Final Phase of India’s General Election Begins Amid Intense Heatwave and Tight Security

The final phase of India’s general election commenced on June 1, 2024, amid severe heatwave conditions that pose additional challenges for voters and election officials alike. This critical stage of voting is pivotal for determining the country’s political future.

The election, one of the world’s largest democratic exercises, involves a complex and extensive process spanning multiple phases. On the final day, millions of Indians are heading to the polls in various regions, including major cities like Kolkata. Voter turnout, which has been a focal point throughout the election, is under scrutiny as authorities aim to ensure a smooth and efficient process despite the harsh weather conditions.

The election’s outcome is set to shape India’s political landscape significantly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking re-election, while opposition parties, including the Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, are striving to regain influence. The stakes are high, with key issues such as economic policy, national security, and social justice at the forefront of voters’ minds.

Security measures have been heightened across the country to ensure the safety and integrity of the election. Law enforcement agencies and security personnel are on high alert to prevent any disruptions or incidents of violence. Additionally, special provisions have been made to accommodate voters and polling staff affected by the extreme heatwave, with medical teams and cooling facilities deployed at polling stations.

The Election Commission of India has been working diligently to address logistical challenges and ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to cast their vote. Efforts include deploying additional voting machines, providing transportation for voters in remote areas, and implementing measures to expedite the voting process.

As the final phase of voting unfolds, political analysts and observers are closely monitoring developments. Exit polls and preliminary results will provide early indicators of the election’s outcome, though official results will take time to finalize. The election has garnered significant attention both domestically and internationally, with implications for India’s role on the global stage.

The concluding phase of India’s general election is underway, marked by intense heat and heightened security. The results will have far-reaching consequences for the nation’s political and social trajectory.

Rishi Sunak Announces Surprise July Election Amidst Global Uncertainty and Domestic Challenges

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a surprise election for the United Kingdom to be held on July 4. Despite the Conservative Party not needing to call an election until January 2025, polling data since Sunak took office has consistently shown the party trailing by over 20%, a gap typically seen only in extremely unfavorable midterm periods. It appears that Sunak and his advisors decided to leverage the recent drop in the U.K.’s inflation rate to 2.3%, the lowest in three years, to gain political advantage. Additional factors likely influencing this decision include positive evaluations of Sunak’s handling of the post-COVID-19 economy and a legal victory that supports the government’s controversial immigration reform, which involves sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing.

Despite widespread voter frustration after 14 uninterrupted years of Conservative governance, Sunak’s statement that this election comes at a time when the world is “more dangerous than it has been at any point since the end of the Cold War” holds considerable truth. The outcome of the prolonged Russian invasion of Ukraine could significantly impact Europe’s and the U.K.’s security landscape, raising critical issues regarding territorial sovereignty in the east and energy security, which in turn affect economic stability. Additionally, the ongoing turmoil in West Asia, marked by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the potential for conflict with Iran, will undoubtedly influence regional stability and, by extension, impact the U.K.

Furthermore, even with the legal approval for the Rwanda immigration plan, the Sunak administration has struggled to manage small boat crossings effectively. Government data reveals that although there was a 33% decrease in such arrivals between 2022 and 2023, the number of boat crossings in 2024 has hit a record high. Between January 1 and May 21 of this year, over 9,800 people entered the U.K. via small boats. Sunak’s claim that the Labour Party is trying to make voters believe “this election is over before it’s even begun” might not be entirely unfounded, yet it prompts an examination of the sources of the opposition’s confidence.

The unexpected election announcement by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has set the stage for the United Kingdom to vote on July 4. Although the Conservative Party was not mandated to call for an election until January 2025, polls have indicated a significant lead for the opposition since Sunak assumed office. These polls suggest a loss for the Conservative Party by over 20%, a deficit seen only in particularly adverse midterm scenarios. Sunak’s decision appears to be driven by the recent decrease in the U.K.’s inflation rate to 2.3%, the lowest in at least three years. This economic milestone, along with favorable reviews of his administration’s economic management post-COVID-19 and a legal victory on immigration reform, may have prompted the early election call.

However, polls reflect a general dissatisfaction after 14 years of Conservative rule. Sunak’s comment that the election comes at a time when the global situation is “more dangerous than it has been at any point since the end of the Cold War” is significant. The resolution of the Russian invasion of Ukraine could alter the security dynamics in Europe and the U.K., raising concerns about territorial integrity and energy security, which have broader implications for economic stability. Similarly, the ongoing crises in West Asia, including the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and the potential conflict with Iran, will have repercussions that extend to the U.K.

Despite the legal clearance for the Rwanda immigration plan, the Sunak government has struggled to curb small boat crossings effectively. Official statistics show a 33% drop in such crossings from 2022 to 2023, but the number of crossings in 2024 has surged to a record high. From January 1 to May 21, more than 9,800 people entered the U.K. via small boats. In light of this, Sunak’s assertion that the Labour Party wants voters to believe “this election is over before it’s even begun” might hold some truth. Nevertheless, it raises questions about the sources of the opposition’s apparent confidence.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise election announcement has set a July 4 date for the United Kingdom to go to the polls. Despite the Conservative Party having until January 2025 to call an election, polling data since Sunak took office has shown the party trailing by over 20%, a gap usually seen only in particularly unfavorable midterm periods. Sunak and his advisors likely seized on the recent drop in the U.K.’s inflation rate to 2.3%, the lowest in three years, to gain political capital. Other contributing factors may include positive reviews of Sunak’s economic management post-COVID-19 and a legal victory allowing the government to implement its controversial immigration reform, which involves sending some asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing.

Despite widespread voter frustration after 14 uninterrupted years of Conservative rule, Sunak’s statement that the election comes at a time when the world is “more dangerous than it has been at any point since the end of the Cold War” holds considerable merit. The outcome of the long-running Russian invasion of Ukraine could significantly impact Europe’s and the U.K.’s security landscape, raising critical issues regarding territorial sovereignty in the east and energy security, which in turn affect economic stability. Additionally, the ongoing turmoil in West Asia, marked by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and potential conflict with Iran, will undoubtedly influence regional stability and, by extension, impact the U.K.

Furthermore, even with the legal approval for the Rwanda immigration plan, the Sunak administration has struggled to manage small boat crossings effectively. Government data reveals that although there was a 33% decrease in such arrivals between 2022 and 2023, the number of boat crossings in 2024 has hit a record high. Between January 1 and May 21 of this year, over 9,800 people entered the U.K. via small boats. Sunak’s claim that the Labour Party is trying to make voters believe “this election is over before it’s even begun” might not be entirely unfounded, yet it prompts an examination of the sources of the opposition’s confidence.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a surprise election on July 4 has created a new political dynamic in the United Kingdom. Despite the Conservative Party not needing to call an election until January 2025, polling data since Sunak took office has consistently shown the party trailing by over 20%, a gap typically seen only in extremely unfavorable midterm periods. Sunak’s decision appears to be driven by the recent decrease in the U.K.’s inflation rate to 2.3%, the lowest in at least three years. This economic milestone, along with favorable reviews of his administration’s economic management post-COVID-19 and a legal victory on immigration reform, may have prompted the early election call.

However, polls reflect a general dissatisfaction after 14 years of Conservative rule. Sunak’s comment that the election comes at a time when the global situation is “more dangerous than it has been at any point since the end of the Cold War” is significant. The resolution of the Russian invasion of Ukraine could alter the security dynamics in Europe and the U.K., raising concerns about territorial integrity and energy security, which have broader implications for economic stability. Similarly, the ongoing crises in West Asia, including the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and potential conflict with Iran, will have repercussions that extend to the U.K.

Despite the legal clearance for the Rwanda immigration plan, the Sunak government has struggled to curb small boat crossings effectively. Official statistics show a 33% drop in such crossings from 2022 to 2023, but the number of crossings in 2024 has surged to a record high. From January 1 to May 21, more than 9,800 people entered the U.K. via small boats. In light of this, Sunak’s assertion that the Labour Party wants voters to believe “this election is over before it’s even begun” might hold some truth. Nevertheless, it raises questions about the sources of the opposition’s apparent confidence.

Citizens Launch Nationwide #VotersWillMustPrevail Campaign to Ensure Fair Vote Counting in 18th Lok Sabha Elections

As citizens deeply invested in various social movements concerning farmers, workers, women, and marginalized groups, including notable public intellectuals, we have actively engaged in the lead-up to the 18th Lok Sabha Elections, which began on April 19, 2024. Over the past ten months, we have noticed a concerning lack of exemplary conduct from the Election Commission of India (ECI). To address this, we convened two High-Level Broad Consultative Meetings in Bengaluru (May 21, 2024) and Delhi (May 28, 2024) with grassroots movements, civil society, and political parties.

In our continued commitment to the electoral process, voter awareness, booth-level vigilance, and ensuring accountability and transparency from statutory bodies, particularly the ECI, we have launched the nationwide campaign #VotersWillMustPrevail. This initiative aims to secure a fair and transparent vote-counting process. A structured Citizens Vigil will be organized to document and address any malpractices or misconduct by officials or politicians during the polling process, ensuring prompt dissemination and thorough follow-up. We call upon the responsible sections of the Indian media to support the publication of the Voters Will Must Prevail Programme.

To uphold the people’s will, we have resolved to establish a Vigilant Voter Task Force for Counting Day (June 4, 2024). Our key actions include:

1.Citizen Involvement: Citizens will engage in the counting process at the local level in Parliamentary Constituencies nationwide on June 4, 2024.

2.Collaboration with Opposition Parties: We will work closely with political parties from the Opposition to motivate Counting Agents, ensuring a methodical and thorough counting process, free from intimidatory tactics by the Regime.

3.Reminder to Election Officials: We will remind the ECI and all State Level Officers, right down to every booth, that their allegiance is to the Indian People and the Constitution, not the government in power.

4.Communication with District Officials: Letters will be sent to District Collectors, Deputy Commissioners, District Magistrates, and other officials functioning as Returning Officers, as well as ECI-appointed Observers, reminding them of their Constitutional Obligations and Duties.

5.Mobilization of Citizens: Citizens will be mobilized across the country, particularly in sensitive booths, to ensure that the vote-counting process is conducted by the Law and Rule Book, free and fair. This involvement, termed Ginti ki Chaukidaari, will be visible state-wise outside counting stations.

6.Counting Vigilance Manual: A manual will be created to facilitate this coordinated endeavor. To ensure functionality and effectiveness, four helpline numbers (two for North India and two for South India) will be established to record and respond to ground-level complaints. These helpline numbers will be operationalized shortly and widely publicized.

Furthermore, we will closely interact with the opposition INDIA alliance on issues of voter manipulation and subversion. Our actions aim to exercise the democratic and peaceful rights of the Indian people as mandated by the Constitution under Articles 324-326. We, the People of India, have a vested interest in restoring India to a vibrant, functioning democratic republic.

We express deep concern that never before in the history of the Indian Republic has the public’s faith in democratic institutions been so low. The ongoing subversion of the autonomy and independence of governance institutions necessitates alerting fellow citizens nationwide in the days and weeks ahead. We are deeply concerned about potential manipulations in the counting process and the subsequent transition period. On behalf of the electorate, we affirm that if the counting of votes and the declaration of results are conducted freely, fairly, and transparently, the mandate will clearly oppose the current regime’s policies. Fair implementation of this mandate will assuredly bring change to the People of India.

However, we are extremely concerned about the process that follows and whether it will proceed smoothly, democratically, and constitutionally. The entire period of this 18th Lok Sabha election, particularly post-declaration of polls and the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), has seen unprecedented violations of the Constitution, Indian law, and the MCC, along with blatant electioneering malpractices. There is a genuine apprehension that these structured manipulations will persist during the counting process and beyond, potentially disrespecting the people’s mandate.

It is the People of India who elect a Government. No one is above the people. As the Preamble of our Constitution states, “We The People of India, are sovereign.”

We urge the Indian media and citizens to support and participate in this crucial vigilance effort, ensuring the democratic process is upheld and the people’s voice prevails.

Trump’s Conviction: A Game-Changer or Temporary Setback for the 2024 Election?

Scandals have surrounded former President Donald Trump since his initial presidential campaign in 2016. However, following his conviction in his New York hush-money case, he is now officially labeled as a convicted felon, adding a new dimension to his controversial legacy. This development begs the question: could this conviction significantly alter the trajectory of the 2024 election?

Initial indicators suggest that Trump’s conviction could indeed erode his support base. A poll conducted by CNN/SSRS in April revealed that while 76 percent of Trump supporters vowed unwavering allegiance, 24 percent admitted they might reconsider their support if he were convicted. Similarly, a May survey by Emerson College found that 25 percent of voters claimed a guilty verdict in New York would diminish their likelihood of voting for Trump.

Some pollsters adopted a two-pronged approach, asking respondents their voting preferences both with and without considering Trump’s conviction. On average, Trump’s standing shifted from a 1 percentage point lead to a 6-point deficit when the conviction was factored in.

However, Democrats should temper their enthusiasm, considering the nuances within these statistics. The wording of the CNN/SSRS poll, for instance, reveals that while 24 percent of Trump supporters might reconsider their vote, this doesn’t necessarily translate to definitive abandonment. Many may simply experience a crisis of confidence without outright switching allegiance to President Joe Biden.

A poll by ABC News/Ipsos echoed this sentiment. While 16 percent of respondents claimed they would reconsider their support for Trump following a conviction, only 4 percent stated they would completely withdraw it. Moreover, caution is warranted in interpreting polls like Emerson’s, which gauge whether events influence voting behavior. Often, respondents use such questions as proxies for their approval or disapproval rather than literal indicators of future action.

Interestingly, a significant portion of those claiming a conviction would sway their vote towards Biden had already expressed support for him in previous questions. Conversely, only a small fraction of Trump supporters indicated that a guilty verdict would deter them from voting for him, suggesting a lesser impact on his actual support than initially presumed.

Additional polls reinforce the notion that Trump’s conviction may not trigger mass defections to Biden. Instead, the majority of lost support for Trump translates into undecided or hypothetical “someone else” categories. While Trump’s support decreases by an average of 6 points post-conviction, Biden only gains 1 point, with 5 points going to undecided or alternative options.

This dynamic suggests that while some Trump supporters may hesitate to endorse him following the conviction, they are unlikely to pivot towards Biden. Consequently, the dip in Trump’s support may be transient. Past behavior serves as a predictor, indicating that many defectors could eventually realign with Trump, especially given the substantial time remaining until Election Day. Trump’s ability to craft a narrative that assuages concerns about supporting a convicted felon could further facilitate this return to the fold.

The parallels with past events, such as the fallout from the “Access Hollywood” tape during the 2016 campaign, underscore the potential for Trump’s support to rebound swiftly. Despite initial discomfort among Republicans, Trump’s popularity recovered within weeks of the tape’s release.

Nevertheless, even if most defectors ultimately return to Trump’s camp, the conviction’s impact on the race should not be dismissed entirely. Biden’s marginal 1-point gain could prove decisive in a closely contested election, though it’s crucial not to exaggerate the conviction’s influence. Ultimately, if the outcome of the hush-money trial shapes the presidential race, it will likely be within the margins of a closely contested contest.

Libertarian Party Nominates Chase Oliver for President, Rejecting Trump and Kennedy Bids

The Libertarian Party made a significant decision on Sunday, nominating party activist Chase Oliver for president, turning down the bids of former President Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Both Trump and Kennedy had addressed the party’s convention, but the party ultimately chose Oliver as its candidate.

The nomination of Oliver is notable given the historical performance of third parties in U.S. presidential elections. In the previous election, the Libertarian candidate garnered just 1% of the vote. However, this year, with the highly anticipated rematch between Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden, the attention on the Libertarian Party’s decision has intensified. The outcome of the election could once again be influenced by narrow vote margins in a few key battleground states.

Chase Oliver expressed his excitement about the nomination on social media, declaring, “We did it! I am officially the presidential nominee. It’s time to unify and move forward for liberty.” His enthusiasm reflects the party’s commitment to its core values of liberty and individual freedoms.

Former President Trump’s appearance at the convention on Saturday was met with a mixed reception. Despite his efforts to garner support, he was repeatedly booed by many attendees. However, his decision to address an audience not entirely aligned with him was commended by his Republican allies, underscoring his willingness to engage with diverse viewpoints.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in contrast, received a warmer welcome when he spoke at the convention on Friday. He criticized both Trump and Biden for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kennedy’s support for the Libertarian Party could have facilitated his efforts to secure ballot access in all 50 states, a significant challenge for third-party candidates aiming to participate in the presidential debates.

The Libertarian Party’s platform emphasizes principles such as small government and individual freedoms. Its policy positions span the ideological spectrum, encompassing ideas that can be perceived as liberal, conservative, or neither.

Chase Oliver, the newly nominated candidate, hails from Atlanta and has previously run for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House from Georgia. His campaign platform advocates for substantial reductions in the federal budget, aiming to achieve budgetary balance. Additionally, Oliver supports abolishing the death penalty and closing all overseas military bases, while also advocating for an end to military assistance to countries like Israel and Ukraine.

India’s Election Commission: Murder of an Institution

Ever since the BJP/RSS came to power with Narendra Modi at its helm, institutions built under the Nehruvian-Ambedkar vision have been facing either servitude or total decimation. India’s election commission, one of the revered pillars of Indian Democracy, appeared to have suffered the same fate as many others in their ongoing battle to move the nation towards a majoritarian rule rooted in the Hindutva philosophy.

Under the visionary leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar, India has created institutions that preserved freedom and Democracy for everyone. If we look back at history, many other countries that have gained independence along with India failed in their quest to safeguard freedom for their citizens. However, India has succeeded, whereas others have failed only because of those institutions that stood the test of time. Undoubtedly, the Election Commission is one institution that conducts free and fair elections and guarantees peaceful power transfer to the victor of the people’s mandate every time.

BJP was only interested in free and fair elections until they reached the pinnacles of the power structure. Soon, they started meddling all around, weakening institutions, muzzling media, and intimidating and removing civil society, all in their quest to perpetuate power and establish long-lasting control over every segment of society. In their second term, they must have been anxious for their tenuous hold on power, considering their mammoth failures in tackling the nation’s pressing problems, such as rampant inflation, youth unemployment, and unrest in the agricultural sector.

Towards that end, they have decided to remake the Election Commission to make it a handmaiden, a blow to Democracy and the established constitutional order. Democracy means that all the people in a nation have a say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives. That was the point of contention for a party like the BJP, which believed in majoritarian governance. Democracy is also a controversial concept often misused by dictators and single-party regimes to assert popular support to justify their power grab.

The Indian Constitution Article 324 establishes an independent election commission; Article 327 empowers Parliament to enact laws governing all aspects of elections. Article 329 provides a mechanism for resolving electoral disputes through review by an independent judiciary. These articles reflect the clear preference of the constituent assembly to ensure the autonomy and independence of the ECI, protecting it from Executive interference (Devi and Mendiratta, 2000). ECI has been considered one of the most trusted public institutions in India that ensured integrity and conducted 17 national and 370 state elections since India’s independence in one of the most populous countries in the world.

However, what has been happening during this election cycle under the watch of the current E.C. is genuinely disconcerting and tantamount to betraying their sacred duty as the chief guardian of Democracy in exercising their impartial judgment in the conduct of a free and fair election. The move to reorganize the ECI outside of the collegium, outlined by the Supreme Court, where the prime minister, the chief justice, and the opposition leader together choose election commissioners, was a grave mistake. As a result, the independence of the ECI has been lost, and it has become another instrument in the hands of an administration with a history of subjugation to achieve its political ends.

Consequently, the court system is forced to work extra hours and sit in judgment on the issue of compliance with the election laws or with the moral code of conduct violations by the parties or their candidates. The court has directly intervened and criticized the election commission for failing to address various complaints nationwide. E.C. has not taken any action on the complaints against the Prime Minister even after a month for violating the moral code by explicitly attacking a minority community in his campaign speeches. In that regard, E.C. sent a notice to the BJP President rather than the individual who made that offending statement. To any independent observer, it becomes clear that the level of communal statements and hate speeches during the election cycle is on a much larger scale than in any other election in the past. Subsequently, a Congress delegation met the Election Commission and gave a memorandum criticizing Modi’s statements that created false and divisive insinuations targeting a particular religious community, which is a clear provocation to the general public to act and breach the peace.

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of adding VVPAT to every EVM on the petition by the Association of Democratic Reforms was quite unfortunate, and it has become abundantly clear now that the people lack faith in the current E.C. to fix the problems associated with these voting machines. There are several reports of the malfunctioning of EVMS and subsequent delays in voting across the country. The storage and safekeeping of this equipment until the counting is also under scrutiny as reports of CCTV camera failures emerge in this unusually long election cycle. Why it would take two months to conduct an election and for whose convenience, etc., are also shrouded in mystery. There is little doubt that EVMs are under the spotlight now, and real fears over fairness and openness in this regard are no longer limited to civil society debates.

Ashwin Ramaswami, Gen-Z Indian-American, Wins Democratic Primary in Georgia, Eyes Historic State Senate Seat

Ashwin Ramaswami, a pioneering Gen-Z Indian-American, has won the Democratic primary in Georgia, positioning himself for a significant contest in November against Republican Senator Shawn Still. Still was indicted alongside Donald Trump for his role as a fake elector in the 2020 election. Ramaswami, 23, views this race as a prime opportunity, calling it “the most flippable State Senate seat in Georgia.”

Ramaswami’s victory is momentous, potentially making him Georgia’s first Gen-Z State Senator and the only legislator in the state with both a computer science and law degree. He aims to blend his technological expertise and legal acumen to bring innovative solutions to the state legislature.

Born to Indian immigrant parents from Tamil Nadu, Ramaswami’s journey began with his education at Chinmaya Mission Balavihar, which instilled in him a deep appreciation for Sanskrit and ancient Indian texts. This early exposure to Indian culture seamlessly merged with his American upbringing, fostering a unique dual identity. He later graduated from Stanford University with a degree in computer science, setting the stage for a career that bridges technology and public service.

Professionally, Ramaswami has a rich background, having collaborated with nonprofits, startups, and small businesses to harness technology for public benefit and job creation. His role at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) during the 2020 and 2022 elections underscored his commitment to cybersecurity and election integrity. Additionally, his tenure as a legal fellow in the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division honed his skills in protecting consumer rights.

Ramaswami’s campaign is financially robust, having raised over $280,000 with $208,000 in cash reserves. This financial strength bolsters his position for the upcoming general election, highlighting the increasing involvement of young, diverse candidates in American politics.

Ramaswami’s story is one of blending cultures, leveraging technology for public good, and aiming for historic political representation. His campaign symbolizes the evolving landscape of American politics, where young, technologically savvy, and diverse candidates are stepping into significant roles to shape the future. As Ramaswami moves forward, his blend of Indian heritage and American innovation positions him uniquely to make substantial contributions to Georgia’s legislature.

Shri Thanedar Gains Edge in Congressional Race as Opponent Adam Hollier Disqualified Over Signature Shortfall

Indian-American politician Shri Thanedar’s Congressional campaign gained significant momentum after his primary opponent, Adam Hollier, was disqualified from the race for the 13th district. Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett announced Hollier’s disqualification on May 21 due to an insufficient number of valid voter signatures.

“I am adopting the staff’s recommendation and hereby determine the nominating petitions are insufficient in number to allow candidate Adam Hollier’s name to appear on the Aug.6, 2024 primary election ballot for the office of US Representative in Congress – 13th District,” Garrett wrote to Thanedar in an official letter dated May 21.

Thanedar had previously challenged the validity of Hollier’s nomination process. An investigation by Garrett’s staff revealed that Hollier had only collected 863 valid signatures out of the 1553 submitted, falling short of the 1,000-signature requirement. The staff report also noted that many signatures appeared to be written in similar handwriting.

In response to his disqualification, Hollier expressed his frustration in a post on X, where he also shared a more detailed statement.

“I am extremely disappointed with the news from the Wayne County clerk following her thorough and professional review of our petitions ― not for myself, but for the voters across the 13th District who deserve a real choice in who their next Congressperson will be,” Hollier wrote.

“While I put my trust in someone who let us down in the collection of signatures, ultimately the leadership of the campaign falls on me and I must hold myself to a higher standard. It is also clear that our state’s system of ballot access and petition collection is sorely in need of reform — so that future campaigns, as well as the voters of this state, do not fall victim to fraud,” he added.

Thanedar, commenting on Garrett’s decision, stated: “Clerk Garrett agreed that Adam did not have enough signatures to get on the ballot and upheld the rule of law. I personally collected hundreds of signatures and enjoyed talking to my constituents directly and listening to their concerns.”

He continued, “I look forward to a vigorous campaign with those on the ballot as I will continue to talk about my record and accomplishments for the 13th District. I’m confident that the voters will put their faith in me for another term.”

This decision marks a significant development in the political landscape of Detroit, a city with an 80 percent Black population. Detroit had maintained at least some representation from the Black community for 70 years until 2023. Hollier’s disqualification is expected to be a significant setback for this community.

Kapil Sibal Takes Electoral Integrity Battle to Supreme Court: Calls for Transparency Measures in EVM Usage

Kapil Sibal, a senior lawyer and prominent political figure, has approached the Supreme Court of India with a plea urging the court to direct the Election Commission (EC) to take critical steps to ensure transparency and integrity in the electoral process. Specifically, Sibal is advocating for the preservation of electronic voting machine (EVM) logs for a period of two to three years. Additionally, he is calling for the publication of voting records before the counting process begins.

Context and Background

The issue of EVM reliability has been a contentious topic in Indian politics for several years. EVMs were introduced to streamline the voting process and reduce instances of electoral fraud associated with paper ballots. However, concerns about their susceptibility to tampering and technical glitches have persisted. These concerns have been amplified by several political parties, particularly after the assembly elections where allegations of EVM manipulation were rife.

Sibal’s Plea to the Supreme Court

In his plea, Sibal argues that preserving EVM logs for an extended period would provide a verifiable audit trail that could be examined in cases of disputed election results. This measure, he contends, is necessary to uphold the sanctity of the democratic process. By retaining the logs, authorities and independent observers would have the opportunity to review the data to confirm the accuracy of the election results.

Furthermore, Sibal emphasizes the need for the EC to upload Form 17C, which contains detailed voting data, before the commencement of vote counting. This form, which is crucial for maintaining transparency, records the number of votes cast and the sequence in which they were cast. Making this data publicly available would allow political parties, candidates, and voters to independently verify the voting process’s integrity, thus enhancing trust in the electoral system.

Importance of EVM Logs and Form 17C

EVM logs serve as a digital record of all activities performed on the machines during the election. These logs include timestamps of when votes were cast and other critical data points that can help identify any irregularities or unauthorized access. By preserving these logs, the EC can provide a reliable method for forensic analysis if any discrepancies arise.

Form 17C, on the other hand, is a document mandated by the Representation of the People Act, 1951. It provides a summary of the total number of votes recorded in each EVM, along with details such as the names of the candidates and the number of votes each candidate received. Public access to Form 17C before vote counting can act as a preemptive measure to ensure transparency and address any potential allegations of vote tampering.

Legal and Political Ramifications

Sibal’s appeal to the Supreme Court is not merely a procedural request but carries significant legal and political implications. Legally, if the Supreme Court mandates the preservation of EVM logs and the publication of Form 17C data, it would set a precedent for future elections, ensuring a higher standard of accountability and transparency.

Politically, this move could address the skepticism and mistrust harbored by various political parties and sections of the electorate regarding the reliability of EVMs. In recent elections, parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have vocally alleged that EVMs were manipulated to favor the ruling party. These allegations, though not conclusively proven, have nonetheless cast a shadow over the credibility of the electoral process.

The Election Commission’s Stance

The EC has consistently defended the robustness and tamper-proof nature of EVMs. It has conducted multiple demonstrations and “EVM challenges” where political parties were invited to attempt tampering with the machines under controlled conditions. The EC maintains that no party has successfully compromised the integrity of EVMs during these challenges. Moreover, the EC has introduced Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in several elections to add an extra layer of verification.

Conclusion

Kapil Sibal’s call for preserving EVM logs and publicizing voting records aims to bolster the transparency and trust in India’s electoral system. While the EC has taken steps to ensure the security and reliability of EVMs, Sibal’s proposals seek to address lingering doubts and enhance public confidence. The Supreme Court’s response to this plea could significantly influence the future of electoral integrity measures in India.

By implementing these measures, the EC can demonstrate its commitment to transparency and accountability, thereby strengthening the democratic process and reassuring voters that their votes are accurately counted and securely recorded.

India’s Cinematic Influence: How Bollywood Shapes Political Narratives in the World’s Largest Democracy

As India, the world’s largest democracy, heads to the polls, political parties are leveraging popular culture, particularly cinema, to influence voters. Historically, Indian films have both mirrored and shaped the nation’s political and social landscapes, but currently, Bollywood and regional films significantly bolster the ruling right-wing government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is aiming for a third consecutive term in office. The BJP, founded as the political branch of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) — a paramilitary volunteer organization — is one of India’s two main political parties. With 80 percent of India’s population being Hindu, the BJP posits that India is inherently a Hindu nation. Their platform has resonated widely, partly because they portray India as a formidable post-colonial power. In contrast, the main opposition, the Indian National Congress, advocates secularism. During his campaign last month, Prime Minister Modi gave a speech that faced widespread criticism for being Islamophobic.

In a recent episode of the podcast Don’t Call Me Resilient, political scientist Sikata Banerjee from the University of Victoria and cinema studies scholar Rakesh Sengupta from the University of Toronto discuss how cinema and social media help propagate ideas that include “a vicious vocabulary of hate against minorities and dissenters” in India, potentially swaying voter opinions.

“In Modi’s India, when people are asking these questions, why am I poor? Why am I feeling so worthless? The answer is always the Muslims,” says Banerjee. “The Muslims have taken away your wealth. They’re taking all the jobs…You see very clearly how Modi is getting people on board with this idea of the Hindu imagined community.”

This blend of Islamophobia and modern Hindu pride has penetrated Bollywood, the world’s largest film industry, producing around 1,500-2,000 films annually. These films have promoted the vision of a reimagined, strong, and triumphant India. This narrative is further amplified by streaming platforms and social media such as YouTube and WhatsApp, which have even broader reach than traditional Bollywood films.

An example of this trend is last year’s ‘Tollywood’ movie RRR, which received accolades at the Oscars. RRR retells historical events from the perspective of the current “victors.” Another film accused of distorting history is Swatantra Veer Savarkar, which focuses on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the originator of the Hindu nationalist ideology of Hindutva.

Sengupta from the University of Toronto explains that the interplay between cinema and the state in India has always been historically significant. “You can always historically see a kind of reflection of the state of a particular time in the cinema of that time,” he notes. “Under the current regime of Hindu nationalism, we are witnessing more and more films being made on Hindu pride and Muslim violence.”

The election process in India began on April 19 and spans seven phases, concluding on June 1, 2024.

Nikki Haley Pledges Support for Trump Despite Past Criticisms, Urges Outreach to Her Supporters

Nikki Haley, who became a prominent rival and outspoken critic of Donald Trump during the Republican primary elections, has announced her intention to vote for the former US president in November. This revelation came during her address at the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington on Wednesday, marking her first public appearance since exiting the race in March. When questioned about who would better handle national security issues between Joe Biden and Trump, Haley provided her perspective.

The former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor outlined her criteria for selecting a president, which include supporting allies, holding adversaries accountable, endorsing capitalism and freedom, and reducing national debt. She acknowledged Trump’s imperfections in these areas, stating, “Trump has not been perfect on these policies. I have made that clear many, many times. But Biden has been a catastrophe. So I will be voting for Trump.”

Despite this endorsement, the 52-year-old Haley cautioned Trump not to take her supporters for granted. “Having said that, I stand by what I said in my suspension speech. Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me and continue to support me and not assume that they’re just going to be with him. And I genuinely hope he does that.”

Haley’s decision places her alongside other notable Republicans like Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, former Attorney General William Barr, and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who, despite their previous criticisms, now support Trump as the party nominee. Throughout the contentious primary campaign, Haley had criticized Trump for lacking political viability, showing moral weakness, and being “thin-skinned and easily distracted.” She had advocated for moving beyond his “chaos.” Trump responded by dismissing reports that he might consider her as his running mate.

Haley’s reversal has sparked immediate backlash. Sarah Longwell, a political strategist and publisher of the conservative Bulwark website, tweeted, “So when Nikki Haley said, ‘It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him.’ She really meant, he can treat me and my voters like garbage and I’ll still fall in line and support him.” Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh added, “This isn’t complicated: Nikki Haley believes Trump is unfit. And she believes he should never be back in the White House. But if she said that publicly, her career as a Republican would be over. So, as expected, she decided to not be truthful. To keep her career as a Republican.”

Although she exited the primaries in early March, Haley has continued to attract up to 20% in the contests, posing a potential challenge for Trump’s campaign. The former president has dismissed the necessity of courting Haley’s supporters, whereas Biden, during an event in Atlanta, stated, “Let me say, there’s always going to be a place for Haley voters in my campaign.”

Trump has also secured endorsements from other former Republican primary opponents, including North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

At the Hudson Institute event, attended by several foreign ambassadors, Haley was vocally critical of far-right Republicans who advocate for “America first” isolationism, though she refrained from mentioning Trump directly. She commended House Speaker Mike Johnson for advancing aid for Israel and Ukraine through Congress.

“A growing number of Democrats and Republicans have forgotten what makes America safe,” she asserted. “A loud part of each party wants us to abandon our allies, appease our enemies, and focus only on the problems we have at home. They believe if we leave the world alone, the world will leave us alone. They even say ignoring global chaos will somehow make our country more secure. It will not. This worldview has already put America in great danger and the threat is mounting by the day.”

Haley’s critique extended to both parties, emphasizing the dangers of isolationism. She highlighted the increasing number of politicians who favor disengagement from global affairs, arguing that such an approach jeopardizes national security. Her remarks underscored the importance of maintaining international alliances and addressing global threats proactively.

The evolving dynamics within the Republican Party and Haley’s stance reflect the broader tensions and strategic considerations as the 2024 presidential election approaches. Her endorsement of Trump, despite past criticisms, exemplifies the complexities faced by many Republicans navigating the party’s future direction.

As the election nears, Haley’s role and influence within the party, along with her potential impact on voter alignment, will be closely watched. Her recent statements and the reactions they have elicited highlight the ongoing debates over leadership, policy priorities, and the path forward for the GOP.

Trump Leads Biden in Battleground States Amidst Calls for Change and Economic Concerns

Donald J. Trump leads President Biden in five pivotal battleground states, according to fresh polls, amid a growing desire for change and dissatisfaction over economic issues and the conflict in Gaza, particularly among young, Black, and Hispanic voters, posing a threat to the Democratic coalition.

The recent surveys conducted by The New York Times, Siena College, and The Philadelphia Inquirer indicate that Mr. Trump holds the lead among registered voters in five out of six key states: Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, with Mr. Biden only leading in Wisconsin among registered voters.

Among likely voters, the race is tighter, with Mr. Trump leading in five states, but Mr. Biden pulling ahead in Michigan and closely trailing in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Despite Mr. Biden’s victories in these states in 2020, winning Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin would be sufficient for his re-election, provided he secures victories elsewhere as he did four years ago.

These findings remain largely consistent since the last series of Times/Siena polls in battleground states in November, despite various developments such as a 25% increase in the stock market, the commencement of Mr. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, and significant campaign advertisements by the Biden camp across these states.

However, there’s little indication from the polls that these developments have swayed voter sentiment in favor of Mr. Biden or against Mr. Trump. Economic concerns, immigration, the conflict in Gaza, and a desire for change persist as factors affecting the president’s standing. Though Mr. Biden saw a surge in momentum following his State of the Union address in March, he continues to lag behind in national and battleground state polls.

The polls reveal a widespread dissatisfaction with the country’s current state and skepticism regarding Mr. Biden’s capacity to effect substantial improvements. While a majority of voters crave a return to the normalcy promised by Mr. Biden, those in battleground states are particularly anxious for change, with nearly 70% believing that significant changes are needed in the political and economic systems.

Only a small fraction of Mr. Biden’s supporters anticipate major changes in his second term, while even some who oppose Mr. Trump concede that he might disrupt the unsatisfactory status quo.

Mr. Trump’s appeal among young and nonwhite voters seems to have shifted the electoral landscape temporarily, particularly in diverse Sun Belt states like Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada, where Black and Hispanic voters played a pivotal role in Mr. Biden’s previous victories.

Nonetheless, Mr. Biden remains competitive, especially among older and white voters who prioritize democracy as the most crucial issue. This demographic provides him with support in the relatively white Northern swing states.

Economic concerns, including the cost of living, remain paramount for a quarter of voters and pose a significant challenge to Mr. Biden’s prospects. Despite improvements in certain economic indicators, a considerable portion of voters still perceive the economy as poor, impacting their perceptions of the current administration’s performance.

For voters like Jennifer Wright, a registered nurse in Michigan, and Jacob Sprague, a systems engineer in Nevada, economic factors heavily influence their electoral decisions, with both expressing dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs.

Despite Mr. Biden’s assertions about the economy’s health, many voters, like Sprague, remain unconvinced, citing personal experiences of rising expenses.

With less than six months until the election, there remains the possibility of an economic upturn bolstering Mr. Biden’s standing. Historically, early-stage polls haven’t always accurately predicted outcomes, and Mr. Trump’s recent gains among traditionally Democratic demographics may not be solidified, especially among disengaged voters.

Additionally, a significant portion of voters blame Mr. Biden more than Mr. Trump for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, presenting an opportunity for the Biden campaign to sway voters as the election approaches.

Abortion emerges as a significant vulnerability for Mr. Trump, with a majority of voters in battleground states supporting its legality. Despite the Biden campaign’s efforts to highlight Mr. Trump’s stance on abortion, voters still prefer Mr. Biden to handle the issue by a significant margin.

However, Mr. Biden’s main challenge may lie in appealing to disaffected voters who desire fundamental changes in American society, a demographic that has traditionally leaned Democratic but has been swayed by Mr. Trump’s anti-establishment brand of conservatism.

Seventy percent of voters believe Mr. Trump will either enact major changes or dismantle the current systems, compared to only 24 percent who expect the same from Mr. Biden. Despite reservations about Mr. Trump personally, a significant portion of voters view him as a force for positive change.

Mr. Trump’s appeal is particularly strong among voters who advocate for substantial systemic changes, a group he leads by a considerable margin. On the other hand, Mr. Biden retains much of his support from voters who believe minor changes suffice.

In conclusion, the polls highlight Mr. Biden’s challenges in retaining support among crucial demographics while also appealing to voters disillusioned with the current state of affairs. As the election nears, economic conditions and the candidates’ ability to address voter concerns will likely play decisive roles in determining the outcome.

Phase Four of 2024 Lok Sabha Elections: Key Battles and Controversies Unfold Across States

The fourth phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha election commenced today with voting underway for 96 seats across 10 states and union territories, alongside balloting for all 175 seats of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly and 28 of 147 in Odisha. As stated by the original article, “The Lok Sabha seats in play today are all 25 in Andhra Pradesh and 17 in Telangana, in addition to 13 in Uttar Pradesh, 11 in Maharashtra, eight each in Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, five in Bihar, four in Odisha and Jharkhand, and Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar.” With today’s voting, the Lok Sabha election 2024 marks its halfway point, having concluded polling for 381 of the Lower House’s 543 seats.

The electoral landscape features prominent figures, including Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party vying from Kannauj and Mahua Moitra from the Trinamool Congress defending her Krishnanagar seat. Omar Abdullah, leader of the National Conference, stands from Srinagar, continuing the legacy of his father, Farooq Abdullah. The Congress’ Bengal chief, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, contests from Bahrampur against Trinamool’s Yusuf Pathan, a former Indian cricketer. Meanwhile, Dilip Ghosh of the BJP faces Kirti Azad, another ex-cricketer, in Bardhaman-Durgapur, reflecting the intense political dynamics in Bengal, where rivalries unfold amid the overarching narrative of the INDIA opposition bloc.

In Telangana, Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM faces BJP’s Madhavi Latha for the Hyderabad seat, continuing a long-standing political legacy. And in Andhra Pradesh, YS Sharmila, sister of Chief Minister Jagan Reddy, leads the Congress’ campaign from Kadapa, challenging her cousin, sitting MP YS Avinash Reddy. The BJP’s Giriraj Singh contests against Awadesh Kumar Rai in Begusarai, while Ajay Mishra Teni, also of the BJP, runs from UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri, a constituency that gained prominence during the 2021 farmers’ protest due to Teni’s son’s involvement in a controversial case.

