take a decision, the General Assembly has done so. For example, in 1956, the General Assembly established the First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) in the Middle East.

In addition, the General Assembly may meet in Emergency Special Session if requested by nine members of the Security Council or by a majority of the Members of the Assembly. To date, the General Assembly has held 11 Emergency Special Sessions (8 of which have been requested by the Security Council).

On 1 March 2022, the General Assembly, meeting in emergency session, adopted a resolution by which it deplored “the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter. Can any other process feasibly be exploited to suspend a state in such circumstances, as a way of circumventing article 5? Yes, there is a way to try that.

Though the General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, but they are considered to carry political weight as they express the will of the wider UN membership.

Some UN watchers believe that Article 5 of the Charter is not completely the end of the road on suspension. They are of the opinion that that there are two dimensions to a state’s participation in the UN: the actual membership of the state (the subject of article 5 of the Charter); and the representation of that state at the General Assembly’s sessions.

Matters of representation are considered in the context of the General Assembly’s credentials process, which is the process by which the Assembly assesses the eligibility of individual delegates to represent their states at the Assembly’s annual sessions. The process is essentially procedural in nature. It is regulated not by the UN Charter but by the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure.

While the credentials process is usually a procedural one, the credentials process effectively gives the General Assembly the power to decide which authority should be regarded as the legitimate representative of the state – at least so far as the UN is concerned. UNGA could vote to suspend Russian delegation from participating in the General Assembly, a step that does not require the Security Council.

In this context, it has been asserted that “ This move, which would strip Russia of its right to speak or vote at the UN but allow it to retain membership, previously happened in 1974, when diplomats voted to suspend South Africa for its apartheid system.”

Veto is the Chief Culprit

The headline of my opinion piece for the IPS wire of 8 March 2022 argued that “Veto is the Chief Culprit” emphasizing that “Expulsion or Suspension is Not the Remedy”. Since 1946, all five permanent members have exercised the right of veto at one time or another on a variety of issues.

To date, approximately 49 per cent of the vetoes had been cast by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and thereafter the Russian Federation, 29 per cent by the United States, 10 per cent by the United Kingdom, and six per cent each by China and France.

I repeat my main contention in that opinion as “The chief culprit in the failure of unified global action by the UN is the continuation of the irrational practice of veto. As a matter, I have said on record that, if only one reform action could be taken, it should be the abolition of veto. Believe me, the veto power influences not only the decisions of the Security Council but also all work of the UN, including importantly the choice of the Secretary-General.”

Further, I added, “I believe the abolition of veto requires a greater priority attention in the reforms process than the enlargement of the Security Council membership with additional permanent ones. Such permanency is simply undemocratic. I believe that the veto power is not “the cornerstone of the United Nations” but in reality, its tombstone.”

Proactive UN leadership missing

Amid all these legal explanations, diplomatic exchanges, and diverse conjectures, it is unfortunate that questions have been raised about the reticence of the UN Secretary-General in getting his hands dirty and in getting more actively involved in towards ending the Russian aggression and promoting peace in Ukraine.

As much as I recall, this is first time the world public has done that about the role of the UN leadership so vocally. The UN website mentions “near daily press stakeouts by the Secretary-General” on the war in Ukraine. Is this the extent of his active role and involvement?

Well-respected UN watcher and former high UN official Kul Chandra Gautam in an opinion piece recently even exhorted the SG “not to hide behind the glasshouse at Turtle Bay and go beyond invisible subtle diplomacy to more visible shuttle diplomacy.” That is the way to go.

On 3 April, the UN website publicized a Twitter message from the SG saying: “I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine. It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.”

Just two pitiable sentences in Twitter (I wonder how many of the global population has a Twitter account). His operatives – the UN secretariat – misled the world by the trick headline: “UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday called for an independent investigation into the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv.”

Which official language(s) of the UN would interpret “It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability” as “called for an independent investigation”? This is the height of public deception. I wonder why this is necessary.

The Ukraine President lamented on 5 April about the failure of UN Security Council saying that the Council can “dissolve yourselves altogether” if there is nothing it can do other than engage in conversation. First time, a UN Member State has spoken so frankly, so openly, so rightly in a speech before the Council which was at an impasse to stop the aggression in his country.

