Trump Appeals to Supreme Court for Immunity from Prosecution, Potentially Delaying Landmark Trial

Former President Donald Trump has petitioned the Supreme Court to halt a lower court’s decision denying him immunity from prosecution while in office. Trump’s claim of immunity was challenged in a case involving election interference during his presidency. Despite his assertion that he couldn’t be prosecuted for actions taken while president, three lower court judges disagreed, asserting that he should be subject to prosecution like any other citizen.

In a bid to delay potential legal proceedings, Trump’s legal team argued that holding a trial during an election campaign would severely disrupt his ability to campaign against his political opponent. They stated in their filing, “Conducting a months-long criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign against President Biden.”

The Supreme Court is now tasked with determining whether to suspend the ruling to permit Trump to pursue an appeal. Granting Trump’s request could significantly postpone the landmark criminal case, which accuses him of unlawfully attempting to overturn the 2020 election, possibly until after the November election. Conversely, if the Supreme Court rejects the stay, the federal trial overseen by Judge Tanya Chutkan will likely proceed, potentially in the spring.

As Trump continues his political ambitions, he faces three additional criminal trials. Charges in Georgia allege an attempt to overturn the 2020 election results, while a seven-count indictment in Florida concerns his handling of classified documents post-presidency. The third trial, in New York, relates to the alleged concealment of a payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Trump’s legal team has persistently sought to postpone his criminal trials until after the 2024 election. In the election interference trial, Trump faces four charges, including conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of an official proceeding. Despite his denials of wrongdoing, his lawyers argue that presidents are immune from prosecution for crimes committed while in office, even after leaving the White House.

Recently, a three-judge panel from the DC Circuit court rejected this immunity argument, stating that “any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as president no longer protects him against this prosecution.” Now, Trump’s lawyers are urging the Supreme Court to intervene by suspending the lower court’s ruling to allow time for a full review by all active judges on the DC Circuit court.

They cautioned that denying immunity to former presidents would establish a precedent leading to more frequent prosecutions, potentially altering the nature of the presidency. Trump’s legal team emphasized, “Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the Presidency as we know it will cease to exist.”

Depending on the Supreme Court’s response, several outcomes are possible. The court could reject Trump’s request for a stay, leading to the resumption of the federal trial. Alternatively, they could deny his appeal for a review, effectively dismissing his immunity argument. Another option is for the Supreme Court to expedite Trump’s appeal, akin to a separate case regarding his eligibility for the 2024 election ballot.

The timing of the Supreme Court’s decision remains uncertain. Last year, the court declined a request by Special Counsel Jack Smith for an expedited ruling on Trump’s immunity claim. As such, the timeline for the court’s ruling on Trump’s current request is unclear.

President Biden Defends Memory Amid Mishandling Allegations: Calls Out Investigation’s Intrusions

US President Joe Biden has strongly reacted to an inquiry accusing him of mishandling classified files and struggling to recall important life events. Speaking at a surprise news briefing, he vehemently defended his memory, stating, “My memory is fine.” He emotionally responded to a claim about his recollection of his son’s death, expressing outrage with, “How the hell dare he raise that?”

The investigation, led by Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Hur, concluded that Biden had “wilfully retained and disclosed” classified documents but opted not to press charges against him. Hur found that Biden had improperly retained classified files related to military and foreign policy concerning Afghanistan after his tenure as vice president.

The report, spanning 345 pages and released earlier in the day, criticized the president’s memory, citing “significant limitations.” Despite Biden’s attempts to address questions regarding his age and mental sharpness, he inadvertently referred to Egyptian leader Abdul Fattah al-Sisi as the “president of Mexico” during the briefing.

During his interview with Hur, Biden reportedly struggled to recall key events, including the timeframe of his vice presidency and the death of his son, Beau Biden, in 2015. At the subsequent news conference, Biden emotionally responded to doubts raised about his memory, stating, “Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, was none of their damn business,” emphasizing that he didn’t need reminders about his son’s passing.

Biden defended himself by highlighting his busy schedule during the interview period, coinciding with the Israel-Gaza conflict. He denied sharing sensitive material from handwritten notebooks with a ghostwriter for his memoir, a finding presented in the report.

The special counsel suggested that convicting Biden of mishandling files would be challenging, as he could present himself as a sympathetic elderly man with memory issues. Despite concerns about his age among voters, Biden asserted his qualifications for the presidency, stating, “I am well-meaning… And am elderly. I know what the hell I’m doing. I put this country back on its feet.”

When questioned about his responsibility for classified documents found in his home, Biden blamed his staff, claiming ignorance about the placement of sensitive memos in his garage, near a dog bed. The atmosphere during the news conference was described as tense by a BBC reporter present, particularly when journalists raised concerns about Biden’s age.

Biden vehemently maintained the integrity of his memory, insisting it had not deteriorated during his presidency. His legal team criticized the special counsel’s characterization of his memory lapses as prejudicial, emphasizing that such lapses are common among witnesses recalling events from years prior.

The top-secret files were discovered at Biden’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware, and his former private office from 2022 to 2023. This discovery followed a separate investigation that charged former President Donald Trump with mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House. Trump faces trial in May in that case.

The Hur report draws a distinction between Biden’s case and Trump’s, noting that Biden surrendered the documents to government archivists, while Trump allegedly refused to return them for months and obstructed justice by attempting to destroy evidence and lie about it.

In response to the report, Trump called for the cancellation of his classified files trial, urging the justice department prosecutor to drop all litigation against him. He made this plea on his platform, Truth Social, stating it would help unify the country.

Federal Appeals Court Rules Former Presidents, Including Trump, Can Face Prosecution for Office Crimes

In a groundbreaking ruling, a federal appeals court panel declared that former President Donald Trump, along with any other former president, could potentially face prosecution for alleged crimes committed while in office. The unanimous decision, encompassing 57 pages, was handed down by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. This ruling stands as a significant victory for special counsel Jack Smith, who aims to bring Trump to trial this year on federal felony charges related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

The court’s ruling emphasizes the transition of former President Trump into “citizen Trump,” stripping away any executive immunity he may have enjoyed while in office. The judges underscored that for the purposes of this criminal case, Trump is on equal footing with any other criminal defendant. They explicitly stated, “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.”

The decision affirms the groundbreaking conclusion reached by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, asserting that former presidents can indeed be prosecuted for crimes committed during their time in office, even if those alleged crimes are related to their official duties. Trump had argued against this, contending that former presidents should not be subject to prosecution without first undergoing impeachment and conviction by Congress.

The speed of the appeals court’s action, taking only 28 days after oral arguments, is notable. While this slowed Smith’s case and necessitated a delay in Trump’s scheduled trial, it also keeps the possibility open for a trial to proceed in Washington sometime in the spring.

Despite Trump’s intention to appeal, possibly reaching the Supreme Court as early as Monday, the appellate judges have put their decision on hold until then. If Trump pursues this route, the decision won’t come into effect until the Supreme Court acts on his request. Alternatively, Trump could request a rehearing from the D.C. Circuit, although this would not necessarily delay the case’s return to Judge Chutkan unless the full bench of the D.C. Circuit agrees to a rehearing.

The unanimous nature of Tuesday’s ruling, supported by both liberal and conservative judges, carries significant weight. Rather than a divided decision, the ruling lays down a comprehensive legal and political framework for prosecuting a former president.

The panel, comprising judges appointed by Presidents Joe Biden and George H.W. Bush, concluded that the traditional doctrines of presidential immunity from civil lawsuits related to official duties do not extend to alleged criminal acts, particularly for a former president. They argued that the gravity of the charges against Trump outweighed concerns about potential chilling effects on future presidents.

The judges emphasized that their decision did not factor in policy considerations related to prosecuting a sitting president or a state prosecution of a president, either current or former. They firmly rejected Trump’s claim of “categorical” immunity from prosecution, citing the precedent set by President Richard Nixon’s acceptance of a presidential pardon to forestall potential criminal charges stemming from the Watergate scandal.

Additionally, the panel dismissed Trump’s assertion that former presidents can only be prosecuted after impeachment and conviction by Congress. They pointed out that 30 Republican senators’ refusal to convict Trump during his impeachment trial regarding the Capitol attack signaled a lack of consensus on Congress’s authority to try former presidents.

In response to the court’s ruling, Trump’s spokesperson reiterated Trump’s argument that his indictment would set a dangerous precedent, suggesting that future presidents could face vindictive prosecutions from political adversaries after leaving office.

The federal appeals court’s decision represents a significant development in legal and political discourse surrounding the accountability of former presidents for their actions while in office. It establishes a precedent that former presidents, including Trump, are not immune to prosecution for alleged criminal acts committed during their tenure.

U.S. Troop Deaths in Jordan Drone Strike Escalate Tensions with Iran, Prompting Delicate Response from Biden Administration

The recent drone strike in Jordan, resulting in the deaths of three U.S. soldiers and allegedly carried out by Iranian-backed militant factions, has intensified tensions in the already volatile Middle East region. This incident has placed additional pressure on President Biden to address the situation and send a clear message to leaders in Tehran.

The White House now faces the delicate task of formulating a response to Iran that deters future attacks while avoiding a broader conflict, a stance the Biden administration has been steadfast about since the outset of the Israel-Hamas conflict. This attack represents the first instance of U.S. military personnel fatalities in the Middle East since the onset of the Gaza conflict in October, further complicating matters for the White House.

In response to the attack, National Security Spokesperson John Kirby stated, “We do not seek another war. We do not seek to escalate. But we will absolutely do what is required to protect ourselves… and to respond appropriately to these attacks.” President Biden has committed to addressing these recent attacks at a time and in a manner of the administration’s choosing.

Following the incident, President Biden convened with his national security team, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who returned to his duties at the Pentagon following surgery for prostate cancer. While Kirby emphasized that the U.S. does not seek war with Iran, he refrained from confirming whether a strike within Iran was under consideration, stating, “I will not get ahead of the president’s decision-making.”

Since late October, American troops have faced more than 160 attacks from Iranian-backed groups. The White House has responded with precision strikes on militia targets and retaliatory actions against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen following attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. However, the deaths of U.S. troops elevate the stakes for Biden, especially among Republican defense hawks in Congress who are advocating for retaliatory measures, potentially including strikes within Iran.

Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, suggested that if the U.S. aims to hold Iran accountable, it may target sites or facilities in Iraq or Syria utilized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s military wing. However, he believes the U.S. is unlikely to target Iranian territory directly, presenting a complex challenge for the Biden administration.

The deaths of U.S. soldiers have sparked outrage in Washington, with some GOP figures criticizing the administration’s response to Iran. Former President Trump accused Biden of “weakness” and warned of the risk of escalating to “World War 3.” Republican lawmakers echoed these sentiments, urging decisive action against Iran.

Iran has denied involvement in the Jordan attack, asserting it does not issue direct orders to militia groups. However, the U.S. holds Iran broadly responsible for attacks carried out by its proxies. Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh indicated that the attack bore the hallmarks of an Iranian-backed group in Iraq, Kata’ib Hezbollah, though a definitive attribution has not been made.

Any U.S. retaliation against Iran is likely to provoke further responses from Iranian-backed groups, perpetuating a cycle of violence until the Gaza conflict subsides. These groups claim to be acting in solidarity with Palestinians against American forces.

Barbara Slavin, a Middle East expert at the Stimson Center, described the Jordan attacks as a “dangerous escalation” and anticipated a robust U.S. response. However, she noted that previous U.S. actions have not deterred further attacks, suggesting that a cease-fire in Gaza may be the only effective means of reducing such incidents.

Despite concerns about the effectiveness of deterrence, the Pentagon remains committed to its current strategy against Iranian-backed militants, with Singh affirming that the U.S. will respond at an appropriate time and location.

With expectations of Iranian retaliation to any U.S. strikes, the risk to American troops could escalate, particularly considering past incidents where troops narrowly avoided fatalities. Slavin emphasized that the frequency of attacks by Iranian-backed groups made such casualties inevitable in the long run.

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/4436080-biden-iran-us-troops-killed-jordan/

Nikki Haley Questions Trump’s Mental Fitness Amidst Confusion Over Capitol Riot Remarks, Campaign Rhetoric Heats Up in New Hampshire

Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley raised concerns about Donald Trump’s mental acuity on Saturday, following an incident where he seemingly confused her with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while discussing the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol.

Haley addressed the issue, stating, “Last night, Trump is at a rally and he’s going on and on mentioning me several times as to why I didn’t take security during the Capitol riots. Why I didn’t handle January 6 better. I wasn’t even in DC on January 6. I wasn’t in office then.”

There were claims that Trump had been mistaken and was referring to Pelosi instead of Haley. However, Haley dismissed these assertions, saying, “They’re saying he got confused. That he was talking about something else. That he was talking about Nancy Pelosi. He mentioned me multiples times in that scenario.”

Expressing her concerns about Trump’s fitness for the presidency, she told voters in Keene, New Hampshire, “The concern I have is – I’m not saying anything derogatory, but when you’re dealing with the pressures of a presidency, we can’t have someone else that we question whether they’re mentally fit to do it.”

This comes in the wake of Trump’s remarks at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, where he stated, “By the way, they never report the crowd on January 6. You know, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley … did you know they destroyed all of the information, all of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it? All of it, because of lots of things, like Nikki Haley is in charge of security, we offered her 10,000 people, soldiers, national guards, whatever they want. They turned it down.”

Later on the same day, Trump asserted his cognitive abilities, stating, “A few months ago I took a cognitive test my doctor gave me … and I aced it.” He added, “I’ll let you know when I go bad; I really think I’ll be able to tell you. Because someday we go bad. I feel my mind is stronger now than it was 25 years ago.”

A senior Trump campaign adviser, Chris LaCivita, downplayed the confusion, posting on X, “Nancy ….Nikki ….its a distinction without a difference.”

Despite the mix-up between Haley and Pelosi, Trump’s claim that the speaker of the House is responsible for US Capitol security is inaccurate, as previously fact-checked by CNN.

Haley further emphasized the need for top-tier individuals in leadership roles, stating in a Fox News interview, “We need people at the top of their game. I’m not saying that this is a Joe Biden situation, but I’m saying, are we really going to go and have two eighty-year-olds running for president?”

In the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary, Haley, aged 52, has been highlighting the age gap between herself and Trump, who is 77, as well as President Joe Biden, who is 81. She has also been advocating for term limits and mental competency tests for politicians over the age of 75.

Since the beginning of 2023, Haley and her supporters have invested nearly $28.6 million in advertising in New Hampshire, surpassing Trump and his allies who have spent about $14.4 million. However, in recent weeks, the margin between their advertising expenditures has narrowed. Since the start of the new year, Haley and her allies have spent around $9 million in New Hampshire, while Trump and his allies have spent approximately $8.5 million.

Trump’s campaign has treated Haley as a formidable contender in New Hampshire, evident in a series of attacks on social media and during a rally in the state.

Trump’s 2024 VP Pick: Behind the Scenes of the Shortlist Amidst Speculation and Strategy

In the unfolding narrative of Donald Trump’s potential bid for the 2024 presidential race, the former president claims to have a clear understanding of who his running mate will be. However, sources within his campaign reveal a more deliberative approach, as senior officials consider various candidates and compile a “short list” for potential vice-presidential contenders, according to insights obtained by Fox Business.

Following a significant triumph in the Iowa caucuses, Trump is positioned to secure victory in the upcoming New Hampshire primary, unless there is an unexpected surge by his primary rivals—former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

A victory for Trump in New Hampshire could prompt one or both of his competitors to exit the race, potentially paving the way for an uncontested GOP nomination and setting the stage for a faceoff against Joe Biden in the November elections.

Despite Trump’s success in Iowa and the anticipated win in New Hampshire, insiders close to the Trump campaign assert that neither Haley nor DeSantis currently feature on Trump’s shortlist for a running mate. Instead, the list prominently includes Ohio GOP Senator JD Vance and Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, both regarded as rising stars within the GOP and affiliated with the party’s Trump-centric MAGA wing.

New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who recently gained attention for her assertive questioning of Ivy League college chiefs during a hearing on campus antisemitism, is also listed as a potential candidate, albeit with the caveat that she is considered a “long shot,” according to a source familiar with the campaign’s discussions.

Trump is more personally acquainted with Huckabee Sanders, his former White House spokesperson, who valiantly defended him against the press. Similarly, Vance, a former venture capitalist and author, secured his Senate seat in 2022 by adopting the MAGA platform, which deviates from traditional Republican stances on trade and foreign engagement, according to GOP advisers.

Despite the speculation surrounding Trump’s potential running mate, one GOP political strategist cautions against expecting immediate announcements, noting, “I doubt we hear anything anytime soon.” The internal discussions within the Trump campaign continue as they consider various options.

Notably absent from the shortlist is Vivek Ramaswamy, a former Wall Street executive turned author and Trump-styled populist. Ramaswamy, who endorsed Trump for the GOP nomination after his loss in Iowa, faced criticism for his flamboyant campaigning style and once drew the ire of Trump himself for suggesting that the former president might struggle to navigate legal challenges, including five criminal indictments that could potentially result in a prison sentence while in office.

Despite attempts to seek clarification on the matter, a Trump campaign official has not responded to requests for comments on the ongoing considerations for the vice-presidential candidate.

The level of interest from Huckabee Sanders and Vance in the vice-presidential position remains uncertain, as both have not returned calls for comments. On the other hand, Stefanik has expressed her willingness, stating, “I would be honored to serve in the Trump administration in any capacity,” as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Trump, in turn, has praised Stefanik, who has actively championed the MAGA agenda while representing her upstate New York congressional district since 2015.

GOP strategists emphasize that the VP shortlist is dynamic and subject to change, underscoring the fluid nature of the decision-making process within the Trump campaign. Additionally, they caution against taking Trump’s assertion of already knowing his VP choice too seriously, attributing it to his strategic knack for garnering attention and generating substantial free publicity, especially during a Fox News Town Hall. Furthermore, they suggest that Trump may be aiming to solidify his nomination as an inevitable outcome while simultaneously seeking to reduce voter turnout for competitors Haley and DeSantis in New Hampshire.

Trump Secures Dominant Victory in Iowa Caucuses, Sets Stage for New Hampshire Showdown in 2024 Republican Primary

Former President Trump was anticipated to secure a decisive victory in the Iowa caucuses, marking the initial significant trial of the 2024 Republican primary race, as reported by Decision Desk HQ.

In the lead-up to the Hawkeye State’s caucuses, Trump maintained a substantial lead in polling averages over his closest rival, with signs suggesting that he was garnering increased support and drawing backing from evangelical Iowans. Expressing confidence in his success, Trump declared at a rally in the weeks leading to the caucuses, “We’re going to win the Iowa caucuses and then we’re going to crush crooked Joe Biden next November.”

Fox News featured this statement in the introduction to a recent town hall broadcast with Trump, coinciding with a debate between rivals Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis on CNN. Decision Desk HQ officially declared Trump the winner just before 9 p.m. Eastern, leaving the second-place position in suspense, with Haley and DeSantis in a tight race.

Despite DeSantis’ significant investment in Iowa and securing the endorsement of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), his projected loss to Trump poses a substantial obstacle for his campaign going forward.

“The people of Iowa sent a clear message tonight: Donald Trump will be the next Republican nominee for President. It’s now time to make him the next President of the United States,” asserted Alex Pfeiffer, communications director for the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc., following the Iowa race announcement.

With the focus now shifting to New Hampshire, which is set to host its first-in-the-nation Republican primary on Jan. 23, attention is drawn to the competition between Trump and Haley. Despite her Iowa setback, Haley has been narrowing the gap in New Hampshire, although Trump maintains a considerable lead in the state.

Political strategists posit that a dual triumph for Trump in both Iowa and New Hampshire could be a game-changer for the rest of the election cycle, making it exceedingly challenging for another GOP candidate to catch up before the general election.

In Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, he faced a setback in Iowa, losing to then-candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), but subsequently rebounded by winning in New Hampshire and securing the nomination. In the current race, Trump positions himself as a de facto incumbent, striving to return to the White House. However, he confronts significant hurdles, including multiple criminal indictments and ongoing legal battles nationwide.

Trump’s eligibility to run is further complicated by efforts in some states to remove him from the ballot. Last month, Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled that Trump is disqualified from the race under the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause, citing his actions around Jan. 6, 2021. Similarly, Maine’s Secretary of State also disqualified Trump under the 14th Amendment.

Despite these legal challenges, Trump portrays them as politically motivated attacks, characterizing himself as the victim of a “witch hunt” as he seeks another term. Meanwhile, fellow Republican candidates find themselves in a delicate position as they strive to campaign against Trump without alienating his supporters, crucial for gaining ground in the race.

During a CNN debate in Iowa, both Haley and DeSantis voiced reservations about another Trump term but predominantly directed their criticism at each other. The unexpected withdrawal of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie from the race last week added an element of surprise. Although Christie used the opportunity to caution against another Trump presidency, he was inadvertently captured on a hot mic disparaging both Haley and DeSantis.

Trump, unfazed by speculation that Haley could benefit from Christie’s exit, dismissed concerns during his Fox News town hall, stating, “I have polls that show me leading by a tremendous amount in New Hampshire and a lot in Iowa. And nationwide, we’re leading by almost 60 points. So, I’m not exactly worried about it. I think we’re going to do very well in New Hampshire.”

As the primary spotlight shifts to New Hampshire, the unfolding dynamics will reveal whether Trump can maintain his lead and solidify his position as the frontrunner in the Republican primary race.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy Withdraws from Republican Presidential Race, Throws Support Behind Trump

Vivek Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and political novice, who had initially gained attention for his bold policy proposals and self-assured demeanor, has exited the competition for the Republican White House nomination following a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Expressing his disappointment in Des Moines on Monday night, Ramaswamy acknowledged, “We did not achieve the surprise that we wanted to deliver tonight.”

Despite initially being an unlikely contender, Ramaswamy, who financed much of his campaign through his personal fortune amassed in biotechnology and finance, aligned himself closely with former President Donald J. Trump. He pledged unwavering support for Trump, even in the face of potential felony convictions, promising a pardon if elected to the White House. Additionally, he vowed to remove his name voluntarily from states that succeeded in disqualifying Trump from the ballot as an “insurrectionist” under the Constitution.

However, just two days before the Iowa caucuses, the tables turned as Trump’s campaign labeled Ramaswamy a fraud. The former president, who had previously shown warmth toward his would-be rival, urged voters to reject Ramaswamy and vote for him.

At that point, Ramaswamy, a Harvard-educated individual, had embraced increasingly apocalyptic conspiracy theories. He spoke of a “system” plotting against Trump’s return to office, insinuating the installation of a “puppet,” Nikki Haley. He also labeled the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack as an “inside job” orchestrated by federal law enforcement, and began propagating the unfounded and racist theory of “replacement,” falsely claiming that Democrats were importing immigrants of color to replace white people.

During a Republican primary debate, Ramaswamy defended this theory, stating, “is not some grand right-wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform.”

Initially positioning himself as someone with superior knowledge of the Constitution and civil service laws, Ramaswamy promised to take Trump’s America First agenda further. This included immediate executive orders to eliminate the Department of Education, F.B.I., and Internal Revenue Service, cut the federal workforce by 75 percent through mass layoffs without congressional approval, and withdraw from foreign military commitments, beginning with Ukraine and extending to Israel and Taiwan.

While his isolationist foreign policy drew criticism, his bleak portrayal of millennial and Generation Z voters resonated surprisingly well with older voters. Despite clashes with Republican rivals, where he mocked Governor Ron DeSantis and labeled Nikki Haley a China stooge, Ramaswamy gained traction initially, securing third place in national polling, just behind DeSantis, after the first Republican debate.

However, as his attempts to gain attention continued and a penchant for stretching the truth became apparent, Ramaswamy slipped back in the polls. The September debate featured a sharp exchange with Haley, who expressed feeling “a little bit dumber” every time she heard him. By the November debate, Haley went further, calling him “just scum” after he accused her of hypocrisy regarding China due to her daughter’s use of TikTok.

Despite initially holding second place in New Hampshire during late summer, Ramaswamy’s momentum dwindled, and his extensive campaigning in Iowa failed to restore his standing. Privately, he had shared a strategy with backers to align with Trump in the hope that Trump’s legal battles would force him out, making Ramaswamy the logical choice for Trump’s ardent supporters. However, with Trump firmly staying in the race, Ramaswamy’s strategy and self-funding of nearly $17 million proved unsustainable by the end of September.

Trump Secures Resounding Victory in Iowa Caucuses, Tightening Grip on 2024 GOP Nomination

Former President Donald Trump has clinched a historic win in the Iowa caucuses, affirming his dominance in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Despite facing extreme weather conditions and the lowest turnout in 25 years, Trump secured a staggering 30-point lead, surpassing the previous record set by Bob Dole in 1988.

In the bitterly cold and hazardous conditions, participants gathered across schools, churches, and community centers statewide to cast their votes. The victory margin exceeded expectations, leaving Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a distant second place, closely followed by former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Trump’s commanding win has reinforced his hold on the GOP nomination, raising questions about the viability of his competitors. While DeSantis and Haley show no immediate signs of exiting the race, the enormity of Trump’s victory has put them on the defensive, struggling to position themselves as the strongest challengers.Trump Secures Resounding Victory in Iowa Caucuses Tightening Grip on 2024 GOP Nomination

Despite Trump’s recent vows of vengeance against political opponents, his victory speech struck a tone of unity. “We want to come together, whether it’s Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative,” he declared. “We’re going to come together. It’s going to happen soon.”

The GOP contest now shifts to New Hampshire for the first-in-the-nation primary on Jan. 23. Conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy suspended his campaign after a disappointing fourth-place finish in Iowa, endorsing Trump. This move further narrows the field, setting the stage for a showdown between Trump, DeSantis, and Haley.

Trump Secures Resounding Victory in Iowa Caucuses Tightening Grip on 2024 GOP Nomination

DeSantis, acknowledging the support from his backers, expressed gratitude, saying, “Because of your support, in spite of all they threw at us, we got our ticket punched out of Iowa.” He is set to focus on South Carolina, a conservative stronghold, before heading to New Hampshire later in the day.

Haley, undeterred by the Iowa setback, plans to vigorously compete in New Hampshire, targeting the state’s independent voters. She asserted, “When you look at how well we’re doing in New Hampshire and in South Carolina and beyond, I can safely say tonight Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race.”

In a remarkable balancing act, Trump faces legal challenges as he campaigns. On Tuesday, he is expected in a New York court to address potential additional damages in a defamation case against him. Trump has strategically used court appearances to portray himself as a victim of a politicized legal system, a tactic resonating with Republican voters.

Trump Secures Resounding Victory in Iowa Caucuses Tightening Grip on 2024 GOP Nomination

The Associated Press declared Trump the winner at 7:31 p.m. CST, based on early returns and the results of AP VoteCast from over 1,500 voters planning to participate in the caucuses. Trump’s significant lead was evident in initial results from eight counties, covering urban, small-town, and rural communities. While he showed strength among evangelicals and non-college-educated voters, suburban support remained a relative weakness.

The results highlight Iowa’s historical inconsistency in predicting the eventual Republican nominee, with George W. Bush in 2000 being the last candidate to win Iowa and secure the nomination. Trump’s success underscores the party’s reluctance to move on from a controversial figure, despite his tumultuous term in office and the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021.

Trump faces an array of legal challenges, including 91 felony charges across four criminal cases. The U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating whether states can block him from the ballot due to his role in the Capitol insurrection. Despite these legal hurdles, Trump’s base remains steadfast, viewing the charges as politically motivated attempts to undermine him.

About three-quarters of Iowans, responding to AP VoteCast, dismissed the charges against Trump as politically driven. David Lage, a 64-year-old Trump supporter, expressed this sentiment at Trump’s victory party, stating, “God called us to do that to support Trump.”

https://apnews.com/article/trump-iowa-caucus-haley-desantis-cold-voting-begins-0af10f1ba21d488af54776b2c8d4028c

Chris Christie Exits Presidential Race with Sharp Critique of Trump, Predicts Challenges for GOP Frontrunners

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has exited the presidential race, concluding his bid with a pointed remark aimed at frontrunner Donald Trump.

“I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump to ever be president of the United States again,” stated the once Trump ally, now turned critic.

Christie, a Republican, had been under pressure to step aside, allowing the party to coalesce around a viable contender against Mr. Trump. However, he refrained from endorsing any candidate upon bowing out.

On a hot microphone just before officially announcing the end of his campaign, Christie expressed skepticism about the potential of Nikki Haley, a candidate gaining ground on Trump in some polls. He asserted that she was “going to get smoked, and you and I both know it.” Christie also remarked that another rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, seemed “petrified.”

At 61 years old, Christie, polling nationally in the low single figures, announced the suspension of his campaign during a town hall event in New Hampshire on Wednesday afternoon.

His departure, five days prior to the Iowa caucuses, the initial state-by-state contests in which Republican voters choose their preferred presidential candidate, raised eyebrows. The ultimate victor will be named the Republican nominee in July, subsequently challenging the Democratic nominee, likely Joe Biden, in the November general election.

Christie, encouraged to withdraw before the upcoming New Hampshire contest, where polls suggested Haley might be narrowing the gap with Trump, stressed the urgency for Republican voters to reject the former president. Accusing Trump of “putting himself before the people of this country,” Christie implored voters to reconsider their support.

The northeastern state of New Hampshire, known for its large faction of unaffiliated voters and unpredictable outcomes, poses a potential shift in dynamics. With Christie polling at 12%, a significant portion of his supporters may now pivot towards Haley.

In response to Christie’s departure, Haley issued a statement acknowledging him as “a friend for many years” and commending his “hard-fought campaign.” However, opponents, notably DeSantis, echoed Christie’s sentiment that Haley was destined to be defeated.

Trump, in his response, suggested he might start liking Christie again after the former governor’s “very truthful statement” about Haley. The ex-president’s political action committee claimed victory, asserting that he had already defeated eight challengers before a single vote had been cast.

This marked Christie’s second unsuccessful attempt to secure the Republican nomination, having lost to Trump in 2016. His strategy in this campaign aimed to act as an attack dog for Trump’s rivals, delivering memorable moments during primary debates. However, without Trump on stage, Christie failed to land any direct blows.

Matthew Bartlett, a Republican strategist based in New Hampshire, commented on Christie facing political reality. “Republican voters do not want to hear the same attacks that they’ve heard from Democrats or even the media for the better part of eight years,” Bartlett observed.