In the 2019 elections, the BJP secured only 42 of the 96 seats up for grabs today, encountering challenges particularly in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The lead-up to this phase has been marked by controversies, with the Election Commission drawing attention for various issues, including notices to Mallikarjun Kharge and JP Nadda of the Congress and BJP respectively, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments on Muslims and wealth redistribution. The Election Commission also sent a notice to Kharge after his criticism of the commission’s credibility. Additionally, contentious remarks by Congress leader Sam Pitroda regarding inheritance taxes and racial diversity, along with the release of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on bail, have contributed to the election narrative.

The voting process for the Lok Sabha elections of 2024 commenced today, encompassing 96 seats across various states and union territories, alongside elections for the Andhra Pradesh Assembly and a portion of seats in Odisha. This phase marks a significant milestone, with half of the Lok Sabha seats having completed the polling process. Notable contenders include Akhilesh Yadav from the Samajwadi Party, Mahua Moitra from the Trinamool Congress, and Omar Abdullah from the National Conference, each contesting from their respective strongholds. The electoral battleground in Bengal features intense rivalries, with key players from different political parties, including the Congress, BJP, and Trinamool, engaging in high-stakes contests. Telangana witnesses a high-profile clash between Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM and Madhavi Latha of the BJP for the Hyderabad seat. Meanwhile, in Andhra Pradesh, familial ties intertwine with political ambitions as YS Sharmila of the Congress challenges her cousin, sitting MP YS Avinash Reddy, in Kadapa. The BJP faces its own challenges, with Giriraj Singh contesting in Begusarai and Ajay Mishra Teni in Lakhimpur Kheri, amidst controversies surrounding the latter’s son. The BJP’s performance in the 2019 elections sets the backdrop for this phase, with the party striving to improve its standing in states like Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Leading up to this phase, the Election Commission has been under scrutiny for various issues, including notices to key political figures and controversies surrounding remarks made by leaders from different parties.

Tharoor Foresees Leadership Change: Modi’s Term to End in June, Asserts Congress Leader

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor remarked on Sunday that there’s no need to wait until September 2025 for a change in leadership, asserting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will no longer be in charge after the declaration of Lok Sabha poll results on June 4.

In response to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s assertion that Modi is seeking votes for Home Minister Amit Shah as his successor post-September 2025, Tharoor stated, “A new government will come to power at the Centre in June. There is no need to wait till September 2025.”

During a press conference in Mumbai, Tharoor criticized Modi for diminishing the quality of public discourse and employing language unsuitable for the nation. He defended the Congress’ refusal to attend the consecration ceremony of the Lord Ram temple in Ayodhya, stating that Lord Ram is not under BJP’s exclusive domain. Tharoor emphasized, “I visit temples to pray, not to engage in politics. The ‘pran pratishtha’ ceremony in Ayodhya is being exploited for political gains. Should I relinquish Lord Ram to the BJP?”

Tharoor further accused the BJP of neglecting crucial issues such as inflation, unemployment, the failure to double farmers’ income, and the dwindling income of 80% of the population. Responding to Kejriwal’s comments about Modi’s “retirement age,” Tharoor questioned whether the BJP would make an exception for one individual, reiterating that Modi’s tenure as PM would end after the June 2024 elections.

Regarding the absence of Muslim candidates from Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha polls, Tharoor cited “compulsions of coalition politics,” explaining that in such scenarios, parties contest fewer seats. He emphasized that making concessions for the greater benefit of the alliance shouldn’t be viewed as surrender.

Tharoor highlighted the inclusive nature of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance in Maharashtra, comprising the Congress, Shiv Sena, and NCP, contrasting it with the BJP-led NDA where allies like Akali Dal and BJD have distanced themselves from the BJP. He praised former PMs Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh for their adept handling of coalition governments, implying that Modi’s approach leans toward a presidential style of governance, deviating from the parliamentary system.

Asserting the Congress’ commitment to preserving Mumbai’s cosmopolitan essence, Tharoor noted a noticeable shift in sentiment after three phases of polling. He campaigned for Congress candidates Varsha Gaikwad and Bhushan Patil contesting from Mumbai North Central and Mumbai North constituencies, respectively, against BJP’s Ujjwal Nikam and Union Minister Piyush Goyal. Tharoor expressed confidence in favorable outcomes for the Congress in the upcoming elections on May 20.

Overall, Tharoor’s statements reflect his conviction in the impending change in leadership at the national level and his party’s strategic positioning within coalitions while advocating for inclusive governance and addressing pressing socioeconomic concerns.

President Biden’s Warning to Israel: A Delicate Balancing Act in Gaza

President Biden’s firm stance against a significant Israeli military operation in Rafah has put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a difficult position. Launching a major offensive to crush Hamas in southern Gaza risks rupturing ties with the U.S., while failure to act decisively could weaken Netanyahu’s domestic political coalition.

According to White House national security communications adviser John Kirby, the U.S. acknowledges Israel’s need to make its own decisions regarding military actions. However, Biden made it clear that a major invasion of Rafah would prompt significant consequences, including withholding offensive arms transfers to Israel.

Biden’s warning comes amid growing criticism of Israel’s military conduct, particularly concerning civilian casualties in Gaza. Despite emphasizing support for Israel’s security, Biden stated that the U.S. opposes Israel’s ability to wage war in civilian areas.

Netanyahu hinted at Israel’s readiness to confront Hamas in Rafah independently, irrespective of U.S. warnings. Meanwhile, opposition leader Benny Gantz stressed Israel’s duty to defend itself, underscoring the U.S.’s obligation to support Israel’s security.

While some Israeli leaders criticized Biden’s stance, Netanyahu has shown a degree of compliance with U.S. demands behind closed doors. However, he faces pressure from his right-wing base, necessitating a delicate balancing act.

Despite Biden’s frustration over Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, his administration aims to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and negotiate a ceasefire to end the conflict. A key aspect of Biden’s Middle East strategy involves brokering a deal for Saudi Arabia to normalize ties with Israel, contingent upon ending the Gaza war.

Saudi Arabia insists on a pathway to a Palestinian state before establishing relations with Israel. Although Israeli public support for a Palestinian state is mixed, it becomes more acceptable within the context of a broader U.S.-brokered agreement.

The Biden administration envisions post-war Gaza being overseen by the Palestinian Authority, supported by a coalition of Arab security forces. However, Israel asserts the need to defeat Hamas before such arrangements can be implemented.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog, emphasized the necessity of neutralizing Hamas’s military capabilities in Rafah to prevent its resurgence. He underscored the importance of Arab forces intervening only after Hamas is decisively defeated.

Sam Pitroda Resigns as Indian Overseas Congress Chairman Amid Controversial Remarks

Amid a flurry of contentious statements, Sam Pitroda voluntarily resigned on Wednesday from his position as Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress. His decision to step down was confirmed by Jairam Ramesh, the Congress General Secretary in-charge of Communications, who stated, “Mr. Sam Pitroda has decided to step down as Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress of his own accord. The Congress President has accepted his decision.”

This move followed Pitroda’s latest remarks during an interview with The Statesman, where he sought to underscore India’s diversity by saying, “people in the East look Chinese, people on West look like Arab, people on North like, maybe, White, and people in the South look like African.” These comments triggered sharp criticism, notably from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who led the BJP’s condemnation.

In response to the uproar, the Congress swiftly distanced itself from Pitroda’s remarks. Jairam Ramesh stated, “The analogies drawn by Mr. Sam Pitroda in a podcast to illustrate India’s diversity are most unfortunate and unacceptable. The Indian National Congress completely dissociates itself from these analogies.”

Pitroda had courted controversy previously when he commented on the US inheritance tax, calling it “an interesting law and could be among issues that people in India debate and discuss.” Prime Minister Modi seized on these remarks during a rally in Chhattisgarh, targeting the Gandhi family and the Congress, suggesting that the party was eyeing the wealth of all Indians. Modi remarked, “The advisor to the royal family prince, and advisor to the father of the prince, has said more taxes should be imposed on the middle class. Now these people have gone a step further. The Congress now says it will impose an inheritance tax. That it will impose tax on the inheritance received from parents. The property you have accumulated through your hard work will not be given to your children. The Congress claws will snatch that too from you.”

Putin’s Fifth Term: Kremlin Ceremony Marks Renewed Authority Amidst Escalating Tensions with the West

Vladimir Putin took the oath for his fifth term as Russia’s leader on Tuesday, reinforcing his authority over the nation in a grand ceremony held in the Kremlin amidst the backdrop of escalating tensions with the West due to Russia’s military activities in Ukraine. The 71-year-old Putin’s reelection in March, characterized by the suppression of political opposition, marked a continuation of his uninterrupted 25-year rule and heralded the onset of Russia’s heightened global isolation and domestic authoritarianism.

Asserting his commitment to serving the Russian people, Putin placed his hand on the Russian Constitution during the ceremony, declaring, “We are a united and great people and together we will overcome all obstacles, realize all our plans. Together we will win!” The inauguration, boycotted by the United States and several other Western nations, followed Putin’s recent nuclear rhetoric, intensifying tensions further.

Russian state television broadcasted the ceremony live, capturing Putin’s entrance into the Kremlin amidst falling snow. The event was attended by dignitaries, including Cabinet members, lawmakers, and celebrities such as American actor Steven Seagal, a longtime supporter of Putin, who lauded the ceremony as “the best.” After greeting attendees, Putin emphasized Russia’s sovereignty in determining its future and expressed openness to dialogue with Western nations on revised terms.

Addressing the audience, Putin paid tribute to those involved in Russia’s military operations, referring to them as heroes fighting for the motherland. He framed Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a response to perceived Western aggression, presenting the conflict as an existential struggle for Russian sovereignty. High-ranking officials from Russian-annexed Ukrainian regions praised Putin’s leadership and speech, highlighting the significance of the event.

The absence of numerous foreign dignitaries underscored the deteriorating relations between Russia and Western powers, particularly over the conflict in Ukraine. Putin’s directive for tactical nuclear weapons drills prior to the inauguration was seen as a message to Western adversaries, responding to perceived threats and provocative statements from Western officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

While Putin faces minimal domestic opposition, speculation persists regarding potential government reshuffling following the ceremony. Attention is focused on key positions such as the prime minister, currently held by loyal technocrat Mikhail Mishustin, and the defense minister, occupied by longtime ally Sergei Shoigu, who faced recent scrutiny over corruption allegations involving his deputy. Analysts are monitoring for signs of succession planning, although Putin shows no indication of relinquishing power, poised to become Russia’s longest-serving modern leader, potentially extending his tenure until 2030.

Trump Faces Prospect of Rikers Island Imprisonment Amid Trial: Experts Weigh In

In the event that Donald Trump continues to test the patience of the judge overseeing his hush money trial, there’s a possibility he might find himself back in his native New York City borough of Queens – more precisely, within the confines of the prison on Rikers Island, as indicated by experts on Monday.

Judge Juan Merchan, in response to Trump’s repeated breaches of a gag order prohibiting him from disparaging witnesses or the jury, cautioned the former president about the potential for imprisonment “if necessary” for further infractions.

While Merchan did not specify the exact facility, inquiries regarding Trump’s possible detention at Rikers prompted Frank Dwyer, the jail’s chief spokesperson, to assert that suitable accommodations would be arranged by the department.

Trump has persistently argued that he is a victim of a skewed justice system, claiming unfair treatment compared to others. Conversely, critics argue the opposite, suggesting that Trump’s public statements would have led any other defendant to incarceration by now.

The notion of Trump facing imprisonment while under trial is bound to evoke intense reactions from both his supporters and detractors. Trump’s repeated attempts to leverage the specter of imprisonment for fundraising underscore the potent emotional response it elicits from his base.

Mike Lawlor, an expert in criminal justice at the University of New Haven, outlined Rikers as the probable destination should Merchan pursue this course of action. Lawlor, a Democrat and former Connecticut House member, emphasized Merchan’s aim to curb contempt and prevent Trump from intimidating witnesses and jurors.

Lawlor elaborated on the objective of isolating Trump from his social media platform through incarceration, suggesting that imprisonment would achieve this end. He mentioned that Trump would be placed in protective custody, precluding interaction with other inmates, and limiting contact to corrections officers and his Secret Service detail.

Although Trump’s potential detention would mark an unprecedented occurrence at Rikers, Lawlor noted that the facility has experience housing high-profile individuals, including the elderly like Trump.

The former president’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, currently serves time at Rikers, having been sentenced last month for perjury during Trump’s civil fraud trial.

Moreover, Trump would undergo standard intake procedures, including physical measurements publicly recorded, Lawlor explained.

Regarding the Secret Service’s role, Lawlor emphasized their primary duty of protecting Trump from harm, suggesting that a prison setting might streamline their responsibilities.

Martin F. Horn, a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, echoed Lawlor’s sentiments, envisioning Trump’s confinement in a facility separate from other inmates to accommodate his security detail.

Nonetheless, ensuring a former president’s safety behind bars presents an unprecedented challenge for the Secret Service, according to a spokesperson for the agency.

Merchan may hesitate to incarcerate Trump for another reason, suggested Dave Aronberg, a state attorney for Palm Beach County. Aronberg implied that imprisonment might align with Trump’s narrative of victimhood, potentially bolstering his support base.

An alternative to imprisonment, proposed by former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin, involves confining Trump to a cell near the New York City courtroom where his trial unfolds, serving as a symbolic reminder of the consequences of breaching court orders.

House arrest remains a feasible option, though Merchan retains considerable discretion in determining Trump’s confinement location, Horn remarked.

Lawlor dismissed the possibility of Trump being confined to his opulent Manhattan residence, citing concerns about continued access to electronics and aides, thus facilitating defiance of court orders.

Ultimately, Merchan faces a weighty decision regarding Trump’s punishment for his repeated violations, with potential implications for both the trial’s proceedings and the broader political landscape.

Police Probe BJP Leaders Over Controversial Social Media Post

Indian authorities are investigating senior figures from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) following a controversial social media post that has stirred accusations of anti-Muslim sentiment.

The contentious animated video portrays senior leaders from the opposition Congress party favoring Muslims over marginalized communities. The depiction sparked outrage, prompting swift action from law enforcement.

Shortly after the police initiated their inquiry, the Election Commission intervened, directing the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) to remove the video, citing a breach of Indian laws. Despite this, there has been no immediate response from either X or the BJP.

The Election Commission’s intervention came after its electoral officer in Karnataka, where the video originated, had previously instructed X to take down the post. However, this directive was not promptly executed. Notably, the video surfaced just days before voting in Karnataka, which concluded recently.

This is not the first instance of such divisive content from the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has echoed similar sentiments during campaign rallies, alleging preferential treatment towards Muslims by opposition parties.

As India progresses through a general election cycle, regulations prohibit political parties from exploiting religious issues for electoral gains. Nonetheless, critics argue that PM Modi and his Hindu nationalist party are resorting to blatant Islamophobia, flouting the electoral code of conduct.

India, with its substantial Muslim population of around 200 million, has witnessed a surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric since the BJP ascended to power in 2014.

The video, initially shared on the BJP’s social media platform in Karnataka, has garnered widespread attention, accumulating over nine million views on X. It depicts caricatures of prominent Congress leaders, Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka Chief Minister K Siddaramaiah, allegedly favoring Muslims over other marginalized groups.

Following a formal complaint lodged by the Congress party with the Election Commission, the Karnataka police registered a case against BJP President JP Nadda, the party’s Karnataka chief, BY Vijayendra, and the head of its IT department, Amit Malviya.

Criticism of the video has poured in from various quarters. Congress MP Manickam Tagore condemned the BJP’s tactics, urging the Election Commission to intervene and uphold the principles of unity in a democratic setup.

British academic Nitasha Kaul likened the video to propaganda reminiscent of 1930s Germany, emphasizing its violation of election regulations.

Opposition leaders and civil society groups have decried BJP’s campaign tactics as divisive and unacceptable. Trinamool Congress MP Saket Gokhale lamented the erosion of ethical standards in the ongoing election.

Congress leader Salman Anees Soz lamented the blatant anti-Muslim sentiment propagated by the BJP.

This incident follows a similar episode where the BJP posted a misleading video on Instagram accusing the Congress of favoring Muslims over non-Muslims, further exacerbating communal tensions.

Despite facing backlash, PM Modi continues to make controversial remarks, including accusations of “vote jihad” and insinuations aligning the Congress with Pakistan’s interests.

Critics argue that such rhetoric not only violates electoral norms but also exacerbates communal tensions in the diverse fabric of Indian society.

Third Phase of Lok Sabha Polls Sees High-Stakes Voting Across 10 States and Union Territory

Voting is underway in 93 constituencies spread across 10 states and a Union Territory in the third phase of the staggered seven-round Lok Sabha polls. However, the election in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency in Jammu and Kashmir has been postponed to May 25.

Here’s a concise rundown of the key highlights in this significant event:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi exercised his franchise this morning at a polling booth in Ahmedabad. Alongside him, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel also cast their votes. The Election Commission reported a turnout of 61.45 percent as of 8 pm, although this figure is provisional and subject to change.

This phase of the election marks the conclusion of polling for more than half of the 543 parliamentary seats and could potentially signify the country’s verdict. Notably, the BJP has secured victory in the Surat seat uncontested, following the rejection of the Congress candidate’s nomination and the withdrawal of other contenders.

The Phase 3 election primarily covered areas known as BJP strongholds. In the previous 2019 elections, the BJP clinched 72 out of the 92 seats contested today, with 26 of them located in Gujarat alone.

Karnataka, another state where the BJP historically performed well, has faced challenges amidst a significant sex scandal involving its ally Janata Dal Secular. The BJP has sought to distance itself from this controversy.

In Maharashtra, where 11 out of 48 seats were up for grabs, political dynamics have been complex due to seismic shifts in recent years. Notably, the key battles included familial conflicts within the Pawar clan in Baramati, with uncle Sharad Pawar and nephew Ajit Pawar striving for dominance.

The states participating in the Phase 3 elections comprised Assam (4 seats), Bihar (5), Chhattisgarh (7), Goa (2), Gujarat (25), Karnataka (14), Madhya Pradesh (8), Maharashtra (11), Uttar Pradesh (10), West Bengal (4), and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (2).

Additionally, polling occurred in Betul, Madhya Pradesh, where the election initially scheduled for Phase 2 was postponed due to the demise of a candidate from Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party.

The postponement of the election in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag-Rajouri constituency stemmed from concerns raised by the BJP regarding adverse weather conditions. The closure of a tunnel connecting both ends of the constituency posed significant hurdles to campaigning, particularly for the BJP, which opted not to contest from this seat.

Key candidates in this phase included Union ministers Amit Shah from Gujarat’s Gandhinagar, Jyotiraditya Scindia from Guna, Madhya Pradesh, Pralhad Joshi from Karnataka’s Dharwad, and former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh.

Opposition stalwarts in the fray comprised Samajwadi Party’s Dimple Yadav from Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh; Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from Baharampur, West Bengal, and Digvijaya Singh from Rajgarh, Madhya Pradesh, along with NCP’s Supriya Sule from Maharashtra’s Baramati. AIDUF’s Badruddin Ajmal contested from Assam’s Dhubri.

The next phase of the election is scheduled for May 13, with the counting of votes set for June 4 following the conclusion of the final phase on June 1.

Republican Officials Unite to Restore Trust in Elections Amidst Growing Doubt

Amidst the buzz of Election Day last November, an incident involving a voting machine glitch in an eastern Pennsylvania county caught the attention of Gabriel Sterling, a prominent Republican election official from Georgia. With a social media following of nearly 71,000 on X platform, Sterling felt compelled to address the issue and reassure the public about the integrity of the electoral process. However, his actions were met with mixed reactions, including criticism for intervening in another state’s affairs and the perpetuation of baseless claims regarding widespread electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Despite the backlash, Sterling remained steadfast in his belief that it was the right course of action for Republican officials to defend the electoral process, emphasizing the importance of dispelling misinformation and standing up for the integrity of elections across state lines. He stressed the necessity for continuous affirmation of the legitimacy of elections, particularly in the face of mounting skepticism, especially among Republican voters, fueled by unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.

As the specter of the upcoming presidential rematch between Democratic President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump looms large, concerns persist among election officials regarding public trust in the electoral system. Trump’s repeated claims of election rigging without evidence only serve to exacerbate these concerns, further eroding confidence in the electoral process.

A poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research last year revealed that only 22% of Republicans expressed high confidence in the accuracy of vote counting. Against this backdrop, there is a growing recognition among Republican officials of the need to rebuild trust in the electoral process, not only as a moral imperative but also as a strategic necessity to ensure voter turnout.

Initiated approximately 18 months ago, a collaborative effort spearheaded by the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University and the center-right think tank R Street Institute seeks to address these challenges by fostering dialogue and developing a set of guiding principles to restore faith in elections, particularly among conservative circles. Contrary to misconceptions, the endeavor is not centered around any individual, including Trump, but rather focuses on upholding democratic values and the rule of law.

A key tenet of this initiative is the public affirmation by Republican officials of the security and integrity of elections nationwide, coupled with a commitment to refrain from sowing doubt about electoral processes in other jurisdictions. This approach is endorsed by figures like Kim Wyman, a former top election official from Washington state, who emphasizes the importance of emphasizing commonalities in election procedures across states rather than dwelling on differences.

However, navigating the delicate balance between promoting confidence in elections and respecting jurisdictional boundaries poses a challenge for some officials. While there is consensus on the need to reinforce general principles of election integrity, there is hesitation among some to comment directly on the affairs of other states, fearing that such actions may undermine trust in their own state’s electoral process.

This cautious approach is echoed by officials like Scott Schwab, the secretary of state for Kansas, who underscores the importance of maintaining trust among constituents by adhering to the confines of their role. Schwab emphasizes the critical link between public trust and the perceived integrity of elections, urging officials to exercise prudence in their public statements.

Conversely, there are voices within the Republican ranks advocating for a more proactive stance on election-related issues. Secretary of State Mac Warner of West Virginia advocates for policy reforms, such as the implementation of voter ID requirements, as a means to bolster confidence in the electoral process. Warner argues that genuine confidence stems from robust protocols rather than stifling dissent.

Similarly, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose criticizes what he views as politically motivated legal challenges and attempts to circumvent legislative frameworks governing elections. LaRose contends that transparency is key in addressing electoral shortcomings, cautioning against sensationalized narratives that undermine public trust.

Amidst these differing perspectives, Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson highlights the broader ramifications of partisan discord surrounding elections, particularly the toll it takes on election workers. Henderson stresses the importance of constructive dialogue over unfounded accusations, emphasizing the need for mutual respect and civility in public discourse.

The efforts of Republican officials to uphold the integrity of elections and restore public trust represent a multifaceted endeavor encompassing both principled advocacy and pragmatic considerations. As the nation braces for another contentious presidential election, the success of these efforts hinges on a collective commitment to democratic values and the rule of law, transcending partisan divides for the greater good of the electoral process.

Tory Turmoil: Sunak Stands Firm Despite Election Setbacks

Rishi Sunak has rebuffed calls for a change in direction following disappointing local election outcomes, asserting his ability to foster “progress” among voters prior to a general election.

In his initial response since the extent of Tory setbacks became evident, the prime minister lamented the loss of 470 councillors as “deeply disappointing”.

Critics within the Tory party have urged Sunak to steer towards the right.

However, Sunak expressed to The Times his determination to unify the party, stating, “I am determined that we will come together as a party.”

The Conservative party is reeling from a series of defeats in local elections. After the final tally on Sunday, they relinquished control of 10 councils, over 470 council seats, and suffered the symbolic defeat of West Midlands mayor Andy Street.

Additionally, the party ceded 10 Police and Crime Commissioners to Labour, posing a potentially significant setback for the Conservatives if they intend to focalize their next general election campaign on law and order.

Acknowledging for the first time that his party might be on course to lose its majority, Sunak conceded, “The local election results suggest we are heading for a hung parliament with Labour as the largest party.”

In an interview with The Times, he cautioned against the prospect of Keir Starmer leading a government backed by the SNP, Liberal Democrats, and the Greens, deeming it disastrous for Britain.

Sunak emphasized the necessity for action, asserting, “There is work to do and more progress to be made, and I am determined that we will come together as a party and show the British people we are delivering for them.”

His remarks parallel the analysis by leading psephologist Prof Michael Thrasher for Sky News, which projected that Labour would secure 294 seats in a general election.

The projection, though contested by some polling experts, extrapolated the nationwide vote share at a general election from the local election results. It operated on the assumption that voting patterns in the local elections would mirror those in a general election, notwithstanding the usual stronger performance of smaller parties and independent candidates in local elections.

Moreover, it did not factor in potential developments in Scotland, relying instead on the 2019 general election results, despite expectations of a stronger showing for Labour there this year.

Polling expert Prof Sir John Curtice noted that winning more seats in Scotland alone probably wouldn’t suffice for Labour to secure a majority. Nonetheless, he observed that the impact of Reform UK was subdued in the local elections as they contested only one in six wards. Where they did contest, there was a significant decline in the Conservative vote, indicating that they could wield greater influence in a general election, given their pledge to field candidates in every seat across England, Scotland, and Wales.

Health Minister Maria Caulfield acknowledged the caveats surrounding the projection. However, she asserted that last week’s results indicated former Conservative voters were abstaining rather than defecting to Labour, emphasizing, “they want a reason to vote for us.”

Labour refuted claims of planning alliances with other parties to form a government in the forthcoming general election, expected in the latter half of the year.

Speaking on BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Labour’s election coordinator Pat McFadden expressed confidence in his party’s prospects, citing a growing belief in victory. He hailed the party’s remarkable election outcomes, particularly the unexpected triumph in the West Midlands mayoral race.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman criticized Sunak’s strategy as ineffective, acknowledging the dismal election results for the Conservatives. However, while advocating for a rightward shift in policies to recapture disenchanted Tory voters, she stopped short of calling for Sunak’s replacement, deeming it impractical so close to a general election.

Braverman is among several conservative voices advocating for a shift to the right following the bleak local election results. Miriam Cates, co-chair of the New Conservatives group primarily comprising “red wall” MPs from the 2019 intake, urged the party to emphasize “patriotism and national security” to avoid decline.

In an op-ed for the Telegraph, Cates urged Sunak to prioritize policies that resonate domestically over those catering to an international elite, proposing measures such as substantial immigration reduction and planning law reforms to stimulate house-building.

Former lead Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost expressed skepticism about rescuing the Conservative Party from electoral defeat in the next general election, contending that Sunak must implement “more tax cuts, more spending cuts,” and a “serious assault on the burden of net zero” to salvage the party’s prospects.

Contrarily, Damian Green, chairman of the centrist One Nation Group of Conservative MPs, criticized calls for a rightward shift as irrational, pointing out that recent losses were to parties on the left.

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden stressed the need for the party to articulate a clear vision for the country rather than engaging in internal discussions, deeming it self-indulgent in the current climate

Report Reveals Surge in Democratic Support for Abortion Rights Post-Dobbs Decision

A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reveals a significant shift in Democratic voters’ attitudes towards abortion rights. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which enabled abortion restrictions nationwide, more Democrats are considering abortion a crucial voting issue.

PRRI CEO Melissa Deckman emphasized this transformation, stating, “So the salience of abortion as an issue is really different for Democratic voters this election cycle,” attributing it directly to the political and policy aftermath of Dobbs. The report also highlights a widening disparity between Republicans and Democrats regarding abortion views.

Deckman noted that the growing partisan gap is primarily driven by Democrats’ increasing support for abortion rights over the past decade, contrasting with relatively stable Republican sentiments. The study reveals a substantial rise in Democratic backing for abortion rights, with 86% of surveyed Democrats in 2023 expressing support, up from 71% in 2010. Independent voters also show growing support.

Exit polls following the Dobbs decision confirm these trends, indicating widespread backing for abortion rights across various states and an escalating number of voters prioritizing abortion as a key voting factor. Notably, women and younger voters, particularly those aged 18 to 29, exhibit heightened motivation on the issue, especially within the Democratic demographic.

Nationwide, the survey indicates that 64% of voters advocate for abortion to be mostly or always legal, while 35% favor making it mostly or always illegal. Even in states with Republican-dominated governments, the majority of voters support legal abortion, with minimal backing for complete bans.

Deckman highlighted the inconsistency between state policies and public opinion, stating, “In no state does anywhere near a majority of state residents support the banning of abortions, yet we have a policy landscape in which some states have effectively made the procedure almost impossible to access.” She underscored that the restrictive measures enacted in many Republican-controlled state legislatures do not align with the preferences of their citizens.

Trump’s Time Interview: Evasion on Election Violence, Abortion Ambiguity, Netanyahu Critique, and Detained Journalist’s Release

Former President Donald Trump didn’t rule out the potential for violence from his supporters if he isn’t elected in November, indicating it could hinge on the outcome of the presidential race.

“I don’t think we’re going to have that,” Trump, the likely GOP nominee, told Time magazine. “I think we’re going to win. And if we don’t win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election.”

These statements emerged from a comprehensive interview with Time published on Tuesday, covering a variety of topics such as abortion and the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Here are the key points from the interview:

  1. Trump’s Response to Election Conspiracies and January 6 Pardons: Initially, Trump minimized the likelihood of future political violence akin to the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack. However, he later equivocated when pressed by Time, continuing to propagate unfounded election conspiracy theories that he suggested incited the violent mob.

 

  1. Trump’s Abortion Position: Trump’s stance on abortion in the interview showcased the complexities and potential political risks of his approach, particularly regarding his reluctance to veto a federal abortion ban or to object to states penalizing women for undergoing abortions in places where it’s prohibited.

 

  1. Trump’s Critique of Netanyahu: Trump’s criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu intensified following the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. Trump blamed Netanyahu for perceived security lapses during the incursion, although he stopped short of explicitly calling for Netanyahu’s replacement.

 

  1. Calls for the Release of Evan Gershkovich: Trump tepidly supported the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia for a year on espionage charges. Trump’s restrained response mirrors his past reluctance to strongly condemn foreign leaders for their treatment of perceived political adversaries, as evidenced by his reactions to the deaths of Alexey Navalny and Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump’s comments in the Time interview reflect his continued refusal to disavow election conspiracies, his nuanced stance on abortion, his renewed criticism of Netanyahu, and his restrained response to the detainment of journalist Evan Gershkovich in Russia.

Trump’s Historic Trial: Implications for 2024 Campaign & Beyond

The inaugural criminal trial of a sitting or former U.S. president is currently underway in Manhattan, sparking discussions on the potential ramifications of a conviction for former President Trump as he gears up for another White House bid.

In the New York trial, Trump faces 34 felony charges of falsifying business records, with potential implications for his 2024 presidential campaign. Although a conviction wouldn’t automatically disqualify him from running, it could disrupt his candidacy and introduce the possibility of a convicted felon as the GOP nominee.

Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University, highlighted the significance of a potential conviction, stating, “If he happens to be convicted on 34 counts, that takes its toll even on someone like Donald Trump, who seems to be that Teflon candidate.”

The trial commenced this week in Manhattan, with jury selection marking a historic moment as the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to reach a jury. The case revolves around events during the 2016 election, particularly a $130,000 payment made by Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, to suppress her allegations of a past encounter with Trump. Trump, denying the affair, reimbursed Cohen, categorizing it as a legal expense, a move contested by the Manhattan district attorney as unlawful.

Despite the legal proceedings, Trump, having secured the delegates for the Republican nomination, retains the ability to run for federal office even if convicted. He continues to frame his legal troubles as politically motivated, asserting his innocence.

Saltzburg remarked on Trump’s unique position, noting, “He’s the only person in America who could probably be charged in four different cases and have his popularity among his base go up, because the base is already convinced that he’s affected, that he’s being targeted.”

However, a conviction would label him a felon, potentially alienating key voter demographics such as independents and law-and-order Republicans.

The sentiment is echoed in recent polls, including a Yahoo News/YouGov poll indicating that a majority of voters, including Republicans, consider the hush money case a serious offense. Another poll by Bloomberg and Morning Consult found a significant portion of swing state voters unwilling to support Trump if convicted.

Republican strategist Matthew Bartlett highlighted the clash between courtroom trials and the campaign trail, emphasizing the polarization of opinions regarding Trump’s legal issues.

The hush money case, among the four criminal indictments against Trump, stands out for its potential impact on his political future. Apart from this case, Trump faces federal charges related to mishandling classified materials post-presidency and allegations of attempting to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia.

Furthermore, a conviction could impede Trump’s ability to cast a ballot in Florida for the 2024 election, presenting a paradoxical situation for the former president.

With the trial expected to run for several weeks, Trump’s campaign must adapt to the scheduling constraints, relying on weekend events, virtual engagements, and media coverage to maintain momentum.

While Trump navigates legal challenges, President Biden must leverage the situation strategically, balancing engagement with the campaign while addressing accusations of political bias.

An acquittal in New York could strengthen Trump’s position, potentially influencing perceptions of his other legal battles and boosting his chances in the upcoming election.

However, the timeline for the trial’s conclusion remains uncertain, with potential delays and complications along the way. Democrats are hopeful that prolonged legal proceedings will deflate Trump’s campaign, allowing Biden to consolidate support.

Despite the possibility of a conviction, experts suggest that prison time is improbable in this case. Regardless, a conviction would pose significant hurdles for Trump’s political aspirations, although it wouldn’t necessarily preclude him from seeking office.

Reflecting on the unprecedented nature of the situation, experts underscore the gravity of the charges against Trump, all intertwined with his tenure as a politician. Will Thomas, a professor at the University of Michigan, remarked on the extraordinary circumstances, emphasizing the historical significance of a former president facing multiple criminal indictments.

The ongoing trial in Manhattan carries profound implications for Trump’s political future, shaping public perception and potentially altering the course of the 2024 presidential race.

President Biden Returns to Scranton Roots, Advocates Tax Fairness in Pennsylvania Campaign Tour

President Joe Biden embarked on a sentimental journey back to his childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, initiating a three-day campaign tour across the state by advocating for increased taxes on the affluent and depicting Donald Trump as disconnected from the realities of working-class America.

During his visit, Biden balanced his efforts to counter the populist allure of his Republican predecessor with moments of reflection on his past. He lingered at his former residence, where the stars and stripes fluttered gently on the porch while neighbors gathered beneath blossoming trees and a serene sky. In the backyard, he shared moments with local children, some clad in school uniforms, capturing photographs to commemorate the occasion.

Seeking to bolster his standing in a crucial swing state, Biden began his journey in Scranton, a city deeply intertwined with his political narrative. Against the backdrop of Scranton’s 75,000 residents, the president aimed to shift the dialogue surrounding the economy, which has left many Americans disenchanted amid persistent inflation and high interest rates despite low unemployment rates.

Expressing his desire for a fairer tax system that leaves more money in the pockets of ordinary Americans, Biden contrasted the perspectives of his hometown with the opulent Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where Trump resides. He emphasized his proposal for a 25% minimum tax rate for billionaires, framing taxes as investments in the nation’s future.

“Scranton values or Mar-a-Lago values,” Biden remarked, highlighting the competing economic visions in the upcoming election. He criticized decades of Republican policies that favored tax cuts for the wealthy, labeling them as detrimental to the nation’s prosperity, with Trump emblematic of this failed approach. He humorously remarked on the declining fortunes of Trump’s social media venture, Truth Social, suggesting it might fare better under his proposed tax plan.

Amidst Biden’s address, he condemned Trump’s alleged disparagement of fallen veterans as “suckers and losers,” labeling such remarks as disqualifying for presidential leadership. Later, addressing grassroots organizers at a union hall, Biden stressed the importance of traditional political engagement, emphasizing the necessity of door-to-door outreach.

Throughout his itinerary, Biden’s roots in Scranton were celebrated, with enthusiastic crowds lining the streets to greet his motorcade. Instances of opposition, mainly concerning Biden’s stance on Israel’s military actions in Gaza, were limited.

Reflecting on Biden’s ties to Scranton, local officials praised his enduring connection to the community, portraying him as a leader who remains mindful of his upbringing. As Biden took the stage at the community center, chants of “four more years” reverberated through the crowd, prompting the president to jest about returning home, indicating that he was already there.

Scranton, described by political analyst Christopher Borick as a symbol in American politics, serves as a litmus test for Biden’s electoral appeal. While it aligns with the populist wave of the Republican Party, Biden secured victory in the city and surrounding areas in 2020. Repeating this success in 2024, coupled with minimizing Trump’s margins in rural areas, could pave the way for another triumph in Pennsylvania.

Acknowledging the rising cost of living under Biden’s administration, Republican representatives expressed skepticism about the efficacy of scripted appearances in addressing economic concerns. Trump’s tax cuts in 2017, skewed in favor of the wealthy, are set to expire in 2025, prompting Biden’s push for their extension alongside plans to generate $4.9 trillion in revenue over a decade through higher taxes on the affluent and corporations, including a proposed “billionaire’s tax.”

Biden’s campaign in Pennsylvania coincides with the commencement of Trump’s inaugural criminal trial, presenting both opportunities and challenges for Democrats. While Biden’s team views the contrast between Trump’s legal entanglements and his focus on economic issues favorably, the trial’s potential to monopolize national attention poses a complication.

Despite the backdrop of Trump’s legal woes, Biden refrained from direct mention, opting instead to emphasize the values instilled in him during his upbringing in Scranton, where wealth does not determine one’s worth.

Political Earthquake: Biden and Trump Neck-and-Neck as Voter Demographics Shift

A seismic event rocked the Northeast last Friday, as a 4.8 magnitude earthquake jolted the region. Yet, beneath the surface, there are signs of political tremors brewing.

According to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, President Biden and former President Donald Trump find themselves in a statistical dead heat, with Biden holding a slight 2-point advantage at 50% to Trump’s 48%.

The proximity of the race between these two well-known figures might suggest a locked-in voter base, given their previous showdown. However, the survey reveals that approximately 40% of respondents remain open to changing their allegiance.

Moreover, shifts are occurring within key demographic groups. Young voters, Latinos, and independents are either wavering in their support for Biden or remain undecided. Conversely, there’s a noticeable sway towards Biden among older voters and college-educated white voters, particularly men.

These demographic shifts could potentially reshape the electoral map. Democrats are eyeing gains in Sun Belt states like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Mexico, where growing diversity and fewer blue-collar white voters offer opportunities. Meanwhile, Republicans may strengthen their hold in parts of the industrial Midwest.

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, remarks on the significance of these trends, noting, “We’re in the beginnings of a seismic shift in the nature of our parties…where does that end up and where are we in 10 years with these trends?”

Analyzing data from Marist’s survey alongside 2020 exit polls, notable shifts emerge within various demographic groups:

– College-educated white men: Biden leads by 21 points in 2024 compared to Trump’s 3-point lead in 2020, marking a significant shift in Biden’s favor.

– College-educated white voters overall: Biden holds a 24-point lead in 2024, compared to his 3-point lead in 2020.

– College-educated white women: Biden leads by 28 points in 2024, compared to his 9-point lead in 2020.

– Over 45: Biden leads by 6 points in 2024, reversing Trump’s 3-point lead in 2020.

– Under 45: Trump holds a 1-point lead in 2024, a significant shift from Biden’s 14-point lead in 2020.

– Independents: Trump leads by 7 points in 2024, a reversal from Biden’s 13-point lead in 2020.

– Nonwhite: Biden leads by 11 points in 2024, a substantial decrease from his 45-point lead in 2020.

The trend of college-educated white voters gravitating towards the Democratic Party continues. Trump’s 2016 victory largely relied on white voters without college degrees, but Biden’s appeal among educated white voters remains strong.

The survey highlights the salience of immigration and racial issues in GOP politics, with a significant majority of Republicans favoring the deportation of migrants and expressing concerns about perceived discrimination against white Americans.

Despite Biden’s current lead in the polls, there’s a need for a broader margin to secure an Electoral College victory, as emphasized by Miringoff.

However, Biden faces challenges in retaining key groups that supported him in 2020. Independents and young voters have expressed disapproval of his administration’s performance, particularly regarding his handling of the Gaza conflict.

Furthermore, support among nonwhite voters, especially Latinos and young Black voters, has waned. In the survey, 56% of Latinos disapprove of Biden’s performance, while younger Black voters show a significant divide from older counterparts.

The emergence of third-party candidates, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., poses additional challenges. Kennedy attracts 11% support in the poll, drawing from disenchanted voters across demographics.

The Biden campaign acknowledges the importance of swaying undecided voters away from third-party options, viewing a second Trump presidency as a pressing concern. However, regaining support, particularly among young voters and Latinos, remains an uphill battle, with lingering discontent over Biden’s policies.

While the campaign seeks to leverage its financial resources through organized efforts and TV ads, the shifting dynamics among voters, particularly within white, college-educated demographics, could potentially offset the need for replicating 2020 support levels among young people and Latinos.