Unfortunately, it is widely understood that for the UN system, more so for the SG, the dominant instinct for being pro-active in any crisis situation is “the fear of failure.” That “fear” determines the process of decision-making in a big way. A global organization like UN should be smart and mature enough to understand the value of critical opinions to improve its efficacy. Unfortunately, we are not there.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is Former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN; President of the UN Security Council (2000 and 2001); Senior Special Adviser to UN General Assembly President (2011-2012) and Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN.

Marine Le Pen To ‘Win’ French Election, Even If She Loses

The first round of the French Presidential election is scheduled for Sunday, April 10 and the race between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron is growing tighter. 

Mabel Berezin is a comparative sociologist at Cornell University whose work explores fascist, nationalist and populist movements in Europe and associated threats to democracy. Berezin says:  “In this year of major European elections, France was supposed to be the predictable election. For the second time, Emmanuel Macron is likely to run against Marine Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National, formerly extreme-right Front. When Russian President Vladimir Putin marched into Ukraine, the standard election media narrative was that Macron, the sitting French President, despite being widely unpopular, would be re-elected easily. 

“However, analysts of all stripes are not as confident in a Macron victory as they were merely a week ago. In 2017, Le Pen lost to Macron by 34 percentage points. Now, polls on the second-round place her at 46% versus Macron at 54%. This is close enough to elicit worry. 

“Le Pen is on her third try for the French Presidency. She had more competitors this time than she had in 2017. Eric Zemmour tried to outflank her on the right; Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the left. Why is she moving ahead of her competitors? She has chosen to run on economic issues and to downplay her usual line on immigration and security.

“In 2017, when she conceded the election to Macron, she argued that the future political debate in France would be between the ‘globalists’ and the ‘patriots’ – the latter referring to citizens rooted in place and dependent on national institutions. This is not only a French debate. It is increasingly a transnational debate as evidenced by its salience in recent elections across the globe. Marine Le Pen has identified and owns the conceptual frame of a new political moment. Whatever happens on April 24, she wins.”

US Rights Groups Ask USCIRF Not To Heed To Pressure To Dilute Report On Religious Freedom In India

Hundreds of U.S.-based civil rights and faith groups and individuals from across the country have condemned the pressure being placed on a prominent federal commission to dilute its reporting on religious persecution in India.

In a letter to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Sunday, these organizations and individuals said the commission must withstand the pressure from US-based Hindu nationalists and recommend again that the US Department of State designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), its harshest nomenclature for the world’s worst persecutors of religious minorities.

“It is clear that those seeking to obfuscate the reality of India’s persecution of its religious minorities are now using intense lobbying and combative communication with the goal of preventing USCIRF from recommending India’s designation as a CPC for the third straight year,” the letter said.

“We have also learned that such pressure includes attempts to influence USCIRF Commissioners and officials to exclude even a mention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2022 report.”

The USCIRF has announced it will release its Annual Report for 2022 on April 25. Its last two reports in 2020 and 2021 had recommended that India be designated as CPC, along with China, Pakistan, Iran, Vietnam, Nigeria and several other countries. Both the Trump Administration and the Biden Administration did not accept that recommendation.

Leading organizations that have signed the letter include Indian American Muslim Council; Hindus for Human Rights; Jubilee Campaign USA; International Christian Concern; India Civil Watch International; Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations; Dalit Solidarity Forum in the USA; Cameroon American Council; Asian Children Education Fellowship; Association of Indian Muslims of America; International Society for Peace and Justice; Justice For All; Dar El Eman; Coeur d’Alene Bible Church; New Life Church; Fresh Heart Ministries; Director of Governmental Affairs, Greentree Global; pokane Fatherhood Initiative; Indian Muslim Association of Carolinas; Christian Freedom International; and International Asian Christian Front.

“We urge you to not allow Hindu supremacist individuals or organizations to influence the integrity of USCIRF in general and your annual report in particular. As you must know, religious persecution in India has only escalated since last year’s publication of USCIRF’s Annual Report 2021. More than ever before, Muslims, Christians and Dalits are under intense attacks and are experiencing massive human rights abuses as well as diminishing space for religious freedom,” their letter said.

Thousands of Muslims,Christians, and human rights advocates had been jailed under “draconian laws” such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. “Vigilante mobs connected to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have mushroomed across the country, attacking Christians ,Muslims, and Dalits, often lynching them to death.

“Karnataka, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, three states under BJP rule, have passed highly discriminatory laws targeting these two minority communities in the name of anti-conversion. Churches and mosques are vandalized and outrightly demolished by officials, as happened near the Indian capital of New Delhi and in Uttar Pradesh.

