Democrats Elect Next Generation Young Leaders To House Leadership Positions

(AP) — Emboldened House Democrats ushered in a new generation of leaders on Wednesday with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries elected to be the first Black American to head a major political party in Congress as long-serving Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team step aside next year.

Showing rare party unity after their midterm election losses, the House Democrats moved seamlessly from one history-making leader to another, choosing the 52-year-old New Yorker, who has vowed to “get things done,” even after Republicans won control of the chamber. The closed-door vote was unanimous, by acclamation.

“It’s a solemn responsibility that we are all inheriting,” Jeffries told reporters on the eve of the party meeting. “And the best thing that we can do as a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment is lean in hard and do the best damn job that we can for the people.”

It’s rare that a party that lost the midterm elections would so easily regroup and stands in stark contrast with the upheaval among Republicans, who are struggling to unite around GOP leader Kevin McCarthy as the new House speaker as they prepare to take control when the new Congress convenes in January.

Wednesday’s internal Democratic caucus votes of Jeffries and the other top leaders came without challengers.

The trio led by Jeffries, who will become the Democratic minority leader in the new Congress, includes 59-year-old Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as the Democratic whip and 43-year-old Rep. Pete Aguilar of California as caucus chairman. The new team of Democratic leaders is expected to slide into the slots held by Pelosi and her top lieutenants — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina — as the 80-something leaders make way for the next generation.

But in many ways, the trio has been transitioning in plain sight, as one aide put it — Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar working with Pelosi’s nod these past several years in lower-rung leadership roles as the first woman to have the speaker’s gavel prepared to step down. Pelosi, of California, has led the House Democrats for the past 20 years, and colleagues late Tuesday granted her the honorific title of “speaker emerita.”

“It an important moment for the caucus — that there’s a new generation of leadership,” said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., ahead of voting.

While Democrats will be relegated to the House minority in the new year, they will have a certain amount of leverage because the Republican majority is expected to be so slim and McCarthy’s hold on his party fragile.

The House’s two new potential leaders, Jeffries and McCarthy, are of the same generation but have almost no real relationship to speak of — in fact the Democrat is known for leveling political barbs at the Republican from afar, particularly over the GOP’s embrace of former President Donald Trump. Jeffries served as a House manager during Trump’s first impeachment.

“We’re still working through the implications of Trumpism,” Jeffries said, “and what it has meant, as a very destabilizing force for American democracy.”

Jeffries said he hopes to find “common ground when possible” with Republicans but will “oppose their extremism when we must.”

On the other side of the Capitol, Jeffries will have a partner in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as two New Yorkers are poised to helm the Democratic leadership in Congress. They live about a mile (1.6 kilometers) apart in Brooklyn.

“There are going to be a group, in my judgment, of mainstream Republicans who are not going to want to go in the MAGA direction, and Hakeem’s the ideal type guy to work with them,” Schumer said in an interview, referencing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Jeffries has sometimes been met with skepticism from party progressives, viewed as a more centrist figure among House Democrats.

But Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a progressive and part of the “squad” of liberal lawmakers, said she has been heartened by the way Jeffries and his team are reaching out, even though they face no challengers.

“There’s a genuine sense that he wants to develop relationships and working partnerships with many of us,” she said.

Clark, in the No. 2 spot, is seen as a coalition builder on the leadership team, while Aguilar, as the third-ranking leader, is known as a behind-the-scenes conduit to centrists and even Republicans.

Clyburn, now the highest-ranking Black American in Congress, will seek to become the assistant democratic leader, helping the new generation to transition.

The election for Clyburn’s post and several others are expected to be held Thursday.

Jeffries’ ascent comes as a milestone for Black Americans, the Capitol built with the labor of enslaved people and its dome later expanded during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency as a symbol the nation would stand during the Civil War.

“The thing about Pete, Katherine and myself is that we embrace what the House represents,” Jeffries said, calling it “the institution closest to the people.”

While the House Democrats are often a big, diverse, “noisy family,” he said, “it’s a good thing.” He said, “At the end of the day, we’re always committed to finding the highest common denominator in order to get big things done for everyday Americans.”

Kevin Mccarthy Readies For Floor Showdown In Speakership Bid

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is expected to go to the House floor to fight for the Speakership as his GOP opponents signal their stance is hardening.

McCarthy this week started posturing for a floor showdown and turning up the heat on those withholding support.

On Newsmax on Monday, McCarthy warned that House Democrats could pick the Speaker if Republicans “play games” on the House floor on Jan. 3. He shot down a question from CNN on Tuesday on whether he would step down in the race for Speaker if he does not get support from 218 Republicans. And on Fox News Tuesday night, he warned that if he does not get a majority of Speaker votes, GOP investigative priorities cannot go forward.

“We can’t start investigating [Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas. We can’t secure the border. We can’t lower the gasoline price by making us energy independent,” McCarthy said.

Picture : Market Watch

McCarthy won support from more than 80 percent of the House Republican Conference for the Speakership nomination. But 31 Republicans voted against him, and with the GOP winning a slim majority — around 222 seats to around 212 for Democrats, all of whom are expected to vote for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) for Speaker — just a handful of GOP defectors on the floor could force multiple Speaker ballots or sink his bid.

A Speaker can be elected with fewer than 218 votes, as the nominee only needs support from a majority of those voting for a candidate. Vacancies, such as the seat for the late Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), who died on Monday, absences and “present” votes lower the threshold that a Speaker will have to reach, and potentially give McCarthy some wiggle room.

But in an escalation, all five of the House Republicans who have explicitly said or strongly indicated that they will not vote for McCarthy on the House floor on Jan. 3 — Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Ralph Norman (S.C.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) — now say they will not vote “present” during the Speakership vote.

Biggs and Good clarified this week they will vote for an alternative candidate, taking the same position as Norman. Rosendale also said he will not vote “present” and said he could only vote for McCarthy under “extreme circumstances.”

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said he will not make his position public, and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) has only said that no one has 218 votes for Speaker right now. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has declined to disclose her thinking on the Speakership, saying she is focused on the automatic recount in her election.

There is no viable GOP alternative to McCarthy for Speaker, making him the favorite to ultimately win the contest. But even some of McCarthy’s most vocal supporters, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), worry there might be multiple floor ballots for Speaker.

“I don’t want to see that happen. I can’t guarantee that not happening right now,” Greene, a relatively recent backer of McCarthy, said.

Biggs and Good say that they think there are around 20 “hard noes” on McCarthy. Greene said she thought the universe of those leaning against McCarthy is closer to 10 members.

As those against McCarthy harden their stance, outside commentators are chiming in against the opposition. Conservative commentator Mark Levin on Tuesday called McCarthy’s opponents the “five boneheads.”

“They’re playing right into the hands of the Democrats, right into the hands of the establishment Republicans, right into the hands of the media,” Levin said.

Among the priorities of those withholding support are rules changes for the House GOP conference and House as a whole, with the Freedom Caucus proposing measures that would empower individual members. Biggs has criticized McCarthy for not promising to impeach Mayorkas, though McCarthy last week called on the Homeland Security secretary to resign or face GOP investigations and a potential impeachment inquiry.

Several members of the Freedom Caucus also appear to be preparing for a floor showdown. A group of hard-liners met with the House parliamentarian on Wednesday, Politico reported.

There is still time for McCarthy to change minds and forge deals. In mid-December 2018, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) struck a deal with several members who were opposed to her Speakership to win their support.

McCarthy on Tuesday brought together leaders from several factions and caucuses in the House GOP — the “five families,” he later joked — to discuss rules change proposals and procedures for a House GOP majority.

McCarthy supporters Greene and Rep. Kevin Hern (Okla.), chair-elect for the Republican Study Committee, said they reached an agreement on a structure that would allow members to submit amendments for review if they meet a certain threshold of support among the GOP conference. In a Wednesday conference meeting, that threshold was set at 20 percent, Hern said.

But one Freedom Caucus priority to ban earmarks, which were brought back in this Congress as “community project funding” after a decadelong ban, was overwhelmingly shot down in a secret ballot vote. Hern said that only about a quarter of the conference voted in favor of the measure.

Hern expects McCarthy to win the Speakership at the end of the day.

“Nobody worked harder than he has to get us to this point in both raising money, but going around the country. He’s done a great job,” Hern said. (The Hill)

Rhodes, Leader Of Oath Keepers Is Guilty Of Jan. 6 Seditious Conspiracy

(AP) — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn President Joe Biden’s election, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

A Washington, D.C., jury found Rhodes guilty of sedition after three days of deliberations in the nearly two-month-long trial that showcased the far-right extremist group’s efforts to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House at all costs.

Picture : Reuters

Rhodes was acquitted of two other conspiracy charges. A co-defendant — Kelly Meggs, who led the antigovernment group’s Florida chapter — was also convicted of seditious conspiracy, while three other associates were cleared of that charge. Jurors found all five defendants guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding: Congress’ certification of Biden’s electoral victory.

The verdict, while mixed, marks a significant milestone for the Justice Department and is likely to clear the path for prosecutors to move ahead at full steam in upcoming trials of other extremists accused of sedition.

Rhodes and Meggs are the first people in nearly three decades to be found guilty at trial of seditious conspiracy — a rarely used Civil War-era charge that can be difficult to prove. The offense calls for up to 20 years behind bars.

It could embolden investigators, whose work has expanded beyond those who attacked the Capitol to focus on others linked to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland recently named a veteran prosecutor, Jack Smith, to serve as special counsel to oversee key aspects of a probe into efforts to subvert the election as well as a separate investigation into the retention of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

Garland said after the verdict that the Justice Department “is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021.”

“Democracy depends on the peaceful transfer of power. By attempting to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, the defendants flouted and trampled the rule of law,” Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said in an emailed statement. “This case shows that force and violence are no match for our country’s justice system.”

Using dozens of encrypted messages, recordings and surveillance video, prosecutors made the case that Rhodes began shortly after the 2020 election to prepare an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of presidential power.

Over seven weeks of testimony, jurors heard how Rhodes rallied his followers to fight to defend Trump, discussed the prospect of a “bloody” civil war and warned the Oath Keepers may have to “rise up in insurrection” to defeat Biden if Trump didn’t act.

Defense attorneys accused prosecutors of twisting their clients’ words and insisted the Oath Keepers came to Washington only to provide security for figures such as Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally. The defense focused heavily on seeking to show that Rhodes’ rhetoric was just bluster and that the Oath Keepers had no plan before Jan. 6 to attack the Capitol.

Rhodes intends to appeal, defense attorney James Lee Bright told reporters. Another Rhodes lawyer, Ed Tarpley, described the verdict as a “mixed bag,” adding, “This is not a total victory for the government in any way, shape or form.”

“We feel like we presented a case that showed through evidence and testimony that Mr. Rhodes did not commit the crime of seditious conspiracy,” Tarpley said.

On trial alongside Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, and Meggs, were Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led an Ohio militia group.

Caldwell was convicted on two counts and acquitted on three others, including seditious conspiracy. His attorney, David Fischer, called the verdict “major victory” for his client and a “major defeat” for the Justice Department. He also said he would appeal the two convictions.

Jury selection for a second group of Oath Keepers facing seditious conspiracy charges is scheduled to begin next week. Several members of the Proud Boys, including the former national chairman Enrique Tarrio, are also scheduled to go to trial on the sedition charge in December.

In an extraordinary move, Rhodes took the stand to tell jurors there was no plan to attack the Capitol and insist that his followers who went inside the building went rogue.

Rhodes testified that he had no idea that his followers were going to join the mob and storm the Capitol and said he was upset after he found out that some did. Rhodes said they were acting “stupid” and outside their mission for the day.

Senate Passes Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Bill

(AP) — The Senate passed bipartisan legislation Tuesday to protect same-sex marriages, an extraordinary sign of shifting national politics on the issue and a measure of relief for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

The bill, which would ensure that same-sex and interracial marriages are enshrined in federal law, was approved 61-36 on Tuesday, including support from 12 Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation was “a long time coming” and part of America’s “difficult but inexorable march towards greater equality.”

Democrats are moving quickly, while the party still holds the majority in both chambers of Congress. The legislation now moves to the House for a final vote.

Picture : AP News

President Joe Biden praised the bipartisan vote and said he will sign the bill “promptly and proudly” if it is passed by the House. He said it will ensure that LGBTQ youth “will grow up knowing that they, too, can lead full, happy lives and build families of their own.”

The bill has gained steady momentum since the Supreme Court’s June decision that overturned the federal right to an abortion, a ruling that included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested same-sex marriage could also come under threat. Bipartisan Senate negotiations got a kick-start this summer when 47 Republicans unexpectedly voted for a House bill and gave supporters new optimism.

The legislation would not force any state to allow same-sex couples to marry. But it would require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed, and protect current same-sex unions, if the court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision were to be overturned. It’s a stunning bipartisan endorsement, and evidence of societal change, after years of bitter divisiveness on the issue.

A new law protecting same-sex marriages would also be a major victory for Democrats as they relinquish their two years of consolidated power in Washington, and a massive win for advocates who have been pushing for decades for federal legislation. It comes as the LGBTQ community has faced violent attacks, such as the shooting last weekend at a gay nightclub in Colorado that killed five people and injured at least 17.

“Our community really needs a win, we have been through a lot,” said Kelley Robinson, the incoming president of Human Rights Campaign, which advocates on LGBTQ issues. “As a queer person who is married, I feel a sense of relief right now. I know my family is safe.”

Robinson was in the Senate chamber for the vote with her wife, Becky, and toddler son. “It was more emotional than I expected,” she said.

The vote was personal for many senators, too. Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who is the first openly gay senator and was the lead sponsor of the bill, tearfully hugged Schumer and others as the final vote was called. Baldwin, who has been working on gay rights issues for almost four decades, tweeted thanks to the same-sex and interracial couples who she said made the moment possible.

“By living as your true selves, you changed the hearts and minds of people around you,” she wrote.

Schumer said on Tuesday that he was wearing the tie he wore at his daughter’s wedding, “one of the happiest moments of my life.” He also recalled the “harrowing conversation” he had with his daughter and her wife in September 2020 when they heard that liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. “Could our right to marry be undone?” they asked at the time.

With conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett replacing Ginsburg, the court has now overturned Roe v. Wade and the federal right to an abortion, stoking fears about Obergefell and other rights protected by the court. But sentiment has shifted on same-sex marriage, with more than two-thirds of the public now in support.

Still, Schumer said it was notable that the Senate was even having the debate after years of Republican opposition. “A decade ago, it would have strained all of our imaginations to envision both sides talking about protecting the rights of same-sex married couples,” he said.

Passage came after the Senate rejected three Republican amendments to protect the rights of religious institutions and others to still oppose such marriages. Supporters of the legislation argued those amendments were unnecessary because the bill had already been amended to clarify that it does not affect rights of private individuals or businesses that are currently enshrined in law. The bill would also make clear that a marriage is between two people, an effort to ward off some far-right criticism that the legislation could endorse polygamy.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who has been lobbying his fellow GOP senators to support the legislation for months, pointed to the number of religious groups supporting the bill, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of those groups were part of negotiations on the bipartisan amendment.

Republicans Win The House, US Will Have ‘Divided’ Government For Next 2 Years

The US will have a divided government for the next two years as the Republican party finally secured the House of Representatives last week after polling in midterm elections closed on November 8th, 2022. Democrats will control the Senate, which they secured last week, and the White House, which was not on the ballot.

Republicans were expected to win both chambers, especially the House and with a huge majority in keeping with history. The party in control of the White House has always lost the first midterm of the incumbent president’s first term, and by huge numbers. In 2010, President Barack Obama’s first midterm, Democrats lost the House by 63 seats; and in 2018, President Donald Trump’s first midterm, the Republicans lost the House by 41 seats.

The days of ambitious legislations such as those that marked the first two years of President Joe Biden’s term – infrastructure, climate change and healthcare extension, are over. There will be instead a litany of congressional investigations into the Biden administration and bitter confrontations between the White House and the Republican-controlled House.

These tensions will be exacerbated by the 2024 presidential elections that got underway with former President Donald Trump announcing his third bid for the White House – 2016 and 2020 were the earlier two – on Tuesday. It will only pick up more heat from hereon.

Picture : NBC News

For now, however, Biden, who takes pride in his ability to work with the other side drawing upon nearly 50 years of political experience as senator, vice-president and now president, congratulated the Republicans and promised to work with them. “I congratulate Leader McCarthy on Republicans winning the House majority, and am ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families,” he said in a statement.

But he also reminded the Republicans of the midterm verdict, which spared the Democrats the kinds of searing defeats that parties in power have historically suffered in the first midterm election of the first term of their man (there hasn’t been a woman president yet in the US) in the White House. Former President Barack Obama called his first midterm verdict a “shellacking”.

Democrats did stunningly better than anticipated and lost the House by what is likely to be a very thin margin, and have retained the Senate (they have also flipped three states snatching their governorships from Republicans).

“In this election, voters spoke clearly about their concerns: the need to lower costs, protect the right to choose, and preserve our democracy,” Biden said, adding, “As I said last week, the future is too promising to be trapped in political warfare. The American people want us to get things done for them. They want us to focus on the issues that matter to them and on making their lives better. And I will work with anyone – Republican or Democrat – willing to work with me to deliver results for them.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement House Democrats “will continue to play a leading role in supporting President Biden’s agenda – with strong leverage over a scant Republican majority.”

Democrats have been buoyed by voters’ repudiation of a string of far-right Republican candidates, most of them allies of Trump, including Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s Senate and governor’s races respectively, and Blake Masters in Arizona’s Senate contest.