Speculation Abounds as Former President Trump Considers Running Mate: Does It Really Matter?

Speculation abounds regarding the potential selection of a running mate by former President Trump. The question looms: does this choice hold significant sway? Given Trump’s extraordinary polarizing nature, the impact of his running mate on shifting voters’ opinions is likely minimal. Trump’s dominant persona tends to overshadow anyone sharing the ticket with him.

Nonetheless, Trump is certain to exploit the search for a vice presidential candidate for its publicity and suspense. In a statement to Fox News’s Martha MacCallum in January, Trump hinted at having a pick in mind but refrained from disclosing further details. According to Politico, Trump’s staff members are actively vetting potential candidates as he discusses a wide array of names in private.

Despite these maneuvers, the peculiar dynamics of the 2024 political landscape remain unchanged. For the first time in roughly 130 years, a major party is poised to nominate a previously defeated ex-president.

Statistics regarding Trump’s favorability underscore the skepticism surrounding the potential impact of his choice of running mate. According to an Economist/YouGov poll, a mere 3 percent of Americans express no opinion on Trump. The overwhelming majority either hold very favorable or very unfavorable views, leaving little room for significant shifts in opinion based on his vice presidential choice.

Longtime Florida GOP operative John “Mac” Stipanovich echoed this sentiment, stating, “My hot take is that it doesn’t matter… Every mother’s son and daughter already has an opinion about Donald Trump and will vote accordingly.” Stipanovich’s stance reflects the entrenched positions of both supporters and detractors of the former president.

Despite such skepticism, speculation persists regarding potential candidates for Trump’s running mate and the eagerness with which some individuals seek the position. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina has emerged as a staunch Trump supporter, even after his own bid for the GOP nomination earlier this year. Similarly, Senator JD Vance of Ohio and Representative Elise Stefanik of New York have undergone notable transformations from former critics to fervent supporters of Trump.

Stefanik is among several women reportedly under consideration for the role, along with Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, now Governor of Arkansas. However, more controversial figures such as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, former Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and Kari Lake, a former TV anchor from Arizona, also feature in discussions, albeit as long-shot contenders.

Speculation abounds regarding whether selecting a female running mate could bolster Trump’s support among suburban women, a demographic with whom he has historically struggled. However, this notion is met with skepticism due to concerns about potential alienation of voters and the overriding influence of substantive issues like abortion.

In the 2016 election, Mike Pence was chosen, in part, to reassure evangelical voters—a demographic that appears firmly in Trump’s camp today. Consequently, the necessity for such reassurance may be diminished.

While some insiders argue for the significance of selecting an effective campaigner as a running mate, particularly in terms of amplifying the campaign’s message and responding to attacks, others emphasize the potential advantages of choosing a candidate from a battleground state.

However, few of the individuals frequently mentioned as potential running mates for Trump hail from true battlegrounds. The exception is Kari Lake, though her previous electoral defeat in Arizona casts doubt on her potential to sway the state in Trump’s favor.

Despite ongoing speculation, Democrats dismiss the significance of Trump’s choice of running mate, attributing any potential electoral outcomes primarily to Trump himself. Democratic commentator Bakari Sellers asserted, “It’s Trump who prevents a better image.”

As the veepstakes chatter persists, Trump is likely to prolong the suspense surrounding his potential pick. Nevertheless, it remains doubtful whether any candidate could significantly alter the course of the race.

Battle for Battlegrounds: Biden and Trump Vie for Key States in Tight Election Race

The rivalry intensifies between President Biden and former President Trump as they gear up for the general election campaign for the White House.

Biden and Trump both clinched their party nominations last month, but the road ahead promises to be challenging as they square off in a rematch of the 2020 race. With the election poised to be closely contested, the outcome hinges on a handful of battleground states.

Biden secured most of these crucial states during his victory four years ago. However, recent polls indicate Trump leading in these battlegrounds.

Arizona:

In 2020, Biden flipped Arizona, a historic win as the state hadn’t favored a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996. This year, with 11 electoral votes up for grabs, the state remains a pivotal battleground, particularly given concerns over immigration. Trump maintains a lead in polls, posing a challenge for Biden to retain the state, especially with a potential rightward shift among Hispanic voters.

Georgia:

Similarly, Biden’s victory in Georgia in 2020 marked a significant win, breaking a decades-long Republican stronghold. However, recent polls show Trump ahead, albeit with narrow margins. Biden’s challenge lies in rallying Black voters, a crucial demographic that played a pivotal role in his previous win.

Michigan:

Michigan, part of the Democratic stronghold in the Midwest, saw Biden win by a slim margin in 2020. However, Trump now leads in polls, complicating Biden’s path to victory. Biden faces challenges in winning over union workers and Arab American voters, particularly due to concerns over inflation and foreign policy.

Nevada:

Nevada, traditionally Democratic-leaning, has been a closely contested state in recent elections. Trump leads in polls, albeit marginally. Biden’s support among Latino voters will be crucial in maintaining the state in his favor.

North Carolina:

Despite Democratic efforts, North Carolina has remained elusive, with Trump leading in recent polls. Biden’s campaign focuses on narrowing the gap, particularly by targeting Black and Latino populations.

Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes make it a crucial battleground. While Trump won the state narrowly in 2016, Biden reclaimed it in 2020. Recent polls indicate a close race, with neither candidate holding a significant lead.

Wisconsin:

Biden’s narrow win in Wisconsin in 2020 underscores its importance in the battleground landscape. Trump leads in polls, albeit marginally. However, Biden remains optimistic, considering Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as sources of hope.

As the candidates gear up for the election, the battle for these key battleground states intensifies, setting the stage for a closely watched showdown between Biden and Trump.

Biden’s Transgender Day Proclamation Sparks Christian Criticism

Critics lambasted President Biden on Saturday for designating March 31, coinciding with Easter Sunday this year, as Transgender Day of Visibility.

The White House released a statement on Friday, with President Biden declaring, “I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., president of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2024, as Transgender Day of Visibility.”

The proclamation urged all Americans to support transgender individuals and strive to eradicate violence and discrimination against them, including those who are gender nonconforming or nonbinary.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, criticized Biden’s announcement as part of what he deemed the “administration’s years-long assault on the Christian faith.”

Karoline Leavitt, Trump’s national press secretary, demanded an apology from Biden’s campaign and the White House to the millions of Catholics and Christians who view Easter Sunday solely as a day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christian scholars also dismissed the proclamation, with Chad C. Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University, remarking, “In my expert theological opinion, Mr. Biden has repeatedly demonstrated that he’s far more committed to the progressive faith than the Catholic one.”

Conservative radio host Larry O’Connor reacted satirically, exclaiming, “HE/SHE/THEY/ZE IS RISEN!”

Governor Hochul of New York followed suit by issuing her own proclamation in line with Biden’s announcement.

However, Biden’s consistent focus on transgender representation has often led to controversy.

In June, Rose Montoya, a transgender influencer, sparked outrage after revealing her prosthetic breasts at a Pride celebration on the White House South Lawn.

Sam Brinton, a nonbinary former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Energy, faced dismissal from the administration and subsequent arrest for involvement in a series of luggage thefts at airports.

Furthermore, the Biden Administration has made efforts to minimize Christian elements from official celebrations.

For instance, at the 2024 White House Easter Egg Roll held on Monday, children of the National Guard were prohibited from submitting designs with religious themes. A flyer for the event stipulated, “The submission must not include any questionable content, religious symbols, overtly religious themes, or partisan political statements.”

Easter typically occurs between March 22 and April 25 each year.

Trump Media’s Truth Social Plummets Over 21% in Stock Value Amid Regulatory Concerns

Trump Media & Technology Group (DJT), the parent company overseeing Donald Trump’s social media venture Truth Social, experienced a significant decline of over 21% in its stock value on Monday, marking a notable downturn following its highly anticipated debut the prior week.

Closing at $48.66 on Monday, Trump Media boasted a market capitalization of $6.65 billion, translating to a stake of $3.8 billion for the former president. This figure represents a decline from Trump’s initial stake, which stood at slightly over $4.5 billion after the company’s public introduction last week.

The drop in stock value coincided with an updated regulatory filing released early Monday, shedding light on substantial losses incurred by the company and emphasizing heightened risks associated with its association with the former president.

The filing disclosed that Trump Media recorded sales slightly surpassing $4 million, juxtaposed with net losses nearing $60 million for the full fiscal year ending December 31. The company cautioned investors to anticipate continued losses amidst escalating challenges in achieving profitability.

“Trump Media & Technology Group has historically incurred operating losses and negative cash flows from operating activities,” the filing highlighted.

Moreover, Truth Social, despite attracting approximately 9 million users since its inception, remains heavily reliant on the reputation and popularity of Donald Trump for its success.

The regulatory filing underscored that Trump Media could face elevated risks compared to conventional social media platforms due to its unique offerings and the involvement of the former president. Potential risks encompassed advertiser harassment and scrutiny of Truth Social’s content moderation practices.

“The value of Trump Media & Technology Group’s brand may diminish if the popularity of President Trump were to suffer,” the filing cautioned.

Of significant note, Trump Media acknowledged its heavy dependence on advertising, with ad sales constituting a substantial portion of its revenue stream. Concerns were raised that a decrease in user numbers or engagement, potentially triggered by the departure of prominent individuals and entities who contribute content to Truth Social, could deter advertisers and adversely impact the company’s financial performance.

The filing further disclosed that stakeholders remain subject to a six-month lockup period before being permitted to sell or transfer shares. This lockup period, however, could offer a window of opportunity for the former president, who is contending with financial challenges, including a $454 million fraud penalty and fundraising deficits ahead of a potential 2024 election rematch against Biden.

The sole exception to the lockup period would entail a special dispensation granted by the company’s board, though such a move is likely to be met with legal challenges from public shareholders, according to experts cited by Yahoo Finance.

Trump Media made its public debut on the Nasdaq following a merger with special purpose acquisition company Digital World Acquisition Corp., a transaction endorsed by shareholders in late February.

The genesis of Truth Social stemmed from Donald Trump’s removal from major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter—referred to as X—following the events of the January 6 Capitol riots in 2021. Despite subsequently regaining access to these platforms, Trump embarked on establishing Truth Social as an alternative.

In its filing, Truth Social reaffirmed its mission to serve as a sanctuary for “cancelled” content creators and foster an environment conducive to unrestricted discourse, devoid of censorship or cancellation due to political affiliations.

New York Appeals Court Grants Trump Temporary Reprieve in $454 Million Fraud Case

A New York appeals court has granted former President Donald Trump a temporary reprieve from the collection of his $454 million civil fraud judgment, provided he can put up $175 million within the next ten days.

The court’s decision allows Trump to halt the collection process and shields his assets from seizure by the state while he pursues his appeal. Additionally, the court suspended other aspects of the trial judge’s ruling, which had banned Trump and his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. from holding corporate leadership positions for several years.

This ruling represents a significant legal victory for the former president as he defends his real estate empire, which has been central to his public persona. The timing is crucial, coming just before New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, was set to initiate efforts to enforce the judgment.

Trump, who was attending a separate hearing regarding his criminal hush money case in New York, expressed satisfaction with the ruling and pledged to meet the financial requirements set by the court. He criticized the trial judge, Arthur Engoron, for what he perceived as unfair treatment and argued that the fraud case was detrimental to business interests in New York.

While Trump celebrated the court’s decision, James’ office emphasized that the judgment against him remains valid despite the temporary pause in collection efforts.

Trump’s legal team had petitioned the appeals court to halt the collection, citing difficulties in securing an underwriter for a bond covering the substantial sum owed, which continues to accrue interest. Although the court rejected their initial proposal for a $100 million bond, it has now provided a pathway for Trump to delay collection by requiring a $175 million bond.

The ruling was issued by a five-judge panel in the state’s intermediate appeals court, known as the Appellate Division, where Trump is challenging Engoron’s ruling issued on February 16.

Engoron’s decision followed a lengthy civil trial in which he sided with the attorney general, finding that Trump, his company, and top executives had misrepresented Trump’s wealth on financial documents, deceiving lenders and insurers. For instance, the valuation of Trump’s penthouse was inflated to nearly three times its actual worth.

Trump and his co-defendants have denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the financial statements were conservative estimates and were not taken at face value by lenders or insurers. They asserted that any discrepancies were inadvertent errors made by subordinates.

The court’s decision to require Trump to post a $175 million bond effectively puts the collection of the judgment on hold, including obligations for Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr., who were ordered to pay smaller amounts.

Following James’ victory in the trial, there was a legal hiatus during which Trump could appeal for relief from payment enforcement. However, this period ended with the recent court ruling.

While James has not disclosed specific plans for seizing Trump’s assets, she has indicated a willingness to pursue various avenues, including bank accounts, investment holdings, and properties such as the Trump Tower penthouse, aircraft, office buildings, and golf courses.

The process of liquidating such substantial assets could prove challenging, according to legal experts, given the magnitude of Trump’s holdings and the complexities involved in finding buyers.

Under New York law, filing an appeal typically does not forestall judgment enforcement, but posting a bond covering the owed amount triggers an automatic pause in collection efforts. Bonds of this magnitude are rare, according to legal analysts, particularly when the individual is required to secure it personally.

Trump’s legal team had encountered difficulties in securing an underwriter for the bond, which was reportedly set at 120% of the judgment amount. They argued against tying up significant liquid assets, including cash and stocks, which are crucial for the operation of Trump’s business ventures.

The court’s decision to require a lower bond amount represents a compromise between the parties, providing Trump with a temporary respite from collection while ensuring some financial security for potential creditors.

Poll Shows Biden Leads Trump Nationally, but Third-Party Candidates Alter Dynamics

In a recent national survey, President Biden holds a slight lead over former President Trump, but the inclusion of independent and third-party contenders alters the landscape, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday.

The poll indicates that in a direct face-off between the primary nominees of the major parties, Biden stands at 48 percent support while Trump trails closely at 45 percent. These figures depict a marginal shift from February’s numbers, where Biden led Trump by a 49-45 percent margin.

However, the survey illuminates the potential threat to Biden’s position posed by alternative candidates. When the inquiry extends to encompass independent nominee Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and third-party contenders Jill Stein and Cornel West, Trump manages to edge past Biden, holding a 39-38 lead. Kennedy Jr. secures 13 percent support, with Stein at 4 percent and West at 3 percent, as per the poll.

Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy remarks on the tight contest, stating, “Way too close to call on the head-to-head and even closer when third-party candidates are counted.” Malloy emphasizes the proximity of the race despite the months remaining until the election, dubbing it “about as close as it can get.”

The survey, conducted from March 21-25, sampled 1,407 registered voters across the nation, with a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.

These findings echo the growing indication that Trump and Biden are gearing up for a closely contested general election. Another poll focusing on battleground states, released the previous day, illustrates Biden’s narrowing the gap on Trump, even taking the lead in Wisconsin.

In parallel, on Tuesday, Kennedy Jr. disclosed his selection of attorney and entrepreneur Nicole Shanahan as his running mate, a decision poised to provide both financial support and assistance in navigating ballot access requirements in states mandating a running mate.

However, this move has elicited criticism from Democrats, who accuse Kennedy of inadvertently aiding the GOP by persisting in his candidacy against Biden.

Donald Trump’s Historic Trial: Jury Selection Set for April 15 in Criminal Hush Money Case

The commencement of jury selection in the criminal trial regarding hush money linked to Donald Trump is scheduled to commence on April 15, as determined by a New York judge on Monday. This trial marks a significant event in United States history, being the first criminal prosecution of a former President. Judge Juan M. Merchan issued the ruling despite objections from Trump’s legal team, who sought a postponement due to the late submission of over 100,000 pages of potential evidence by federal prosecutors. Merchan asserted that Trump had been allotted a reasonable period for preparation, dismissing the delay request while Trump was present in the courtroom.

Originally slated to commence on Monday, the trial in Manhattan concerns allegations of falsifying business records to conceal a sex scandal involving adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the final stages of the 2016 election campaign. However, the trial was rescheduled to mid-April following the belated submission of additional documents by federal prosecutors. Merchan absolved Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office of responsibility for the tardy document production from the U.S. Attorney’s office, allowing the case to proceed to trial next month, thus ensuring a court date well in advance of the November election.

Trump denounced the case as “a witch hunt” and “a hoax” upon his arrival at the courtroom on Monday, and later expressed intentions to appeal the judge’s decision to commence the trial in April. Maintaining his plea of not guilty to all 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal payments orchestrated by his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, Trump positioned himself for a legal battle where Cohen is anticipated to serve as the principal witness against him.

Voicing his grievances, Trump asserted, “This case should have been brought three and a half years ago, they decided to wait now just during the election, so that I won’t be able to campaign.” He underscored his determination to challenge the ruling through an appeal.

While Trump faces four criminal cases amid his bid for a return to the White House, the Manhattan trial stands as the sole case with an established trial date. Legal analysts speculate that the hush money case could present the most substantial possibility of a felony conviction among Trump’s four criminal charges before the November election.

Biden Unveils Ambitious Regulations to Drive Electric Vehicle Adoption in US

President Joe Biden has unveiled the most stringent regulations on vehicle exhaust emissions ever seen in the United States, aiming to hasten the automotive industry’s transition to electric vehicles. The initiative sets a goal for 56% of all new vehicles sold in the US to be electric by 2032, a significant increase from current levels. While this objective represents a compromise from last year’s draft, the Biden administration asserts that it will still significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the regulation announced on Wednesday is projected to prevent 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next three decades. The new regulation progressively tightens the limits on pollution allowed from vehicle exhausts on a yearly basis, with car manufacturers facing substantial fines if they fail to meet the new standards. However, companies will still retain the ability to produce gasoline-powered vehicles, provided they constitute a diminishing proportion of their overall product lineup.

In contrast to the European Union and the UK, which have committed to prohibiting the sale of petrol-powered cars from 2035 onwards, the United States is adopting a more measured approach. Last year, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak postponed the British ban by five years from its initial deadline of 2030. The American automotive industry raised concerns over the slower growth in electric vehicle (EV) sales, particularly objecting to a draft proposal from last year that would have mandated EVs to comprise 67% of all new car sales by 2032. Notably, EVs accounted for less than 8% of total new car sales last year. While the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade association representing the car industry, appreciated the slower pace of implementation, it deemed the objective still “extraordinarily ambitious.” Environmental organizations generally welcomed the regulation, although some activists expressed disappointment that it didn’t go further.

However, the new rules are anticipated to encounter legal challenges from the oil industry and states led by Republicans, possibly culminating in a Supreme Court decision. This policy underscores the delicate political balancing act President Biden must navigate. As he campaigns for re-election against Republican opponent Donald Trump, Biden aims to court car workers in Michigan, a potentially decisive swing state, while simultaneously addressing climate change, a critical issue for many Democrats. Trump has vowed to reverse environmental regulations enacted by Biden if he wins in November. Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, criticized the regulations, arguing that they would compel Americans to purchase prohibitively expensive cars they neither desire nor can afford, ultimately harming the US auto industry in the process. Last year, the average sale price of an EV was approximately $53,500, around $5,000 more expensive than petrol-powered cars, whereas the average annual salary in the US stands at roughly $59,000.

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson also condemned the policy, characterizing it as “another radical, anti-energy crusade” that will restrict consumer options, escalate costs for American families, and devastate auto manufacturers.

Biden Signs $1.2 Trillion Funding Bill into Law, Completing Federal Agency Funding for Fiscal Year

President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion legislation into law on Saturday, completing the funding of federal agencies through the fiscal year, which concludes on September 30.

The House approved the package on Friday, followed by the Senate passing it early Saturday morning.

The comprehensive bill addresses various critical government operations, spanning across departments such as Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, State, and the legislative branch.

Expressing his views on the legislation, Biden, who received the bill in Wilmington, Delaware on Saturday, described it as a “compromise,” emphasizing that it brings “good news for the American people.”

“This agreement represents a compromise, which means neither side got everything it wanted,” Biden stated, highlighting its rejection of “extreme cuts from House Republicans” while emphasizing investments in child care, cancer research, and mental health.

Additionally, Biden noted the inclusion of “resources to secure the border that my Administration successfully fought to include.”

While signing the bill, Biden urged Congress to continue its legislative efforts, stressing that their “work isn’t finished.” He called upon the House to “pass the bipartisan national security supplemental to advance our national security interests” and urged both chambers to pass the bipartisan border security bill his administration has negotiated, referring to it as “the toughest and fairest reforms in decades.”

“It’s time to get this done,” Biden added.

The enactment of this legislation signifies a significant moment on Capitol Hill, bringing to a close an annual appropriations process that has extended far beyond the usual timeframe. The process has been marked by partisan policy disputes and a historic shift in House leadership after conservatives ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in an unprecedented vote last year.

This legislation constitutes the second segment of a two-tiered government funding process. An earlier six-bill funding package, signed into law earlier this month, encompassed funding for various departments including Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, military construction, and other federal programs.

Mike Pence Declines to Endorse Trump for 2024, Citing Differences in Conservative Values

Former Vice President Mike Pence has made a significant announcement, opting not to endorse his former running mate, ex-President Trump. The revelation, unveiled on Friday, underscores the strain in their relationship following the tumultuous events of January 6th, where Trump publicly blamed Pence for not returning disputed electoral slates to state legislatures during his role as Senate president.

In an interview on “The Story,” Pence expressed his decision, noting, “It should come as no surprise that I will not be endorsing Donald Trump this year.” Despite this, he maintained pride in the achievements of their administration, highlighting its conservative agenda that he believes enhanced America’s prosperity, security, and judicial landscape.

Reflecting on his own bid for the presidency and the subsequent differences with Trump, Pence reiterated his interpretation of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, stating, “[We have] our differences on my constitutional duties that I exercised on January 6 [2021].”

Pence criticized Trump’s 2024 campaign stance, alleging deviations from conservative principles such as fiscal responsibility and the sanctity of life. He particularly singled out Trump’s recent remarks concerning China and his opposition to banning TikTok, marking a departure from his previous stance as president.

Trump’s shifting position on TikTok, seen in light of his criticism of the Gallagher-Krishnamoorthi TikTok bill, was met with Pence’s skepticism. Pence emphasized his perception of Trump’s divergent agenda, which he believes contradicts their past governance aligned with conservative values.

Speculation arose regarding Trump’s ties to ByteDance through one of its major shareholders, Jeffrey Yass, amid his changing stance on TikTok. However, Trump denied discussing TikTok with Yass, stating that their conversation revolved around school choice instead.

Despite his decision not to endorse Trump, Pence acknowledged the preference of Republican voters for Trump’s candidacy. He reiterated his commitment to advocating for the traditional conservative platform that has historically defined the party’s principles.

In response to queries about a potential third-party run, Pence reaffirmed his loyalty to the Republican Party, dismissing such speculation with a simple assertion: “I’m a Republican, Martha.”

Lastly, Pence clarified that regardless of his stance on Trump, he would not support President Biden in any scenario, maintaining secrecy about his voting intentions.

Pence’s decision not to endorse Trump reflects the ongoing tensions within the Republican Party and highlights the struggle to maintain ideological unity following the events of January 6th.

Trump Warns of ‘Most Important’ Election in U.S. History, Biden Counters with Democracy’s ‘Unprecedented’ Threats

At a rally in Ohio over the weekend, Donald Trump emphasized the significance of the upcoming presidential election, labeling it as potentially the most crucial moment in American history. He portrayed his candidacy as pivotal for the nation’s trajectory. Trump’s remarks, following his confirmation as the presumptive Republican nominee, included a forewarning of dire consequences if he fails to secure victory, albeit the context behind his mention of a “bloodbath” remained ambiguous, intertwined with comments regarding challenges to the US auto industry.

“The date — remember this, November 5 — I believe it’s going to be the most important date in the history of our country,” Trump reiterated to his supporters in Vandalia, Ohio, reiterating familiar criticisms of his opponent, President Joe Biden, branding him as the “worst” president.

He raised concerns over alleged Chinese intentions to manufacture cars in Mexico for the American market, asserting confidently, “They’re not going to be able to sell those cars if I get elected.”

“If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole, that’s going to be the least of it, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the country. That’ll be the least of it. But they’re not going to sell those cars,” Trump added.

Trump’s remarks sparked discussions on social media, prompting Biden’s campaign to release a statement characterizing the former president as a “loser” in the 2020 election who now exacerbates concerns with his hints of political upheaval.

“He wants another January 6, but the American people are going to give him another electoral defeat this November because they continue to reject his extremism, his affection for violence, and his thirst for revenge,” Biden’s campaign responded, alluding to the deadly Capitol riot in 2021.

Later, Biden addressed concerns at a dinner in Washington, highlighting the current historical moment as “unprecedented” and stressing the threats faced by democracy.

“Freedom is under assault… The lies about the 2020 election, the plot to overturn it, to embrace the Jan. 6 insurrection pose the greatest threat to our democracy since the American Civil War,” Biden expressed, reflecting on the persistent challenges.

“In 2020, they failed, but … the threat remains,” he added, maintaining a serious tone but interjecting moments of levity as he dismissed doubts about his age and fitness for a second term.

“One candidate’s too old and mentally unfit to be president,” Biden quipped, referring to the presidential race. “The other guy’s me.”

Earlier in the month, both Trump and Biden secured enough delegates to clinch their party nominations for the 2024 presidential race, virtually ensuring a rematch and setting the stage for an extensive campaign period.

Trump’s campaign agenda includes a broad overhaul of what he deems as Biden’s problematic immigration policies, despite his successful efforts to block a bill in Congress that proposed stringent border security measures.

Over the weekend, Trump revisited the issue of immigration, particularly targeting minority voters who traditionally lean Democratic. He accused Biden of betraying African American voters by granting work permits to “millions” of immigrants, cautioning that they, along with Hispanic Americans, would bear the brunt of the consequences.

Ohio, historically regarded as a crucial swing state, has leaned increasingly towards the Republican Party since Trump’s victory in 2016.

The rally in Ohio occurred shortly after Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, announced that he would not be endorsing Trump for a second term in the White House.

Trump’s Favorability Remains Low Despite Nearing Republican Nomination

Recent polling indicates that Donald Trump continues to face low favorability ratings among Americans, despite emerging as the probable Republican nominee following his success in the primaries and the withdrawal of his sole remaining rival.

According to a survey conducted by ABC News/Ipsos among 536 U.S. adults on March 8-9, only 29 percent hold a favorable view of the former president, while a majority of 59 percent view him unfavorably.

Trump’s dominance in the primaries, where he secured all but one victory on Super Tuesday, prompted former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley to exit the race, leaving him uncontested. However, his favorability rating has seen little change since last summer, remaining around 30 percent.

The survey also compared Trump’s popularity with that of President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Biden’s favorability rating stands at 33 percent, slightly higher than Trump’s, with 54 percent viewing him unfavorably.

Both candidates have struggled to gain widespread approval, with more people disapproving of them than approving. This trend has persisted across various polls, indicating a challenge in rallying voter support.

Regarding trust in their presidential capabilities, 36 percent of respondents believed Trump would do a better job compared to 33 percent for Biden, while 30 percent had no preference for either candidate.

The race between Trump and Biden remains tight in national polls, with only a small margin separating them. However, Trump faces legal challenges as he becomes the first former president to undergo four criminal trials, which he claims are politically motivated.

Meanwhile, concerns over Biden’s age and mental acuity have surfaced, with critics questioning his fitness for another term. Despite being the oldest serving president in U.S. history at 81, Biden has dismissed such concerns, asserting that his “memory is fine” and he knows “what the hell” he’s doing.

Polling data also indicates that nearly half of U.S. adults consider Trump too old for another term, raising questions about his ability to lead. Additionally, Biden has faced criticism for his handling of issues such as undocumented immigration and the Israel-Hamas conflict, with around two-thirds of voters disapproving of his approach.

Despite these challenges, political analysts suggest that Biden’s support base may reluctantly back him to prevent a Trump victory, particularly concerning sensitive issues like the Gaza conflict.

Biden Unveils Budget Proposal: Tax Hikes for Corporations, Benefits for Middle Class

President Biden is set to reveal his budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year on Monday, proposing tax hikes for major corporations and advocating for a minimum 25 percent tax rate for billionaires.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2025, as outlined by the White House, aims to slash the federal deficit by approximately $3 trillion over a decade primarily through increased taxation on the wealthiest Americans and corporate entities. Additionally, the budget seeks to tighten regulations on corporate profit distribution.

A spokesperson from the White House noted that the budget aims to decrease taxes for numerous low- and middle-income households, alongside initiatives to reduce the expenses associated with childcare, prescription medications, housing, and utilities.

Furthermore, the proposal includes provisions to fortify Medicare and Social Security, aligning with several other administration priorities such as allocating funds to combat climate change, support small businesses, implement national paid leave policies, and advance cancer research.

In many respects, the upcoming proposal mirrors last year’s budget put forth by the White House, which also targeted a $3 trillion deficit reduction, intensified taxes for billionaires, and heightened the Medicare tax for individuals earning over $400,000 annually.

Traditionally, budget requests do not translate directly into law, and Biden’s proposal will likely follow suit, given the Republican control in the House and the Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate.

However, the submission will hold significant weight in the discussions revolving around raising the debt ceiling and financing government operations this year. Additionally, it will serve as a pivotal messaging tool for the White House as Biden pursues reelection.

During his recent State of the Union address and subsequent campaign appearances in Pennsylvania and Georgia, the president highlighted his administration’s strides in deficit reduction, dismissing notions that former President Trump could effectively address the national debt.

Biden has consistently pledged to safeguard Medicare and Social Security, a cornerstone of his appeal to voters, adamantly stating his intention to veto any congressional endeavors aimed at reducing these programs.

Although Trump, presumed to be Biden’s adversary in the forthcoming election, has publicly declared his commitment to maintaining Social Security and Medicare, his budget proposals during his tenure featured reductions in these programs.

President Biden’s Reelection Campaign Launches Youth Outreach Initiative: Students for Biden-Harris

President Biden’s reelection campaign is embarking on a new endeavor, introducing a fresh initiative aimed at connecting with young Americans as the general election approaches. The campaign is rolling out Students for Biden-Harris, a program centered on assembling a substantial volunteer base of youthful supporters through various student-led organizations across the country. This move coincides with the potential pivotal role that Gen Z and younger millennials, individuals under 30, might play in the upcoming 2024 presidential race.

Eve Levenson, the Director of Youth Engagement for the campaign, emphasized the significance of this initiative, stating, “This is the primary way for a student to get involved right now,” as reported by NPR. Students for Biden-Harris marks the formal commencement of a youth outreach strategy spearheaded by Levenson. The launch initiates a vigorous recruitment drive for volunteers, with subsequent plans to aid students in establishing chapters or presence in their high schools and colleges, fostering collaboration with these volunteers throughout the electoral cycle.

The campaign is pursuing multiple avenues to engage with young people in anticipation of the election. Among these efforts is “relational organizing,” where volunteers are equipped with campaign materials to directly reach out to individuals in their communities. This approach will be integral to both Students for Biden-Harris and other endeavors targeting young people beyond college campuses.

Furthermore, the announcement follows closely on the heels of the Biden campaign’s recent launch of an affiliated TikTok account, a move perceived as a nod to the app’s popularity among younger Americans. Despite this outreach, the White House is advocating for legislation that would effectively ban TikTok under its current ownership by the Chinese company ByteDance.

While Gen Z and younger millennials largely supported Biden in 2020, securing their support in the upcoming election isn’t assured. According to the latest Harvard Youth Poll, voters under 30 are displaying diminished enthusiasm compared to four years ago. Despite substantial turnout in recent major elections, this demographic remains divided in their support for Biden, particularly in light of criticisms regarding his handling of issues like the conflict in Gaza and emerging movements advocating for ‘Uncommitted’ votes in the Democratic primary.

Acknowledging these concerns, the campaign underscores that the youth vote isn’t monolithic, with no single issue defining it. Highlighting other areas of importance to young voters, such as safeguarding abortion access and the administration’s efforts to address climate change and student loan forgiveness, the campaign aims to bridge information gaps.

Levenson emphasizes the need to address these informational deficits, stating, “Young people have fought for so many things and so much has gotten done. People don’t necessarily know what it is that’s gotten done.”

The launch of Students for Biden-Harris coincides with Biden receiving endorsements from numerous organizations focused on young voters, including Voters of Tomorrow, NextGen PAC, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. However, recent demands from progressive organizations emphasizing the necessity for bolder action from the president indicate ongoing pressure. In a letter issued ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address, these organizations outlined a “Finish the Job Agenda,” urging Biden to declare a lasting ceasefire in Gaza and championing a progressive agenda that resonates with younger generations.

“Going into 2024, you must run on a bold and progressive agenda that invests in our generation and recognizes the need for immediate action to combat the issues of our time,” the letter emphasized, urging Biden to demonstrate unwavering commitment to the concerns of younger voters.

Growing Doubts Over Biden’s Mental Fitness Set Stage for State of the Union Showdown

A recent poll indicates a growing skepticism among U.S. adults regarding President Joe Biden’s cognitive abilities, with many considering his upcoming State of the Union address to be a live evaluation for a potential second term. The survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals that approximately 6 out of 10 individuals express little to no confidence in Biden’s mental aptitude to effectively fulfill his presidential duties, marking a slight uptick from January 2022 when roughly half of the respondents shared similar concerns. Concurrently, nearly 60% also harbor doubts about the mental capacity of former President Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate at 77 years old.

The looming 2024 election presents a scenario where voters perceive a contest for the demanding role of the presidency between two individuals well beyond conventional retirement age. The next president will confront the daunting tasks of navigating global conflicts, resolving domestic crises, and managing a gridlocked Congress.

Biden is anticipated to address these challenges and more in his forthcoming State of the Union speech on Thursday, aiming to persuade Americans of his suitability for another term. However, the president enters this critical juncture with only 38% of U.S. adults approving of his performance, while a majority of 61% disapprove. Notably, Democrats exhibit a significantly higher approval rate at 74%, in stark contrast to independents at 20% and Republicans at a mere 6%. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction spans across various domains including the economy, immigration, and foreign policy.

While approximately 40% of Americans endorse Biden’s handling of healthcare, climate change, abortion policy, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, fewer express satisfaction with his management of immigration (29%), the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (31%), and the economy (34%). These issues are poised to feature prominently in his address before Congress.

A prevailing sentiment among 57% of Americans is that the national economy has worsened under Biden’s tenure compared to before he assumed office in 2021. Merely 30% believe the economy has improved under his leadership, although 54% express optimism regarding their personal finances.

The survey respondents evince deep-seated pessimism about their electoral choices in November, citing concerns over age and the potential for cognitive decline. One respondent, 84-year-old Paul Miller, asserts that both Biden and Trump are too old for the presidency, expressing disillusionment with his previous vote for Trump and an aversion to supporting either candidate in the upcoming election.

The president’s age becomes a focal point of scrutiny following unflattering portrayals of his mental state in a special counsel’s report. Despite Biden’s attempts to alleviate concerns through humor and deflecting attention to Trump’s own verbal missteps, his age remains a liability that overshadows his policy achievements.

A notable shift is observed within the Democratic camp, with one-third of Democrats expressing doubts about Biden’s mental acuity, compared to just 14% in January 2022. Independents pose a significant risk for Biden, with 80% expressing lack of confidence in his mental abilities, surpassing the 56% who doubt Trump’s capabilities.

Republicans generally exhibit greater confidence in Trump’s mental fitness, with 59% expressing high confidence in his abilities, while a notable portion, 20%, harbor doubts. Notably, irrespective of party affiliation, a consensus emerges regarding the perceived inadequacy of the opposing party’s nominee.

Biden’s policy agenda struggles to resonate with everyday Americans amidst the cacophony of daily life. For instance, Sharon Gallagher, a 66-year-old from Sarasota, Florida, who voted for Biden in 2020, voices concerns about inflation and perceives insufficient action from the administration to address economic challenges. Similarly, Justin Tjernlund, a 40-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan, expresses lukewarm confidence in Biden’s mental state but is drawn to Trump’s personality, finding him “interesting” and “refreshing.”

In light of the candidates’ advanced ages, some voters like 62-year-old Greg Olivo from Valley City, Ohio, prioritize scrutinizing Vice President Kamala Harris and Trump’s potential running mate, acknowledging the possibility of their ascension to the presidency within the next term.

Ultimately, the upcoming State of the Union address serves as a pivotal moment for Biden to confront doubts regarding his mental capabilities and rally support for a potential second term. However, with widespread skepticism persisting across party lines, the road ahead remains fraught with uncertainty.

President Biden Draws Contrasts, Asserts Vision in State of the Union Address

In what is anticipated to be one of the most widely-watched speeches preceding the upcoming Democratic convention, President Joe Biden utilized his State of the Union address in Washington on Thursday to delineate a stark contrast between the achievements and priorities of his administration and those of his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

Touching upon various subjects, Biden addressed abortion rights, the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, and the border crisis, placing blame on Republicans for their lack of cooperation. This pivotal speech occurs at a crucial juncture for the 81-year-old President and re-election candidate, facing skepticism about his age and fitness for a second term, compounded by internal party criticism regarding his handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Biden aimed to assure the public of his vitality and determination, dismissing suggestions of frailty, even engaging in occasional exchanges with Republican hecklers in the audience.

Opening his speech with an appeal to far-right members of Congress to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, Biden argued for continued assistance to Kyiv, emphasizing the need for long-range missiles, ammunition, and artillery. Despite House Speaker Mike Johnson’s applause, there remains resistance within his party to legislation providing $60 billion for Ukraine.

Biden, without directly naming his Republican counterpart, criticized Trump and referenced the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as the “gravest threat to U.S. democracy since the Civil War.” Emphasizing the need for a united love for the country, Biden aimed to distinguish himself from his predecessor.

Reaffirming his commitment to codifying Roe v. Wade if re-elected with Democratic majorities, Biden criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark ruling two years ago. Reproductive rights took center stage, reflecting its growing importance in the upcoming election year, with attendees including individuals affected by reproductive care restrictions and Democratic women lawmakers wearing white to signify their commitment to “Fighting for Reproductive Freedom.”

The topic of the border ignited controversy, with Biden accusing Republicans of abandoning a bipartisan border security deal. He responded assertively to groans and boos, defending the proposed bill and challenging his predecessor to support it. However, some progressive Democrats expressed disappointment over his use of the term “illegal” in reference to migrants.

Addressing the Israel-Hamas conflict, Biden faced pressure from progressive Democrats to de-escalate the situation. He announced efforts towards an immediate ceasefire, emphasizing humanitarian aid for Gaza and urging Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prioritize protecting innocent lives. Progressives praised his mention of the humanitarian crisis but called for tangible actions.

The economy took center stage in an extended portion of Biden’s speech, where he highlighted accomplishments, including historic job growth and decreasing inflation. He asserted his identity as a capitalist but advocated for a “billionaire tax” and increased taxes on large corporations, setting the stage for a stark difference between the two political parties in his re-election bid.

Biden concluded by addressing concerns about his age, emphasizing the importance of forward-thinking ideas for the nation’s future. Despite intensified scrutiny over his age and memory, he positioned himself as a leader with a vision for the possibilities of America, emphasizing the need to move beyond antiquated ideas.

Biden and Trump Poised for 2024 Presidential Rematch

In what seems like a deja vu scenario, the upcoming presidential ballot in November is gearing up to showcase a familiar showdown between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

“After Super Tuesday, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the rematch almost nobody anticipated is on the horizon,” with Trump dominating the GOP contests in 15 states and one territory, leaving only Vermont unconquered and positioning himself within reach of securing the Republican nomination, as his sole remaining GOP contender, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, exits the race.

Meanwhile, Biden is set to deliver his State of the Union address, using the occasion to kickstart his election-year agenda, focusing once again on the importance of upholding democratic institutions.

However, despite the sense of familiarity, the 2024 campaign is not merely a replay of the events from four years ago. Evolving candidates and global dynamics are reshaping the political landscape, presenting new hurdles, particularly for Biden.

Trump wasted no time in targeting Biden during his victory speech at Mar-a-Lago, dubbing him “the worst president in the history of our country” and indicating the proximity of the November election. Biden, in his response, emphasized the readiness of voters to resist Trump’s regressive agenda.

One significant difference in the 2024 race is the matchup of incumbents. Unlike in 2020, where Trump held the incumbent position, this time, both candidates hold incumbency status, altering the dynamics of their campaign strategies and critiques.

For instance, Biden’s stance on immigration has shifted from campaign promises of a more compassionate approach to addressing the current surge of asylum seekers at the southern border. Trump’s advantage on this issue is notable, as highlighted by an NBC News poll indicating a significant preference for Trump over Biden in handling immigration matters.

Similarly, Biden’s foreign policy credentials have come under scrutiny, particularly following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the divisive response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These incidents have sparked dissent within the Democratic Party and have been exploited by Trump to undermine Biden’s leadership image.