“In December 2021, repeated calls were made by saffron-robed Hindu “monks” calling for a genocide of millions of Muslims, for sexual violence against Muslim women, and much more. The past year also saw the highest attacks on record on Indian Christians, including large-scale assault and vandalism on Christmas Day, December 25.

“The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India recorded 505 incidents of hate against Christians in 2021, including threats and harassment, physical violence, false accusations of conversion, desecration of houses of worship, arbitrary arrests, hate campaigns, and more. USCIRF must not ignore the significant  decline of democracy in India that is accompanied by most horrific forms of religious persecution.

Biden’s Nominee To Be US Envoy, Garcetti May Not Make It To India

Concerns are mounting on Capitol Hill around the viability of Mayor Eric Garcett’s India ambassadorship nomination. AXIOS reported on March 3rd that US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s team is privately acknowledging to Senate Democrats that Eric Garcetti doesn’t currently have 50 votes within their caucus to be confirmed as ambassador to India, congressional aides reportedly told Axios.

The comments by the Senate majority leader’s office, delivered last week through his legislative director during a call with other LDs, mean the Los Angeles mayor is unlikely to receive a floor vote any time soon, Axios reported. Garcetti was formally nominated eight months ago.

His remarks also indicate the growing concern — and confusion — within the Democratic Party about the fate of President Biden’s nominee to serve as ambassador to a crucial country resisting the administration’s efforts to get tougher on Russia.

Politico reported last week thatAs the US Senate considered making Garcetti emissary to the world’s biggest democracy, the consternation was initially confined to the GOP: Republican Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley both placed holds on Garcetti’s nomination last month over allegations that Garcetti knew of sexual misconduct in his office, when he was the mayor of Los Angeles.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has placed a “hold” on Garcetti’s nomination, pending his own independent investigations into the allegations. Sen. Joni Ernest (R-Iowa) has placed a second hold on the nomination. The core of the allegations stems from a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department officer Matthew Garza, who claimed that Rick Jacobs, while the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, sexually harassed him. Jacobs has denied the allegations and Garcetti has denied being aware of them.

As per reports by Politico, the Biden administration dispatched a State Department emissary to mollify anxious Democratic Senate staffers about Garcetti. Perennial swing vote Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has not made up her mind — once again raising the prospect that the Arizona Democrat could deny her party a unified vote, which would effectively torpedo Garcetti’s chances in a 50-50 Senate.

AXIOS reports that Schumer’s team was asked about the timing of a possible Garcetti vote during a weekly call designed to provide a big-picture issues overview to Senate offices. The staffer’s comments were based on the public indications from some Democratic senators — a number of whom have said they want more information about allegations of workplace sexual harassment before supporting Garcetti. “At this time, Schumer’s office is not formally “whipping” the vote — asking senators how they plan to vote.” The comments were made before Axios reported Thursday last week that Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had “concerns” about the allegations. That brought the public number of wavering Democratic senators to five.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee looked into the allegations and concluded Garcetti had been truthful in a legal deposition during which he denied any knowledge. Garcetti’s nomination was voted out of committee in January without Republican opposition.

On March 25, a State Department official briefed Senate chiefs of staff, explaining the allegations had been investigated by the department and the committee and they determined Garcetti didn’t know about the alleged behavior. A Biden administration representative reiterated last week that Garcetti still has the administration’s confidence, saying both the State Department and the White House were calling senators on his behalf.

The US Warns India Of Consequences For Circumventing Sanctions Against Russia

India has come under pressure from the U.S. and Western countries to take a tougher position with Russia, a country with which it has long had strong ties. Top diplomats from the U.S., Russia, and Europe have traveled to India last week for separate meetings with officials in New Delhi, underlining the efforts by Moscow and Washington to get India more on its side in the international battle over Russia’s invasion and bombardment of Ukraine.

US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh, a key architect of the Biden administration’s sanctions against Russia, traveled to meet with officials from India’s government this week. While there, he criticized New Delhi’s imports of Russian oil and its reliance on military hardware from Moscow.

There will be consequences for countries looking to circumvent the US sanctions against Russia, the US warned even as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in India last week on March 31st. Visiting US deputy NSA Daleep Singh, who was in India and is leading US efforts to sanction Russia, didn’t specify the consequences but said these were part of private discussions and the US would not like to see any country attempting to take advantage of the current situation.