Congressional Leaders Forge Framework to Avert Shutdown and Secure Federal Funding, Facing Opposition from Far-Right Conservatives

Congressional leaders have successfully reached a consensus on a framework aimed at averting a government shutdown and ensuring federal funding until the conclusion of the fiscal year. This strategic agreement establishes top-line spending levels, allocating $886 billion for defense and approximately $773 billion for non-defense spending in the current fiscal year. The defense allocation aligns with the accord forged last year between President Joe Biden and former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

While the framework is in place, the detailed text of the deal still requires finalization by appropriators, and Congress must pass the bills before the looming government funding deadline on January 19. The proposed agreement is poised to encounter opposition from far-right House conservatives, who had demanded substantial spending cuts and stringent border restrictions as conditions for supporting a spending bill.

Representative Chip Roy, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, expressed discontent with the agreement, deeming it “terrible” and emphasizing that it “gives away the leverage accomplished in the (already not great) caps deal.” He conveyed skepticism about the prospect of meaningful policy riders, pointing to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as an unsatisfactory preview. Roy also criticized the continued trend of escalating spending, remarking, “as usual, we keep spending more money we don’t have.”

The resistance from far-right Republicans implies that the legislation will likely require substantial support from Democrats in the Republican-controlled House to secure passage. Despite potential challenges, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries issued a joint statement, asserting that the framework agreement empowers appropriators to address significant challenges both domestically and abroad. They also highlighted the continuation of investments for American families secured through the legislative achievements of President Biden and Congressional Democrats.

Senator Johnson expressed satisfaction with the deal, noting its provisions for funding veterans and ensuring additional cuts to the IRS and COVID relief funds. Acknowledging that the spending levels may not satisfy everyone and fall short of desired cuts, Johnson emphasized that the agreement positions Congress to advocate for additional policy riders and spending reductions in the future.

President Biden welcomed the agreement in a statement, characterizing it as a crucial step toward preventing an unnecessary government shutdown and safeguarding vital national priorities. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also conveyed encouragement regarding the deal, underscoring the pressing need for Congress to promptly deliver the resources required to address serious national security challenges.

As the next step, lawmakers must collaborate on crafting legislation that secures passage in Congress before funding expires for key programs on January 19. The expiration of funding for the remainder of the government is set for February 2. The timeline adds urgency to the legislative process, demanding swift action to avoid disruptions in essential government functions and services.

The congressional leaders’ agreement on a funding framework provides a pathway to avoid a government shutdown, establishing spending levels for defense and non-defense sectors. However, challenges lie ahead as far-right conservatives express dissatisfaction, potentially necessitating bipartisan support for successful legislation. The impending deadlines for key programs and overall government funding underscore the urgency for lawmakers to finalize and pass legislation promptly.

Colorado Secretary of State Certifies 2024 Presidential Primary Ballots Amidst Supreme Court Controversy

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold revealed on Friday that she had officially certified the Republican and Democrat ballots for the 2024 presidential primary election. In a statement, Griswold announced, “Colorado’s 2024 Presidential primary ballot is certified. The United States Supreme Court has accepted the case, and Donald Trump will appear on the ballot as a result.”

The certification process ensures that voters affiliated with a major party, either Republican or Democrat, by Feb. 12 will receive a ballot from the party with which they are associated. Unaffiliated voters, on the other hand, will receive ballots from both parties but are allowed to cast their vote on only one, which will be counted.

This development comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to review a contentious ruling from Colorado’s highest court. The state court had declared Trump ineligible for the presidency, intending to exclude him from the primary ballot. This legal clash holds significant implications for the 2024 presidential election, prompting the Supreme Court to set a swift schedule for filings and schedule arguments for Feb. 8, with a potential decision shortly thereafter.

At the heart of the dispute lies the Constitution’s insurrection clause, a provision dating back to the Civil War era. This clause prohibits individuals who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution and subsequently engaged in insurrection from holding public office.

The Colorado Supreme Court, in a divided 4-3 decision on Dec. 19, concluded that Trump’s involvement in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol disqualified him from serving as president. Consequently, they barred him from being listed on the state’s primary ballot. However, the state court temporarily halted its decision, allowing Trump and the Colorado GOP time to appeal.

Regarding the certification, Griswold stated, “The United States Supreme Court has accepted the case, and Donald Trump will appear on the ballot as a result.” This underscores the critical role the Supreme Court’s review will play in shaping the lineup of candidates for the 2024 Colorado presidential primary.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office provided additional information about the candidates who have submitted a statement of intent and filing fee to appear on the Colorado Presidential Primary Ballot. The Democratic Party candidates, in ballot order, include Jason Michael Palmer, Gabriel Cornejo, Frankie Lozada, Dean Phillips, Stephen P Lyons, Marianne Williamson, Joseph R Biden Jr, and Armando “Mando” Perez-Serrato, along with a “Noncommitted Delegate.”

The Republican Party candidates, listed in ballot order, are Vivek Ramaswamy, Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, Ryan L Binkley, and Donald J. Trump. Additionally, there are Republican write-in candidates Rachel Hannah “Mohawk” Swift and Walter Iwachiw.

The Colorado Democratic Party has also submitted a request for a “Noncommitted Delegate” to appear on the 2024 Presidential Primary Ballot under the provisions of Colorado Revised Statutes 1-4-1204(3). This allows electors with no presidential candidate preference to register a vote for a noncommitted delegate to the political party’s national convention.

As the legal battle unfolds, important dates for the 2024 Presidential Primary Election in Colorado include the deadline to send ballots to registered military and overseas voters on January 20. February 12 marks the first day ballots can be mailed to registered Colorado voters (excluding military and overseas voters) and the last day for voters to change or withdraw their party affiliation to participate in a different party’s Presidential Primary.

February 16 is the deadline for mail ballots to be sent to registered eligible voters, and by February 26, the minimum number of required Voter Service and Polling Centers (VSPCs) must be open. The same day also serves as the deadline to submit an application to register to vote through various channels, including online, to receive a mail ballot. February 26 is also the last suggested day to return ballots by mail.

On February 27, the minimum number of required drop boxes must be open to accept mail ballots statewide, and it is suggested that voters submit their ballots at Voting Centers or drop boxes rather than by mail. Finally, March 5 is Election Day, and eligible voters must have submitted their ballot or be in line to vote by 7 p.m. for their ballot to be counted.

These dates and procedures are crucial for ensuring a smooth and fair electoral process, with the Supreme Court’s decision looming large over the entire 2024 presidential primary landscape in Colorado. The outcome of this legal battle could significantly impact the list of candidates that voters will find on their ballots come March 5.

New York Attorney General Seeks $370 Million Fine and Lifetime Ban for Trump Amidst Fraud Allegations

New York Attorney General Letitia James is urging for a $370 million penalty against former President Donald Trump and his enterprises, coupled with a permanent prohibition on Trump, as well as two of his former company executives, from involvement in the real estate sector within the state.

In post-trial motions filed on Friday concerning the Trump fraud case, lawyers from James’ office pressed for the prescribed penalties. They itemized the amounts, asserting that Trump is accountable for $168 million in interest purportedly saved through fraudulent means. This comprises $152 million from the sale of the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C., housing one of Trump’s hotels, $60 million related to the Ferry Point Golf Course contract transfer, and an additional $2.5 million from severance agreements with Allen Howard Weisselberg, the former Trump Organization chief financial officer, and Jeff McConney, the ex-Trump Organization controller.

Letitia James is additionally advocating for a lifelong prohibition on Trump, Weisselberg, and McConney from participating in the real estate industry, as well as from assuming roles as officers or directors in New York corporations or entities. The attorney general is also proposing five-year bans for Trump’s eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, under similar conditions.

The case’s summary judgment established the former president, his company, and top executives as culpable for systematic and persistent fraud in the preparation and certification of Trump’s financial statements. These statements were falsely inflated, claiming amounts between $812 million and $2.2 billion.

A separate motion filed on Friday by the defense team contends that the evidence does not substantiate an intention to defraud on Trump’s part, as well as on the part of Weisselberg and McConney. The defense lawyers argue that the attorney general’s office has not adequately proven insurance fraud and has failed to illustrate any real-world consequences. They further assert that banks conducted their own due diligence on the financial statements.

Despite the legal developments, Trump continues to vehemently deny any wrongdoing, characterizing the lawsuit as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” He has vowed to contest the judge’s ruling and emphasized his innocence in a post on Truth Social, a platform he endorsed. In the post, Trump asserted, in capital letters, “I did nothing wrong, my financial statements are great, & very conservative, the exact opposite of what the highly political & totally corrupt New York state attorney general says.”

Vivek Ramaswamy’s Presidential Campaign Takes Bold Approach, Shuns TV Ads for Innovative Voter Outreach Strategy

Vivek Ramaswamy’s bid for the presidency has taken an unconventional turn as his campaign shifts its focus away from television advertisements, as reported by NBC News. Confirming this change in strategy, the campaign’s press secretary, Tricia McLaughlin, emphasized their commitment to mobilizing identified voters. In a statement to NBC News, McLaughlin outlined their approach, stating, “We are focused on bringing out the voters we’ve identified — best way to reach them is using addressable advertising, mail, text, live calls and doors to communicate with our voters on Vivek’s vision for America, making their plan to caucus and turning them out.”

This shift in strategy is part of what McLaughlin described as an “intentionally structured strategy” that allows the campaign to be “nimble and hypertargeted” in their advertising efforts. Ramaswamy himself echoed this sentiment in a post on X, expressing his disdain for traditional TV ad spending, deeming it “idiotic” and “low-ROI.” He characterized it as a ploy used by political consultants to deceive candidates with lower intelligence. Ramaswamy emphasized their departure from this norm, stating, “We’re doing it differently. Spending $$ in a way that follows data…apparently a crazy idea in US politics. Big surprise coming on Jan 15.”

McLaughlin responded to Ramaswamy’s post, highlighting their commitment to “playing smarter and working harder.” This strategic pivot comes just a month after the campaign initially announced plans to allocate over US $10 million across various advertising platforms, including broadcast, cable, radio, digital, and direct mail promotions in Iowa and New Hampshire. AdImpact confirmed that they had already spent US $2.2 million on TV, digital, and radio ads.

In contrast to Ramaswamy’s unconventional approach, his GOP rivals, including Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, and Ron DeSantis, continue to invest heavily in traditional advertising methods. While Ramaswamy’s campaign spent a modest US $6,000 on TV ads in a given week, Trump’s campaign allocated a substantial US $1.1 million, Haley’s team spent US $1 million, DeSantis’ team invested $270,000, and Christie’s campaign expended US $88,000 in the same period. The divergence in spending strategies raises questions about the effectiveness of traditional advertising in the current political landscape. The outcome of this experiment will unfold on January 15, promising a potential surprise that challenges the conventional norms of US politics.

Contrasting State Agendas: Republicans Embrace Social Regulation, Democrats Prioritize Public Good

In exploring the stark disparities between the policy agendas of America’s two major parties, it becomes evident that the states serve as microcosms reflecting the potential future under each party’s federal governance. The divergence is particularly pronounced where Republicans wield full control, as they leverage authority to enact policies restricting individual freedoms.

The “anti-woke” governance in Florida, under Governor Ron DeSantis, exemplifies this trend, from stigmatizing L.G.B.T.Q. individuals in public schools to an assault on higher education, prompting professors to flee the state. Described as an “intellectual reign of terror” by LeRoy Pernell, a law professor at Florida A&M University, these measures echo across Republican-led states, where bills targeting trans and gender nonconforming people abound. Oklahoma and Tennessee prohibit nonbinary gender identifiers on birth certificates, while Arkansas, Alabama, and Texas restrict gender-affirming care for young trans individuals, with Texas going as far as labeling such care as potential child abuse.

The issue of abortion also surfaces prominently, with Republican-led states imposing stringent policies after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas have implemented new abortion restrictions, leaving millions of women without access to services, even in cases of life-threatening complications. Texas notably waged a legal battle against Kate Cox, denying her the right to terminate her nonviable pregnancy, compelling her to seek care outside the state.

Furthermore, Republicans in these states pursue efforts to restrict voting and engage in gerrymandering, collectively constituting a comprehensive endeavor to curtail the freedom of entire groups of people.

Contrastingly, Democratic trifectas, as seen in Michigan, reflect a commitment to policies aimed at expanding access and enhancing the well-being of residents. Michigan Democrats recently overhauled election laws to increase access to the polls, including automatic voter registration for released prisoners. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed laws addressing various issues, such as increasing the state earned-income tax credit, expanding anti-discrimination protections, repealing the state’s right-to-work law, and abolishing a 1931 statute criminalizing abortion care.

Similar endeavors can be observed in Minnesota and Maryland following Democratic victories. Minnesota Democrats, facing Republican opposition, enacted measures for paid family and medical leave, workplace protections, curbing wage theft, and providing free meals to public school children. In Maryland, Democrats expedited the transition to a $15-per-hour minimum wage, expanded tax credits for low-income residents, imposed restrictions on carrying firearms in public places, and protected abortion rights.

Long-term consequences of state policies on life expectancy underscore the importance of these political distinctions. A 2020 paper highlighted the impact of state policies on life expectancy, with Connecticut’s liberal policies associated with longer life spans and Oklahoma’s conservative policies linked to shorter life spans.

In examining these state agendas, it becomes clear that the differences between Republicans and Democrats extend beyond reasonable policy disagreements. Democrats prioritize the public good, as reflected in their multifaceted legislative initiatives, while Republicans tend toward harsh social regulation, seemingly indifferent to the well-being of those affected by such policies.

House Republicans Rally for Impeachment Inquiry into President Biden, Asserting Sufficient Votes Amidst White House Opposition

House Speaker Mike Johnson expressed confidence on Saturday that Republicans possess adequate votes to initiate a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. In an interview with Fox News, Johnson stated, “I believe we will. I suspect no Democrats will assist in this effort, but they should.”

He emphasized the GOP’s obligation to proceed with the inquiry, asserting, “we cannot stop the process.” Johnson, joined by House GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik, contended that the inquiry wouldn’t be wielded as a partisan political tool, drawing a distinction from past instances.

“Elise and I both served on the impeachment defense team of Donald Trump twice, when the Democrats used it for brazen partisan political purposes. We decried that use of it. This is very different,” Johnson remarked.

He pointed out impediments faced by the Republicans, asserting, “Now we’re being stalled by the White House because they’re preventing at least two to three DOJ witnesses from coming forward” and withholding evidence from the National Archives. Johnson proposed that a formal impeachment inquiry vote would propel the process forward, deeming it a necessary step.

In response, a spokesman for the White House counsel’s office, Ian Sams, criticized the move, stating, “This is a baseless, politically-motivated attempt to smear President Biden with lies, and it reflects how this chaotic House GOP is focused on the wrong priorities, when they should be working on real issues Americans actually care about like the President is.”

As of now, House Republicans have been striving to formalize their impeachment inquiry into Biden but have encountered challenges in securing sufficient votes. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had urged his committees in September to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden, facing mounting pressure from the right flank. However, the conference remains divided over the existence of evidence warranting the president’s impeachment.

Addressing the issue of Hunter Biden’s lawyers seeking an open hearing instead of a deposition, Stefanik deemed the request “unacceptable” and emphasized, “the only correct response to a subpoena is a deposition.” She reasoned that an open hearing might devolve into a mere public spectacle, advocating for a legal and factual approach through a deposition.

“It’s the precedent,” Johnson added. “Every investigation of Congress in the modern era, the deposition has come first, and the public testimony follows. Why would we break that precedent now?”

This paraphrased rendition maintains the key elements and quotes from the original article while presenting the information in a slightly rephrased manner. The focus remains on the statements of House Speaker Mike Johnson, the White House’s response, and the broader context of the Republicans’ push for a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Independent Surge: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Challenges Electoral Norms, Surpassing 20% in Polls and Reshaping 2024 Landscape

In the realm of U.S. presidential elections, the dominance of Democrats and Republicans is a steadfast norm. However, current polls are indicating a noteworthy exception: Independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is garnering higher support than any third-party or independent candidate in recent memory, potentially influencing the outcome of the 2024 election.

A Quinnipiac University poll reveals Kennedy’s significant standing, reaching 22% among registered voters. This statistic is remarkable, prompting a comparison with historical data. The last independent candidate to surpass the 20% mark within a year of the election was Ross Perot in 1992, ultimately securing 19% of the popular vote. Typically, independent or third-party candidates witness a decline in popularity as elections draw near. For instance, John Anderson’s 1980 campaign, initially polling above 20%, resulted in a mere 7% of the votes in November. George Wallace, a third-party candidate in 1968, peaked at 21% in pre-election polls but received 14% in the actual vote.

The uniqueness of Kennedy’s position lies in joining this exclusive group of non-major-party candidates who achieved over 20% within a year of the election. While the final outcome for Kennedy remains uncertain, his numbers in swing states are noteworthy. New York Times/Siena College surveys indicate Kennedy’s support ranging from the high teens to over 25% in the six closely contested states that Biden won in 2020 over Trump: Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Michigan.

These polls have added complexity to the electoral landscape. Notably, Trump outpaced Biden in five of these states among registered voters and in four among likely voters, leading to potential victory for Trump if the results mirrored these polls. However, when Kennedy entered the equation among likely voters, Trump only led in Georgia and Nevada. The previously clear Trump advantage became a muddled scenario with no distinct frontrunner in the Electoral College due to Kennedy’s influence.

Kennedy’s impact is evident in reshaping the electoral dynamics. Both Biden and Trump had unfavorable ratings in the high 50s in the Times/Siena poll, reflecting their status as historically disliked front-runners. The emergence of other independent and third-party candidates, such as Cornel West and Jill Stein, further emphasizes the dissatisfaction with major parties. West secured 6% and 4% in recent Quinnipiac and CNN/SSRS surveys, respectively. Jill Stein, announcing her 2024 Green Party nomination bid, gained 1% nationally in 2016 but made notable strides in key states.

Moreover, the decision by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin not to seek reelection and his earlier contemplation of running as a third-party candidate indicates a growing trend of non-major-party candidates entering the fray. Manchin polled at 10% as a No Labels candidate in a summer PRRI poll.

While these non-major-party candidates may not be frontrunners for victory, their significance lies in their potential to capture a substantial share of the vote from disenchanted Americans. With both major-party candidates facing high unfavorability ratings, the ultimate winner in 2024 might secure victory with less than a majority. Political analysts need to consider the substantial support for candidates like Kennedy, surpassing 20% in polls, as a potential indicator of the direction the 2024 election might take.

Obama Emphasizes Need for Acknowledging Complexity in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Resolution

Former President Barack Obama emphasized the need to recognize the “complexity” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a prerequisite for any constructive resolution. In an interview on the podcast “Pod Save America,” Obama stated, “If there’s any chance of us being able to act constructively to do something, it will require an admission of complexity and maintaining what on the surface may seem contradictory ideas that what Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it. And… that the occupation and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable.”

These remarks by the former president coincided with heightened Israeli military operations against Hamas in Gaza City and northern parts of the region. Additionally, American officials believe that Israel has limited time to achieve its stated goal of weakening Hamas in its ongoing operation before concerns about humanitarian suffering and civilian casualties reach a critical level.

Obama specifically criticized the discourse on social media and the activism seen on platforms like TikTok regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He argued that to truly address the issue, one must confront the complete truth and acknowledge that no one’s hands are entirely clean; everyone bears some level of complicity in the conflict.

Many people have turned to platforms like TikTok and Instagram to gain insights into the ongoing conflict. However, Obama expressed a preference for people engaging in direct conversations, especially with those they disagree with. He emphasized the importance of understanding differing perspectives and avoiding dismissive attitudes. Obama stated, “Including people who you disagree with. If you genuinely want to change this… you’ve got to figure out how to speak to somebody on the other side and listen to them and understand what they are talking about and not dismiss it.”

Trump’s 2024 Blueprint: Agenda47 Unveils Vision for a Potential Return to Power

Donald Trump, during his current presidential campaign, has spent a significant amount of time revisiting his 2020 election loss. However, behind the scenes, he and his team are actively crafting a plan for a potential return to power, with the intention of avoiding the pitfalls of his 2016 campaign.

For those wondering about Trump’s intentions if he were to be reelected in 2024, he’s leaving no room for ambiguity. This comprehensive plan is available in digestible portions on his campaign website, resonates through his rally speeches, and is documented by individuals entrusted with preparations for his second term, known as “Agenda47” in reference to his potential status as the 47th president of the United States.

In contrast to his 2016 bid, where he relied on a modest budget and a diverse team of political novices, Trump’s current preparations reflect a more organized and strategic approach. They are determined to avoid past mistakes and have formulated a playbook to navigate the complexities of governing, including potential resistance from a liberal bureaucracy.

Picture: CNN

This playbook has emerged throughout the year and covers a wide range of policy proposals. Some are visionary, such as investing in flying cars and creating “freedom cities” on federal land, while others are controversial, like relocating the homeless to tent camps outside cities. Trump delves into culture wars, advocating for patriotic values in state schools, and he emphasizes protectionist policies, calling for universal baseline tariffs on imports.

On immigration, he seeks to reinstate the policy of keeping undocumented migrants in Mexico during asylum applications and ending automatic citizenship for children of undocumented migrants born in the U.S. He pledges to cut international aid and potentially reduce U.S. involvement with NATO.

Energy is a top priority for Trump in 2024, with the goal of increasing supply to lower household bills, which he believes are contributing to inflation.

These policies are emblematic of Trump’s efforts to reshape the Republican Party, moving it away from the conservatism of previous Republican nominees and towards a blend of conservatism and populism.

To implement this agenda, Trump has established a network of organizations staffed by former senior Trump officials. These groups, with names like the Center for Renewing America and the America First Policy Institute, are generating position papers and documents to serve as a blueprint for policy implementation. They have recruited and trained conservatives who could be part of a future Republican presidential administration.

While Trump’s critics are concerned about the potential impact of such an administration, his supporters believe a more cohesive team could lead to a more effective presidency. The hope is that Trump will articulate a detailed agenda upon taking office, which would enable him to address critical issues, including energy, border security, and inflation.

However, a detailed agenda could also be used by Democrats as a basis for criticism. They may attempt to portray Trump and his advisers as out of touch with the majority of Americans, potentially criminalizing what many consider to be reasonable freedoms.

The ever-changing nature of Trump’s policies and the possibility of him discarding these proposals cannot be dismissed entirely. Nonetheless, those who know Trump well, including his former administration officials, are confident in their ability to influence his decisions.

In response to Democratic efforts to attack Trump’s agenda, his supporters are dismissive, believing that Trump’s unorthodox approach can ultimately engage the electorate, even when his proposals are controversial. They argue that Trump excels at breaking the mold of conventional political expectations.

A Fresh Face at the Helm: New House Speaker’s Vision for America

Mike Johnson, the freshly minted House speaker, is undergoing a swift transformation from relative anonymity to the highest-ranking elected Republican in the nation. In a candid conversation with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Johnson offered insights into his perspective, deeply rooted in the Bible, addressing concerns regarding his past opposition to LGBTQ rights, keeping his stance against abortion rights vague, and expressing his intention to tighten House rules to protect his position.

Despite these issues, Johnson’s immediate priority is negotiation with the White House on funding bills, with a clear message that Republican support comes with conditions.

Financial Wrangling: A Potential Shutdown and Ukraine Aid

Johnson emphasized his stance on budget cuts when it comes to funding the government, making it clear that he will insist on reductions when government funding lapses in less than three weeks. Given the current state of short-term funding bills, Johnson did not rule out the possibility of another stopgap measure when funding expires on November 17. Although he did not endorse a specific plan, Johnson and Hannity discussed a Republican proposal for an 8% cut in government spending, a measure unlikely to gain White House or Senate approval.

Johnson’s commitment to Ukraine’s support was evident, as he advocated for more funding to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression. However, he outlined 12 specific demands that Republicans would like to see met to ensure the effective use of these funds. The extent of aid that Republicans are willing to provide remains uncertain, considering the White House’s request for over $60 billion.

Furthermore, Johnson stressed that Republicans will not simply pass a bill providing additional funding to Ukraine and Israel without a catch. They will insist on separating these two issues and will demand budget cuts elsewhere in exchange for the $14.3 billion earmarked for Israel.

Congressional Oversight of Military Action: A Potential Shift

In a possible shift from the past, Johnson suggested that Republicans might attempt to restrict President Joe Biden’s authority to deploy U.S. military forces in the Middle East. Historically, every president since George W. Bush has relied on executive power to deploy troops for counterterrorism efforts. Johnson indicated that if U.S. troops were needed to rescue American hostages in Israel, Congress should have a say in the decision, emphasizing the limited authority of the executive branch without congressional consent.

Blaming the Human Heart, Not Guns

Regarding mass shootings and gun control, Johnson dismissed the idea that guns are responsible for these tragic events, arguing that the root cause lies in the human heart. He compared regulating guns to regulating vehicles, as both could potentially be used for harm. While he mentioned that he would consider legislation related to mental health, he didn’t go into specifics.

Respect for Biden Amid Criticism of His Leadership

Despite criticism of President Biden’s leadership, Johnson expressed respect for Biden’s position as the head of the nation. He acknowledged that while he might disagree with some of Biden’s policies, the presidency deserves respect. However, he agreed with Hannity that Biden’s mental acuity has declined in recent years, a point frequently raised by Republicans to question Biden’s leadership.

Core Principles of Conservatism: Guiding Johnson’s Approach

Johnson laid out a set of core principles he follows in both his speech to fellow lawmakers and his interview with Hannity. These principles, which he defines as “core principles of American conservatism,” include individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity. Johnson intends to use these principles to counter the push towards what he sees as European-style socialism and to convince Democrats of his perspective.

A Worldview Rooted in the Bible

During his conversation with Hannity, Johnson addressed past writings and positions on LGBTQ rights that seem out of step with current societal norms. He clarified that many of his previous positions were based on religious freedom and emphasized his commitment to following the rule of law and treating all individuals with respect. He defended his beliefs and mentioned that his worldview is deeply rooted in the Bible.

Culture War Issues Take a Back Seat

While Johnson has not ruled out pushing for legislation related to gender or abortion rights, he asserted that there are more pressing issues to address, such as Israel, Ukraine, China, Iran, the economy, the border, and the fentanyl epidemic. Johnson considers these matters to be of higher priority, dismissing others as politically motivated attacks.

A Call for Opportunity and Collaboration

Johnson urged Democrats to give him a chance and expressed the hope that they would work together to address the nation’s challenges. Democrats will need to cooperate with him to pass legislation, making collaboration essential.

In his swift rise to prominence, Mike Johnson brings a unique blend of conservative values, religious conviction, and a focus on key national issues. His vision for America and his leadership style will undoubtedly be put to the test as he navigates the complex and often contentious world of politics in the United States.

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.

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)

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.”

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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)

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)

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.

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.”

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.

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).

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.”

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.”

After Biden Remarked Of “Somewhat Shaky” Relationship With India, US State Dept. Says “India Is An Essential Partner Of US”

Making clear his unhappiness with New Delhi’s stand, United States President Joe Biden on Tuesday termed India’s response to the Russian military offensive in Ukraine as “shaky”, while also making it clear that the response of other Quad members such as Japan and Australia was “strong.”

US state department spokesperson Ned Price said notwithstanding India’s historic relationship with Russia, which came together at a time when the US was not prepared to have such kind of a relationship with India, now the US is a partner of India. 

India has so far abstained from voting against Russia on any of the UN resolutions so far on the Ukraine conflict. The issue could be raised by the US at the high-level 2+2 talks between the two nations at the defence and foreign ministerial level that is expected to take place in Washington next month.

India has time-tested ties with Russia spanning decades, especially in the defence and civil nuclear sectors and is now also purchasing Russian oil at discounted rates, much to the dismay of Washington.

Speaking at a Business Roundtable, President Biden said, “In response to dealing with his (Russian President Vladimir Putin’s) aggression, there has been an united front in NATO and the Pacific. The Quad has, with the possible exception of India (which has) been somewhat shaky on some of this, but Japan has been extremely strong. So has Australia in terms of dealing with Putin’s aggression.”

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said last week that India is an essential partner of the United States as both the countries share the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. New Delhi’s stand on Russia because of their historic defense relationship does not come in the way as the US is a partner of choice for India. The comment follows US president Joe Biden’s recent remark that only the response of India, among the Quad countries, has been “somewhat shaky” against Russia.

India Actively Undercutting US’ Efforts To Isolate Russia: Report

India’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and efforts to protect trade mean one of Washington’s most valued strategic partners is actively undercutting its efforts to isolate Moscow, Axios reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has become a stress test for America’s global partnerships. America’s treaty allies are all onside, including those outside NATO such as Japan and South Korea. India, for reasons of history and geopolitical pragmatism, is very much not, the report said.

India abstained on a series of UN votes condemning the invasion.

One such resolution was backed by 141 countries, though a Russian diplomat contended that with China and India both abstaining, the critics represented less than half of the global population.

While the US and EU have led a global push to isolate Russia economically, India has been buying up more Russian energy at a discount, Axios reported.

As per the Financial Times, India’s central bank is discussing a rupee-ruble trade plan with Moscow to ensure it can continue to buy Russian goods, potentially weakening the effects of Western sanctions, the report said.

US officials say they understand India’s delicate position vis-a-vis Russia, though White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called on India’s leaders to “think about where you want to stand when history books are written”.

The British Trade Secretary said Thursday that the UK is “very disappointed” by India’s position and hopes it will change. That’s not looking likely, Axios reported.

US Thinks India Is In “Russia’s Camp” Will Standing With Russia Cost India UNSC Membership?

As India abstained on a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, analysts have begun to worry if India’s stance will cost India in its bid for UN Security Council Permanent Membership.

Even as US President Joe Biden is said to have played the China angle with PM Narendra Modi to get India to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at an emergency meeting of the quad, an Axios report said that the US, in a diplomatic cable that’s now been recalled, asked its diplomats to tell New Delhi that its stance of neutrality on the invasion places it “in Russia’s camp, the aggressor in this conflict.”

No fence-sitting

Listing some talking points, US diplomats were instructed to tell the Indian side that “continuing to call for dialogue, as you have been doing in the Security Council, is not a stance of neutrality.” It further said that the US would “strongly encourage” India “to take the opportunity to support Ukraine in the Human Rights Council, an opportunity you failed to seize in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).”

What triggered it?

While last week India had abstained from a US-sponsored UNSC resolution condemning Moscow’s aggression, on Wednesday, it abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution asking Moscow to “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw from Ukraine.