While Trump’s bombastic rhetoric remains, his diminished social media presence following the Twitter ban in 2021 has reduced the immediacy and visibility of his attacks, potentially lessening their impact. Additionally, his ability to maintain staunch support despite legal challenges suggests a consolidation of his core base.

Age is another factor playing a role in the campaign discourse, with both candidates facing questions about their mental and physical fitness for office. While Biden’s age was less of an issue in 2020, being the oldest president elected in U.S. history, it has become a more prominent point of contention in the current race.

While the 2024 presidential race may seem like a replay of the past, subtle shifts in candidates, issues, and publicperceptionare shaping a distinct electoral landscape, presenting both challenges and opportunities for Biden and Trump alike.

 

Trump Triumphs in South Carolina Primary, Haley Vows to Persist in Republican Race

Former President Donald Trump emerged victorious over his primary opponent, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, in the Republican presidential primary held in South Carolina on Saturday. The Associated Press called the race as polls closed statewide, confirming Trump’s win. Despite Trump clinching victory across the state, Haley managed to secure the counties containing the two largest cities, Columbia and Charleston. Having served two terms as governor of South Carolina, Haley currently resides in Charleston County and also claimed victory in Beaufort County, where Hilton Head is located. While Haley garnered three delegates from South Carolina, Trump secured 47, bringing Haley’s total delegate count to 20 compared to Trump’s 110. The road to clinching the Republican presidential nomination requires a candidate to secure 1,215 delegates.

Trump’s triumph in South Carolina was largely anticipated, given his consistent lead in the polls in Haley’s conservative home state throughout the campaign. The AP based its race call on an analysis of a survey of primary voters, affirming Trump’s substantial lead over Haley statewide. Addressing a jubilant crowd of supporters in South Carolina, Trump expressed his satisfaction with the early and resounding win, stating, “This was a little sooner than we expected … an even bigger win than we anticipated.”

On the other hand, Haley, addressing her supporters, acknowledged the upcoming primary elections in various states in the following weeks and affirmed her commitment to remain in the race, asserting voters’ right to a genuine choice in the electoral process. She emphasized, “They have the right to a real choice, not a Soviet-style election with only one candidate,” underscoring her dedication to providing voters with alternative options. Despite her defeat, Haley conveyed her love for the people of South Carolina and reiterated her determination to continue her presidential bid.

In preparation for future primaries, Haley’s campaign announced a substantial national advertising campaign ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5, signaling her persistence in the race despite the setback in South Carolina. She reiterated her commitment to providing an alternative voice in the Republican primaries, emphasizing the desire among a significant number of Republican voters for an alternative to the current options.

Trump, despite facing numerous legal challenges, has maintained a dominant position in the Republican presidential race, having emerged victorious in every contest where his name appeared on the ballot. His victory in South Carolina underscores his enduring popularity among conservative voters, particularly in the Southern states.

Haley’s loss in South Carolina represents a setback in her quest for the Republican nomination, despite considerable investments of both time and resources in the state. Trump’s continued popularity in the South, coupled with his stronghold among conservative voters, poses significant challenges for any contender seeking to challenge his position within the party.

Analyzing the voting patterns in South Carolina provides insights into Haley’s appeal among more moderate voters and those open to alternatives to Trump within the Republican Party. While she garnered significant support in New Hampshire among independent voters, Trump’s dominance prevailed in the primaries. Independent voter Lynda Higgins cited Haley’s effective governance during her tenure as governor as a key factor in her decision to support her candidacy, expressing a desire for a change in leadership due to perceived societal divisions under Trump’s presidency.

Republicans in South Carolina acknowledge the evolving landscape of the party since Haley’s tenure as governor, noting a shift in perspective regarding the role of the president compared to that of a governor or cabinet member. Despite Haley’s commendable campaign efforts, Trump’s entrenched position as the de facto leader of the party presents formidable obstacles for any challenger.

Looking ahead, Trump expressed confidence in upcoming primary contests, including Michigan’s primary scheduled for the following Tuesday. He also anticipated success on Super Tuesday, citing polls indicating widespread support across various states. Trump emphasized the unity within the Republican Party and the ongoing efforts required to secure victory in the forthcoming elections.

Shift in Economic Sentiment: Voters’ Views on Inflation Impact Biden’s Prospects Ahead of November Election

Nancy Pontius is prepared to voice an unpopular opinion: she doesn’t perceive inflation as a significant concern and asserts that economic worries won’t sway her voting decision in the upcoming November election.

Despite experiencing financial strain akin to tens of millions of Americans in recent years, the 36-year-old Democrat from Pennsylvania remains resolute. “I definitely felt the gas price increase,” she acknowledges, “but I also recognized that it was likely to be temporary.” Having cast her ballot for Joe Biden four years ago, she intends to do so again, driven by issues like abortion. “I’m not concerned about the broader economic landscape,” she affirms.

This sentiment comes as a relief for President Biden, whose first term grappled with an unprecedented 18% surge in prices, sparking economic discontent and diminishing political backing. While America’s robust post-pandemic economic resurgence drew admiration globally, domestic sentiments remained starkly pessimistic.

However, there are indications of a shift as gasoline prices regress towards $3 per gallon nationally and wages edge closer to keeping pace with inflation. Economic sentiment, often described as the “vibe” people perceive about the economy, has seen improvement in business surveys recently.

According to the University of Michigan, Democrats like Nancy now express optimism about the economy akin to 2021 levels, surpassing any point during the Trump administration. Even Republican sentiments have slightly brightened, as per their research.

The White House is hopeful that this change in mood will endure, bolstering support for the president as the November election looms, especially in pivotal swing states like Pennsylvania. Yet, such optimism is far from guaranteed.

The president’s approval ratings linger near the lowest of his term, weighed down by concerns over immigration, his age, and conflicts like the one in Gaza. Despite positive indicators, overall economic sentiment is yet to rebound from the pandemic’s blow, notwithstanding robust growth and record low unemployment.

Within the Democratic camp, dissatisfaction with Biden’s economic policies, particularly among those under 30, presents a challenge. Kim Schwartz, a 28-year-old health technician from Pennsylvania, who voted for Biden in 2020, feels let down by the administration’s economic agenda.

“I don’t see any progress in getting more money into the hands of middle class and working class Americans to keep up with [inflation],” she laments. Kim’s financial situation has improved since 2020, yet she still diligently hunts for bargains at multiple grocery stores each week.

Her concerns resonate with others like John Cooke, a 34-year-old restaurant manager in Pennsylvania. While his eatery’s business remains strong, inflation has eaten into profits, and he hasn’t received a pay increase despite rising expenses.

Republicans, traditionally favored on economic matters, have seized on inflation to criticize Biden, attributing it to his spending policies. Economists attribute inflation to a combination of factors, including pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions and the Ukraine conflict’s impact on oil prices.

Democrats have maintained their electoral ground by attributing inflation to broader forces and focusing on other issues like social justice and climate change. However, swing voters, often prioritizing economic concerns, hold significant sway in presidential elections.

Strategists acknowledge Biden’s previous reliance on national economic metrics as a defense strategy as emotionally disconnected. Consequently, Biden has adopted a more populist rhetoric, criticizing price gouging and advocating against “shrinkflation” while denouncing “extreme MAGA Republican” economic policies.

Don Cunningham, a veteran Democratic figure in Pennsylvania, anticipates a reconciliation between economic sentiment and reality in the coming months. As head of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, he notes challenges for Biden unrelated to economic issues, such as generational divides and personal connections with voters.

Yet, signs indicate many Americans are disheartened by the probable 2020 rematch between Biden and Trump. Even Nancy, who ardently displayed her support for Biden in 2020, plans a more subdued approach this time, wary of discord with her neighbors.

“We might still put the Biden-Harris sign out,” she muses, “But I was willing to be a little louder in 2020… than I am now.”

Debate Ignites Over Biden’s Fitness for Office Amid Handling of Classified Documents and Age Concerns

Last Thursday, President Joe Biden faced a challenging day, starting with the release of a report by special counsel Robert Hur regarding Biden’s handling of classified documents after leaving the vice presidency. While the report did not recommend criminal charges, it highlighted Biden’s retention of classified materials in his garage and unlocked drawers. Additionally, the report emphasized concerns about Biden’s advanced age, noting instances where he appeared forgetful in interviews.

Biden responded to the report at a press conference, vehemently denying any memory issues and defending his fitness for office. However, he also made errors during the press conference, including misidentifying Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the president of Mexico. These events sparked debate about Biden’s suitability for a second term as president and raised questions about his handling of classified documents.

Political analysts weighed in on the potential impact of the report on Biden’s political future. Some suggested that while Biden’s mishandling of documents could be damaging, it might not outweigh other concerns voters have. Others argued that Biden’s age and memory lapses could be significant factors in the 2024 campaign, especially considering existing public perceptions of his capabilities.

Discussions also revolved around comparisons between Biden’s case and former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents. While Trump faced similar accusations, his approach to the issue differed, leading to speculation about how each case might influence public opinion.

The report’s characterization of Biden as an elderly man with memory issues resonated with existing concerns about his age and fitness for office. Surveys indicated that a majority of Americans had significant doubts about Biden’s ability to serve a second term as president, with many citing concerns about his age and competence.

Analysts debated the potential consequences of Biden dropping out of the presidential race, with some suggesting Vice President Kamala Harris as a potential replacement. However, others expressed skepticism about the party’s ability to navigate such a significant change, given existing divisions and concerns within the Democratic Party.

Biden’s handling of classified documents and concerns about his age and memory have ignited debates about his fitness for office and his prospects in the 2024 presidential race. While the report’s findings have raised questions about Biden’s leadership, the ultimate impact on his political future remains uncertain, with analysts offering differing perspectives on the potential outcomes.

Democrats Strategize Amidst Political Turmoil: Biden’s Allies React to Special Counsel’s Report Fallout

Democrats have enjoyed significant victories in various election contests by positioning themselves as champions of reproductive rights, while on another front, Tasini proposed the idea of framing the GOP as obstructive, particularly in light of the collapsed deal linking border security with aid to Ukraine and Israel, amidst strong opposition from Trump.

Carville suggested that Biden should highlight his accomplishments in areas such as lowering drug prices and implementing certain measures for student loan relief. Additionally, he recommended promising investigations into price gouging that occurred in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, Biden’s supporters appear focused on damage control following the release of the special counsel’s report.

At an event on Friday, Harris argued against the characterization of the president’s demeanor in the report, asserting that it was factually incorrect and clearly driven by political motives.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed the report’s commentary on Biden’s age during a media briefing on Friday, stating that it was detached from reality.

However, regardless of the factual accuracy of Biden’s cognitive abilities, the issue remains persistent.

Independent analysts believe that the president’s recent press conference was a misstep that could have long-lasting repercussions.

Boston University Professor Emeritus Tobe Berkovitz, an expert in political communications, described the press conference as a significant mistake. He suggested that the combination of the press conference and the preceding special counsel report could severely impact the small group of undecided voters.

“If you were on the fence, that pushed you off the fence,” Berkovitz predicted.

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/

Trump and Biden Face Uphill Battles Beyond Primary Victories

Donald J. Trump has been cruising through the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, dominating his Republican rivals and basking in the adoration of his supporters who are convinced of his inevitable victory in the presidential race. However, as Trump edges closer to securing the Republican nomination, he faces daunting challenges beyond the party faithful.

Outside the insular world of Republican primaries, Trump’s campaign is grappling with persistent weaknesses that could pose significant risks for his party. These vulnerabilities came to the fore in New Hampshire, where a significant portion of independents, college-educated voters, and Republicans hesitant to overlook his legal troubles threw their support behind his rival, Nikki Haley.

While Trump emerged victorious in New Hampshire, the sizable turnout against him signaled trouble ahead as the presidential race transitions from the realm of die-hard Trump supporters to a broader electorate, many of whom rejected him in the past. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida acknowledged the issue, stating that Trump must find a way to address the concerns of lifelong conservatives who are reluctant to support him again.

On the other side, President Biden also faces challenges in a potential rematch of the 2020 contest. Despite his victory then, Biden, now 81, grapples with widespread disapproval and skepticism regarding his age and leadership. He seeks to rally his base, independents, and even moderate Republicans around issues such as abortion rights and democracy, although his stance on immigration, inflation, and the conflict in Gaza has alienated some within his party.

Republican pollster Neil Newhouse highlighted the upcoming election as a choice between two unpopular leaders, characterizing it as a “lesser-of-two-evils” scenario.

Trump’s difficulties extend back to his 2016 takeover of the Republican Party, which alienated suburban moderates and independents. His struggles with independent voters were evident in the Iowa caucuses as well, where a majority supported his opponents.

While Trump is expected to regain many of these voters in the general election, a significant portion of Haley supporters in New Hampshire expressed willingness to vote for Biden, indicating a potential fracture within the Republican base.

However, caution is advised in interpreting the New Hampshire results, given the state’s left-leaning tendencies. Nonetheless, the GOP must ensure the election does not become solely a referendum on Trump.

Ruth Axtell, a New Hampshire independent who voted for Haley, expressed her desire to see Trump defeated, even if it meant a victory for a female candidate. Yet, she remains undecided for the general election, reflecting the uncertainty among voters.

New Hampshire’s results underscored Trump’s struggles with college-educated and affluent voters, demographics that once formed the core of his support base.

Even in Iowa, Trump faced challenges in affluent suburbs, indicating potential vulnerabilities in traditionally Republican strongholds.

Despite concerns about winning back Republicans who have turned away from him, Trump remains confident in his ability to secure their support. However, his victory speech in New Hampshire, marked by attacks on Haley rather than calls for party unity, raises questions about his approach.

Both Trump’s aides and super PAC officials view Biden as a formidable opponent, with the latter expressing concerns about Biden’s substantial spending on advertising.

While DeSantis and Haley refrained from directly confronting Trump, Biden’s campaign is expected to vigorously challenge him, countering his attacks with clips of his verbal missteps.

As Trump faces intensifying scrutiny over his role in the Capitol riot and legal troubles, his fixation on the 2020 election and divisive rhetoric could further erode his support among independents and swing voters.

Even in conservative Iowa, a significant portion of Trump’s supporters expressed reservations about voting for him if he were convicted of a crime, underscoring the potential repercussions of his legal battles on his electoral prospects.

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy Exits 2024 Presidential Race, Throws Support Behind Trump After Disappointing Iowa Results

Business magnate Vivek Ramaswamy withdrew from the 2024 presidential race on Monday evening, following a lackluster performance in the Iowa caucuses. Ramaswamy, who secured the fourth position in Iowa, offered his endorsement to former President Donald Trump. According to NBC News projections, Ramaswamy trailed behind Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, holding only 8% of the GOP caucus vote with over 90% of precincts reporting late on Monday.

In a gracious move, Ramaswamy personally congratulated Trump on his triumph and announced his intention to join the former president at a rally in New Hampshire on the following day. Expressing his support for Trump, Ramaswamy emphasized the need for an “America First” candidate in the presidential race, affirming, “Going forward, he will have my full endorsement for the presidency.”

The 38-year-old entrepreneur, relatively unknown when he entered the political arena in February 2023, rapidly gained traction among Republican voters. His campaign strategy closely aligned with Trump’s in both tone and policy substance, presenting himself as a successor to the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement.

Despite his efforts to differentiate himself, Ramaswamy struggled to siphon support away from Trump, who maintained a strong grip on Republican voters. The anticipated wave of first-time caucusgoers that Ramaswamy had hoped would boost his campaign in Iowa failed to materialize.

As the Iowa caucuses approached, Ramaswamy’s rhetoric took a more conspiratorial turn, urging supporters to “wake up” and alluding to plots and forces influencing the election. His pitch to Trump enthusiasts became convoluted, discouraging them from voting for Trump due to alleged external interference preventing him from reaching the White House. Ramaswamy cited criminal cases against Trump and legal battles challenging his candidacy on 14th Amendment grounds in Colorado and Maine as reasons to reconsider their support.

Three days prior to the Iowa caucuses, Trump directly addressed Ramaswamy’s characterization of him as “wounded.” On Truth Social, Trump criticized Ramaswamy, stating, “Vivek started his campaign as a great supporter, ‘the best President in generations,’ etc. Unfortunately now all he does is disguise his support in the form of deceitful campaign tricks.”

Ramaswamy’s presidential campaign centered on the promise to extend Trump’s policies if elected. He advocated for the shutdown of several government agencies, including the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Department of Education.

Additionally, he proposed a substantial reduction in the number of federal workers and pledged to deploy the U.S. military to secure both the southern and northern borders.

Another controversial proposal by Ramaswamy involved ending birthright citizenship for American-born children of undocumented immigrants. He argued that the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to those born or naturalized in the United States, was not intended to apply to this demographic.

Throughout the Republican presidential debates, Ramaswamy positioned himself as an adversary to other candidates, particularly former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Nikki Haley. He engaged in repeated clashes with Haley, even going so far as to label her a “puppet” for the “deep state” in the latter stages of his campaign.

While maintaining some rivalry with other candidates, Ramaswamy closely aligned himself with Trump, prompting suggestions from supporters to vie for the vice presidential slot on Trump’s ticket. However, Ramaswamy consistently asserted that he was not a “Plan B” person.

Funding his campaign with millions of dollars from his personal wealth, Ramaswamy held the highest number of public events among his GOP rivals. His extensive campaign efforts included over 300 events in Iowa, covering all 99 counties in the state twice. In a last-ditch effort to bolster his primary chances, Ramaswamy relocated his campaign staff to the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire in November.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2024-election/vivek-ramaswamy-dropping-2024-presidential-race-rcna133875

Trump Challenges Colorado Court’s Historic Ruling, Appeals to Supreme Court in Unprecedented Primary Ballot Battle

In a move that could trigger an unprecedented legal showdown, former President Trump has called on the Supreme Court to overturn a pivotal decision by a Colorado court that disqualified him from the state’s 2024 Republican primary ballot under the 14th Amendment’s insurrection ban.

Trump’s legal team argues that the Colorado Supreme Court overstepped its authority by denying him access to the ballot and contends that the court misinterpreted and misapplied Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. In their petition to the Supreme Court, they assert, “The Colorado Supreme Court has no authority to deny President Trump access to the ballot. By doing so, the Colorado Supreme Court has usurped Congressional authority and misinterpreted and misapplied the text of section 3.”

The crux of the matter lies in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a clause implemented in the aftermath of the Civil War. This provision prohibits individuals who have sworn an oath to “support” the U.S. Constitution but have “engaged in insurrection” against it from holding federal office. The Supreme Court has never before ruled on this specific section, setting the stage for an extraordinary legal battle.

The Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision in December, determined that Trump’s actions, including inflaming his supporters with unfounded claims of election fraud and directing them to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, amounted to insurrection. Consequently, the court barred him from appearing on the state’s primary ballot as he pursues a second term in the White House.

The state court’s ruling also overturned a trial judge’s finding that the 14th Amendment didn’t apply to the presidency, emphasizing that the language of the presidential oath “does not make it anything other than an oath to support the Constitution.” The majority opinion stated, “We do not reach these conclusions lightly. We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us.”

Trump’s legal team, in their petition to the Supreme Court, emphasized the historical significance of the case: “If allowed to stand, the ruling will mark the first time in the history of the United States that the judiciary has prevented voters from casting ballots for the leading major-party presidential candidate.”

Despite the Colorado court putting its ruling on hold until a specified date to allow Trump to seek Supreme Court review, the looming deadline for finalizing Colorado’s presidential primary ballots poses a challenge. With the deadline approaching and the legal process likely extending beyond it, Trump’s name is expected to appear on the primary ballots regardless.

While the immediate impact may be limited to Colorado’s primary, any decision by the Supreme Court could reverberate through the upcoming general election in November, affecting Trump’s candidacy not only in Colorado but potentially in states nationwide.

In response to the legal developments, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung accused adversaries, including the Colorado Supreme Court and the left-wing activist group CREW, of attempting to disenfranchise voters. Cheung stated, “Crooked Joe Biden’s comrades, including the Colorado Supreme Court and CREW, a radical, left-wing activist group, are doing all they can to disenfranchise all American voters by attempting to remove President Trump, the leading candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election, from the primary ballot.”

Adding another layer to the legal saga, the Colorado Republican Party separately appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, asserting that allowing the state court’s decision to stand would distort the 2024 race and result in “nebulous accusations of insurrection.” While the plaintiffs and the Colorado secretary of state agree that the high court should consider the case, they propose focusing on a narrower set of issues.

Similar legal battles have unfolded in other states, including Michigan and Minnesota, where attempts to remove Trump’s name from state ballots have mostly been unsuccessful. However, the landscape shifted at the turn of the year when Maine became the second state to disqualify Trump from its Republican primary ballots. Trump promptly appealed the decision to state court, setting the stage for a potential Supreme Court involvement in the weeks ahead.

In Maine, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, cited the weight of evidence in her decision, asserting that Trump was aware of the consequences of his prolonged effort to undermine the democratic election and chose to ignite the turmoil: “The weight of the evidence makes clear that Mr. Trump was aware of the tinder laid by his multi-month effort to delegitimize a democratic election, and then chose to light a match.”

As the legal battles unfold across multiple states, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Colorado case could shape the trajectory of Trump’s political future, influencing both his immediate presence on primary ballots and his viability as a major-party candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election.

Critical Decisions Await as COP28 Gathers Momentum in Dubai

Tens of thousands are converging on Dubai this December for COP28, the annual United Nations-led international climate summit. With the urgency to avert irreversible damage from fossil fuel pollution, global leaders, negotiators, climate advocates, and industry representatives are focusing on adapting to increasingly lethal heatwaves, more powerful storms, and catastrophic sea-level rise.

In a bid to understand the nuances of the world’s most crucial climate change conference, it’s imperative to delve into the roots of COP. Over 30 years ago, a UN treaty was signed by over 150 nations to curb the alarming rise of planet-warming pollution. The inaugural Conference of the Parties (COP) convened in Berlin in 1995. In 2015, COP21 saw over 190 countries endorsing the Paris Agreement, aiming to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees. Despite its landmark status, the agreement lacked specificity on implementation strategies.

As COP28 unfolds, controversy surrounds its host, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a major oil-producing nation. Critics argue that appointing Sultan Al Jaber, head of the UAE’s national oil company, as COP president, creates a conflict of interest. Responding to concerns, the UAE initiated a campaign to enhance its green credentials ahead of the summit. The controversy led over 100 US Congress and European Parliament members to call for Al Jaber’s resignation, citing potential undermining of negotiations. However, some, including US climate envoy John Kerry, praised Al Jaber’s appointment, emphasizing the UAE’s commitment to emissions reduction targets.

The roster of attendees at COP28 is illustrious, with over 160 nations, including major players like the UK, France, Germany, and Japan. Notably, King Charles III will address the opening ceremony, and while Pope Francis had planned to attend, his cancellation due to health reasons has been a setback. Notably absent from the speaker list are US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping, leaders of the world’s top polluting countries. In their stead, US Vice President Kamala Harris will attend, marking a response to criticism over Biden’s absence.

A notable presence at COP28 is expected from major oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia, and Iran. Despite concerns that the Israel-Hamas conflict could overshadow climate action, representatives from both Israel and the Palestinian territories are slated to speak. Additionally, the UAE has extended invitations to fossil fuel executives, anticipating new commitments to decarbonize. Wall Street heavyweights, led by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, are also expected, bringing financial perspectives to the climate talks.

Eight years post-Paris Agreement, the global stocktake at COP28 reveals minimal progress in slashing climate pollution. The first scorecard, published in September, highlights the urgent need for action. Melanie Robinson, the global climate program director for the World Resources Institute, acknowledges the wake-up call provided by the stocktake, urging a roadmap for effective climate goal achievement.

Central to COP28 are carryovers from COP27, namely finalizing a “loss and damage” fund and navigating the transition away from planet-warming fossil fuels. A crucial debate centers on whether to “phase out” or “phase down” fossil fuels. At COP27, nations like China and Saudi Arabia obstructed a proposal to phase out all fossil fuels, emphasizing the importance of unequivocal language covering all fossil fuels.

The loss and damage fund, a pivotal issue from the previous agreement, aims to channel funds from wealthy countries responsible for the majority of climate crisis impacts to poorer nations. The goal is to operationalize the fund by 2024, with a special committee recommending the World Bank as its temporary trustee. Nate Warszawski, a research associate with WRI’s International Climate Action team, underscores the delicate nature of the loss and damage fund, identifying it as a key determinant of COP28’s success or failure.

As COP28 unfolds, the world watches with anticipation, hoping for resolutions that propel global efforts toward mitigating climate change. The dynamics of this conference underscore the urgency and complexity of addressing the climate crisis on a global scale.

2024 Election: Dissatisfied Voters in Battleground States Consider Alternative Candidates

The prospect of a 2024 election rematch between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump has left voters in six battleground states dissatisfied and searching for alternatives, as revealed by recent polls conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.

In these key states, both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are viewed unfavorably by the majority of voters. A significant portion of voters dislike both candidates, and overall enthusiasm for the upcoming election has waned compared to the 2020 contest.

This frustration and disillusionment have led voters to consider other options. When asked about the likely 2024 matchup between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, only 2 percent of respondents expressed support for another candidate. However, when Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s name was presented as an alternative, nearly a quarter of respondents indicated they would choose him.

It’s important to note that the support for Mr. Kennedy may be somewhat inflated, as two-thirds of those expressing support for him had previously mentioned a preference for one of the two major-party candidates.

The polling encompassed registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and the results suggest that Mr. Kennedy is less a firmly established political figure in the minds of voters and more a symbol of their discontent with the choice between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump.

Voters who hold unfavorable views of both major-party candidates, often referred to as “double haters,” played a significant role in the outcomes of recent presidential elections. The number of such voters has more than doubled since four years ago. Mr. Trump now enjoys more support from these voters in five of the six battleground states, with Arizona being the exception. Overall, 42 percent of “double haters” planned to vote for Mr. Trump, while 34 percent favored Mr. Biden, and 24 percent remained undecided.

The disapproval of both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump is likely to fuel interest in outsider candidates like Mr. Kennedy, who recently transitioned from the Democratic primary to run as an independent. Cornel West, the liberal professor who switched from the Green Party to mount an independent campaign, is another candidate in the spotlight.

The accessibility of the ballot will present a significant challenge for independent candidates. Qualifying for the general election as a political independent is a costly endeavor, and legal obstacles from major parties may further complicate the process.

The appeal of outsider candidates stems from the widespread unpopularity of both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump among voters in the battleground states. A majority of respondents held unfavorable views of both candidates, except for Black voters who had a favorable view of Mr. Biden.

Voters who dislike both major-party candidates but are open to alternative options are central to the potential impact of outsider candidates like Mr. Kennedy. The outcome in tightly contested states could be influenced by the presence of a candidate like Mr. Kennedy. In some states, he appears to benefit Mr. Trump, while in others, he aids Mr. Biden.

In a political landscape marked by polarization and increasing partisanship, third-party and independent candidates often reflect voter dissatisfaction with the choices offered by the major parties rather than genuine interest in outsider candidates. The impact of Mr. Kennedy as an independent candidate remains uncertain, as his support has fluctuated during his campaign. His potential to influence the 2024 election outcome may become clearer as the election season progresses.

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.

Under Pressure From Trump, FDA Announces Emergency Authorization For Convalescent Plasma To Treat Covid-19

The US Food and Drug Administration on Sunday issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19, saying the “known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.”

The FDA said more than 70,000 patients had been treated with convalescent plasma,which is made using the blood of people who have recovered from coronavirus infections.

“Today I am pleased to make a truly historic announcement in our battle against the China virus that will save countless lives,” President Trump said at a White House briefing, referring to the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. “Today’s action will dramatically increase access to this treatment.”

Last week, Trump accused some health officials of playing politics regarding an EUA for convalescent plasma. When asked about the FDA not having granted an EUA, Trump said the reason was political.

On Sunday, a source who is close to the White House Coronavirus Task Force told CNN the FDA had reviewed additional data to inform its EUA decision. This official has not personally reviewed the data. They added the FDA is under no obligation to consult anyone outside the agency about its decision.

Convalescent plasma is taken from the blood of people who have recovered from Covid-19. At the end of March, the FDA set up a pathway for scientists to try convalescent plasma with patients and study its impact. It has already been used to treat more than 60,000 Covid-19 patients.

However, like blood, convalescent plasma is in limited supply and must come from donors. And while there are promising signals from some studies, there is not yet randomized clinical trial data on convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19. Some of those trials are underway.

Experts say more data is needed

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said studies involving 70,000 volunteers justified the EUA.

“The data we gathered suggests that patients who were treated early in their disease course, within three days of being diagnosed, with plasma containing high levels of antibodies, benefited the most from treatment. We saw about a 35% better survival in the patients who benefited most from the treatment,” Azar told the White House briefing.

“We dream in drug development of something like a 35% mortality reduction. This is a major advance in the treatment of patients. A major advance.”

Azar appeared to be referring to a national study of 35,000 patients treated with convalescent plasma. The study, released August 12 in a pre-print, meaning it had not yet been peer-reviewed, showed that 8.7% of patients who were treated within three days of diagnosis died, compared to about 12% of patients who were treated four days or more after their diagnosis. That’s about a difference of about 37%.

Those treated with plasma containing the highest levels of antibodies had a 35% lower risk of dying within a week compared to those treated with less-rich plasma.

But this is not how doctors usually measure the benefit of a treatment. The gold standard is a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial that means that doctors randomly choose who gets the treatment and who doesn’t, so they can truly tell whether it’s the treatment affecting survival and not something else. And the comparison is usually treated patients compared to untreated patients — not patients treated earlier compared to those treated later.

“The problem is, we don’t really have enough data to really understand how effective convalescent plasma is,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University and a CNN medical analyst, said Sunday.

“While the data to date show some positive signals that convalescent plasma can be helpful in treating individuals with COVID-19, especially if given early in the trajectory of disease, we lack the randomized controlled trial data we need to better understand its utility in COVID-19 treatment,” Dr. Thomas File, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said in a statement.

Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said he thought it likely the White House pressured the FDA into pushing through the EUA.

“I think what’s happening here is you’re seeing bullying, at least at the highest level of the FDA, and I’m sure that there are people at the FDA right now who are the workers there that are as upset about this as I am,” Offit told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

According to a knowledgeable source, Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Dr. H. Clifford Lane, who works under Fauci at NIAID, were among government health officials who had previously been skeptical there was enough data to justify emergency authorization of plasma for Covid-19.

‘Great demand from patients and doctors’

President Trump said there might have been a holdup on the EUA, “but we broke the logjam over the last week to be honest,” Trump said at the briefing. He said he believed there were officials at the FDA and in the Department of Health and Human Services “that can see things being held up and wouldn’t mind so much.”

“It’s my opinion, very strong opinion, and that’s for political reasons,” Trump said. Hahn denied the decision was made for any other than legitimate medical reasons.

“I took an oath as a doctor 35 years ago to do no harm. I abide by that every day,” Hahn said in a statement to CNN’s Jim Acosta.

“I’ve never been asked to make any decision at the FDA based on politics. The decisions the scientists at the FDA are making are done on data only.”

Hahn said during the briefing the agency decided the treatment was safe, and looked potentially effective enough to justify the EUA, which is not the same as full approval.

“So we have ongoing clinical trials that are randomized between a placebo, or an inactive substance, and the convalescent plasma. While that was going on we knew there was great demand from patients and doctors,” Hahn said.

While an EUA can open the treatment to more patients, it could also have the effect of limiting enrollment in clinical trials that determine whether it’s effective.

On Thursday, Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said that doctors have treated so many Covid-19 patients with convalescent plasma, it has been difficult to figure out if the treatment works.

“The problem with convalescent plasma is the great enthusiasm about it,” Woodcock said in an online conversation about the latest science behind monoclonal antibody treatments and convalescent plasma. “It exceeded anyone’s expectation as far as the demand.”

Bioethics expert Art Caplan said he’s worried about whether there’s a large enough supply of convalescent plasma. With an EUA, doctors will be more likely to give convalescent plasma without tracking data, so it will then be difficult to determine which donors have the most effective plasma, and which patients are the best candidates to receive it.

“We’re going to get a gold rush towards plasma, with patients demanding it and doctors demanding it for their patients,” said Caplan, the founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine.

Indian Overseas Congress, USA, seeks dismissal of Ankhi Das, FACEBOOK content Chief in India

Indian Overseas Congress, USA, an advocacy group that promotes democracy, freedom, and equal justice in India, condemns the FACEBOOK management for its election-year interference, content bias, and suppression of free expression by Indian citizens to help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that is in power.

The Wall Street Journal dated August 14, 2020, wrote a story on how FACEBOOK’s blatant bias and dubious practices in India in favor of the Modi government is having an impact on the social media as regards its citizen’s right to express their opinions in public. These revelations shine a light on how major business houses that include Ambani’s Jio platform and Tech companies in Silicon Valley are heavily invested in India’s current politics and interferes in its communal faultlines.

“It is quite unfortunate that a company founded in a free society undermines the very essence of that philosophy in a sister democracy in the world and that too in favor of a political party that demonstrated its disdain for pluralism, democracy and freedom of religion, “ said George Abraham, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA.

It has been reported that Ms. Ankhi Das, the content manager in charge of FACEBOOK in India, is said to have told her colleagues “punishing violations by politicians from the @narendramodi party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country.” Reuters reported that a handful of employees had written a letter asking FACEBOOK to denounce “anti-Muslim” bigotry” from BJP politicians that Ankit Das said to have protected.

“Congress party valiantly fought for freedom and independence and the dignity of every Indian for the last 74 years, and it is regrettable to see that India’s democracy has now been undermined by a profit-making company such as FACEBOOK,” said Mohinder Singh, president of the IOC, USA.

It is a well-known fact that India is the largest market for FACEBOOK and WhatsApp, and these companies have a huge responsibility in managing the content without bias and bigotry. However, they have chosen the side of those that incite violence and encourage instability that has led to destruction of lives and property. Facebook shoulders a heavy responsibility for what has transpired.

IOC, USA, supports the proposal by the AICC asking Facebook to set up a panel to investigate the blatant bias regarding BJP-RSS and punish those who have engaged in such dubious practices. As a first step, Ankhi Das, who is the content manager for FACEBOOK in India, should be relieved of her duties and be investigated for her connection to a political party since her actions have tainted the company’s reputation as an independent arbiter of opposing viewpoints.

Facebook says will purge hateful posts by public figures in India

Facing intense political heat in India over its alleged role in favouring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on its platform, social networking giant Facebook on Friday clarified its position, saying it has removed and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India which violate its community standards.

Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, Facebook India, said in a statement that Facebook has always been an open, transparent and non-partisan platform where people can express themselves freely.

“Over the last few days, we have been accused of bias in the way we enforce our policies. We take the allegations of bias incredibly seriously, and want to make it clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in any form,” Mohan said.

He was referring to the controversy generated after a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report claimed that Facebook’s content regulation policies favoured the BJP.

The WSJ report sparked a widespread debate in India, raising serious questions over Facebook’s content regulation practices.

The report claimed that Facebook India’s Public Policy Head Ankhi Das had told staff members that punishing violations by BJP politicians would damage the company’s business prospects.

Mohan said the policies at Facebook are “ever-evolving to take into account the local sensitivities, especially in a multicultural society such as India”.

“An example is the inclusion of caste as a protected characteristic in our global hate speech policy in 2018,” Mohan said.

The Facebook India chief said that the employees represent a varied political spectrum who have either served in many administrations or have political experience and take immense pride in being active contributors to public service.

“Despite hailing from diverse political affiliations and backgrounds, they perform their respective duties and interpret our policies in a fair and non-partisan way. The decisions around content escalations are not made unilaterally by just one person; rather, they are inclusive of views from different teams and disciplines within the company,” he elaborated.

Amid the debate, BJP’s IT cell chief Amit Malviya has claimed that Mohan worked with the Planning Commission during the UPA era.

According to Mohan, there is no place for hate speech on Facebook but they need to do more.

“We know this work is never over, which is why we will continue to invest in our efforts to combat hate speech on our services. We welcome the opportunity to engage with all parties — political or otherwise — who want to understand our content policies and enforcement more,” he said, adding that Facebook’s commitment to India and its people is unwavering.

The Congress has demanded that Facebook should order a high-level inquiry into its leadership team and their operations in a time-bound manner, and publish and make transparent all instances of hate speech since 2014 that were allowed on the platform.

“Facebook India should appoint a new team so that the investigation is not influenced,” said Congress leader K.C. Venugopal in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

US India Security Council Organizes Fund Raiser For Congressman Joe Kennedy III

The US India Security council had a video conference and Fund Raiser with Congressman Joe Kennedy (Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district) on August 23rd. The conference was attended by Ramesh Kapur, Koty  Srinivasa, Bharat Barai, Anil Deshpande, Rajendar Dichpally, Ravi Hotchandani, Anup Vashist , Vijay Nalamada,  and staff of Congressman Joe Kennedy III.

Congressman Joe Kennedy a lawyer by profession and scion of the famous Kennedy family,  grandson of U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, a grandnephew of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, and a great-grandson of U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.

Joe Spoke about his vision for Massachusetts’s and how he plans to tackle the various issues that confront the state. He said that rebuilding the businesses in the state, with emphasis on small business is his main priority. He also said that the recent attacks against the minority community did not reflect the great values and ethos of America. He said restoring the pride of American and the respect it commands in the comity of nations would he his highest priority as Senator in addition to tacking the local issues of the state.

Ramesh Kapur who is a long time friend of the Kennedy family said that the Indian American community has a great friend in Joe Kennedy and urged the future Senator to be a member of the Armed Service committee of the senate so that he can help USA and India face the many challenges that the two democracies face. He also said the Ed Markey who is the incumbent Senator is Anti-India and has not endeared himself to the Indian American Community.

Bharat Barai said that he will ensure that Joe Kennedy III will get a congratulation letter from the Indian Prime Minister once he wins the senate race and assured all support to the congressman. Anil Deshpande said that he would like the future Senator to visit India officially as a senator and understand the country and its people for a long-lasting partnership.

Ravi Hotchandani wished that Joe Kennedy tackle the poverty issues the same way and with the same passion that his late Grandfather addressed them and earned a permanent place in the hearts of the poor and under privileged people. Koty Krishna asked the Congressman about he plans to tackle China which is a major issue to USA because of its military and economic threat to the country.

Ajay Nalamada wanted Joe Kennedy to reform the immigration policies and ensure that America removed the present quota system so that the country can benefit from the best talent from countries like India. Rajendar Dichpally said that the Kennedy’s and India enjoy a special relationship and quoted the example of the late President John F Kennedy (JFK) who broke protocol to go inside the Air India Aircraft to receive the first Indian Prime Minister – Jawahar Lal Nehru who had come on a state visit to the USA. He wished that the special relationship be carried forward with the future Senator – Joe Kennedy.

Indian Americans Overwhelmingly Support Biden-Harris Candidacy

Indian Americans for Biden-Harris, a recently formed grassroots group, celebrates the groundbreaking announcement on August 11th of Senator Kamala Devi Harris as the vice-presidential running mate of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.  The group Indian Americans for Biden was formed in July 2020 to establish a unified Indian American voice to support and help elect Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. With the addition to the 2020 ticket of Senator Harris, proud daughter of Indian immigrant Mrs. Shyamala Gopalan, the rapidly growing grassroots group saw a phenomenal number of requests to join the group within hours of the announcement which has grown by over 1,000% since July.

The Indian American community in the U.S., which is now over 4 million strong has achieved incredible success on the path paved by the U.S. civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King and John Lewis, who as Senator Harris notes, were inspired by the non-violence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. “Senator Harris has got this, and we as a community have got her back. She knows what it means to operate on multiple identity levels in America. The Indian American community is overwhelmingly Democratic, and we will see unprecedented levels of organizing and voting in the Indian American community, as well as the larger Asian American community.” said Seema Nanda, former DNC CEO, the first Indian American CEO of any U.S. political party.

It is befitting now that we mobilize to elect the first woman of both Black and Indian descent to the White House along with VP Biden, who appreciates that Senator Harris represents the essence of America as VP Biden was quoted to say “Her Story is America’s Story”. With this first major decision as President, VP Biden has ignited energy and hope not only for Indian Americans and South Asians, but for all women of color that hard work, courage and determination are still the path to achieving the American Dream. “This is the America we must fight to protect with everything we have and elect the Biden-Harris ticket this November” said group’s co-founder Anu Kosaraju.  Another co-founder Dr. Suresh Kumar, noted that VP Biden, has suffered unimaginable tragedies and understands what’s at stake in this election for all Americans, particularly immigrants. “We as immigrants who left our birth-country and worked hard to build our lives in America should feel the same urgency. Being the swing voters in battleground states, we have an extraordinary responsibility in this election,”said Dr. Suresh Kumar.