“The conversation I’ve had here is that we stand ready to help India diversify its energy resources, much like is the case for defense resources over a period of time,” Singh said at the briefing, according to media reports.

The Biden administration and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have grown increasingly frustrated that India has been on the sidelines of the pressure campaign against Moscow.

India has abstained from all United Nations votes condemning Russia and has made no moves to impose sanctions against the Kremlin.

Singh emphasized that the democracies across the world, and specifically the Quad, to come together and voice their shared interests and their shared concerns about the developments in Ukraine and the implications for the Indo-Pacific,” Singh said. The US Deputy NSA said the impact of the Russian aggression if not checked will be devastating.

“Think of the chilling effect that would cause the uncertainties that would be raised, the signal that would be sent to autocrats all over the world that might wish to exert their own sphere of influence, bully their neighbors, perhaps right on India’s doorstep. And those are costs that we are not willing to accept,” he said.

Singh said the US had not set any red line for India to follow, as the latter seeks to buy oil from Russia at a discount, and that India’s current energy import from Russia didn’t violate any US sanction as there was an exemption for energy imports. Indian sources, while not naming the US, had said earlier this month that countries with oil self-sufficiency could not “credibly advocate” restrictive trading with Russia.

The US commerce secretary and the Australian trade minister criticized India for considering a Russian proposal to buy oil that would undermine sanctions. “Now is the time to stand on the right side of history, and to stand with the US and dozens of other countries, and not funding and fuelling and aiding President Putin’s war,” commerce secretary Gina Raimondo said in Washington. Dan Tehan, Australia’s trade minister, said it was important for democracies to work together “to keep the rules-based approach that we’ve had since the second world war”.

The Ukraine crisis figured prominently in talks between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his visiting British counterpart Liz Truss on Thursday. “Foreign secretary Liz Truss is in India as part of a wider diplomatic push following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine last month,” a British High Commission statement said. On Wednesday, German security and foreign policy adviser Jens Plotner had met with India officials.

Despite the fact that relations between the United States and India have improved in recent years, including during the Trump administration, experts on the matter said India is likely to want to maintain its partnership with Russia — which goes back to the Cold War.

“There’s a lot of momentum in U.S.-India relations, and I think Russia now, unfortunately, brings to bear one of the real sore points in the relationship, that India wants to maintain it at all costs,” said Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst with the RAND Corporation.

Donald Lu, the top State Department official focused on U.S. relations with India, told lawmakers earlier this month that officials have been in a “pitched battle” to convince New Delhi to more bluntly condemn Russia, and are weighing whether to impose congressionally mandated sanctions over New Delhi’s earlier purchase of a Russian missile defense system, the S-400.

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), the ranking member with oversight of U.S. foreign relations in South Asia, told The Hill in a statement he opposed sanctioning India, but urged New Delhi to separate itself from Moscow. “India remains a critical partner in the Quad Security Dialogue as they work with the U.S. to combat China in Asia, and around the globe,” Young said. “I hope this will be the moment that India realizes the liability that its longstanding defense relationship with Russia means for their security in the future.”

Former Indian foreign secretary and ex-ambassador to China and the U.S. Nirupama Rao tweeted on Saturday that “our relations with the West matter significantly to us but pressure that we see as unreasonable can’t work.”

Pope Francis Condemns ‘Sacrilegious War’ In Ukraine, While Biden Calls Putin A War Criminal

Pope Francis has denounced Russia’s “repugnant war” against Ukraine as “cruel and sacrilegious inhumanity.” In some of his strongest words yet since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, Francis on Sunday told thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square that every day brings more atrocities in what is a “senseless massacre.”

Pope Francis who has always been in the forefront denouncing violence, said, “Sadly, the violent aggression against Ukraine does not stop, a senseless massacre where each day slaughter and atrocities are repeated,” the pope said March 20th after reciting the midday Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

“There is no justification for this!” he told an estimated 30,000 people who had come to the square to pray with him. Pope Francis once again urged international leaders to work together to put an end “to this repugnant war.”

Meanwhile, in the strongest of criticisms mounted on Russian President Vladimir Putin, American President Joe Biden called Putin a “war criminal,” a rhetorical leap that came as civilian deaths mount in Ukraine. Speaking with reporters last week, Biden affixed the designation on the Russian leader. “I think he is a war criminal,” the President said during remarks at the White House.