India’s predicament

While India is heavily dependent on Russia for its military hardware, not to mention seeking its help in evacuating its nationals from Ukraine, it’s also part of the quad — comprising US, Australia, Japan and itself — that seeks to counter an increasingly aggressive China. It has therefore justified the abstentions, saying they were in India’s best interests and based on “certain careful considerations.”.

Meanwhile, the war rages on…

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reached out to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for direct talks between them to end the war that entered its second week. According to the UN, 1 million refugees have now fled Ukraine, even as both countries agreed to hold a third round of talks for a ceasefire along with setting up humanitarian corridors to allow civlians to escape.

Russian forces, which had already captured the port city of Kherson, are battling for control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is Europe’s second largest and is located in southeastern Ukraine.

Russia Stands Isolated, After Putin’s Forces Invade Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked an international outcry that has led to a more unified response from the international community than many might have expected.

It’s also led to a series of surprise moves, from Germany joining efforts to arm the Ukrainian resistance to Switzerland imposing sanctions on Russia.  Germany’s decision to send anti-tank weapons and Stinger missiles to Ukraine represented a reversal of a longstanding policy of not sending weapons into conflict zones. Berlin also said it would boost military spending to above 2 percent of gross domestic product.

“This is really the first time that we’ve seen Germany do that since the end of the Cold War,” said Charles Kupchan, former senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council under the Obama administration.

The moves are good news for the White House and President Biden, who devoted significant time to uniting allies behind a common approach to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin in the event of a Russian invasion.

Through the Cold War and the decades since, nothing could persuade Finns and Swedes that they would be better off joining NATO — until now.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has profoundly changed Europe’s security outlook, including for Nordic neutrals Finland and Sweden, where support for joining NATO has surged to record levels.

A poll commissioned by Finnish broadcaster YLE this week showed that, for the first time, more than 50% of Finns support joining the Western military alliance. In neighboring Sweden, a similar poll showed those in favor of NATO membership outnumber those against.

“The unthinkable might start to become thinkable,” tweeted former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, a proponent of NATO membership.

Russia’s weeklong assault on Ukraine has spawned a refugee crisis and killed thousands of civilians, with world leaders and government officials warning that Russian-led atrocities are likely to escalate.

Widespread revulsion to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has united the global community as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress — at least for the most part.

“President Putin has been one of the greatest unifiers of NATO in modern history, so I guess that is one thing we can thank him for,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week.

House lawmakers told The Hill they were heartened by resounding bipartisan support for the administration’s strategy toward Ukraine, signaled with spontaneous applause during a classified briefing by senior administration officials at the Capitol on Monday.

Biden also received bipartisan applause when he rebuked Putin during his first State of the Union on Tuesday.

And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) emerged from the classified briefing for senators on Monday to tell reporters that “the administration has done a really sound job in bringing together our allies and friends from around the world and presenting a united front against a very evil, ambitious leader of Russia.”

Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said during a panel discussion that Putin’s actions had achieved “​​what no European politician has achieved in a generation, he made the European Union discover its spine.”

He added that Russia’s invasion has managed “to get Germany over historic trauma. The historic trauma was for a long time never to fight again, avoiding wars by not fighting, by not providing weapons, but of course now we have shifted and now have the approach that avoiding war means defending yourself.”

But not all close American allies and partners have fallen in line with Biden’s strategy.

Israel initially held back from condemning outright Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Jerusalem relies on strategic communication with Moscow to carry out military operations in Syria against Iran and its proxy forces.

That hesitation drew pushback from stalwart Israel allies in Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he was “concerned” over Israel’s position but, after speaking with Israeli officials and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., said he is encouraged by new steps from Jerusalem.

This includes Israel voting in favor of a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has also spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and is delivering a 100-ton humanitarian aid package. Bennett has also reportedly offered Israel to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

But Zelensky, who is Jewish, told an Israeli news outlet on Thursday that while he is appreciative of support expressed by the Israeli public, “I don’t feel the Israeli prime minister has wrapped himself in the Ukrainian flag.”

“I spoke with the Israeli leadership, we have not bad relations — but these things are tested in times of crisis,” he reportedly said during a press conference in Kyiv.

Graham told The Hill that Jerusalem’s initial hesitation was a “hiccup.”

“I came away pleased,” he said of talks with Israeli officials. “They jumped on the [U.N.] resolution yesterday, they’ve been providing pretty robust assistance, they’re having constant contact with the Ukrainian president and his team, so I think we had a hiccup early on and hope we’re in a better position and I believe we are.”

Another holdout country that is challenging the administration’s global response is India, which has a historically close relationship with Moscow rooted in importing and relying on Russian military equipment.

India abstained from voting at the U.N., in both the Security Council and the General Assembly, on the resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of State for South Asian affairs, told lawmakers on Wednesday that the administration has been in a “pitched battle” to get India to more publicly commit itself to the U.S. position against Russia and is weighing sanctions against New Delhi over its Russian military stockpiles.

Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday along with leaders of Australia and Japan under the banner of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a security grouping focused on the Indo-Pacific.

Psaki did not address a reporter’s question over whether India’s relationship with Russia was discussed, saying only that the Quad conversation was “constructive.”

Pakistan is another challenge for the U.S. over its close ties with Russia. Pakistan is a key military partner for the U.S. in its counterterrorism operations in South Asia.

Lu, during the hearing with lawmakers, said a visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to Moscow on the day that Russia launched its invasion against Ukraine has hurt communication between Washington and Islamabad.

“I think we’re trying to figure out how to engage with the prime minister following that decision,” the assistant secretary said.

And China has not backed down from supporting Russia’s position in the conflict, despite reported efforts by the administration to recruit Beijing to help stop war in Ukraine.

Relations between the U.S. and China are at a nadir, and export controls and sanctions recently imposed on Russia by the West may ultimately have the effect of pushing Russia and China closer together.

In the Gulf, Saudi Arabia has resisted calls to increase oil exports to prevent energy prices from spiking for global consumers amid Russia’s invasion.

Psaki on Thursday said that administration officials last engaged directly with the Saudis in Riyadh on global energy markets in February related to Russia’s then-potential invasion of Ukraine, but had no announcements about upcoming communication.

The United Arab Emirates, another key oil exporter, has also resisted taking a public stance against Russia. The UAE abstained from voting on the U.N. Security Council for the resolution against Russia, but voted in the affirmative in the General Assembly.

Yousef Al Otaiba, the Emirati envoy to the U.S., said that relations between Washington and Abu Dhabi are going through a “stress test, but I am confident that we will get out of it and get to a better place,” Reuters reported.

Biden is coming under increasing pressure to impose sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday added her name to a list of lawmakers who have backed a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil.

Biden’s State Of The Union—A Turning Point In History?

It is not often that the State of the Union address coincides with a major turning point in history, but Joe Biden’s first State of the Union did just that. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began just a few days ago—the first major ground war in Europe since World War II—the speech that had been in the works for weeks acquired a new and important opening. Biden had no choice but to open with a stern warning to Putin and friends—“Tonight I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders—no more!”—and to characterize the moment as a battle “between democracies and autocracies,” a battle where “freedom will always triumph over tyranny.”

Although the speech contained a strong defense of Biden’s record, a plan for economic renewal and the usual laundry list of hopes, the question that no one, including the president, could answer last night hung over everything—will a new Cold War begin, or something else?

We saw a similar sequence of events 75 years ago.

After the Second World War ended, it took a while for Americans to see the Soviet Union for what it was. In the immediate post WWII years, the American media initially portrayed our Russian allies in the fight against the Nazis as “one hell of a people who look like Americans, dress like Americans and think like Americans.” They described Stalin’s brutal secret police, the NKVD, as akin to our own FBI. Life magazine ran a cover story called “A Guy Named Joe”, which was sympathetic to Stalin.

But it took only a few months for the perception of the Soviet Union as a friendly nation to change.  As Cold War historian Martin Walker writes:

“This shift in perception took place among the governing establishments in both London and Washington in the last weeks of 1945 and the first two months of 1946. In the course of one hundred days, the West’s view of the Soviet Union changed … into a conviction that the West was being conscripted into a new crusade.”

Fast-forward to 2022. At the beginning of the Biden presidency, not many Americans (except perhaps former President Trump) saw Russia as a friendly nation. We knew that they tried to meddle with our elections and that they were still trying to exploit our differences. But the Biden administration continued to hope that our relations with Russia could be stabilized—until the threats against Ukraine intensified late in 2021. And then that perception changed, as abruptly as it had changed three quarters of a century ago.

In 1947 President Truman crystallized this change towards the Soviets in what became known as the Truman Doctrine, spelled out to Congress in a joint session on March 12, 1947. He pledged aid to Greece and Turkey. But he went farther, declaring that “I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

A threat to two countries on the shore of the Mediterranean led to the creation of a new global mission for the United States that dominated US policy for the next four decades.

Once the Cold War had begun, no State of the Union address could ignore the looming threat presented by the Soviet Union. This changed in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, and with it, the Soviet Union as we knew it. President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 State of the Union address was a victory lap. Recalling the past year and the emergence of Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany from Soviet domination, Bush called them:

“Remarkable events—events that fulfill the long-held hopes of the American people.… America stands at the center of a widening circle of freedom—today, tomorrow, and into the next century. Our nation is the enduring dream of every immigrant who ever set foot on these shores, and the millions still struggling to be free. This nation, this idea called America, was and always will be a new world—our new world.”

The question is, what next? Will Russian aggression fail at the hands of an energized Ukrainian resistance? If it succeeds, will Vladimir Putin challenge our NATO allies—especially Poland and the Baltics, whom we are sworn to defend, a pledge President Biden underscored in his speech? This is not a question that Biden could answer yet. The war is too young. Like Truman before him, it may take a full year to articulate the Biden doctrine.

We know that the invasion of Ukraine marked the end of the post-Cold War era. We know that the attitudes and policies of European countries and of the EU have been transformed with a speed that astounded veteran observers. What we do not know is the form that the new stand-off between Russia and the West will take. It may not look exactly like the Cold War. As the saying goes, history does not repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.

It is not often that the State of the Union address coincides with a major turning point in history, but Joe Biden’s first State of the Union did just that. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began just a few days ago—the first major ground war in Europe since World War II—the speech that had been in the works for weeks acquired a new and important opening. Biden had no choice but to open with a stern warning to Putin and friends—“Tonight I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders—no more!”—and to characterize the moment as a battle “between democracies and autocracies,” a battle where “freedom will always triumph over tyranny.”

Although the speech contained a strong defense of Biden’s record, a plan for economic renewal and the usual laundry list of hopes, the question that no one, including the president, could answer last night hung over everything—will a new Cold War begin, or something else?

India Abstains From Condemning Russian Invasion Of Ukraine At UN Security Council Ending 77 Years Of Peace In Europe, Putin’s Military Forces Invade Ukraine

For the first time since the end of World War II, 77 years ago, one European state has attacked another European state. Chosen by Russia’s Dictatorial President, Vladimir Putin, Russian troops and tanks are storming the capital, Kyiv, in his efforts to seize power from the democratically-elected Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

India, along with China and the United Arab Emirates, has abstained on a Security Council resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The resolution proposed by the US and Albania with the backing of nearly 60 countries received 11 votes in favor, giving it a majority in the 15-member Council, but was nullified by the Russian veto on February 25th.

The resolution proposed by the US and Albania sought to declare that Russia has committed acts of aggression against Ukraine and the situation is a breach of international peace and security. It had also demanded that Russia immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and completely withdraw its military forces from within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.

Amid ongoing military operations by Russia against Ukraine, US Permanent Representative, Linda Thomas Gre, said: “We are here today because of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, unconscionable war on Ukraine. This is a war of choice. Russia’s choice. Russia chose to invade its neighbor. Russia chose to inflict untold suffering on the Ukrainian people and on its own citizens. Russia chose to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, to violate international law, to violate the UN Charter.”

The strange part is that the early stages of the invasion seem to be all too familiar – especially Russia’s recognition of “independent” Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Putin’s moves during the Georgian War in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 were eerily similar to what he is doing in Ukraine in 2022.

A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale war into Ukraine in the name of military operation, the Russian troops have now captured Chernobyl nuclear plant and Vorzel village, which is just 8 kilometers away from Kyiv. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged to remain in the capital and has said that he is Russia’s number 1 target.

Russia claims its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have been hit since the invasion began Thursday with air and missile strikes and Russian troops entering Ukraine from the north, east and south.

Ukraine’s health minister reported Saturday that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 others had been wounded during Europe’s largest land war since World War II. It was unclear whether those figures included both military and civilian casualties.

In Kyiv, a missile struck a high-rise apartment building in the southwestern outskirts near one of the city’s two passenger airports, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments over several floors. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.

Explaining the abstention at the United Nations, for abstaining from condemning the Russian invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine, India’s Permanent Representative, T.S. Tirumurti said, “It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. Dialogue is the only answer to the settling of differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment,” he added.

Without naming Russia, Tirumurti, however, said, “India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine.” But taking a neutral stance, he added, “We urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities.”

India’s abstention followed a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday. But US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken called India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar to press the case for voting for the resolution. India’s abstention is a bump in the road to closer relations with the US and the West.

US Permanent Representative, Linda Thomas Greenfield made the voting on the resolution a litmus test for how countries stand with the US. “There is no middle ground,” she said before the vote. And after the vote, she added, “This vote showed which countries truly believe in supporting the core principles of the UN and which ones deployed them as convenient catchphrases. This vote showed which Security Council members support the UN Charter and which ones do not.”

Shortly afterwards, Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres said, “The UN was born out of war to end war. Today, that objective was not achieved. But we must never give up. We must give peace another chance.  The UN Charter has been challenged in the past, but it has stood firm on the side of peace, security, development, justice, international law & human rights. The international community must do everything in its power so that these values prevail in Ukraine & for all humanity.”

He added, “The contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. all member states need to honor these principles and finding a constructive way forward.”

The matter now goes to the 193-member General Assembly, which is expected to take up a similar resolution next week and the nonmembers of the Council who backed the failed resolution would be able to register their votes there.

Russia’s isolation was apparent because the three abstentions did not amount to support for it either. As symbolisms go, it was stark as China abstained even though Russia’s President Vladimir and China’s President Xi Jinping had signed a statement this month on ties with “no limits”.

India was courted by both the US and Russia given the symbolic nature of the vote and the West’s desire to isolate the US. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to press the case for voting for the resolution.

India’s abstention will strain India’s growing relationship with the US and the West as Washington had made the voting on the resolution a litmus test for how countries stand with Washington’s position. “There is no middle ground,” US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said before the vote.

And after the vote, she said, “This vote showed which countries truly believe in supporting the core principles of the UN and which ones deployed them as convenient catchphrases. This vote showed which Security Council members support the UN Charter and which ones do not.”

Britain’s Permanent Representative Barbara Woodward said, “History will record how we voted today. And which countries stood up to be counted in defense of the charter and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Tirumurti’s remark that India “was deeply concerned about the welfare and security of the Indian community” in Ukraine drew a sharp response from Ukraine’s Permanent Representative Sergiy Kyslytsya. Turning towards Tirumurti and raising his voice he said, “It is exactly [for] the safety of your nationals right now in Ukraine that you should be the first to vote to stop the war to save your nationals in Ukraine.”

The vote was taken by a show of hands around the horseshoe-shaped desk of the Council against a mural symbolizing UN’s mission of bringing peace and freedom to a world ravaged by war. Kyslytsya asked to observe a moment silence to “pray for the souls” of all victims of the war in Ukraine without mentioning any nationalities or to meditate for peace.

Fearing Imminent Russian Invasion, India Asks Citizens To Leave Ukraine

Concerns over Russia’s intentions in Ukraine mounted after talks in Geneva between Russia and the U.S.-led NATO security alliance ended last week without success. Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops and moved heavy weapons along its border with Ukraine in recent weeks and has begun positioning forces along the Belarus-Ukraine border.

The Pentagon accused Moscow of deploying armed saboteurs into Eastern Ukraine to start violence as a pretext for moving its troops into the country, a tactic Russia used in 2014 during its invasion and occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. The Russians said they would withdraw if NATO agreed to a series of security measures, including permanently banning Ukraine from the Western military alliance, a proposal that has been flatly refused. Secretary of State Antony Blinken ’84 will meet with Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, Friday in an attempt to find a resolution to the standoff.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday he was convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a decision to invade Ukraine, and though there was still room for diplomacy, he expected Russia to move on the country in the coming days. Russia has repeatedly denied preparing to invade Ukraine.

Acknowledging the “real possibility” of war, US Vice President Kamala Harris Harris tried to make the case to American allies that rapidly spiraling tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border meant European security was under threat and there should be unified support for economic penalties if the Kremlin invades its neighbor, Reuters reported.

As Western leaders warn of an imminent Russian invasion, Belarus defense minister Sunday said that in a step that further intensifies pressure on Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are extending military exercises that were due to end on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Ukraine, meanwhile, advised all Indian nationals, whose stay is not deemed essential, to temporarily leave Ukraine. Indian students were also advised to also get in touch with respective student contractors for updates on chartered flights.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has posed the question that’s kept the world on edge for weeks: will Russia attack Ukraine? Not even those in the Russian government — besides President Vladimir Putin — appear to know the answer, but the fact remains that there has been a steady buildup of Russian troops and military hardware near the Ukraine border; the largest since the end of the Cold War.

“They have all the capabilities in place, Russia, to launch an attack on Ukraine without any warning at all. No one is denying that Russia has all these forces in place,” Stoltenberg told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. “The question is, will they launch an attack?”

Over 150,000 Russian troops are stationed at various points along the border with Ukraine. Russian forces have also been posted in Belarus, an ally that lies to the north of Ukraine.

According to reports, multiple explosions could be heard late Saturday and early Sunday in the center of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The origin of the explosions was not clear. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC that the plans that the West is seeing at Ukraine’s border suggest that a Russian invasion could be “the biggest war in Europe since 1945 in terms of sheer scale”.

Almost 2,000 ceasefire violations were registered in eastern Ukraine by monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Saturday, a diplomatic source told Reuters Sunday. The Ukrainian government and separatist forces have been fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014. An upsurge in shelling has thrust the region to the center of tensions between Moscow and the West over a Russian military buildup near Ukraine.

“The fact is that this directly leads to an increase in tension. And when tension is escalated to the maximum, as it is now, for example, on the line of contact (in eastern Ukraine), then any spark, any unplanned incident or any minor planned provocation can lead to irreparable consequences,” he added. So all this has – may have – detrimental consequences. The daily exercise of announcing a date for Russia to invade Ukraine is a very bad practice,” a report by Reuters, quoting Biden stated.

Repeated Western predictions of a Russian invasion of Ukraine are provocative and may have adverse consequences, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday. Putin takes no notice of such Western statements, Peskov told Rossiya 1 state TV.

Moscow has insisted it has no plans to invade Ukraine and its forces in Belarus are there for military drills set to take place in the coming days. The U.S. and its Western allies have warned of severe economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia should an invasion go ahead.

How A Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Could Affect The World?

The number of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders have continued to build in recent days, with U.S. officials estimating that 169,000 to 190,000 personnel are in place near Ukraine or in Russian-occupied Crimea.

President Biden spoke about the situation on Friday, saying that U.S. intelligence now believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to proceed with an invasion.

“We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days,” Biden said. “We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”

Biden has signaled to the American public that it, too, may feel effects if Russia invades Ukraine.

“If Russia decides to invade, that would also have consequences here at home. But the American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost,” he said in a speech Tuesday. “I will not pretend this will be painless.”

Russia says it is not preparing to invade, and it is not a certainty that Putin will decide to do so. World leaders are continuing diplomatic talks in a high-stakes effort to avoid that outcome.

Still, the possibility of an invasion has raised the specter of consequences — sanctions, countersanctions, energy supply issues, a flood of refugees — that would be felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders. Here’s what to know.

The U.S. has promised severe sanctions if Russia invades — and Russia could retaliate

“If Russia proceeds, we will rally the world and oppose its aggression. The United States and our allies and partners around the world are ready to impose powerful sanctions and export controls,” Biden said Tuesday.

Those sanctions could include restrictions on major Russian banks that would dramatically affect Russia’s ability to conduct international business. Severe U.S. sanctions could drive up prices for everyday Russians or cause Russia’s currency or markets to crash.

Because the U.S. does not rely much on trade with Russia, it is somewhat insulated from direct consequences. Europe is more directly affected. But certain sectors of the U.S. economy rely on highly specific Russian exports, primarily raw commodities.

“The premise of sanctions is to hurt the other guy more than you hurt your own interests. But that does not mean there will not be some collateral damage,” said Doug Rediker, a partner at International Capital Strategies.

Energy prices could soar

Russia is a major exporter of oil and natural gas, especially to Europe. As a result, officials have reportedly shied away from severe sanctions on Russian energy exports.

But there are other ways the energy market could be disrupted. Nearly 40% of the natural gas used by the European Union comes from Russia. President Biden has said the not-yet-operational Nord Stream 2 pipeline would not move ahead if Russia invaded Ukraine.

For one, Russia could choose to cut off or limit oil and gas exports to Europe as retaliation for sanctions. Nearly 40% of the natural gas used by the European Union comes from Russia — and no European country imports more than Germany, a key ally of the United States.

Even if Russia chooses not to limit exports, supplies could still be affected by a conflict in Ukraine because multiple pipelines run through the country, carrying gas from Russia to Europe. “They could simply be casualties of a military invasion,” Rediker said.

Either way, if Europe’s natural gas supply is pinched, that could cause energy prices — which have already been climbing — to rise even further. And even though the U.S. imports relatively little oil from Russia, oil prices are set by the global market, meaning local prices could rise anyway. On Tuesday, Biden promised to work with Congress to address “the impact of prices at the pump.”

Other industries, from food to cars, might also be hurt

Russia is a major exporter of rare-earth minerals and heavy metals — such as titanium used in airplanes. Russia supplies about a third of the world’s palladium, a rare metal used in catalytic converters, and its price has soared in recent weeks over fears of a conflict.

And a major conflict in Ukraine would disrupt Ukrainian industries too. Ukraine is a major source of neon, which is used in manufacturing semiconductors.

As a result, U.S. officials have warned various sectors to brace for supply chain disruptions, including the semiconductor and aerospace industries.

Fertilizer is produced in major quantities in both Ukraine and Russia. Disruptions to those exports would mostly affect agriculture in Europe, but food prices around the world could rise as a result.

The shock to international stability could hit global markets

Beyond sanctions and countersanctions, global financial markets would likely have a negative reaction to a European military invasion of a scale not seen since World War II.

Americans with exposure to the stock market — like those with 401(k)s and other retirement accounts — could feel an effect, though it would most likely be short term.

“Markets are fundamentally not prepared for a land war in Europe in the 21st century,” Rediker said. “It’s something people just have not contemplated.”

The U.S. stock market has already been unusually volatile in recent weeks, churning over inflation, possible moves by the Federal Reserve and the possible conflict in Ukraine.

Historically, the market has bounced back relatively quickly after geopolitical events. That’s what’s most likely today too, analysts say.

But if a major Russian invasion and subsequent conflict cause long-lasting disruption of energy markets and other exports, investors could rethink that conventional wisdom.

“You’re potentially at a point where not only are we looking at Russia potentially invading Ukraine and sanctions and countermeasures, but you are also looking at a rise of China that doesn’t necessarily agree with the American perspective on the world anyway,” Rediker said. “Are we looking at a point in which some of the major premises that people take for granted have to be reassessed?”

Russia might respond with disruptive cyberattacks on U.S. targets

Another way Russia could respond to U.S. sanctions is through cyberattacks and influence campaigns.

Various federal agencies, including the Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security, have warned of possible cyberattacks on targets like big banks and power grid operators. And just last week, U.S. cybersecurity officials held a tabletop exercise to ensure that federal agencies are prepared for possible Russian retaliation, The Washington Post reported.

“They have been warning everyone about Russia’s very specific tactics about the possibility of attacks on critical infrastructure,” Katerina Sedova, a researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, told NPR.

Russian cyberattacks have targeted Ukraine relentlessly in recent years, including attacks on the capital city of Kyiv’s power grid in 2015 and 2016. But a major escalation could shift focus to U.S. targets.

Sedova pointed to the Russian state-backed attack on the IT software company SolarWinds and a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline for six days as examples of how major Russian cyberattacks could disrupt U.S. operations. (The Biden administration said it does “not believe the Russian government was involved” in the pipeline attack.)

Power grids, hospitals and local governments could all be targets, she said. For now, Sedova said she is more worried about subtler attacks — like influence campaigns that aim to “sow discord between us and our allies in our resolve” to act jointly against Russia.

“Oftentimes, cyber-operations go hand in hand with influence,” she said. “They’re targeting a change of decision-making, a change in policy in that direction, a change in public opinion.”

A major invasion would likely spark a refugee crisis

A full Russian invasion could send 1 million to 5 million refugees fleeing Ukraine, U.S. officials and humanitarian agencies have warned.

“It will be a continent-wide humanitarian disaster with millions of refugees seeking protection in neighbouring European countries,” Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said last month in statement.

Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine and is already home to more than a million Ukrainians, would likely see the most refugees. Over the weekend, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said his country was preparing for an “influx of refugees” from Ukraine.

The U.S. military says that the thousands of soldiers deployed to Poland this month are prepared to assist with a large-scale evacuation.

“Assistance with evacuation flow is something they could do, and could do quite well. They are going to be working with Polish authorities on what that looks like and how they would handle that,” Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said this week.

At the largest scale, a refugee crisis would not be contained to Europe — the U.S. would likely see refugees seeking asylum too.

Indian American Judge Allows Lawsuits Against Trump For Jan 6th Insurrection To Proceed

Civil lawsuits seeking to hold Donald Trump accountable for the January 6, 2021, insurrection can move forward in court, Amit Mehta, a federal judge said last week in a ruling outlining how the former President could conceivably be responsible for inciting the attack on the US Capitol.

Trump’s statements to his supporters before the riot “is the essence of civil conspiracy,” Judge Amit Mehta wrote in a 112-page opinion, because Trump spoke about himself and rallygoers working “towards a common goal” of fighting and walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. “The President’s January 6 Rally Speech can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action,” Mehta said.

Two of the lawsuits were brought by Democratic House members, while a third was filed by Capitol Police officers. Democratic members of the House and police officers who defended the US Capitol on January 6 sued Trump last year, claiming he prompted his supporters to attack. Friday, Mehta wrote that the three lawsuits could move to the evidence-gathering phase and toward a trial — a major loss in court for Trump. “To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step. The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent,” Mehta wrote.

“After all, the President’s actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch,” Mehta added. “They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President’s broad immunity are not present here.”

While he homed in on Trump’s legal liability, the judge ruled in favor of three close allies to Trump who also spoke at the rally on January 6 — his attorney Rudy Giuliani, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, saying he would dismiss the claims against them.

When the Senate failed to convict Trump last year in the impeachment proceedings examining his role in the attack, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who voted against convicting Trump — noted that “civil litigation” was an avenue through which Trump’s conduct could be addressed.

The lawmakers allege that they were threatened by Trump and others as part of a conspiracy to stop the congressional session that would certify the 2020 presidential election on January 6, 2021, according to the complaints. They argue that Trump should bear responsibility for directing the assaults.

Trump’s legal team is likely to appeal the decision, which was made at the trial-level DC District Court. Representatives for Trump didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mehta’s ruling on what he calls a “one-of-a-kind case” sets up a rare instance where the former President could face concrete consequences for the insurrection.

But Mehta’s opinion, essentially melting away the protections of the presidency and the First Amendment because of the context of Trump’s speech and specific words and actions that day, could have further implications, including creating a new avenue to subpoena Trump and ask him questions and establishing where immunity for presidents ends.

How Donald Trump’s February just got way worse

At this time, there are no public indications that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into January 6, which includes several sets of conspiracy charges and a sedition case, has reached Trump. And after Republican lawmakers blocked Trump’s impeachment conviction, the GOP has largely fallen back in line behind the former President. The two House Republicans now serving on the committee to investigate the insurrection have faced calls for their ouster from the party, and Trump may very well be Republicans’ 2024 nominee for the White House.

The decision, Friday, however, sets in motion a path to the judge weighing the factual allegations and evidence against Trump in the cases as well as possible civil trials months or years from now, where Trump is at the defense table.

Lawyers for the Democratic lawmakers and police were elated with the ruling Friday, though they likely face a long road of additional court tangles ahead.

“Today is a major victory for the rule of law, and demonstrates just how important the courts are for ensuring accountability,” said Joseph Sellers, who represents a group of Democratic members of Congress that was first to allege a civil conspiracy against Trump in court.

The NAACP, working alongside Sellers, also applauded the ruling, and the group’s president Derrick Johnson called for accountability for Trump and the right-wing groups.

Matthew Kaiser, a lawyer for Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, called it a “great ruling” to potentially be able to take Trump to trial.

And Patrick Malone, representing the police officers, called it a victory for democracy. “It’s good to see that no one is above the law. Everyone should be held accountable for their actions,” Malone’s client, the Capitol Police Officer James Blassingame Jr., said in a statement. Swalwell said in a statement that he would seek to depose Trump and gather evidence about January 6.

Role of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers

Mehta wrote that it’s plausible the lawsuit could prove Trump entered into an agreement with far-right groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, who are criminally charged for conspiracy and also named in the lawsuit.

The judge noted how Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” at a debate before the election, and that he likely was aware of the Oath Keepers attending his rallies and of violence planned because of his election loss.

“It is reasonable to infer that the President knew that these were militia groups and that they were prepared to partake in violence for him,” the judge said. “The President thus plausibly would have known that a call for violence would be carried out by militia groups and other supporters.”

The cases will proceed against the Oath Keepers organization and against Enrique Tarrio, the recently incarcerated leader of the Proud Boys. They sought to get the case dismissed but the judge concluded that the allegations — of a conspiracy between Trump and the extremist groups and leaders — were plausible enough to allow the litigation to move forward.

Partial victory for other Trump allies

Some of his allies who were named as co-defendants succeeded in getting the civil suits against them dismissed. This includes his eldest son and his former attorney, who were named as defendants in some of the cases, but successfully argued that the lawsuits should be thrown out.

The judge indicated he would also eventually dismiss the case against Brooks, an Alabama Republican. They have all denied wrongdoing related to January 6.

In the ruling, Mehta said the case against Brooks was weak enough that he would simply dismiss it if he asked him to do so, teeing up the congressman for a victory. “Brooks’s remarks on January 6th were political speech protected by the First Amendment for which he cannot be subject to liability,” Mehta wrote.