To cap off this historic week, on August 15, the Indian American community had an opportunity to hear a special message from both VP Biden and Senator Harris at a virtual celebration to mark Indian Independence Day. In a strong show of support to India,  and recalling the countries’ mutual special bond and his efforts over 15 years to deepen ties with  India, VP Biden reiterated his belief that the US becoming closer friends and partners with India will make the world a safer place and if elected President, will stand with India in confronting the threats in the region. Senator Harris’s fondly reminisced about her trips to Madras (former name of Chennai) and how listening from her grandfather about the heroes of India’s Independence fight and watching her mother march in the civil rights movement instilled in her to fight against injustice and that these values shaped her. The trifecta of historic events culminated with the Biden-Harris campaign releasing a policy statement for Indian Americans which underscores the contributions and importance of our community in the beautiful quilted fabric of America.

For decades, Indian Americans have contributed significantly to the economic growth of the United States,  but were conspicuously absent from political discourse, civic engagement and a formal recognition by political parties. “The rising xenophobia coupled with the onslaught of American and democratic values and institutions in the last three years, has driven the community to get politically engaged but has yet to develop a collective and unique Indian American narrative within the Democratic Party even though we immigrated from the largest democracy in the world,” said Satish Korpe, a co-founder of the group.

“While Indians make up 80% of the South Asians diaspora and share the same, political challenges values and goals of the broader Asian American and Pacific Islander community as well, we are also proud of our unique Indian heritage,” Dr. Suresh Kumar said. Through extensive conversations with Indian American community leaders the group’s founders realized that the immigrant Indian community which makes up about two-thirds of the total Indian American voting bloc wanted to coalesce around their common ties to India and the issues that particularly impact them and US-India relationship, and so the group Indian Americans for Biden was formed and has evolved this week to Indian Americans for Biden-Harris.

According to the group’s founding members, Satish Korpe, Dr Suresh Kumar and Anu Kosaraju, Facebook was the platform they found to be the fastest way to bring together people from across the country to unite in the mission to get Joe Biden, and now Senator Kamala Devi Harris elected this November, while also solidifying an Indian American identity within the Democratic Party. With less than 80 days to November 3, the group is working tirelessly inspired by Senator Harris’ call to action, “Our children and grandchildren will ask us where we were when the stakes were so high. They will ask us what it was like. I don’t want us to tell them how we felt. I want us to tell them what we did.

To get involved with Indian American for Biden-Harris, please join our Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/indianamericansforbiden/

The Rise Of Kamala Harris Is Symbolic Of The Coming Of Age Of Indian Americans

“My name is pronounced “comma-la”, like the punctuation mark,” Kamala Harris writes in her 2018 autobiography, The Truths We Hold. The California senator, daughter of an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father, then explains the meaning of her Indian name. “It means ‘lotus flower’, which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture. A lotus grows underwater, its flowers rising above the surface while the roots are planted firmly in the river bottom.”

The Vice Presidential Candidate, Kamala Harris’s public image has been more tied to her identity as an African-American politician, especially recently during the current conversation around race and the Black Lives Matter movement in the US.

But Indian-Americans also view her as one of their own, her candidacy suggesting a potential wider recognition of the Indian and South Asian communities in the country. It is clear that her late mother was a big inspiration for Kamala Harris. Shyamala Gopalan was born in the southern Indian city of Chennai, the oldest of four children.

The speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday created a buzz on social media among the Indian-American and Tamilian community after she gave a special shoutout to her “chithis” while emphasising the importance of family. Tamil word ‘chithi‘ means aunt.

Harris, who made history by being the first Black woman and the first woman of Indian descent to contest US elections on a major party’s ticket, made the remark during her vice-presidential acceptance speech. In her speech, Harris spoke about the importance of family support in shaping an individual.

“She raised us to be proud, strong Black women. And she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage. She taught us to put family first. The family you are born into and the family you choose,” said Harris while talking about her mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris. Describing what family means to her, she said, “Family is my uncles, my aunts, and my chithis”.

For many Tamil Americans, Kamala Harris’s use of the phrase chitti was a small but significant way for the vice-presidential candidate to say, before an audience of millions, that she is one of them, too. As she accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president last week, California Sen. Kamala Harris recounted how she had been taught to “put family first.”

That covers both “the family you’re born into and the family you choose,” she said. Family is her husband, she said, and her two step-kids. Her sister, her sorority, her best friend, her godchildren. And then, she added, “Family is my uncles, my aunts and my chittis.” That last word, a Tamil term of endearment for the younger sisters of one’s mother, was met with a fierce outpouring of pride across social media.

For many Tamil Americans, Ms Harris’s use of the phrase – which can also be spelled out phonetically in English as “citti,” “chitthi” or “chitthi” – was more than just another word for “auntie.” It was a small but significant way for the vice-presidential candidate to say, before an audience of millions, that she is one of them, too. “Americans everywhere are googling ‘chitthi’ but @KamalaHarris we know,” Gautam Raghavan, a former Obama White House staffer, wrote on Twitter. “And we love you for it.”

By now, the basics of Ms Harris’s Black and South Asian identity are familiar: Born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother who met as graduate students, she was raised to appreciate her Black and South Asian heritage but prefers to call herself simply “American.”

Yet less commonly acknowledged in that biography is the regional heritage of her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, in Tamil Nadu, a South Indian state whose majority ethnic group is known for a deep pride in its distinct language and culture.

More than 240,000 people in the United States speak Tamil at home, according to census data, and a growing number of Tamil Americans – including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, actress Mindy Kaling, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. – have risen to national prominence in recent years.

In 2015, the comic Aziz Ansari featured lengthy snippets of Tamil dialogue during a much-celebrated episode of “Master of None,” when his real-life parents appeared on the show to played his fictional ones. But there’s nothing quite like prime-time politics.

“A Tamil word in an acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. Still blows my mind,” wrote Hari Sevugan, the former deputy campaign manager for Pete Buttigieg. “Despite this president, ‘only in America’ is still a thing.”

As her multiracial heritage challenges American notions of identity, and some have accused Harris of playing down her South Asian roots – or merely not playing them up as much as her Black identity – her use of “chittis” was a swift reproach.

“My Indian mother knew she was raising two Black daughters,” the candidate told the Los Angeles Times in 2015. “But that’s not to the exclusion of who I am in terms of my Indian heritage.”

After her parents’ divorce in the early 1970s, Harris often traveled as a child to visit relatives in Chennai, the Tamil Nadu city where her maternal grandparents had settled. She wore saris to family events and spoke Tamil with her relatives, the Times reported.

In her autobiography, Kamala Harris described how her mother would often use Tamil around the house to express “affection or frustration.” Her use of the word chitti is a reflection of the family structures and specific language used by Brahmin Tamils, a group that includes Gopalan and her family in India, said Vasu Renganathan, a lecturer in Tamil at the University of Pennsylvania.

The combination of linguistic Tamil roots that mean “little mother,” it can also be used to refer to a stepmother or even a friend of one’s mother who is a bit younger than her. A popular Tamil soap opera called “Chitti,” which first aired 20 years ago, tells of the relationship between a young girl who loses her mother and the woman she begins to treat as a maternal figure.

Hours after Harris’s speech, Renganathan told The Washington Post he was disappointed that Harris did not sprinkle in more Tamil phrases.

“Tamils are passionate about their homeland, and many want to identify themselves as Tamil in order to distinguish from North Indians or other South Indians,” he said. “She could have at least talked about her ‘amma,’ her own mother.” But, he added, it’s only a matter of time before she uses more Tamil on the campaign trail.

Rishi Sunak, Kamala Harris And The Rise Of The New Model Minority

The rise of political figures like Rishi Sunak, Kamala Harris and Bobby Jindal in countries like the UK and US serves to discredit radical voices of minority empowerment.

Rishi Sunak is the latest poster boy for Indian success stories abroad. The chancellor of the exchequer until recently, he could well become Britain’s next prime minister. He and his parents featured in a 2001 BBC documentary series about the middle classes. Sunak, who had been educated at the prestigious Winchester College, bragged on camera he had friends among the British aristocracy and upper class — but, he stressed, “not working class”.

In the two decades since that interview — whose clips are currently doing the rounds on Twitter and TikTok — Sunak has assiduously maintained his select company. After graduating from Oxford and Stanford universities, he advised investment banks and hedge funds before becoming a Member of Parliament from the “safe” Conservative Party seat of Richmond in Northern Yorkshire. Somewhere in between, he also got married to the daughter of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy. The couple are counted among Britain’s richest people today.

Sunak is among a clutch of political figures of Indian origin who have recently risen to prominence in the West. These include British home secretary Priti Patel, US ex-governors and presidential hopefuls Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal and, most notably, US Vice President Kamala Harris. Their ascent is viewed either as epitomizing the intelligence and industry of Indians that makes them stand out everywhere — or as evidence of the prospects inherent in “inclusive” Western societies, which enable immigrants and people of color to achieve their potential. But as Sunak’s story suggests, the truth is quite the opposite.

The newfound success of Indians reflects how the opportunity structure of Western liberal democracies rewards the privileged and the powerful — or those who serve their interests. At the same time, it illustrates how the politics of identity is abused to undermine any possibility of change.

The families of many of these political prodigies moved to the US or the UK in the 1950s and 1960s. This was a time of upheaval in both countries, which forced them to relax their immigration laws — although for different reasons. Britain, no longer the colonial power it used to be, needed more people from erstwhile colonies to rebuild after the Second World War. The US not only faced the challenge of the Cold War but also growing domestic discontent in the form of Black Americans taking to the streets to demand equal rights. A 1965 US law overturned several provisions that had curtailed immigration from non-European countries. Ostensibly meant to showcase the US as the land of the free, the new policy insidiously encouraged the expansion of non-Black minorities as a means of containing the civil rights movement.

It went hand-in-hand with a concerted campaign to typecast East Asian immigrants as the “model minority”. Soon after the immigration act was passed, the New York Times published an article praising Japanese Americans for achieving great success, measured in terms of higher education and low crime rates and contrasted directly with the failures of the ”problem minority”, viz. Blacks. Similar eulogies were sung for the Chinese Americans.

Virtually overnight, the same East Asians who had been regarded for more than a century as the “yellow peril” morphed into pliant, law-abiding, productive members of society who ought to serve as an exemplar for other minorities. The purpose behind the model minority stereotype was to discredit the demands of the civil rights movement by blaming Black Americans for all their suffering — whitewashing the history of slavery and segregation. The tag also served to divide minority groups and derail the possibility of multi-ethnic mobilisation.

Sixty years later, as the US simmers with chants of Black Lives Matter and China’s rise as a global power has once more transformed East Asians into the yellow peril, it is Indians who have emerged as the new model minority.

They do meet the requisite criteria. Nearly 79 percent of Indian Americans aged 25 or over have a bachelor’s degree, compared with just 33 percent on average for other communities, according to the 2019 census. Indians are also more likely to be employed than others and typically work in high-paying sectors. As a result, Indian households had a median income of $132,000, more than double the median for other immigrant groups combined.

These statistics are touted as proof that hard work can lead anyone to success in the US — the quintessence of the so-called American Dream. As Haley once said, “We’re just good at being Americans.”

But the figures hide more than they reveal. Comparing Indians and other communities is much like comparing proverbial apples and oranges. Many Indians in the US come from privileged sections of Indian society or the Indian diaspora. The vast majority have arrived in recent years. And they have migrated by choice, typically to take up plum jobs in management, business, science and technology, and the like — or to study and then take up plum jobs in these sectors.

This history is quite different from, say, the centuries of systematic persecution experienced by Black Americans initially brought to the US as slaves from Africa or the genocide that Native Americans had to live through. Talking about Jindal or Haley or Harris’s success as though it is exclusively Indian also disregards the progress on civil rights made possible by the political struggles of other minorities — struggles that Indians did not participate in but benefit from today.

This is not to suggest that Indian Americans do not experience prejudice — they do, and it is on the rise by all accounts. Nor does it imply that Indians do not work hard or do not deserve their success. But the glowing achievements of an already well-to-do community are mobilised to shade the injustices that other minorities are speaking out against. One moneyed Indian political figure after another, belonging to one mainstream political party or the other, is unveiled as an acceptable alternative to the uncomfortable politics of protest and grassroots mobilisation that Black Lives Matter represents.

Education, income and a general unwillingness to cause “trouble” even when dealing with racist violence has allowed Indians in the US to take on the mantle of the new model minority — especially at this moment of renewed racial angst that bears parallels with the civil rights era. A similar shift has occurred in Britain too, where Hindus and Sikhs are now regarded as part of the “middle classes” — in other words, the mainstream of British society.

The policy positions of these Indian politicians give the lie to claims that their rise somehow represents the cause of inclusivity and social justice. As governor of Louisiana, Jindal cut taxes on business investments while making it harder for the poor to receive healthcare. Haley, a fellow Republican, has supported the flying of racist Confederate flags. Meanwhile, Harris, a Democrat, fought to ensure more and more people — many of whom tend to be Black or other minorities — remained inside privately owned prisons while serving as attorney general of California.

The hypocrisy of these political leaders who hail from immigrant families is perhaps most evident when it comes to immigration policy. Jindal and Haley have supported a slew of laws that make immigration to the US difficult and the life of immigrants harder. While touring Latin American countries as vice president, Harris told would-be migrants, “Do not come. Do not come.” Across the pond, Patel is widely regarded as imposing a ruthless regime against immigrants and asylum seekers, especially during the Covid19 pandemic — bordering on illegality and termed by a judge as “extremely troubling”.

While champions of identity politics might celebrate the ascendance of Sunak and his ilk to the upper echelons of power in Western capitals, the success of these “different-looking” individuals is unlikely to make any difference. If anything, it shores up power and privilege within these liberal democracies. It also illustrates the emptiness of the liberal promise of representation, which barters the struggle for social change with the success of a few individuals who pride themselves in having no working-class friends.

Biden Urges Nation Not To Panic Over Omicron Fears

US President Joe Biden has called the Omicron Covid variant a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic” one day after it was detected in North America.

Cases have been found in Canada, and his speech from the White House comes as US travel bans on eight African countries takes effect. Biden also urged people to get a booster and to wear masks.

He said he does not anticipate any further US travel restrictions or lockdowns at this time.

In remarks on Monday, the president called it “almost inevitable” that the Omicron strain, first reported by South Africa, will be found in the US “at some point”. He added that said vaccine companies are creating “contingency plans” for new vaccines “if needed”.

Late last week, the US announced a ban on flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Canada, the UK and the EU and other countries have also restricted travel from southern Africa.

In his remarks, Mr Biden said that the ban had bought some time for the US to study the new strain. While the World Health Organization has deemed Omicron a “variant of concern”, it is still not clear whether it is associated with more transmission or more risk of evading vaccines.

“We have the best vaccine in the world, and the best medicines, the best scientist and we’re learning more every single day,” the president said. He also vowed to “fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion”.

He praised the scientific community of South Africa for reporting the strain, despite criticism that travel bans are being used to punish the country.

“To their credit, the scientific community in South Africa quickly notified the world of the emergence of this new variant,” Mr Biden said. “This kind of transparency is to be encouraged and applauded because it increases our ability to respond quickly to any new threats, and that’s exactly what we did.”

He also said he was directing the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates vaccines, to use the “fastest process available without cutting any corners” to approve any potential new vaccines that specifically target Omicron.

Canada, the US neighbour to the north, said on Sunday that the Omicron strain had been discovered in two patients who had recently travelled to Nigeria. A third case was announced on Monday.

Kamala Harris Makes History as First Woman and Woman of Color as Vice President of USA

The greatest democracy on earth took over 250 years to elect a female to be the Vice President. And, justifiably so, the first woman, who has made the cut, breaking the barriers and the glass ceilings that prevented any female from being elected to the office, is none other than the first time Senator from California, an first Indian American and Black American candidate, Kamala Harris. When Joe Biden, President-Elect gives his first speech to Congress, his first words promise to be memorable: “Madame Vice-President”.

The historic 2020 election, held among a pandemic that has impacted almost every aspect of our lives, did not deter the nearly 150 million Americans from casting their ballots, the highest ever voter turn out in any US election, helped win Biden-Harris ticket to the White House on November 3rd, 2020.  With millions of votes still to be counted, the Biden-Harris ticket has received the most votes ever – more than 75 million – in the history of America’s elections.

When Kamala Devi Harris enters 1 Observatory Circle, the official home of the Vice President in January 2021, she will have achieved many firsts: The first woman, the first person of Indian descent, the first African-American, the first with Jamaican heritage, the first daughter of immigrants to hold that office

Joe Biden, who has been declared the winner of the 2020 US presidential election by the media, marveling at her string of firsts, said on Saturday: “Once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice. It’s long overdue.”

Her multi-racial background gives her a degree of identity fluidity to navigate American society riven by race and ethnicity. Harris’ lightning fast political rise and her triumph marks a high point for women of color in politics at an anxious time in American society. Harris, 55, is a California senator, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. She is also a former prosecutor, whose grilling of Trump’s appointees and unflappable cool has transported her to Democratic Party stardom.

Harris won her first election in 2003 and became San Francisco’s district attorney. In 2010, she became the first woman of color to be elected California’s attorney general. Harris was elected to the US Senate in 2016. The historic nature of Harris’ candidacy has underlined her every stump speech, and Harris handled the pressure with a certain confidence that comes from years of tough questioning and tons of preparation.

Surrounded by the unmistakable aura of a historic campaign, the Harris candidacy has had some remarkable moments since August. First came Harris’ introduction to America, during the Democratic National Convention. There, Harris framed the election as a race that hinges, among other things, on the fighting spirit that her mother taught her.

“There’s another woman, whose name isn’t known, whose story isn’t shared. Another woman whose shoulders I stand on. And that’s my mother. She’d say, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’” has become Harris’ favorite pull out on her mother Shyamala Gopalan, a woman who paved the way for Harris’ path-breaking candidacy.

Shyamala Gopalan came to the US from India at age 19 to pursue her dream of curing cancer. At the University of California Berkeley, she met Donald Harris who had come from Jamaica to study economics. “They fell in love in that most American way — while marching together for justice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.”

In all her best moments of political oratory, Harris finds ways of weaving in echoes of her mother’s fight song and the civil rights movement, just like she did during her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The Shyamala Gopalan stamp on Kamala Harris’ candidacy is at once powerful and unmistakable. Harris grew up between Oakland and Berkeley in California and spent time in college towns in the Midwest before attending college on the US East Coast. Harris’ father, in an essay, describes his elder child Kamala Harris as “ever the adventurous and assertive one”.

Harris is the embodiment of the American dream with the amalgam of all those unique identities and adding to that her White Jewish husband, Douglas Emhoff, and step-daughters to complete the American mosaic.

“Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high?” Harris said at the Democratic National Convention in August. “They will ask us, what was it like? And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.”

Born in the US to immigrants, cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan from India and economics professor Donald Harris from Jamaica, Harris has leapt in a generation to a position that puts her a heartbeat away from the presidency. Harris wrote in her memoir, “The Truths We Hold”, that she was raised in “a place where people believed in the most basic tenet of the American Dream: that if you worked hard and do right by the world, your kids will be better of than you were”.

While the African-American identity became the dominant one and, in fact, the one that boosted her chances to the get the vice presidential nomination, Harris wrote: “Our classical Indian names harked back to our heritage and we were raised with a strong awareness of and appreciation for Indian culture. “My mother, grandparents, aunts and uncle instilled us with pride in our South Asian roots. “I was also very close to my mother’s brother, Balu, and her two sisters, Sarala and Chinni (whom I called Chittis, which means ‘younger mother’ (in Tamil),” she recalled.

In her memoir, Harris wrote that the lesson she inherited from her mother that “it was service to others that gave life purpose and meaning” came from her grandmother Rajam, who had not completed high school but was a fiery protector of victims of domestic abuse.

In her victory speech on Saturday night, she said of her mother: “When she came here from India at the age of 19, maybe she didn’t quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible.”

Joe Biden Elected 46th President of the United States

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was elected the nation’s 46th president Saturday in a repudiation of President Trump powered by legions of women and minority voters who rejected his handling of the corona virus pandemic and his divisive, bullying conduct in office. America has chosen Democrat Joe Biden as its 46th president, turning at a time of national crisis to a man whose character was forged by aching personal tragedy and who is pledging to restore calm and truth after Donald Trump‘s exhausting and manic single term.

After four full days of waiting patiently for the slow march of vote counting to work itself out, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph R Biden, 77, pulled off one of the great political turnarounds in America by defeating Donald Trump in the US 2020 election. When he is sworn in on January 20, 2021, Biden will be 78. Exactly 160 years ago around this time, Abraham Lincoln was elected US President.

The Associated Press called the 2020 election for Democratic nominee Joe Biden after calling the race in Pennsylvania, giving the former vice president more than the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees a United States,” Biden said.

Biden’s victory was the culmination of four years of struggle for Democrats and others who have resisted Trump. It was celebrated by an emotional outpouring in cities coast to coast that ended with a tailgate-style victory party in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Del. The election took four days to be resolved after the former vice president was projected to win a series of battleground states, and was clinched by the state where he was born, Pennsylvania.

Voters also made history in electing as vice president Kamala Devi Harris, 56, a senator from California and daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants who will become the country’s first woman, first Black person and first Asian American to hold the No. 2 job.In a prime-time speech to flag-waving supporters outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Biden made no mention of Trump’s intransigence, instead offering an olive branch to the president’s supporters and imploring all Americans to “put away the harsh rhetoric” and end “this grim era of demonization.”

“To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy,” Biden said, before referring to the Book of Ecclesiastes. “The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.” Before introducing Biden, Harris acknowledged the history-making reality of her election, saying she stood on the shoulders of trailblazing women and would do her best to join their ranks.

The current occupant of the White House continues to project a defiant public posture, though. White House insiders, although deflated, have been sending signals that Trump has no plans to concede until every last fight is finished. Five states are yet to report final results. Trump is fuming, he remains defiant and continues to allege “fraud” in Pennsylvania and other battlegrounds. His children have chimed into the overall White House meltdown, in terms that generally occupy the wide arc between what’s “legal” and “illegal”. While President Trump is contesting the outcome of the election, experts see no clear path to reversing the results, since Biden has won too many electoral college votes and is too far ahead in key states for legal challenges to make much of a difference.

Biden is a sharp contrast to Trump, both in the personal and political realm. The last three days in particular have shown Americans glimpses of that very difference. Biden spent every day since November 3 trying to ease tensions and delivering his messages with little outward show of anxiety. The disciplined nature of the campaign extends to plans for the lame duck phase of the Trump presidency. Two full days before the final results came, the Biden campaign unveiled its transition website, underscoring its quiet confidence in what was to come.

Former President Barack Obama released a statement that served as testimonial to the character of his former vice president and asked Americans to set aside their political differences and give him a chance.  “When he walks into the White House in January, he’ll face a series of extraordinary challenges no incoming President ever has — a raging pandemic, an unequal economy and justice system, a democracy at risk, and a climate in peril,” Obama wrote. “I know he’ll do the job with the best interests of every American at heart, whether or not he had their vote.”  The former President asked every American to “give him a chance and lend him your support.”

GOPIO Congratulates President-Elect Joe Biden And Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

The Indian American community whole heartedly welcomes the Biden/Harris win at the election and the congratulates President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris.  “The Indian American community was elated when Vice President Biden selected Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate and it was a great honor and prestige for the Indian American community,” said Dr. thomas Abraham, Chairman of GOPIO.  

In spite of close Trump-Modi relation, a very high percentage of the community went with Biden-Harris ticket. In fact, in this close election, community votes have helped Biden to win the election.

“Although many Trump supporters raised doubts about support for India in a Biden Administration, I don’t expect much changes in US policy towards India since both countries have become close partners in many political and economic aspects,” said Dr. Abraham.

Currently, India is a big buyer of America’s military ware. Both countries have common interest to fight terrorism. Economically, both countries have invested in each other. Politically the most important factor is that India has bipartisan support among the US House Representatives and the Senators of both political parties.

One major outcome of the Indian American community support will be a large number of political appointments by the Biden Administration, even some cabinet level appointments.

“There are a large number of bright and highly qualified candidates from the Indian American community who could be brought in to work for the new administration since the country has many serious problems to tackle, i.e. the pandemic and the economic slowdown,” Dr. Abraham added.

GOPIO looks forward to work closely with the Biden administration GOPIO is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, secular organization with Individual Life Members and over 100 chapters in 35 countries. GOPIO’s volunteers are committed to enhancing cooperation and communication between NRIs/PIOs and the local communities, building bonds, friendships, alliances, and the camaraderie of citizens and colleagues alike.  GOPIO volunteers believe that when they help network the global Indian community, they facilitate making tomorrow a better world for the Indian Diaspora and the countries they live in.

In 2018, Government Restrictions on Religion Reach Highest Level Globally in More Than a Decade

In 2018, the global median level of government restrictions on religion – that is, laws, policies and actions by officials that impinge on religious beliefs and practices – continued to climb, reaching an all-time high since Pew Research Center began tracking these trends in 2007.

The year-over-year increase from 2017 to 2018 was relatively modest, but it contributed to a substantial rise in government restrictions on religion over more than a decade. In 2007, the first year of the study, the global median score on the Government Restrictions Index (a 10-point scale based on 20 indicators) was 1.8. After some fluctuation in the early years, the median score has risen steadily since 2011 and now stands at 2.9 for 2018, the most recent full year for which data is available.

The increase in government restrictions reflects a wide variety of events around the world, including a rise from 2017 to 2018 in the number of governments using force – such as detentions and physical abuse – to coerce religious groups.

The total number of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions has been mounting as well. Most recently, that number climbed from 52 countries (26% of the 198 countries and territories included in the study) in 2017 to 56 countries (28%) in 2018. The latest figures are close to the 2012 peak in the top two tiers of the Government Restrictions Index.

As of 2018, most of the 56 countries with high or very high levels of government restrictions on religion are in the Asia-Pacific region (25 countries, or half of all countries in that region) or the Middle East-North Africa region (18 countries, or 90% of all countries in the region).

Rising government restrictions in the Asia-Pacific region

Out of the five regions examined in the study, the Middle East and North Africa continued to have the highest median level of government restrictions in 2018 (6.2 out of 10). However, Asia and the Pacific had the largest increase in its median government restrictions score, rising from 3.8 in 2017 to 4.4 in 2018, partly because a greater number of governments in the region used force against religious groups, including property damage, detention, displacement, abuse and killings.

In total, 31 out of 50 countries (62%) in Asia and the Pacific experienced government use of force related to religion, up from 26 countries (52%) in 2017. The increase was concentrated in the category of “low levels” of government use of force (between one and nine incidents during the year). In 2018, 10 Asia-Pacific countries fell into this category, up from five the previous year..

In Armenia, for example, a prominent member of the Baha’i faith was detained on religious grounds, according to members of the community.1 And in the Philippines, three United Methodist Church missionaries were forced to leave the country or faced issues with visa renewals after they were involved in investigating human rights violations on a fact-finding mission.

 But the region also saw several instances of widespread use of government force against religious groups. In Burma (Myanmar), large-scale displacement of religious minorities continued. During the course of the year, more than 14,500 Rohingya Muslims were reported by Human Rights Watch to have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape abuses, and at least 4,500 Rohingya were stuck in a border area known as “no-man’s land,” where they were harassed by Burmese officials trying to get them to cross to Bangladesh.3 In addition, fighting between the Burmese military and armed ethnic organizations in the states of Kachin and Shan led to the displacement of other religious minorities, mostly Christians.

Meanwhile, in Uzbekistan, it is estimated that at least 1,500 Muslim religious prisoners remained in prison on charges of religious extremism or membership in banned groups. Some countries in the Asia-Pacific region saw all-time highs in their overall government restrictions scores. This includes China, which continued to have the highest score on the Government Restrictions Index (GRI) out of all 198 countries and territories in the study. China has been near the top of the list of most restrictive governments in each year since the inception of the study, and in 2018 it reached a new peak in its score (9.3 out of 10).

The Chinese government restricts religion in a variety of ways, including banning entire religious groups (such as the Falun Gong movement and several Christian groups), prohibiting certain religious practices, raiding places of worship and detaining and torturing individuals.6 In 2018, the government continued a detention campaign against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims in Xinjiang province, holding at least 800,000 (and possibly up to 2 million) in detention facilities “designed to erase religious and ethnic identities,” according to the U.S. State Department.

Tajikistan also stands out with a GRI score of 7.9, an all-time high for that country. In 2018, the Tajik government amended its religion law, increasing control over religious education domestically and over those who travel abroad for religious education. The amendment also requires religious groups to report their activities to authorities and requires state approval for appointing imams. Throughout the year, the Tajik government continued to deny minority religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, official recognition. In January, Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that more than a dozen members were interrogated by police and pressured to renounce their faith.

 While these are examples of countries with “very high” government restrictions on religion in Asia and the Pacific, there also are several notable countries in the “high” category that experienced an increase in their scores. India, for example, reached a new peak in its GRI score in 2018, scoring 5.9 out of 10 on the index, while Thailand also experienced an all-time high (5.4).

In India, anti-conversion laws affected minority religious groups. For example, in the state of Uttar Pradesh in September, police charged 271 Christians with attempting to convert people by drugging them and “spreading lies about Hinduism.” Furthermore, throughout the year, politicians made comments targeting religious minorities. In December, the Shiv Sena Party, which holds seats in parliament, published an editorial calling for measures such as mandatory family planning for Muslims to limit their population growth. And law enforcement officials were involved in cases against religious minorities: In Jammu and Kashmir, four police personnel, among others, were arrested in connection with the kidnapping, rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl from a nomadic Muslim family, reportedly to push her community out of the area.

In Thailand, as part of broader immigration raids in 2018, the government arrested hundreds of immigrants who allegedly did not have legal status, including religious minorities from other countries who were seeking asylum or refugee status. Among the detainees were Christians and Ahmadi Muslims from Pakistan as well as Christian Montagnards from Vietnam. During the year, Thai authorities also detained six leading Buddhist monks, a move that the government said was an effort to curb corruption but that some observers called a politically motivated attempt to assert control over temples. Government restrictions on religion in other regions

While Asia and the Pacific had the largest increases in their Government Restrictions Index scores, the Middle East and North Africa still had the highest median level of government restrictions, with a score of 6.2 on the GRI – up from 6.0 in 2017, more than double the global median (2.9), and at its highest point since the aftermath of the Arab Spring in 2012.

As in Asia, the rise in GRI scores in the Middle East and North Africa was partly due to more governments using force against religious groups. All but one country in the region had reports of government use of force related to religion in 2018, although many were at the lowest level (between one and nine incidents). In Jordan, for example, a media personality and an editor employed at his website were detained and charged with “sectarian incitement and causing religious strife” for posting on Facebook a cartoon of a Turkish chef sprinkling salt at Jesus’ Last Supper.

But government force against religious groups was much more widespread in some countries in the region. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, more than 300 Shiite Muslims remained in prison in the country’s Eastern Province, where the government has arrested more than 1,000 Shiites since 2011 in connection with protests for greater rights.

Aside from Asia-Pacific and the Middle East-North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa was the only other region to experience an increase in its median level of government restrictions in 2018 (from 2.6 to 2.7), reaching a new high following a steady rise in recent years. While government use of force against religious groups decreased in the region, both harassment of religious groups and physical violence against minority groups went up.

More than eight-in-ten countries in the sub-Saharan region (40 out of 48) experienced some form of government harassment of religious groups, and 14 countries (29%) had reports of governments using physical coercion against religious minorities. In Mozambique, for example, the government arbitrarily detained men, women and children who appeared to be Muslim in response to violent attacks on civilians and security forces by an insurgent group. According to media and local organizations, the government response to the attacks was “heavy-handed.”13

Europe experienced a small decline in its median level of government restrictions, falling from 2.9 in 2017 to 2.8 in 2018, although government use of force increased slightly (see Chapter 3 for details). The median level of government restrictions in the Americas, meanwhile, remained stable between 2017 and 2018, as the region continued to experience the lowest levels of government restrictions compared with all other regions. Social hostilities involving religion declined slightly in 2018.

This is the 11th annual report in this continuing study, which looks not only at government restrictions on religion but also at social hostilities involving religion – that is, acts of religion-related hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society.

The new analysis finds that globally, social hostilities declined slightly in 2018 after hitting an all-time high the prior year. The median score on the Social Hostilities Index (a 10-point scale based on 13 measures of social hostilities involving religion) fell from 2.1 in 2017 to 2.0 in 2018. This small decline was partly due to fewer reports of incidents in which some religious groups (usually of a majority faith in a particular country) attempted to prevent other religious groups (usually of minority faiths) from operating. There also were fewer reports of individuals being assaulted or displaced from their homes for religious expression that goes against the majority faith in a country.

The number of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of social hostilities involving religion also declined slightly from 56 (28% of all 198 countries and territories in the study) to 53 (27%). This includes 16 European countries (36% of all countries in Europe), 14 in the Asia-Pacific region (28% of all Asia-Pacific countries) and 11 in the Middle East and North Africa (55% of MENA countries).

Taken together, in 2018, 40% of the world’s countries (80 countries overall) had “high” or “very high” levels of overall restrictions on religion — reflecting either government actions or hostile acts by private individuals, organizations or social groups – down slightly from 42% (83 countries) in 2017. This remains close to the 11-year peak that was reached in 2012, when 43% (85 countries) had high or very high levels of overall restrictions. By this combined measure, as of 2018, all 20 countries in the Middle East-North Africa region have high overall restrictions on religion, as do more than half of Asia-Pacific countries (27 countries, or 54% of the region) and more than a third of countries in Europe (17 countries, 38%).

In this report, for the first time, Pew Research Center combined its data on government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion with a classification of regime types, based on the Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.14 Researchers did this to discern whether there is a link between different models of government and levels of restrictions on religion – in other words, whether restrictions on religion tend to be more or less common in countries with full or partial democracies than in those with authoritarian regimes.

The analysis finds a strong association between authoritarianism and government restrictions on religion. While there are many exceptions to this pattern, authoritarian regimes are much more common among the countries with very high government restrictions on religion – roughly two-thirds of these countries (65%) are classified as authoritarian. Among countries with low government restrictions on religion, meanwhile, just 7% are authoritarian.

There is less of a clear pattern when it comes to social hostilities involving religion. There are no countries classified by the Economist Intelligence Unit as full democracies that have very high levels of social hostilities involving religion (just as there are no full democracies with very high levels of government restrictions involving religion). At the same time, there are many authoritarian countries with low levels of social hostilities involving religion, suggesting that in some cases, a government may restrict religion through laws and actions by state authorities while limiting religious hostilities among its citizens.

When looking at countries with very high government restrictions on religion, Pew Research Center found that of the 26 countries in this category whose regimes were scored by the EIU on its Democracy Index in 2018, 17 (65%) were classified as authoritarian, three were hybrid regimes (12%) and three were flawed democracies (12%). There were no countries with very high government restrictions that were full democracies.16 The three countries with very high government restrictions that were classified as flawed democracies – Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore – all are regionally clustered in Southeast Asia.

Of the 30 countries with high government restrictions on religion, there were 12 authoritarian states (40%), 11 hybrid regimes (37%) and six flawed democracies (20%), according to the EIU Democracy Index. One full democracy, Denmark, also was in this category. In 2018, Denmark fell into the high government restrictions category for the first time, with its score driven partly by a ban on face coverings, which included Islamic burqas and niqabs, that went into effect that year.

At the other end of the spectrum, among the 74 countries with low government restrictions, just five were classified as authoritarian (7%), 13 were hybrid regimes (18%), 27 were flawed democracies (36%) and seven were full democracies (9%). The countries with low government restrictions on religion that were also classified as authoritarian by the Democracy Index are all in sub-Saharan Africa: Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Republic of the Congo, Swaziland and Togo. There was no Democracy Index classification of regime type for 22 countries with low government restrictions.

 

In terms of social hostilities involving religion, the picture is more mixed – which makes sense given that social hostilities look at actions by private individuals or social groups and do not directly originate from government actions.

Among the 10 countries with very high levels of social hostilities, there were four authoritarian states, three hybrid regimes and three flawed democracies – India, Israel and Sri Lanka. Again, like countries with very high government restrictions, there were no full democracies with very high levels of social hostilities.

Among the 43 countries with high levels of social hostilities, nine were classified as authoritarian (21%), 14 were hybrid regimes (33%), 13 were flawed democracies (30%) and five were full democracies (12%).

The five countries categorized as full democracies with high levels of social hostilities are all in Europe – Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – and all had reports of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents. In Switzerland, for instance, Muslim groups reported growing anti-Muslim sentiments due to negative coverage by the media and hostile discourse on Islam by right-leaning political parties. During the year, for instance, a journalist who had initiated a local ban on face coverings handed out a “Swiss Stop Islam Award” of about $2,000 USD to three recipients.

Among the 81 countries with low levels of social hostilities in 2018, there were 24 with no data on regime types (mostly small island nations the Democracy Index does not cover). Those with data are most commonly classified as flawed democracies (26 countries, or 32% of the 81 countries with low social hostilities).

But, strikingly, 17 countries (21%) with low social hostilities involving religion were classified as authoritarian – including countries like Eritrea and Kazakhstan, which have very high government restrictions on religion. In addition, several other authoritarian states with very high government restrictions on religion – such as China, Iran and Uzbekistan – have only moderate levels of social hostilities involving religion. In these cases, high levels of government control over religion may lead to fewer hostilities by nongovernment actors.

AAPI Congratulates President-Elect Biden & Vice President-Elect Harris

Chicago, Il: November 8th, 2020) “We want to express our sincere congratulations and best wishes to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their historic winning of the 2020 Presidential elections,” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, President of AAPI said here today. Describing these as “critical times” for the nation, Dr. Jonnalagadda said, “We the members of the medical fraternity are encouraged by President –Elect Biden’s plans to create a Federal COVID Task Force and his pledge to set up a Pandemic Testing Board to “produce and distribute tens of millions of tests.”
 
In her congratulatory note, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT, while wishing the new Administration the very best as he prepares to assume office on January 20th, 2021, praised Biden for pledging “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify; who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.”
 
Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI, in a message lauded Biden and Harris, who has “made history by being elected to be the first ever woman to become the Vice President of the United States.” Referring to her Indian origins, Dr. Gotimukula described the election of Kamala Harris as “Inspiring and is of immense pride for all Indian-Americans.”
 
While expressing appreciation to Biden for wanting to set up a nationwide contact-tracing program and call on governors to impose mask-wearing mandates, which is an effective way of containing the spread of the virus, Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI, said, “It’s heartening that our own esteemed AAPI member, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General of the US is being considered to be the co-chair of the Presidential Panel on COVID.”
 
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 continues to climb and is likely to worsen as colder temperatures drive Americans indoors and case counts go up. ““We wish the new administration under Biden Presidency success in all of its endeavors to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and get our economy back on track. We at AAPI will continue to work hard to provide the best of care to all those who need,” said, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI said.
 
There are about 80,000 practicing Indian American physicians who are at the forefront of fighting COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In addition, there are around 40,000 medical students, residents, and fellows of Indian origin in this country who are supporting many of the hospitals affected by the pandemic. “Physicians of Indian Origin have been in the front lines during the pandemic risking their lives everyday, and we look forward to continue to serve nation under the new Presidency led by Biden,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI.
  
Describing the numerous efforts by AAPI, Dr. Jonnalagadda said, “AAPI as an organization has helped and is continuing to help the communities during COVID-19 pandemic. AAPI has written letters to the current president’s office for universal masking, social distancing and to lockdown the country or to have ‘shelter in place’ during the initial phase of the pandemic to prevent spread of the disease. AAPI has raised funds to buy personal protective equipment and donated to several AAPI chapters across the country. The organization conducted close to 100 webinars to educate doctors and community members about CVOID-19.”
 
While offering fullest cooperation to the Biden administration, Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda said,  “The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (APPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the country has taken several proactive steps in educating their members and the general public about the disease, the preventive steps that needs to be taken at this time and most importantly, they are using all their contacts and resources at the hospital administrative and government level to facilitate treatment protocols to be in place at the various hospitals around the country.” For more information on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org
 
 

A Little Bit Pregnant!!

An American Citizen asks “personal character or the national policy of the president that matters most?”  May be both are important, when you think about American President. There is no politics involved, only intriguing concerns disturb the fragile minds of common man elsewhere. While the presidential election votes were being counted, for long a strong  group alleges that there is widespread fake votes dumped. It might have happened or not, nowadays even God does not know.