It was the harshest condemnation of Putin’s actions from any US official since the war in Ukraine began three weeks ago. Previously, Biden had stopped short of labeling atrocities being documented on the ground in Ukraine as “war crimes,” citing ongoing international and US investigations.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, missiles and bombs have continued to fall “on civilians, the elderly, children and pregnant mothers,” he said. “I went to see the wounded children here in Rome. One of them is missing an arm, the other has a head wound,” he said. That happened to “innocent children.”

While Biden had traveled to Europe to solidify a united front against Russian aggression and devastation on Ukraine, Pope Francis had gone on March 19 to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital where some 50 Ukrainian children had been cared for since the war began. Initially, the Vatican said, most of the young Ukrainian patients were brought to Rome for treatment for cancer, neurological or other diseases. Pope Francis also drew attention to the almost 3.4 million people who have fled Ukraine, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

“And I feel great sorrow for those who don’t even have the chance to escape,” he said. “So many grandparents, sick and poor, are separated from their families,” the pope said; “so many children and fragile people are left to die under the bombs without receiving help and without finding safety even in air-raid shelters,” some of which have been bombed.

“All this is inhuman,” he said. “Indeed, it is even sacrilegious, because it goes against the sanctity of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and which comes before any strategy!”

Pope Francis also expressed his gratitude for the bishops, priests and religious who have stayed with their people, living “under the bombs.” They are “living the Gospel of charity and fraternity.” “Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for this witness and for the concrete support you are courageously offering to so many desperate people,” the pope said.

He specifically mentioned Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Lithuania-born nuncio to Ukraine, “who since the beginning of the war has remained in Kyiv” and is a sign of the pope’s closeness “to the tormented Ukrainian people.”

Pope Francis urged everyone to continue to pray for peace, to pray for the people of Ukraine and to offer concrete assistance to them. “And, please, let’s not get used to war and violence,” he said. “Let’s not tire of welcoming them (the refugees) with generosity, as we are doing.”

The assistance will need to continue for “weeks and months to come,” especially for the women and children forced to flee without their husbands and fathers and without work, which makes them targets of human traffickers, whom the pope called “vultures.”

While reminding the world, “Do not forget,” the pope said, “it is cruel, inhuman and sacrilegious!” He urged “every community and every believer to join me on Friday, March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, in making a solemn act of consecration of humanity, especially of Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that she, the Queen of Peace, may obtain peace for the world.”

After Imran Khan Dissolves Pak Parliament, Court To Decide His Fate

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan avoided a no-confidence motion that was set to happen on  April 3rd, by dissolving the Pakistan Parliament ahead of the crucial vote. Now, Pakistan’s supreme court is expected to decide the fate of embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan, following a day of political turmoil.

Khan, who is facing the toughest challenge of his political career, requested the country’s president dissolve Parliament and called on the nation to prepare for a fresh election. Pakistan’s president Arif Alvi – who is from Khan’s ruling PTI party – dissolved parliament in a step towards early elections. The move has sparked anger among the opposition, with some politicians accusing Mr Khan of “treason” for not allowing the vote to go ahead. But in a television address and a series of late night tweets Khan defended the decision.

As per BBC reports, Khan has faced an attempt to oust him from office in recent days. But in a move that has roiled the country, members of Khan’s party on Sunday,  blocked a vote of no-confidence in the PM and dissolved Parliament. Elections are likely to follow and the question remains uncertain as to who will lead Pakistan into its 76th year after it gained independence from Britain and got separated from India as a Muslim majority country. No prime minister of Pakistan has ever completed a full term and, over the 75 years of its existence, Pakistan has failed to establish stable and effective political institutions.

Less than a day from a no-confidence vote that will almost certainly remove him from office, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said that he would not accept the result of the vote, dismissing it as part of an American conspiracy against him and setting the stage for the country’s political crisis to drag on far beyond Sunday, as Khan fights to remain in politics, New York Timers reported.

For months, Khan has been battling depleting foreign exchange reserves and double digit inflation, with the cost of basic necessities such as food and fuel skyrocketing. Khan had claimed the vote was part of a US-led conspiracy to remove him, but the US has denied this. Furious opposition politicians have now filed a petition to the Supreme Court to rule on whether the move to block the vote was constitutional.