Even though the expected “red wave” of House Republicans never reached shore, conservatives are sticking to their agenda. In retaliation for two impeachment efforts by Democrats against Trump, they are gearing up to investigate Biden administration officials and the president’s son Hunter’s past business dealings with China and other countries – and even Biden himself.

Republicans have threatened to launch congressional investigations into the Biden administration’s handling of the migrant crisis on the southern border and its handling of the Afghanistan exit. They also plan to probe his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings when the senior Biden was vice-president.

But the Republicans will also be under tremendous strain because of its razor-thin majority. It will face its first stress test on January 3 when Kevin McCathy, who was re-elected leader of the congressional caucus on Wednesday, seeks the speakership, a position that goes to the leader of the majority party. McCarthy will need 218 votes to win. He cannot afford defections, because he is unlikely to make up for their loss with Democratic crossovers.

More than 40 Republican lawmakers voted for Andy Biggs, the challenger for the majority leadership, all of whom from the party’s ultraconservative wing known as the Freedom Caucus, many of whose members are fiercely loyal to Trump, and their votes and congressional positions could be cued by the ups and downs of the presidential primaries.

Trump, who still polls as the top choice among Republicans for the party’s presidential nomination, nevertheless suffered a series of setbacks as far-right candidates he either recruited or became allied with performed poorly on Nov. 8. Some conservative Republican voters voiced fatigue with Trump.

Donald Trump Announces 2024 Presidential Run

Former US President Donald Trump has announced his fourth bid for the White House, kicking off the 2024 presidential election cycle. “To make America great again, I am today announcing my candidacy for the President of the US,” Trump said at an event on Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Shortly before his announcement, Trump also filed paperwork to officially run for President.
At the event, a voice over the loudspeaker introduced Trump as “the next president of the United States”, the BBC reported. He started his speech by digging into his successor President Joe Biden’s record and told supporters that “America’s comeback starts right now”.

Picture : Business Insider

Surrounded by allies, advisers, and conservative influencers, Trump delivered a relatively subdued speech, rife with spurious and exaggerated claims about his four years in office. Despite a historically divisive presidency and his own role in inciting an attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, Trump aimed to evoke nostalgia for his time in office, frequently contrasting his first-term accomplishments with the Biden administration’s policies and the current economic climate.

Many of those perceived accomplishments – from strict immigration actions to corporate tax cuts and religious freedom initiatives – remain deeply polarizing to this day.

Touting his four years in office, the former President said: “In four short years, everyone was doing great… Everyone was thriving like never before.” He further claimed that the country’s economy was making a swift recovery when he left office, after falling during the coronavirus pandemic. “Now we are a nation in decline,” he said, citing high inflation rates.

Trump also said that Biden has brought the US to the brink of nuclear war with its handling of the conflict in Ukraine. “Even just today a missile sent in, probably by Russia, to Poland. The people are going absolutely wild and crazy and they’re not happy. They’re very very angry,” the BBC quoted the former President as saying.

Prior to his announcement on Tuesday, Trump had said that he would make an important announcement on November 15. In the recent months, he had been dropping hints about a potential third campaign for the White House, the BBC reported.

In October, he told a rally in Texas that he “will probably have to do it again”, while in September at an event in Pennsylvania, the former President said: “I may just have to do it again.” Just before the November 8 midterm elections, he told a Republican campaign rally in Sioux City, Iowa, that he would “very, very, very probably” be running for the White House again.

On the heels of last week’s midterm elections, Trump has been blamed for elevating flawed candidates who spent too much time parroting his claims about election fraud, alienating key voters and ultimately leading to their defeats. He attempted to counter that criticism on Tuesday, noting that Republicans appear poised to retake the House majority and touting at least one Trump-endorsed candidate, Kevin Kiley of California. At one point, Trump appeared to blame his party’s midterm performance on voters not yet realizing “the total effect of the suffering” after two years of Democratic control in Washington.

“I have no doubt that by 2024, it will sadly be much worse and they will see clearly what has happened and is happening to our country – and the voting will be much different,” he claimed.

Various media outlets have said this is the third; however, they have not taken into account his bid in 1999-2000 after affiliating with the Reform Party. In October 1999, during an episode of Larry King Live, Trump had announced his candidacy for the Reform Party nomination. A few months later, however, he suspended his campaign. Trump’s four presidential runs were, therefore, in 2000 (suspended), 2016 (won), 2020 (lost) and now, in 2022 (just announced).

Nancy Pelosi Steps Down, Paving Way For Young Leaders To Lead Democratic Party

After leading the Democrats for the last two decades, the House Speaker has announced that she will step down next year from her spot at the top of the party, closing a momentous run for the most powerful woman in U.S. history while clearing the way for a younger generation of up-and-coming lawmakers to climb into the leadership ranks.

“With great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. For me the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,” Pelosi said in a speech on the House floor. “I’m grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.”

Pelosi said she will continue to represent her San Francisco district in the House.

Picture : Rolling Stone

In her remarks, Pelosi warned that democracy is “majestic, but it is fragile” and said voters in 2022 sent a message to Congress that they would not support those who supported violence or insurrection. She also applauded the chamber for becoming more diverse over the course of her 35-year career. When she first entered Congress in 1987 there were 12 women in the Democratic caucus and now there are 90. “And we want more,” she said.

Her decision comes a day after Republicans officially won control of the chamber in the 2022 midterms, and three weeks after the violent assault on her husband, Paul, at their San Francisco home.

The GOP is expected to have a razor-thin majority after the “red wave” never materialized on Election Day. Democrats defied historical expectations and performed better in governor, Senate and House elections than anticipated.

There has been a quiet desire among rank and file Democrats to elect a younger slate of leaders to replace Pelosi, who is 82, and the two other top House Democratic leaders, Rep Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who are also in their 80s.

Following Pelosi’s announcement, Hoyer, who is currently the House Majority Leader, said he will not run for a

Picture : Washington Post

leadership position in the next Congress. “Now is the time for a new generation of leaders,” Hoyer said in a statement, adding that he would support Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jefferies for the top leadership role.

At the top of the list is Jeffries of New York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California. All three serve in lower-tier leadership roles now and are interested in moving up the ladder.

Jeffries, who is 52, Clark, who is 59, and Aguilar, who is 43, would make an African American, a white woman and a Hispanic the new faces of the party. Reps. Ami Bera and Tony Cárdenas, both of California, have already announced campaigns to run the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democrats’ campaign arm, for the 2024 election.

“I know because I’ve seen her in action during my career as Senator, Vice President, and now as President,” Biden said in a statement following her announcement. “Because of Nancy Pelosi, the lives of millions and millions of Americans are better, even in districts represented by Republicans who voted against her bills and too often vilify her,” the statement reads. “That’s Nancy — always working for the dignity of all of the people.”

Asian Americans Form An Increasingly Important Voting Bloc

Asian Americans voted in record numbers in the presidential elections of 2016 and 2020, as well as in the 2018 midterm elections.

They are also the fastest-growing racial group in the country, with the population increasing by 81% between 2000 and 2019.

(The Conversation) — Asian Americans voted in record numbers in the presidential elections of 2016 and 2020, as well as in the 2018 midterm elections.

They are also the fastest-growing racial group in the country, with the population increasing by 81% between 2000 and 2019.

As political scientists who have written about electoral politics in America and abroad, we argue that the Asian American vote could have important ramifications for the 2022 midterms. That said, this group has historically not voted in lockstep but has shown a diversity of political preferences.

Asian Americans and the Democratic Party

Recent years have seen Asian Americans emerge as a Democratic voting bloc. This affinity for the Democratic Party manifests in public opinion polls, as well. In fact, the recent Asian American Voter Survey found that 56% of Asian Americans have either a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of President Joe Biden. By contrast, only 29% of Asian Americans had similar views of former President Donald Trump.

One potential reason for Asian Americans’ preference for the Democratic Party has to do with the demographics of Democratic candidates. Of the 20 Asian Americans currently serving in Congress, all but three are Democrats.

Picture : Las Vegas Sun

Political scientists have found evidence of Asian Americans’ desire for descriptive representation – a desire to see one’s race, ethnicity, gender or some other identity reflected in their member of Congress. In her recent analysis of state legislative elections, scholar Sara Sadhwani found that Asian American voter turnout increases when an Asian American is on the ballot, and Asian Americans make up a large proportion of the electorate.

On the other hand, Asian Americans may also be largely Democratic because of their policy preferences. A recent poll from Morning Consult, a public opinion outlet, found that only 23% of Asian Americans identified as ideologically conservative.

Not a monolith

Though Asian Americans are characterized by a general lean toward the Democratic Party, it would be misleading to refer to them as if they were a monolithic group. Indeed, despite a shared set of political views among these voters, there are also notable – and important – differences based upon Asian Americans’ particular ethnic identities.

This claim has a long history in political science scholarship. As scholar Wendy Cho argued nearly three decades ago, “the monolithic Asian group is heterogeneous in several respects” when it comes to voting patterns. Accordingly, her work emphasizes that a failure to examine the unique groups that compose the Asian American community can lead to misleading conclusions.

Consequently, breaking up these groups on the basis of ethnicity provides an extremely complex account of the likely voting preferences of Asian Americans.

For example, a recent comprehensive national survey revealed that only 25% of all Asian Americans intend to vote for a Republican as opposed to 54% for a Democrat.

However, broken down along ethnic lines, a more complex set of preferences emerges. As many as 37% of Vietnamese Americans are inclined to vote Republican while only 16% of Indian Americans have similar leanings. These statistics, it can be surmised, would provide a portrait of even greater complexity if they were broken down along sociodemographic lines such as gender and educational attainment.

Though a plurality of Asian Americans identifies with the Democratic Party, there is substantial variation along ethnic lines. When broken down in terms of ethnicity, the highest levels of support for the Democratic Party come from Indians (56%) and Japanese (57%); Vietnamese (23%) and Chinese (42%) Americans register the lowest levels of support for the Democratic Party.

With elections being decided by small swings from one party to the other, Asian American voters could play a key role in determining who obtains political power. The heterogeneous preferences of this group, often falling along ethnic lines, provide ample opportunities for both political parties.

Steven Webster does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

(Sumit Ganguly is a distinguished professor of political science and the Tagore chair in Indian cultures and civilizations at Indiana University, where Steven Webster is assistant professor of political science. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

Aruna Miller Elected Maryland’s Lt Governor

Indian-American Aruna Miller has been elected Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in the midterm elections in which the Democrats wrested the top spots in the state from the Republicans. She and the candidate for Governor Wes Moore won 59.3 per cent of the votes in Tuesday’s election.

They make history in the state, Miller as the first Indian-American or Asian American Lieutenant Governor, and Moore as the state’s first African-American Governor.

The Hyderabad-born Miller is also the first Indian-American to be elected a state Lieutenant Governor, although two Republicans from the community have been elected Governors, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Nikki Haley in South Carolina.

The 58-year-old immigrated to the US from India when she was seven.

In a series of tweets, Miller wrote: “Ever since I came to this country in 1972, I’ve never stopped being excited for the promise of America. I will never stop fighting to make sure that promise is available to everyone.

“And this promise begins with a commitment to deliver a Maryland where we Leave No One Behind.”

Thanking her voters, Miller said she wants to build a Maryland where people feel safe in their communities and in their skin.

“Before I ask you for anything, I want to thank you for everything. Thank you for being here today and for being a part of this moment. We need you. We need your hope, we need your stories, we need your partnership, and I can promise you this, we’re only just getting started.

Picture : OPB

“Maryland, tonight you showed the nation what a small but mighty state can do when democracy is on the ballot. You chose unity over division, expanding rights over restricting rights, hope over fear. You chose Wes Moore and me to be your next Governor and Lieutenant Governor,” she added.

Miller had served two terms as a member of the state’s House of Delegates, the lower chamber of the legislature, starting in 2010.

She tried to run for Congress in 2019 but lost the Democratic primary election for selecting the party’s candidate.

Miller has also served as an executive director of India Impact, an organisation that mobilises voters and candidates for offices and supports Asian American candidates.

Miller is married to her collegemate David Miller and they have three adult daughters.

After getting a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology she worked in California, Hawaii and Virginia before moving to Maryland, where she was employed by the department of transportation of Montgomery county.

Governor Larry Hogan, a critic of former President Donald Trump, and Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford did not run for re-election.

The Republican Governor candidate Dan Cox is a Trump loyalist and he collected only 37 per cent of the votes, underperforming like many of the candidates backed by Trump. (IANS)

Biden Promises Xi, ‘No New Cold War’ With China

US President Joe Biden has promised there will be no “new Cold War” with China, following a conciliatory meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He also said he did not believe China would invade Taiwan.

It was the first in-person meeting between the two superpower leaders since Mr Biden took office. The pair also discussed North Korea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the talks in Bali, a day before the G20 summit on the Indonesian island.

In a three-hour meeting held at a luxury hotel shortly after Mr Xi’s arrival, the leaders discussed a wide range of topics including Taiwan.

Claimed by Beijing, the self-governed island counts the US as an ally, and has always been a thorny issue in US-China relations.

Tensions spiked in August when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. China responded with large-scale military exercises around the island, prompting fears of a possible conflict between the US and China.

A readout to Chinese state media on Monday said Mr Xi had stressed that Taiwan remained “the core of China’s core interests… and the first red line in US-China relations that cannot be crossed”.

In recent weeks US officials have warned that China may escalate plans to invade Taiwan.  Reporters on Monday asked Mr Biden if he believed this to be true, and if he thought a new Cold War was brewing.

“I absolutely believe there need not be a new Cold War. I have met many times with Xi Jinping and we were candid and clear with one another across the board. I do not think there is any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan,” he said.

“I made it clear we want to see cross-strait issues to be peacefully resolved and so it never has to come to that. And I’m convinced that he understood what I was saying, I understood what he was saying.”

Mr Biden said the two leaders had agreed to set up a mechanism where there would be dialogues at key levels of government to resolve issues. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will also be visiting China soon, he said.

He added that he had made it clear to Mr Xi that “our policy on Taiwan has not changed at all. It’s the same exact position that we have had”.

Mr Biden has repeatedly said the US will defend Taiwan if it is attacked by China. It has been seen as a departure from the long-held US policy of “strategic ambiguity” over Taiwan, under which it does not commit to defending the island. Officials have rowed back on his statements.

The US has long walked a tightrope over the Taiwan issue. A cornerstone of its relationship with Beijing is the One China policy, where Washington acknowledges only one Chinese government – in Beijing – and has no formal ties with Taiwan.

But it also maintains close relations with Taiwan and sells arms to it under the Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the US must provide the island with the means to defend itself.

Competition, not conflict

Besides Taiwan, Mr Xi and Mr Biden’s discussion also covered concerns over North Korea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to readouts from both sides.

Mr Biden also raised concerns about human rights issues in China, including the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet.

Both leaders strove to signal to each other – and to the rest of the world watching their meeting – that they were aware that global stability rested on relations between their two countries, and that they would act responsibly.

In recent days Mr Biden and US officials have been at pains to signal their aim of conciliation, stressing repeatedly that the US does not want conflict with China, while maintaining a sense of strong competition.

Mr Xi appeared to be on the same page, acknowledging in the meeting’s opening remarks that “we need to chart the right course for the China-US relationship”, given that “the world has come to a crossroads”.

Later in the Chinese readout, Mr Xi said that “China-US relations should not be a zero-sum game in which you rise and I fall… the wide Earth is fully capable of accommodating the development and common prosperity of China and the United States”.

Wen-ti Sung, a political scientist who teaches with the Australian National University’s Taiwan Studies programme, noted that there were “few substantive agreements”.

Both leaders get a win, he said. “Xi shows he’s not intimidated by Biden, like US and China are true equals.”

Meanwhile Biden is given a pass on “the US pushing the envelope on Taiwan, and the two sides agreeing to improve dialogue reassures other countries”.

Political scientist Ian Chong of the National University of Singapore said: “The tone I think was overall positive. There’s some recognition that there’s common interests, and these include not letting the relationship spiral out of control.

“But I would still be somewhat cautious. Given the volatility in China-US relations, they have starts and stops.”

Democracy Triumphs Over Falsehood, Trumpism In US Midterms

“The American people proved once again that democracy is who we are. There was a strong rejection of election deniers at every level from those seeking to lead our states and those seeking to serve in Congress and also those seeking to oversee the elections,” President Joe Biden summarized the outcome of the Mid Term Elections 2022, during a news conference in Bali, Indonesia this week, where Biden sought to cast the election results seen so far as a victory for the future of American democracy – a matter he had said was at stake at the polls.

Picture : The New Arab

As the dust settled on a most unusual election, most signs point to a defeat of falsehood, strong rejection of political violence and voter intimidation. In the US Senate, Republicans fell short of their hopes, with control of the chamber staying with the Democrats. Vulnerable House Democratic incumbents held onto contested seats from Arizona to Nevada, while snatching victory in Pennsylvania. Several Governor’s races, including the victory in Arizona vindicated that the American people proved that “democracy is who we are” and sent a strong rejection to “election deniers” who were seeking state offices and congressional seats. The Democrats flipped governor’s mansions in Maryland and Massachusetts while thwarting challenges from Donald Trump acolytes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman defeated celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, taking a Senate seat previously in GOP hands. Democrats hung on in Senate races the Republicans targeted in New Hampshire, Colorado, Washington, and likely Arizona. The far-right GOP Congresswoman Lauren Boebert appeared in danger of a shocking loss in a deep-red Colorado district.

The ingredients had been there for a Republican rout: inflation at a four-decade high, real wages shrinking, gas prices up, an unpopular aging president. But the predicted red wave was barely a ripple. The abortion-rights side swept ballot initiatives in Michigan, Kentucky, California and Vermont.