In this country, where we boast that we have zero tolerance for most things and we are perfect to land the missile exactly on the Captain’s head on a moving submarine, how come we are unable to declare our voting system fool-proof?

Even on most of the TV channel discussions, we heard a consoling remark that President Trump is lost, because of his character and language. May be true. Trump is not an eloquent orator, nor he is a seasoned politician. Americans knew it four years back; and chose him as president of the nation. We know his achievements out balance his failures. That is why he got only 46.1% of popular votes winning over Hillary Clinton, whereas he could gather almost 47.5% during his so called “defeat” in 2020.

An average American can only succumb to his wild thoughts that Trump’s leadership during the last four years were not a total collapse, but overall a peaceful, warfree, safe term for the country. (Except for the Covid pandemic and his tough attitudes with some dubious countries and global organizations).

Sincere to the history of America, we had good presidents comparatively. I have heard much about John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton, who were much adored for their “sense, sensibility and sensitivity”. Exceptionally they were even sensuously emancipated by womenfolk for they were handsomevor glamourous. During voting period, that too matters, because there was abundant hatred towards Trump by our womenfolk. There is absolutely no discrimination gender wise when hate grows faster than cancer, among voters; Trump proved that. But the magnifying glass glows the stains on those faces of those well accepted presidents, even now. Can we tell our children that any of these Presidents as role models?. The good old George Washington or Abraham Lincoln were exceptional, technology and social media were then nil to expose them otherwise.

Coming back to the track of the topic, character of the President of a nation is of utmost importance. Deligently that itself won’t lead the nation to be safer or prosperous. Proper policies to simplify the economic burden of the citizen, and securely pushing the nation healthier, stronger and economically prosperous can only be achieved with smart political polices. Economists approve the latter part of President. trump’s rating good enough; and they have no interest of analyzing the personal, racist, a misogynist, and timid habits of the Presidents.

“We call on all relevant authorities to ensure tabulation of votes and resolution of complaints is undertaken in a transparent and credible manner,” USState Secretary Mike Pompeo said. Still, his suggestion the election’s outcome was still unclear came as  many key leaders around the world are already congratulating the President-elect Joe Biden on his projected victory.

We remember that during  2000 we took about 37 days to ensure the counting of votes. We have gone far ahead during the last 20 years. We need to count all legal votes, and abandon all suspiciously illegal votes. That ensuring that acceptance of legitimate election results are essential for any fledgling democracy.

Off late, we hear that Georgia State is venturing for a recount of the 2020 votes. That escalated the suspicion that something is slushy there with the voting. If we are good enough to reveal some intentional malpractices in that state, it is evident that the system is malignantor corrupted.

If the investigation into election fraud finds NO evidence of wrong doing; then so-be-it, Biden wins. But voters need to know that it was a fair and honest election and their vote counted. All illegal votes need to be removed from the totals. If observation of vote counting was prohibited, then there needs to be a recount with total transparency, no excuses. And Let none declare  “there was very little fraud so it won’t make a difference”. That is like being “a little bit pregnant”. We have to check everything even if it takes months. We need to be faithful to the voters and model to other nations. We are either pregnant, or not ; there is no situation called – ” a little bit pregnant”.

(By Dr. Mathew Joys, Las Vegas)

When Power Is Transferred In The United States, Advantages And Disadvantages To Indians

President Trump, who came to power with a big bang, is bidding farewell to the White House, turning to the culmination of even more horrific controversies. One week of global attention was the first week of November, after 9/11, when Trump’s defeat was widely viewed. The success and achievement of history was the glorious victory of Kamala Harris, whom we are proud to be of Indian descent. It is said that in the US presidential election, the Vice Presidential candidate is generally ignored. But this is the first time in American history that a woman has become vice president. Despite all the controversy, this is a record success and achievement, and Indians are thrilled to have an Indian descent to prove that women in America are not inferior to men in any way. The United States was not mature enough to induct a woman president of the United States, that is what Hillary Clinton called out to the world when she lost to Trump; even if  if it landed a woman on the moon on a rocket. Kamala Harris’ success is an inspiration to future generations, proving that immigrants in particular can reach any level in the United States, and to motivate the children of Indians to think and get into politics. The success of Kamala Harris is exciting. (Racism, racism, sectarianism and gender should not be mentioned anymore!). I agree with my friend’s neutral opinion that “Trump was a president who always wanted America to be number one in the world, who was a non-professional politician, a non-intellectual, a conservative.” As for the United States, it was during the Trump administration that the Islamic State, which has been at the forefront of the world by carrying out terrorist attacks around the world, has dismantled the financial resources of Al Qaeda extremist groups. It is also noteworthy that in the last four years, the United States has not invaded or waged a war. He also withdrew troops from Iraq and Afghanistan as he had promised (there is now only a small group in those countries to train indigenous troops). India cannot forget Trump’s support. Because Prime Minister Modi and President Trump were friends. The stories were never disappointing for India. Even there  was a Keralite man at the helm of Trump’s election campaign (not to mention he rowed back if we got nothing to blame). For the past years, President Trump has been a powerful ruler who has knocked down the global threat posed by “growing Chinese imperialism.”He also dared to engage in a trade war with China and send a strong message to Chinese imperialist ambitions that threaten border countries, including India, by deploying naval forces, including in the China Sea. It should be added that former US presidents, including Richard Nixon, sent the Seventh Fleet here before to intimidate India. Throughout history, the foreign policy adopted by the United States has been in favor of China and Pakistan.It was only during Trump’s presidency that the United States took a “U-turn” and took a completely pro-India stance. It is the US support that has given India the energy to retaliate against Chinese imperialism who crossed the Indian border and attacked Indian troops on the same coin. In the recent past, he has signed a number of military and non – military agreements with India, not only ignoring Pakistan, but also suspending US financial aid to Pakistan, citing its pro – terrorist stance. ” The media and hostile nations, which never acknowledge his atrocities and patriotism, continue to accuse him of being a clown. As my friend pointed out, whatever shortcomings he had, some Indian progressives may admit, it may be due to ignorance, or the extreme of unbridled greed, even enjoying all the benefits in America. An excerpt from the Chanakya Sutra reads: “Whether the idol is of stone, metal or wood; the belief that God is present in it is important. The intensity of faith is the measure of blessing.” Likewise, whether the President of the United States is a Republican or a Democrat, that position has its own dignity and superiority over other nations, and the standard of governance should be the measuring yard  Let time pass. As President-elect Joe Biden inspired the American people in his first speech, he stated, “Hereafter, No more Red State, no Blue State; only United States.”(By Dr. Matthew Joys, Las Vegas)

“I Will Govern As An American President,” Joe Biden Stakes Claim To White House

“I will govern as an American president,” Democratic Party candidate Joseph Biden said. “There will be no red states and blue states when we win. Just the United States of America,” as protracted vote counting continues into the weekend in the US Presidential Election held  on November 3rd,   which is considered by most as historic. “We’re going to win this race with a clear majority,” Biden said late Friday, speaking alongside his running mate, Kamala Harris, in his home state of Delaware. “What’s becoming clear each hour is that record number of Americans, of all races, faiths, religions, chose change over more of the same,” he said.

However the Democratic candidate – speaking in his home state of Delaware running mate Kamala Harris by his side on Friday night – stopped short of officially declaring victory in the presidential election. Joe Biden has staked his claim to the US presidency claiming that he has the electoral college votes for a victory, declaring, “We the people will not surrender.”

Biden’s paths to the White House are expanding. Combining the latest wins with Nevada and Georgia would take him past the tape. While all indications suggest that Mr. Biden has succeeded in defeating Mr. Trump, it’s still close enough in four states — Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia — that the contest remains unresolved.

As of early Saturday morning, the Associated Press had called races in most states, allotting to Biden 264 electoral votes, and to Trump, 214. A total of 270 electoral votes are needed to secure the presidency. Joseph Biden pulled ahead of President Trump by more than 28,000 votes in Pennsylvania, where a victory would give Biden the electoral votes he needs to win the presidency. He also widened his leads in Nevada and Georgia. The state of Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes — if President Trump fails win it, he cannot reach the crucial 270 necessary to secure the presidency.

Aides to the president have warned him that he has few legal options to contest the election results, but Trump still wants to try, according a former campaign adviser who remains in touch with key players told the media. “It’s dawning on him,” the former adviser said, speaking on condition of anonymity to comment on private conversations. “He never thought he could lose … and those of us who are in Trump World, we actually never believed he could lose,” the former adviser said.

Biden’s speech took on a certain decisiveness in tone as confidence grew with the Democratic party, with back to back wins in Wisconsin and Michigan. These wins are part of the Democratic effort to reclaim a key part of the “blue wall” that slipped away four years ago. It also narrows Donald Trump’s path to reelection. Biden, 77, has told associates that he considers his two terms as vice president and his knowledge of how a White House operates from the inside as crucial advantages in building out a government. And he has made it plain in public and private that a diverse team is central to his mission.

Meanwhile, Biden’s advisers accelerated their transition planning as election results showed him with an advantage in battleground states that could hand him the presidency, with the first senior officials in a potential Biden White House possibly named as early as next week. In Wilmington and Washington, Biden’s advisers and allies are ramping up their conversations about who might fill critical posts, both in the West Wing and across the agencies, guided heavily by Biden’s plan to assemble what would be the most diverse cabinet in history.

Biden, who ran from Day 1 on a message of bringing the country together, is said to be interested in making a bipartisan gesture as he plans a prospective government after a divisive election whose results President Trump has tried to undermine. Biden is looking to fill out his possible White House staff first, with cabinet posts not expected to be announced until around Thanksgiving, according to more than a half-dozen people familiar with the planning process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the transition.

Biden’s team quietly began raising money for his transition operation in May and has raised at least $7 million to pay for its efforts. The Biden camp has prepared for multiple scenarios in case Trump refused to concede and his administration would not participate in a transition. So far, officials in Trump’s government have worked in good faith, according to Biden officials, who said they hoped and expected that cooperation to continue

According to New York Times, among those expected to play a key health care role in a Biden administration is Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general under President Barack Obama, who has privately advised Biden for months on the pandemic and is expected to play a large public role as a face of the potential Democratic administration’s response to the virus, dispensing advice on mask-wearing and social distancing.

At the center of Biden’s transition planning is Ted Kaufman, his former chief of staff in the Senate, who was appointed to replace Mr. Biden as a senator after he became vice president, as well as Jeff Zients, a former Obama administration official. Parts of the cast that had Mr. Biden’s ear throughout the presidential campaign — Anita Dunn, a senior adviser; Steve Ricchetti, another former vice-presidential chief of staff; and Mr. Klain — are among those guiding the formation of a would-be government. Senator Kamala Harris of California, his running mate, is generating names and speaks regularly to Mr. Biden. In Mr. Biden’s policy orbit on the campaign, Jake Sullivan and Antony J. Blinken are widely seen as the most influential figures, and both are expected to hold senior posts in a potential administration.

The Biden operation is preparing for Trump to potentially put up transition roadblocks. The transition team has already assembled a staff of more than 75 officials, with plans for that number to balloon to roughly 300 transition staff members by Inauguration Day in January.

A Time to Heal, A Time to Build

Our nation is more divided than it has to be. It is both possible and urgent to reduce polarization, division, and the tensions they create. Healing these divides is not a utopian aspiration. Nor does this hope entail denying that citizens in a democratic republic will always have disagreements.

They will treasure their freedom to argue about them, to persuade and convert each other—and ultimately to win the debate at election time and with the public. A free society cannot escape, and shouldn’t want to evade, the legitimate clash of interests. Although we sometimes think so, anger in politics is not unique to our moment, or to our country. And anger over injustice can be a productive emotion when it is linked to considered action. Some of the struggles of our time are inevitable and necessary, none more so than a reckoning with a four-century history of racial injustice.

One can believe all these things and still recognize that misunderstanding and mistrust have reached toxic levels in the United States. Large groups of Americans currently fear that the triumph of their opponents will render the country unrecognizable and inhospitable to their deepest beliefs. Many have said we are in the midst of a cold civil war, which implies the possibility of violence. Religion defines only one dimension of our coming apart, but it is the source of some of our deepest divisions. Faith defines the ultimate concerns of many of our citizens even as others, who do not count themselves as religious believers, fear that their rights will be overlooked or violated by the pious and the devout. And of course, there are sharp divides among those who belong to the same religious traditions and read the same scriptures.

Consider how these issues often present themselves: One side fears that marriage equality and Roe v. Wade will be reversed and that Americans will be denied basic health care, commercial goods and services, and government-funded benefits based on an individual’s gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The other side fears their government will brand them as bigots for their religious opposition to marriage equality, close their colleges and universities, press them to engage in activities that violate their consciences, and strip their institutions’ tax-exempt statuses because of their beliefs.

Religion has become more polarizing for another reason: As religious conservatism has become an important force inside the Republican Party, the proportion of Americans who do not identify with any religious tradition has skyrocketed, especially among the young, and these nonbelievers are an important part of the Democrats’ constituency. Americans’ religious commitments have often had an impact on their political views over the course of our history, but religious and partisan loyalties now reinforce each other more than ever.

“When the next administration takes office, it will confront a pandemic, the scourge of systemic racism, a deep economic recession, and a dangerously warming planet. Government must act boldly in all these spheres, yet government will not succeed alone.”

A president cannot instantly alter these underlying forces, but he (and, some day, she) can acknowledge that the weaponization of such divisions for political purposes is dangerous to the nation’s long-term stability; give fellow citizens across religious traditions and religious divides evidence that their views and concerns are being taken into account, even when their policy preferences are not enacted into law; and take seriously the powerful contributions that religious groups make to problem solving and community-building as part of the United States’ vibrant civil society—while also honoring work done in this sphere by secular and resolutely nonreligious institutions working on behalf of charity and justice.

The task begins with respecting the dignity of all citizens and being candid about how deeply divided we are. As Pete Wehner, a top official in George W. Bush’s administration put it: “Giving voice to what each side fears can help us make progress. An administration should never underestimate the importance of people feeling like they are heard.”

Our leaders should also never underestimate the power of a call to service as they confront a pandemic, the scourge of systemic racism, a deep economic recession, and a dangerously warming planet. Government must act boldly in all these spheres, yet government will not succeed alone. At the outset, the president should recognize the work of community-serving leaders and organizations, both religious and nonreligious—and seek their help to move forward. “Our nation is hurting and dangerously divided,” said the Rev. Brian McLaren, channeling what a president might say. “We ask you to represent not only your own interests but also to help us seek the common good together.”

Religious institutions and congregations, with their deep roots in communities across our nation, have a special opportunity and responsibility to help address the profound racial disparities revealed by the pandemic. These include, as the Kaiser Family Foundation has documented, the “disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cases and deaths” on communities of color. Joshua DuBois, the director of the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Office in President Obama’s first term, sees the task of addressing these disparities as a “focusing lens” for partnerships between government and civil society. An effort to remedy the nation’s racial injustices may provide a path for healing some of our divisions around religion even as the quest for racial justice might also bring home the ways in which religious bodies themselves have been complicit in racism and discrimination.

We offer this report to encourage the next administration to understand how important government’s relationship to both religion and civil society will be in bringing our nation together. It must staff itself properly to deal with these questions and reflect in its actions the genuine respect for the careful balances that the First Amendment requires. Issues related to faith and faith-based institutions will only occasionally be top-of-mind for those organizing a government, given the range of challenges the country faces. But issues related to religion are implicated in a wide range of policy issues, both domestic and foreign, and they need to be surfaced and addressed. Mishandling church-state issues (often because they have been overlooked) can be terribly damaging, both to religious freedom and to a president’s other projects. You might say that even when public officials are not particularly interested in religion, religion will find a way to be interested in them.

“These issues may seem tertiary, until they aren’t,” said Denis McDonough, who served as President Obama’s chief of staff. Yet matters related to the First Amendment’s religion clauses are not always treated with the consideration they require. From the start, the next administration must have a considered and detailed plan for meeting the challenges of issues implicating the relationship between church and state. We offer this report to suggest ways in which an administration might deal with these issues—and avoid unforced errors. And we hope it might contribute to a new public discussion of these questions that is less divisive and more inclusive.

We should be candid about our own perspective. One of us served as the director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in President Obama’s second term and is a Baptist committed to religious freedom and church-state separation. The other is a columnist, an academic, and a Catholic who writes from a broadly liberal or social democratic perspective. Both of us identify with the social justice and civil rights orientations within our religious traditions, and we embrace America’s commitment to pluralism and openness.

Yet while we take our political and religious commitments seriously, we have both tried in our work in this area over the last two decades—both together and separately—to take seriously the views of the many people of good faith working in this sphere whose perspectives differ from ours. We have long believed that it is possible to find wider agreement on the proper relationship between church and state, and government and faith-based organizations—and to get good public work done in the process. We have shared the hope that although differences on church-state matters will inevitably persist (our nation, after all, has been arguing about some of these questions since the beginning of the republic), those differences can be narrowed, principled compromises can be forged, and the work of lifting up the least among us can be carried out and celebrated across our lines of division. That hope lies behind what we have tried to do here.

(By: E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Melissa Rogers at the Brookings Institute: The above is the introduction to “A Time to Heal, A Time to Build,” a report from the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brookings Institution. Authors E.J. Dionne and Melissa Rogers offer recommendations on how the executive branch should approach issues related to religion and civil society and highlight opportunities for the next administration. Download the full PDF report here.)

All 4 Indian Americans Re-elected to US Congress

In an impressive show, all the four Indian-American Democratic lawmakers — Dr. Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi — have been re-elected to the US House of Representatives during the elections held on November 3rd, 2020.

In recent years, the fast growing Indian-American community has emerged as a force to reckon with for the first time in the history of the US presidential election. Both the Democrat and the Republican campaigns had initiated several measures to woo the approximately 1.8 million members of the community who have emerged as a critical voting bloc in the battleground states of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Meanwhile, in one of the most-watched races of the 2020 election, Indian American Sara Gideon of Maine narrowly lost to Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins and failed to flip the seat from red to blue as Democrats struggled to gain control of the Senate. Mainers largely consider themselves Independents. But on Nov. 3 evening, Gideon secured 46 percent of the votes — 338,617 votes — to Collins’ 51 percent: 407,884 votes.

“I have always worked hard to find our shared goals. That doesn’t stop. In fact, it’s more important now. We have to work together to build a better future,” said Gideon, focusing on prioritizing an economy that builds good jobs for working class people, and tackling climate change. “I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” said the candidate.

Democrats flipped two Senate seats on election night: in former red state Arizona, astronaut Mark Kelley beat out incumbent Martha McSally. In Colorado, John Hickenlooper, the state’s former governor, defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner. Republicans flipped one Senate seat, as Tommy Tuberville in Alabama defeated Democrat Doug Jones.

In House races, Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California serving the 17th Congressional District in Northern California’s East Bay, handily beat Republican challenger Ritesh Tandon to gain a third term in the House. The incumbent won 74 percent — 125,258 votes — while Tandon amassed 26 percent of the vote: 43,775.

“I am so honored and humbled by the overwhelming victory,” Khanna told India-West. “I am proud to represent our community and look forward to working to help bring people together after this divisive chapter in our nation’s history,” he said.

Democrat physician Ami Bera, the longest-serving Indian American in the House, won his re-election bid for California’s CD 7 seat — which represents portions of Sacramento — against former U.S. Air Force pilot, Republican Buzz Patterson. Bera won by 61 percent, 116,437 votes, while Patterson received 39 percent.

“It’s been an honor to represent the people of California’s 7th Congressional District and I am grateful for the trust voters have placed in me once again,” Bera said in a statement Nov. 3 night. “We face many difficult challenges ahead, including ending this pandemic, ensuring affordable and quality health care for every American, and growing our economy for working families,” he said.

“However, we can rise to the occasion and meet these challenges head on, as we’ve done generation after generation before. It will take hard work, empathy, and working across party lines to build compromise. I promise that I will continue to be a leader that puts people over politics to make government work for the people of Sacramento County,” said Bera, who won his 5th term.

Democrat Rishi Kumar failed to win his bid against fellow Democrat Anna Eshoo, who has represented California’s 18th Congressional District — in portions of the Silicon Valley — since 1993. Eshoo won with just under two-thirds of the vote, more than 65 percent, while Kumar received 34 percent, more than 79,000 votes.

Another newcomer, physician Hiral Tipirneni, a Democrat, failed to beat Republican incumbent David Schweikert in Arizona. The red state delivered one of the few surprises of election night, turning blue for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket. In a virtual press conference Nov. 4 morning, Tipirneni acknowledged that the race was too close to call. She thanked voters for showing up in record numbers and for encouraging family and friends to vote.

“This is exactly where we wanted to be at this point in the race. This is a trajectory that will lead to victory,” she said. “We know we’ve done very well with Independents and cross-over votes, but we will wait to declare victory until every ballot is counted.

In Washington state, Rep. Pramila Jayapal overwhelmingly won her bid for re-election, capturing almost 85 percent: 344,541 votes. “Wow, we did it decisively! Thank you #WA07. I am humbled, grateful and ready to serve again. Our path to truly build a more just and equitable country is long. But we are bold, progressive & unafraid, and if we believe in the possible & organize, we WILL win,” tweeted Jayapal, who was running for her third term in the House.

In Illinois, Democrat Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi also handily won his re-election bid against Libertarian Preston Nelson. Krishnamoorthi won with almost 71 percent of the vote: 146,495 votes. “I am honored that my constituents have elected me to represent them in Congress for another two years, and I am tremendously grateful to all my supporters who helped make my re-election possible,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement Nov. 3 evening.

“Today, our country faces enormous and unprecedented economic and public health challenges. No matter who controls the White House or the Senate in January, I am committed to doing whatever it takes to bring the country together to implement common-sense solutions that move our country and our people forward.”

Jenifer Rajkumar, Zohran Mamdani Elected to NY State Assembly

Jenifer Rajkumar and Zohran Mamdani, both of Indian heritage have been elected to the New York state Assembly on Tuesday — making them the first South Asians voted into the lower house of the state Legislature. Representing the Democratic Party from Queens, NY, Jenifer Rajkumar won 66 percent of votes and Zohran Mamdani won 72 percent. Mamdani, 29, who will represent Astoria, a multiethnic neighborhood in Queens, beat incumbent Aravella Simotas in the Democratic primary this year and faced no Republican opponent in the general election. Rajkumar, 38, who will represent parts of Queens that are largely made up of immigrants, won her primary in the state election cycle and defeated Republican Giovanni Perna on Tuesday. The 2010 census reported that more than 300,000 South Asians lived in New York City — about a third of the total Asian American population — but the community hasn’t had an elected desi representative before this year. Mamdani, a housing advocate, is among several progressive, Democratic Socialists of America-backed newcomers in New York politics who have unseated entrenched incumbents. Mamdani, an Indian American who was born and raised in Uganda and refers to himself as Indian Ugandan, is the son of the renowned filmmaker Mira Nair. He also used to work as a foreclosure housing counselor at Chhaya, an advocacy group based in Queens. Rajkumar, who won her primary over Democratic incumbent Michael Miller — who repeatedly voted against legalizing same sex-marriage — is an Indian American lawyer who previously ran for the Assembly in 2016. She previously served as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s director of immigration affairs and as special counsel for the New York State Department. Early in the year, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. — who is also Indian American — endorsed her. Only one other person of Indian descent has been elected to any government office in New York before Mamdani and Rajkumar: Kevin Thomas, who was elected to the state Senate from Long Island in 2018. Thomas, who along with John Liu became the first Asian American state senators, has advocated for official recognition of the Hindu festival Holi and has invited Muslim religious leaders to offer the Senate’s opening prayer. Queens is home to the largest concentration of South Asians in New York City, and yet no candidate has ever been elected from the heavily South Asian neighborhoods of Jackson Heights or Jamaica. The city’s 24th Assembly District is 26 percent South Asian, but it hasn’t yielded a single South Asian victory even though several candidates have run in the past. Gerrymandering has been a major obstacle to South Asians’ getting elected in New York, said John Albert, a founding board member of Taking Our Seat, a Queens-based organization working to increase South Asian political representation. Despite its large numbers, the community dominates no political district. Rajkumar said, “In Queens, district lines were drawn such that South Asian areas were cut into different parts.” Rajkumar said she believes she won because her campaign cut across community and ideological lines. “We won big not only in the South Asian community but in Latino, Irish and Italian neighborhoods,” she said. Albert said having Rajkumar and Mamdani in office during the redistricting process will be a boon. “They will both have a seat at the table as legislative districts are drawn, impacting district lines for a decade,” he said. “I hope they will use their position to pay close attention to areas outside of their own district where South Asian votes may be diluted through gerrymandering.” Mamdani, who won his primary by 300 votes, ascribed the lack of South Asians in the Assembly to “racism … what else?” His goal was to build a “multiracial coalition of the working class,” and he criticized the single-party Democratic machinery in New York as an impediment. “Indians, if we lack anything, it’s definitely not ambition and desire to run for office,” he said, pointing to the many others who have tried before. “For the fact that the party institutions that have held power have not picked and propelled someone from the community to do so shows that they haven’t had value for that.” Mamdani is not only the first Indian but also the third Muslim ever elected to the Assembly. Muslims make up 9 percent of the city’s population — about 800,000 people. Sangay Mishra, an assistant professor of political science at Drew University and author of “Desis Divided: The Political Lives of South Asian Americans,” said the problem is broad and systemic. While doing field work in New York, he said, he came across Bangladeshi and Indian groups that were trying to break into Democratic politics but failed. “The Democratic Party’s internal structure is completely controlled by certain groups,” Mishra said. “And there is very little space for new groups to enter into that machine.” Indian Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic — 77 percent voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and, according to one survey, 72 percent planned to vote for Joe Biden this election. But Albert, of Taking Our Seat, said the community should take “an equal measure of the blame for a lack of elected officials. There should be more unity within the South Asian community when it comes to fielding candidates for office,” he said. “Election time exposes long-standing rifts in the South Asian community based on religion, language and nation of origin which must be overcome.”

Shri Thanedar Elected To Michigan State Legislature

Indian American entrepreneur Shri Thanedar was elected to the House of Representatives in Michigan state legislature in the US Midwest, with 93 per cent votes as a Democrat. “Thank you for your support and votes in this important election. I am humbled and grateful for the support from the residents of Detroit’s third district, my family, my team and my friends,” tweeted Thanedar after the results were declared on late Wednesday night in the US.

Thanedar (65) was born on February 22, 1955 at Belagavi in the southern state’s northwest region. He migrated to the US in 1979 for a PhD in Polymer Chemistry from the University of Akron in Ohio state in 1982 after Master’s in the University of Bombay in 1977.

Promising to do all he can to improve the quality of life for all, Thanedar said he alone won’t be able to do much without the active participation of the people in the state. Thanedar raised a record $438,620 for his campaign in the state House primary against six opponents of his Democratic Party.

In an interview recently to the local media, Thandear said he launched his campaign last fall before the Covid pandemic invaded the country and distributed face masks, hand sanitisers and door knocker.

“I want to tackle the challenges plaguing the district, including blight, water shutoffs, foreclosures, crime and unemployment. I’m seeing people have no hope. Conditions are really bad and nothing has changed in years,” he said.

The Indian-origin American millionaire also ran for the Governor of Michigan post in the 2018 election. He spent about $10 million of his fortune to finish third behind Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El Sayed in the 2018 gubernatorial primary, though he won the most votes in Detroit.

“Earlier, Thanedar worked as a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Michigan (1982-1984) and worked as a Polymer Synthesis Chemist and project leader at the Petrolite Corporation at St. Louis in Missouri state from 1984 to 1990,” according to his Linkedin posting.

In 1990, Thanedar worked and acquired a service firm Chemir and steered it to a $63-million company with 400 employees from $150,000 revenue in a few years. He is also known to have turned around eight ventures into profitable firms.

Growing up as one of six children in a low-income family in Shapur suburb of the border town, Thanedar learnt about the importance of education and the need to be financially independent at a young age. Though he passed in high school board exam in second division with 55 per cent marks, he managed to secure a job in a bank in the neighbouring district of Vijayapura (formerly Bijapur) in the state’s northern region.

Besides Thanedar, Indian-born Amercian lawyer Jenifer Rajkumar (38) became the first Asian woman to be elected to the New York State Assembly, defeating her Republican rival Giovanni Perna. Niraj Antani (29) is another first Indian-American to be elected to the Ohio state Senate as a Republican, defeating Mark Fogel of the Democratic Party.

Four Indian-American Democratic lawmakers Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi — have also been re-elected to the US House of Representatives. (IANS

Record Number of Women to Serve in the 117th U.S. Congress

At least 131 (100D, 31R) women will serve in the U.S. Congress in 2021, surpassing the previous record of 127, first set in 2019, according to data compiled by the Center for American Women and Politics, a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. A record 106 (83D, 23R) women have already been elected to the U.S. House, including 85 (75D, 10R) incumbents and 21 (8D, 13R) non-incumbents.

The previous record for women in the U.S. House was 102 and was set in 2019. Republican women are also close to breaking their record of 25 House members, set in 2006. Republican women currently hold 13 seats in the U.S. House. At 83 winners already selected, Democratic women are still short of their record of 89 women House members, set in 2019. Democratic women currently hold 88 seats in the U.S. House. As of now, 29 (19D, 10R) women House nominees – including 6 (5D, 1R) incumbents and 23 (14D, 9R) non-incumbents – remain in races that are not yet called.

Republican women have already surpassed the record for non-incumbent women House winners, with 13 women winning their 2020 races. The previous record of 9 was set in 2006. So far, 8 non-incumbent Democratic have won election this year; the record for freshman Democratic women House winners is 35, set in 2019. In contrast, already 5 Democratic women incumbents – all responsible for flipping districts from Republican to Democrat in 2018 – were defeated in 2020. No Republican women incumbents have been defeated in 2020 races already called.

As it stands now, 25 (17D, 8R) women will serve in the U.S. Senate in 2021, falling short of the record of 26 set in 2019, including 7 (2D, 5R) women who have won election in 2020 and 18 (15D, 3R) incumbent women senators who were not up for re-election this year. These numbers will change should incumbent Senator Kamala Harris ascend to the vice presidency or Senator Kelly Loeffler win her runoff election on January 5th.

“Women’s representation in American politics has been, through struggle and persistence, on a long, if occasionally fitful, upward trajectory. With all that progress, at best women will still make up less than thirty percent of Congress in 2021,” said CAWP Director Debbie Walsh. “The 2018 cycle was a story of Democratic success; this year we are seeing significant gains on the Republican side. Advances for women must come from both sides of the aisle if women are to achieve equal representation in Congress.”

As many races remain too close to call, these numbers will change as results are determined. For the most current data about women in the 2020 elections, visit CAWP’s Election 2020 Results Tracker, and for full results about women in the 2020 elections, head to CAWP’s Election Analysis.

South Asian Diaspora Rally Together To Elect Biden-Harris

It was 14 December, 2012, when news broke of a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  Indian-American investment banker Shekar Narasimhan recalls that he was at the White House for a party but the mood quickly turned sombre. He says everyone fell silent as details of the horrific attack emerged – 20 children, all under the age of 10, and six adults died in the shooting.

It was also on that day that Mr Narasimhan first met Dilawar Syed, a Pakistani American. “Our hearts met,” said Mr Syed, a tech entrepreneur in California. “I found one person in the room who happened to be a fellow South-Asian American who was as emotional as I was.”

The two soon became close, co-founding the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Victory Fund (AAPIVF), a group that aims to mobilise and elevate voices from these communities in local and national politics. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders account for more than 20 million people in the US, but their voter registration and turnout is said to be lower than the national averages for other communities.

And this is something Mr Syed and Mr Narasimhan hope to change through their organisation.

Indians and Pakistanis are often seen as being at loggerheads because of strained relations between their respective countries. But in the US, the two communities are part of the same South Asian diaspora and often work together during political campaigns.

“He [Mr Syed] has access to different networks that I didn’t,” said Mr Narasimhan, explaining that he wanted to work with Mr Syed precisely because he hailed from a different community and lives in another part of the US.

Their group endorsed Democratic candidate Joe Biden for presidency in January. The two men believe that Mr Biden’s victory will lead to a “more equal, just” America.

Indians and Pakistanis have a lot in common – some of them speak a similar language, northern Indian and Pakistani food shares a history, and both countries are passionate about cricket and enjoy Bollywood. But Mr Syed said that wasn’t the only thing that brought them together: “Our values are the same.”

Rallying together

India and Pakistan also share a complicated and contentious history. Independence from the British in 1947 was accompanied by a bloody partition of the subcontinent. Millions died in the religious violence that followed.

Since then, the nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir. Both countries claim the Muslim-majority border region, which remains the biggest bone of contention between them.  But Mr Narasimhan and Mr Syed don’t discuss Kashmir.

“We try and avoid it. We say to each other, look, this election is about domestic issues,” Mr Narasimhan said. Many Indian and Pakistani Americans say thorny issues back home haven’t soured their ties in the US.

Mr Narasimhan said the two communities are far more concerned about issues that directly affect their everyday lives – and that for their children, who were born and raised in the US, the India-Pakistan dispute is not a a big factor.

“My son says what happened 50 or 60 years ago in India and Pakistan, what does that have to do with me?” Mr Narasimhan added.

When it comes to first-generation Pakistani Americans, 9/11 and its aftermath stand out – Mr Syed said it shaped a lot of their experiences in the US. The 11 September attacks led to hate crimes, threats against Muslims, Sikhs and people of Arab and South Asian descent.

Critics of President Donald Trump say that the US has seen an uptick in anti-minority and xenophobic rhetoric since his victory. Mr Syed agrees, adding that Mr Trump is responsible for “a rise in hate, bigotry and anti-immigration sentiment”.

“[With] the events especially in the Trump administration, I did put my faith on my sleeve. I said I want people to know this is what a Muslim American looks like.”

‘What affects us is local’

The Pakistani-American community is nearly a million strong, while Indian Americans are said to total around 4.5 million. Both tend to lean Democratic. According to a 2016 survey, 88% of Pakistani Americans and 77% of Indian Americans voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton last election. Only 5% of the former and 16% of the latter voted for Mr Trump, the survey found.

This year members of both diaspora are working together to rally support for the candidate of their choice – not just for the presidential election but also for the Senate and Congressional seats that are on the ticket.

Indian American Manu Mathews and his Pakistani American friend, Rao Kamran Ali, have been rallying support for their local Democratic candidate, Candace Valenzuela, to represent their congressional district in Texas.

“We try and avoid conversations we know we are not going to agree on,” Mr Mathew said, referring to tensions between India and Pakistan.

It’s the same on the Republican side. India-born realtor Raj Kathuria and Pakistani American Shahab Qarni are friends who live 20 minutes from each other. They have both been campaigning online for Mr Trump.

For Mr Kathuria, whose parents migrated from a newly-created Pakistan to India during partition, issues or tensions between the two countries are important and personal. But at the same time, he says, it doesn’t affect his life in the US. “What affects us is the local politics,” he added.

It’s unclear which way Pakistani Americans are leaning, but over 70% of Indian Americans plan to vote for Mr Biden in the upcoming election, according to the 2020 Indian American Attitudes survey. This suggests that the community will largely vote Democrat as always.

This is despite the headline-grabbing friendship between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Trump. Last year in September, they appeared together in Houston at an event named “Howdy Modi”, where Mr Trump declared: “You have never had a better friend as president than President Donald Trump”.

And in February, Mr Trump visited India, where he addressed a crowd of over 100,000 in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

But according to the survey, Indian Americans “do not consider US-India relations to be one of the principal determinants of their vote choice in this election”. Instead, like many other Americans, they view the economy and healthcare as the two most important issues.

(Source: By Vineet Khare , BBC News, Washington DC)

China Is Talking Point At High-Level Indo-US Meet

Coming at a sensitive time with the US Presidential election just a week away and while India is still entangled in border tensions with China, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and secretary of defense Mark Esper arrived in New Delhi on Monday for the Indo-US 2+2 talks, expected to focus on the Indo-Pacific security and the threat posed by China.

Pompeo’s pit stops in Asia include Indian-Ocean nations of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and Indonesia, which is in a dispute with China in the South China Sea. Also, next month India hosts the Malabar naval exercise, which would see the forces of all Quad nations — US, India, Japan and Australia — participate for the first time in 13 years.

Security cooperation between India and the US would be on the agenda too. The two countries have made significant progress towards concluding the last foundational defence cooperation agreement, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, the Times of India reports. The agreement will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between the armed forces of the two countries.

The upcoming presidential election in the US is not expected to cast a shadow over the talks since both the Democrats and Republicans emphasise close relations with India. Some even argue Donald Trump’s challenger Joe Biden would be better for India. (Related news: Biden slammed Trump for his “filthy” air comment on India)

Pompeo could assuage India’s concerns over the new sanctions on Iran affecting New Delhi’s interest, specifically the Chabahar port. The Trump administration has informed New Delhi that sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine and medical devices to Iran, is permitted, the Indian Express reports. Waivers granted for reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, too, remain valid. This holds significance as India sees Chabahar — despite the slow progress — as a reliable gateway to Afghanistan.

Despite a firestorm of positive signals fired off by officials from both sides in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere before this year’s ministerial meeting, such as the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA), Chinese observers pointed out that even upgraded military cooperation with the US will not put India on the same level to confront China, nor will it change the fact that Washington and New Delhi always have their own interests at heart. It will not determine how long the India-US honeymoon will last.  

It is significant that during Prime Minister Modi and President Obama’s final meeting in the White House in 2016, the United States elevates India to a major defense partner, a status no other country holds. An expansion of the ten-year defense agreement renewed in 2015, the designation, which became law in August 2018, means that India will enjoy some of the benefits of being a U.S. treaty ally, such as access to defense technology, though the alliance is not a formal one. In a speech before Congress a day later, Modi celebrated his country’s growing diplomatic and economic ties with the United States. Two months later, the United States and India signed an agreement on deeper military cooperation after nearly a decade of negotiations.

In 2018, during a “two-plus-two” dialogue in New Delhi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis sign an agreement with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) gives India access to advanced communication technology used in U.S. defense equipment and allows real-time information sharing between the two countries’ militaries. The agreement had been under negotiation for nearly a decade.

1 week Before Final Voting, Biden Leads Trump By 10%

 Former Vice President Joe Biden has a 10-point lead over President Donald Trump in the contest for the White House in a new national poll of likely voters released today by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion.

Including the minor party candidates on the ballot, Biden leads with 53 percent of likely voters, Trump has 43 percent, other candidates are at 2 percent and only 3 percent of likely voters say they are still undecided, according to the independent, nonpartisan poll.

The relatively low number of undecided voters is underscored by the fact that 16 percent of likely voters have already voted. Just over two-thirds of voters said they plan to eschew their traditional Election Day polling place in 2020 and either vote by mail (45 percent) or vote early in person (22 percent).

“Biden’s double-digit lead signals that the president’s hopes of re-election are dwindling, with less than three weeks until Election Day and many voters already voting early and by mail,” said Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science.

Biden leads Trump among voters with a college degree, 62 percent to 36 percent. Among those without a bachelor’s degree, Biden leads 49 percent to Trump’s 46 percent. However, among white respondents without a degree, Trump leads Biden 61 percent to 36 percent, while Biden leads Trump among whites with a college degree 60 percent to 38 percent.

The gender gap revealed in this poll is on par with historic averages from the 2012 and 2016 elections in the difference between male and female voters’ support for Democratic candidates. In this poll, Biden does about 10 points better among women than men, leading 57 percent to 38 percent among women who are likely voters and 49 percent to 48 percent among men likely voters.

While Trump trails Biden by double digits nationally, his approval rating has not undergone a precipitous decline, which has hovered between an average of 40 and 45 percent nationally for most of the last three years. Overall, 44 percent of likely voters approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president and 56 percent disapprove. But nearly half of the electorate (47 percent of likely voters) say they strongly disapprove of the way the president has handled his job.

Because there’s no corresponding job approval rating for Biden, the point of comparison for the candidates is favorability rating. In 2016, both candidates – Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – had net negative approval ratings in polling averages heading into the election. In 2020, the pattern is different: Trump continues to have a net negative favorability rating of -13; 42 percent find him favorable, 55 percent unfavorable and 3 percent have no opinion. Biden, however, is net positive +9; 50 percent find him favorable, 41 percent unfavorable and 9 percent have no opinion. Clinton is still net negative at -17 (35 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable, 12 percent no opinion), which indicates that Democrats have a much more popular nominee in 2020.