Pakistan’s main opposition parties have been rallying for Khan’s dismissal since he rose to power in 2018 after a dramatic election mired in accusations of vote rigging and foul play. Khan was widely regarded as having come to power with the help of Pakistan’s army, but they have since fallen out, according to observers. His political opponents then seized this opportunity to demand a no-confidence vote after persuading a number of his coalition partners to defect to them.

Khan’s perceived failure to work in tandem with his allies, as well as country’s powerful military, had led to a breakdown of relations within his coalition government. As per Times, the no-confidence vote slated for Sunday was the culmination of a political crisis that has consumed Pakistan for weeks after Khan, the international cricket star turned politician, appeared to lose support from the country’s powerful military last year and a coalition of opposition parties moved to vote him out of office last month.

The Times reported that, this week, the tide appeared to turn against Khan after several parties in his governing coalition split away — giving the opposition the simple majority needed in the 342-member National Assembly to remove him from office, and prompting calls for him to resign ahead of the vote.

According to reports, the country’s powerful military, which has not publicly taken a side in the current political crisis, seemed to distance itself from Khan’s policy agenda. Speaking at a security conference in Islamabad, the army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said that Pakistan hoped to expand and deepen its ties with other countries, including the United States — a sharp rebuke to Mr. Khan’s foreign policy agenda distancing Pakistan from the United States. General Bajwa said that Pakistan “shares a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the U.S.,” adding that the United States represents Pakistan’s largest exports market.

No Pakistani leader has completed a full five-year term as prime minister since the country’s formation in 1947. There are now concerns Khan’s move to call an early election could risk further political instability in the South Asian nation.

India’s FM Jaishankar Hold Talks With Russian FM Lavrov In Delhi

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday, April 1, 2022, just a day after the US warned of consequences for countries attempting to “circumvent” American sanctions against Moscow and stated that ties between the two countries have sustained them through difficult times in the past.

Russia’s foreign minister lauded India for not judging in a “one-sided way” as he discussed Moscow’s military involvement in Ukraine with his Indian counterpart, after Washington urged New Delhi to use its leverage with Russia to end the war. Jaishankar emphasized the importance of a cessation of violence but avoided condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Differences and disputes should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy and by respect for international law, the U.N. Charter, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states,” he said.

Lavrov praised India for judging “the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way.” He expressed hope that mutual respect in search of a balance in ties will prevail in the future.

The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted that both the leaders held bilateral talks. Lavrov arrived in New Delhi on Thursday evening after concluding a two-day visit to China. Ahead of the meeting, Jaishankar said their talks are taking place in a “difficult international environment quite apart from the pandemic”.

“India, as you are aware, has always been in favor of resolving differences and disputes through dialogue and diplomacy.  In our meeting today, we will have an opportunity to discuss contemporary issues and concerns in some detail. I look forward to our discussions,” the External Affairs Minister said.

Jaishankar also noted that 2022 is an “important year in our bilateral relations as we mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations”. “Despite the Covid related difficulties, last year turned out to be one of intense bilateral activity that included holding the inaugural 2+2 meeting and, of course, the 21st Annual Summit.”

He further said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been in “regular touch and have spoken to each other on multiple occasions this year”.

“Our bilateral relations has continued to grow in many areas and we have diversified our cooperation by expanding our agenda.”

Since the start of war, India has been facing pressure from the West and its allies to take a stronger stand against Russia. As the war between Russia and Ukraine cost India’s military capabilities dearly with delivery of many platforms like nuclear powered submarines, Grigorovich class frigates, Fighter jets, Triumf S-400, AK 203 assault rifle and others were expected to delay.

Lavrov also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and briefed him on the situation in Ukraine, including ongoing peace negotiations, the Indian foreign ministry said. Modi urged an “early cessation of violence, and conveyed India’s readiness to contribute in any way to the peace efforts,″ it said in a statement. Asked by journalists if Modi could mediate between Moscow and Kyiv, Lavrov replied, “I haven’t heard about such talk, frankly speaking. Given India’s position of a just and rational approach toward international problems, it can support such a process. No one is against it, I think,” he said.