But Mehta on Friday sidestepped the question of whether Brooks should have been protected in the litigation by the Justice Department — because, according to the congressman, he was acting in his official duties as an elected official when he spoke at the Trump rally before the riot.

The Justice Department so far has refused to protect Brooks, a revealing position for the agency that is conducting its own sweeping investigation of January 6.

The Department argued that Brooks’ role at the rally was “campaign activity” and not related to his official duties. Still, Brooks had asked Mehta to rule that he was acting as a government official and thus shield him from liability. Mehta said on Friday he would defer deciding on that issue.

Judge: Giuliani conspired to peddle disinformation

Regarding Giuliani, the judge said “there is little doubt” that he “was involved in a conspiracy” to peddle disinformation about the 2020 election — but that he couldn’t be held liable for the laws at issue in this lawsuit.

Democrats and police officers who filed the lawsuits “fall short” of establishing that Giuliani directly conspired to stop Congress from certifying the election on January 6 by force or intimidation, Mehta ruled.

Even though Giuliani spoke at the “Save America” rally before the riot, and told the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat,” the judge ruled that those comments weren’t strong enough to establish a conspiracy.

“Critically, Giuliani uttered no words that resembled a call to action. ‘Trial by combat’ was not accompanied by a direction to do anything,” Mehta wrote, calling it “constitutionally protected speech,” and pointing out that Giuliani didn’t know Trump would direct his supporters to march on the Capitol.

The judge said the allegations against Trump Jr. were even weaker, and thus should be dismissed.

“The allegations against Trump Jr. are insufficient to make him a co-conspirator in a plan to disrupt Congress from performing its duties,” Mehta wrote.

That situation was much different than Trump’s — who not only spoke about the crowd marching to the Capitol and fighting, but also failed to tell his rioting supporters to stand down as the violence unfolded. Instead, Trump criticized then-Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the electoral college certification, on Twitter, 12 minutes into the attack.

“When the President said to the crowd at the end of his remarks, ‘We fight. We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,’ moments before instructing them to march to the Capitol, the President’s speech plausibly crossed the line into unprotected territory,” Mehta wrote.

US To Back India’s ‘Rise, Regional Leadership’ Against ‘Coercion And Aggression’ By China: Strategy Document

In a document invested with tremendous geopolitical significance, US President Joe Biden’s administration has outlined its Indo-Pacific strategy that would “support India’s continued rise and regional leadership” as Washington seeks to counter China’s attempts at global domination.

The long-awaited document released on Friday said, “We recognize that India is a like-minded partner and leader in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, active in and connected to Southeast Asia.” China’s “coercion and aggression” is acute “along the Line of Actual Control with India,” it said.

It said that as it continues to build its strategic partnership with India, the US will “contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific” – a region where China confronts the US and other countries. The strategy plan said that the US would “steadily advance our Major Defense Partnership with India and support its role as a net security provider.”

India was given the Major Defense Partner designation in 2016 and the two countries have steadily built it up with several agreements for defense cooperation.

The document prepared mostly by the National Security Council and released a year after Biden assumed office sets out the plan for the Indo-Pacific, a region that his administration had said was going to be the focus of its diplomatic and strategic engagement.

Other developments like the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the standoff in Europe with Russia that is deploying a huge military force along the Ukraine border have come in the way, but now the Biden administration is reinforcing its commitment to the Indo-Pacific even as it says a Russian invasion is imminent.

Its release in Washington was timed to coincide with the meeting in Melbourne of the foreign ministers of the Quad, the group of India, the US, Japan and Australia that is emerging as the linchpin of the US strategy in the Indo-Pacific.

The strategy document warned, “The PRC (People’s Republic of China) is combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological might as it pursues a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and seeks to become the world’s most influential power.”

A senior administration official who briefed reporters about the strategy document said that there was “a recognition that India is a critical strategic partner, and a desire to continue building on the very good work of previous administrations to significantly broaden and deepen that relationship.”

Working with India is seen “as a very, very high priority,” the official said. “There is tremendous appreciation of the importance and the challenges of strengthening the engagement with India and a recognition that India is a critical strategic partner,” according to the official.

Asked about the likelihood of a defense pact with India like the AUKUS – the alliance between the US, Australia and Britain – the official cited the different situation in India in regards to achieving such an agreement without explicitly ruling it out.

“Obviously, you know, India is in a very different place, in many ways, than Australia, than other countries,” the official said.

But the official added, “India faces very significant challenges. And I think that, you know, China’s behavior in the Line of Actual Control has had a galvanizing impact on India.”

“We see tremendous opportunities in working with another democracy, with a country that has a maritime tradition that understands the importance of the global commons to advance critical issues in the region,” the official said.

The official turned to the Quad as the vehicle for promoting strategic cooperation with India.

“Obviously, India’s role in the Quad, I think, is a very significant element of that, including the much-enhanced ability to speak frankly about issues in the region; to work together to deliver, you know, essentially, public goods that address, you know, challenges in the region, and to enhance ways in which we can coordinate,” the official said.

The strategy document promised to “bring together our Indo-Pacific and European partners in novel ways, including through the AUKUS partnership.”

“We will foster security ties between our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, including by finding new opportunities to link our defense industrial bases, integrating our defense supply chains, and co-producing key technologies that will shore up our collective military advantages,” it added.

Highlighting the challenge from China, the strategic plan said, “We will focus on every corner of the region, from Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, to South Asia and Oceania, including the Pacific Islands.”

“In a quickly changing strategic landscape, we recognize that American interests can only be advanced if we firmly anchor the United States in the Indo-Pacific and strengthen the region itself, alongside our closest allies and partners,” it said.

Injecting a note of urgency, the document said, “Our collective efforts over the next decade will determine whether the PRC succeeds in transforming the rules and norms that have benefitted the Indo-Pacific and the world.”

The document noted that many of the US allies and partners are also focusing on the region and support for enhancing US involvement in the region has support in the US across party lines.

The document acknowledges that the US illusions of changing China into a responsible democracy through engagement are dead. “Our objective is not to change the PRC but to shape the strategic environment in which it operates, building a balance of influence in the world that is maximally favorable to the United States, our allies and partners, and the interests and values we share,” the document said.

“We will also seek to manage competition with the PRC responsibly,” but will cooperate with Beijing in areas like climate change and nuclear nonproliferation,” it said. (From South Asia Monitor)

India-UAE Fortify Multi-Faceted Bilateral Ties

Close on heels after announcement of conclusion of interim trade deal between India and Australia by mid-March, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with UAE will be a huge boost for Indian economy.  In a virtual summit meet commemorating 75 years of India’s independence and 50 years of UAE’s foundation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan witnessed the signing of CEPA.

The FTA with UAE is New Delhi’s second major deal after the India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) in February 2021.

Breaching the traditional timelines, expediting the talks, both countries finalised this early harvest deal in a record 88 days. Both the countries commenced the talks in September 2021. Three visits by the External Affairs Minister and a visit by Commerce Minister to UAE for negotiations laid the ground for CEPA. To increase the existing bilateral trade worth $60 billion to $100 billion merchandise trade, and services trade to $15 billion in five years, the CEPA envisioned to reduce tariffs initially of 80% goods and will extend to 98% of goods over time.

Besides enabling the two-way investment in trade and services, start-ups and fintechs, the FTA is expected to create 5 lakh jobs in gems, textiles, engineering, agriculture and auto sectors in India and 1 lakh jobs in UAE.

Introducing new structural changes and launching “Vocal for Local: Manufacture in India for the World”, a cumulative turn around in manufacturing sector Indian Government set the merchandise export target of $400 billion1 for the 2022. India is almost on reaching this milestone this year. Enthused by fledging manufacturing potential, India is aiming at $2 trillion exports by 2030- comprising of $1 trillion merchandise exports and $1 trillion service exports. The FTA with UAE will not only help in sustaining the growth but would facilitate access to attractive export markets for Indian goods.

In line with its ambitious targets, New Delhi has junked the strategy of signing trade agreements to join trade groups and shifted its focus on sealing bilateral FTAs with countries to facilitate market access and better integration of Indian markets to global supply chains. This FTA with UAE will eventually actuate India to conclude similar trade agreements with GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain), the UK, the EU, Australia, Israel and Canada on anvil.

UAE is part of the Greater-Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) and has free trade access to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Sudan and Tunisia2. With CEPA on roll, India can enter markets of West Asia and Africa.

Giving major push to its FTA strategy, the UAE is also planning to seal FTAs with eight countries including India, the UK, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Ethiopia, Israel and Kenya this year. Needless to say, enhanced economic cooperation is bound to foster a robust and resilient relationship.

India and UAE established diplomatic ties in 1972. But Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the country in 2015, a first in 34 years, resurrected the ties hinged on the pillars of energy cooperation, remittances and employment destination. In line with UAE’s “Vision 2021” which sought to diversify its economy, India and UAE harnessed a vision to expand the cooperation to different sectors. Subsequently, countries unveiled UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund. UAE pledged $75 billion to support India’s plans for building next generation infrastructure over a period of time.

The bilateral trade which mainly comprised of oil valued at $180 million per annum in 1970s steadily grew to $59 billion. Currently UAE is the third largest trading and export destination of Indian goods after US and China. UAE is 9th biggest investor in India in terms of FDI.

Since 2015, state visits by Prime Minister Modi in 2018, 2019 and reciprocal visits by Crown Prince in 2016 and 2017 reinvigorated the ties. In 2017, on the eve of Crown Prince’s visit to India as guest of honour for Republic Day celebrations countries elevated the ties to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Signalling trust and deepening friendship, UAE armed forces joined the parade becoming the first Arab nation to participate in the Republic Day march and second foreign military contingent. The first being the French contingent.

Aside the synergistic economic cooperation, the significant hallmark of India-UAE relationship is developmental partnership in J&K. Riled by abrogation of article 370, Pakistan has attempted to garner the support of OIC countries against India. Unequivocally stating that it is an internal matter of India, UAE cold shouldered Pakistan.

In response to Pakistan’s nefarious agenda to destabilise J&K, India roped in the UAE as a developmental partner. In October 2021, India hosted a high-level delegation from Dubai for signing a MoU with J&K administration for real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, logistics, medical colleges among others at Srinagar3. Giving a huge boost to trade, tourism and international connectivity, direct flight between Srinagar and Sharjah was flagged off.

As a follow up, commemorating J&K week at Indian pavilion of Dubai Expo 2020, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha travelled to UAE to meet business leaders to attract investments for economic development. He finalised investment commitments from Emaar, DP World and the Lulu world towards building of Mall of Srinagar, establishment of multi-modal inland container terminal and cold storage facilities and setting up of network of hypermarkets for handicrafts, horticulture products, fresh produce from J&K respectively. Clearly this mutually beneficial development partnership besides bolstering ties is a message to the World that India is keen of putting J&K on a growth trajectory.

Heralding 50 years of strong bilateral ties, leaders released a road map, “Joint India-UAE Vision Statement: Advancing the India-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: New Frontiers, New Milestones” for a future looking partnership. Multi-faceted partnership now revitalised by economic cooperation is leaping forward to consolidate such cooperation in arenas of culture, health, skills, education, global issues, defence and security, energy partnership, climate action, renewables, emerging technologies and food security.

Countries have also signed MoUs in areas like- economy, climate change and Houbara Conservation, Industries and Advanced Technologies, Low Carbon Hydrogen Developments and Investments, food security, financial services and Issuance of India-UAE joint stamps5.

Energy partnership has been key pillar of Indo-UAE bilateral ties. Additionally, UAE is also India’s first international partner by way of investing crude in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves Program, has committed to collaborate with India towards an equitable transition to low-carbon future. With UAE selected to host COP28 in 2023, countries have agreed to work closely in context of COPs, International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) and International Solar Alliance (ISA). With UAE joining the UNSC as non-permanent member for 2022-23, both countries resolved to “reinforce mutual support in multilateral areas to promote collaboration in economic and infrastructure spheres”4.

Modi condemned the recent attacks by the Houthi rebels against UAE. Reaffirming their joint commitment to fight terrorism and extremism, both the leaders emphasised the “importance of promoting the values of peace, moderation, coexistence and tolerance”. Thanks to UAE’s commitment towards moderation and tolerance, the West Asia fraught with turbulence and friction is witnessing a new churn. While Abraham Accords played a pivotal role in reshaping and integration of the region, the UAE’s role in bringing the countries has raised the hopes of new dawn of co-existence and peace.

India-UAE comprehensive strategic partnership and strong ties have paved way for a new multilateral touted as the “new Quad” comprising India, UAE, Israel and the US. Led by UAE, foreign Ministers of the countries held the first virtual summit in October to explore risk free economic opportunities in the post Abraham Accords era. As of now there is little to suggest that the new Quad envisages a strategic or security role. But India’s strong ties with UAE has helped it to overcome the traditional inhibitions to enter a regional cooperation arrangement in the West Asia.

UAE is home to 3.5 million Indian community with Indians being “largest minority ethnic group” making up for 38% of UAE residents. The intangible force of people to people connect and strong business to business relations have brought the countries much closer.

Indian diplomacy is certainly coming of the age by breaking the self-imposed barriers of staying away from West Asia. Maintaining strong friendly ties with rivals- Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India is slowly expanding its reach in the Arab region.

Breaking new ground through FTA, both countries have signalled their intent to consolidate the partnership with new optimism. Together with close collaboration and sense of purpose, countries have set a stage to usher into a new era of prosperity contributing to global recovery and creating immense opportunities for both economies.

Through an unprecedented outreach, both the countries have transformed a transactional energy cooperation into a comprehensive strategic cooperation. Now UAE is a vital strategic partner of India for the regional cooperation in West Asia.

Mike Pence Says, “Trump Was Wrong To Say I Could Overturn Biden Win”

Former US Vice-President Mike Pence has dismissed claims by Donald Trump that he could have stopped Joe Biden becoming president last year. In his strongest rebuttal yet, he said Trump was wrong to suggest he had had the right to overturn the election.

A mob stormed the Capitol as lawmakers met to confirm President Joe Biden’s poll win on 6 January last year.  Four people died during the riots, and a police officer who suffered two strokes while defending the building died the following day.

The two legislators, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, are the only Republicans on a congressional select committee investigating the riots. While censuring  the two, the statement by the Republican National Committee (RNC) accused the pair of helping to persecute “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse”.

The RNC appeared to suggest rioters had been involved in legitimate political actions but RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel clarified that it was a reference to “legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol”.

The vote was passed by an overwhelming majority of the 168 RNC members at their winter meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, reports say.

The committee said it would “immediately cease any and all support of them” as party members without removing them from the party.

Both lawmakers issued statements in advance of the vote. “The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon 6 January defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy,” Ms Cheney said.

They also received support from other opponents of Mr Trump in the party. Senator Mitt Romney tweeted: “Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol.”

‘I had no right’

Speaking in Orlando, Florida, Mr Pence was responding to Mr Trump’s comments on Sunday that he could have overturned the election if he had wanted to. Mr Trump has falsely claimed that the election was stolen by Mr Biden.

Days later Mr Trump said the select committee should be investigating Mr Pence instead of the rioters.

“President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone,” Mr Pence said.

“And [current Vice-President] Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”

Last May, House Republicans voted to remove Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership position because, they said, her criticism of Donald Trump prevented the party from focusing on upcoming elections.

On Friday, however, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution that will put Mr Trump, the 6 January Capitol riots and shifting Republican attitudes toward both into national headlines again.

The committee also did so in a way that will generate storms of criticism, by censuring Ms Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger for, in part, helping Democratic “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse”. Republicans say the line – added in a last-minute revision – was meant to reference individuals who protested the election results and not those who attacked the Capitol, but its inartful wording will ensure it is construed to include both.

The resolution is just the latest example of the grip Mr Trump holds on the Republican Party apparatus, even if polls indicate that the loyalty of some conservatives may be slipping.

The practical purpose behind the committee’s move is that it frees the party to shift financial support from Ms Cheney to her Republican primary opponent. The political fireworks were a collateral – if not unintended – effect.

Biden Starts 2nd Year of Presidency With Diminished Public Support And Daunting Challenges

Joe Biden began his presidency with positive job ratings and broad public confidence in his ability to deal with a number of major challenges – particularly the public health impact of the coronavirus. He starts his second year with diminished job approval and majorities expressing little or no confidence in him on many of these same issues, the coronavirus included.

Currently, 41% of U.S. adults approve of Biden’s job performance, which is down slightly from September (44%) and substantially lower than last April (59%).

With the omicron variant continuing to spread across the United States, fewer than half of Americans (44%) now say they are very or somewhat confident in Biden to handle the coronavirus; that share is down 21 percentage points since March (65%).

A new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 10-17 among 5,128 adults on the nationally representative American Trends Panel, finds that Biden and his party are facing a difficult political environment with the midterm elections 10 months away:

Just 21% of the public is satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. That is 12 points lower than last March (33%) and 15 points lower than in February 2018 (36%), near the beginning of the previous midterm year. For more, see Americans broadly negative about the state of the nation, but most see a better year ahead.

The public’s views of the nation’s economy remain quite negative; just 28% say economic conditions are excellent or good. Overwhelming majorities say that prices for food and consumer goods (89%) and gas prices (82%) are worse than they were a year ago, with more than half saying they are “a lot” worse (60% food and consumer goods, 54% gas prices). However, a 56% majority says the availability of jobs has improved compared with a year ago.

Nearly two years after the coronavirus first began spreading in the United States, majorities continue to say COVID-19 is a major threat to the economy (69%) and to the health of the U.S. population (57%). When thinking about the pandemic, Americans are split over whether the worst is still to come (50% say this) or the worst is over (49%).

While opinions about Biden and the state of the nation continue to be deeply divided along partisan lines, Democrats have become less supportive of the president and less satisfied with the way things are going in the country. Just 29% of Democrats express satisfaction with the state of the nation, down 18 points since March.

Since September, Biden’s job approval has declined 3 percentage points among the public overall, but 7 points among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (from 75% to 68%); over the past six months his job rating among Democrats has fallen 20 points (from 88%). The falloff in this period has been less pronounced among Republicans and Republican leaners (10 points since July), who already overwhelmingly disapproved of the president’s performance.

In addition, favorable views of Congress have declined, with the change largely driven by Democrats. Overall, 28% of the public expresses a favorable opinion of Congress, compared with 36% last April. While Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to have a favorable view of Congress (36% vs. 18%), the share of Democrats who view the Democratic-led Congress favorably has fallen 14 points since last April (from 50%); Republicans’ views are little changed (21% then, 18% now).

Nonetheless, the public continues to have a more positive image of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, though majorities have unfavorable impressions of both. Currently, 43% view the Democratic Party favorably and 35% have a favorable view of the GOP. Ratings for both parties have slipped slightly since last year; notably, both coalitions continue to view their own parties somewhat less favorably than they did in March 2021.

And larger shares of Americans say they agree more with the Democrats than with Republicans on several key policy areas, including policies to deal with the health impact of the coronavirus (41% agree with the Democratic Party, while 27% the Republican Party; 31% agree with neither). Significantly more Americans also say they agree with the Democratic Party than the GOP on policies of climate change (by 22 points), health care (16 points), abortion (10 points) and education (8 points). Comparable shares agree with both parties on economic, immigration and gun policy. Among eight policy areas included in the survey, there is none on which a significantly larger share agrees with the GOP than the Democrats.

Democrats also are more widely seen as governing honestly than Republicans (45% vs. 39%), and a larger share of the public says the Democratic Party (51%) than the Republican Party (46%) respects the country’s democratic institutions. Yet majorities view both parties as “too extreme” in their positions; 57% say this describes the Democratic Party very or somewhat well, while 60% say it describes the Republican Party.

The year begins with members of both parties less willing to support their parties’ leaders making concessions to achieve results than they were a year ago. Nearly half of Democrats (48%) want Biden to “stand up” to Republicans even if it makes it harder to address key problems; 37% said this last year, shortly before his inauguration.

Republicans, who were more resistant to making concessions a year ago, have become even more so; 72% want GOP leaders to stand up to Biden, up 13 points from last year.

Indian-American Candidates Gain Support For 2022 US Mid Term Elections

Ahead of this year’s elections, AAPI Victory Fund, and Indian American Impact Fund jointly endorsed Indian-American congressional candidates, Nida Allam of North Carolina and Kesha Ram Hinsdale of Vermont.

Allam is currently the Durham County Commissioner and is running for U.S. House of Representatives in North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District.

Ram Hinsdale is a Vermont State Senator and the first woman in the state to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Shekar Narasimhan, founder and chairman of AAPI Victory Fund said the organization was pleased to announce its support for Allam and Hinsdale.

“As elected leaders and champions for the progressive movement in their respective states, Nida and Kesha have made strides for not only the AAPI community but for all of their constituents. They continue to dedicate themselves to ensuring that progress leaves no one behind,” Narasimhan is quoted saying in the press release.

“We are honored to endorse these two exemplary candidates who will make history when elected to Congress as they strive to make a positive impact on our country. We look forward to supporting them both on their path to Congress,” he added.

Neil Makhija, executive director of Indian American Impact Fund, a political action committee which has funded scores of election campaigns around the country, echoed similar sentiments.

“Our team is extremely honored to endorse Nida Allam and Kesha Ram Hinsdale for Congress. Both Nida and Kesha uphold the progressive and justice-oriented values that we at IMPACT are thrilled to support in tandem,” Makhija said.

“As Indian-Americans, Nida and Kesha’s bids for public office serve as a reminder that Indian-Americans are deeply underrepresented in American government. The historic strides that they’ve made in their respective states are just the beginning for Indian-American and AAPI communities to have a seat at the political table, and we’re excited to see how they continue to prioritize marginalized communities come midterms, and beyond,” Makhija added.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, also expressed her support and is quoted in the press release saying, “It’s wonderful to see so many South Asians and South Asian women running for Congress this cycle.  They certainly bring a strong set of assets to the table, and will energize a whole new community of voters.  I may be the first, but I certainly won’t be the last,” Jayapal is quoted saying in the press release.

Allam said she was honored to be endorsed by the two organizations. “The Indian-American community needs more representation at the highest levels, and I’m proud to be supported by these champions for our community. As a Member of Congress, I’ll fight for the progressive policies that working families across North Carolina need,” Allam said.

Ram Hinsdale said, “If elected as Vermont’s first Congresswoman, I look forward to working with AAPI Victory Fund, Indian American Impact and Representative Pramila Jayapal to build a bigger coalition for racial, economic, and social justice.  They have challenged politics as usual, amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities and fighting for the issues that working Vermonters care about. I am honored to have earned this endorsement.”

Allam is the daughter of Indian and Pakistani immigrants. She attended North Carolina public schools and then NC State University, where she led a campaign to partner with local healthcare workers to provide free healthcare to low-income community members.

Her life took a turn in 2015 when her friends Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha were murdered in their Chapel Hill home in an anti-Muslim hate crime, according to her bio on her website nidaallam.com.

“Deeply affected by the deaths of her friends and determined to carry on their legacy, Nida threw herself into organizing to amplify underheard voices and increase community safety through solidarity, the website profile says.

Allam served as a political director for the Bernie Sanders campaign and then was elected Third Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, the first Muslim elected to the party’s Executive Council. She currently serves on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

In 2020, Allam ran for Durham County Commission and was the highest vote-getter in the general election, becoming the first Muslim woman elected to public office in North Carolina.

Ram Hinsdale was born in Los Angeles and has bachelors degrees in Natural Resource Planning and Political Science from the University of Vermont.

She also has a Master degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

She represented Burlington-Chittenden District in the Vermont House of Representatives on from 2008 to 2016, where she sat on the House General, Housing & Military Affairs and Ways & Means Committees, and as Vice Chair of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee.

Ram Hinsdale has also served as Co-Chair of the Vermont Attorney General’s Immigration Task Force, and as a member of the boards of Emerge Vermont, the Main Street Alliance of Vermont, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Regenerative Food Network, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

Seeking To Offer Pardon To January 6th Rioters, Trump Creates New Headaches For GOP

Former President Trump is creating new headaches for Republicans after he floated pardons for Jan. 6 attack participants and lashed out at Vice President Mike Pence for not overturning the 2020 election.

Trump’s comments — made separately during a rally in Texas on Saturday and in a statement on Sunday — injected back into the spotlight the attack on the Capitol, carried out by a mob of the former president’s supporters, and a rehash of the 2020 election.

GOP lawmakers, including allies like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), immediately distanced themselves from comments by Trump, who is flirting with a 2024 comeback bid as he falsely claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“I just think people who broke the law on January 6 need to be held accountable, period,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Trump floated the pardons during a rally in Texas, saying that “so many people have been asking me about it.” Trump indicated that he was willing to use pardons, if he is back in the White House after 2024, for people involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol “because they are being treated so unfairly.”

More than 700 individuals have been charged related to the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol, which forced the evacuation of the House and Senate chamber and sent lawmakers running for cover in the complex.

Graham, during an interview with CBS News, warned that pardoning individuals tied to the attack would be “inappropriate.”

“I don’t want to send any signal that it was okay to defile the Capitol,” Graham added. “There are other groups with causes that may want to go down to the violent path that these people get pardoned.”

Graham’s pushback is notable because he’s remained one of the president’s most vocal allies in the Senate GOP caucus, including publicly warning Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that he needs to be able to work with the former president. Graham recently visited Trump, and has predicted that he’ll be the party’s 2024 GOP presidential nominee if he wants to be.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said he aligned with Graham’s view.

“I just don’t think you want to encourage unlawful behavior,” Thune said.

Trump’s use of pardons garnered controversy during his White House tenure.

Though Trump used his pardon power less frequently than his immediate predecessor, he did use it to benefit some of his allies including pardoning his former chief strategist Steven Bannon, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The New York Times reported last year that Trump also discussed pardoning himself, something a president has never done before and a step that would likely spark a fierce legal battle. 

Trump’s decision to raise the issue of pardons for individuals tied to the Jan. 6 attack comes as Senate Republicans, in particular, are eager to move past the 2020 election as they shape their message heading into the November midterm election.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he wants the November election to be squarely focused on Biden and his administration.

Even as McConnell — who was a close ally of the former president during most of his tenure — has tried to stay focused on Biden, loyalty to Trump has emerged as a litmus test for many Republicans including in key battleground GOP primaries.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) immediately hit back at Graham saying that he was “pretending to be a friend” to Trump.

In addition to floating pardons, Trump on Sunday night lashed out at Pence for not unilaterally throwing out the results of the 2020 election when he was presiding over Congress’s formal count of the Electoral College results last January.

“If the Vice President (Mike Pence) had ‘absolutely no right’ to change the Presidential Election results in the Senate, despite fraud and many other irregularities, how come the Democrats and RINO Republicans, like Wacky Susan Collins, are desperately trying to pass legislation that will not allow the Vice President to change the results of the election?” Trump asked.

“Actually, what they are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away,” he added.

Earlier on Sunday before Trump issued his statement, Collins said she was ‘unlikely’ to support Trump if he ran in 2024, becoming one of the rare Senate Republicans to make that notion public.

Trump led a public and private pressure campaign to try to get Pence to throw out the results from key battleground states. Pence, however, refused saying the Constitution tied his hands — an interpretation that many senators agreed with.

“That‘s not my understanding of the law,” Cornyn said, asked about Trump’s claim.

A bipartisan Senate group, led by Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), are currently negotiating potential changes to the 1887 law, which lays out how the Electoral College results are counted.

Among the changes they are considering is codifying that the vice president’s role is ceremonial and increasing the number of members from the House and Senate that have to object before they can force a vote on a challenge to a state’s results.

The group, which now includes approximately 16 senators, met on Monday night in the Capitol and are expected to meet with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairwoman and top Republican on the Rules Committee.

“I’m very much of the view with Mike Pence that he didn’t have the authority,” Thune said, adding that Senate Republicans can’t “control what the former president does on that or other issues.”

Thune added that there was “some interest” in making changes to the Electoral Count Act.  “I think there are some questions and ambiguities around that century and a half old statue that probably need to be clarified,” Thune added.

How Breyer’s Replacement Could Reshape Court’s Liberal Wing

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the court’s senior liberal jurist, is reportedly stepping down at the end of the 2021-2022 term. Breyer, 83, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, is the oldest justice on the court, and his retirement would give President Joe Biden a potential opportunity to make good on a campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to fill the seat.

There are several candidates whose names have been circulating as potential nominees. They include Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, of the D.C. Circuit, who is considered a leading candidate; Justice Leondra Kruger, of the California Supreme Court; and Judge Michelle Childs, of the South Carolina District Court.

Regardless of whom Biden picks to fill the vacancy, the balance of power will remain unchanged, with conservatives holding six seats to the liberals’ three. But the president’s nomination is sure to encounter resistance from Republican leadership in the Senate, who bent over backwards to ensure former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, did not even receive a hearing to fill the vacancy created by the death of former Justice Antonin Scalia.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s upcoming departure from the Supreme Court hands President Biden the chance to tap a replacement who is expected to bring youth, diversity and a more liberal outlook than the retiring 83-year-old jurist known for his unique brand of judicial modesty and pragmatism.

The seating of Biden’s nominee, who he has said would be the country’s first Black female justice, will not fundamentally shift the balance of the 6-3 conservative majority court. But replacing Breyer with a justice who is ideologically to his left could reshape the three-member liberal minority and alter the court in more subtle ways.

“I think it likely that whoever is appointed will likely be more liberal than Justice Breyer, who often had a decidedly conservative bent,” said Dan Kobil, a law professor at Capital University, who described Breyer overall as “mildly progressive.”

Biden announced Breyer’s retirement Thursday at a White House event, saying he planned to pick a nominee before the end of February.

The president also said he would seek input on his judicial selection from a variety of sources — including senators from both parties, legal academia and Vice President Harris — while standing firm on his 2020 campaign pledge to nominate the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

“I’ve made no decision except one: The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character experience and integrity,” Biden said. “And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It’s long overdue in my view.”

Among the likely candidates to replace Breyer are Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Leondra Kruger, 45, who has served on the California Supreme Court since 2015; and J. Michelle Childs, 55, a federal district court judge in South Carolina whom Biden recently nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court.

Biden’s nominee is expected to round out the court’s liberal wing, which also includes Sonia Sotomayor, 67, and Elena Kagan, 61.

Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said that compared to Breyer, the next justice is likely to be less deferential to the government when it appears as a party before the Supreme Court.

“Breyer’s replacement is likely to be a little more progressive, especially on criminal justice issues,” Adler said. “Justice Breyer has likely been the most pro-government justice on the court, and so there is likely to be a slight change there.”

But an even more important shift, in Adler’s view, has to do with a change in status among the justices: Breyer’s departure means Sotomayor will become the court’s senior-most liberal justice.