Picture : PBS

After months of infighting, Biden’s legislative agenda revived, with bipartisan bills on infrastructure, veterans, China, NATO and even gun control, and a last-minute resurrection of his party-line climate-and-health-care bill, rebranded the Inflation Reduction Act. He succeeded in unifying the West against Russian aggression in Ukraine, bolstering the former Soviet state’s surprisingly effective resistance to Vladimir Putin.

While the balance of power in the Congress shifted in Republicans’ direction, their failure to capitalize on a favorable political environment will lead to more recriminations than celebrations. And while Democrats breathed a sigh of relief, voters’ dissatisfaction with the country’s direction was evident, particularly when it came to the economy and public safety. Caught between Democratic fecklessness and Republican lunacy, voters delivered a stalemate—not a vote of confidence, but a repudiation of sorts for both parties.

Despite the mixed verdict, messages emerged from the morass. Americans broadly support abortion rights and continue to consider them a high priority in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June overturning of Roe v. Wade. The electorate is angry, frustrated, pessimistic—and motivated, with turnout approaching 2018’s record levels. And in the first national election since Trump left office, his continued attempts to remake the GOP in his image appeared more poison pill than Midas touch, with Trumpist candidates underperforming across the map.

The mainstream Republicans who ignored Trump often prevailed, holding governorships in Georgia, Ohio and New Hampshire. Whether despite or because of panicked liberals’ insistence that democracy itself was under siege, election deniers were defeated in droves. Losing candidates conceded gracefully and election systems functioned as planned, bolstering confidence in institutions of governance. The two parties traded victories, but the election was a triumph for normal politics in abnormal times.

In the end, the U.S. midterm elections showed the strength and resiliency of U.S. democracy and was a rejection of so-called “election deniers” who have falsely argued the 2020 election was rigged. To quote President Biden, “What we saw was the strength and resilience of American democracy and we saw it in action.”

‘Samosa Caucus’ Expands To Five After US Midterm Election

The United States House ‘Samosa Caucus’ gained a new member after the Mid term election held on November 8, 2022 as Shri Thanedar, a Democrat, won a seat in Detroit, Michigan. The four Indian-American incumbents — Ami Bera and Ro Khanna (California), Pramila Jayapal (Washington state), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (Illinois) — have been re-elected to the the US House of Representatives.

Thanedar’s victory was sure on Tuesday night, as he amassed 72 percent of the votes, while his opponent Republican Martell Bivings received 23 percent of the votes polled.

The millionaire entrepreneur, who grew up in poverty in Belgaum, poured $10 million into his race. The Detroit Free Press noted that it would be the first time since 1955 that the majority Black city would not have a Black representative in the House.

Republican Ritesh Tandon, who ran against Ro Khanna in California, and Democrat Sandeep Srivastava in Texas have lost. Rishi Kuma, who is running against a fellow Democrat under California’s system is also trailing.

India’s “son-in-law” J.D. Vance, who is married to Usha Chilukuri, has won the Senate seat from Ohio. He is a Republican allied with former President Donald Trump.

An entrepreneur and self-made millionaire, Democrat Thanedar, 67, who was born in Belgaum in India, beat a Republican rival in Detroit in Michigan state. Thanedar, who is now a Michigan state legislator, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic party nomination for Governor in 2018.

He came to the US in 1979 and got his PhD in chemistry and an MBA. He took out loans to buy a company he worked for, Chemir, and built it from a $150,000 company to one with a revenue of $14 million before selling it for $26 million, according to his LinkedIn page.

He next started Avomeen Analytical Services, a chemical testing laboratory. He sold the majority stakes in it in 2016 and, according to his campaign bio, retired to get involved in public service to answer “the call to fight for social, racial and economic justice”.

Running in a constituency that covers a chunk of a city that is overwhelmingly African-American, Thanedar stressed in his campaign that he grew up in poverty in a family of ten in India and worked in odd jobs to support his family after his father retired.

“I’ll never forget what it’s like to live in poverty, and I’ll never stop working to lift Detroit families out of it,” he wrote on his campaign site. Thanedar is the seventh Indian-American to be ever elected to the House.

In Santa Clara County, Democrat Anna Eshoo, who has served in the House since 1993, held a respectable lead on election night against her challenger Rishi Kumar, a fellow Democrat. The race had not been called on Nov. 9 morning. With 49 percent of votes counted, Eshoo was leading by 58 percent.  This is also Eshoo and Kumar’s second face-off.

Picture : TheUNN

Another closely-watched House race, in Southern California, Dr. Asif Mahmood, a Democrat, is said to have lost to Republican incumbent Young Kim. Mahmood, a pulmonologist, earned the endorsement of Vice President Kamala Harris. “I am proud to endorse Dr. Asif Mahmood, who is part of an accomplished slate of Californians up and down the ballot who are committed to, along with our Administration, deliver results on behalf of working families, confronting the climate crisis, lowering health care costs, and other critical priorities,” wrote Harris. “The stakes are high this year and I am confident Dr. Asif Mahmood will stand up for the values we hold dear.”

Chennai-born Jayapal, 57, who was first elected in 2016 from Washington State, is the senior whip of the Democratic Party in the House and the chair of the influential leftist Congressional Progressive Caucus. She has been a strong critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

In Washington state, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, thrashed her Republican challenger Cliff Moon, garnering 85 percent of all votes counted on election night. Jayapal is the first Indian American woman in the House, and chair of the House Progressive Caucus. She has served in Congress since 2017.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to voters in #WA07 for re-electing me with such a huge margin to serve another term in the House! I am humbled, honored & I promise I will keep fighting for our freedoms, for our families & for opportunity for everyone to thrive,” tweeted Jayapal on election night.

Rep. Ro Khanna, who serves Fremont and portions of the Silicon Valley, handily beat off Republican challenger Ritesh Tandon. The race was called for Khanna on election night. With 42 percent of the vote counted, the Democrat who has served in Congress since 2017, held 70 percent of votes counted. Tandon had amassed 28, 212 votes at that point. Khanna and Tandon also faced off in 2020.

Khanna, 46, is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Fox News reported that he is exploring a presidential run in 2024. He is close to Bernie Sanders, the leftist Senator who has unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Politico reported that top leaders from Sander’s camp have urged him to seek the Democratic Party nomination if President Joe Biden does not run again. A second-generation Indian American, he was born in Philadelphia and has a law degree from Yale University.

In Illinois, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, fended off Republican challenger Chris Dargis. With 93 percent of votes counted, Krishnamoorthi gained 112, 884 votes, 56 percent. Krishnamoorthi has held his seat since 2017. The incumbent was born in New Delhi, and immigrated to the US with his parents when he was just three months old.

Krishnamoorthi, 49, who was born in New Delhi is politically a centrist and was a technology entrepreneur. He has worked with former President Barack Obama’s campaigns for Senator and President. A second-generation Indian American born in Elks Groce, California, Bera, 57, is a doctor.

Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat who represents portions of Sacramento in California’s District 6, is predicted to win. But his battle to fend off Republican challenger Tamika Hamilton has not yet been called decisively. Early Nov. 9 morning, with 26 percent of votes counted, Bera had amassed 56 percent of the vote, while Hamilton garnered 44 percent.

Bera has served in Congress since 2013. His races have often been nailbiters, with a decisive victory coming in several days after election night. The former physician serves as chair of the powerful House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia.

The growing influence of the Indian community in US politics was evident from its victories across various levels of government. Aruna Miller, the Andhra Pradesh-born daughter of immigrants, was elected as the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, the second highest office in a crucial state adjoining the US capital of Washington DC.

Indian-Americans also did well in state races: In Illinois, 23-year old Nabeela Syed is set to become the youngest legislator in the state general assembly, and, in Pennsylvania, emergency physician Arvind Venkat is on his way to becoming a member of the state legislature.

A senior Indian-American political activist, who is with the Democratic Party but did not wish to be named, said, “We are playing an active role at three levels — as leaders, as donors, and as an active demographic bloc seen as a swing constituency. But while there may have been some shift towards Republicans in some states where the party is already dominant, Democrats, as the results show, have remained the natural home for the community’s political aspirations. The community’s values on social justice, equality and representation align with Democrats. All big Indian-American winners are Democrats.”

The midterms, which saw an especially diverse ballot this time, were also good for others of South Asian origin. Nabilah Islam, born to Bangladeshi immigrant parents, was elected to the Georgia State Senate, while Sarhana Shrestha of a Nepalese-origin, won a seat to the New York state legislature from upstate New York. Texas state legislature is going to have its first two Muslim representatives: Pakistani-American Salman Bhojani and physician Dr. Suleiman Lalani.

Motivated By Abortion, Women Could Determine The Outcome In Midterm Elections

While both political parties have long coveted the women’s vote, for the most part in recent decades, it has helped Democrats. And in Tuesday’s midterm elections, this group will again be closely watched, as it will be especially affected by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, which effectively allows states to enact restrictive abortion provisions.

The fear among many pro-choice voters, particularly women, is that a Republican-dominated Congress could use this ruling as a premise to enact a nationwide abortion ban. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that half or more of respondents are more motivated to vote in this year’s midterms because of abortion concerns, especially among women. And according to an Economist/YouGov poll conducted October 29 through November 1, 60% of women said that views on abortion mattered a lot in their voting, compared to 40% of men.

While polls indicate that women are more likely than men to favor Democrats in a national generic ballot for House of Representatives candidates, these do not reflect actual votes. They also do not show how those polling results apply to eligible voters. This analysis looks at both, using the most recent eligible voter populations compiled by the Census Bureau’s September 2022 Current Population Survey and applying to them voter turnout rates from the 2018 midterm and assumptions about 2022 voting. Through simulations, it shows how increased women’s turnout and voter preferences could impact national election results and specific battleground states. These simulations make clear that more pronounced turnout and Democratic voting preferences among women would benefit Democrats considerably.

WOMEN LEAN TOWARD DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES, AND TURN OUT TO VOTE AT HIGHER RATES

In order to assess the role that women have in determining the midterm election results, it is important to view gender differences in both voting preferences and turnout. When examining national numbers, women overall have voted for Democrats over Republicans in every presidential and midterm election since 1982.[i]

This is evident in Figure 1, which shows the D-R (Democratic minus Republican) vote margins by gender for national cumulative House of Representatives votes in 2014 and 2018 and for the 2020 presidential election. In each case, the D-R margins are positive for women and negative for men. The 2018 midterm election was a particularly strong year for Democrats, with women’s D-R margin far exceeding that for the 2014 midterms, while men’s negative D-R margin was noticeably smaller.

Gender differences also pervade demographic groups. This is evident for the 2020 presidential election as shown in Figure 2, although it was also pervasive in earlier elections. D-R margins are higher for women than for men in groups where women vote strongly Democratic: Black voters, Latino or Hispanic voters, and voters aged 18 to 29. Even for white, non-college graduate women voters—who favored Republicans—the negative D-R margins are not as large as those of men. Only among Asian American voters were men’s D-R margins higher than women’s.

Perhaps even more important in examining women’s power in the coming election is their continued higher turnout rate. There is a long history of higher turnout levels for women than men, dating back to 1980. While the pattern is more pronounced for presidential elections, it is also the case for midterm elections. Figure 3 depicts gender differences in turnout for midterm elections from 2006 to 2018 and the 2020 presidential election. The 2018 midterm showed the highest turnout in decades, as was the case for the 2020 presidential election. In both of these elections, the rise in turnout among women was greater than that of men. Because of this and the fact that women live longer than men, the 2018 election had 8.4 million more female voters than male voters; in the 2020 election, there were 9.7 million more female voters.

In addition to the overall numeric advantage, women have higher turnout rates across most demographic groups. This is noteworthy among Black women—a strong Democratic voting bloc that in 2018 turned out at 55.2%, compared with 46.7% for Black men. Both white women and white men with college degrees turned out at similar high rates: 71.1% and 72.1%, respectively. Among age groups, women show turnout advantages for all except the 65 and older group, even though women make up 55% of all eligible voters among that group.

Overall, women’s numeric vote advantage in most groups coupled with their broad Democratic leanings make any issues that motivate them to vote Democratic—such as abortion—important to monitor in an election.

THE FEMALE ELECTORATE IS CHANGING

While the size of the female electorate is increasing, its demographic makeup is changing.   Figure 5 shows the shifts in women’s eligible voter profile between 2014 and 2022 by race and education. Notably, there are gains in women’s groups that tend to vote Democratic (white college graduates and people of color), and a decline in the group that tends to vote Republican (white non-college graduates). For the first time in a midterm election, the latter group makes up less than two-fifths of the women’s electorate.

Compared to women, male eligible voters have slightly higher shares of white non-college graduates and smaller shares of white college graduates (downloadable Table A). With respect to age, both female and male eligible voters show older age profiles over time. In 2022, women age 65 and over make up one-quarter of the eligible voter population, while men in that age group make up 22.3%.

SIMULATING THE 2022 GENERIC CONGRESSIONAL BALLOT

As mentioned earlier, recent polls provide some indication of what the midterm election results will be, but they do not take into account the relative size of the voter population, relative turnout rates, and possible last-minute changes in voter preference. This section presents three simulations based on female and male eligible voter populations, turnout rate assumptions, and gender differences in voter preferences based on the polling numbers in the recent Economist/YouGov poll.

In that poll, 51% of women choose a Democratic candidate for a generic 2022 congressional ballot, 46% choose a Republican candidate, and 3% choose other, are not sure, or will/did not vote. Among men, 45% choose a Democratic candidate, 51% choose a Republican candidate, and 4% choose the other categories.

The simulations below show what would happen if, because of concern about abortion, women’s turnout increased by 10 points and women’s Democratic preference increased by 3 points (converting the residual category to Democratic support).

Simulation 1: Assumes 2022 eligible voters by gender, 2018 turnout rates by gender, and 2022 Democratic-Republican congressional preferences by gender

Democratic vote share: 48.2%

Republican vote share:  48.4%

D-R vote margin: -0.2

Simulation 2: Same as Simulation 1, with women’s turnout increased by 10 points

Democratic vote share: 48.4%

Republican vote share: 48.1%

D-R vote margin +0.3

Simulation 3: Same as Simulation 2, with women’s Democratic preference increased by 3 points

Democratic vote share: 50.1%

Republican vote share: 48.1%

D-R vote margin +2.0

The results show that when applied to current female and male eligible voter populations, recent polling would result in a close election outcome with a small Republican advantage. But if the abortion issue motivates greater female turnout and Democratic voting preference, the advantage turns to Democrats.

SIMULATING 2022 ELECTION RESULTS IN BATTLEGROUND STATES

While the national simulations are instructive, great attention will be paid to battleground states with key Senate and gubernatorial elections. This section continues our analysis with simulations for nine of these battleground states: in the North, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; in the South, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas; and in the West, Nevada and Arizona. Each of these has a Senate election except Texas, which has a gubernatorial election.

In place of new polling data, which is not uniformly available for these states, our simulations rely on Democratic and Republican votes by gender from the 2020 presidential election as a baseline (with the exception of Georgia, where votes for the 2020 Senate runoff election were used). These are depicted as women’s and men’s D-R vote margins for each state in Figure 6.

In each state, women overall voted Democratic and men overall voted Republican. Yet the strength of each gender’s support differs, with highest female Democratic support occurring in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Georgia and strongest male Republican support in Texas.

In terms of gender differences in turnout rates, each state also showed higher female voter turnout in the 2018 midterm election, with especially strong gender disparities in Ohio and Georgia (downloadable Table B). In the former, women turned out at 55.9% while men turned out at 48.9%; in the latter, the respective rates were 58.3% and 53.1%

It is also worth noting the differences in the race and education profiles of each state’s 2022 eligible voter populations (downloadable Table B). The states with the highest number of Latino or Hispanic eligible voters among both women and men are Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida. Those with the highest number of Black eligible voters are Georgia and North Carolina. Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have the largest number of white eligible voters. It is notable that in Ohio and Wisconsin, over half of all eligible male and female voters are white non-college graduates. In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, more than 30% of female eligible voters are white college graduates, and in all states, a higher share of men are white non-college graduates than women.

The three state simulations shown in Table 1 follow a similar methodology as used in the national simulations. The base simulation employs 2022 eligible voter populations by gender, to which are applied 2018 turnout rates and Democratic and Republican voter preference—in this case based on the 2020 election. The second simulation assumes that women’s turnout rates are increased by 10 points. The third simulation further assumes that each state’s D-R vote margin for women increases by 5 points.

The base simulation shows an overall Democratic win in five of the nine states. The D-R margins are largest in Nevada, Wisconsin, and Georgia, followed by Arizona and Pennsylvania. Four states—North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, and Texas—show Republican wins, with the largest in Texas, at a -6.6 D-R margin.

The second simulation—which assumes increased women’s turnout—increases the D-R margin in all states but only flips one formerly Republican win to a Democratic one (North Carolina). In contrast, the third simulation, which also assumes increased female support for Democrats, flips all of the states except one (Texas) to a Democratic victory.

In short, these simulations demonstrate that when assuming actual eligible voter populations as a base, increased women’s turnout and Democratic voting can move several battleground states from a Republican to Democratic advantage.

WHAT THE WOMEN’S VOTE MEANS FOR 2022 AND THE FUTURE

The simulations conducted here make plain that women’s enthusiasm for an issue like abortion can lead to consequential shifts in election outcomes through increases in their voter turnout and support for candidates. This can especially benefit Democrats, given the recent history of women’s support for that party’s candidates in national and congressional elections. Unlike looking at polls alone, simulations such as these show how taking into account the actual eligible voter base and turnout rates can affect election results.