India was Moscow’s ally during the Cold War but has since sought to maintain ties with both Russia and Western nations. Experts say up to 60% of Indian defense equipment was acquired from Russia. In the early 1990s, about 70% of Indian army weapons, 80% of its air force systems and 85% of its navy platforms were of Soviet origin. India is now reducing its dependency on Russian arms and diversifying its defense procurement, buying more from the United States, Israel, France, and Italy. But Indian energy dependency on Russia remains a factor in relations

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. expects India to use its relations with Russia to help end the war in Ukraine. “Different countries are going to have their own relationship with the Russian Federation. It’s a fact of history, it’s a fact of geography. That is not something that we are seeking to change,“ Price told reporters in Washington. He said the U.S. is looking for its friends and allies to speak in unison and loudly against the “unjustified, unprovoked, premeditated Russian aggression.”

Pakistan Army Chief Bajwa Wants Disputes With India Be Settled Through Dialogue

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa on Saturday said that all disputes with India should be settled peacefully through dialogue, saying Islamabad continues to believe in using diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, to keep the “flames of fire away from our region.” Gen. Bajwa said this at the last day of the two-day ‘Islamabad Security Dialogue’ conference that brought together Pakistani and international policy experts to discuss emerging challenges in international security under the theme “Comprehensive Security: Reimagining International Cooperation”.

The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) said that with one-third of the world in the Gulf region and elsewhere involved in some sort of conflict and war, “it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region.”

The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) said that with one-third of the world in the Gulf region and elsewhere involved in some sort of conflict and war, “it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region”.

“Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward on this front if India agrees to do so,” Gen. Bajwa said.

“Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward on this front if India agrees to do so,” Gen. Bajwa said.

His proposal for peace with India had a wider meaning as he indirectly suggested to have some sort of trilateral dialogue involving India, Pakistan and China to create an inclusive peace, as he said that apart from the Kashmir dispute, the India-China border dispute is also a matter of great concern for Pakistan and “we want it to be settled quickly through dialogue and diplomacy.” “I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptual biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” Gen. Bajwa said.

He, however, said that the adamant behaviour of the Indian leaders was a hurdle.

Bilateral ties with Pakistan deteriorated further after India announced withdrawing the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.

India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country. India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.

In Opinion |India can act today to shape tomorrow’s terms of connectivity with Pakistan

Talking about last month’s missile incident, he said that India’s “accidental missile firing” created doubts regarding its ability to handle high-end weapon-systems, which was compounded by its unwillingness to share details with Pakistan.

The missile fired on March 9 fell in the Mian Channu area of Khanewal district and it came to light a day later when the Army shared details of the Indian “high-speed flying object”.

India, in a statement on March 11, termed it an accident.

Gen. Bajwa said it was a matter of “serious concern” and “we expect India to provide evidence to assure Pakistan and the world that their weapons are safe and secure.” “Unlike other incidents involving strategic weapons systems, this is the first time in history that a supersonic cruise missile from one nuclear-armed nation has landed in another,” he said.

He also said that a “peaceful and prosperous West and South Asia is our goal” and Pakistan’s National Security Policy focuses on the promotion of national security cohesion and harmony through the precepts of unity and diversity.

Recognizing that it is the regions and not countries that grow, the COAS said: “We believe that peace and stability in our wider region are prerequisites for achieving shared regional prosperity and development.” “Our doors are open for all our neighbours,” he said.

Gen. Bajwa termed the situation on the Line of Control (LoC) as “satisfactory and fairly peaceful”, saying mercifully no incident had taken place along the LoC in the last year to the relief of the people living on both sides. He said that Pakistan believes in peace and using dialogue for resolving issues.

Did India Ask WHO To ‘Hide’ Its Covid-19 Death Estimates For 10 Years?

The official global total of Covid deaths around the world is far below the real tioll the pandemic has claimed. Everyone agrees the true toll is far greater than what has been officially reported.  A study released last year looked at how much of a disparity there may be in India, one of the epicenters of the pandemic.

The analysis, from the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington, D.C., looked at the number of “excess deaths” that occurred in India between January 2020 and June 2021 — in other words, how many more people died during that period than during a similar period of time in 2019 or other recent years.

The study found that between 3.4 and 4.7 million more people died in that pandemic period than would have been predicted. That’s up to 10 times higher than the Indian government’s official death toll of 414,482 at that point of time in the pandemic period in history.

The researchers looked at India in particular because, says study co-author Justin Sandefur, the country was hit so hard by COVID-19. “The second wave in particular led to heart-wrenching stories from friends and colleagues — and a sense that official numbers are not capturing the true scale of that toll.”

Not surprisingly, a technical advisory group (TAG) of the World Health Organization (WHO) has told Devex, an independent news and development platform that the