Significantly, the senior-most justice in the majority selects which justice writes the opinion. The same goes for the losing side, with the senior-most justice assigning authorship of the dissenting opinion — with the option to write it themselves.

Given the court’s conservative supermajority, liberal justices are often relegated to the dissenting minority on hot-button issues, from disputes over abortion restrictions and religious liberty to voting rights.

Sotomayor, now the court’s most liberal member by a wide margin, has shown herself to be uncowed by the court’s ideological lopsidedness, frequently blasting conservative rulings with fiery dissents.

“The biggest effect of Breyer leaving is that the senior-most liberal justice will now be Sotomayor, instead of Breyer, and that will likely have effects on opinion assignments, which may change the tone of how some issues are handled or discussed,” Adler said.

And since the new justice is likely to find herself in the minority on divisive, politically charged cases, dissent may be a major force in shaping the role.

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart, once remarked that a forcefully written dissenting opinion can exert pressure on other justices, causing the authors of majority opinions to refine and clarify their argument. In rare cases, a dissenting view has even garnered enough support to supplant the majority opinion.

Dissent can also lay down an important historical marker, Ginsburg said during a 2010 speech. She illustrated the point with a quote from the late Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes: “A dissent in a court of last resort is an appeal … to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting judge believes the court to have been betrayed.”

Steven Schwinn, a professor at the University of Illinois Chicago Law School, said the role of frequent dissenter could alleviate some pressure on the Supreme Court’s new arrival.

“This could give a new Justice a unique opportunity to develop her own voice and approach early in her tenure, as she may need to worry less about writing to keep or gain a majority,” he said. He also held open the possibility that a new justice could create “new opportunities for work across the ideological aisle.”

On the other hand, if the next justice proves more progressive than Breyer, it could put pressure on Kagan, now the court’s most moderate liberal, to take on an even greater role as a consensus-seeker.

“I would expect Justice Kagan to try to move into the role of ‘bridge builder’ between the two camps,” said Kobil, “if that is even possible anymore on hot-button issues.”

Another possibility, he said, is that the two sides will move further apart still, producing more acrimony.

“I anticipate the troubling prospect of an increasingly partisan divide among the justices, with [Republican and Democratic appointees] lining up squarely against each other on most ideological issues,” he said. Such a pattern, he said, would mean “Chief Justice Roberts has his work cut out trying to maintain the perception of the court as an institution of integrity rather than simply another instrument in partisan culture wars.”

Nominees need 51 votes in the Senate to be confirmed. Currently, the Senate is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats), but Democrats have a majority because Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casts the deciding vote in the Senate in the event of a tie.

Breyer’s decision to leave the court comes as the court faces questions of legitimacy given the tactics Republicans deployed to secure three additional conservative  seats in recent years.

“What Mitch McConnell did with Merrick Garland was unprecedented,” Paul says, “a politicization of the confirmation process unlike anything we’ve seen before.” Garland is now serving as U.S. attorney general.

A moderate liberal, Breyer has provided a key check against a majority-conservative court for most of his time on the bench. He has been a reliable defender of administrative agencies, deferring to their expertise; notably, he voted in the majority to legalize gay marriage in 2015, endorsed pro-choice positions on abortion, and wrote a majority opinion striking down an effort to overturn to the Affordable Care Act as recently as last term.

Trump Promises Riots In Major Cities

This Time Prosecutors Take Him At His Word. Literally And Seriously.

This weekend Trump accused four Black prosecutors of attacking him because he’s White (well, white-ish) and threatened to send rioters into their cities if he’s indicted.

“These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They’re racists and they’re very sick, they’re mentally sick,” he told Texas rally goers Saturday. “They’re going after me without any protection of my rights from the Supreme Court or most other courts. In reality, they’re not after me, they’re after you.”

These new tools can not only accomplish far more than the average human in far less time but also produce better, more reliable results.

In reality, New York Attorney General Tish James, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Washington, DC District Attorney Karl Racine, and Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis are investigating Trump for, among other things, lying on financial documents. Which is exactly the same crime that Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, an African American woman, was just indicted for.

But back in Conroe, Texas, Trump was undeterred by minor details.

“If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington, D.C, in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere,” he told the crowd.

Which was not all that dissimilar from Trump’s statements leading up to the January 6 Riot. Most famously, he tweeted on December 19, 2020, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

But there were plenty of calls for his supporters to flood the streets and fight, as on January 4, 2021 when the president told a crowd in Georgia, “If the liberal Democrats take the Senate and the White House — and they’re not taking this White House — we’re going to fight like hell, I’ll tell you right now.”

And so this time the targets of his incendiary rhetoric are taking him seriously and literally, with DA Willis requesting FBI support to protect her investigators.

In a letter addressed to the Special Agent in charge of the Atlanta Field Office, Willis referred to Trump’s comments this weekend, including his promise to pardon the Capitol rioters for engaging in political violence.

“I am asking that you immediately conduct a risk assessment of the Fulton County Courthouse and Government Center, and that you provide protective resources to include intelligence and federal agents,” she said, noting that the grand jury impaneled to investigate Trump’s “perfect” phone call urging state officials to find him 11,780 votes begins its work on May 2.

“It is imperative that these resources are in place well in advance of the convening of the Special Purpose Grand Jury,” she wrote. “We must work together to keep the public safe and ensure that we do not have a tragedy in Atlanta similar to what happened in the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.”

Willis reports that she’s already had to step up security protocols “considering the communications we have received from persons unhappy with our commitment to fulfill our duties,” but that “my staff and I will not be influenced or intimidated by anyone as this investigation moves forward.” These are dangerous times.

As Putin Threatens To Attack Ukraine, U.S. Puts Troops on Alert, NATO To Send Warships

Thousands of U.S. troops were put on standby to deploy to eastern Europe as fears of a Russian ground invasion into neighboring Ukraine looms over the European continent.

President Joe Biden’s decision to alert the military units on Monday represents an abrupt change in approach to the crisis as tensions worsen along the Ukrainian border. For weeks, the Biden Administration has restrained from mobilizing military forces as it sought to resolve the situation with Moscow diplomatically. But the lack of progress—and continued build-up of Russian forces—has prompted Biden reevaluate the U.S. options, say administration officials.

Amid intelligence warnings that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent, the president is now considering moving thousands of troops, naval ships and warplanes into the Baltic states and eastern Europe. In a separate announcement, NATO said Monday it was moving additional ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe to defend its eastern flank.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said up to 8,500 U.S. service members were put on heightened alert for deployment to bolster NATO allies’ eastern defenses should Russia invade. The forces would not be sent to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, nor take part in any combat roles, Kirby said, but rather serve as reinforcements in places like Poland or Romania to reassure U.S. allies and deter Russian aggression. If activated, the troops would be part of the NATO Response Force based in Eastern Europe, the rapid-reaction force that has air, naval and intelligence components in case of emergencies.

“No decisions to deploy have been made,” Kirby said. “I don’t think anybody wants to see another war on the European continent, and there’s no reason why that has to occur.”

Thus far, the Biden Administration has stopped short of threatening U.S. military action should Russian President Vladimir Putin push his forces into Ukraine, but promised sweeping economic sanctions and continued military support to the Ukrainian military.

The U.S. units identified for possible deployment are involved logistics, medical, aviation, transportation and intelligence, Kirby said. “Some of these forces were already on a heightened posture readiness to deploy posture,” Kirby said. “So in some cases, units would go from say 10 days prepared to deploy and now they’re at five days.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley briefed Biden at Camp David via teleconference Saturday on the military options regarding Ukraine. Only about 200 U.S. troops are currently in the country, as members of the Florida National Guard are training Ukrainian forces. The U.S. has about 70,000 troops in Europe, but only around 6,000 are in eastern Europe. They are mainly in Poland, where forces are on a rotational basis, including an armored brigade combat team. Austin and Milley provided the president with options on moving forces eastward in Europe and preparing to send more troops from the U.S. if necessary, according to an administration official.

The White House and European allies have scrambled for months to respond since Russia began positioning more than 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine. Analysts say the deployment could be the largest Russian troop build-up on the continent since the Cold War, which Putin has tried to use as leverage against the U.S. to reduce troops, weapons and influence along his borders.

The U.S. and Russia have talked on several occasions to resolve the crisis but have yet to narrow their differences. The State Department said Sunday it was ordering nonessential staff and family members to leave the U.S. embassy in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, out of “an abundance of caution” due to the escalating tensions. The Department also issued warnings to Americans considering travel to Ukraine and Russia.

Putin denies Russia has any intention to attack Ukraine but he has made clear that he considers NATO military support for neighboring countries a growing threat. Last month, the Russian Foreign Ministry published two lengthy draft treaties that listed what Moscow wants from the U.S. and its allies. They call for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion, including a pledge that Ukraine will not be permitted to join NATO, as well as to the U.S. military’s ties with Ukraine and other former Soviet nations, all of which have been dismissed as “non-starters” by the U.S.

Regardless of what Putin says his intentions are, U.S. and NATO officials say they need to be prepared after watching Russian forces invade Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine six years later. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has supported pro-Russia separatist militias in several eastern Ukrainian cities since. Russia has continued to use these proxy forces to continue to sow disorder in the country and attempt to gain more political support in the country.

“NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the alliance,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday. As part of the military retrenchment on the continent, Denmark planned to send a frigate to the Baltic Sea and four F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania, the Netherlands are deploying two F-35 fighter jets to Bulgaria, and France is prepared to send troops to Romania.

The Pentagon’s troop announcement Monday came the same day that a 12-day NATO naval exercise, Neptune Strike 22, began in the Mediterranean Sea with the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, along with its strike group and air wing. The U.S. said the exercise was months in the making and unrelated to the situation in Ukraine.

  • NATO announced plans to send ships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe in anticipation of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Denmark is sending a frigate and deploying F-16 warplanes to Lithuania; Spain is sending four fighter jets to Bulgaria and three ships to the Black Sea to join NATO naval forces; and France stands ready to send troops to Romania.
  • Russia has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, threatening to invade unless the West gives a guarantee that the NATO alliance will not be expanded to include Ukraine. Several former Soviet Republics are now part of NATO, but the inclusion of Ukraine is strongly opposed by Moscow on strategic grounds.
  • This even as, the UK and the US announced it is withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from their embassies in Kyiv.
  • Moscow said: “We see statements by the North Atlantic Alliance about reinforcement, pulling forces and resources to the eastern flank… This is not happening because of what we, Russia, are doing. This is all happening because of what NATO and the U.S. are doing and due to the information they are spreading,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

What the West Will Never Understand About Putin’s Ukraine Obsession

The way Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin propaganda talk about the countries Russia threatens—with Ukraine front and center—to invade, occupy, coerce and control tells the story of perhaps the unhappiest family in the world.

Reading Putin’s mind is in many ways a mug’s game, but can we parse something more fundamental about the deeper drives compelling the Kremlin’s behaviour from its language and social dynamics? What do they tell us about its motivations—and how to deal with them? It’s tempting to think about Moscow’s foreign policy as reducible to rational self-interest, a demand for “spheres of influence” articulated in the sober logic of security and realist international relations, but its language also hints at something more intermingled with the intimacies of family dynamics.

Firstly, there’s the obsessive stalking of Kyiv, which is deified as the “mother of all Russian cities,” and then castigated either as a prostitute who has sold out to the West, or a sort of zombie-mummy, manipulated by “dark forces” who have turned her into a tool against Russia.

Then there’s the oft repeated definition of Ukrainians and Belarussians as Russians’ “younger Brothers,” a definition at once patronising and suffocating, with the insistence that all these different countries are actually “one people,” one mass destined to be locked forever in the communal apartment of the Russian state (of mind).

Thus to justify his annexation of Crimea and invasion of East Ukraine, Putin argued in 2014 that “Russians and Ukrainians are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other,” and then earlier this year described Ukraine as being turned into the “anti-Russia” by the West. The language and memes become ever less elegant as you descend into the vomitarium of Russian state media talk shows and troll farms.

Though the references to ‘younger brothers’ and ‘mother Kyiv’ are age-old tropes embedded in Russian culture, a more recent innovation is the Russian Foreign Ministry’s depiction of countries who used to be in the USSR and Warsaw Pact as ‘orphaned’ by the end of the Cold War: as if Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic were lost urchins somehow pining for the return of Big Daddy Moscow.

Such constant references to family relations make me think that other motivations could be relevant here: could even a touch of psychoanalysis help inform the geopolitical analysis?

There’s some history to this approach. At the end of World War II the British psychiatrist Henry Dicks conducted a series of in-depth interviews with German POWs selected to represent different German social segments. Dicks wanted to work out the well-springs of the Nazi mindset, and where it resonated with other Germans.

I’ve been pouring over Dick’s archives for a new book on World War II propaganda, and asked the practicing psychoanalyst and University of London Professor of Literature Josh Cohen to help me make sense of them—and their relevance today with Russia.

Dicks found that what dominated among German soldiers, and especially those who liked the Nazis, was a weird relationship with authoritarian, often abusive and frequently absent father figures, with the child simultaneously humiliated by them and yearning for acceptance. The ensuing weak sense of individual agency lead to a search for strong leaders and identification with an all-encompassing, abstract nation-family. Deifying impossibly perfect mother figures, and then attacking any women who failed to live up to that, was a common accompaniment. Irrational spurts of aggression were a way to deal with the sense of inadequacy. Interestingly Dicks saw the Nazi insistence on a ‘Lebensraum’, the vast territories in Ukraine and Eastern Europe the Nazis claimed as theirs, partly as a compensation for this cycle of frustrated recognition and humiliation: a geopolitical demand born not merely out of ‘rational self interest’, but out of irrational ‘secondary narcissism’

“If primary narcissism is structural and necessary,” explains Cohen, “is basically our investment in our own self-preservation, secondary narcissism involves specific character traits and habits—vanity, self-inflation, superiority, all of course masking an underlying fear of one’s own inadequacy.”

One doesn’t need to be a psychoanalyst to notice how Russian popular culture circles around simultaneous adoration and fear of authoritarian father figures: Stalin, Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible especially, all of whom not only both glorified the state while abusing its people, but also, literally killed (Ivan), or were involved in killing (Stalin and Peter) their own offspring. When Russian state TV launched a vote to define history’s “Greatest Russians,” back in the still supposedly pro-Western era of 2008, Stalin was coming top until a late, potentially orchestrated surge put the near mythical, pre-medieval figure of Alexander Nevsky top.

Along with this love/fear relationship with abusive father figures, there are also the daily humiliations of the Russian system. When I lived in Moscow in the first decade of the Putin era, the petty put-downs an average citizen faced were relentless: on street corners traffic cops charged you with invented violations you could do nothing about, and then extorted bribes; at work bosses found it normal to scream at their subordinates (and were then screamed at in turn by their bosses); on the roads ordinary people were stuck in endless traffic, while the wealthy and well-connected obtained government sirens that allowed them to drive down the middle of the highway, reinforcing your sense of worthlessness every time they passed. And when one finally got home, full of burning resentment at the system, the TV would repeat “America is humiliating Russia, stopping it from rising from its knees.” The burning resentment would be sublimated onto evil foreigners.

The TV would also often reiterate the well-worn trope of how Russians needed a “strong hand” to guide them, a disciplinarian that protects and punishes. Putin is often described approvingly in that way, with his propaganda machine actively elevating him as a father-leader figure above politics, with the whole panoply of macho images that feature the President riding bare-chested on horses.

“It’s hard not to think of ‘the second time as farce’ when relating this to Putin” says Cohen. “It’s as though all these categories like ego weakness and secondary narcissism resurface today, but with a nudge and wink. With Putin there’s the kitsch, the shirtless photographs… What is interesting is that this doesn’t make him any less dangerous, and in a certain way makes him more so.”

The Putin-Leader propaganda ramped up after his return to the Presidency in 2012, and in the wake of protests that demanded an end to authoritarianism and daily humiliation from officials. State-sanctioned support for outbursts of aggression against minorities also increased, with laws legitimising domestic violence against women and attacks on the LGBTQ community.

Greater domestic oppression synced with the invasion of Ukraine and further augmented the widespread sense that Russia, already the world’s largest country, deserves territory far beyond its gargantuan reach. This sense of fluid borders ranges from the far-right fantasies about an Eurasian Empire from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, to the more common “Russo-sphere.” In Russia’s case the term “sphere of influence” doesn’t only denote something hard and defined, which can be hammered out with other “great powers” in some grand new geopolitical deal, but something that swells and swings with the pistons of suppressed resentment and emotional dynamics.

What does this mean in practice for dealing with Putin’s Russia?

On the level of official diplomacy we should resist putting too much hope that any deal, even if it could be reached, will somehow magically resolve things for good. Russia will not, as Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan hoped, be “parked.” The Kremlin needs to permanently keep the attention of a superpower to validate itself. Whether this entails gobbling up half of Ukraine along the way I don’t know, but even if it does the appetite will only increase and not be sated.

But while the thing once known as the West looks for the diplomatic tools to restrain Russian aggression today, we need to start thinking how to help address the deeper anxieties and traumas that pervade Russian society and culture, and which the Kremlin’s propaganda exploits. The mass culture equivalent of therapy is bringing submerged issues into public speech so they can be understood and ultimately surmounted.

On the most basic level what is lacking in the current crisis is any attempt by Western and American leaders to talk to the Russian people. Even as internal Kremlin propaganda screeches about the threat of NATO, no politicians have reached out to talk to the Russian people directly. We were much better at this in the Cold War, when Margaret Thatcher famously went on Soviet television and skillfully debated and beat their current affairs presenters. Back then Russians were shrouded in censorship, today it is infinitely easier to reach out and engage though social media.

As the Russian media analyst Vasily Gatov has suggested in a paper envisioning a new public diplomacy, these communicators should be the sorts of people a broad array of Russians will, even if grudgingly, respect and pay attention to: perhaps former Generals and security officials could fit the bill.

Beyond such basic political engagement, there’s the deeper public diplomacy that would initiate a conversation with ordinary Russians about how they see the country’s future place in the world. How many Russians just want to be part of a normal country, shorn of its cycles of oppression and lashing out? When Dicks analysed German POWs, he found that not all were all were beholden to the Nazi psychic see-saw of bullying and humiliation. He thought these other social groups would be the ones who could rebuild Germany after the war.

There are many Russians—artists, academics, film-makers—who already do a great job of excavating the Russian unconscious. They are often given minimal support by their own government, and some have had to leave the country. There should be a transatlantic fund, independent of any state, to support their work. Likewise we should be thinking of the future generation, and establish a Russian language university safe for critical inquiry.

All these might seem like long term measures in the face of an immediate crisis. But the roots of this crisis are deep. There is much hand-wringing among U.S. elites about whether they somehow offended Kremlin elites in the 1990s. But what is just as pertinent is how they abandoned listening to and talking with the Russian people. Start now.

HinduPACT Urges US Senate to Amend Islamophobia Act S.3384 to Reflect Global Protection of Civil Liberties

The Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective (HinduPACT) is circulating a petition to U.S. Senators requesting critical amendments be made to Senate Bill 3384 (known colloquially as the Islamophobia Act) prior to its passage as the bill in its current form fails to protect human rights globally, including the rights of religious minorities, underage girls, and members of the LGBTQ+ communities.  This petition is now signed by close to 1200 citizens, generating about 2400 letters to the Senators. “The bill in its current form does not do justice to reflect American values,” said HinduPACT Executive Director Utsav Chakbrabarti. “If passed as is, it will diminish America’s role as a purveyor of justice and democracy for all communities, regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation.”

“To present a bill that aims to eliminate discrimination against one particular religion or faith without including the entire gamut of religious groups is fundamentally un-American,” said HinduPACT Director of Legislative Outreach and Communications Adelle Nazarian. “The United States is a global leader as a defender of human rights and religious freedom and does not hold any religion, faith, gender or creed superior to another. Equality for one is equality for all.”

Ajay Shah, President of World Hindu Council of America and the Convenor of HinduPACT said, “Hindus inherently value freedom of religion, spiritual diversity and respect towards all faiths. We believe that this Bill will aggrandize the freedom of religions around the world. For example, those who abduct and forcibly convert girls from Hindu, Christian and Sikh communities in Pakistan will now seek to silence their opponents and threaten them with the consequences of being designated as “Islamophobic” by the US government. We believe that the Bill will enable an arbitrary designation of organizations from Hindu and other communities outside the US, as Islamophobic. The Senate must either reject the Bill or amend the Bill to comprehensively address ‘phobias’ against all the faiths.”

Part of the addendum requested by HinduPACT says, “No funds made available pursuant to this Act, or an amendment made by this Act may be used to boycott, promote or endorse discrimination or hatred against members of Yezidi, Coptic Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Evangelical, Jewish, Bahai, Druze, Alawite, Sabian-Mandean, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh individuals, businesses or institutions operated by these communities.” It also requests that “No funds made available pursuant to this Act, or an amendment made by this Act may be used to promote or endorse marriage, specifically marriage of girls under the age of 18.”
The HinduPACT petition can be found and signed here: https://hindupact.org/islamophobiaact2022/
For media inquiries, contact [email protected]

Eric Garcetti Confirmed BY Senate Committee To Be U.S. Ambassador To India

Ending many months of waiting, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, January 12th confirmed the nomination of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be US ambassador to India, during a session chaired by Sen. Menendez of New Jersey. The committee is made up of 22 senators — an even split of Democrats and Republicans. Now, the nomination needs to be confirmed by a majority of the U.S. Senate and the vote is yet to be scheduled.

The mayor was nominated to be an ambassador by President Biden, who announced the nomination on July 9, 2021. Garcetti was among a series of ambassadors and other foreign affairs nominees approved Jan. 12, 2022. Although individual senators raised public objections to some of the nominees, none did to Garcetti’s selection.

During his appearance before the committee on December 14, Mayor Garcetti was questioned by lawmakers weighing his nomination to become the U.S. ambassador to India. Garcetti during his testimony gave a statement followed by questions from lawmakers of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”Few nations are more vital to the future of American security and prosperity than India,” Garcetti told the committee.

Earlier last month, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Sen. Menendez, D-N.J., along with only a handful of Democrats and two Republicans, stressed how Washington sees India as a key partner in its effort to push back against China’s expanding power and influence.

“If confirmed, I will endeavor to advance our ambitious bilateral partnership united by a free and open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” Garcetti had said in his remarks. “I intend to double-down on our efforts to strengthen India’s capacity to secure its borders, defend its sovereignty, and deter aggression – through information sharing, counterterrorism coordination.”

Known to be President Biden’s close aide, Garcetti is a political appointee who in the past has served as a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign. In announcing his nomination, the White House emphasized Garcetti’s role in co-founding the bipartisan “Climate Mayors” network and in leading more than 400 U.S. mayors to adopt the Paris Climate Agreement.

According to sources, the White House strongly considers Garcetti to have a steady hand to guide the India US relationship because Washington sees India as a key partner in its effort to push back against China’s expanding power and influence.
A Biden loyalist, Garcetti has served as mayor of Los Angeles since 2013. He has a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University and he studied international relations as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University.

The White House statement released earlier this year said Garcetti had spent 12 years as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve Component, serving under the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and with the Defense Intelligence Agency, before retiring in 2017 as a lieutenant.

Conservative US Supreme Court Justices Block Vaccine And Testing Mandate

The Conservative Justices in the US Supreme Court on Thursday, January 13th  blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirement aimed at large businesses, but it allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect nationwide.

The decision is a huge hit to Biden’s attempts to use the power of the federal government to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The President has emphasized the necessity of getting vaccinated against the virus for months and eventually decided to use the mandate on large employers as his main vehicle for convincing hesitant Americans to get their shots.

In freezing a lower court opinion that allowed the regulation to go into effect nationwide, the majority sent a clear message the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, charged with protecting workplace safety, overstepped its authority. In contrast, the justices said that a separate agency could issue a rule to protect the health and safety of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” the unsigned opinion in the businesses case says.

Biden issued a statement praising the ruling on health care workers but criticized the ruling on businesses that will have the much wider effect.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” Biden said.

Moving forward, Biden said “it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.”

Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan issued a blistering dissent.

“When we are wise, we know not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere Congress marked out and under Presidential control, to deal with emergency conditions,” they wrote. “Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”

The rule would impact some 80 million individuals and requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. There are exceptions for those with religious objections.

The agency said that it had the authority to act under an emergency temporary standard meant to protect employees if they are exposed to a “grave danger.”

The Biden administration defended the regulation and argued that the nation is facing a pandemic “that is sickening and killing thousands of workers around the country” and that any delay in implementing the requirement to get a vaccine or submit to regular testing “will result in unnecessary illness, hospitalizations and death.”

During oral arguments, the Biden administration had asked that at the very least, if the court says employers can’t require the employees to get the vaccine, it should leave in place an alternate requirement for masking and frequent testing. The majority rejected that request Thursday.

Why the Supreme Court decided against vaccine mandate

Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said the ruling on the business mandate could have wide-reaching effects in future cases about the power of government.

“These cases were not referenda on vaccine mandates — which can still come from states, local governments, and private businesses — they were referenda on whether these kinds of expert policy decisions are better made by agency experts accountable to the President or by judges accountable to no one,” Vladeck said. “And if the answer is the latter, that’s going to be true long after, and in contexts far beyond, the immediate response to the Covid pandemic.”

Mandate for health care workers

Although the justices have been receptive to past attempts by states to mandate vaccines, the new disputes centered on federal requirements that raised different legal questions. The cases come to the Supreme Court in an unusual posture, because the justices are only being asked to block the requirements while the legal challenges play out.

The court allowed to take effect the vaccine policy rolled out in November by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which sought to require the Covid-19 vaccine for certain health care workers at hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

According to government estimates, the mandate regulates more than 10.3 million health care workers in the United States. Covered staff were originally required to get the first dose by December 6 and the mandate allows for some religious and medical exemptions.

Two lower courts had blocked the mandate in 24 states.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by conservatives Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, dissented.

“Neither CMS nor the Court articulates a limiting principle for why, after an un-explained and unjustified delay, an agency can regulate first and listen later, and then put more than 10 million healthcare workers to the choice of their jobs or an irreversible medical treatment,” Alito wrote.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal Lays Out ‘Whole-Of-Government Approach’ On Biden Agenda

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Wednesday urged lawmakers and the White House to take a “whole-of-government approach” to advancing President Biden’s agenda.

“Today, the elected leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on the President and all Democrats who believe in the need to Build Back Better for climate, care, immigrants, and those seeking economic dignity and opportunity to come together and deliver for the American people,” Jayapal said in a statement.

The statement comes after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he was opposed to Democrats’ massive social spending and climate package, known as the Build Back Better Act. Manchin, a moderate, cited concerns about inflation and the national debt.

Jayapal said congressional Democrats should continue to prioritize passing a version of the Build Back Better Act. She said that a revised bill should keep as much of the legislation that the House passed in November as possible intact, and shouldn’t be narrower than the $1.75 trillion framework the White House released in October.

“We have worked too long and too hard to give up now, and we have no intention of doing so,” Jayapal said.

Jayapal also said the White House should take a series of executive actions while negotiations on legislation continue, echoing comments she made to reporters earlier in the week.

“The Progressive Caucus will soon release a comprehensive vision for this plan of action, which will include immediate focus on actions that lower costs, protect the health of every family who calls America home in this time of surging omicron cases, and show the world that America is serious about our leadership on climate action,” she said.

Jayapal also called for federal action on voting rights. “We are encouraged by the dogged determination of our Senate colleagues to achieve this top priority, and progressives in the House remain committed to seeing it through,” she said.

Democrats Look To Scale Back Biden Bill To Get It Passed

According to media reports, momentum is growing for narrowing the scope of President Biden’s social spending and climate package as Democrats seek a way to get the bill through the Senate with Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) support.

Manchin effectively killed a much more wide-ranging bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, on Sunday by announcing his opposition, deeply disappointing and angering the White House and fellow congressional Democrats.

Days later, the pain still stings, but Democrats are actively seeking solutions that might find muster with the conservative West Virginia senator, whose vote is a necessity in the 50-50 Senate evenly divided between the two parties.

Democratic lawmakers, lobbyists and experts at think tanks believe Manchin might be won over if the bill is revised to include fewer programs for a longer period of time.

“That is the way forward here,” said Ben Ritz, director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at the Progressive Policy Institute, who has advocated for a bill with fewer items.  “Most of the party is starting to come around to that,” Ritz added. Some Democrats think their party made a mistake in going too large in the first place.

Progressives initially pushed a $6 trillion measure before falling back to $3.5 trillion — in part to signal that cut represented a concession on their party. The lower figure also proved too high for Manchin and fellow centrist Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), however, and the House ultimately passed a roughly $2 trillion version of Biden’s spending plan in November, which had a number of key provisions that were temporary. For example, the bill included provisions to extend the increased child tax credit amount for one year, and to create a universal preschool program for six years.

“To get someone like Manchin, a Democrat representing a conservative state, to a point where they can support something, [Democrats] started off on the wrong foot about letting the bill get too big about too many things,” said Tucker Shumack, a principal at Ogilvy Government Relations who previously served as an aide to former moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

Manchin argued that Democrats are not being honest about the cost of the bill, since temporary programs are likely to be extended in the future. “They continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill,” Manchin said in a statement Sunday outlining his opposition to the measure.

In his recent comments, Manchin said he couldn’t explain voting for Build Back Better in West Virginia, a state former President Trump won twice by double digits. Jorge Castro, co-lead of the tax-policy practice at Miller & Chevalier and a former aide to former West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D), said that a more focused bill could help Democrats counter Republican attacks that the bill is a grab-bag of spending. “I think it definitely helps from a messaging perspective,” he said.

Some moderate Democrats have long called for the Build Back Better Act to include fewer items for a longer time period, and are emphasizing this idea in the wake of Manchin’s recent comments.

“At the start of these negotiations many months ago, we called for prioritizing doing a few things well for longer, and we believe that adopting such an approach could open a potential path forward for this legislation,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) chair of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, said in a statement Sunday.

White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain tweeted a link to DelBene’s statement, saying the administration appreciates “all that @RepDelBene and the House New Dem Coalition has done to move forward on Build Back Better and the President’s agenda!”

Progressive lawmakers have been leading supporters of including more items in the bill, even if that means some programs are temporary. But they are acknowledging that some items may need to be removed from the package in subsequent negotiations.

In a statement on Wednesday, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said that cuts should be as minimal as possible.