These simulations should not be viewed as predictions, as the actual voting behavior will only be known after Election Day. But they do show how, when translated into voter turnout and voting preferences, an energized voting bloc can impact the final election result. They also show that the women’s vote can have a powerful impact on elections not just in 2022 but also in the future. (William H. Frey, Senior Fellow – Brookings Metro)

Picture: NYTimes

Democrats Eye GOP-Held Districts Won By Biden

(AP) — While preparing to march in a Saturday morning parade through this fast-growing city’s westside, Democratic congressional candidate Hillary Scholten warned her staff that the area was traditionally very conservative and they should brace for possible booing. 

But the crowd lining Fulton Street to mark the region’s Polish pride was friendly. Only one man bellowed what sounded to the candidate like “Go to hell, Hillary!” as she passed. But he also grinned and flashed a thumbs-up later. 

He’d actually cried, “Give ’em hell, Hillary!” 

It’s been 32 years since a Democrat won the House seat where Scholten is competing against Republican John Gibbs. But, its largest city, Grand Rapids, has turned steadily bluer lately, and redrawn congressional maps have converted it from a district that backed Donald Trump for president in 2020 to one that Joe Biden would have carried instead.

It’s one of 14 U.S. House seats nationwide that are held by Republicans but that Biden would have won under new maps. 

As Democrats brace for midterm defeats that could erase their narrow, five-seat control of the House, a chance to limit the damage may lie in flipping Republican-held seats that voted for Biden to stanch the effect of losses elsewhere around the country. 

Scholten, a former Justice Department attorney and Christian Reform Church deacon, lost the seat to Republican Rep. Peter Meijer in 2020. But Meijer was defeated in his Michigan GOP primary this year by Trump-backed challenger Gibbs, a former software engineer who falsely purports that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. 

Scholten is trying to become the first Democratic woman elected to the House from western Michigan and isn’t counting on more favorable boundaries to get her there, noting that it’s “hard for people to believe in what they’ve never seen before, and we feel that every day.” 

But even Gibbs concedes the new maps have Democrats excited. “In a year where they’re expected to have a very difficult time in the midterms,” he said, “for them, a pickup is something that they’re salivating over.”

The list of GOP-held Biden districts feature three Los Angeles-area seats and one in California’s Central Valley. Others are the territories of Republican Reps. Don Bacon in Omaha, Nebraska, and Steve Chabot in Cincinnati. Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who represents the moderate swing battleground of Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, faces a similar test. On the other side are a dozen districts that voted for Trump but are held by Democrats. Retirements and redistricting mean many no longer have incumbents running. 

Still, Democrats see high stakes in their efforts to flip seats won by Biden. When House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer recently predicted that his party would hold the chamber, he mentioned such territory in California and Illinois, as well as Bacon’s and Chabot’s districts, and the Grand Rapids race.

Not every incumbent is sweating toss-up races. Chabot says that, during his 26 years running for reelection in southwestern Ohio, he’s “had more challenging races, for sure, than anyone in the House.” But, as he competes for potential crossover voters, Chabot is not emphasizing Trump.

India – US Partnership for Innovation Summit 2022 Held In Boston

The Consulate General of India in New York in partnership with the Center for Emerging Markets, Northeastern University (NU), Boston, organized an India – US Partnership for Innovation Summit on 14th Oct, 2022. 

The Summit held to celebrate 75 years of India’s independence – Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav – was attended by leading business leaders, think tank members, scholars, researchers and students. Inaugurating the day-long conference, Ambassador of India to the United States H.E. Taranjit Singh Sandhu highlighted how high value and cost effective innovations in India were bringing value to India-US ties – in the fields of pharma, health-care, clean energy, start-ups, digital education and other segments of bilateral engagement. 

Talking of innovations in India in the field of sustainability, he underlined the need for the global community to adopt Mission LIFE – i.e. lifestyle for environment – called for by Honb’le Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi.

Special Ministerial remarks at the summit was made by Honb’le Minister of Health & Family Welfare, and Chemicals & Fertilizers of India – Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya. He focused his address on India’s recent developments in the India-US health sector, especially the close collaboration in vaccine development. Minister Mandaviya noted that India had vaccinated over 95 % of its adult population distributing 2.19 billion doses, as also supplied COVID vaccines to over 100 countries.

Other speakers in the summit included former Minister of Civil Aviation, Railways, Commerce and Industry – Mr. Suresh Prabhu who mentioned the innovative steps taken by India in providing better services to rail passengers. Mr. Bharat Lal, Director General, National Centre for Good Governance, who earlier spearheaded the Jal Jeevan Mission (clean drinking water mission) talked about the success of this project in India, noting that the percentage of households with clean tap water connection in India had gone up from 17% in 2019 to over 55% by Sept., 2022. 

He also stressed that the Mission would be completed by 2024 where 100% coverage of clean tap water connection would be achieved. Dr. Umamaheswaran, Director, Human Space Flight Center, ISRO, spoke about India’s progress in the space sector achieved in the most cost effective manner. 

Sumant Sinha, Chairman & CEO, Renew Power, gave a detailed account of the remarkable progress in India in harnessing renewable energy. Renew Power is India’s leading solar and wind energy company with across geography collaboration including with the United States. Mr. Phalgun Kompalli, Co-founder, upGrad, a leading ed-tech company spoke about the growth of digital education and the value company like his bring to the US higher education landscape. 

Deepak Bagla, MD & CEO, Invest India, gave an impressive presentation on India as the most preferred destination for investment. India received record FDI in 2022 of US$ 82 billion in 57 different sectors. Mr. Josh Foulger, MD Bharat FIH Ltd, made a presentation on the success of electronics manufacturing and the value MAKE IN INDIA brings to global supply chain.  

Ms. Pamela Reeve, Chair of the Board, American Tower Corporation, a Boston based global major noted the journey of the company in India where it owns over 75000 telecommunication towers and how Digital India program was transforming lives of people in the country. Mr. Krish Nangegadda, Member, IDEA Advisory Board, NU, made a presentation on the start-up collaboration between GITAM University in India and NU.

Consul General of India, New York – Mr. Randhir Jaiswal showcased India’s achievements in the recent past and highlighted the importance of Indo-US partnership for the future. Prof. Ravi Ramamurthy, Director, Center for Emerging Markets, Northeastern University, who anchored the summit elaborated how innovations in India could be most relevant for countries such as United States. 

The Consulate conveyed its deep appreciation to Prof. David Madigan, Provost, NU and Dean Emery Trahan of D’Amore-Mckim School of Business, NU for hosting the summit.

Social Security Administration To Announce Largest Cost-Of-Living Adjustment In 40 Years

The Social Security Administration is expected to announce its largest annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase in 40 years.  The hike, set to be announced on Thursday, is estimated at around 8.7 percent and will help those in the program meet rising costs driven by inflation. 

Between 2010 and 2020, average annual COLAs increased by just 1.7 percent each year, while COLAs have only risen above 8.7 percent three times — between 1979 and 1981 at 9.9 percent, 14.3 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively.  

The COLAs are based on the country’s current inflation rates. In 1980, inflation was above 14 percent yet declined to 3.5 percent in the latter half of the decade; the COLA followed suit, declining to 5.4 percent in 1990.  

Around 70 million Americans receive Social Security benefits. It is estimated that the COLA hike will increase the average monthly retiree check by around $144, according to the Senior Citizens League, a bipartisan advocacy group. 

How is the COLA rate determined? 

The automatic annual adjustments are based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) and have taken place every year since 1975. Prior to that, adjustments were approved by Congress.  

Because the CPI-W is such a broad measure of consumer prices, some have questioned whether the index is the best metric to determine beneficiaries’ needs, the majority of whom are retirees.  

The CPI-W is based on price changes for goods and services purchased by workers. Some experts have proposed replacing replacing the CPI-W with a different measure: the CPI-Elderly. But the CPI-E, which reflects spending patterns of the elderly, would not always result in a higher COLA. The difference between the two measures has also been shrinking in recent years. 

The annual adjustment has received criticism in the past for the lag period between the start of rising inflation and when beneficiaries receive the cushion payments. Others argue the automatic adjustment can result in COLAs larger than the rate of inflation.  

The purpose of the adjustments is to ensure Social Security beneficiaries retain buying power during times of inflation, so individuals with fixed incomes can keep up with rising rents, mortgages and grocery costs.  

However, the large COLA might push some recipients over an income threshold, requiring them to pay income taxes on part of their benefit. Single filers who have a combined income equal to or below $25,000 pay no taxes on their benefits. For joint filers, the threshold is $32,000. 

The majority of Social Security benefits is funded through Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes. Should a recession hit and unemployment rates rise, it could affect future COLAs. Following the 2008 recession, no COLAs were paid in 2010 and 2011.  

Why is it needed? 

The simple reason that a big COLA increase is needed now is the record inflation being experienced in the nation.  

“It’s the highest rate of inflation that retirees and disabled people today have really ever seen,” said Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst at The Senior Citizens League. 

The majority of Social Security beneficiaries are retirees and individuals aged 65 or older. 

“When people are retired, if they do not have much in the way of savings—and quite a large percentage don’t—that can make it very difficult when prices increase and they have nowhere to go to meet those rising costs,” Johnson said.  

Data from July show more than half of older women living alone are poor according to federal poverty standards or don’t have enough money to afford essential expenses. That total is lower for men, at 45 percent. 

A large proportion of older beneficiaries’ Social Security payments goes toward health care, housing and food costs.  

Because many medical problems worsen with age, increased costs of care put a strain on retirees’ purse strings.  

In general, older individuals tend to have higher health care utilization rates, while around two-thirds of older Americans consider health care costs a financial burden

Although more than 50 million older adults rely on Medicare to cover some or all of their health care expenses, the extra COLA cash coming in each month may not be sufficient to meet retirees’ expenses. 

“Social Security COLA will cushion the impact of inflation and put more money in seniors’ pockets. That’s not to say some won’t continue to struggle,” said Tricia Neuman, the executive director of the Medicare policy program at the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

“Half of all people in Medicare live on incomes below about $30,000 per person. So even with a COLA that’s higher than normal this year, they may continue to struggle with high and rising prices for various things they need on a day-to-day basis, like gas for their cars, rent, food, and other basics, and of course healthcare expenses.”  

Medicare Part B premiums are deducted from Social Security checks, and this year, older beneficiaries on Medicare will see additional financial relief alongside the high COLA.

This is thanks to low uptake of the controversial and expensive Alzheimer’s drug aduhelm, which will lead to lower premiums for beneficiaries.  

Typically, Part B premiums have grown three times faster than the Social Security COLA and marks one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing costs in retirement, Johnson said.  

Older Americans struggling to pay for high drug prices will also see some respite due to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which requires Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to lower prices. It puts a cap on out-of-pocket drug costs starting in 2025 and a $35 monthly cap on insulin prices beginning in 2023.  

“But much of that is still to be phased in,” Johnson said. “The price negotiation is going to be only on a limited set of drugs. So there’s still a considerable amount of out-of-pocket spending that older Americans will probably have to encounter for prescription drugs.” 

“The COLA this year should help but doesn’t address more fundamental concerns for seniors living at or near the poverty level, which include a disproportionate share of people of color,” Neuman said.  

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump To Testify, After Exposing His Role In Insurrection

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack at the US Capitol voted to subpoena former President Donald Trump during a public hearing on October 13th. The House Jan. 6 committee voted unanimously to subpoena former President Donald Trump, demanding his personal testimony as it unveiled startling new video and described his multi-part plan to overturn his 2020 election loss, which led to his supporters’ fierce assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Three phrases were echoed over and over again on Thursday by the panel’s nine members, who repeatedly mentioned Trump’s motivation, intent or state of mind — a callout to elements prosecutors would need to demonstrate if they choose to pursue charges against Trump. 

With alarming messages from the U.S. Secret Service warning of violence and vivid new video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders pleading for help, the panel on Thursday showed the raw desperation at the Capitol. Using language frequently seen in criminal indictments, the panel said Trump had acted in a “premeditated” way before Jan. 6, 2021, despite countless aides and officials telling him he had lost.

Trump is almost certain to fight the subpoena and decline to testify. On his social media outlet he blasted members for not asking him earlier — though he didn’t say he would have complied — and called the panel “a total BUST.”

“We must seek the testimony under oath of January 6′s central player,” said Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the committee’s vice chair, ahead of the vote.

In the committee’s 10th public session, just weeks before the congressional midterm elections, the panel summed up Trump’s “staggering betrayal” of his oath of office, as Chairman Bennie Thompson put it, describing the then-president’s unprecedented attempt to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

While the effort to subpoena Trump may languish, more a nod to history than an effective summons, the committee has made clear it is considering whether to send its findings in a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

In one of its most riveting exhibits, the panel showed previously unseen footage of congressional leaders phoning for help during the assault as Trump refused to call off the mob.

Pelosi can be seen on a call with the governor of neighboring Virginia, explaining as she shelters with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and others that the governor of Maryland has also been contacted. Later, the video shows Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders as the group asks the Defense Department for help.

“They’re breaking the law in many different ways,” Pelosi says at one point. “And quite frankly, much of it at the instigation of the president of the United States.”

The footage also portrays Vice President Mike Pence — not Trump — stepping in to help calm the violence, telling Pelosi and the others he has spoken with Capitol Police, as Congress plans to resume its session that night to certify Biden’s election. The video was from Pelosi’s daughter, Alexandra, a documentary filmmaker.

In never-before-seen Secret Service messages, the panel produced evidence that extremist groups provided the muscle in the fight for Trump’s presidency, planning weeks before the attack to send a violent force to Washington.

The Secret Service warned in a Dec. 26, 2020, email of a tip that members of the right-wing Proud Boys planned to outnumber the police in a march in Washington on Jan. 6. “It felt like the calm before the storm,” one Secret Service agent wrote in a group chat.

The committee argued in its final hearing before the midterm elections that Trump was directly involved in the bid to overturn the 2020 election, with the panel presenting new evidence that Trump knew he had lost but had a plan to declare victory no matter the election result. The panel also showed previously unseen footage of congressional leaders taking refuge amid the violence as the panel detailed Trump’s inaction during the attack. The committee is now working to present a final report by the end of the year on whether to make any criminal referrals to the Justice Department.  

“I think they were trying to hand the Justice Department all the evidence on a silver platter,” said Ryan Goodman, co-director of the Reiss Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. 

“I do think that it’s very significant information for a Justice Department with much more powerful tools to pursue a full-blown investigation. I do think that they did a very good job of handing that off, and, in a certain sense, showing what a closing argument can look like in a powerful way.”  

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) the committee’s vice chairwoman, noted that while it was up to the Department of Justice to make prosecutorial calls, the panel “may ultimately decide to make a series of criminal referrals” to them. 

“We have sufficient information to consider criminal referrals for multiple individuals and to recommend a range of legislative proposals to guard against another Jan. 6,” she said. 

While all prosecutions require demonstrating someone did something illegal, many of the crimes that would be the most likely fit for Trump’s behavior require an additional element of proving intent. 

“There was considerable information presented yet again yesterday, and some new information presented that is pertinent to ongoing Justice Department investigations,” said David Laufman, who worked in leadership roles in the National Security Division in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and also represented two Capitol Police officers who testified before the Jan. 6 panel.   

“Who in the White House or Trump world knew what and when — that may factor into investigative actions and possibly charging decisions on issues like seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, having to do with the presentation of false slates of electors, conspiracies to obstruct an official proceeding,” Laufman added. 

“Every piece of connective tissue that reaches Trump or people close to him with regard to those events is going to factor into investigative findings and recommendations by the line prosecutors on these cases.” 

Amid its recap of what it laid out in its prior eight hearings, the panel offered new evidence that Trump acknowledged to aides that he lost the election and further details about the extent to which Trump allies discussed that he should claim victory before all the votes were counted. 

During the hearing, the committee sought to show how much Trump was advised to claim he won the election, something he heard from confidants Roger Stone and Steve Bannon, and in a newly revealed email from conservative activist and Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.  

In the Oct. 31 email – sent four days before the election – Fitton included language encouraging Trump to say, “We had an election today — and I won.” The email also fixates on a faulty deadline, suggesting that Trump say “according to the ballots counted by the Election Day deadline.”  

Election law requires counting all ballots, including absentee ballots, which are often counted after Election Day. Trump’s plan to claim victory came after he repeatedly urged his supporters to only vote in person. 

Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale also told the committee Trump hatched plans to claim victory on election night as far back as July.  “The evidence presented yesterday was very compelling to show that the false claims of a stolen election were planned even before Election Day. That pre-meditation is very important to proving a conspiracy. The committee has certainly shown some evidence of a conspiracy to defraud the United States,” Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney, told the media,   

The DOJ has assembled a grand jury to hear evidence related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The nod to the Department of Justice in the broader pitch for accountability for Trump comes from a panel whose members and staff are largely attorneys. 

“On a day-to-day level [this investigation has] been conducted by former Department of Justice prosecutors. That has a lot to do with the professionalism and accomplishments of this investigation,” Laufman said.  

“Among the best decisions that [Chairman] Bennie Thompson [D-Miss.] and Liz Cheney made was to facilitate the hiring of former prosecutors who, while dedicated to supporting the committee and its interests, surely, in the back of their minds, in the back of the Select Committee’s minds, are trying to ensure that everything they do could be a potential value to the Department of Justice, and from time to time to maybe gently put their finger in the department’s eyes to try to goad them into at least pursuing logical investigative steps to consider ultimately whether to bring charges against Trump.”

US In Record $31 Trillion Debt

(AP) — The nation’s gross national debt has surpassed $31 trillion, according to a U.S. Treasury report released Tuesday that logs America’s daily finances.

Edging closer to the statutory ceiling of roughly $31.4 trillion — an artificial cap Congress placed on the U.S. government’s ability to borrow — the debt numbers hit an already tenuous economy facing high inflation, rising interest rates and a strong U.S. dollar.