With Trump’s coronavirus-positive diagnosis on Oct. 2, the campaign became fully focused once again on the president’s handling of COVID-19. Overall, a majority of likely voters polled (57 percent) are not satisfied with the way the federal government has handled the pandemic, compared to 43 percent who said they are satisfied. This stands in stark contrast to state governments that get much higher marks: 59 percent of Americans said they are satisfied with their state government’s response compared to 41 percent who said they are unsatisfied.

Asked who they trust more to handle COVID-19, 52 percent of likely voters say Biden compared to 36 percent of likely voters who said Trump. On the question of whether Trump could have avoided contracting COVID-19 by wearing a mask more often, 71 percent of likely voters said yes while 29 percent said no.

“With the total American dead from the virus approaching a quarter-million by Election Day, voters are frustrated by Trump’s response to the virus, both personally and as president. Unfortunately for the president, there’s no miracle cure for his dismal poll numbers on the pandemic,” said John Cluverius, associate director of the Center for Public Opinion and assistant professor of political science.

The poll of likely voters also found:

With Supreme Court hearings taking place this week, nominee Amy Coney Barrett has a -1 net negative favorability rating among likely voters – 31 percent favorable, 32 percent unfavorable, 25 percent no opinion and 12 percent never heard of her.

Asked who they think will win the 2020 presidential election, likely voters gave Biden the edge: 45 percent said Biden will win and 41 percent said Trump will win.

Asked about a hypothetical alternative matchup, Biden leads Pence 54 percent to 41 percent with 4 percent undecided. Harris leads Pence 50 percent to 43 percent with 6 percent undecided.

Just 30 percent of Americans think things are headed in the right direction, while 70 percent say things are on the wrong track.

On Trump’s signature issue, the economy, 47 percent said Biden is better suited to handle the economy, compared to 42 percent who said Trump.

On who best represents American values, Biden leads Trump 48 percent to 37 percent. Biden also leads Trump on who is a more devout Christian, 39 percent to 29 percent. Asked who is more of a good man, 50 percent said Biden compared to 31 percent who said Trump.

More respondents said Biden would be better suited to handle race relations, 49 percent to 34 percent for Trump and more feel Biden is more honest and trustworthy, 49 percent to 32 percent for Trump.

On who will better handle America’s reputation abroad, Biden leads 51 percent to 37 percent for Trump. On who is better suited to handle police reform, 46 percent said Biden and 38 percent said Trump. Fifty-one percent said Biden is more suited to handling health care compared to 35 percent who said Trump.

Trump leads Biden on only two metrics on which respondents were polled: who is more of a bully (67 percent said Trump vs. 16 percent who said Biden) and who is more corrupt (50 percent said Trump compared to 34 percent who said Biden).

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The nonpartisan poll of 819 likely voters was independently funded by the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The Center for Public Opinion presents events and polling on political and social issues to provide opportunities for civic engagement, experiential learning and real-world research. The center is a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative.

The survey was designed and analyzed by the Center for Public Opinion and fielded by YouGov from Oct. 5 through Oct. 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent. Detailed poll results – including topline and full methodology – are available at http://www.uml.edu/polls.

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.

Republican Senators Confirm Amy Coney Barrett To The Supreme Court

The Republican-led US Senate has voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, just about a week before Election Day and 30 days after she was nominated by President Trump to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday, October 26th.

With the confirmation of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, Republicans have solidified the conservative majority on the court as it is set to consider several high-profile cases in the coming months, and forcing Democrats to conseider expanding the number of Justices on the Court to counter the conservative majority.

Barrett was confirmed by a vote of 52-48 on Monday evening, after Democrats exhausted the procedural maneuvers undertaken to delay her confirmation. Only one Republican, Senator Susan Collins, voted against confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court. All the Democrats voted against her, including red state Senators Doug Jones of Alabama, who is up for reelection this year, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

Barrett’s confirmation has left Democrats concerned about the fate of the nation’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, and Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision allowing women to have access to abortions. The court will be hearing a case on the constitutionality of the ACA’s individual mandate in November. Barrett could also end up weighing in on a general election-related case involving the man who nominated her, should the results of the race between President Trump and Joe Biden come before the Supreme Court.

The only Republicans who voted against the cloture motion on Sunday were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. On Saturday, Murkowski previewed her intentions, saying she planned to vote against moving the nomination forward procedurally but would vote to confirm Barrett on Monday. “While I oppose the process that led us to this point, I do not hold it against her, as an individual who has navigated the gauntlet with grace, skill and humility,” she said. Collins faces a tough reelection battle and said after Ginsburg’s death in September that whoever wins the presidential election should fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

While Senate Democrats tried to slow down the confirmation process of Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee with various procedural maneuvers, the fact that Republicans control the Senate has always meant a Barrett confirmation was all but promised.

“The Senate is doing the right thing. We’re moving this nomination forward, and, colleagues, by tomorrow night we’ll have a new member of the United States Supreme Court,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Sunday.

Democrats railed against the advancement of Barrett’s nomination so close to Election Day, after the Republican-led Senate in 2016 refused to hold hearings for then-President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, nearly eight months before that year’s election.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., labeled the nomination process a “cynical power grab.”

“Nearly every Republican in this chamber led by the majority leader four years ago refused to even consider the Supreme Court nomination of a Democratic president on the grounds … that we should wait until after the presidential election because the American people deserved a voice in the selection of their next justice,” he said on Sunday.

“My colleagues, there is no escaping this glaring hypocrisy. As I said before, no tit-for-tat convoluted, distorted version of history will wipe away the stain that will exist forever with this Republican majority and with this Republican leader.”

Barrett’s nomination cleared a procedural hurdle Sunday afternoon when the Senate voted to end debate on the nomination, days after Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee boycotted a vote to advance Barrett’s nomination.

The 48-year-old judge’s confirmation solidifies the court’s conservative majority, potentially shaping the future of abortion rights and health care law for generations.

During a campaign event in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday, Vice President Pence said he wanted to return to Capitol Hill in time for Monday’s vote. “As vice president, I’m president of the Senate,” Pence said. “And I’m gonna be in the chair because I wouldn’t miss that vote for the world.”

He ultimately did not attend the vote in person. His presence would have been purely symbolic anyway, as it was not expected that Pence would have needed to cast a tie-breaking vote. Democrats had pushed back against Pence’s plan in light of recent positive coronavirus tests of two top staffers in Pence’s orbit, and they had similar concerns about Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., two of whose staffers have tested positive for the coronavirus. Loeffler’s spokesperson on Saturday said the senator had tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday.

Immediately following her confirmation, the White House held an event to celebrate, this time, with attendees spread out and mostly masked, unlike the event to celebrate Barrett’s nomination. Justice Clarence Thomas administered the constitutional oath to Barrett, with President Trump standing in between Thomas and Barrett. 

“I am grateful for the confidence you have expressed in me, and I pledge to you and to the American people that I will discharge my duties to the very best of my ability,” Barrett said after she was sworn in.

British Columbia Elects 8 Indo-Canadians to Assembly

Eight Indo-Canadians were elected to the 87-member Assembly of Canada’s British Columbia province. There were 27 Indian-origin candidates in the fray in the elections held on Saturday.

All eight winners belong to the ruling New Democratic Party which secured an absolute majority with 55 seats in the 87-member House.

Three of the Indo-Canadian winners are women.

Noted human rights lawyer Aman Singh created history by becoming the first turbaned Sikh MLA in British Columbia even though the province was the first to elect a Punjabi (Moe Sihota) as an MLA in 1986 and a Sikh (Ujjal Dosanjh) as Premier in 2001.

Singh caused a major upset by beating former journalist Jas Johal of the opposition Liberal Party in Richmond-Queensborough.

Most of Indo-Canadian victories came in the Indian-dominated city of Surrey on the outskirts of Vancouver.

Prominent winners include Labour Minister Harry Bains, Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan, former minister Jinny Sims and parliamentary secretaries Jagrup Brar and Ravi Kahlon.

Bains retained his seat of Surrey-Newton by beating fellow Punjabi Paul Boparai of the Liberal Party.

Bains, who comes from Hardaspur village near Jalandhar, has won this seat since 2005.

Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan also retained his seat of Burnaby-Edmonds by beating Tript Atwal of the Liberal Party and Iqbal Parekh of the Green Party. Chouhan came to Canada from Punjab as a student in 1973.

Jagrup Brar of the ruling party also retained his seat of Surrey-Fleetwood by trouncing fellow Punjabi Garry Thind of the Liberal Party.

A former Indian basketball player, Brar has now won this seat five times since 2004.

The fifth Indo-Canadian man to win is Ravi Kahlon of the ruling NDP who beat Almora-born Neema Manral of the Green Party and Jet Sunner (Jatinder) of the Liberal Party.

Among the women winners, Jinny Sims (Joginder Kaur) beat fellow Punjabi Dr Gulzar Cheema in the Surrey-Panorama constituency. Born at Pabwan village near Jalandhar, Sims came to Canada at the age of nine.

Rachna Singh of the ruling party retained her Surrey-Green Timbers seat by beating Dilraj Atwal of the Liberal Party.

Nikki Sharma of the ruling NDP won in Vancouver-Hastings.

Indian-origins make up about 10 per cent of the British Columbia population of five million. (IANS)

Focusing Diversity, Biden Campaign Advt in Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi and Gujurati

Joe Biden for President is launching a new digital ad targeting Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in key battleground states highlighting the diversity of the community, and the shared values among AAPI voters.

The new 0:45 spot, titled “The America We Love,” features translations from nine different languages, including Tagalog, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Gujurati, Hmong, and asks voters in-language to vote early.

The spot — produced in-house by a team of creatives, producers and editors, all of whom are AAPI women — includes messages of unity, family, and values that aim to mobilize AAPI communities to vote in the final stretch of the campaign.

Featuring user-generated content from campaign staff, supporters and others, the ad will run on Youtube and Facebook in nine battleground states including Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.“English is not the primary language for many eligible AAPI voters, so we wanted to speak with them respectfully in their mother tongue,” said Yena Oh, Biden for President Senior Video Editor and Korean-American. “We know how important it is to resonate and engage with our own community where they are — across different platforms using multiple languages.”

The new digital ad is part of a larger paid media campaign targeting AAPI communities launched earlier this month, which includes television, digital, radio, and print ads designed to engage persuadable voters, and mobilize members of the AAPI community in support of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The campaign includes targeted ads in local ethnic media, allowing the campaign to reach AAPI voters, especially those who the campaign may not be able to reach through traditional voter outreach efforts.

The AAPI targeted campaign is currently running nationally on radio, digital and print platforms, as well as platforms in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Biden for President paid media program is active in a total of 16 states — including the above states in addition to Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Ohio.

Biden For President is a broad coalition that is diverse and inclusive. The AAPI Coalition is made up of more than fourteen affinity groups, including AAPI Staffers for Biden, AAPI Veterans and Military Families for Biden, Chinese Americans for Biden, Filipino Americans for Biden, Hmong Americans for Biden, Japanese Americans for Biden, Korean Americans for Biden, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders for Biden, Queer AAPIs for Biden, South Asians for Biden, Taiwanese Americans for Biden, Thai Americans for Biden, Vietnamese Americans for Biden, and Young AAPIs for Biden.

Arrest of Fr. Stan Lourdswamy Condemned Worldwide

Major opposition parties in India and the United Nations backed an octogenarian Jesuit priest, jailed for alleged charges of sedition and links with Maoist rebels and demanded his immediate release.

The leaders of the Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Communist Party of India, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and the Nationalist Congress Party slammed the arrest of 84-year-old activist Father Stan Swamy on Oct. 21. The party leaders also expressed solidarity with the “genuine” work the priest had done among the oppressed tribal people and other marginalized groups.

The sickly priest was arrested at his residence in Ranchi, capital of eastern Jharkhand state, on Oct. 8 night on the grounds of being party to a conspiracy that led to violence at Bhima Koregaon, in western state of Maharashtra, on Jan. 1, 2018, in which one person was killed and several others injured.

The priest denied the allegation and said he had not even visited Bhima Koregaon in his entire life. In a video message before his arrest, he said the National Investigation Agency, the federal agency tasked with combating terror activities, implicated him by manipulating documents in the case for his relentless fight against the exploitation of tribals and other oppressed mainly in Jharkhand.

The priest is among the 16 activists who are now in judicial custody for their opposition to the policies of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party-led federal government and also the erstwhile BJP government in Jharkhand.  Civil rights group People’s Union for Civil Liberties had arranged the virtual press conference in solidarity with Father Stan and others facing trial for the alleged sedition charges.

Chief Minister of Jharkhand Hemant Soren in his message accused the federal government of trying to silence the voices of marginalized communities.” In a video message, he said, “under the present government, unity, integrity and democratic structures were under attack.”

He also slammed the federal government for “silencing the voices of those speaking for the Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalized groups.” He also deplored the way the government weakened various constitutional offices to advance its hidden agenda.

The BJP is accused of working to turn India into a Hindu theocratic and dictatorial country.

The arrest of someone like Father Swamy crossed all limits, the chief minister said. “He is someone who has been working in Jharkhand for years, in the remote faraway villages, wandering in the jungles, just so that the Adivasis, Dalits and minority populations here could be reached. This is extremely disappointing. Fr Stan (Swamy) is also suffering from many diseases,” Soren said.

“The way Stan Swamy has been arrested today, it could happen to any of us tomorrow – or it could even escalate further to people being killed,” Soren said.

Shashi Tharoor, a former federal minister and senior Congress leader, said Father Swamy deserves “respect and support,” not a jail term. Tharoor said he was convinced that “no Jesuit will indulge in any violence or entice anyone towards violence. This must stop. I appeal to the government to be fair and at least grant him bail. We stand in solidarity with Fr Stan,” he said.

They also demanded repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), under which the priest and other activists are arrested. Leaders such as Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI-M and K Kanimozhi K leader of DMK urged the public to break their silence over the government’s attacks on the rights of the people.

“Every law that this government passed had taken away the rights of the people. It’s time to break the silence,” Kanimozhi exhorted. Calling for repeal of UAPA, Yechury said, “it is prone to gross misuse.” He also said the federal government was working in such a way that it wants to pave the way for a “fascistic, intolerant and authoritarian Hindutva nation.” The Centre, he alleged, is using central agencies to undermine the Constitution, while shielding the real perpetrators of violence.

On Oct. 20 the United Nations too questioned the arrest of Father Stan as well as the human rights record of India. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement urging the Indian government to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations.

“More than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested in relation to the protests, with many charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a law which has also been widely criticized for its lack of conformity with international human rights standards”, the statement said.

“Most recently, the 83-year-old Catholic priest Stan Swamy, a long-standing activist engaged in defending the rights of marginalized groups, was charged and reportedly remains in detention, despite his poor health”, it noted.

Bachelet urged the Indian government to ensure that “no one else is detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – and to do its utmost, in law and policy, to protect India’s robust civil society.”

India, however, reacted to the UN strongly saying violations of the law cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights and a more informed view of the matter was expected of the UN body.

Kevin Rudd is President and Chief Executive Officer Of The Asia Society

New York; October 22, 2020–The Board of Trustees of Asia Society today announced that The Honorable Kevin Rudd, currently President of the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), will serve as the institution’s eighth President and CEO. He will succeed Josette Sheeran, who had previously announced her intention to step down from her role at the end of this year. Rudd will continue in his role as President of ASPI and will assume his new position on January 1, 2021.

As ASPI’s first President, Rudd, a distinguished China scholar and leading voice on Asian affairs, has led the institute in aggressively pursuing its mission to find common ground on major policy challenges confronting the Asia Pacific in security, prosperity, sustainability, and the development of common norms and values in the region. From ASPI’s beginning, Rudd has established the institute as a top global think tank in the span of 4 years, ranked in the top 2% of think tanks in the U.S. and the world, with a distinctive voice and place in the global dialogue.

Prior to joining Asia Society, Rudd served as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister (2007-2010, 2013) and as Foreign Minister (2010-2012). He is a fluent Mandarin speaker and leading international authority on China. He began his career as a China scholar, serving as an Australian diplomat in Beijing before entering Australian politics. As Prime Minister, he led Australia’s response during the Global Financial Crisis, seen by the IMF as the most effective stimulus strategy of all member states. Rudd co‑founded the G20 to drive the global response to the crisis.

Rudd succeeds Josette Sheeran who announced she is stepping down after more than seven years as President and CEO of Asia SocietySociety – during which she worked with the Board of Trustees to build the institution into the powerful, global organization it is now. 

Over the course of her tenure, Sheeran led a capital campaign that secured more than $100 million to advance Asia Society’s substance, reach, and impact. She also helped launch the Asia Society Policy Institute, and the highly impactful Asia Game Changer Awards; and brought together the institution’s centers around the world into a global, connected Asia Society with a shared vision and brand. Sheeran also led Asia Society’s pivot to innovative global digital programming, outreach, and events.

“We are thrilled that Kevin has accepted the Board’s invitation to take the helm at such a critical moment for the institution. He has peerless experience and institutional knowledge, and we know that he will be an effective partner to the Board and to the global staff of Asia Society,” said John Thornton, Co-Chair, Asia Society Board of Trustees. “We are grateful to Josette for a tremendous seven years at Asia Society. She has broken new ground for us – financially, culturally, and globally – and helped position the institution to move forward with great impact.”

“Kevin is the right leader to help us deliver on our action plan. He is a true statesman and an inspirational leader – widely respected and uniquely experienced. Josette has positioned us well for the future and leaves Kevin with a strong and globally-recognized institution,” said Chan Heng Chee, Co-Chair, Asia Society Board of Trustees.   

“I am honored that the Board has chosen me for this important and impactful role. Asia Society today is among the smartest, leading-edge, and distinguished institutions of its kind and I have been lucky to already have played a small part in its success. I am grateful to Josette for her many years of partnership and collaboration and I am eager to continue my work with the incredible global staff at Asia Society,” said The Honorable Kevin Rudd, incoming President and CEO of Asia Society.

“I have known and worked with Kevin for many years – he is a leader dedicated to scholarship, strategy and action to address the world’s most pressing challenges. From the front lines of war, to helping the world navigate the complexities of the US-China relationship, he has the capacity and commitment to help identify urgently needed solutions,” said Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of Asia Society. “The Board could not have made a better or more considered choice than Kevin to carry Asia Society forward.  He is the thoughtful and dynamic leader we need for this moment, and I am 100% confident in his future.”

Asia Society is the leading nonpartisan, nonprofit global organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context.

Founded in 1956, Asia Society is an educational institution based in New York with state-of-the-art cultural centers and gallery spaces in Hong Kong and Houston, and offices in Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Mumbai, San Francisco, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Zurich.

Indian Americans to the State Houses in the Northeast USA Share Their Personal Stories At GOPIO Interactive Session

Since the initial days immigration from South Asia to the United States in the early 1960s to the present, Indian Americans have steadily grown from a very insignificant minority to the current fast growing and influential community in the United States. They are described as a model minority community for what they have been able to become and achieve in about half a century.

GOPIO chapters in the New York area (Manhattan, New York, Connecticut and Central Jersey) in collaboration with IMPACT Project organized an interactive Zoom session, celebrating Indian American community’s emerging political leaders in the Northeast of the United States on Thursday, October 8th, 2020. 

Moderated by Raj Goyle, Former Member of Kansas State Assembly and Co-Founder, IMPACT (New York, NY), the session showcased several Indian American leaders from the Northeast, with the audience from around the United States, on how they developed interest in public service, their challenges and the sense of pride and achievement in what they have accomplished.  Describing himself as a pioneer in US politics, Goyle said, “When I had joined politics, I did not know much of politics. I was one of the first to be elected to any State Assembly. And I am proud to be part of the new generation of PIOs/NRIs in politics.” said Goyle.

Raj Goyle began his career in politics following his work as a policy analyst and civil rights attorney. Goyle served two terms in the Kansas House of Representatives, making him the first Asian American elected to office in Kansas’ history. He is currently the CEO of Bodhala, a leading legal technology, and resides in New York City with his wife and two daughters.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Gautam Mukunda at The Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, eloquently educated the audience on the history of universal adult franchise in the US, starting with the “fight by the Black Americans for voting rights in the US.” Stating that he had to learn the rising of the Indian Americans through academics, took the audience down the memory lane, when the 1st Indian American, Dalip Singh Saund to be elected to the US Congress in the 1950s. Referring to the pioneers of Color who had fought for equal rights and freedom, he said, “We could not be where we are today, if they did not fight for equal rights for all. There is no better way than running for office,” he said. Pointing to the many Speakers (Indian American Candidates Running for State Elective Offices in the Northeast of the United States), he said, “Everyone of you gives me hope. People in US believe that Indian Americans are capable of becoming leaders in the nation.”

Connecticut State Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan, Candidate for CT House of Representatives in the 2nd District shared with the audience as to how he got interested in entering politics, especially through his “commitment to Environment after Hurricane Katrina devastated the nation.” While he had lost the election the first time by 260 votes, did not deter him from contesting again. And he won convincingly the second time he fought the election. “It was the desire to give back to the society that prompted me to enter politics and serve the people,” he said.

New York State Senator Kevin Thomas, a candidate for NY State Senate District 56, said, he is “proud of the community he has come to represent. My constituents sought change and they got the change by electing me.” Stating that there are many forces from outside of his state are pouring in money to unseat him, he urged the community to support him with fund raising efforts. Stating that during his short term in the NY Senate, he has been successful in bringing in much needed funding to serve the diverse needs with several new programs for his constituents.” He urged everyone to VOTE in the upcoming election and make “our voices heard.”

Ohio State Rep. Niraj Antani, a candidate for Ohio State Senate District 6, said, he is the 2nd Indian American ever elected to a statewide office and he is one of the only Republicans of Indian Origin to be elected. “I work hard to reach across the aisle and cooperate with people in both the Parties to legislate.” Sharing his early days and inspiration to enter politics, he said, “My parents worked hard to live the American dream. There is a need for us to be at the decision-making table. Everyone is able to realize the dream. We stand on your shoulders, to carry on the Indian values.” Niraj Antani is serving his third term in the Ohio House of Representatives. He was the youngest Indian American elected official in the United States. 

Jeremy Cooney from Rochester, New York, a candidate for NY State Senate District 56, said, “I am from India. I was adopted as a young child. My commitment is to give back to the community.” Cooney added, “I had great opportunity to work for elected officials and grateful for the opportunity to serve. We cannot control the politics of DC but can serve the inclusive NY state.”  Born in an Indian orphanage, Jeremy was adopted by a single-mother and grew up in the South Wedge neighborhood of the City of Rochester. After losing his mother to dementia and brain cancer, Jeremy has devoted his career to serving the community that helped raise him from the YMCA to all levels of government. Now Jeremy is running for State Senate to create new and good paying jobs, improve schools and provide access to quality healthcare for all. 

New Hampshire State Rep. Latha Mangipudi, who is a candidate for NH House of Representatives 35th District for a 5th Term, shared with the audience about her own life, challenges in becoming a female, non-White elected official from a state which is majority White. “It was a very slow and gradual journey after I had come to the US to pursue higher studies in the 1980s.” Inspired by Gandhiji’s message of non-violence, which Martin Luther and late Rep. John Lewis had imbibed in their public life, the 1st generation Indian American said,  “I am a woman, Brown colored, 1st generation Indian and very vocal in expressing my views.”

Rupande Mehta from New Jersey, a candidate for NJ State Senate District 25, said, “I have been working in my community for long, which needs a new leader, who can represents our values of my state and my constituents.” Describing his life as “My story is a story of dreams. Coming from Mumbai, seeking freedom, I am running for office, because representation matters.” If elected she will be the first person of South Asian to be elected from his District. “I am ready to take on the most conservative, who has no regard for public safety,” Mehta added.  

NJ State Rep. Raj Mukherji from NJ’s 33rd District said, “My story is simple.” Stating that it is “premature to say we have arrived. Our community’s vote matters. We are proud to be Brown hibernated community.”

Kesha Ram, Burlington, Vermont, a candidate for VT State Senate Chittenden District, shared of the reasons for her entering politics. “I got engaged with the community for long, where we care for each other.” One of the youngest ever to be elected to State Assembly at the age of 21, she said, she had left active politics, and now she is back to run for the Senate seat. “As a daughrer of a Punjabi from India, I remember my Math classes. I try to listen and follow up. Ninety percent of what we communicate is through body language. I strive to make people comfortable,” which helps the Indian American win people’s hearts.

The initiative, The Indian-American Impact Project, has a political action committee appendage — the Indian-American Impact Fund”— and is collectively known as “IMPACT” was founded by Raj Goyle and Deepak Raj, Chairman of Pratham USA and founder of the Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies at Columbia University.

Deepak Raj, on his remarks said, there are as many as 70 Indian Americans are running for office in the upcoming elections around the nation, and the scope has expanded today across the nation. “This is our time,” said Raj. “Across the country, a record number of Indian-Americans are running for office. We can’t leave it to chance that they will win on their own. We owe them our support — and we have a plan to help them run, win, and lead. We are nowhere on the celling yet. We are at an early stage. But I am thrilled to be where we are today. There is lots to be excited about 2020 and beyond.”

GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, the coordinator of the event, in his welcome address, underscored the need for Indian Americans to come together and help elect the candidates across the nation, who are standing for election. He assured the support of GOPIO, which has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future.

Shivender Sofat, President of GOPIO Manhattan, concluded the session and proposed vote of thanks wishing all the Indian American candidates success and offered whole hearted support of the Indian American community.  

The full video coverage is provided at the Indus TV Global Facebook Link at https://www.facebook.com/IndusTVglobal/videos/334486537836574/.

Who Will Win An Electoral College Majority In 2020?

A big question heading into this cycle was whether Democrats’ best path to winning back the White House ran through the Sun Belt or the Great Lakes (i.e. Rust Belt). While we won’t know for certain which pathway was best for them until the votes are actually counted, the current data shows a pretty clear divide.  If former Vice President Joe Biden is to win this election, his best chance probably runs through the Great Lakes.

Two new polls out Sunday morning are demonstrative of a larger trend. Biden was up 51% to 46% in a CBS News/YouGov poll in Wisconsin. CBS News/YouGov also found Biden at 50% to President Donald Trump’s 47% in Arizona, a result well within the margin of error. These polls taken in isolation wouldn’t be that noteworthy, but they speak to the larger aggregate.

Hillary Clinton won contests containing 232 electoral votes. Were Biden to hold the Clinton states (and polls indicate that he probably will), he needs to find an extra 38 electoral votes. Those extra 38 electoral votes are likely to come from the six closest states Trump won in 2016: Arizona (11 electoral votes), Florida (29 electoral votes), Michigan (16 electoral votes), North Carolina (15 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) and Wisconsin (10 electoral votes). You can also add in the one electoral vote from Nebraska’s Second Congressional District, which Trump won by just 2 points in 2016.

The 2016 presidential election was a bracing reminder that the presidency is won or lost in the states and not in the national popular vote. Donald Trump lost nationally by 2.9 million votes (2.1% of the total cast) while winning a comfortable Electoral College majority.

Can he repeat this feat in 2020? Yes. Can he do it if he loses the national popular vote by a larger margin than four years ago? Probably not. To win reelection, President Trump will have to reduce Joe Biden’s national vote advantage, which now stands at more than 10 percentage points, by about 8 points during the final two weeks of the campaign, an accomplishment for which there’s no clear precedent in American history. If he falls just short of replicating his 2016 showing, the country could be plunged into a dangerous political and legal struggle combining the worst features of 2000 and 1876.

Having learned their lesson in 2016, when pollsters for various media companies had pretty good estimates of the eventual national vote but did missed significantly in what turned out to be the crucial states, survey researchers are doing more polls with higher quality in the swing states this year. This enables us to gauge with some confidence the current situation in the 13 states that could conceivably swing into either party’s column, either now or at some point in 2020.

Table 1: Biden lead in swing states

State

Biden lead (deficit) [Percentage points]

Arizona

3.8

Florida

4.1

Georgia

1.2

Iowa

0.2

Michigan

7.5

Minnesota

9.1

Nevada

6.5

New Hampshire

11.5

North Carolina

3.1

Ohio

(0.1)

Pennsylvania

6.9

Texas

(1.4)

Wisconsin

7.7

Source: FiveThirtyEight

 

As of now, Joe Biden leads in 11 of these 13 states. By contrast, Donald Trump won ten of them in 2016 and Hillary Clinton only three (New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Nevada). Of these three states, Biden’s lead in New Hampshire and Minnesota is too large to surmount, barring a political earthquake. Trump has an outside chance to prevail in only one Clinton state—Nevada—and to do so, he would have to improve his current standing substantially.

Looking at the current swing state polling against the backdrop of the national popular vote average enables us to project four possible scenarios.

Scenario 1. Trump cuts Biden’s lead in half

Suppose that the non-stop live-event campaign the Trump team has planned cuts Joe Biden’s lead in half, from 10 points to 5. In this scenario, Trump would win the two states where he currently leads—Ohio and Texas—and would pick up Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Nevada would remain in the Biden column. President Trump would win 258 electoral votes, 12 short of a majority.

Scenario 2. Trump cuts Biden’s lead to 4 points

Suppose President Trump does even better, cutting Biden’s popular vote lead to just 4 points. It turns out that this would have no effect on Electoral College outcome, because Biden would still carry the three midwestern “Blue Wall” states plus Nevada.

Scenario 3. Trump cuts Biden’s lead to 2 points

Suppose President Trump’s campaign is so effective that he cuts Biden’s popular vote margin to just 2 points, replicating the 2016 results. In this event, Trump would carry all the states he won in 2016 plus Nevada—a total of 312 electoral votes.

Scenario 4: The nightmare

Suppose President Trump cuts Biden’s lead to 3 points. Although Nevada probably would fall into his hands, Pennsylvania would be too close to call. In this event, the state that most observers believe has the highest potential for electoral delays and snafus in counting mail-in ballots would determine the outcome of the race. This would all but guarantee a replay of the Florida controversy in 2000 that ended with Bush v. Gore, but with a much higher level of partisan polarization, more intense divisions over the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, and heightened threats of civil disorder. While it may not reach the level of rancor following the disputed 1876 election—when the post-Civil War Reconstruction era came to its bitter end—it could make the disputed 2000 election look tame by comparison.

There’s an obvious objection to my analysis: I’ve assumed that shifts in the national popular vote would be evenly distributed across the states. Isn’t it possible that the swing states might diverge significantly from the national average?

While no one can rule this out, there’s important evidence to the contrary. The 4.3 percentage-point reduction in President Trump’s support between 2016 and today has been distributed remarkably evenly among the swing states, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2

State

Trump 2016

Trump 2020

Difference

Arizona

48.7

45.2

3.5

Florida

49.0

45.1

3.9

Georgia

50.8

46.6

4.2

Iowa

51.2

47.5

3.7

Michigan

47.5

42.8

4.7

Minnesota

44.9

41.7

3.2

Nevada

46.0

43.2

2.8

New Hampshire

46.6

42.2

4.4

North Carolina

49.8

45.9

3.9

Ohio

51.7

47.1

4.6

Pennsylvania

48.2

44.0

4.2

Texas

52.2

48.5

3.7

Wisconsin

47.2

43.1

4.1

Sources: State Secretaries of State; FiveThirtyEight

 

The bottom line: with only one outlier (Nevada), the change in President Trump’s support between 2016 and 2020 has been remarkably uniform, both among the swing states and between those states and the rest of the country. Although the electoral college results will be determined by the individual states, the 2020 election is being shaped much more by national factors than by differences among the states. The implication is that President Trump will not be able to overcome Joe Biden’s current Electoral College lead, which is substantial, unless he can reduce Biden’s national popular vote advantage to roughly the 2-point difference of 2016. The worst-case outcome is that Trump gets close to this result without equaling it, leaving the outcome of the election in doubt and throwing the country into chaos under highly adverse circumstance

An examination of the demographic voting patterns in the last few cycles and national polls indicate that Biden’s relative strength in the Great Lakes makes a lot of sense.

Remember that Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin formed part of what was deemed “the blue wall” heading into the 2016 election. All three states had voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992.

Trump was able to break through that blue wall because of his strength among White voters without a college degree. These voters make up about 50% or more of the voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They make up a significantly lower percentage in the Sun Belt, which is more racially diverse.

And if you still don’t believe the polls, just look at the results in 2018 and the actions of the Biden campaign. House Democrats did significantly better in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than in Arizona, Florida and North Carolina. They also won the governorship and Senate races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2018.

There’s a reason why Biden based his campaign in Philadelphia and has been outspending Trump by factors of greater than 2:1 in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

For Trump to win, he’ll probably need to knock down the big blue wall again. If he can’t, Biden’s probably the next president

What Will Sway Indian American Voters: Biden-Harris Ticket? Or, Trump-Modi Ties?

A new poll has revealed that Indian-American voters were unlikely to be swayed by either Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden’s selection of Indian-origin Kamala Harris as his running mate or the relationship between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS) has also revealed that significant attention is also being paid to the community because of an emerging narrative that Trump-Modi friendship, “compounded by concerns over how a Biden administration might manage US-India ties, will push Indian-Americans to abandon the Democratic Party in droves”, the American Bazaar reported on Wednesday.

Presently, the Indian-American community makes up for less than 1 per cent of all registered voters in the US. The data further showed that Indian-Americans continue to be strongly attached to the Democratic Party, with little indication of a shift towards the Republican Party.

In addition, Indian-Americans view US-India relations as a low priority issue in this electoral cycle, and focusing more on national issues such as healthcare and economy. According to the poll, 72 per cent of registered Indian-American voters plan to vote for Biden and 22 per cent for Trump in the November 3 election.

The survey has also found that 64 per cent of respondents who identify as Independents (about one-eighth of all Indian-American voters) will back Biden, while 22 per cent intend to vote for Trump. Meanwhile, a smaller percentage of Indian-Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 (68 per cent) plan to support him again in 2020, the American Bazaar reported.

According to the poll, four demographics stand out in the Indian-Americans’ presidential vote choice — first, there was no linear relationship between age and vote choice.

Seventy-five per cent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 intend to vote for Biden.

Second, Indians of all religious faiths prefer Biden to Trump.

Third, support for Biden is greater among US-born citizens (71 per cent) than naturalized citizens (66 per cent), and fourth, the community’s attitude does not exhibit a strong gender gap, in contrast to the US population as a whole.

During the 2016 election campaign around this time, then-candidate Donald Trump addressed a large, glamorous rally of thousands of cheering Hindus, the first time a US presidential candidate reached out to the followers of the faith. But this time there won’t be such an event.

The Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), which organized the event on October 15, 2016, in New Jersey, is scaling back its campaign for Trump and will not hold events for him unless he gives an assurance on immigration reform, according to its founder Shalabh Kumar. Kumar told IANS that he and the group’s members would continue to support Trump and urge Hindus to vote for him, but will not hold any campaign events like the one in 2016 which was attended by over 8,000 people.

In the US, electioneering based on religious appeal is legal and common at all levels. “We are asking all our members to support Trump in their individual capacity to vote for Trump and for Republicans in general,” Kumar said.

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has launched an outreach under its own umbrella called the ‘Hindu Voices for Trump’, as part of a multi-pronged drive that also separately targets Sikhs, Muslims and Indian-Americans in general.

For the first time, Democrats have also reached out to members of the religion with a “Hindus for Biden” initiative spearheaded by Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House of Representatives. In the past, the Democrats’ explicit outreach had been to religions like Islam and Judaism and excluded Hinduism.

While Trump speaks of merit-based immigration there are about a million people caught up in the Green Card backlog and “they are in great pain”, he said. The RHC wants a commitment from Trump that he would introduce a system of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that would allow people waiting for five or more years for their Green Cards to indefinitely work and live in the US till their numbers come up for it, he said.

According to Republican Senator Mike Lee’s estimate, the backlog is so bad that for some Indians the wait could take 195 years for a Green Card, which gives permanent immigrant status and puts the recipients in the pipeline to full citizenship. The EAD would be a bridge to Green Card pending immigration reforms to clear the backlog, Kumar said.

A new poll has revealed that Indian-Americans overwhelmingly support the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for the November 3 election with “great enthusiasm”, generated by having Kamala Harris as the Vice Presidential candidate.

The poll released on Thursday reported that 72 per cent of registered Indian-American voters said that they planned to vote for the Biden-Harris ticket and only 22 per cent for President Donald Trump. The poll showed a slight erosion of five per cent in support to Biden among Indian-Americans compared to the 77 per cent Hillary Clinton had received from them in 2016, according to the 2016 Post-Election National Asian American Survey, while Trump seemed to have improved his support level by six per cent compared to the 16 per cent in the last election.

But despite the small numbers, the community’s support is avidly sought by both parties. “Even though Indian Americans comprise slightly more than one per cent of the total US population e and less than one per cent of all registered voters e both major parties are leaving no stone unturned in reaching out to this community (perhaps mindful of the closeness of the 2016 elections),” according to the Carnegies analysis of the IAAS poll.

UN Empresses dismayed at restrictions on Human Rights, NGOs and arrests of activists in India

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday appealed to the Government of India to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work on behalf of the many groups they represent. Bachelet expressed regret at the tightening of space for human rights NGOs in particular, including by the application of vaguely worded laws that constrain NGOs’ activities and restrict foreign funding.

“India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally,” the High Commissioner said. “But I am concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices.”

Bachelet cited as worrying the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which a number of UN human rights bodies* have also expressed concern is vaguely worded and overbroad in its objective. The Act prohibits the receipt of foreign funds “for any activities prejudicial to the public interest.”

The Act, which was adopted in 2010 and was amended last month, has had a detrimental impact on the right to freedom of association and expression of human rights NGOs, and as a result on their ability to serve as effective advocates to protect and promote human rights in India. It is expected that the new amendments will create even more administrative and practical hurdles for such advocacy-based NGOs. Most recently, Amnesty International was compelled to close its offices in India after its bank accounts were frozen over alleged violation of the FCRA.

“The FCRA has been invoked over the years to justify an array of highly intrusive measures, ranging from official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts, to suspension or cancellation of registration, including of civil society organizations that have engaged with UN human rights bodies,” Bachelet said.

“I am concerned that such actions based on the grounds of vaguely defined ‘public interest’ leave this law open to abuse, and that it is indeed actually being used to deter or punish NGOs for human rights reporting and advocacy that the authorities perceive as critical in nature. Constructive criticism is the lifeblood of democracy. Even if the authorities find it uncomfortable, it should never be criminalized or outlawed in this way.”

The UN Human Rights Committee – which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a party – has found** that when a State invokes national security and protection of public order as a reason to restrict the right to freedom of association, the State party must show the specific nature of the threat or risks posed, and limit its responses to those necessary and proportionate to address such threat or risks.

Activists and human rights defenders have also come under mounting pressure in recent months, particularly because of their engagement in mass protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act that took place across the country earlier this year. More than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested in relation to the protests, with many charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act – a law which has also been widely criticized for its lack of conformity with international human rights standards.

Charges have also been filed under this law against a number of individuals in connection with demonstrations that date back to 2018. Most recently, the 83-year-old Catholic priest Stan Swamy, a long-standing activist engaged in defending the rights of marginalized groups, was charged and reportedly remains in detention, despite his poor health.

“I urge the Government to ensure that no one else is detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – and to do its utmost, in law and policy, to protect India’s robust civil society,” the High Commissioner said. “I also urge the authorities to carefully review the FCRA for its compliance with international human rights standards and to release people charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for simply exercising basic human rights that India is obligated to protect.”

Earlier this year, in a welcome development for advocacy-based NGOs, India’s Supreme Court significantly narrowed the definition of what constitutes a “political activity” under the FCRA. “I encourage India’s national institutions to strengthen the social and legal protections that enable civil society to function freely and contribute to progress,” the High Commissioner said.

Bachelet said the UN Human Rights Office would continue to closely engage with the Government of India on issues relating to the promotion and protection of human rights, and will also continue to monitor developments that positively and negatively affect civic space and fundamental rights and freedoms.

Covid-19 deaths in India may have exceeded 2.5 million: What expert panel says about lockdown, festivals

The government-appointed panel which studied the mathematical progression of Covid-19 numbers in the country said only 30 per cent of the population has developed immunity so far. The Centre had appointed a 10-member committee, headed by NITI Aayog member VK Paul, to study the mathematical progression of Covid-19 virus in India. The committee submitted its report on a day Union health minister Harsh Vardhan admitted community transmission of Covid-19 in certain pockets of a limited number of states in the country.

The study sheds light on where India stands in its fight against Covid-19 and what lies ahead.