“In Congress, we will continue to prioritize a legislative path for Build Back Better, focused on taking the current text of the legislation passed by the House, keeping as much of it as possible — but no less than the elements contained in the framework negotiated by the President and committed to by Senators Manchin and Sinema some months ago,” Jayapal said.

It’s not certain exactly which items from the House-passed bill would end up in a narrower bill, and exactly which would be left out. The New Democrat Coalition in their statement mentioned as top priorities the expanded child tax credit, building on ObamaCare and addressing climate change. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also made reference to those items in a statement.

Manchin has raised concerns about including Medicare expansion and paid family leave in the spending package, suggesting that those items might not make it into a package with fewer content areas.

The expanded child tax credit could prove to be challenging to include in a compromise with Manchin. The West Virginia senator has expressed a desire for the income limits for the credit to be lowered and for there to be work requirements associated with the credit.

The Washington Post on Monday reported that Manchin had provided the White House last week with a $1.8 trillion proposal that included universal preschool for 10 years, ObamaCare expansion and climate spending, but not the expanded child tax credit. Neither Manchin’s office nor the White House have publicly confirmed the report.

Ritz said it’s possible that Manchin and other Democrats could reach a compromise on the child tax credit, such as by targeting the child tax credit expansion more toward younger children or lowering the income level where the expanded credit starts to phase out.

He also said that even if a bill didn’t include an extension of the expanded child tax credit, a package that included other items such as universal preschool, Obama Care expansion, climate funding and affordable housing investments would still be transformative.

Biden Resists Shutdowns As Omicron Threat Rises

President Joe Biden is resisting school closures and other shutdown measures in the face of the highly transmissible omicron variant as the public grows increasingly weary about a seemingly never-ending pandemic and confusion over mixed messages from health officials.

Biden is trying to urge people to take precautions, but his speech on Tuesday represented a shift from earlier messaging. No longer is he endorsing strict mitigation measures, such as nonessential business closures, and the concept of social distancing is hardly mentioned.

But Biden is facing the limits of what he can accomplish. The administration is pushing testing and vaccines, which it cites as part of the reason for not needing stricter pandemic measures, but there is no political appetite for anything stronger.

Biden’s new tone instead reflects the reality that COVID-19 is here to stay and that Americans should not be expected to completely upend their lives once again.

The U.S. never had a nationwide lockdown like other nations did. Even during the height of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, each governor made his or her own decisions about the level of restrictions to enact state by state.

Still, health experts and administration officials generally agree that widespread shutdowns of businesses and other in-person settings are unnecessary because the U.S. has widespread coronavirus vaccines that protect against serious illness.

“This moment is much different than March 2020. We have tools to keep people safe and will continue using them to do so,” White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said during a White House briefing Wednesday.

Further restrictions would also be massively unpopular, and Biden is already dealing with sagging poll numbers and a country exhausted by the seemingly never-ending cycle of exploding case numbers. The prolonged closures and restrictions last year had a damaging effect on the economy that the country has only partially bounced back from.

“The public is thoroughly disillusioned and past the point that they will accept a closure of society or that their kids are going to go home and learn remotely again,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law professor at Georgetown University.

“From a public health point of view, what we’ve seen from lockdowns is that every time we lock down, we do dampen down the virus, but as soon as we open up again, it roars back,” Gostin said. “We haven’t demonstrated any long-term benefit from lockdowns.”

But even if it’s not on the same level as 2020, the U.S. is starting to see some signs of disruption to operations it did not experience during the delta variant wave that began hitting the U.S. in the summer.

Some Broadway shows have been postponed, or even closed for good, after outbreaks. Restaurants are also shutting their doors due to infections or exposures among staff.

In the Washington, D.C., area, dozens of schools have resorted to virtual learning for the rest of the year; Prince George’s County schools in Maryland said they will be virtual until at least mid-January.

The NHL became the first U.S. professional sports league to pause its season after a rash of outbreaks among teams. The league also withdrew its athletes from the Winter Olympics in February.

But the White House is not endorsing any closures or pauses, especially in schools. With vaccines widely available for children as young as 5, Biden is leaning into policies such as mandates as a way to force the issue.

“We can keep our K-through-12 schools open, and that’s exactly what we should be doing,” Biden said.   Once a school or district announces plans to go remote, it puts pressure on others to follow suit. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said there’s no reason for anyone not to be learning in person, at any level.

“I think it’s irresponsible at this point to do that,” Jha said in an MSNBC interview Monday.  “We have all the tools to keep schools open and safe: vaccinations, testing, improvements in ventilation. Tens of billions of dollars have gone to schools. … If I hear of a single school district that goes remote but keeps bars open, what that says to me is they don’t care about kids and they don’t care about COVID,” Jha said.

Republicans tried to make school reopenings a major political issue at the start of 2021, accusing the Biden administration of bending to teachers unions. A recent White House memo distributed to Democrats about progress in Biden’s first year said that 99 percent of schools are currently open, compared with 46 percent before Biden took office.

Biden also recently endorsed “test-to-stay” programs that allow kids who have been exposed to COVID-19 to avoid quarantining as long as they test negative.

The federal government largely does not control whether businesses, sporting venues or schools close due to the threat of the virus or whether they implement mask or vaccine mandates. Those decisions mostly fall on state and local officials.

But Biden can use his bully pulpit to make a recommendation one way or another, as he did when he needled Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas for barring mask mandates in schools.

Bill Galston, chair of the Brookings Institution’s governance studies program and former Clinton domestic policy aide, said that Biden recommending further lockdowns would be a “grave step” that could further divide the country and inspire opposition from Republicans.

“It will just give them another opportunity to emerge as faces of the resistance,” Galston said.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t other aggressive, potentially politically fraught steps that health experts think Biden should take.

Leana Wen, professor of health policy and management at George Washington University, said the administration should institute a national vaccine passport program to make it easier for businesses that want to require proof for indoor activities. She said the administration should stay away from any mention of closures or lockdowns.

“Lockdowns are the ultimate blunt instruments. That is what you use when you have no other choice. There are so many steps you could take before reaching that point. And also, once you use that blunt instrument, it’s very difficult to use it again,” Wen said.

Gostin said that Biden should require proof of vaccination for domestic flights, something the White House has said is on the table. But he noted that Biden has met resistance to his other vaccine-or-test mandates for businesses and health workers.

David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said it’s important to be realistic about the impact of any potential policy changes.

“I think empowering people to test themselves is a good thing. I think encouraging and even mandating vaccination is also likely to have an important effect,” Dowdy said.

Still, any major change would probably take too long to implement, and given the signs from South Africa, cases may start falling as soon as in the next month. “So I think the key is, what can we do to support people to make the right decisions right now, like today and tomorrow, to take the edge off this wave?” Dowdy said.

Rashad Hussain Confirmed As First Muslim US Religious Freedom Ambassador

Rashad Hussain has been confirmed as the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, making him the first Muslim American in the role. Hussain was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday (Dec. 16) by an overwhelming vote of 85 to 5.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom hailed the decision on Hussain, who has been director for partnerships and global engagement at the National Security Council.

“With his years of knowledge and experience, Ambassador Hussain is well placed to advance the U.S. government’s promotion of international religious freedom,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza in a statement.

Hussain, 42, previously served as a White House counsel during the Obama administration, as special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and as U.S. special envoy for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.

When President Joe Biden announced his nomination of Hussain in July, the White House noted his work on countering antisemitism and defending religious minorities in countries with Muslim majorities. Hussain, who has served as a judicial clerk in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and as the editor of the Yale Law Journal, speaks Spanish, Arabic and Urdu. He also is a hafiz, or someone who has memorized the entire Quran in Arabic.

“(A)s a Muslim American, I have seen the impact of bigotry and guilt by association tactics used against minority communities, including the message it sends and dangers it poses to young people,” Hussain said in his prepared remarks during the October confirmation hearing.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council welcomed Hussain’s new role. “Rashad has served our community and country at the highest level of integrity and intelligence,” said MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati. “Above all, he has served as a mentor and role model to Americans of all backgrounds, sharing with them the importance of public service and serving our country.”

Sam Brownback, who served as religious freedom ambassador during the Trump administration, had cheered the recent movement of the confirmation process for Hussain and applauded its outcome.

“Religious persecution is rampant around the world, and the international community looks to the United States for leadership that can make a difference,” Brownback, now a senior fellow at international persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, said in a statement. “That’s why I’m glad Rashad Hussain has been confirmed by a bipartisan Senate majority.”

An earlier religious freedom ambassador, Rabbi David Saperstein, joined Princeton University professor Robert P. George in supporting Hussain at the time of his confirmation hearing. The two men, who noted in a Religion News Service commentary that they have vastly different political perspectives, said Hussain was committed to protecting Christian rights and had garnered deep respect in the Muslim community.

“Hussain has enormous credibility across a broad range of faith groups, built on years of leadership in efforts for religious freedom,” they wrote. “His nomination has brought enthusiastic praise from groups ranging from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Baptist World Alliance to the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the Union for Reform Judaism, as well as widespread commendations from the Muslim community.”

The Secular Coalition for America also joined in congratulating Hussain on the confirmation vote. “The Ambassador has the potential to be a powerful voice for the rights of nontheists & apostates who face persecution abroad,” tweeted the organization, which represents atheist, humanist and freethinking groups. “SCA looks forward to working with him.”

The White House’s nominee for antisemitism envoy, Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, has yet to have a confirmation hearing after she was nominated in July on the same day as Hussain.

Chief Justice John Roberts Warns Anti-Abortion Supreme Court Justices

The chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, has warned that the Supreme Court risks losing its own authority if it allows states to circumvent the courts as Texas did with its near-total abortion ban.

In a strongly worded opinion joined by the high court’s three liberal justices, Roberts wrote that the “clear purpose and actual effect” of the Texas law was “to nullify this Court’s rulings.” That, he said, undermines the Constitution and the fundamental role of the Supreme Court and the court system as a whole.

The opinion was a remarkable plea by the chief justice to his colleagues on the court to resist the efforts by right-wing lawmakers to get around court decisions they dislike, in this case Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal in the United States, within limits. But in this case, his urgent request was largely ignored by the other justices on the court who were appointed by Republicans.

His point to them was that the court system should decide what the law is, and it should resist efforts like that of the Texas Legislature to get around the courts by limiting the ability of abortion providers to sue.

It is a basic principle, he wrote, “that the Constitution is the ‘fundamental and paramount law of the nation,’ and ‘[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.'” He cited as proof the landmark 1803 Marbury v. Madison case, which established the principle of judicial review, allowing the court to nullify laws that violate the Constitution.

“If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery,” he said, quoting the 1809 U.S. v. Peters case, which found that state legislatures can’t overrule federal courts. “The nature of the federal right infringed does not matter; it is the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system that is at stake.”

The Texas law, which took effect in September, delegates enforcement to any person, anywhere, who can sue any doctor performing an abortion or anyone who aids in the procedure. That makes it virtually impossible for abortion providers to sue the state to block the law, S.B. 8. Texas has argued that the law’s opponents had no legal authority to sue the state because S.B. 8 does not give state officials any role in enforcing the restriction.

Roberts has said that politics has no place at the Supreme Court and has made it clear he will resist efforts to draw the court into partisan cultural fights, fearing that the perception of partisanship will undermine the court’s legitimacy.

With the court now having a 6-3 conservative supermajority, Roberts wound up siding with the three liberal justices: Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. The addition of three justices by former President Donald Trump meant Roberts could not find another vote for his position, leaving him largely in the minority in the abortion ruling.

Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University, said Friday on MSNBC that “the real question here is whether or not Chief Justice John Roberts is chief justice in principle as well as name.”

“The question here is how can he reign in that hardcore conservative bloc of the court?” she asked. “And it seemed obvious last week in oral arguments, and this week — in terms of how these opinions are written, and where the chief justice finds himself — that maybe he’s having a hard time keeping all of the conservative bloc in line.”

The Supreme Court ruling Friday said that abortion providers in Texas can move forward with their lawsuit challenging S.B. 8 along a very narrow path. But it kept the law in effect while the court battle unfolds, which abortion rights supporters said would prevent large numbers of low-income Texas women from obtaining abortions during the legal fight.

What Biden’s Democracy Summit Is Missing

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to host a virtual summit this week for leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to discuss the renewal of democracy. We can expect to see plenty of worthy yet predictable issues discussed: the threat of foreign agents interfering in elections, online disinformation, political polarization, and the temptation of populist and authoritarian alternatives. For the United States specifically, the role of money in politics, partisan gerrymandering, endless gridlock in Congress, and the recent voter suppression efforts targeting Black communities in the South should certainly be on the agenda.

All are important and relevant topics. Something more fundamental, however, is needed. The clear erosion of our political institutions is just the latest evidence, if any more was needed, that it’s past time to discuss what democracy means—and why we should care about it. We have to question, moreover, whether the political systems we have are even worth restoring or if we should more substantively alter them, including through profound constitutional reforms.

Such a discussion has never been more vital. The systems in place today once represented a clear improvement on prior regimes—monarchies, theocracies, and other tyrannies—but it may be a mistake to call them adherents of democracy at all. The word roughly translates from its original Greek as “people’s power.” But the people writ large doesn’t hold power in these systems. Elites do. Consider that in the United States, according to a 2014 study by the political scientist’ Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, only the richest 10 percent of the population seems to have any causal effect on public policy. The other 90 percent, they argue, is left with “democracy by coincidence”—getting what they want only when they happen to want the same thing as the people calling the shots.

This discrepancy between reality—democracy by coincidence—and the ideal of people’s power are baked in as a result of fundamental design flaws dating back to the 18th century. The only way to rectify those mistakes is to rework the design—to fully reimagine what it means to be democratic. Tinkering at the edges won’t do.

The best starting place to rectify such flaws is to better understand how they came about. Representative government, the ancestor of modern democracies, was born in the 18th century as a classical liberal-republican construct rather than a democratic one, primarily focused on the protection of certain individual rights rather than the empowerment of the broader citizenry. The goal was to give the people some say in choosing their rulers without allowing for actual popular rule. In other words, representative government historically favored the idea of people’s consent to power over that of people’s exercise of power.

The Founding Fathers of the United States, for example, famously wanted to create a republic rather than a democracy, which they associated with mob rule. James Madison, in particular, feared the tyranny of the majority as much as he disliked and rejected the old monarchical orders. He wanted to create a mixed regime with aristocratic and popular features whose main goal would be to protect individuals as much from powerful minorities as oppressive majorities. Alexander Hamilton even defended the ideal of a government that would include a president elected for life.

The federalist founders were thus explicit in their intent to create a republic that would not rest on demos Kratos, or “people’s power,” but instead on the power of elected elites, restrained by a complex system of checks and balances. They aimed to staff representative assemblies with a natural aristocracy of talent and wisdom capable of enlarging and refining the views of common people. In this way, the system would serve as a filter, maximizing the individual competence of representatives while accepting the costs of reducing that group to a sociologically and economically homogeneous group.

The next historical step in the evolution of representative government was to go from parliamentary democracy—where the legislative assembly was seen as a place of deliberation among individually superior minds—to party democracy. Elections became a competition among policy platforms in which individual citizens or their representatives could exercise their vote.

In the process, we moved from the Madisonian view of electoral representation as a proxy for public sentiment to something quite different. Party competition was seen by some as an effective system to ensure the periodic removal of the worst political leaders or, in an even more optimistic view, as a rational battle of ideas among partisan platforms.

The move to this form of the political regime was accompanied—and buttressed—by the flattening out of social distinctions and what the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville saw as an irresistible equalization of conditions. It was during this process that we started to call modern societies and by extension their governments, democracies. This began around 1830 in the United States and France and 1870 in the United Kingdom, despite the remarkable fact that women and minorities did not get the right to vote until much later. But while there was some real but limited progress toward sociopolitical equality, actual decision-making power—over anything from economic to foreign policy—remained in the hands of the elites.

Not only is this unequal distribution and indeed concentration of power hardly compatible with the idea of democracy, but it also makes the system vulnerable to systematic failures of governance. One of the main advantages of democracy, according to thinkers from Aristotle to W.E.B. Du Bois, is its capacity, when properly institutionalized, to tap into the distributed collective wisdom of its entire public. Along these lines, Aristotle thought that two heads were better than one. More poetically, Du Bois argued that “in the people, we have the source of that endless life and unbounded wisdom which the rulers of men must-have.”

Yet by design, representative democracies only sample the wisdom of a narrow subset of the population, namely the one that wins elections. Such a subset has globally skewed male, wealthy, educated, and of the locally dominant ethnicity. One might also add the following traits: charismatic, articulate, tall, and extroverted. It is not clear that any of these qualities—undeniably useful to win electoral campaigns—have any bearing on the capabilities of our ruling class to legislate well. This is especially problematic if, as some social scientists argue, the collective competence of a group is only partially a function of individual qualities and more so a function of the group’s diversity. Parliaments as we staff them might well be too homogenous for good lawmaking. Meanwhile, the rest of the population—including the introverted, inarticulate, short, and shy, as well as, typically, poor and Black or other people of color—is left to opine, at best, from a distance, if they don’t retreat from the system altogether.

While there is some wisdom to be gained from the aggregation of popular judgment in elections, pure electoral democracy misses out on all that can be gained from the diversity of knowledge and insight among the broader population. The key is to involve that broader group of people in a more deliberative and participatory way. Leaving them out creates massive blind spots, simmering resentment, and a systematic failure to address the needs and preferences of a portion, sometimes even a majority, of the population.

Examples of such failures abound, from the plight of the suburban working class in most advanced industrial societies, which is vastly underrepresented in all Western parliaments, to that of Black Americans, who are also still underrepresented in the U.S. Congress.

Such areas of underrepresentation might explain political events that surprised our pundit class: U.S. President Donald Trump’s electoral victory, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, and the yellow vest rebellion against a tax on gas in France. The example of the yellow vests, or gilets jaunes, offers a textbook case of the inability of electoral institutions to respond to the interests and concerns of a significant portion of the population that feels invisible—hence, the neon yellow jackets—and has in some cases given up on voting altogether.

These democratic flaws at the heart of representative democracy are sufficiently serious to account for at least some of its current institutional crisis, which may be better described as a chronic illness due to a congenital defect. Perhaps other factors, such as globalization, unfettered capitalism, and rapid technological change, as well as the economic inequalities they entail, made things worse in some countries. But make no mistake: Each of these vulnerabilities is part of the initial design.

Some may see this essay as a call for revolution. It is not. We have inherited the legacies of the 18th century, both institutional and ideological, and we should figure out how to make do with them, at least in part and for the time being. Yet having a clearer idea of what an authentic democracy should look like can usefully guide institutional reform in more radical directions—ones that are compatible with current power structures and prevailing ways of thinking.

Wherever possible, we should build new models of democratic decision-making so they can nudge the old ones aside as those become obsolete. That, I believe, is our best hope for renewing democracy.

There are many proposals for what a true democracy should look like, and they are all worth debating. My view defended in my book Open Democracy, is that an authentic democracy would center on ordinary citizens rather than elected politicians. One way forward, therefore, is to break with the dogma of electoral representation as the only—let alone the most democratic—a form of representation.

If democracy is truly ruled by the people, then all of us should be able to represent and be represented in turn—that is, have an equal chance to engage in lawmaking and policymaking on behalf of the rest of the group. The ruling, in other words, should not be a job reserved for those who can win elections. It should be accessible to all.

The open democracy I envisage would center on a House of the People selected by a randomized civic lottery—a large-scale jury, if you will—in which ordinary citizens have a chance to participate as democratic representatives with legislative prerogatives of their own (for example, on climate change and other long-term issues that remain largely unaddressed by our current political systems). Such a body could replace—or at the very least complement—existing elected chambers. This House of the People would be a forum for nonpartisan, informed, and transparent deliberation.

Furthermore, such a body should be open to the input of the larger public, including through mechanisms that enable individuals to put issues on its agenda or trigger a referendum on its proposals or even convene a citizens’ assembly—a large body of randomly selected citizens gathered to deliberate about a specific issue.

Critics of this idea might argue that putting ordinary citizens at the center of our democratic process naively assumes that politics is an amateurs’ sport. To some extent, that is correct because having a say about the common good and defining the law that governs all of us should be open to all, regardless of class, gender, age, race, education levels, or other characteristics. Only once we acknowledge that fact can we both live up to the ideal of political equality and tap the collective intelligence of the whole.

But more importantly, when given the proper resources and the same access to experts that elected officials routinely enjoy, the so-called amateurs can cultivate skills and legislate well. The proof of concept here is provided not just by the example of ancient Athens, which essentially functioned based on open assemblies and randomly selected councils and juries, but the modern-day as well. Ordinary citizens in recent times have demonstrated their competence on all kinds of issues, from the more technical, as with the 2004 Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in the Canadian province of British Columbia, to the more controversial, as with the 2012 Constitutional Convention and 2016 Citizens’ Assembly in Ireland, which deliberated on marriage equality and abortion, respectively.

In 2019, in a landmark case given the size and diversity of the country, French President Emmanuel Macron entrusted 150 randomly selected citizens with the task of generating bills to curb greenhouse gas emissions in ways that align with social justice. After nine months of hard work, and in consultation with experts, they succeeded. While foreign policy has only been put on the agenda of citizens’ assemblies a few times, there is no reason to think that ordinary citizens would be less equipped to make decisions on these issues as well. Particularly when it comes to decisions related to starting or ending wars, it would seem both fair and smart to involve a much more representative sample of all affected interests.

Just as in an elected parliament, citizen legislators should avail themselves of existing knowledge. They should be served by a loyal bureaucracy and have easy access to experts. And these bureaucrats and experts should be put “on tap, not on top,” to use a phrase common in deliberative democracy circles—meaning they are available to advise but are not the decision-makers. In addition, assemblies of citizen legislators, just like parliaments, should be autonomous and self-ruling, including in the choice of experts appearing in front of them.

If those conditions are in place, the risk that the House of the People could be captured by technocrats and bureaucrats is not nil, but it is arguably less than in existing systems where elected officials are so busy raising funds and campaigning that they have every incentive to delegate the actual business of legislating to others.

What about accountability, you might ask? Accountability is an overused and underdefined term that we have come to identify within the very process of modern politics. After all, we should be able to remove elected officials who have underperformed. But elections can be a blunt and not particularly effective tool. There are other ways to sanction people for disappointing or wrongful use of power. More importantly, accountability has a broader meaning: the presentation of accounts, namely justifications for the laws and policies imposed on the population. Deliberative assemblies of ordinary citizens are a much better place than elected parliaments to generate such explanations.

What about the democratic legitimacy of randomly selected legislatures? This objection shows how much our political intuitions are shaped by the historical centrality of elections. Yet consider juries, the democratic institution par excellence according to Tocqueville. Do jury members lack democratic legitimacy because they have been selected by lot rather than elected? No. The intuition of our current system, in which we emphasize the exercise of power rather than the consent to power, is that the democratic legitimacy of jury members comes from the fact that they could be any one of us. We could be them. But what this example shows is that elections are not strictly necessary for either democratic representation or democratic legitimacy.

Does an open democracy still sound like science fiction or perhaps like a dated vision of politics only fit for small and homogenous Greek city-states? Only if you ignore the now close to 600 examples of randomly selected deliberative bodies documented at the local, regional, national, and international levels in the last 40 years, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

While such bodies often face resistance on the part of existing structures, which tend to view them as competition, several have had an important impact. Deliberative polls conducted by electric utilities in Texas between 1996 and 1998 were largely responsible for a major reversal in the state’s energy policy, turning it from a pure oil and gas state into a leader in green energy. The Irish citizens’ assemblies on marriage equality, abortion, blasphemy, and the right to divorce have all led to constitutional changes, and the Irish Citizens’ Assembly on climate led to the recently enacted Climate Act. In France, despite much resistance from Parliament, between 10 and 50 percent of the Citizens’ Convention on Climate’s recommendations were incorporated into real law, producing the most ambitious French climate bill to date. In fact, in 81 percent of the 55 examples of randomly selected bodies for which OECD data is available, public authorities accepted at least half of the recommendations that citizens developed in these processes.

The next phase of democratic transformation is to build more empowered, permanent citizens’ assemblies with legislative capabilities of their own. This has already begun. Examples include the region of East Belgium, which inaugurated the first permanent Citizens’ Council with agenda-setting power in 2019, and the city of Paris, which just convened a similar council of 100 Parisians, with more power still.

It might take a while before a country gives so much power to citizens at the national level. But it is worth noting that France briefly toyed with the idea of replacing its third legislative chamber, a largely symbolic advisory body where representatives of organized civil society currently convene, with a Chamber of Citizen Participation. Various scholars and activists have called for abolishing upper chambers seen as corrupt or out of dates, such as the Canadian Senate or the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, with so-called “legislatures by lot.” What might have seemed like radical thinking a few years ago is now entering the realm of the possible.

First, the summit needs to question and broaden the definition of democracy. If the aim of pro-democracy forces is simply to return to some imagined pre-Trump or pre-Brexit utopia, then we will have learned nothing. If the solution is simply to empower courts and raise supermajority thresholds to try to protect the system against populist surges, then we will possibly worsen the problem caused by elitism and democratic deficits in the first place. Returning to the core idea of people’s power—and interrogating the conditions under which the wisdom of the many can be channeled into law and policymaking—should be the starting point of any conversation.

The second pitfall to avoid is holding a summit on democracy that is itself elitist and exclusionary. The only invitees, as far as we know, are more than 100 world leaders, who are likely to be very educated, wealthy, and rather old. Just as this year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, (and all 25 before it) failed to be truly inclusive and representative of the diversity of climate interests and concerns around the world, summits that only gather people from the top of various social, economic, political, and other hierarchies are premised on a flawed idea of what produces collective wisdom. As a result, it risks reproducing the blind spots that yielded the world’s democratic crisis in the first place.

Democratic leadership can come from surprising places. I would hope the summit organizers at the very least invite participants from former citizens’ assemblies, who could bring a diversity of background as well as unique perspectives on a different kind of democratic politics. Better yet, they could start thinking about institutionalizing the principle of an international citizens’ assembly for the summit’s next iterations, as several thinkers, including myself, have called for in a joint letter to Biden. Such an assembly could follow the model of the Global Assembly on the climate crisis, which ran in parallel to the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

Finally, when it comes to the situation in the United States, one hopes that Biden’s summit will be an opportunity to change the country’s mostly sterile public conversation about democracy. Americans must finally allow themselves to question the foundations of the Constitution they so uncritically worship. The achievements of the Founding Fathers, as brilliant as they were, need to be reassessed in light of more than two centuries of dramatic change and a wealth of new social scientific knowledge. If we are to overcome the many profound challenges we face today, we need to be as bold and visionary in our time as they were in theirs.

Will US Supreme Court Curtail Abortion Rights?

With the looming possibility of the Supreme Court gutting Roe v. Wade, the future of reproductive rights in America is poised to become a central and potentially defining issue in the upcoming midterm elections.

The high court is expected to deliver its ruling on a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks next summer, as campaign season kicks into high gear. At a hearing this week, the bench’s conservative supermajority signaled its intent to uphold the law, going against decades of precedent and likely introducing a volatile new variable in electoral politics.

Democratic campaign organizations up and down the ballot, along with allied abortion rights groups, are now ramping up efforts to channel the anger and anguish of pro-choice voters and drive them to the polls. On the federal level, Senate Democrats are stressing the importance of maintaining their majority in order to confirm a new justice in the event President Joe Biden has the opportunity fill a vacated seat. In the states, leading Democrats are warning that Republican victories in legislative and gubernatorial races will lead to another burst of efforts to outlaw or severely curtail abortion rights, in line with the hundreds of restrictions that have been enacted in the last decade — this time without constitutional barriers to slow or stop them.

The need for Democrats to manage resources between federal and state races could create some uncomfortable conversations over the coming months.

“The federal government certainly is not going to come save any of us,” said Heather Williams, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “We’re seeing swift action to do things like protect abortion rights, protect voting rights, to ensure that our government is looking out for people happens right at the state level. And folks need to get involved there.”

That, she told CNN, meant Democrats needed to be more strategic in where and how they spend. “It’s very easy to look at the shining star that is federal elections,” Williams said. “They get all the press, they get the attention. But the truth is, while those lights are shining there, the work is actually getting done in the states.”

Republicans have over the last few decades placed more of an emphasis on building power in the states, putting Democrats at a disadvantage they are still struggling to overcome. Republican Governors Association spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez told CNN that GOP candidates next year will have messages tailored to their electorates — and warned that Democratic attempts to nationalize the issue could have diminishing returns.

“If national Democrats are going to make abortion their driving issue going into next year, they’ve already lost the Kansas governor’s race,” Rodriguez said. “It won’t help them in states where it’s not viewed as favorably as they think it is.”

‘I haven’t seen energy like that in a very long time’

Abortion rights have strong support in a variety of national polling. An ABC News/Washington Post survey from last month found that 60% of Americans say Roe v. Wade should be upheld. Only 27% said it should be overturned. But that advantage, consistent through the years, has not always been reflected at the ballot, as the fervor of abortion rights opponents has outstripped that of its supporters.

Democrats now are banking on a backlash fueled in large part by voters who back abortion rights, or are at least passively support a right to choose, but had not considered it a top issue in recent years due to the protections granted by Roe v. Wade.

“We must defend a Democratic Senate majority with a power to confirm or reject Supreme Court Justices,” said Jazmin Vargas, spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “At the end of the day, these Supreme Court Justices make these decisions, and so we’re going to make this issue salient by reminding voters of the importance of electing a Democratic Senate.”

Endangered Democratic incumbents like New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan are seeking to reset the stakes of their races, which could determine control of the split chamber and either open up or further dim options for Democrats after the court hands down its decision.

“My potential opponents support dramatically restricting a woman’s liberty by infringing upon her right to make her own health care decisions,” Hassan told CNN in a statement, “and I will not be shy about contrasting my record of protecting reproductive rights with their support for policies that take away women’s liberty.”

Wisconsin state treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who is running in the Democratic Senate primary, told CNN she began to see a clear upswing in activism around abortion rights after the Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to go into effect pending potential challenges.

“When we saw the Texas ruling a few months ago, there were reproductive justice marches across the state,” Godlewski said. “And I haven’t seen energy like that in a very long time, where women were organizing in places that you don’t often see on issues like this.”

But she also expressed disappointment over the lack of action by Democrats in Washington. Like her top primary rival, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Godlewski has pushed for Senate Democrats to ditch the 60-vote filibuster and take legislative action to protect abortion rights.

“I’m really frustrated with my own party, to be honest, because we have the House, we have the Senate and we have the White House and we haven’t codified Roe as law,” she said. “And we’re allowing this to continue to hang by a shoestring. This issue continues to be an afterthought or an extra credit project.”