And while President Joe Biden has touted his administration’s deficit reduction efforts this year and recently signed the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which attempts to tame 40-year high price increases caused by a variety of economic factors, economists say the latest debt numbers are a cause for concern.

Owen Zidar, a Princeton economist, said rising interest rates will exacerbate the nation’s growing debt issues and make the debt itself more costly. The Federal Reserve has raised rates several times this year in an effort to combat inflation.

Zidar said the debt “should encourage us to consider some tax policies that almost passed through the legislative process but didn’t get enough support,” like imposing higher taxes on the wealthy and closing the carried interest loophole, which allows money managers to treat their income as capital gains.

“I think the point here is if you weren’t worried before about the debt before, you should be — and if you were worried before, you should be even more worried,” Zidar said.

The Congressional Budget Office earlier this year released a report on America’s debt load, warning in its 30-year outlook that, if unaddressed, the debt will soon spiral upward to new highs that could ultimately imperil the U.S. economy.

In its August Mid-Session Review, the administration forecasted that this year’s budget deficit will be nearly $400 billion lower than it estimated back in March, due in part to stronger than expected revenues, reduced spending, and an economy that has recovered all the jobs lost during the multi-year pandemic.

In full, this year’s deficit will decline by $1.7 trillion, representing the single largest decline in the federal deficit in American history, the Office of Management and Budget said in August.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said in an emailed statement Tuesday, “This is a new record no one should be proud of.”

“In the past 18 months, we’ve witnessed inflation rise to a 40-year high, interest rates climbing in part to combat this inflation, and several budget-busting pieces of legislation and executive actions,” MacGuineas said. “We are addicted to debt.”

A representative from the Treasury Department was not immediately available for comment.

Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University, said “it took this nation 200 years to pile up its first trillion dollars in national debt, and since the pandemic we have been adding at the rate of 1 trillion nearly every quarter.”

Predicting high inflation for the “foreseeable future,” he said, “when you increase government spending and money supply, you will pay the price later.”

A Bump And A Miss: Saudi Oil Cut Slaps Down Biden’s Outreach

By Ellen Knickmeyer, Chris Megerian, & Kevin Freking

(AP) — President Joe Biden effectively acknowledged the failure of one of his biggest and most humiliating foreign policy gambles: a fist-bump with the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, the crown prince associated with human rights abuses.

Biden’s awkward encounter with Mohammed bin Salman in July was a humbling attempt to mend relations with the world’s most influential oil power at a time when the US. was seeking its help in opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting surge in oil prices.

That fist bump three months ago was followed by a face slap this week from Prince Mohammed: a big oil production cut by OPEC producers and Russia that threatens to sustain oil-producer Russia in its war in Ukraine, drive inflation higher, and push gas prices back toward voter-angering levels just before U.S. midterms, undercutting the election prospects of Biden and Democrats.

Asked about Saudi Arabia’s action, Biden told reporters Thursday it was “a disappointment, and it says that there are problems” in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. 

A number of Democrats in Congress called on the U.S. Thursday to respond by pulling back on its decades-old provision of arms and U.S. military protection for Saudi Arabia, charging that Prince Mohammed had stopped upholding Saudi Arabia’s side of a more than 70-year strategic partnership. The relationship is based on the U.S. providing the kingdom with protection against its outside enemies, and on Saudi Arabia providing global markets with enough oil to keep them stable. 

Calling the oil production cuts “a hostile act,” New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski led two other lawmakers in introducing legislation that would pull U.S. troops and Patriot missile batteries out of the kingdom.

“What Saudi Arabia did to help Putin continue to wage his despicable, vicious war against Ukraine will long be remembered by Americans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, adding, “We are looking at all the legislative tools to best deal with this appalling and deeply cynical action.”

The U.S. has no plans at the moment to withdraw military personnel or equipment from Saudi Arabia, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said Thursday. 

Congress and the administration were reacting to the announcement of a bigger than expected cut of 2 million barrels a day by the OPEC-plus group, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia. The production cut is likely to drive up prices, bolstering the oil revenue Russia is using to keep waging its war in Ukraine despite U.S.-led international sanctions and further shaking a global economy already struggling with short energy supply.

Saudi oil minister Abdulaziz bin Salman, a half-brother of the crown prince, insisted at the OPEC-plus session there was no “belligerence” in the action. 

The administration says it’s looking for ways to blunt the impact of OPEC’s decision, and notes that the cost at the pump has still dropped in recent months.

Foreign arms sales ultimately are Congress’s to approve or disapprove, a U.S. official argued Thursday, so it was up to lawmakers to choose whether to try to make good on cutting U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the government’s take on the matter.

The official called Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, and meetings with Middle East leaders there, steps toward building relations across the region, and said Biden’s meeting with the crown prince was in line with other face-to-face sessions with allies, rivals and adversaries, including Putin.

As a candidate, Biden had made a passionate promise to make the Saudi royal family a “pariah” over human rights abuses, especially Saudi officials’ killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. 

The U.S. intelligence community formally concluded that Prince Mohammed, who wields much of the power in Saudi Arabia in the stead of his aging father, King Salman, had ordered or approved of Khashoggi’s killing. 

Biden as president disappointed rights activists when he opted not to penalize Prince Mohammed directly, citing his senior position in the kingdom and the U.S. strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia.

Then Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine worsened an already tight global oil market, driving up gasoline prices and inflation overall. Ally Israel and some in the administration argued that smooth relations between Riyadh and Washington had to be the U.S. priority. 

As U.S. prices at the pump rose and Biden’s poll ratings fell further, senior administration officials began shuttling to the Gulf, seeking to soothe Prince Mohammed’s anger at Biden’s campaign remarks and the U.S. findings in Khashoggi’s killing. That led to Biden paying his first visit as president to Saudi Arabia in July, putting presidential prestige behind the attempt to get U.S.-Saudi relations, and the global oil supply, back on steadier ground.

In Jeddah, Biden stopped short of offering a much-anticipated handshake. Instead, Biden, looking frailer and more stooped in comparison with Prince Mohammed, who is in his late 30s, leaned in to offer an out-of-character fist bump. Prince Mohammed reciprocated. Any smiles on the two men’s faces as their knuckles touched were fleeting.

Critics deplored Biden’s outreach to a prince accused of ordering the imprisonment, abduction, torture and killing of those, even fellow royals and family members, who oppose him or express differing views. 

Even if “you’re not willing to use the sticks with MBS, then don’t give up the carrots for free,” Khalid al Jabri, the son of a former Saudi minister of state, Saad al Jabri, said Thursday, using the prince’s initials. 

The senior al Jabri accuses Prince Mohammed of sending a hit squad after him in 2018, and of detaining two of his children to try to force his return. Prince Mohammed denies any direct wrongdoing, although he says as a Saudi leader he accepts responsibility for events on his watch.

Khalid al Jabri, who like his father now lives in exile, offered an argument echoed by rights advocates, Democratic lawmakers and others:

“That is one major flaw of the Biden policy so far, that in this kind of U.S.-Saudi rapprochement, it has been lopsided, it’s been one-way concessions. And that doesn’t work for MBS.”

Saudi Arabia has made a couple of moves that benefited the U.S. since Biden’s visit. Saudi Arabia was among the intermediaries who recently won the release of two Americans and other foreigners captured by Russia as they fought for Ukraine. And OPEC-plus made a modest increase in oil output shortly after the visit. The U.S. official cited Saudi Arabia’s agreement to allow Israeli civilian overflights of Saudi territory as one gain from Biden’s trip.

The subsequent oil production cuts have far offset the earlier gains, however. Prince Mohammed and other Saudi officials also have kept up outwardly warm dealings with Russian officials. And rights advocates point to a series of multidecade prison terms handed down to Saudi men and women over the mildest of free speech, especially tweets, since Biden’s visit.

By November, the Biden administration will have to decide whether to make another major concession to the prince. A U.S. court set that deadline for the U.S. to determine whether it will weigh in to agree or disagree with Prince Mohammed’s lawyer that the prince has legal immunity from a lawsuit in U.S. federal court over the killing of Khashoggi.

Lawmakers are scheduled to be out of Washington until after the Nov. 8 midterm elections and when they return will be focused on funding federal agencies for the full fiscal year through September 2023. Prospects for a lame-duck Congress taking up the bill introduced by Malinowski and the two other lawmakers are slight.

Rising gas prices would be bad news for Democrats heading into the final stretch of the midterm elections, while Republicans remain eager to capitalize on the decades-high inflation and rising cost of living, with high gas prices a constant reminder as voters fill up their tanks.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, had one of the more scathing reactions to OPEC’s announcement.

“From unanswered questions about 9/11 & the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, to conspiring w/ Putin to punish the US w/ higher oil prices, the royal Saudi family has never been a trustworthy ally of our nation. It’s time for our foreign policy to imagine a world without their alliance,” he tweeted last week.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy To Join WHO Executive Board

Dr. Vivek Murthy will serve in the new position alongside his continued duties as the US Surgeon General, the White House said in a statement this week. 

US President Joe Biden has nominated Dr Vivek Murthy to serve as America’s representative on the executive board of the World Health Organization.

Dr Murthy will serve in the new position alongside his continued duties as the Surgeon General, the White House said in a statement.

He was confirmed by the US Senate in March 2021 to serve as the 21st Surgeon General of the country. He previously served as the 19th Surgeon General under President Barack Obama.

As the nation’s doctor, the Surgeon General’s mission is to help lay the foundation for a healthier country, relying on the best scientific information available to provide clear, consistent and equitable guidance and resources for the public.

“While serving as the 21st Surgeon General, Dr Murthy is focused on drawing attention to and working across government to address a number of critical public health issues, including the growing proliferation of health misinformation, the ongoing youth mental health crisis, well-being and burnout in the health worker community, and social isolation and loneliness,” said the White House.

As the Vice Admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr Murthy also commands a uniformed service of over 6,000 dedicated public health officers, serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations.

“The first Surgeon General of Indian descent, Dr Murthy, was raised in Miami and is a graduate of Harvard, the Yale School of Medicine, and the Yale School of Management. A renowned physician, research scientist, entrepreneur and author, he lives in Washington, DC with his wife Dr. Alice Chen, and their two children,” the White House said.

Dr. Murthy’s commitment to medicine and health began early in life. The son of immigrants from India, he discovered the art of healing watching his parents – Hallegere and Myetriae Murthy – treat patients like family in his father’s medical clinic in Miami, Florida.

During his prior nomination, Indian American Doctors had lobbied earnestly to have Dr. Murthy confirmed as the US Surgeon General under Obama administration. “The feeling of de ja vu was pervasive, of a triumph over injustice with a hard fought battle by the Indian community during his confirmation, with AAPI playing a major role that secured the prize of the highest position occupied by an Indian American, and that too by one from our second generation,” said Dr. Ravi Jahagirdar, who had led a delegation of AAPI leaders to be at the historic oath taking ceremony of Dr. Vivek Murthy as the US Surgeon General at Fort Myer in Virginia across from Washington DC on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

Bill Clinton Says Democrats Can Retain Congress, But Republicans Could Scare Swing Voters

Former US President Bill Clinton said Democrats can retain control of Congress in the 2022 midterms, but warned Republicans will “scare the living daylights out of swing voters”.

The Congress – the House of Representatives goes to the polls to elect all of the 435 members and the Senate is on the ballot for 30 of its 100 seats.

A lot of Mayoral and Gubernatorial posts are up for grabs and both parties are struggling to retain their candidates with the backlash of inflation and MAGA campaign frittering out to save democracy threats sounded by the liberals.

In both houses, the Democrats have a wafer thin majority to pass legislation. In the Senate, Republicans and Democrats are divided 50:50 but the Vice President casts the tie breaking vote to give the Democrats the advantage on passing legislation with a simple majority.

“We could hold both these houses, but we have to say the right things because we know the Republicans can always close well,” Bill Clinton said in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

He was asked if Democrats, who have seen encouraging signs about their midterm prospects in recent weeks, can break the decades-long trend of the President’s party losing control of Congress in the midterm elections.

“Absolutely, we could hold both these Houses, but we have to say the right things,” Clinton told CNN in the interview, which aired Sunday. “And we have to know the Republicans always close well. Why? Because they find some new way to scare the living daylights out of swing voters about something. That’s what they did in 2021 when they made critical race theory sounds.

“They just scare people,” Clinton said. “And in the end, the breakpoint in American politics is not that much different than the 90s. You still have to get those people, it’s just that there’s so many fewer of them, because as the parties have gotten more ideological and clear and somehow psychically intolerant, they pull more and more people towards the extremes.”

Increased polarisation and partisanship since Clinton held office in the 1990s means fewer persuadable swing voters and fewer willing to cross party lines. The 2020 election, for example, saw record-low numbers of voters splitting their tickets between electors. But still “there’s some people who are hanging on there and trying to think, and trying to understand what’s going on,” the former President said in the interview.

Republicans face a potential backlash in November after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on abortion rights bringing women electors together. A new WSJ poll shows Democrats gaining ground among independents, young and women voters.

Republicans spent much of the year pummeling Democrats on inflation and hoping to cruise on a “red wave” in the November midterm elections. But the huge swell they once envisioned may end up being more of a ripple instead, the Business Insider said in an analysis.

Part of it may also be tied to recent Democratic victories on their economic and climate agenda, gun safety, and improved healthcare access for veterans.

Some Republican lawmakers have released proposals meant to showcase the party’s support for families in more modest ways, reflecting a conservative reluctance to back a sizable expansion of the safety net. The GOP has staunchly opposed President Joe Biden’s ambitious proposals for childcare, paid leave, and monthly checks to parents. (IANS)

At AAPI’s 75th India Independence Day On Capitol Hill, Key US Lawmakers Advocate For Stronger India-US Ties

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) organized the 75th Anniversary of the Independence of India/Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, September 21st, 2022, where key US Senators and Congressmen participated and stressed the need to strengthen Indo-US relationship and praised the contributions and achievements of Physicians of Indian Origin and the larger Indian American community.

A strong India means a strong US, influential US lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said, as they pledged to work towards strengthening the relationship between the two largest democratic countries of the world at a time when the world is undergoing several changes and facing numerous challenges. Attended by dozens of leaders of AAPI and several community leaders, a first of its kind, the India Day on Capitol Hill was a celebration of India as a nation that is a model and strong democracy and a fast-growing economy that has taken a central place on world stage.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of AAPI Legislative Committee, who has played a lead role in organizing the India Day celebrations on Capitol Hill said, Indian-Americans have a key role to play in the India-US relationship. “It is a proud moment for every Indian, living in every part of the world to see the progress that our motherland has achieved since its independence 75 years ago.” Dr. Shivangi, a member of the National Advisory Council, Center for National Mental Health Services referred to India which has now become the fifth largest economic superpower in the world even surpassing India’s Colonial Masters, the UK, France, and Germany.

Quoting a White House Press Release last month, Dr. Shivangi said, “The QUAD agreement is a testimony of this the role for the promotion of human freedom and dignity, and ways to restrain the Chinese expansionism that is not respecting international laws, friendships, and relationships. “The United States sees India as an indispensable partner and confident in a relationship the two countries are pursuing their own national interests in Ukraine. The US-India strategic partnership is grounded in their commitments to the advancement of the free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

In his welcome address, Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI, “India @ 75! It is a milestone filled with feelings of sense of pride and joy for all the accomplishments and progress we have made, while preserving our integrity, unity, core values of freedoms, democracy and respect for diverse cultures and the groups that live and thrive in our beloved motherland. India has made great strides in various sectors of economy lifting over 270 million out of poverty in the past decade or so.

Referring to the unprecedented growth of India, Dr. Kolli said,  “It is the 5th largest economy in the world. In 1947 Maternal Mortality Rate was 2,000 for 100,000 births and Infant Mortality rate was 150 and now MMR is 150 and IMR is 27.6 in 2021. In the higher education sector India now has 1,043 universities and 42,000 colleges vs 27 universities and 578 colleges in 1950 and literacy rate is close to 75 % now as opposed to 20% in 1950. The number of medical colleges grew from mere 28 in 1950 to over 612 now in 2022. These accomplishments by themselves are worthy of a grand celebration, but India accomplished all this progress as a thriving democracy, with its steadfast commitment to freedoms with equity and inclusion of all faiths and creeds is a remarkable success story to be cherished and shared. We are proud to be part of this historic celebration of India on Capitol Hill, where we will have an opportunity to exchange views and express our concerns with the dozens of US Lawmakers, who will come to be part of the celebrations.”

“I am here today to say, thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat said. Recalling his visits to India, he said, he saw in action “the greatness of the largest democracy in the world in full action.”  While lauding the contributions of physicians of Indian Origin, “Had it not been for the Indian community that came to West Virginia to provide their services, most of rural West Virginia would not have health care today.” While observing that a major section of healthcare service in the rural US is provided by Indian American Doctors.

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican Senator representing the state of Mississippi stressed the importance of having strong relations between India and the United States. “The relationship between the United States and India is mutually beneficial for both of the countries and not just in the field of medicine and technology,” she said.

Senator Shelley Capito from West Virginia noted how the Indian American community is playing a key role in enriching the cultural experience of her state. “I live in Charleston, West Virginia, a small rural state. If we did not have any Indian American doctors, we would not have any kind of quality healthcare, we would not have the breadth and the depth and the richness of our communities that we have,” she said.

India’s Ambassador to the US Hon. Taranjit Singh, in his keynote address said that there is a close connection between the two countries and today it is driven by the leadership of the two largest democracies of the world. Indian American doctors have an especially key role to play in the India-US relationship, Sandhu said. “India today is one of the fastest-growing, major, emerging economies in the world,” he said. “We have such a vibrant and dynamic Indian American community represented in this country. The success of the Indian American community as professionals – doctors, technocrats, scientists and, entrepreneurs, has been an inspiration to many of us in India. And today, support of this community is vital to us” in forging a much stronger relationship with the US.