  1. India may see an exponential increase of 26 lakh cases in a month because of the festival season if precautions are not followed.
  2. Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal are still seeing a rise in the number of cases, while elsewhere the pandemic has stabilised.
  3. A second wave of coronavirus can’t be ruled out in winter.
  4. Local lockdown are not effective now, but had there been no lockdown in March-April, India’s total deaths could have exceeded 25 lakh in August. The death toll now stands at 1.14 lakh.
  5. Only 30 per cent of the population has developed immunity so far.
  6. India reached the peak of Covid-19 in September and is now on the downward slope.
  7. The crisis is likely to be over by February 2021. By that time, there could be 10.5 million cases.
  8. Migrants didn’t make much difference to the number of overall infections.
  9. We have to be careful in the coming months also because of pollution on north India.
  10. The curve is flattened and early lockdown bolstered by better-equipped health care system helped in flattening the curve.

Joe Biden’s Lead Over Trump Is The Highest Since 1936

Former Vice President Joe Biden is dominating President Donald Trump in the latest polls. No, the election is not over yet, and Trump still has a non-negligible chance of winning. But a look through history reveals that Biden is in a better position at this point than any challenger since 1936, when the first scientific polls were taken in a presidential race.

In the 21 previous presidential elections since 1936, there have only been five challengers who led at this time. Of those five, only one (Bill Clinton in 1992) was ahead by more than 5 points. None of those five were earning more than 48% of the vote in the polls.  In other words, Biden is the first challenger to be above 50% at this late juncture in the campaign.

This also continues to mark a massive difference with the 2016 campaign. While Hillary Clinton was ahead of Trump by as high as 7 points in October 2016, she never came anywhere close to approaching 50% of the vote. Trump merely had to win the lionshare of the undecided or third party voters (who would bolt their candidate) to earn a victory in 2016.

The 2020 presidential campaign has been repeatedly rocked by seismic events – from the outbreak of a devastating pandemic to President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19. Yet in at least two important respects, not much has changed: Joe Biden continues to hold sizable advantages over Trump on most major issues and key personal traits, as well as in overall voter preferences. And voters continue to be highly focused on the election and attach great importance to its outcome.

With less than a month to go before the election, a majority of registered voters (57%) say they are very or somewhat confident in Biden to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus, while 40% express a similar level of confidence in Trump. In June, Biden held a narrower, 11 percentage point lead on handling the coronavirus outbreak (52% Biden, 41% Trump).

At a time of deep political divisions and partisan antipathy, voters are far more likely to express confidence in Biden than Trump to unify the country. Half of voters (50%) say they are confident in Biden to “bring the country closer together,” compared with just 30% who express confidence in Trump.

The new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 5 among 11,929 U.S. adults, including 10,543 registered voters, finds that Biden maintains an overall lead in voter preferences: 52% of registered voters say if the election were held today, they would vote for Biden or lean toward voting for him, while 42% support or lean toward voting for Trump. Another 4% of voters back Libertarian Jo Jorgensen, while 1% support Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins in the 2020 election. (See detailed tables for full demographic breaks on voter preferences.)

The survey was in the field when Trump announced on Twitter, early on the morning of Oct. 2, that he and first lady Melania Trump had contracted COVID-19. There are no significant differences in voter preferences, or in confidence in the two candidates to handle the impact of the coronavirus, before and after his announcement.

Trump’s handling of the nation’s economy remains a relative strong point. About half of voters (52%) express confidence in Trump to make good decisions about economic policy, one the highest shares expressing confidence in the president on any of the six issues on the survey. However, about as many voters (51%) have confidence in Biden on the economy.

Since summer, there has been some improvement in views of the nation’s economy. Among all voters, 35% say economic conditions are excellent or good, up from 28% in June. However, this change has come almost entirely among Trump supporters. And the gap in economic perceptions, already wide, has grown much wider. Two-thirds (67%) of Trump supporters now say that economic conditions are excellent or good, compared with 51% who said this in June. Just 11% of Biden supporters view economic conditions positively, which is little changed from four months ago (9%).

The survey finds that voters view Biden much more positively than Trump for compassion, honesty and being a good role model. Nearly twice as many voters say “compassionate” describes Biden very or fairly well than say it applies to Trump (67% vs. 34%). More than half of voters (53%) say Biden is honest, compared with 35% who describe Trump as honest. And far more voters say Biden is a good role model (54% vs. 28%).

The ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday was the latest poll to indicate Biden’s strength. Biden led Trump by a 55% to 43% margin among likely voters. The poll was the third high quality national poll published this week that had Biden up by at least 10 points and above 50%. The other two being from CNN/SSRS and Fox News.

Indeed, the average of polls has Biden at around 52% or 53% and up by somewhere between 10 and 11 points. This is an unprecedented position for a challenger with a mere 23 days to go until Election Day. Even if every undecided or current third party voter went to Trump now, he’d still be down about 5 to 6 points nationally. That’s never been the case with an incumbent since 1936 at this point.

Of course, it’s the Electoral College that matters. There are very few universes in which Trump could win the Electoral College, if he were to lose nationally by 5 to 6 points.  New polls out on Sunday from CBS News/YouGov demonstrate that Biden’s above 50% in some key battlegrounds. He leads 52% to 46% in Michigan and Nevada. In Iowa, a state that Trump took by 9 points in 2016 and is not anywhere close to must win for Biden, the race is tied at 49%.

A look under the hood reveals why Biden is in such a strong position. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Covid-19 has either been, or been within the margin of error of being the nation’s most important problem in Gallup polling.

The three challengers in the polling era (Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Bill Clinton in 1992) who defeated incumbents have all been trusted more than the incumbent to deal with what Americans thought was the nation’s most important problem. None, however, were trusted by more than 50% of the voters.

Today, Biden has a huge advantage over Trump when it comes to the pandemic. The clear majority (59%) of likely voters in the last CNN poll said Biden would better be able to handle the outbreak. Just 38% said Trump would do a better job than Biden.

Why Is Supreme Court Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett Very Controversial?

The death of a sitting justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has thrust the court into the center of a bruising political campaign for the White House. Republican President Donald Trump has nominated federal appellate judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy left by Ginsburg, even as Trump’s opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, calls for confirmation proceedings to be postponed until after voters have cast their ballots for president. Republicans control the U.S. Senate and have vowed to move forward with Barrett’s confirmation over the objections of Biden and other Democrats.

The battle to get Donald Trump’s nominee to the US Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed by the Senate began on Monday with Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings. The shifting ideological balance of the court will have an impact in all areas of American life and across the US – perhaps in no place more than Texas.

A 6-3 conservative majority in the court could directly attack Democratic Party priorities like government-managed healthcare and access to abortion services. While the political battle over Trump’s appointment of Barrett is taking place between the White House and Democratic senators in the US Capitol, some of the biggest legal fights that have made it to the Supreme Court in recent years have come out of Texas.

For instance, the current challenge to the Affordable Care Act – Barack Obama’s signature law when in office, aiming to expand access to healthcare – was brought by the state of Texas. It will come before the Supreme Court just days after the election, possibly with Barrett on the bench.

A major 2016 court decision on regulating abortion clinics also originated in the state, as did recent disputes over federal voting rights laws, the consideration of race in university admissions, the constitutionality of Obama-era immigration reforms. Texas was also a key player in several challenges to capital punishment, anti-sodomy laws and, going back to 1973, the landmark Roe v Wade decision that legalised abortion across the US.

Part of this, explains University of Texas law professor HW Perry, is a result of Texas being a large state, both in population and size, with interests touching on most aspects of American life. More recently, however, Texas’s prominence in high-profile court battles is the result of a concerted effort by the state’s top Republican politicians to become a major player in the conservative legal world.

“Texas has become quite a leader in pushing cases to the Supreme Court to get accepted for review, and then often they are the ones who wind up arguing it,” Perry says. “It’s developed this highly professionalised office which is also the one leading many of the other conservative states in getting cases before the Supreme Court.”

From 2013 to 2020, the state’s then-solicitor general, Scott Keller, argued 11 cases before the Supreme Court. The next closest state lawyer had four. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, when he served as the state’s attorney general, would frequently say of his job: “I go to the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home.”

The state, which made a habit of pushing the boundaries of conservative law and causes, didn’t always win those high-profile cases. On anti-sodomy law, voting rights, the death penalty and, most recently, abortion, it was often on the short end of the judicial stick, many times by narrow, 5-to-4 decisions. With Ginsburg gone and Barrett poised to take a seat on the court, however, conservatives in Texas are optimistic that the legal tide may be turning.

“It’s a historic opportunity,” says Matt Mackowiak, an Austin-based political consultant and chair of the Travis County Republican Party. “Conservatives in Texas and across the country are really, really satisfied with the past two Supreme Court nominations the president made and are encouraged and, I think, really hopeful about the next one, as well.”

Anti-abortion groups like Texas Right to Life celebrated Barrett’s announcement, noting that she would replace Ginsburg, who was a consistent vote for abortion rights. Replacing her, they said “could yield new hope for the protection of preborn children”.

Another abortion-related case, challenging a Texas law that bans a common second-term “dilation and extraction” abortion procedure and requires burial or cremation for embryonic or foetal tissue, is currently in being considered by a federal appellate court.

The Right to Life group expressed optimism that Barrett will join Trump’s other appointments, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, in upholding the Texas law and setting the stage for more stringent regulation of abortions in other states. “Texas is a pro-life state, and certainly among conservatives we’d like to see Roe vs Wade overturned,” says Mackowiak. “Of course, that doesn’t make abortion illegal, it makes it a state issue again.”

As much as conservatives in Texas are relishing the ways the Republican leadership in their state can benefit from a rightward move in the Supreme Court’s ideology, those on the left who have fought them in the courts are hunkering down for what they see as long, frustrating and frequently futile battles.

“It’s horribly depressing,” says Susan Hays, an Austin-based lawyer who has spent decades litigating abortion rights cases. “Texas has been the source of a disproportionate number of reproductive rights cases, voting rights case, other sorts of civil rights cases that the Supreme Court has had to decide in order to protect basic human rights in the state.”

The conservative refrain to these kind of complaints is that elections have consequences. Donald Trump won in 2016, and Republicans took control of the US Senate, which confirms judicial nominees, in 2015. Texas itself hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.

There are signs of life for Texas liberals, however. Polls show Joe Biden and Trump in a close fight for the state’s presidential electoral votes. Cornyn is in a closer-than-expected re-election race, and the Democrats may even be the favourites at this point to take back the state legislature, which it last controlled in 2002.

According to law professor Perry, if Texas does go blue, the Democrats could inherit a legal apparatus they can use for their own causes. “Hope may spring eternal that because of the changing demographics and other things, Texas is moving towards purple and there will be a future where the institution that is built for Texas for the conservative point of view may someday become one that is a powerful place for liberals to be,” he says. “I don’t think it’s quite there yet, however.”

The average tenure of a Supreme Court justice is nearly 17 years, according to a February 2017 Pew Research Center analysis of biographical data for 104 former high court justices. (The analysis excluded the members of the court who were serving at the time.) Not surprisingly, younger appointees tend to stay on the court longer. Those who were younger than 45 when they were sworn in served for an average of 21.6 years. That’s about two years longer than those who were ages 45 to 49 when they took the oath of office; three years longer than those who were 50 to 54; seven years longer than those who were 55 to 59; and nearly a decade longer than those who were ages 60 and older. Barrett, Trump’s pending nominee for the high court, is 48. If confirmed, she would be the youngest member of the court.

Fr. Stan Lourduswamy Arrested By Indian Authorities On Hooked Up Charges

“The arrest of Fr Stan Lourduswamy, 83, is a violation of human rights,” said Rev. J. Felix Raj, a fellow Jesuit of Indian Origin. “We are distressed and troubled. We express our deep concern over the arrest and demand his immediate release considering his age.”

A special court in Mumbai has placed Jesuit Fr. Stan Swamy, a tribal rights activist, in judicial custody until Oct. 23 amid protests in many parts of the country. The priest, whose birth name is Stanislaus Lourdusamy, is accused of being party to a conspiracy that led to a violent clash in Bhima Korega on Jan. 1, 2018. One person was killed and several others injured.

Officials of the National Investigation Agency, which probes terrorism-linked activities, arrested the 83-year-old priest Oct. 8 at his residence at Bagaicha, a Jesuit social work center in the outskirts of the Ranchi, reported ucanews.com. Officials arrested him for alleged links to outlawed Maoist rebels, which the Jesuits and Indian rights activists say are trumped-up charges.

“We are consulting lawyers to move the appropriate court for his bail,” said Jesuit Fr. Davis Solomon, a colleague of Swamy. A statement from the Jesuits’ Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat noted that, two days before his arrest, Swamy released a video explaining his fight for tribal land rights. He said he had been interrogated by police for 15 hours over five days this summer.

“What is happening to me is not something unique happening to me alone. It is a broader process that is taking place all over the country,” Swamy said in the video. “We are all aware how prominent intellectuals, lawyers, writers, poets, activists, students, leaders, they are all put into jail because they have expressed their dissent or raised questions about the ruling powers of India.”

Fr. Stan Swamy is a Jesuit of the Jamshedpur province of the Jesuit Order. A Tamilian by birth, he joined the Jesuits and committed his entire life for the uplift of the tribals and Dalits in India, particularly in Jharkhand. Arrested in Ranchi on October 8 and taken to Mumbai the next morning, he has been sent to judicial custody till October 23.

In a statement issued here, Archbishop Felix Machado, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, (CBCI), said, “CBCI expresses its deep sorrow and anguish on the arrest of Fr Stan Swamy from his residence by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), accusing him of being related to the Bhima –Koregaon incident.” Arrested in Ranchi on October 8 and taken to Mumbai the next morning, he has been sent to judicial custody till October 23.

Fr Stan Swamy has spent a major portion of his life giving yeoman service to the tribals and the downtrodden in the state of Jharkhand. According to our reports Fr. Stan has for decades been working to protect the rights of the Adivasis, especially their land rights. This could have worked against the interests of certain people. When questioned during the months of July- August 2020 by authorities, Fr Stan Swamy has fully cooperated with Investigating Agencies and has provided detailed statements, claiming to be innocent in the case.

Archbishop Felix Machado said, “It is difficult to comprehend the plight of an octogenarian with several morbidities, like Fr Stan Swamy to have to undergo such difficulties during this pandemic in which even a normal healthy person would hesitate to travel or would never travel risking one’s life.”

The CBCI makes a strong appeal to the concerned authorities to immediately release Fr Stan Swamy and to permit him to go to his residence. The Catholic Community has always been lauded by all as body of loyal, law abiding and service minded citizens of Mother India. The community has always been contributing to nation building and continues to collaborate with the government in working for the common good of all Indians and the progress of our nation. We earnestly urge that the rights, duties and privileges of all citizens are duly safeguarded, and peace and harmony prevail among all.

 Fr Stan Swamy is the 16th person to be arrested in the case, in which people have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the anti-terror law UAPA. The NIA had been interrogating him and had questioned him for 15 hours during a span of five days before the arrest.

“Now they want me to go to Mumbai…, I have said that I won’t go,” Fr Stan Swamy had said before his arrest, citing his advanced age and the pandemic. I have never been to Bhima Koregaon for which I am being made an accused,” he said. He added that he had asked for questioning through videoconference and hoped that better “human sense” would prevail.

Fr Stan Swamy said he was part of the process and, in a way, happy to be so because he was not a “silent spectator”. “I am ready to pay the price, whatever be it,” he said. Fr Stan Swamy has often raised his voice against alleged police excesses in Jharkhand, and what he describes as the government’s failure to properly implement the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution in the state.

The Fifth Schedule stipulates that a “Tribes Advisory Council (TAC)”, composed solely of members from the Adivasi community, advise governors of tribal-inhabited states on their well-being and development. Fr Stan Swamy has claimed that none of the governors — the discretionary heads of these councils — has ever reached out to the Adivasis to understand and work on their problems.

He has also taken exception to how the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, has been “neatly ignored” and “deliberately… left unimplemented in all the nine states” with a tribal population. The Act, according to him, was the first to recognise the fact that the Adivasi communities in India have had a rich social and cultural tradition of self-governance through the gram sabha.

In 2017, he mobilised the Adivasis to fight for the rights granted to them under PESA, and this lead to the Pathalgadi movement. Fr Stan Swamy and many others were booked for alleged sedition for the movement under the state’s erstwhile BJP government, but the cases have been revoked under the current JMM-Congress dispensation.

Fr Stan Swamy has also been a vocal advocate for the release of undertrials. He says they have been unfairly lodged in jails and labelled Maoists. In 2010, he published a book about this, titled Jail Mein Band Qaidiyon ka Sach (The truth of undertrials).”

 The Catholic Church has expressed gratitude “to all people of goodwill, people from all walks of life, belonging to all religions, and all institutions that have come out in an overwhelming support for Fr Stan Swamy’s immediate release and safe return to his residence.” 

 

At Least 8 Million Americans Have Already Voted, Could Smash Records For Voter Turnout

Americans are rushing to cast ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 election at an unprecedented pace, early voting numbers show, indicating a possible record turnout for the showdown between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

With three weeks to go before Election Day, more than 8 million Americans already have voted, according to the United States Elections Project, which compiles early voting data. The shift has been driven by an expansion of early and mail-in voting in many states as a safe way to cast a ballot during the coronavirus pandemic and an eagerness to weigh in on the political future of Trump, said Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, who administers the project.

“We’ve never seen this many people voting so far ahead of an election,” said project lead Michael McDonald of the University of Florida to Reuters.

McDonald predicts a record turnout of about 150 million voters this year, which would amount to 65% of eligible voters—the highest potential turnout in more than a century. According to states that are reporting such data, U.S. voters have requested a total of 72,524,278 mail ballots already.

“People cast their ballots when they make up their minds, and we know that many people made up their minds long ago and already have a judgment about Trump,” McDonald said, describing early voting totals in some battleground states as “just nuts.” He added: “Every piece of data suggests very high turnout for this election. I think that’s just a given.

Biden leads Trump in national opinion polls, although surveys in crucial battleground states indicate a tighter race. The numbers reported so far come from 31 states, McDonald said, and will grow rapidly as more states begin early in-person voting and report absentee mail-in totals in the next few weeks. All but about a half-dozen states allow some level of early in-person voting.

The percentage of voters who cast their ballot at a voting machine on Election Day already had been in steady decline before this year, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency. The total number of early or mail-in votes more than doubled from nearly 25 million in 2004 to 57 million in 2016, it said, representing an increase from one in five of all ballots cast to two in five of all ballots cast.

Trump has railed against mail-in voting, making unfounded accusations that it leads to fraud. Experts have said such fraud is rare. Those attacks by the president have shown signs of depressing Republican interest in voting by mail. Democrats have more than doubled the number of returned mail-in ballots by Republicans in seven states that report voter registration data by party, according to the Elections Project.

In the crucial battleground state of Florida, Democrats have requested more than 2.4 million mail-in ballots and returned 282,000, while Republicans have asked for nearly 1.7 million and returned more than 145,000.

A national Reuters/Ipsos poll taken last week found 5% of Democrats nationwide said they had already voted compared to 2% of Republicans. About 58% of Democrats planned to vote early compared to 40% of Republicans.  McDonald said early voting typically starts strong, then drops before surging just ahead of the election. But in some states, rates of participation already have skyrocketed a month out.

In South Dakota, early voting this year already represents nearly 23% of the total turnout in 2016. It is nearly 17% of total 2016 turnout in Virginia and nearly 15% of total 2016 turnout in the battleground state of Wisconsin.

“That’s just nuts,” McDonald said. “Every piece of data suggests very high turnout for this election. I think that’s just a given.”

2nd Quad Ministerial Meeting Held

The Australian and Japanese foreign ministers, the Indian external affairs minister, and the U.S. secretary of state met in Tokyo on October 6 for the second ministerial of the Quadrilateral, or “Quad.” While the Quad ministers did not release a joint statement, AustraliaIndiaJapan, and the U.S. did issue readouts. They provide a sense of the agenda, as well as where there is — and is not — overlap. The separate readouts also give some additional details. For instance, the Japanese one noted that North Korea and the South China Sea came up for discussion; the Australian and Indian ones mentioned the delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines; and Canberra’s document highlighted the subject of critical minerals.

In their readouts as well as their opening statements, each Quad country also outlined its vision of the kind of Indo-Pacific it would like to see. All four also emphasized the importance of working with other like-minded partners (even beyond the Association for Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN). Japan mentioned European partners, in particular. As expected, no announcement was made about including Australia in the U.S.-India-Japan MALABAR maritime exercise, but Indian official sources indicated that an announcement would be made before the exercise in November.

While most of the countries did not explicitly mention China, there were various implicit references to it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the exception, mentioning the Chinese Communist Party in particular. The lack of consensus on whether or not — and how — to mention China might be one reason why the countries did not release a joint statement. Nonetheless, in a subsequent press availability, American officials made clear that China was discussed. They also indicated that Beijing’s behavior vis-à-vis Australia, India, and Japan over the last few months — rather than the Trump administration’s urging — increased their enthusiasm for the Quad.

The 2020 ministerial was the first standalone meeting of the Quad — previous minister-level and working-level meetings have taken place on the sidelines of other summits. The readouts of the four countries noted the importance of regularizing the ministerial, as well as continuing working-level and subject experts’ meetings. The visit to Tokyo also provided an opportunity for Minister Marise Payne, Minister S. Jaishankar, and Secretary Pompeo to meet with new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, as well as for the four countries to have bilateral meetings with each other.

New England Journal of Medicine Says No To Reelecting Trump

Throughout its 208-year history, The New England Journal of Medicine has remained staunchly nonpartisan. The world’s most prestigious medical journal has never supported or condemned a political candidate. Until now.

In an editorial signed by 34 editors who are United States citizens (one editor is not) and published on Wednesday, the journal said the Trump administration had responded so poorly to the coronavirus pandemic that they “have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”

The journal did not explicitly endorse Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, but that was the only possible inference, other scientists noted.

The editor in chief, Dr. Eric Rubin, said the scathing editorial was one of only four in the journal’s history that were signed by all of the editors. The N.E.J.M.’s editors join those of another influential publication, Scientific American, who last month endorsed Mr. Biden, the former vice president.

The political leadership has failed Americans in many ways that contrast vividly with responses from leaders in other countries, the N.E.J.M. said.

In the United States, the journal said, there was too little testing for the virus, especially early on. There was too little protective equipment, and a lack of national leadership on important measures like mask wearing, social distancing, quarantine and isolation.

There were attempts to politicize and undermine the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the journal noted.

As a result, the United States has had tens of thousands of “excess” deaths — those caused both directly and indirectly by the pandemic — as well as immense economic pain and an increase in social inequality as the virus hit disadvantaged communities hardest.

The editorial castigated the Trump administration’s rejection of science, writing, “Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.”

President Trump mocked Mr. Biden’s mask wearing during the presidential debate on Sept. 29.Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The uncharacteristically pungent editorial called for change: “When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

Scientific American, too, had never before endorsed a political candidate. “The pandemic would strain any nation and system, but Trump’s rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic,” the journal’s editors said.

The N.E.J.M., like all medical journals these days, is deluged with papers on the coronavirus and the illness it causes, Covid-19. Editors have struggled to reconcile efforts to insist on quality with a constant barrage of misinformation and misleading statements from the administration, said Dr. Clifford Rosen, associate editor of the journal and an endocrinologist at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. “Our mission is to promote the best science and also to educate,” Dr. Rosen said. “We were seeing anti-science and poor leadership.”

Mounting public health failures and misinformation had eventually taken a toll, said Dr. Rubin, the editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine.

“It should be clear that we are not a political organization,” he said. “But pretty much every week in our editorial meeting there would be some new outrage.”

India Donates 1.8 Million N95 Masks to Philadelphia for Frontline Workers

India has donated 1.8 million N95 masks to Philadelphia, the largest city in the US state of Pennsylvania, to help in its fight against COVID-19, setting another example of a robust Indo-US partnership in the health sector.

The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has received a donation of 1.8 million N95 masks from India to help in its fight against COVID-19, according to a PTI report, adding it is another example of a robust Indo-U.S. partnership in the health sector. The donation came after Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney made a request to India for supply of masks to be used by the city’s frontline healthcare workers.

The move comes after the Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, made a request to India for supply of masks to be used by the city’s frontline workers.  “Philadelphia receives 1.8 million N95 masks from India to aid their fight against COVID-19,” India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Taranjit Singh Sandhu tweeted Oct. 9. “Another example of the robust India-US reliable partnership in the health sector!” he added.

Philadelphia is the sixth-most populous US city. The move is also an indication of India’s capabilities in manufacturing Personal protective equipment (PPE) not only for domestic use, but also exports, officials said.  India had also supplied hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug which is seen as a possible cure for COVID-19, to the US at the request of President Donald Trump.

During GOPIO-CT Event, Rep. Jim Himes Says, “Joe Biden Administration Will Continue To Offer Mediation Between India And China”

Describing the current situation on Indo-China border as very serious, US Congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat from the state of Connecticut, said, if elected to power the Joe Biden Administration will continue to offer mediation between India and China. Rep. Himes was addressing an interactive session via Zoom, organized by the GOPIO-CT Chapter on Thursday, October 8th, 2020. He called for serious and significant dialogue between two Asian giants, Rep. Himes referred to the efforts by the Trump administration to mediate between India and China, and he hoped that both the nations “accept the offer to mediate by the US Administration.”  Every year, GOPIO-CT has had an interactive session with Rep. Jim Himes. This year, because of the Pandemic, it had to be done on a Zoom session. The program started with a welcome by GOPIO-CT President Ashok Nichani who said that Rep. Himes is a great supporter of GOPIO and the Indian community.

In his opening remarks, GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, sought clarification from the Democratic Party Congressman on “US-India Relations in a Democrat Administration especially policy on India-China Border Clashes.”

 Calling on both the counties to be “careful with each other” in their approach and not to escalate the situation between the Two Nuclear Nations, referring to the US efforts to engage both the nations, Rep. Himes said, “This is an important opportunity for both the nations to address” and resolve the border tensions. Referring to Joe Biden as someone, whose strength is in Foreign Policy, the Congressman said, “The Joe Biden Administration will continue to offer mediation” between India and China. 

Dr. Thomas Abraham initiated the discussion by raising the “H1 and H4 visa issues and what you expect in Biden Administration, if he wins the election, especially for the need to clear the backlogs of pending Immigration numbers for our community.” Responding to these concerns that were shared in a series of questions by GOPIO leaders on the Immigration issues, Dr. Abraham described the immigration policy of the Trump administration and the current situation as “messy”, Rep. Himes referred to the numerous Presidential orders being challenged in Courts. He hoped that there will be a change, which will be a reversal in status and get back to a comprehensive immigration reform. Referring to the Trump policy on denying work visas to spouses of H1B visa holders, Rep. Himes asked, “What good is it that if the spouses of the H1B visa holders cannot work under H4 visas?’

On the Green Card back log, Rep. Himes said, attracting skilled laborers is “central to our economy.” On a question, regarding the discussions about the Country-based quota not being used and unused visas could be used to allow Green Cards to other qualified individuals who are caught in the backlog for Green Card approval, Rep. Himes was unsure if the Biden Administration will embrace the policy.

 Rep. Himes called for new dialogue between the two major parties to create a comprehensive new immigration policy that addresses the needs of the nation and millions who are awaiting a solution to the challenges. Rep. Himes wanted the nation to reflect and clarify the values behind creating a comprehensive immigration policy. While criticizing the Trump regime’s policy of favoring the people of higher income groups while offering visas, Rep. Himes said, “The  Biden Administration will be more open to immigration” which is more compassionate and understanding of the needs of the nation and those of the immigrants.

 On another question regarding voter suppression, Rep. Himes said, “If you want to vote in the state of Connecticut, there is no requirement for Voter ID.” He urged all sections of the society to work to ensuring “peaceful elections.”  Pointing to a state law, that does not allow political activity within 75 feet of any polling place, he said, “Any propaganda will be a violation and will be prosecuted.” Describing the residents of CT as law abiding citizens, Rep. Himes said, “I do not anticipate any significant problems in CT. However, the situation is different in other states like Wisconsin.”

Rep. Himes serves on the US Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, a forum in which Members of Congress can address the issues central to our relationship with this important South Asian nation. By promoting dialogue on issues of interest to the Indian-American community, the Caucus strives to strengthen bilateral relations between the United States and India, promote trade with India, enhance economic development in India and the United States, increase anti-terrorism cooperation.

On the ongoing Covid-19 emergency, Rep. Himes said, “the impact of Covid has been contained in my constituency by good behavior of all of my constituents. The numbers in the state of CT are good, because we did not get into politics. Hope the situation continues to improve.” Referring to the Congressional Bill passed that had offered substantial relief for small businesses, Congressman Himes pointed to the challenges in passing a new Covid Bill that the Congress Bill offers $2.2 Trillion, Rep. Himes criticized the Republican-led Senate and President Trump. “Once again, President Trump has called off negotiations, which is not good for the President and for the nation.

Rep. Himes also sought suggestions from GOPIO-CT participants on Kashmir issue. On that, Dr. Abraham categorically said that people in India whole heartedly supported the steps taken by Modi administration to make Kashmir people full participants like other citizens of India and complimented Prime Minister Modi for the new initiatives in education and development of Kashmir.

GOPIO-CT Trustee Joseph Simon concluded the meeting by thanking the organizers and Congressman Jim Himes for being gracious with his time and addressing the many issues of interest to the Indian community so directly and openly.

Over the last 14 years, GOPIO-CT, a chapter of GOPIO International has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future. GOPIO-CT – Global Organization of People of Indian Origin – serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of PIOs through community programs, forums, events and youth activities. It seeks to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with local communities. 

Protest in New Jersey over the Hathras gang rape and killing of Dalit Girl

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, organized a massive protest in New Jersey on October 10, 2020, over the gang rape and killing of a Dalit girl in Hathras, in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. 

The hasty and forceful cremation of the victim’s body by the Uttar Pradesh police has sent shock waves across India and indeed around the world. The inhumanity of the crime was amplified by the brazenness of the state government’s attempt to shield the perpetrators. The indifference shown to the value of human life by those in positions of power was the focus of the ire and outrage by protesters at the rally.

The protest was organized by the New Jersey unit of IAMC, and was supported by members of other civil society groups such as Hindus for Human Rights, India Civil Watch, Sadhana, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, Muslims for Progressive Values, MANAVI, Dalit Solidarity Forum and Global Indian Progressive Alliance among others.  

“The Hindu nationalist government in India protects perpetrators of brutal sexual crimes against Dalit women, because it doesn’t treat Dalits as equal citizens,” said Mr. Minhaj M Khan, President of the New Jersey chapter of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) at the rally on Saturday. He was addressing a large gathering of peaceful protesters from New Jersey and New York. The protestors; key demand was justice for the 19-year-old Dalit girl who was gang raped on September 14, 2020, by four men belonging to the influential upper caste Thakurs in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh. The victim died two weeks later in a hospital in Delhi, after suffering paralysis due to severe injuries to her spinal cord, leading to national and international outrage and protests. 

“Dalit lives do not matter under India’s Hindu nationalist government and the state of Uttar Pradesh has only acted in a manner consistent with the national government’s repressive policies towards Dalits and religious minorities. Not only did the state’s chief minister Adityanath deny that the girl was raped, he refused a dignified death to her, and protected the culprits because they are from the same upper caste as him,” he said.  

Jawad Khan, the national General Secretary of IAMC, highlighted the fact that according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau more than 500 Dalit women were raped in Uttar Pradesh under Adityanath regime in 2019 alone. In 2018 almost 3000 Dalit women were raped in UP of whom 871 were minors. On an average 8 Dalit women are raped everyday in India.

“Adityanath is not capable of serving people in accordance with the Constitution. He protected the culprits of the gang rape and instead hired a public relations firm to push a narrative that the gang rape in Hathras, was a conspiracy of ‘outsiders’,” Mr. Khan said while addressing the protesters who wore masks, raising placards in their hands. They raised slogans against India’s Hindu nationalist government as well as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanath has been known to run private militias with a criminal record that goes back several decades. 

“The unfortunate reality is that under the administration of Modi government, members of upper caste and of those who believe in the neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva, are more equal than others. We are here to demand that the Indian state ensure justice to the family of the victim, in not only this case but in all other cases of sexual violence against Dalit women,” said Mr. Sheik, a board member of IAMC. 

Dr. Murli Natarajan from India Civil Watch International, condemned the gang rape in Hathras and said that the “brutality that happened in Hathras, was yet another in a very long series of moral horrors perpetrated against Dalits by caste-supremacist patriarchs.”

“We condemn their brazen denial of the rape, their cowardly cover-up of the frequency of rapes, their shameless glorification of the rapists, their bigoted denigration of rape victims, and their denial to the family of the right to grieve with dignity,” he added.

A representative of Dalit Solidarity forum in the USA, said that the protest was an expression of condemnation of “the rapid increase in the unacceptable social condition of Dalit women unable to defend rights to our own bodies and self-respect. We are repeatedly devalued, raped and mutilated.”

Nilab Nusrat, a representative from Hindus for Human Rights, said “I can’t stay silent when a 19-year-old girl is getting gang-raped and killed and the rapists are not brought to justice because they are members of the upper caste.”

IAMC is dedicated to promoting the common values of pluralism, tolerance, and respect for human rights that form the basis of the world’s two largest secular democracies – the United States and India. (Courtesy: Indian American Muslim Council)

US Election 2020 Polls: Who Is Ahead – Trump Or Biden?

In less than 4 weeks, voters in America will decide whether Donald Trump remains in the White House for another four years. The Republican president is being challenged by Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden, who is best known as Barack Obama’s vice-president but has been in US politics since the 1970s.

As election day approaches, polling companies will be trying to gauge the mood of the nation by asking voters which candidate they prefer.  We’ll be keeping track of those polls here and trying to work out what they can and can’t tell us about who will win the election.

Biden leading national presidential polls

National polls are a good guide as to how popular a candidate is across the country as a whole, but they’re not necessarily a good way to predict the result of the election.

In 2016, for example, Hillary Clinton led in the polls and won nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump, but she still lost – that’s because the US uses an electoral college system, so winning the most votes doesn’t always win you the election.

With that caveat aside, Joe Biden has been ahead of Donald Trump in most national polls since the start of the year. He has hovered around 50% in recent months and has had a 10-point lead on occasions.

By contrast, in 2016 the polls were far less clear and just a couple of percentage points separated Mr Trump and his then-rival Hillary Clinton at several points as election day neared.

Which states will decide this election?

As Mrs Clinton discovered in 2016, the number of votes you win is less important than where you win them.

Most states nearly always vote the same way, meaning that in reality there are just a handful of states where both candidates stand a chance of winning. These are the places where the election will be won and lost and are known as battleground states.

The electoral college system the US uses to elect its president, each state is given a number of votes based on how many members it sends to Congress – House and Senate. A total of 538 electoral college votes are up for grabs, so a candidate needs to hit 270 to win.

As the map above shows, some battleground states have a lot more electoral college votes on offer than others so candidates often spend a lot more time campaigning in them.

Who’s leading in the battleground states?

At the moment, polls in the battleground states look good for Joe Biden, but there’s a long way to go and things can change very quickly, especially when Donald Trump’s involved.

The polls suggest Mr Biden is ahead in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – three industrial states his Republican rival won by margins of less than 1% to clinch victory in 2016.

But it’s the battleground states where Mr Trump won big in 2016 that his campaign team will be most worried about. His winning margin in Iowa, Ohio and Texas was between 8-10% back then but it’s looking much closer in all three at the moment.

That’s one of the reasons why some political analysts rate his chances of re-election as low as things stand. FiveThirtyEight, a political analysis website, says Mr Biden is “favoured” to win the election, while The Economist says he is “very likely” to beat Mr Trump.

Do polls show who won the first debate?

Many pundits called the debate for Mr Biden and the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher agreed, describing it as “the political equivalent of a food fight” with the former vice-president emerging as the man “least covered in slop”.

But what do the polls tell us? Well the ones we have all put the Democrat ahead, but by varying margins.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll conducted after the debate found Mr Biden on 53% and his rival on 39% – a gap six points wider than in their previous poll two weeks earlier.

But more worrying for the president are two battleground state polls conducted by the New York Times and Siena College that found Mr Biden ahead by seven points in Pennsylvania and five points in Florida.

Overall, it doesn’t appear that the president’s debate performance helped him close the gap on his rival.

Has coronavirus affected Trump’s numbers?

The coronavirus pandemic has dominated headlines in the US since the start of the year and the response to President Trump’s actions has been split predictably along party lines.

Support for his approach peaked in mid-March after he declared a national emergency and made $50 billion available to states to stop the spread of the virus. But it dropped after that point, even among Republicans.

The virus is likely to be at the forefront of voters’ minds and one leading model produced by experts at the University of Washington predicts the death toll will have risen to about 240,000 people by election day.

Mr Trump may be hoping Operation Warp Speed, his administration’s vaccine initiative, can produce an “October surprise” – a last-minute event that turns the election upside down.

The chief scientific adviser to the initiative has said it’s “extremely unlikely but not impossible” that a vaccine could be ready to distribute before 3 November.

Can we trust the polls?

It’s easy to dismiss the polls by saying they got it wrong in 2016 and President Trump frequently does exactly that. But it’s not entirely true.

Most national polls did have Hillary Clinton ahead by a few percentage points, but that doesn’t mean they were wrong, since she won three million more votes than her rival.

Pollsters did have some problems in 2016 – notably a failure to properly represent voters without a college degree – meaning Mr Trump’s advantage in some key battleground states wasn’t spotted until late in the race, if at all. Most polling companies have corrected this now.

But this year there’s even more uncertainty than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic and the effect it’s having on both the economy and how people will vote in November, so all polls should be read with some scepticism, especially this far out from election day.

What questions do you have about the US election?

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(Sourrce: BBC News: Written and produced by Mike Hills and Will Dahlgreen. Design by Irene de la Torre Arenas. Development by Katie Hassell, Marcos Gurgel, Steven Connor and Shilpa Saraf.)

Puneet Ahluwalia In Virginia State Lieutenant Governor’s Race “I Wasn’t Born An American, My Wife And I Are Americans By Choice”

Indian American Puneet Ahluwalia is the type of candidate the multi-cultural state, Virginia needs to be part of the leadership on the Beltway State, Virginia. “I wasn’t born an American, my wife and I are Americans by choice,” says, Ahluwalia, who is part of the crowded 11-way race to become Virginia’s next lieutenant governor in 2021.

With five Democrats and four Republicans launching campaigns for their party’s nomination and several more potential candidates exploring bids, the race has become highly competitive.

Ahluwalia, a McLean businessman who emigrated from India, said he is running as a jobs creator who’d push to extend Northern Virginia’s economic success to the state’s struggling rural and urban areas, such as parts of Richmond and Hampton Roads. Ahluwalia, 53, said he’s opposed to some of the pandemic restrictions Northam imposed on businesses.

A Sikh whose wife is Muslim, Ahluwalia said he strongly supports gun rights, citing a 1984 massacre in Delhi when Sikhs were singled out and killed in revenge for the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards. “Armed minorities are harder to repress,” he said.

Virginia’s part-time lieutenant governorship comes with just two duties: presiding over the state Senate and taking over for the governor if he can no longer carry out his duties. But the post is considered a steppingstone to higher office, particularly governor. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a former governor, all occupied the lieutenant governor’s seat before advancing in their political careers.

Several of the new Democratic candidates said they want to bring new focus to the lieutenant governor’s job, arguing that there should be more advocacy for core Democratic goals, including workers’ rights, racial equity and environmental justice from the office that is second in line to lead the state should the governor suddenly leave office or become unable to serve.

The Republican candidates said they want to reimpose pragmatic governance in the Democratic-controlled state, arguing that Virginia has veered too far to the left on policies related to law enforcement and the economy.

In his message to the electorate, the Indian American candidate, Ahluwalia says, “We want all Americans-including our own children and your’s – to enjoy the freedom and opportunity that have so blessed Nadia and me. We have operated and managed small businesses for many years. We have succeeded, we’ve failed, and we’ve succeeded again. We have also seen our businesses destroyed by rioters and looters.”

On the current political turmoil facing the nation, Ahluwalia says, “When the law breaks down though, the people hurt most are people of color. Where’s Ralph Northam? Where’s Justin Fairfax? All they do is blame Trump, then fade into the background. That’s not leadership. It’s finger-pointing. No more excuses.”

Taking a dig at the current leadership in his home-state, the India-born candidate, says, he runs to bring about a positive change in values: “The policies of progressive Democrats have trapped too many Virginians in poverty, a failed education system, and hopelessness. Virginia can enjoy a brilliant future, but it means holding the line on taxes, reducing unfair regulations, and standing up to those who attack our free enterprise system. Progressives think we Virginians work for them. It’s not true. And it’s time we take back our state and the values we share: hard work, personal responsibility, and love for neighbor. That’s why I’m running for Lieutenant Governor. I hope you’ll join me.”

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