Chris Hartline, the top spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said it was too early to say whether the court’s eventual ruling — given the range of options available to the justices — will change the broader dynamics of the campaign. But he also cast doubt on Democrats’ ability, no matter what comes down, to translate it into a potent political tool.

“Democrats always try to make elections about abortion and it never really seems to work. And we know with the issues that they have in terms of the political environment right now, they were going to try to find something to juice their base,” Hartline said. “And abortion seems like it might be it. That’s what they’re going to try. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be successful.”

‘The Democratic Party can’t just hope that voter outrage is going to save them’

Leading abortion rights groups and some leading progressives are also concerned that Democratic voters disillusioned by internal clashes and stalled legislative efforts by the party’s majorities on Capitol Hill could blunt an electoral backlash against Republicans.

“Could we see a giant electoral backlash against Republicans? Yes, I think so. But the Democratic Party can’t just hope that voter outrage is going to save them,” Nelini Stamp, the director of partnerships and strategy for the Working Families Party, told CNN.

Stamp also warned Democrats not to underestimate the possibility that conservative, anti-abortion voters, will go to the polls to reward Republicans as they push for new restrictions in the aftermath of the court’s ruling.

“This has been a 40-year Republican promise to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Stamp said. “So they’re also going to have people who are motivated and say, ‘Y’all got the job done.’ And what do we have?”

Asked how Planned Parenthood Action Fund will motivate pro-choice voters who turned out in 2018 and 2020 yet feel that their vote made little difference in the fight to protect reproductive rights, Sam Lau, a PPAF spokesman, acknowledged their exasperation, but pointed to recent Democratic gubernatorial wins that put pro-choice governors in positions to protect the right to abortion.

“If not for a governor who believed in reproductive freedom, those states would be looking to pass bills as radical as what we’ve seen in Texas and Mississippi,” Lau said. “We are at a turning point right now, and it’s clear that we can no longer rely on the courts to protect our rights.”

Two of the highest profile 2022 gubernatorial races will take place in Michigan and Wisconsin, where Democratic Govs. Gretchen Whitmer and Tony Evers, respectively, are seeking re-election in states with Republican-held legislatures. On Friday, Evers tweeted out a picture of him at a desk, surrounded by a room of women, putting pen to paper.

“I just vetoed five bills that would restrict access to reproductive healthcare in Wisconsin,” he wrote, adding: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again today: as long as I’m governor, I will veto any legislation that turns back the clock on reproductive rights in this state — and that’s a promise.”

Christina Amestoy, a senior spokeswoman for the Democratic Governors Association, said she expected a campaign conducted largely in the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision to overturn or gut Roe would make it more difficult for Republican candidates to hedge or attempt to avoid the issue, as Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin did this past year.

“Voters deserve to know where all the candidates stand,” Amestoy said. “I think that (the court’s decision) eliminates or prevents Republican candidates from hiding behind Roe v. Wade as a mechanism to not have to answer on the campaign trail, and only show their true anti-choice colors once I get into office.”

India Ranked Fourth Most Powerful Country In Asia

India is the fourth most powerful country in Asia, as per the Lowy Institute Asia Power Index 2021. The annual Asia Power Index — launched by the Lowy Institute in 2018 — measures resources and influence to rank the relative power of states in Asia. The project maps out the existing distribution of power as it stands today, and tracks shifts in the balance of power over time.

The top 10 countries for overall power in the Asia-Pacific region are the US, China, Japan, India, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, Lowy Institute said.

India is ranked as a middle power in Asia. As the fourth most powerful country in Asia, India again falls short of the major power threshold in 2021. Its overall score declined by two points compared to 2020. India is one of eighteen countries in the region to trend downward in its overall score in 2021, the report said.

The country performs best in the future resources measure, where it finishes behind only the US and China. However, lost growth potential for Asia’s third largest economy due largely to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has led to a diminished economic forecast for 2030, Lowy Institute said.

India finishes in 4th place in four other measures: economic capability, military capability, resilience and cultural influence.

India is trending in opposite directions for its two weakest measures of power.

On the one hand, it remains in 7th place in its defense networks, reflecting progress in its regional defense diplomacy — notably with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes Australia, Japan and the US. On the other hand, India has slipped into 8th position for economic relationships, as it falls further behind in regional trade integration efforts, Lowy Institute said.

India exerts less influence in the region than expected given its available resources, as indicated by the country’s negative power gap score. Its negative power gap score has deteriorated further in 2021 relative to previous years.

As per the report, many developing economies, including India, have been hardest hit in comparison to their pre-Covid growth paths. This has the potential to reinforce bipolarity in the Indo-Pacific, driven by the growing power differential of the two superpowers, the US and China, in relation to nearly every other emerging power in the region.

The US beat the downward trend in 2021 and has overtaken China in two critical rankings. But its gains are dogged by a rapid loss of economic influence.

China’s comprehensive power has fallen for the first time, with no clear path to undisputed primacy in the Indo-Pacific.

Uneven economic impacts and recoveries from the pandemic will likely continue to alter the regional balance of power well into the decade. Only Taiwan, the United States and Singapore are now predicted to have larger economies in 2030 than originally forecast prior to the pandemic.

Yet richer countries, such as Japan, have seen their economic prospects improve not just relative to 2020, but also to economies with lower vaccination rates. China, which avoided a recession last year, is not far behind. (IANS)

Dr. Oz Seeks To Be First Muslim Elected To The US Senate

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity surgeon and host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” has launched a campaign for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat now held by Pat Toomey, who is retiring. If Oz wins the Republican nomination, he will be the first Muslim to be nominated for a Senate seat by a major American political party.

The son of Turkish immigrants, Oz, 61, was a widely known cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia University professor of medicine before rising to national prominence on television, initially as a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show before debuting his own syndicated show in 2009.

Oz’s faith is perhaps little known to the millions of viewers of his show but his role as one of the most prominent Muslims in American life has not gone unnoticed. He is one of roughly 40 Americans included in the 2022 edition of the World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims, an annual list put out by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, a Jordanian think tank

Announcing his Senate campaign on the Washington Examiner’s website on Tuesday (Nov. 30), Oz made an oblique reference to his Turkish American background, writing: “I witnessed my family’s sacrifices. My father grew up dirt poor (literally sleeping on a dirt floor) and loved this country as much as anyone already here.”

While his mother adhered to the secular vision of modern Turkey’s founder, Kemal Ataturk, Oz’s father was a strict Muslim, according to a 2012 interview for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’ PBS television program “Faces of America.” As a young man, Mehmet Oz said, he rebelled against both traditions and chose to align his views with Sufism, a mystical Islamic sect.

“I’ve struggled a lot with Muslim identity in part because within my family there were two different perspectives on it,” Oz told Gates.

In the same interview, he compared his views on Sunni Islam and Sufi beliefs to the relationship between the rules of American football and the game on the field. “Those are just the rules of the game. If it’s 100 yards by 30 yards, you can have hash marks every 10 yards. Those are just the rules. The actual game is (what) you engage with other human beings,” Oz said.

Oz has also cited Emanuel Swedenborg, the 18th-century Swedish theologian, as a spiritual influence, and he has featured Swedenborgian ideas on his show. The Swedenborgian Church of North America reported that Oz was introduced to the faith by his wife, Lisa, a member of the Swedenborgian community of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania.

He has also credited his wife with introducing him to Transcendental Meditation and reiki, a traditional Japanese practice of using “healing energy” for medicinal purposes.

“When I meditate, I go to that place where truth lives,” Oz said of his Transcendental Meditation practice. “I can see what reality really is, and it is so much easier to form good relationships then.”

In 2016, Oz interviewed then-presidential candidate Donald Trump on “The Dr. Oz Show” and discussed the results of a recent physical exam Trump had undergone. Two years later, President Trump named Oz to the Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

Oz subsequently endorsed the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to combat COVID-19, which Trump also touted while in office. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has since cautioned against such use of the drug outside of a hospital setting, saying it can cause heart and other problems.

Oz appeared before a congressional investigative panel in 2014 to discuss his support for the weight-loss properties of green coffee supplements. He admitted that some of his language had been “flowery” and went further in defending his apparent endorsement of certain products as host of “The Dr. Oz Show.”

There is no clear front-runner in the Republican senatorial primary contest in Pennsylvania. Sean Parnell, who was endorsed by Trump, dropped out of the race last week after facing allegations of domestic abuse related to a custody battle. While Oz may now be the best-known name in the race, the longtime New Jersey resident only recently established a residence in Pennsylvania and could face accusations of carpetbagging.

How US Gun Culture Stacks Up With The World

Ubiquitous gun violence in the United States has left few places unscathed over the decades. Still, many Americans hold their right to bear arms, enshrined in the US Constitution, as sacrosanct. But critics of the Second Amendment say that right threatens another: The right to life.

America’s relationship to gun ownership is unique, and its gun culture is a global outlier. As the tally of gun-related deaths continue to grow daily, here’s a look at how gun culture in the US compares to the rest of the world.

Note: Gun ownership rates are estimates as of 2017. Some entries have been combined to calculate rates for Cyprus, United Kingdom and Somalia. Data not available for Christmas Island, Nauru and Vatican City.

There are 120 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey (SAS). No other nation has more civilian guns than people.

The Falkland Islands — a British territory in the southwest Atlantic Ocean, claimed by Argentina and the subject of a 1982 war — is home to the world’s second-largest stash of civilian guns per capita. But with an estimated 62 guns per 100 people, its gun ownership rate is almost half that of the US. Yemen — a country in the throes of a seven-year conflict — has the third-highest gun ownership rate at 53 guns per 100 people.

While the exact number of civilian-owned firearms is difficult to calculate due to a variety of factors — including unregistered weapons, the illegal trade and global conflict — SAS researchers estimate that Americans own 393 million of the 857 million civilian guns available, which is around 46% of the world’s civilian gun cache.

About 44% of US adults live in a household with a gun, and about one-third own one personally, according to an October 2020 Gallup survey.

Some nations have high gun ownership due to illegal stocks from past conflicts or lax restrictions on ownership, but the US is one of only three countries in the world where bearing (or keeping) arms is a constitutional right, according to Zachary Elkins, associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the Comparative Constitutions Project. Yet the ownership rate in the other two — Guatemala and Mexico — is almost a tenth of the United States.

The gun debate in those countries is less politicized, Elkins said. In contrast to the US, Guatemala and Mexico’s constitutions facilitate regulation, with lawmakers more comfortable restricting guns, especially given concerns around organized crime, he said. In Mexico, there’s only one gun store in the entire country — and it’s controlled by the army.

In the US, firearm manufacturing is on the rise, with more Americans buying guns.

In 2018, gun makers produced 9 million firearms in the country — more than double the amount manufactured in 2008, according to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). More recently, January 2021 marked the biggest annual increase since 2013 in requests for federal background checks necessary for purchasing a gun — a nearly 60% jump from January 2020.

And in March 2021, the FBI reported almost 4.7 million background checks — the most of any month since the agency started keeping track more than 20 years ago. Two million of those checks were for new gun purchases, making it the second highest month on record for firearms sales, according to the National Shooting Sports Federation, the firearms industry trade group that compares FBI background check numbers with actual sales data to determine its sales figures.

The US has the highest firearm homicide rate in the developed world

In 2019, the number of US deaths from gun violence was about 4 per 100,000 people. That’s 18 times the average rate in other developed countries. Multiple studies show access to guns contributes to higher firearm-related homicide rates.

Almost a third of US adults believe there would be less crime if more people owned guns, according to an April 2021 Pew survey. However, multiple studies show that where people have easy access to firearms, gun-related deaths tend to be more frequent, including by suicide, homicide and unintentional injuries.

It is then unsurprising that the US has more deaths from gun violence than any other developed country per capita. The rate in the US is eight times greater than in Canada, which has the seventh highest rate of gun ownership in the world; 22 times higher than in the European Union and 23 times greater than in Australia, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) data from 2019.

The gun-related homicide rate in Washington, DC — the highest of any US state or district — is close to levels in Brazil, which ranks sixth highest in the world for gun-related homicides, according to the IHME figures.

Globally, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean suffer from the highest rates of firearm homicides, with El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras topping the charts.

Drug cartel activities and the presence of firearms from old conflicts are both contributing factors, according to the 2018 Global Mortality From Firearms, 1990-2016, study.

But gun-related violence in Latin America and the Caribbean is also exacerbated by weapons that come from the US. About 200,000 firearms from America cross Mexico’s border every year, according to a February 2021 US government accountability office report, citing the Mexican government.

In 2019, about 68% of firearms seized by law enforcement in Mexico and sent to the ATF for identification were traced back to the US. And around half of guns the ATF checked after they’ve been seized in Belize, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama were manufactured in or officially imported to the US.

The US was home to 4% of the world’s population but accounted for 44% of global suicides by firearm in 2019

The country recorded the largest number of gun-related suicides in the world every year from 1990 to 2019.

Gun-related suicides

United States 23,365 44% of global suicides by firearm in 2019 Mexico914 Argentina1,204 Brazil1,259 Pakistan710 India6,145 France1,748 Venezuela702 Russia1,053 Germany899 Nigeria458 Canada686 Turkey585 Iraq428 SouthAfrica397 Ukraine525 Italy507 Colombia478 China (mainland)467 DRCongo395

While personal safety tops the list of reasons why American gun owners say they own a firearm, 63% of US gun-related deaths are self-inflicted.

Over 23,000 Americans died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in 2019. That number accounts for 44% of the gun suicides globally and dwarfs suicide totals in any other country in the world.

At six firearm suicides per 100,000 people, the US rate of suicide is, on average, seven times higher than in other developed nations. Globally, the US rate is only lower than in Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory with relatively high gun ownership (22 guns per 100 people).

Multiple studies have reported an association between gun ownership and gun-related suicides.

One of those studies, conducted by researchers at Stanford University, found that men who owned handguns were almost eight times as likely to die of self-inflicted gunshot wounds as men who didn’t own a gun. Women who owned handguns were 35 times as likely to die by firearm suicide, compared to those who didn’t, according to the 2020 study, which surveyed 26 million California residents over a more than 11-year period.

No other developed nation has mass shootings at the same scale or frequency as the US

Half of the world’s developed countries had at least one public mass shooting between 1998 and 2019.* But no other nation saw more than eight incidents over 22 years, while the United States had over 100 — with almost 2,000 people killed or injured.

Number of mass shooting casualties, by year

2000 ’02 ’03 ’01 ’04 ’06 ’08 ’10 ’12 ’14 ’16 ’05 ’07 ’09 ’11 ’13 ’15 ’17 ’18 ’19 ’98 ’99 2000 ’02 ’03 ’01 ’04 ’06 ’08 ’10 ’12 ’14 ’16 ’05 ’07 ’09 ’11 ’13 ’15 ’17 ’18 ’19 ’98 ’99 France Germany Canada Finland Switzerland Netherlands Italy Czech Rep. Belgium United Kingdom Slovakia Norway New Zealand Lithuania Croatia Australia Austria US 561 145 159 131 592† †

* Mass shootings are defined as gun-violence incidents in a public locations within a 24-hour period that result in four or more deaths, excluding the perpetrator, with victims chosen at random or for their symbolic value. They exclude incidents involving profit-driven criminal activity, state-sponsored violence and familicide. † The dataset includes casualties from the only three mass shootings involving organized terrorism that occurred in the developed world in the timeframe (May 2014 Jewish Museum of Belgium shooting, January 2015 Île-de-France attacks and November 2015 Paris attacks). Note: Developed countries are defined based on the UN classification and those with no mass shootings are not shown.

Source: Jason R. Silva of William Paterson University

Regular mass shootings are a uniquely American phenomenon. The US is the only developed country where mass shootings have happened every single year for the past 20 years, according to Jason R. Silva, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at William Paterson University.

To compare across countries, Silva uses a conservative definition of a mass shooting: an event that leaves four or more people dead, excluding the shooter, and that excludes profit-driven criminal activity, familicide and state-sponsored violence. Using this approach, 68 people were killed and 91 injured in eight public shootings in the US over the course of 2019 alone.

A broader definition of mass shootings reveals an even higher figure.

The Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit based in Washington, DC and which CNN relies on for its reporting of mass shootings, defines a mass shooting as an incident leaving at least four people dead or injured, excluding the shooter, and does not differentiate victims based upon the circumstances in which they were shot.

They counted as many as 417 mass shootings in 2019. And this year, 641 incidents have been recorded.

State gun policies also appear to play a role. A 2019 study published in the British Medical Journal found that US states with more permissive gun laws and greater gun ownership had higher rates of mass shootings.

President Joe Biden’s administration has renewed calls for gun reform after mass shootings in Colorado, South Carolina and Texas this year. In March, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would require unlicensed and private sellers, as well as all licensed sellers to do federal background checks before all gun sales — and to ensure that buyers are fully vetted before making the sale.

The bills are now stuck in the Senate where, despite some Democrats’ efforts to build bipartisan support, there has been no indication they have the votes to overcome the 60-vote filibuster.

For decades, political roadblocks have stalled such efforts in the US. And that partisan divide is reflected in the population as well, with 80% of Republicans — and 19% of Democrats — saying gun laws in the country are either about right or should be less strict, according to the April Pew survey.

Meanwhile, mass shootings continue to drive demand for more guns, experts say, with gun control activists arguing the time for reform is long overdue.

Researchers from Washington University at St Louis’ Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute presented this argument to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2018, saying that the US government’s “failure” to prevent and reduce gun-related violence through “reasonable and effective domestic measures has limited the ability of Americans to enjoy many fundamental freedoms and guarantees protected by international human rights law,” including the right to life and bodily integrity.

UN bodies have also underlined these concerns, pointing to America’s “stand your ground” laws, which allow gun owners in at least 25 states to use deadly force in any situation where they believe that they face an imminent threat of harm, without first making any effort to deescalate the situation or retreat. A 2019 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report said that the law can encourage people to respond to situations with lethal force, rather than use it as a last resort.

In a 2020 essay published by the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank, gun control advocate Rukmani Bhatia said that the US gun lobby has seized a rights-based narrative “to justify, dangerously, the right to bear, carry, and use firearms.”

Stand your ground legislation, she said, “warps people’s understanding about their rights to security and, in the worst cases, empowers them to take away another person’s right to life.”

Gun-related deaths reduced after the introduction of stricter laws in these countries

Shortly after a mass shooting in Tasmania, Australia banned rapid-fire rifles and shotguns and tightened licensing rules. Over the next decade, gun deaths dropped by 51%.

A decade of rising gun deaths in South Africa prompted the government to pass new laws prohibiting certain firearms, mandating background checks and tightening licensing requirements, which capped gun ownership numbers.

A mass shooting in 1996 prompted the UK Parliament to further tighten the country’s gun laws and ban private gun ownership.* Gun-related deaths fell by a quarter over the decade that followed.

Three mass shootings in three years prompted Finland to overhaul its gun laws in 2011. Gun deaths were already falling, yet there was an additional 17% drop between 2011 and 2019.

After a 2002 shooting by a 19-year-old, Germany’s parliament passed gun restrictions for young people, including banning large-caliber weapon sales and requiring psychological evaluation before purchase. It later mandated gun registration and storage security checkups after another mass shooting.

2010 ’19 2000 1990 Deaths by firearm:Homicide Suicide Unintentional Mass shooting UNITED KINGDOM 0 100 200 300 400 April 2, 1991Following the 1987 Hungerford spree shooting,Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 came into force Feb. 27, 1997Firearms (Amendment)Act 1997 becomes law March 13, 1996Dunblane school massacre,17 killed June 3, 2010Cumbria shootings,12 killed FINLAND 0 200 400 600 Feb. 11, 2011Firearms Act amended Sept. 23, 2008Kauhajoki schoolshootings,10 killed Nov. 7, 2007Jokela school shooting,eight killed Dec. 31, 2009Helsinki mallshooting, five killed GERMANY 0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 April 1, 2003A revamped WeaponsAct was enacted July 25, 2009Weapons Act amended May 16, 1999Five killed Nov 1, 1999Four killed April 26,2002Erfurtschoolshooting,16 killed March 11, 2009Winnendenschool shooting,15 killed July 22, 2016Munich shooting,nine killed SOUTH AFRICA 0 2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000 October, 20002000 Firearms ControlAct passed AUSTRALIA 0 200 400 600 800 May 10, 1996National Firearms Agreement established April 28, 1996Port Arthurmassacre,35 killed June 4, 2019Darwin shooting, four killed

Note: Additional gun legislation may have been passed that is not visualized here. Deaths reported in mass shootings exclude the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, countries that have introduced laws to reduce gun-related deaths have achieved significant changes.

A decade of gun violence, culminating with the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, prompted the Australian government to take action.

Less than two weeks after Australia’s worst mass shooting, the federal government implemented a new program, banning rapid-fire rifles and shotguns, and unifying gun owner licensing and registrations across the country. In the next 10 years gun deaths in Australia fell by more than 50%. A 2010 study found the government’s 1997 buyback program — part of the overall reform — led to an average drop in firearm suicide rates of 74% in the five years that followed.

Other countries are also showing promising results after changing their gun laws. In South Africa, gun-related deaths almost halved over a 10-year-period after new gun legislation, the Firearms Control Act of 2000, went into force in July 2004. The new laws made it much more difficult to obtain a firearm.

In New Zealand, gun laws were swiftly amended after the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. Just 24 hours after the attack, in which 51 people were killed, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the law would change. New Zealand’s parliament voted almost unanimously to change the country’s gun laws less than a month later, banning all military-style semi-automatic weapons.

Britain tightened its gun laws and banned most private handgun ownership after a mass shooting in 1996, a move that saw gun deaths drop by almost a quarter over a decade. In August 2021, a licensed firearms holder killed five people in Plymouth, England, marking the worst mass shooting since 2010. After the incident, police said the gunman’s firearm license had been returned to him just months after it was revoked, due to assault accusations. The British government then asked police to review their licensing practices and said that they would be bringing forward new guidance to improve background procedures, including social media checks.

Many countries around the world have been able to tackle gun violence. Yet, despite the thousands of lost lives in the US, only around half of US adults favor stricter gun laws, according to the recent Pew survey, and political reform remains at a standstill. The deadly cycle of violence seems destined to continue.

How CNN reported this story:

For gun ownership rates, CNN relied on the Small Arms Survey (SAS), a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. It estimates civilian arm stocks using a combination of gun sales and registration figures, public surveys, expert estimates and cross-country comparisons. The gun ownership rate per 100 people is not the same as the share of people that own guns, as some may own multiple guns and others may own none.

For firearm deaths totals and rates, CNN used the Global Burden of Disease database compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Firearm-related deaths include physical violence (homicide), self-harm (suicide) and unintentional injuries. While rates are preferable for cross-country comparisons, in the case of suicides we illustrated the totals to highlight the gap between the US and other countries.

When comparing US statistics with other developed countries we used a UN definition found in the United Nations’ World Economic Situation and Prospects report — which intends “to reflect basic economic country conditions” and is not strictly aligned with the UN Statistics Division’s classification known as M49.

To estimate numbers on mass shootings, including incidents, fatalities, and injuries in the US, CNN typically relies on data from the Gun Violence Archive. To enable international comparisons for this story, we also used data compiled by Jason R. Silva, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at William Paterson University. Silva’s definition is narrower than CNN and the GVA’s because it excludes incidents involving profit-driven criminal activity, familicide and state-sponsored violence.

Kamala Harris, First Ever Woman To Hold Presidential Powers In US

Vice President Kamala Harris became the first ever woman in the history of the United States to be given the Presidential powers, while President Joe Biden underwent a regular health check. Harris, 57, was in control for 85 minutes, while Biden was placed under anaesthesia for a routine colonoscopy on Friday, November 14th. Harris, the first woman, person of color and person of Indian American descent to be vice president, made history during the short time she is serving as acting president.

Biden’s doctor released a statement after the operation, saying he was healthy and able to execute his duties. The medical examination came on the eve of the president’s 79th birthday.

Harris carried out her duties from her office in the West Wing of the White House, officials said.

She is the first woman – and the first black and South Asian American – to be elected US vice-president.

President Joe Biden will briefly transfer power to Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday when he undergoes a “routine colonoscopy” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the White House had announced.

Pursuant to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Biden signed a letter to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives saying he is unable to discharge his duties while under anesthesia, making Harris the acting president, and will send them another letter upon the conclusion of the procedure to resume his duties.

Biden drove early Nov. 19 morning to the medical center in the Washington suburbs for his first routine physical exam as president. Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would be under anesthesia during the procedure and would transfer power to Harris.

“As was the case when President George W. Bush had the same procedure in 2002 and 2007, and following the process set out in the Constitution, President Biden will transfer power to the Vice President for the brief period of time when he is under anesthesia,” she said. “The Vice President will work from her office in the West Wing during this time.”

Biden, 78, had his last full exam in December 2019, when doctors found the former vice president to be “healthy, vigorous” and “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency,” according to a doctor’s report at the time. Biden, who turns 79 Nov. 20, is the oldest person to serve as president, and interest in his health has been high since he declared his candidacy for the White House in 2019.

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who has been Biden’s primary care physician since 2009, wrote in a three-page note that the then-presidential candidate was in overall good shape.

In that report, O’Connor said that since 2003, Biden has had episodes of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that’s potentially serious but treatable. At the time, O’Connor cited a list of tests that showed Biden’s heart was functioning normally and his only needed care was a blood thinner to prevent the most worrisome risk, blood clots or stroke.

Biden had a brush with death in 1988, requiring surgery to repair two brain aneurysms, weak bulges in arteries, one of them leaking. Biden has never had a recurrence, his doctor said, citing a test in 2014 that examined his arteries

Will The $1.75 Trillion Spending Bill Passed By US Congress Survive US Senate?

After months of wrangling, House Democrats managed a big win Friday, November 19th passing their roughly $1.75 trillion social and climate spending package despite a Republican effort to delay the final vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wearing white, announced the passage of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better Act,” with the vote falling largely along party lines at 220-213.

The final tally was 220 to 213. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine was the only Democrat to vote against the bill and no Republicans voted for it. The vote took place on Friday morning after House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy stalled an effort to vote Thursday evening by delivering a record-breaking marathon floor speech overnight.

The sweeping economic legislation stands as a key pillar of Biden’s domestic agenda. It would deliver on longstanding Democratic priorities by dramatically expanding social services for Americans, working to mitigate the climate crisis, increasing access to health care and delivering aid to families and children.

The legislation is meant to fulfill many of President Biden’s promises during the 2020 campaign, including plans to address climate change and provide a stronger federal safety net for families and low-income workers.  “We have the Built Back Better bill that is historic, transformative and larger than anything we have ever done before,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the House floor. “If you’re a parent, a senior, a child, a worker, if you are an American … this bill’s for you and it is better.”

House Democrats overcame internal divisions over the cost and scope of the spending package, but the fight will continue as the bill heads to the Senate for revisions. The vote was delayed after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., spoke all through the night — for more than eight hours. His speech decried Democrats’ spending plans, but also veered to subjects including China and border security.

“Never in American history has so much been spent at one time,” he said. “Never in American history will so many taxes be raised and so much borrowing be needed to pay for all this reckless spending.”

Biden praised House passage of the bill, noting it was the second time in two weeks that the chamber moved two “consequential” pieces of his legislative agenda, referencing the new infrastructure law. He described the vote as a “giant step forward in carrying out my economic plan to create jobs, reduce costs, make our country more competitive, and give working people and the middle class a fighting chance.” What’s in the measure

The legislation includes:

$550 billion to address climate change through incentives and tax breaks;

funding to extend the expanded, monthly child tax credit for one year; housing assistance, including $150 billion in affordable housing expenditures; expansions to Medicaid and further assistance to reduce the cost of health care premiums for plans purchased under the Affordable Care Act; four weeks of paid family and medical leave; funding for universal pre-K for roughly 6 million 3- and 4-year-olds; a provision to allow Medicare Parts B and D to negotiate prices directly with drug manufacturers on certain drugs and cap out-of-pocket spending for seniors at $2,000 per year; a $35 cap on monthly insulin expenses.

The spending is mostly offset with taxes on the wealthy and corporations, including:

a 5% surtax on taxpayers with personal income above $10 million, and an additional 3% added on income above $25 million; a 15% minimum tax on corporate profits of large corporations that report more than $1 billion in profits; a 1% tax on stock buybacks; a 50% minimum tax on foreign profits of U.S. corporations.

House Democrats unite after months of fighting

Moderate Democrats ultimately voted for the legislation after concerns that estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office would show the measure to be more costly than leaders have projected.

Ultimately, the CBO found the bill would cost the federal government $367 billion over the next decade, “not counting any additional revenue that may be generated by additional funding for tax enforcement.” Many Democrats, including the White House, argue that when that is taken into account, the measure would pay for itself.

Members of the fiscally moderate New Democrat Coalition endorsed the legislation ahead of the final cost estimates. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said the official estimates don’t take into account extra revenue from increased tax enforcement — or the broader economic benefits of the legislation.

“When discussing the importance of the bill, we also have to talk about the costs that would be incurred if we don’t pass this bill,” Schneider said on a call with reporters. “The cost of inaction is simply too high, and it can only be headed off if we act now.”

For progressive Democrats, the vote fulfills a promise from Biden and House leaders not to neglect policies that have energized the left wing of their party. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus set aside major demands throughout the negotiations, including more spending and plans for aggressive changes to the nation’s health care system, in order to reach an agreement that satisfied the full caucus.

Senate hurdles could drag on for weeks

The House vote is just the latest step in a lengthy process that will almost certainly involve further changes to the bill. Centrist Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have each expressed concerns about the House version of the legislation. Manchin is particularly opposed to a provision that would provide four weeks of paid family and medical leave for most workers. Sinema’s objections are less clear but Democrats need both lawmakers on board in order for the legislation to pass.

It is unclear how long it would take for senators to work out their disagreements and finalize the legislation. Once that work is done, the Senate would have to start a lengthy process to vote on the bill using the budget reconciliation process that would allow the bill to be passed in the Senate with 50 votes, rather than the 60 votes needed for most legislation.

Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that Senate staff have already completed a necessary step to ensure the legislation meets the basic requirements to avoid a Republican filibuster. But the process still has several steps, including a series of unlimited amendment votes known as a vote-a-rama.