India and United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavor, driven by shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues, and vibrant people-to-people contacts, he said. Referring to the fact that within one month’s period, more than half a dozen senior Indian Ministers are visiting the US and a similar visit would happen from the US to India, he said. “This is a reflection of the relationship between India and the United States,” he pointed out.

Congressman Joe Wilson, a GOP lawmaker and co-chair of Indian Caucus in Congress, shared about his fond memories with India, going back to the days when his dad served in India during the World War. India and America – nations which respect individuals, freedom, human dignity, private property, and believe in free markets – have the potential to build on shared values, he said. “India has a major role to play in world peace, stabilizing world,” he added.

Rep. Michael Guest from Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District, said, “We are so blessed to have you. I want to thank you for coming to the US from a great civilization.” Lauding the great contributions of AAPI fraternity, he said, “You reach out to when people are in crisis. You put yourself in arms way to serve your fellowmen, to serve others, especially during Covid.” Describing Indo-US partnership as “strategic relationship” the Congressman said, “We work together to protect freedom and democracies. We work together for the greater good of humanity.”

Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna from the California said, “US India relationship is more critical than ever for the world.” He said, “India should not be subject to (CAATSA) sanctions because of its historic relationship with Russia.” Praising the recent messaging of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Russian leadership, Khanna said India can play a critical role in a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian conflict. He referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met Vladimir Putin last week on the sidelines of the 22nd meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, had told the Russian leader that “today’s era is not of war.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the first and only Indian-American woman in the US Congress, said India and the US, despite being a world apart, have shared a very unique and important relationship over the years. India and the US have made tremendous strides in the promotion of public health. With the help of more than USD 200 million in aid from the US, India surpassed an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19 by administering two billion doses of vaccines, the second most of any country in the world, she said.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said the Indian American community needs to make its presence known. Imploring more Indian Americans to run for office, Krishnamoorthi told the Capitol Hill gathering, “If you are not at the table, you will be on the menu.” India, he said, has done a lot in the last 75 years. “I want to talk a little bit about its (India’s) greatest export. Its greatest export is you – Indian Americans who are four million strong. They are the fastest-growing ethnic minority in America. They are the most prosperous ethnic minority and the most well educated.”

Congressman Ted Deutch said, India and the US are strategic partners and Indian Americans are the key assets in the India-US relationship. “We are not only strategic partners, but we are friends,” he said. Referring to the NRI community, he said, “This is the group in the US, of all the ethnic groups, with the highest income and the highest level of education.”

U.S. Congressman Pat Fallon (TX-04), who had attended both the Capitol Hill event as well as at the Embassy Reception compared India and the United States, as both have gained independence from Britain. Both are today the greatest democracies of the world, he said and added that India at 75th anniversary of Independence Day is doing better and greater than how the US did at its 75th anniversary. Lauding the contributions of Indian American Physicians and the larger Indian American community Rep. Fallon highlighted the strong and strategic relationship the United States and India have, that benefits not only the two nations, but the entire world.

“Indian American physicians have made vital contributions to the health care field,” said Dr. Kishore Challa, Co-Chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee. “As physicians, we provide critical care to patients from rural & urban communities across the Country. Indian American doctors are playing a critical role in filling the nationwide physician shortage. The India Day on Capitol Hill is a unique opportunity for AAPI members to be part of the decision-making process on matters related to healthcare and advocate for stronger and closer ties between India and the United States.”

Dr. Anjana Samadder, President-Elect of AAPI said, “AAPI has been serving India and contributing to the effective healthcare delivery in the US and in India. In keeping with the mission of AAPI, the celebrations on the Hill provided us with a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American physicians share our concerns with the Lawmakers in pursuit of our aspirations in matters relating to professional and community affairs.”

“The historic 75th India Independence Day celebrations on Capitol Hill was an effective Forum to help renew our friendship with US administration under the leadership of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and brief the Congressional leaders on issues that are important to us,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President of AAPI.

“AAPI’s India Day celebrations on Capitol Hill helped members rekindle and renew our energy in bringing up the issues to the attention of national policymakers and leaders of the US Congress on Capitol Hill,” said Dr. Sumul Rawal, Treasurer of AAPI.

A reception and dinner hosted by Honorable Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States, with several dignitaries at the Indian Embassy was the grand finale to the day-long event at the nation’s capital. India and United States enjoy a comprehensive global strategic partnership covering almost all areas of human endeavor, driven by shared democratic values, convergence of interests on a range of issues, and vibrant people-to-people contacts. “The relationship is very strong,” noting India and the US are connected in culture, democratic traditions, entrepreneurship, and innovation. “And we are connected because the Indian American community in the US is so very strong,” Ambassador Sandhu told an enthusiastic audience said.

In his vote of thanks, Dr. Ravi Kolli expressed gratitude to Dr. Sampath Shivangi, for organizing the event and bringing powerful senators and Congress Members and giving a forum and opportunity for AAPI members to participate in conversations with them. “Both the Senators form Mississippi referring him as the ‘Rockstar of Mississippi’ is the true reflection of his leadership and contributions at the national level.” He said. “I deeply appreciate Dr. Kishore Challa for personally arranging for both the Senators of WV to attend, both of them spoke so highly of Dr. Challa and his leadership in healthcare matters in the state of West Virginia and nationally and how he was instrumental in making Telemedicine Audio Service approved by Federal Agencies during the pandemic.”

“AAPI has been seeking to collectively shape the best health care for everyone in the US, with the physicians at the helm, caring for the medically underserved as we have done for several decades when physicians of Indian origin came to the US in larger numbers,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli. For more information on AAPI and its several noble initiatives benefitting AAPI members and the larger society, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Bill Clinton Says Democrats Can Retain Congress, But Republicans Could Scare Swing Voters

Former US President Bill Clinton said Democrats can retain control of Congress in the 2022 midterms, but warned Republicans will “scare the living daylights out of swing voters”.

The Congress – the House of Representatives goes to the polls to elect all of the 435 members and the Senate is on the ballot for 30 of its 100 seats.

A lot of Mayoral and Gubernatorial posts are up for grabs and both parties are struggling to retain their candidates with the backlash of inflation and MAGA campaign frittering out to save democracy threats sounded by the liberals.

In both houses, the Democrats have a wafer thin majority to pass legislation. In the Senate, Republicans and Democrats are divided 50:50 but the Vice President casts the tie breaking vote to give the Democrats the advantage on passing legislation with a simple majority.

“We could hold both these houses, but we have to say the right things because we know the Republicans can always close well,” Bill Clinton said in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

He was asked if Democrats, who have seen encouraging signs about their midterm prospects in recent weeks, can break the decades-long trend of the President’s party losing control of Congress in the midterm elections.

“Absolutely, we could hold both these Houses, but we have to say the right things,” Clinton told CNN in the interview, which aired Sunday. “And we have to know the Republicans always close well. Why? Because they find some new way to scare the living daylights out of swing voters about something. That’s what they did in 2021 when they made critical race theory sounds.

“They just scare people,” Clinton said. “And in the end, the breakpoint in American politics is not that much different than the 90s. You still have to get those people, it’s just that there’s so many fewer of them, because as the parties have gotten more ideological and clear and somehow psychically intolerant, they pull more and more people towards the extremes.”

Increased polarisation and partisanship since Clinton held office in the 1990s means fewer persuadable swing voters and fewer willing to cross party lines. The 2020 election, for example, saw record-low numbers of voters splitting their tickets between electors. But still “there’s some people who are hanging on there and trying to think, and trying to understand what’s going on,” the former President said in the interview.

Republicans face a potential backlash in November after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on abortion rights bringing women electors together. A new WSJ poll shows Democrats gaining ground among independents, young and women voters.

Republicans spent much of the year pummeling Democrats on inflation and hoping to cruise on a “red wave” in the November midterm elections. But the huge swell they once envisioned may end up being more of a ripple instead, the Business Insider said in an analysis.

Part of it may also be tied to recent Democratic victories on their economic and climate agenda, gun safety, and improved healthcare access for veterans.

Some Republican lawmakers have released proposals meant to showcase the party’s support for families in more modest ways, reflecting a conservative reluctance to back a sizable expansion of the safety net. The GOP has staunchly opposed President Joe Biden’s ambitious proposals for childcare, paid leave, and monthly checks to parents. (IANS)

Fewer Than Half Of Americans May Be Christian By 2070

(RNS) — America has long prided itself on being a country where people can choose whatever religion they like. The majority has long chosen Christianity. A new report projects Americans’ future — a future where Christianity, though diminished, persists, while non-Christian faiths grow amid rising secularization.

By 2070, that may no longer be the case. If current trends continue, Christians could make up less than half of the population — and as little as a third— in 50 years. Meanwhile, the so-called nones — or the religiously unaffiliated — could make up close to half of the population. And the percentage of Americans who identify as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other non-Christian faiths could double.

Those are among the major findings of a new report from the Pew Research Center regarding America’s religious future—a future where Christianity, though diminished, persists while non-Christian faiths grow amid rising secularization.

Researchers projected possible religious futures for the United States using a number of factors, including birth rates, migration patterns, demographics like age and sex, and the current religious landscape. They also looked at how religion is passed from one generation to another and how often people switch religions — in particular, Christians who become nones, a number that has been increasing in recent years

They projected four different scenarios, based on differing rates of religious switching — from a continued increase to no switching at all.

“While the scenarios in this report vary in the extent of religious disaffiliation they project, they all show Christians continuing to shrink as a share of the U.S. population, even under the counterfactual assumption that all switching came to a complete stop in 2020,” according to the report. “At the same time, the unaffiliated are projected to grow under all four scenarios.”

Currently, about a third (31%) of Christians become disaffiliated before they turn 30, according to Pew Research. Twenty-one percent of nones become Christian as young adults. Should those switching rates remain stable, Christians would make up 46% of the population by 2070, while nones would make up 41% percent of the population.

If disaffiliation rates continue to grow but are capped at 50% of Christians leaving the faith, then 39% percent of Americans are projected to be Christian by 2070, with 48% percent of Americans identifying as nones. With no limit placed on the percentage of people leaving Christianity and with continued growth in disaffiliation, Christians would be 35% of the population, with nones making up a majority of Americans (52%).

If all switching came to a halt, then Christians would remain a slight majority (54%), while nones would make up 34% of Americans, according to the projection model.

Non-Christian faiths would rise to 12–13% of the population, largely due to migration, in each scenario. Migration does affect the percentage of Christians, as most immigrants coming to the U.S. are Christians, said Conrad Hackett, associate director of research and senior demographer at Pew Research Center.

“Still the greatest amount of change in the U.S., we think currently and in the future, will come from switching,” he said.

Researchers stressed the report contained projections based on data and mathematical models, not predictions of the future.

“Though some scenarios are more plausible than others, the future is uncertain, and it is possible for the religious composition of the United States in 2070 to fall outside the ranges projected,” they wrote.

One reason for the decline among Christians and the growth among the nones in the models is age. While Christians have more children than nones, they are also older. Pew estimates the average Christian in the United States is 43, which is 10 years older than the average none.

“The unaffiliated are having and raising unaffiliated children while Christians are more likely to be near the end of their lives than others,” Stephanie Kramer, a senior researcher at Pew, told RNS in an email.

Using mathematical models, Pew has also projected the future of religion around the world. Those models were adapted for different regions, said Hackett. Muslims, for example, he said, tend to have the youngest population and the highest fertility rates, driving the growth of that faith. However, he said, in the Gulf states, migration has brought many Christians from other countries to the region as temporary workers.

“Young Americans are now less likely to become or remain Christian…and more likely to become of remain unaffiliated” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

The current report takes advantage of the amount of data collected about the U.S. religious landscape. Researchers also looked at intergenerational transmission for the first time, said Kramer.

“The variables we use to study that were: What is the mother’s religion? And what is the teen’s religion,” she said. “If that was a match, we consider the mother’s religion transmitted.”

Researchers also looked at a relatively new trend of disaffiliation among older Americans. Sociologists have long focused on younger people, who are most likely to switch religions. But in the U.S. and other countries, older people are also starting to switch at growing rates.

“It’s not as large scale, but it’s still significant,” said Hackett. “And it’s contributing to the religious change that we have experienced and that we expect to experience in the years ahead.”

Hackett said that the projections do not show the end of Christianity in the U.S. or of religion in general, which he expects to remain robust. And most nones, while claiming no religion, do not identify as atheists.

Kramer said the U.S. appears to be going through a pattern of secularization that has happened in other countries, though “we may be a bit behind,” she added.

Other factors outside the model — such as changing immigration patterns and religious innovation — could lead to a revival of Christianity in the United States, according to the report. But none of the models shows a reversal of the decline of Christian affiliation, which dropped from 78% in 2007 to 63% in 2020, according to Pew research.

In the report, researchers note that “there is no data on which to model a sudden or gradual revival of Christianity (or of religion in general) in the U.S.”

“That does not mean a religious revival is impossible,” they wrote. “It means there is no demographic basis on which to project one.”

Ahead of the Trend is a collaborative effort between Religion News Service and the Association of Religion Data Archives made possible through the support of the John Templeton Foundation. See other Ahead of the Trend articles here.

Joe Biden’s Rising Approval Numbers Give Hope To Democrats In Mid Term Polls

There is no debate at this point that Joe Biden is in the midst of a political comeback. President Joe Biden’s popularity improved substantially from his lowest point this summer, but concerns about his handling of the economy persist, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

President Joe Biden’s popularity improved substantially from his lowest point this summer, but concerns about his handling of the economy persist, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Support for Biden recovered from a low of 36% in July to 45%, driven in large part by a rebound in support from Democrats just two months before the November midterm elections. During a few bleak summer months when gasoline prices peaked and lawmakers appeared deadlocked, the Democrats faced the possibility of blowout losses against Republicans.

Their outlook appears better after notching a string of legislative successes that left more Americans ready to judge the Democratic president on his preferred terms: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.”

From falling gas prices to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act to the re-emergence of Donald Trump as a 2022 campaign issue, things have been going very well for the President of late. This, from a New York Times/Siena College poll released Friday, is telling on that front:

“[The] shift in political momentum has helped boost, in just two months, the president’s approval rating by nine percentage points and doubled the share of Americans who believe the country is on the right track.” The poll found that 42% of registered voters nationally approve of Biden’s job performance, up from 33% in July.

And a look at the CNN Poll of Polls on Biden’s average approval rating makes clear that the Times/Siena poll is not a one-off. Biden’s numbers hit rock bottom around late July/early August at 36% and have been, generally speaking, on the rise since, up to 41% now.

The key question to ask now, then, is not whether Biden is on the comeback trail. He clearly is. The real question is: How high Biden’s numbers will get between now and Election Day?

Biden says railroad agreement is a ‘big win for America’ 02:05

“In Gallup’s polling history, presidents with job approval ratings below 50% have seen their party lose 37 House seats, on average, in midterm elections. That compares with an average loss of 14 seats when presidents had approval ratings above 50%.”

As per Reuters, Biden has been plagued by 40-year highs in inflation, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine restricting global fuel supply and supply chains still constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid these troubles, Biden’s support within his own Democratic Party has declined somewhat.

This week, 79% of Democrats approved of his performance, compared to about 85% in August 2021. Biden’s approval rating has approached – but has yet to reach – the lowest levels of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who had a 33% approval rating in December 2017.

Which is a pretty startling difference, right?

Now, it’s worth noting here that the margins in Congress are so tight that if even if Democrats lost 14 seats in the House this year, they would lose their majority. And if they lost even a single seat in the Senate, they would find themselves in the minority there, too.

That said, there’s no doubt that Biden at, say, 47% or 48% job approval, is a far better thing for Democrats than Biden at 37% or 38%. That’s particularly true if the trend line is, as it is right now, moving upward for Biden as the election approaches, helping provide Democrats with momentum where there was none before.

Still, the poll suggests Biden and his fellow Democrats are gaining momentum right as generating voter enthusiasm and turnout takes precedence. Can Biden get over the critical 50% barrier? It seems unlikely given that the election is now only 53 days away. The last time Biden’s job approval rating hit 50% in Gallup’s polling was more than a year ago — in July 2021.

Biden Calls On The Country To Unite Against White Supremacy At A Summit On Hate

President Biden said that America can’t remain silent when it comes to combating white supremacy and hate in an address at a White House summit on hate-based violence on Thirsday, September 15th.

The event, called the “United We Stand” summit, gathered experts and survivors and included bipartisan local leaders. It also honored communities that have been through hate-based attacks, including the mass shootings that took place at gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016; at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, where the assailant said he was targeting Mexicans; and the expressly racist shooting that killed 10 Black people in a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket earlier this year.

Biden was introduced by Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer was killed during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. in 2017. The rally, Biden has said since 2019, is the reason he decided to run for president.

“And that’s what so many of you have done for so long in your own way as survivors of hate-fueled violence, family, victims, you know, allies and advocates, mayors and community leaders, members of Congress.  Your presence is a testament to the truth that we must and we can come together regardless of our backgrounds, our beliefs,” Biden said.

“We need to say clearly and forcefully, white supremacy, all forms of hate… have no place in America,” Biden said. “As to those who say, we bring this up, we just divide the country — bring it up, we silence it, instead of remaining silenced. For in silence, wounds deepen.”

The president added that too much oxygen has been given to hate in politics, media and online. “It’s about power and profit. Too much hate that’s extremist violence has been allowed to fester and grow,” he said, noting that intelligence agencies have determined that white supremacist violence is the greatest domestic terrorist threat today.

Thursday’s summit included remarks by Vice President Harris, a presentation on the state of hate-based violence in the United States and a conversation with a former neo-Nazi who has since disavowed the white supremacist movement.

The summit pushed a message of “unity” which has been central to Biden’s agenda in office — though some voters appear skeptical on whether Biden can accomplish the task.

The event also came just weeks after Biden’s speech in Philadelphia where he sent a warning message about how extremist Republicans are a threat to democracy.

“America must choose: to move forward or to move backwards. To build the future or obsess about the past. To be a nation of hope and unity and optimism, or a nation of fear, division and of darkness,” Biden said on Sept. 1.

“MAGA Republicans have made their choice,” he added. “They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.”=

White House officials, though, say the summit was not about political violence and that hate-based violence is an issue everyone should be able to agree on.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, told NPR in May that there’s an increasing percentage of the American population who think America’s identity is under threat.

“Whether they read it online, whether they hear it in the media, whether they hear it from certain politicians — but they believe it,” she said. “People have to recognize that it’s this panoply of hatreds that constitute this threat to our democracy and threat to our country and to national security and foreign countries as well.”

The event also recognized communities that suffered hate-based attacks, including mass shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016 and at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket earlier this year, in which 10 Black people were gunned down by an avowed racist. Hate crimes in the United States hit a 12-year high in 2020, the last available data, the FBI said last year.

In addition to the summit, the White House is announcing new actions from across the government that tackle hate-based violence as well as actions from tech companies like YouTube, Twitch, Microsoft and Meta. “Every tech company should be thinking about what they can do,” a senior administration official said. (Courtesy: NPR)

Indian-Americans Voice Concerns Over Hate Crimes At White House ‘United We Stand’ Summit

Leaders from Indian American and other South Asian communities were among bipartisan officials, faith leaders, activists, business leaders, law enforcement officials, former members of violent extremist groups, who came together to address hate crimes.

Several Indian and South Asian Americans were in the limelight at the White House ‘United We Stand’ Summit Sept. 15, 2022, focused on hate crime. The hall was packed with leaders of faith organizations, mayors of cities that are taking steps to counter hate violence, victims and family members of victims who had directly suffered from the consequences of hate violence.

Vice President Kamala Harris jumpstarted the full-day conference which concluded with an address from President Biden. The conference was held on the same day that 59 years ago, four white supremacists planted dynamite in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that took the lives of four little girls and injured many others, Harris reminded those presen

At that time, “people across America of all races, all ages, all backgrounds” came together and refused to yield to violence and hate, “as we do now,” Harris said.

“Today, America is again looking at and confronting the epidemic of hate-fueled violence — in Oak Creek, Orlando, Victoria, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo, and in so many other communities,” Harris noted.

The attack on the Oak Creek gurdwara on August 12, 2012, which killed 7 devotees, received considerable attention with at least two people from the Oak Creek Sikh community speaking about their experiences of that event – Mandeep Kaur and Pardeep Singh Kaleka, both of whom suffered as a consequence of that attack by Wade Michael Page who had links with white supremacist organizations. Apart from Vice President Harris, Kaleka, and Mandeep Kaur, from the Indian American community, there was Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith America (previously Interfaith Youth Corps), and Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi-American who lost an eye in a hate crime 10 days after 9/11, and whose experience of changing the beliefs of his attacker Mark Stroman, grabbed national attention.

Many others from the community played behind-the-scenes roles in the Summit and were in the audience at the White House event. Mandeep Kaur said the violent attack by Wade Michael Page on that fateful day at Oak Creek Gurdwara, had “deepened” the community’s care of its members and had built bridges between different peoples. The goal was to carry the spirit of Oak Creek to every part of the globe.

Kaleka, the son of one of the victims, and founder of The Forgiveness Project, said the Oak Creek massacre was the deadliest hate crime in more than 50 years. Sikhs around the United States began questioning whether they were ‘American enough’ and whether they belonged in the country, and whether they were doing enough.

As a result of the self-examination, Kaleka said he reached out to the organization that had influenced the Oak Creek attacker. “We’ve got to get better at listening to the pain… not get offended by the pain,” he said, adding, “We need to find the net person who may commit the hate crime and listen to their pain,” he said. “We have to have the courage to go further…,” he emphasized.

The scariest day of his life, he said was when members of the Sikh congregation had to clean the blood and pull out the bullets from holes in the walls of the Gurdwara and he saw the expressions on the faces of the youth. “They felt left out,” and their trauma was immense. He was scared also when his own children were born.

Eboo Patel noted that the first victim of the 9/11 backlash was an Indian-American, Balbir Singh Sodhi of Mesa, Arizona, barely 2 days after the World Trade Towers went down in New York City. Patel noted the United States is the most religiously diverse democracy. “Faith cannot be the bomb of destruction. It has to be the bridge of cooperation,” he asserted. His organization, along with others, has established ‘A Nation Of Bridgebuilders’, an organization with the mission of training at least 10,000 people a year about hate violence and how to counter it.

Over the last year, several hate attacks have been perpetrated against those of Indian and South Asian origin around the country, which has set the community on edge. Calls for investigation by federal, state, and city officials have been rising, from New York to California, and groups from different Asian minorities are coming together to counter the phenomenon. (News India Times)

Biden Lauds AAUC For Working For Asian American Political Empowerment

President Joe Biden has lauded the Asian American Unity Coalition (AAUC) for using the power of civic engagement to exert its clout and influence as part of its march toward political empowerment.

By “educating your members about the power of civic engagement, you are helping bring the full promise of America within reach for so many,” he said in a message to AAUC’s third annual National Civic Leadership Forum.

AAUC, comprising more than 13 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander ethnic non-profit organizations, held the Sep 11-13 forum with the theme of “Asian American Pacific Islander: The Great Awakening,” at the Paris Hotel, LasVegas, Nevada.

“Your work reminds all of us that every voice deserves to be heard, that involvement in civic life makes a real difference, and that–in this Nation–everyone is meant to thrive,” Biden said according to an AAUC press release.

“The diversity of cultures and the breadth of achievement in the AA and NHPI community shapes and strengthens the fabric of America,” he said to the community which has faced a spate of horrific and bigoted racial attacks during the Covid pandemic.

The President acknowledged that the community is fully cognizant “that there is no singular AA or NHPI identity, but there is so much strength in the values you share.”

As his administration “works to build a more just and inclusive country, I am grateful to have partners like the AAUC by my side,” he declared.

“May you reflect with pride on the positive impacts you have made and will continue to make long into the future,” Biden said. “Together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

Earlier, welcoming the delegates AAUC president and NCLF event chair Dr. S.K. Lo said AAUC believes that the AAPI community is no longer a passive, silent minority and argued that civic engagement is an important ingredient to become part of the integrated fabric of the USA.

“We need to capture this awakening momentum to create the change we all desire, ” she said. “It is the long-term goal of our forum to forge unity among our diverse communities and to speak with One Voice.”

“Thus, we have the power to change the environment for our communities and to live our collective American Dream,” Lo said. “It is our hope that through this Forum we are able to find the One Voice that unites rather than divides us!”

At the conclusion of the conference, Lo exhorted the conference leaders to draft a Call-to-Action Plan, “to create the change we want to see in the US at all levels of government from school boards to the federal levels.”

Reflecting the rise and influence of the Asian population Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, and Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Stavros Anthony, were among those who sent messages of greetings.

Nevada’s First Lady Kathy Ong Sisolak and Kaying Yang, who serves on Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders representing Hmong ethnic community among other ethnicities, were also present.

The keynote speakers included Chinese American Maeley Tom, former Chief Administrative Officer, California State Assembly, who shattered the glass ceiling twice in California, county circuit court judge from Oregon Chanpon Sinlapasai, and Meta representative Mona Pasquil Rogers.

Former Executive Editor of India Abroad Aziz Haniffa, spoke on the importance of an independent media from the vantage point of a journalist with more than three decades of experience covering political and diplomatic stories and chronicling the immigrant experience of the South Asian and the broader Asian American community.

The plenary sessions included the “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Civic Engagement: Past, Present, and Future” and “How to Influence Legislation and Public Policy.”

Afternoon breakout workshops and sessions included topics ranging from Community Building, Developing a Successful Political Career by Election or by Appointment, Successful Community Engagements, Developing Political Skills, Building a Financial Support System for Nonprofits, Fundraising for Political Campaign and The Power of Block Voting; presented by Kevin Hirono of APIA Vote.

Moderators and panelists included, Suhag Shukla, executive director and co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation; Islam Siddiqui, who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations and is now president of the American Muslim Institution; Angela Anand, vice president, AAUC and founder of the South Asian Women’s Network; Jack Hanna, New Portland Foundation; Haipei Shue, president, United Chinese Americans; Thomas Abraham, founder and president of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO); Anthony Ng, executive director of the Civic Leadership USA(CLUSA); Dr. Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University.

At the gala banquet on the second day, Maeley Tom and US Rep Pramila Jayapal (in absentia), Washington state Democrat and chair of the Progressive Caucus in the US House of Representatives, were presented two special awards for being leaders exhibiting outstanding public service and political leadership.

The awards commemorate two past Asian American political giants — former US Congressman and Commerce and Transportation Secretary respectively in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, Norman Mineta and Dilip Singh Saund, the first-ever Indian American US Congressman.

President’s youth award went to Vivek Pandit, and Philanthropy award was given to the benefactor and major funder of all three conferences, Sandy Chau. The non-profit group from Minnesota, CACC was also awarded for doing great service to the community.

A cultural program followed with Chinese folk to Hawaiian and Samoan dancing and some rollicking Bollywood dancing, including the bhangra.

AAUC came into existence through the historic conference held in Alaska in 2018 in which 12 unique AAPI organizations and 20 leaders representing five major ethnicities — Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Korean and Japanese Americans — were present. Through the annual in-person/virtual National Civic Leadership Forum, AAUC has now connected more than 20 ethnic groups and 90 plus organizations. Other ongoing signature programs of AAUC, include its monthly podcast on “Building our Collective American Dream” and the web-based AAPI Community Hub project to connect all AAPI nonprofit organizations.

Author: AB WireAB Wire stories are filed by American Bazaar staff writers and contributors. If you want to contact one of our reporters, feel free to email [email protected]

US Life Expectancy Falls To Lowest Level Since 1996

US life expectancy has fallen to the lowest level seen since 1996, continuing a steep decline largely driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government data showed life expectancy at birth now stands at 76.1 compared to 79 in 2019. That is the steepest two-year decline in a century.

Covid-19 was the main contributing factor, according to US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Life expectancy of Native Americans and Alaska Natives fell by two years.

According to the provisional data, life expectancy fell by 2.7 years between 2019 and 2021.

The statistics show that Covid-19 accounted for 50% of the decline between 2020 and 2021. Between 2019 and 2020, the pandemic contributed to 74% of the decline.

Unintentional injuries – a term which also includes drug overdoses – reached record highs in 2021 and contributed to 15.9% of the decline.

Deaths from heart disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis and suicides were also significant contributors.

The fall in US life expectancy was particularly pronounced among Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Since 2019, life expectancy among this demographic has dropped by 6.6 years, more than twice that of the wider US population.

The CDC statistics also highlight stark differences in life expectancy between men and women. For men, life expectancy fell by about a year to 73.2 in 2021 while women’s life expectancy fell by 10 months to 79.1

A separate set of 2020 data released last week also showed significant geographical differences across the country. Life expectancy in Hawaii is the highest at 80.7, compared to 71.9 years in Mississippi.

Life expectancy in the US is among the lowest of developed nations around the world.

In the UK, for example, life expectancy stood at around 79 for men and 82.9 for women in 2020 after it fell for the first time in 40 years.

According to the latest available statistics from the World Bank, Hong Kong and Japan have the world’s highest life expectancies at around 85 followed by Singapore at 84.

Life expectancy in countries including Switzerland, Australia, Norway hovers at around 83. (Courtesy: BBC.COM)

Protecting Democracy Is The Theme For Biden’s Mid Term Election Campaign

President Joe Biden issued a midterm-minded message on Thursday last week that America’s democratic values are at risk and that former President Trump and his most ardent backers are the chief reason why as his party seeks to continue momentum ahead of the November elections.

Biden charged in a prime-time address that the “extreme ideology” of Donald Trump and his adherents “threatens the very foundation of our republic,” as he summoned Americans of all stripes to help counter what he sketched as dark forces within the Republican Party trying to subvert democracy.

In his speech Thursday at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Biden unleashed the trappings of the presidency in an unusually strong and sweeping indictment of Trump and what he said has become the dominant strain of the opposition party. His broadside came barely two months before Americans head to the polls in bitterly contested midterm elections that Biden calls a crossroads for the nation.

“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal,” he said before an audience of hundreds, raising his voice over pro-Trump hecklers outside the building where the nation’s founding was debated. He said he wasn’t condemning the 74 million people who voted for Trump in 2020, but added, “There’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” using the acronym for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Biden, speaking during a prime-time address to the nation from the perch of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, namechecked his 2020 general election opponent frequently as he sought to up the stakes for voters heading into the stretch run of the political season. During the 24-minute address, the president said that Trump “represents an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.”

But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” said Biden, who was flanked on stage by Marine guards. “And that is a threat to this country.”

White House officials insisted Thursday night’s speech would not be political in nature. However, that idea evaporated quickly as Biden levied multiple criticisms of his predecessor and Republicans, while rounding out the address by touting policy victories on issues such as on police funding and the pandemic.

The address came at a key time for Biden and Democrats. The party in power is on the upswing after a number of key wins over the past month — including two special election victories that have helped buoy the spirits of Democrats after spending much of the past year struggling to counter GOP messages on the economy and inflation.

Notably, the president has also grown more combative amid the Democratic resurgence. In recent weeks, he has called out “MAGA Republicans” on a number of occasions. The rhetoric hit a crescendo last week at a political rally in Maryland where he described the movement as akin to “semi-fascism” (The New York Times).

That remark has drawn rebukes from across the GOP spectrum. The latest came in a prebuttal speech on Thursday by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who said that the first line of Biden’s speech should have been an apology “for slandering tens of millions of Americans as fascists” (The Hill).

The explicit effort by Biden to marginalize Trump and his followers marks a sharp recent turn for the president, who preached his desire to bring about national unity in his Inaugural address.

Biden, who largely avoided even referring to “the former guy” by name during his first year in office, has grown increasingly vocal in calling out Trump personally. Now, emboldened by his party’s summertime legislative wins and wary of Trump’s return to the headlines, he has sharpened his attacks, last week likening the “MAGA philosophy” to “semi-fascism.”

Wading into risky political terrain, Biden strained to balance his criticism with an appeal to more traditional Republicans to make their voices heard. Meanwhile, GOP leaders swiftly accused him of only furthering political divisions.

President Biden has warned during a stump speech in Maryland that the country’s right-wing movement, which remains dominated by his predecessor, former president Donald Trump, has embraced “political violence” and no longer believes in democracy.

“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. “It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something — it’s like semi-fascism.”

Biden was gesturing to various ongoing Republican initiatives to restrict voting access as well as a slate of Republican midterm candidates who, to this day, deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election. There’s also the tacit support of some Republicans for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and the violent rhetoric that has emerged among some corners of the right in the wake of a publicized FBI investigation into classified documents Trump kept in his private Florida golf club residence.

The simple invocation of “fascism” elicited howls of outrage from Republicans and triggered a weekend of political chatter. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee described the president’s remarks as “despicable.” Gov. Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) said on CNN that it was “horribly inappropriate” to brand a segment of the U.S. population as “semi-fascist” and called on Biden to apologize.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) tweeted that “communists have always called their enemies ‘fascists.’” One historian of Latin America responded to Cruz, noting that, while communists had other names for their opponents before the rise of fascist parties in the 1920s, fascists have always used anti-communist hysteria to “stir violence” and “augment their power.” (Never mind the relative absurdity of casting a figure with as centrist a record as Biden as a “communist.”)

For his part, Trump posted Monday on his personal social media website another complaint about the 2020 election having been stolen from him and an unconstitutional demand that he be declared its victor, two years later. Over the weekend, leading Republican lawmakers warned of violence in the streets should the Justice Department move to prosecute as a number of investigations into his activities go forward.

Biden and his allies did not back down from the message. “You look at the definition of fascism and you think about what they’re doing in attacking our democracy, what they’re doing and taking away our freedoms, wanting to take away our rights, our voting rights ― I mean, that is what that is,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. “It is very clear.”

American democracy sits at a crucial crossroads, argues Darrell West, vice president of Governance Studies at Brookings and author of the new Brookings Press book, “Power Politics: Trump and the Assault on American Democracy.” The rise of extremism and a decline of confidence in trusted institutions have created the perfect storm for illiberalism and authoritarianism to take root. While it is easy to blame Donald Trump for the sad state of our democracy, Trumpism is almost certainly likely to outlast Trump himself.

Donald Trump’s presidency merely exposed existing cracks in our democracy that are built into the foundations of elections, political institutions, and information ecosystem. ”Power Politics” is filled with a clear delineation of the problems and possible remedies for the threats drawn from West’s extensive experience in the D.C. policy world. West urges us to act now to protect our democracy—and provides a roadmap for how to strengthen our political system and civil society.

Colorado’s secretary of state, Jena Griswold, has said the fate of free and fair elections in the United States hangs in the balance in this November’s midterm contests. In many of the most competitive races for offices with authority over US elections, Republicans nominated candidates who have embraced or echoed Donald Trump’s myth of a stolen election in 2020.

Griswold, who chairs the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State (Dass) and is running for re-election, is urging Americans to pay attention to the once-sleepy down-ballot contests for secretary of state – lest they lose their democracy.