200 Nations Agree On Pact To Save Earth From Climate Change Glasgow Climate Pact Diluted After India, China Force Amendment On Emission From Coal

The two-week global conference ended with a historic agreement between the 200 national delegations who agreed to, for the first time, to target fossil fuels as a key driver of global warming in a bid to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050 in an effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The historic and much needed Glasgow Climate Pact 2021 was adopted on Saturday, November 13th, which is a mixed bag of modest achievements and disappointed expectations. The achievements include a tacit consensus on a target of keeping global temperature rise down to 1.5 degrees Celsius with the Paris Agreement target of 2 degrees being no longer appropriate to the scale of the climate emergency. The notional target of 2 degrees remains but the international discourse is now firmly anchored in the more ambitious target and this is a plus.

The Pact is the first clear recognition of the need to transition away from fossil fuels, though the focus was on giving up coal-based power altogether. The focus on coal has the downside of not addressing other fossil fuels like oil and gas but a small window has opened.

Even as the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres conceded that the final agreement was “a compromise”, several vulnerable nations were left disappointed as the deal made no mention of the $100 billion a year in funding that high-income countries had promised, in 2009, for five years starting 2020 to help low-income countries move away from fossil fuels. While the UN will come out with a report next year on the progress of delivering the funding, the issue of finance will now be taken up only in 2024 and 2026.

“This is just a very small step forward. The pace is extremely slow. We are moving in inches when we need to gallop in miles,” said Harjeet Singh, senior advisor with Climate Action Network International, a large group of NGOs working in climate space.

The original draft had contained a pledge to “phase out” coal. India introduced an amendment at the last moment to replace this phrase with “phase down” and this played negatively with both the advanced as well as a large constituency of developing countries. This was one big “disappointment”.

This amendment reportedly came as a result of consultations among India, China, the UK and the US. The phrase “phase down” figures in the US-China Joint Declaration on Climate Change, announced on November 10. As the largest producer and consumer of coal and coal-based thermal power, it is understandable that China would prefer a gradual reduction rather than total elimination. India may have had similar concerns. However, it was inept diplomacy for India to move the amendment and carry the can rather than let the Chinese bell the cat. The stigma will stick and was unnecessary.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken centerstage at Glasgow during its early high-level segment thanks to the absence of Xi Jinping. His commitment to achieving net-zero carbon by 2070 compared favorably with China’s target date of 2060. His announcements of enhanced targets for renewable energy were also welcomed. However, the favourable image wore thin by the end of the conference with India declining to join the initiatives on methane and deforestation. India’s ill-considered amendment on the phasing out of coal pushed the positives of its position off the radar.

According to India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav, the change in phraseology was reflective of “national circumstances of emerging economies” as the agreement had initially “singled out” coal but was turning a blind eye to emissions from oil and natural gas, with the final agreement reflecting a “consensus that is reasonable for developing countries and reasonable for climate justice.”

According to UNEP, adaptation costs for developing countries are currently estimated at $70 billion annually and will rise to an estimated $130-300 billion annually by 2030. A start is being made in formulating an adaptation plan and this puts the issue firmly on the Climate agenda, balancing the overwhelming focus hitherto on mitigation.

There is now a renewed commitment to delivering on this pledge in the 2020-2025 period and there is a promise of an enhanced flow thereafter. But in a post-pandemic global economic slowdown, it is unlikely these promises will be met. In any event, it is unlikely that India will get even a small slice of the pie. As long as ambitious targets are not matched by adequate financing, they will remain ephemeral.

The same applies to the issue of compensation for loss and damage for developing countries who have suffered as a result of climate change for which they have not been responsible. This is now part of the multilateral discourse and the US has agreed that it should be examined in working groups. That is a step forward but is unlikely to translate into a meaningful flow of funds any time soon.

The most important is an agreement among 100 countries to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. India is not a part of this group. Methane is a significant greenhouse gas with a much higher temperature forcing quality than carbon — 28 to 34 times more — but stays in the atmosphere for a shorter duration.

Another group of 100 countries has agreed to begin to reverse deforestation by 2030. Since the group includes Brazil and Indonesia, which have large areas of forests that are being ravaged by legal and illegal logging, there is hope that there will be progress in expanding one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet.

Going beyond the Glasgow summit and climate change, a noteworthy development was the US-China Joint Declaration on Climate Change. This was a departure for China, which had held that bilateral cooperation on climate change could not be insulated from other aspects of their relations. The November 10 declaration implies a shift in China’s hardline position but this may be related to creating a favourable backdrop to the forthcoming Biden-Xi virtual summit on November 15. US Climate Envoy John Kerry and China’s seasoned climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, were seen consulting with each other frequently on the sidelines of the conference. It appears both countries are moving towards a less confrontational, more cooperative relationship overall. This will have geopolitical implications, including for India, which may find its room for manoeuvre shrinking.

How should one assess the Glasgow outcome?

There is more ambition in the intent to tackle climate change but little to show in terms of concrete actions. These have been deferred to future deliberations. Enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are expected to be announced at a meeting next year and further deliberations are planned on the other pledges related to Adaptation and Finance. There are no compliance procedures, only “name and shame” to encourage delivery on targets. As in the past, the can has been kicked down the road, except that the climate road is fast approaching a dead-end. What provides a glimmer of light is the incredible and passionate advocacy of urgent action by young people across the world. This is putting enormous pressure on governments and leaders and if sustained, may become irresistible.

Glasgow delivered some important successes. In response to the demands from the developing countries, and in keeping with the commitment of Paris Agreement, a new process has been initiated to define a global goal on adaptation. The Paris Agreement has a global goal on mitigation, defined in terms of temperature targets. It seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in amounts sufficient to keep the rise in global temperatures to within 2 degree Celsius from pre-industrial times, while pursuing efforts to limit this under 1.5 degree Celsius.

But a similar goal for adaptation has been missing, primarily because of difficulties in setting such a goal. Unlike mitigation efforts that bring global benefits, the benefits from adaptation are local or regional. There is no uniform global criteria against which adaptation targets can be set and measured.

In a big concession to major economies like India, China or Brazil, the COP26 has allowed old carbon credits, earned under the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms, to be traded in the new carbon market being set up, provided these credits have been earned after 2012. Countries have been allowed to use these credits to achieve their emission reduction targets till 2025.

Shekar Krishnan, Shahana Hanif Are First South Asian Americans Elected To New York City Council

In New York City, a global beacon that draws a diverse population from all over the world, the City Council has never had a person of South Asian descent — or a Muslim woman — among its membership. That changed this year, when Shahana Hanif, a former City Council employee, won her election in a Brooklyn district that covers Park Slope, Kensington and parts of central Brooklyn.

Hanif, who is Bangladeshi American, was the first Muslim woman elected to the Council in its history, despite the fact that the city is home to an estimated 769,000 Muslims. She was one of two history-making South Asian candidates to win as well; the other, Shekar Krishnan, won a seat representing Jackson Heights and Elmhurst in Queens.

Shekar Krishnan and Shahana Hanif made history election night this year, becoming the first ever South Asian Americans ever been elected to New York City Council. Krishnan and Harif are both community activists who participated in a two-week hunger strike to protest the huge cost of taxi medallions for New York City cab drivers, 40 percent of whom are South Asian Americans. A third South Asian candidate, Democrat Felicia Singh, lost to her Republican opponent Joann Ariola in in Queens District 32.

Born to Indian immigrants from Kerala in the United States, Democrat Krishnan was elected to represent Jackson Heights and Elmhurst in Queens in District 25 in Tuesday’s elections. “Thank you #JacksonHeights and #Elmhurst! Thank you for believing in me! Together, we will fight for a city for everyone. We will fight for our home,” he tweeted Wednesday morning.

Ahead of the elections, Krishnan, who wants to help alleviate the problems of immigrants, spoke to Scroll.in about life as an immigrant, and his plans for the communities of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst neighborhoods.

“My parents came to the US around 30 years ago, and they struggled with discrimination and the inaccessibility of resources all through their careers as research scientists in the pharmaceutical industry,” he said. “When they first arrived, they qualified for every single public benefit available at the time but did not receive them because they didn’t know what they were or how they could have applied for them,” Krishnan said noting, “Our immigrant community faces similar struggles even today.”

“I saw my parents struggle with a feeling of not belonging here, and I can relate to similar experiences of immigrants in my community. My parents came here with official documents and education, but I saw their struggle despite these privileges. “

“They were discriminated against because of their skin colour, accents, etc, and all that left an indelible impression on me, which is why I chose to become a civil rights lawyer, and eventually venture into politics,” Krishnan added.

Democrat Hanif, who become the first Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council from Brooklyn District 39, polled an overwhelming 89.3% votes. Her only opponent of the Conservative Party received 8 percent of the vote. The city has an estimated 769,000 Muslims.

Hanif said she was “humbled and proud” to be the first Muslim woman on the Council — and the first woman of any faith to represent District 39 — in a statement released Tuesday night.

She acknowledged community and progressive group volunteers and endorsements, notably the left-leaning Working Families Party. “Together we are building an anti-racist, feminist city,” she said. “We deserve a city that protects its most vulnerable residents, a city that provides fair education, a city that invests in local and community-driven climate solutions, and a city where our immigrant neighbors feel welcome, heard, and protected. Even if the election is done, this task demands all of us to keep turning up.”

Shahana’s ancestral home is in Chattogram’s Fatikchhari upazila. Eldest daughter of Mohammad Hanif — one of the United States Awami League’s advisers, Shahana has long been involved in politics in Brooklyn. She is known as a representative of the progressive youths in politics.

The 2021 elections saw a series of firsts for candidates of color in local and state races across the country. Michelle Wu became the first woman and person of color elected to be Boston’s mayor. Pittsburgh and Kansas City elected their first Black mayors, Ed Gainey and Tyrone Garner. Dearborn elected its first Muslim and Arab American mayor, Abdullah Hammoud. And Tania Fernandes Anderson became the first Muslim elected to Boston’s city council.

$1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Passed By Congress Welcomed By Industrial Leaders

Corporations and business groups are calling on President Biden to sign the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law quickly after it finally cleared Congress late Friday, November 5th, after several months of painstaking negations.

The infrastructure bill passed the House 228-206 on Friday. Thirteen Republicans voted for the bill, while six progressive Democrats voted against it, arguing that Democratic leaders didn’t do enough to ensure that the party’s moderates would support the larger reconciliation package. The infrastructure legislation had cleared the Senate in August, with 19 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in support.

The business community has rallied behind the infrastructure package, which makes huge investments in roads, bridges, broadband internet, drinking water, rail and public transit without raising taxes on corporations. Business groups say that Biden should sign the bill as soon as possible so transportation officials can get started on construction projects.

According to reports, nearly every major business group in Washington, D.C., backed the infrastructure bill while opposing the reconciliation package, which will implement a minimum tax on corporate profits.The Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs at some of the nation’s largest companies, urged Biden to “swiftly sign” the infrastructure bill. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest American corporate lobbying group, called the bill’s passage “a major win for America.”

Ford Motor Co., which will benefit from the bill’s investment in electric vehicle charging stations, lauded the House vote as “great news for the United States’ infrastructure and transition to a zero emissions transportation future” and said it looked forward to Biden’s signature.

“We urge President Biden to quickly sign this bipartisan package into law, so we can build back better with increased jobs, enhanced safety, and improved roads,” Jay Hansen, executive vice president for advocacy at the National Asphalt Pavement Association, said in a statement after the bill passed the House.

The United Steelworkers union welcomed the bill’s passage. “The House has passed the #InfrastructureBill, which would provide roughly $1 trillion for upgrading the nation’s critical infrastructure. This is a big freakin’ deal for us because Steelworkers supply America in so many ways!” the union tweeted.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appeared in the White House State Dining Room about 12 hours after moderate and progressive Democrats in the House of Representative overcame internal bickering and delivered the president his biggest legislative win thus far. WASHINGTON, Nov 6 (Reuters) – A giddy President Joe Biden on Saturday hailed congressional passage of a long-delayed $1 trillion infrastructure bill as a “once in a generation” investment and predicted a broader social safety net plan will be approved despite tense negotiations.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appeared in the White House State Dining Room about 12 hours after moderate and progressive Democrats in the House of Representative overcame internal bickering and delivered the president his biggest legislative win thus far.v”Finally, infrastructure week,” Biden said with a chuckle. “I’m so happy to say that – infrastructure week!”

President Joe Biden on Saturday hailed congressional passage of a long-delayed $1 trillion infrastructure bill as a “once in a generation” investment and predicted a broader social safety net plan will be approved despite tense negotiations.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appeared in the White House State Dining Room about 12 hours after moderate and progressive Democrats in the House of Representative overcame internal bickering and delivered the president his biggest legislative win thus far.

The president’s comment referred to a running joke in recent years after Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump declared “Infrastructure week” in 2018 but was unable to pass a bill after multiple tries during his presidency.

The bipartisan bill’s passage gives Biden a jolt of good news after sobering election losses for his Democratic party this week and a drop in his approval ratings. Referring to the losses, Biden said they showed American people “want us to deliver.” “I think the one message that came across was – ‘get something done. It’s time to get something done – stop talking,'” said Biden

AAPI, GOPIO, AIA, NFIA & ASEI Jointly Host Discussion On The Book, “Kamala Harris and the Rise of Indian Americans”

A discussion and celebration of the Indian Diaspora and their achievements was held virtually  on Saturday, November 7th, 2021 and was attended by People of Indian Origin from around the globe. Jointly organized by Global Organization People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI), Association of Indians in America (AIA), and National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), the event offered a glimpse of the growth and the successes of the Indian American community in various domains.

Edited by the Delhi-based veteran journalist and foreign policy analyst, Tarun Basu, the evocative collection titled, “Kamala Harris and the Rise of Indian Americans,” captures the rise of the Indians in the US across domains by exceptional achievers. Sixteen eminent journalists, business leaders and scholars have contributed essays to the timely and priceless volume, which charts the community’s growing and influential political engagement.

The book was released by New Delhi-based publisher Wisdom Tree and is available in the U.S. via Amazon. Describing the book as an “eclectic amalgam of perspectives on the emerging Indian-American story,” Tarun Basu said, “This evocative collection—of the kind perhaps not attempted before—captures the rise of Indian-Americans across domains, by exceptional achievers themselves, like Shashi Tharoor, the ones who have been and continue to be a part of the “rise,” like MR Rangaswami and Deepak Raj, top Indian diplomats like TP Sreenivasan and Arun K Singh, scholars like Pradeep K Khosla and Maina Chawla Singh, and others who were part of, associated with, or keenly followed their stories.”

In his remarks, Shobit Arya, publisher of the book, shared with the audience about the objectives of publishing such an important book that portrays the lifestory and achievements of the influential Indian American community.

Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman, GOPIO International, who is the main organizer and moderated of the session, who has been instrumental in establishing and leading several Indian  American organizations and has seen the rise of the community in the past half a decade, shared with the audience the major highlights, depicting the progress and achievements of the community.

My own involvement in the community for the last 47 years as the Founder President of FIA New York, National Federation of Indian American Associations and GOPIO, I want to give some Milestones of our community since the late 1970s,” Dr. Abraham said and enumerated the major milestones of the Indian Americans, starting with the formation of the first national organization in 1967, Associations of Indian America (AIA), and succeeding in its efforts to have the Asian Indians categorized in the 1980 Census, and now culminating in dozens of Indian Americans holding important positions in the US administration and several dozens elected to local, state and national offices across the nation.

History of Indian community organizations and the role played by these organizations in community development, mobilization and promoting the diverse interests such as education, political involvement, entrepreneurship, business and service industry are covered in this new book,” Dr. Abraham said.

While acknowledging the success story of Indian American physicians, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI said, “The success story of Indian American Doctors has been arduous. As Ajay Ghosh, who has been working for AAPI for nearly a decade has aptly summarized this long and difficult journey: “While Indian American physicians play a critical role, serving millions of patients in the United States, leading the policies and programs that impact the lives of millions today, it has been a long and arduous journey of struggles and hard work to be on the top of the pyramid.”

Dr. Gotimukula pointed out, “Indian American Doctors, who have been recognized for their compassion, skills, expertise and skills in caring for their patients, leading research that brings solutions to health issues and at the table making policies that benefit the world, are at the  at the forefront around the world as shining examples of meeting the needs of the hour.” She congratulated Tarun Basu, Shobit Arya and the 16 veteran journalists who have contributed to the book.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI spoke about how the Covid pandemic has impacted all and how the physician community who has borne the brunt of this epidemic is coping with the stress and the negative effects, while providing critical care to people diagnosed with Covid virus. Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI and Dr. Sampat Shivangi, President of Indo-American Political Forum were others how had joined in the discussions.

Ambassador TK Srinivasan, who had served as the Indian Ambassador to the US and as the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, shared with the audience, his own experiences with the Indian Diaspora and how they have contributed to the larger goals of cementing stronger relationship between India and the United States.

In her remarks, Dr. Lavanya Reddy, president of NFIA said, “National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), the largest non-profit umbrella organization of Indian association, established in 1980, aims to unify the diverse Indian American community by coordinating and promoting the activities of its member associations. NFIA has been in the forefront of activities in US-India relations for over two decades.”

Describing the many contributions and objectives of ASEI, Piyush Malik, the current president said, “Since its inception in 1983, ASEI has strived to strengthen the Indo-American relationship, institute a channel of communication between technical organizations within the United States and abroad, lend a helping hand to charitable organizations, provide assistance to engineering students at the Local and National levels, and organize networking events.”

Dr. Urmilesh Arya, President of Association of Indians in America (AIA) spoke about the objectives and activities by AIA for the past several decades. “AIA is a grass root national organization of Asian immigrants in the United States, fostered on the democratic principles of “one member one vote”, with chapters and membership spread across the United States of America. AIA represents the hopes and aspirations of those immigrants who are united by their common bond of Indian Heritage and American Commitment.”

Journalist Arun Kumar who wrote a Chapter in the Book on “All the President’s People: Trust in the Corridors of Power” spoke about the increasing number of Indian Americans how have come to occupy critical roles in the US administration, starting with President Ronald Regan and currently having as many as 50 Desis, who occupy important positions in the Biden administration.

Mayank Chaya, another author who wrote on: “At the Center of Excellence: Seminal Contributions in the World of Science” presented how Indian Americans have come to lead research and scientific innovations across the United States.

The importance and high esteem with which physicians of Indian heritage are held by their patients is self-evident, as they occupy critical positions in the healthcare, research and administrative policy positions across America, including the nomination of the  US Surgeon-General, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

In his presentation, Ajay Ghosh who has portrayed the rise of the Indian American physicians as a strong and influential force in the United States, chronicling their long journey to the United States and their success story, in a Chapter titled, “Physicians of Indian Heritage: America’s Healers” spoke about the four distinct areas, he has tried cover in the book: “Indian American Physicians Being recognized as Covid Warriors who work as frontline healthcare workers treating millions of patients.

With anecdotes, Ajay presented the “Initial struggles of Indian American Physicians” in securing equality with the local American Doctors in Board certification and licensing and the lobbying and legal efforts imitated by the pioneers.  He referred to Dr. AnandibaiJoshi, the first documented physician of Indian origin who had landed on the shores of the United States in 1883 and detailing the decimation suffered by Dr. Yellapragada Subbarow in the early 20th century, who has been credited with some of the biggest contributions in more than one basic field of science—biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, oncology, and nutritional science, portrays the discrimination and injustices inflicted by the mainstream Medical professionals in the US.

Portraying the achievements of the Indian American physicians, Ajay spoke of the many, who lead the cutting-edge research and pioneer modern medical technology to save the lives of critically ill patients around the world, showing to the world, how through hard work, dedication and vision, they have earned a name for themselves as “healers of the world.”

Through the lens of AAPI and its remarkable growth in the past 40 years, Ajay tried to portray how the Indian-American physicians have gone beyond their call of duty to meet the diverse needs of the larger American community, by dedicating their time, resources and skills during national disasters and family crises.

Describing the many contributions of Indian American physicians to India and the United States, Ajay said, “Indian Americans currently are less than 2% but the make up nearly 10% of total physicians in the US and they treat and provide healthcare to every 7th patient in the United States.” He also shared about the numerous initiatives in India, through the annual Global Health Care Summit, Tele-health, sending medical equipment to India, education to their counter parts in India and close collaborations with the state and federal government, Indian Medical Association and several Indian Non Profits, providing healthcare to rural areas across India. Their contributions to the US, to India and to the entire world is priceless, he said, as “they have made their mark in institutions from Harvard Medical School to Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center to the Mayo Medical Center.”

Authors who have contributed to the Book include: former Indian ambassadors TP Sreenivasan and Arun K. Singh; Deepak Raj, chairman of Pratham USA; businessman Raj Gupta; hotelier Bijal Patel; Pradeep Khosla, Chancellor of UC San Diego; scholar-professor Maina Chawla Singh; Sujata Warrier, Chief Strategy Officer for the Battered Women’s Justice Project; Shamita Das Dasgupta, co-founder of Manavi; and journalists Arun Kumar, Mayank Chhaya, Suman Guha Mozumder, Ajay Ghosh, Vikrum Mathur, and Laxmi Parthasarathy.

The book is now available at: https://bit.ly/HarrisIA – Amazon India book link, and at https://bit.ly/HarrisIndAm – Amazon USA link.

Sam Joshi Elected Mayor of Edison, NJ; Aftab Pureval Wins As Mayor of Cincinnati, OH

Aftab Pureval of Indian origin has been elected as the first ever person of Asian heritage to be elcted as the Mayor of Cincinnati, OH, while Sam Joshi becomes the first Indian-American to be Mayor of Edison, the 5th largest municipality in New Jersey, during the elections held on Nov. 2nd, 2021.

With 100% of precincts reporting, Joshi was well in front of Republican Keith Hahn and independent candidate Christo Makropoulos.

Joshi had 10,930 votes, while Hahn had 9,459 and Makropoulos, 301. The race was to replace Democratic Mayor Thomas Lankey whose term ends Dec. 31. Lankey did not seek reelection.

When sworn in on Jan. 1, Joshi, 32, will become the township’s youngest mayor and the first South Asian to hold the position. Previously Jun Choi, the township’s first Asian American mayor, was the youngest to serve in the post.

“I am honored and humbled to be elected as the next mayor of Edison Township,” Joshi said in a Facebook post.

Joshi has been serving as the Vice President of the Town Council, and during his campaign he promised to stabilize taxes, invest in infrastructure, and stop ‘overdevelopment’, launch municipal broadband, and celebrate Edison’s diversity fighting discrimination and hate crime.

Joshi’s popularity was evident n June this year, when during the primaries, he defeated another Indian-American aspirant Mahesh Bhagia by 63 percent of the votes to 34 percent, despite Bhagia being the municipal chair of the Democrats.

A ‘son of the soil’, Joshi was born and raised in Edison. Joshi was elected as an at-large Councilmember at 27 years old, making him the youngest elected official in Edison’s history.

Since joining the Edison Township Council in 2017, Joshi’s biography on his website says, he has worked to keep taxes low, helped women and minority owned businesses get on their feet, and promoted green energy throughout the township.

Among the many voluntary services he has been involved in, is as an Edison Police 9-1-1 Tele-communicator from 2010-2011, at the Central Command Office for all public safety calls, including police, fire, and EMS, providing first responders with additional information on each call.

He also served on the Fair Rental Housing Authority Board from 2010-2015 and the Edison Zoning Board from 2016 until he was elected to the Edison Township Council.

At 39, Pureval will replace longtime mayor John Cranley, who is term-limited from running again this year.  Pureval defeated David Mann, who has an array of political experience — serving as Cincinnati’s mayor from 1980 to 1982, and again in 1991. He’s also served on Cincinnati City Council from 1974 until 1992, then elected in 2013 and reelected in 2017.

In his acceptance speech Tuesday, Pureval thanked Mann for his career in public service. “We also want to thank the voters of Cincinnati who tonight voted a mandate for a new day in our city,” Pureval said. “We spent the last year talking about our bold progressive vision for moving Cincinnati forward. Our comprehensive plans for public safety, affordable housing, the environment and economic recovery with racial equity at the center of the frame, and the voters of Cincinnati resoundingly supported that vision.”

The son of Indian and Tibetan immigrants, Pureval becomes the first Indian-American and Tibetan, in fact, the first Asian to be elected Mayor of the city. Currently, he is Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, a position not held by a Democrat for more than 100 years. “Words can’t express how honored and excited I am to be the next Mayor of Cincinnati. Tonight, we made history! Let’s get to work!” Pureval tweeted as the results became public.

Congratulations poured in including from the likes of former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Sherrod, D-Ohio, who had supported Pureval. “Win or lose, fighting for what’s right is always worth it. Congratulations to @ericadamsfornyc, @wutrain,  @shontelmbrown, and @aftabpureval for historic wins …” Clinton tweeted.

Sen. Brown tweeted, “Congratulations to #canarycandidate @AftabPureval on your victory. He represents the future of Cincinnati and will fight for all workers and families in the Queen City.”

Born and raised in Ohio, Pureval is an attorney and former prosecutor. He has been awarded the NAACP Theodore Berry Award for Service and has been recognized by the Business Courier as one of their 40 under 40.

Pureval is seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party. In May 2018, he won the Democratic primary unopposed in his party’s bid to turn a Red seat Blue when he ran and lost in his race against incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Chabot. President Obama was among those who endorsed his candidacy then.

“We have a very clear vision for pushing Cincinnati forward as annunciated with our three comprehensive plans,” he said in an interview at the Board of Elections where he greeted early voters. “And we’re talking about substantive, innovative, creative ideas in order to accomplish that.” Pureval described his campaign as one that offers voters a fresh approach to what ails city government. “Our future is bold, it’s diverse, it’s dynamic.”

Sterley Stanley, Suhas Subramanyam, Usha Reddi, Aditi Bussells Win In Sate Elections

Indian American incumbents Usha Reddi in Manhattan, Kansas, and Sterley Stanley in New Jersey were victorious in their bids for another term in office, Aditi Srivastav Bussells won a council seat in South Carolina, while Nalini Joseph fell short in her race during the Nov. 2 election.

Suhas Subramanyam was reelected to the House of Delegates, in the state of Virginia beating challenger Greg Moulthrop On November 2nd, 2021. Subramanyam won 21,374 votes — almost 60 percent — while Moulthrop received 13,939 votes, almost 40 percent. Subramanyam, 35, represents District 87 in Virginia’s House of Delegates. He is the first Indian American to win a seat in the state’s General Assembly.

Republicans won 50 seats Nov. 2 in Virginia’s House of Delegates, while Democrats won 40, for a 55-45 Republican majority overall at the statehouse. In one of the most-watched races of the evening, Youngkin beat former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. Virginia has traditionally been considered a solidly blue state.

“I am so humbled and grateful that the 87th District has put their faith in me again as their Delegate. I promised two years ago that I would put people over special interests and do everything I could to empower my constituents. I am proud to have kept those promises, in the process fully funding our schools, curbing gun violence, addressing rising tolls and utility costs, and helping small businesses and families through one of the worst pandemics in our Commonwealth’s history,” said Subramanyam. “I am so thankful to all the staff and volunteers who knocked doors, wrote postcards, and made phone calls. This night would not have been possible without them.”

Reddi was the top vote-getter for the Manhattan City Commission, according to results late Nov. 2, tallying 3,571 votes followed by incumbent Mayor Wynn Butler (3,499 votes) and former commissioner John Matta (3,265 votes). Reddi and Butler earned four-year terms as the top finishers, while Matta received a two-year term for taking third.

Reddi, who was first elected to the commission in 2013, said this was her most stressful city commission campaign, according to The Mercury. “I wasn’t even sure where I was going to place in this race,” Reddi said in the report. “Even though I have served two terms, I think there were very good challengers. There was a lot of good campaigning going on from everyone, and everyone was vying for all the votes.” Reddi expressed her appreciation to the voters. “I value their support and I hope I have worked for them and with them to continue to move Manhattan forward,” she said, the report added.

Stanley – along with fellow incumbents state Sen. Patrick Diegnan and Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak – won reelection to his Assembly seat in the 18th Legislative District in New Jersey, representing East Brunswick.

Stanley beat realtor Angela Fam and South Plainfield Councilwoman Melanie Mott to win the seat. He is the delegation’s newest member, and one of the newest members of the entire legislature; he was selected in January of this year to replace now-Middlesex County Clerk Nancy Pinkin (D-East Brunswick).  Stanley earned 27,249 votes with Karabinchak taking 28,065 to claim the two seats. Fam took 20,822 votes and Mott had 21,449. Diegnan beat Republican counterpart Vihal Patel of Edison to claim his seat. Patel earned 20,596 votes to Diegnan’s 28,829.

In Columbia, South Carolina, Aditi Bussells was among a crowded field seeking the city’s councilmember at-large seat. In the seven-person field, Bussells led with 5,643 votes for 31 percent with all precincts reporting, though the results were still unofficial. Bussells was 5 points ahead of Tyler Bailey who had 26 percent of the vote with 4,695 tallies. Heather Bauer was third with 3,562 votes for 20 percent. Deitra Matthews (11 percent), John Tyler (4 percent), John Crangle (4 percent) and Aaron Smalls (3 percent) rounded out the field.

In Salisbury, North Carolina, Nalini Joseph was vying for a council seat, but came up just short. Incumbents Tamara Sheffield and David Post, along with newcomers Harry McLaughlin Jr. and the Rev. Anthony Smith won the seats. Guardian ad Litem District Administrator Joseph finished fifth with 13.90 percent. Sheffield led the field with 18.01 percent of the vote, followed by McLaughlin at 16.15 percent, Post at 15.69 percent and Smith with 14.29 percent.

Though Joseph received just 64 fewer votes than Smith, Rowan County Board of Elections executive director Brenda McCubbins said the numbers don’t fall within the acceptable range to request a recount, the Salisbury Post reported. For recounts, the difference in votes between candidates must not exceed 1 percent of the total votes cast for that particular race. A total of 16,127 votes were cast for council candidates, including 100 write-in votes, the report said.

Indian American attorney Nisha Arora, who would have been the first non-white judge in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, lost her bid for the Common Pleas Court Judge seat Nov. 2 evening to Democrat Mary Dempsey. Arora began her career as a law clerk in the Court of Common Pleas of  Lackawanna County. “Working in the court system truly influenced the person I am today. Dealing closely with judges who handled both criminal and civil cases, as well as working with the various treatment courts, gave me an insight into the position I am now seeking,” she said.

“My varied career experience has taught me about high points and low points. A courtroom can be a place where an individual experiences his or her worst time, perhaps losing a child in a custody case, facing imprisonment, or a significant monetary judgment.” The 41-year-old daughter of Dr. Subhash and Sunita Arora decided she wanted to pursue the law at the age of eight.