“What we can expect from the extreme Republicans running across this country is to undermine free and fair elections for the American people, strip Americans of the right to vote, refuse to address security breaches and, unfortunately, be more beholden to Mar-a-Lago than the American people,” Griswold, 37, said in an interview with the Guardian. She added: “For us, we are trying to save democracy.”

Having failed to overturn the 2020 vote, Trump and his loyalists are now strategically targeting positions that will play a critical role in supervising the next presidential election, turning many of the 27 secretary of state contests this year into expensive, partisan showdowns.

“In 2020, you and 81 million Americans voted to save our democracy,” he reminded the crowd. “That’s why Donald Trump isn’t just a former president. He is a defeated former president.” As for the midterms, Biden declared, “Your right to choose is on the ballot this year. The Social Security you paid for from the time you had a job is on the ballot. The safety of your kids from gun violence is on the ballot, and it’s not hyperbole, the very survival of our planet is on the ballot.” He added, “Your right to vote is on the ballot. Even the democracy. Are you ready to fight for these things now?”

More Democrats Than Republicans Say, They’ll ‘Definitely’ Vote In Midterms

A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll released this week shows that Democrats are heading into the homestretch of the 2022 midterm campaign with a lead over Republicans among registered voters — including those who say they “definitely will vote” this year. These new findings and recent legislative victories give hopes to the Democrats that they may be able to hold on to the House come November after the midterm polls.

Despite the fact that the president’s party almost always loses seats in midterm contests — and the fact that high inflation numbers continue to fuel discontent with President Biden — Democrats have gone from trailing by an average of nearly 3 points as recently as May to leading by roughly 1 point, according to FiveThirtyEight.

In all, Republicans need to net only five seats to win the gavel. And while Democrats may be poised to mitigate some losses, Republicans say there’s still little chance the party’s summertime surge can overcome the stacked map.

A collection of internal Democratic polls conducted in August in a dozen battleground seats, which were reviewed by POLITICO, showed Democratic candidates running, on average, more than 6 percentage points above Biden’s favorability rating in those districts.

According to the survey by Yahoo News/YouGov of 1,634 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Sept. 2 to Sept. 6, 45% of registered voters now say they would cast their ballot for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district if the election were held today; 40% say they would choose the Republican candidate instead. Among registered voters who say they will “definitely” vote on Nov. 8, Democrats lead 48% to 45%.

The new Yahoo News/YouGov results — some of the first national numbers to emerge after the long Labor Day weekend that traditionally marks the beginning of the fall election season — align with a shift that has been underway for weeks now in congressional polling averages. (The previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll, conducted in late August, showed Democrats ahead by a similar margin among registered voters.)

Democrats had a summer they never thought possible. It still may not be enough to keep the House. A month of special election upsets and improved standing in generic ballot polling have narrowed a House battlefield that seemed to be expanding for the GOP into some heavily blue districts. The shift has lifted some Democratic incumbents out of immediate peril and made some Republican members squirm after feeling safe earlier this year.

The battle over abortion rights upended the political landscape, juicing up the Democratic base and giving them an opening with independents — datapoints that are now reflected in private and public polling. In a couple dozen of the most competitive swing seats, Democratic operatives are more optimistic than ever that their members will run far ahead of President Joe Biden, whose approval rating hovered in the low 40s, or sometimes lower, throughout much of 2022 but has ticked up recently.

Still, House Democrats face this sobering fact: Republicans may not need to flip any districts that Biden carried in 2020 to reclaim the majority. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus are also staring down a coming wave of outside spending, which could swamp them in TV ads in the critical final weeks of the midterms. And historical precedence is not in their favor.

“I think we probably had a little bit of irrational exuberance during the course of the summer. No question that the president’s numbers, while bad, are better,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former House GOP campaign chief, who pegged his party’s gains around 20 to 25 seats, rather than the 60 that his party’s leader once predicted at the height of Democrats’ struggles.

Their improved standing has shifted the House battlefield in two ways: A collection of Democratic districts Biden carried by more than 10 points in 2020 look far safer than they did two months ago, when private polling from both parties showed a slew of deep-blue districts could be in play. And a handful of Republican incumbents holding districts Biden carried in 2020 now look much more vulnerable, raising the possibility that Democrats can go on offense.

Democratic operatives are most hopeful about flipping the Michigan district where GOP Rep. Peter Meijer lost his primary, which Biden won by 9 points two years ago, and ones held by Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.), Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

Others will be more difficult and some are not truly in play, thanks to strong and well-funded incumbents such as Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). But Democrats in those blue-leaning districts are campaigning heavily on abortion rights.

“It’s the top issue that I’m hearing about with a close second being the economy,” said North Carolina state Sen. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat running in a newly redrawn — and fiercely competitive — seat around Raleigh against former college football player Bo Hines. “It’s at the top of many voters’ minds, because we had these constitutional rights for 50 years and now the Republicans have taken them away.”

AAPI Plans India’s 75th Independence Day Anniversary Celebrations On Capitol Hill

The growing influence of doctors of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. With their hard work, dedication, compassion, and skills, they have thus carved an enviable niche among the American medical community. The role being played by American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has come to be recognized as vital among Lawmakers as wells by the Federal and State governments as many Indian Americans play important roles in shaping healthcare policies and programs.

In this context, AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, representing the interests of ovewr120,000 physicians/Fellows of Indian Origin has planned to honor India, their motherland on the occasion of India’s 75th anniversary of Independence with a Special Celebration on Capitol Hill at the US Senate Hart Building, Room # 902 in Washington, DC on September 21st, 2022 at 2 pm.

“India @ 75! It’s a milestone with mixed feelings, one with a sense of pride and joy for all the accomplishments and progress we have made, while preserving our integrity, unity, core values of freedoms, democracy and respect for different cultures and the groups that live and thrive in our beloved motherland,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, President of AAPI. “We are proud to be part of this historic celebration of India on Capitol Hill, where we will have an opportunity to exchange views and express our concerns with the dozens of US Lawmakers, who will come to be part of the celebrations.”

“Indian American physicians have made vital contributions to the health care field,” said Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee. “As physicians, we provide critical care to patients from rural & urban communities across the Country. Indian American doctors are playing a critical role in filling the nationwide physician shortage. The India Day on Capitol Hill will be a unique opportunity for AAPI members to be part of the decision-making process on matters related to healthcare and advocate for stronger and closer ties between India and the United States, the two largest democracies of the world. We expect to have the participation from dozens of key Congressmen and Senators.”

“Our India day Celebrations on the Hill will include interactive sessions with the US Lawmakers. That evening, a reception and dinner hosted by Honorable Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States, with several dignitaries at the Indian Embassy,” said Dr. V. Ranga, Chair of AAPI BOT.

Dr. Anjana Samadder, President-Elect of AAPI said, “AAPI has been serving India and contributing to the effective healthcare delivery in the US and in India. In keeping with the mission AAPI, the celebrations on the Hill will provide us with a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American physicians share our concerns with the Lawmakers in pursuit of our aspirations in matters relating to professional and community affairs.”

“The historic 75th India Independence Day Day celebrations on Capitol Hill will provide us with an effective Forum to help renew our friendship with US administration under the leadership of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and brief the Congressional leaders on issues that are important to us,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President of AAPI.

Dr. Meher Medevaram, Secretary of AAPI said, “The Executive Committee is working hard to ensure active participation of young physicians, increasing membership, and enabling AAPI’s voice to be heard in the corridors of power, and thus taking AAPI to new heights.”

“AAPI events on Capitol Hill are eagerly awaited by members as they rekindle and renew our energy in bringing up the issues that we need to bring to the attention of national policy makers and leaders of the US Congress on Capitol Hill,” said Dr. Sumul Rawal, Treasurer of AAPI.

According to Dr. Shivangi, “While the celebrations of India’s 75th anniversary will focus on India and its growing influence on world stage, it will also give AAPI members to meet and interact with Indian Ambassador to USA Hon. Taranjit Singh Sandhu and the Embassy officials during an evening dinner to be hosted by the Ambassador. I look forward to meeting with many of our friends in Washington, DC region and from all across the nation on September 21st.” Dr. Shivangi added.

“AAPI has been seeking to collectively shape the best health care for everyone in the US, with the physicians at the helm, caring for the medically underserved as we have done for several decades when physicians of Indian origin came to the US in larger numbers,” says Dr. Ravi Kolli.

“AAPI is once again in the forefront in bringing many burning health care issues facing the community at large and bringing this to the Capitol and to the US Congress.” Dr. Kolli urged his all AAPI colleagues and everyone interested in or connected with providing health care to attend this event and ensure that our concerns and needs are heard by our lawmakers and ensure that they act on them.”

For more information on AAPI and its several noble initiatives benefitting AAPI members and the larger society, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

What’s In The Bill President Biden Signed Into Law That Allocates Highest Ever Funds Towards Clean Energy

President Joe Biden signed Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill into law on Tuesday, delivering what he has called the “final piece” of his pared-down domestic agenda, as he aims to boost his party’s standing with voters less than three months before the midterm elections.

The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over the decade — and would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients. It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for health care insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure is paid for by new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement of wealthy individuals and entities, with additional funds going to reduce the federal deficit.

In a triumphant signing event at the White House, Biden pointed to the law as proof that democracy — no matter how long or messy the process — can still deliver for voters in America as he road-tested a line he will likely repeat later this fall ahead of the midterms: “The American people won, and the special interests lost.”

“In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people, and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests in this vote,” Biden said, repeatedly seizing on the contrast between his party and the GOP. “Every single one.”

The House on Friday approved the measure on a party-line 220-207 vote. It passed the Senate days earlier with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie in that chamber.

“In normal times, getting these bills done would be a huge achievement,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during the White House ceremony. “But to do it now, with only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, over an intransigent Republican minority, is nothing short of amazing.”

Biden signed the bill into law during a small ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, sandwiched between his return from a six-day beachside vacation in South Carolina and his departure for his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He plans to hold a larger “celebration” for the legislation on Sept. 6 once lawmakers return to Washington.

The signing caps a spurt of legislative productivity for Biden and Congress, who in three months have approved legislation on veterans’ benefits, the semiconductor industry and gun checks for young buyers. The president and lawmakers have also responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and overwhelmingly supported NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.

With Biden’s approval rating lagging, Democrats are hoping that the string of successes will jump-start their chances of maintaining control in Washington in the November midterms. The 79-year-old president aims to restore his own standing with voters as he contemplates a reelection bid.

The White House announced Monday that it was going to deploy Biden and members of his Cabinet on a “Building a Better America Tour” to promote the recent victories. One of Biden’s trips will be to Ohio, where he’ll view the groundbreaking of a semiconductor plant that will benefit from the recent law to bolster production of such computer chips. He will also stop in Pennsylvania to promote his administration’s plan for safer communities, a visit that had been planned the same day he tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

Biden also plans to hold a Cabinet meeting to discuss how to implement the new climate and health care law. Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion proposal also envisioned free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits and eased immigration restrictions. That crashed after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said it was too costly, using the leverage every Democrat has in the evenly divided Senate.

The measure is a slimmed-down version of the more ambitious plan to supercharge environment and social programs that Biden and his party unveiled early last year.

During the signing event, Biden addressed Manchin, who struck the critical deal with Schumer on the package last month, saying, “Joe, I never had a doubt” as the crowd chuckled. Later, outside the White House, Manchin said he has always maintained a “friendly relationship” with Biden and it has “never been personal” between the two, despite Manchin breaking off his negotiations with the White House last year.

Though the law is considerably smaller than their initial ambitions, Biden and Democrats are hailing the legislation as a once-in-a-generation investment in addressing the long-term effects of climate change, as well as drought in the nation’s West.

The bill will direct spending, tax credits and loans to bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants, and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a powerful political ally to Biden, noted during the White House ceremony that his late wife, Emily, who battled diabetes for three decades, would be “beyond joy” if she were alive today because of the insulin cap. “Many seem surprised at your successes,” Clyburn told Biden. “I am not. I know you.”

Most People Have Confidence In Kamala Harris Across 18 Surveyed Countries

By, Aidan Connaughton At PEW Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two aides resigned on the spot. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sen. Schumer Keen On Passing Budegt Reconciliation Bill This Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By, LISA MASCARO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Gun We Trust! Booming Guns Make US Unsafe

By, Matthew Adukanil At Indian Currents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Americans’ views of abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Conservative US Supreme Court Concludes With Lasting Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By, John Kruzel, At THE HILL

Post Afghanistan, US-Pakistan Relations Stand On The Edge Of A Precipice

With the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan, Pakistan may have come closer to achieving its long-sought “strategic depth” with respect to its western neighbor, with a Pakistan-friendly government in Kabul. But the Taliban’s victory is also seriously testing Pakistan’s long fraught bilateral relationship with America. For the last 20 years, U.S.-Pakistan relations have been defined by the needs of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. With that war having ended with an outcome as ignominious as a Taliban takeover, the relationship is at a clear crossroads. The outlook isn’t positive. Here’s where things stand.

The Mood In Washington

In Washington, where policymakers have been grappling with the fallout from the sudden Taliban takeover of Kabul in August and the scrambled evacuation that followed, the focus has shifted to identifying the mistakes made in the war in Afghanistan. Washington is taking a hard look at where things went wrong — and Pakistan, given its long history with the Taliban, is part of that equation.

In congressional hearings a couple of weeks ago on Afghanistan, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said that “we need to fully examine the role of Pakistan sanctuary” in understanding how the Taliban prevailed. In September, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken similarly said during his congressional hearing that “This is one of the things we’re going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead — the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years.” He added that the U.S. government would also be looking at “the role we would want to see [Pakistan] play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that,” signifying that a review of how to engage Islamabad in the future was ongoing.

In the Senate, 22 Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill calling for Afghanistan’s new Taliban government to be sanctioned, along with governments that have supported the Taliban. The bill also calls for a report that will include “an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the government of Pakistan, for the Taliban between 2001 and 2020,” that also looks at the provision of “sanctuary space, financial support, intelligence support, logistics and medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operation or strategic direction.”

What Pakistan Is Saying

Pakistan’s Senate in turn displayed “alarm” over the bill moved in the U.S. Senate, which Pakistan’s media termed an “anti-Pakistan” bill. Pakistan argues that it is being scapegoated for U.S. military and Afghan leadership failures — while ignoring its own support of the Taliban. It has not officially recognized the new Taliban regime, but it has been concertedly pitching engagement with it, with government officials making the case in speeches, op-eds, and interviews.

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan went beyond calls many have made for humanitarian relief and financial liquidity to avoid economic collapse in Afghanistan, to saying that “we must strengthen and stabilize the current government, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan.” (Pakistan also points out that instability and violence in Afghanistan will spill over into Pakistan.)

But Pakistan faces a credibility issue, and its call for the world to engage with the Taliban may have found more takers if it had not given the Taliban sanctuary or support over the last 20 years. As it is, these calls only highlight Pakistan’s long-standing ties with the Taliban. And Pakistan’s stance seems to argue for international support before the Taliban fulfill promises they have made regarding girls’ education and human rights.

What America Wants From Pakistan

America wants to ensure that Pakistan doesn’t formally recognize the Taliban government, and that it exercises its leverage over the Taliban to get the group to make concessions on women’s rights and girls’ education, and to form an inclusive government. (So far, the Taliban’s interim cabinet is all male, and beyond some diversity of ethnicity, entirely non-inclusive.)

Going ahead, America also wants to continue to cooperate with Pakistan on certain counterterrorism matters — especially now that it is limited to “over the horizon” operations in Afghanistan. General Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, alluded to that in his congressional testimony: “Over the last 20 years we’ve been able to use what we call the air boulevard to go in over western Pakistan and that’s become something that’s vital to us, as well as certain landlines of communication. And we’ll be working with the Pakistanis in the days and weeks ahead to look at what that relationship is going to look like in the future.” The general was referring to air lines of communication (ALOCs) and ground lines of communication (GLOCs) that Pakistan provided to the U.S. over the last 20 years.

Recent Engagement From The Biden Administration With Pakistan

The Biden administration’s engagement with Pakistan to date — pre- and post-withdrawal — has focused almost exclusively on Afghanistan. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns visited Pakistan in September, ostensibly to discuss counterterrorism cooperation as well as other matters. Blinken and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had their first in-person meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, and the focus was on Afghanistan.

The readout of the meeting from the State Department was unmistakably bare bones and focused singularly on Afghanistan, but Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ longer readout also noted Pakistan’s “desire for a balanced relationship with the United States that was anchored in trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity.” This imbalance revealed a disconnect in their views of the relationship.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited Pakistan last week. In an interview in India just before the visit, she said: “It’s for a very specific and narrow purpose, we don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan. And we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India, Pakistan.” While in Pakistan, where she met Qureshi; Pakistan’s chief of army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa; and the Pakistani national security adviser, Moeed Yusuf, Sherman was more diplomatic.

She noted that “Afghanistan was at the top of our agenda, but we also discussed our cooperation in other areas, including the climate crisis, geoeconomics and regional connectivity, and ending the COVID-19 pandemic” and added that “the United States believes that a strong, prosperous, democratic Pakistan is vitally important for the region and indeed for the wider world.”

Hanging over these meetings is the fact that Biden has not yet called Khan since he took office in January. The glaring lack of a phone call is a topic of considerable discussion in Pakistan.

Warning Signs

Many in Pakistan watching this phase of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship are evoking the end of the Soviet-Afghan war, when the U.S., after having allied with Pakistan to fund and arm the mujahideen that Pakistan trained to fight the Soviets, looked away from the region. America eventually sanctioned Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program.

Over the last 20 years, Washington’s needs in Afghanistan defined the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, even if that meant Washington sometimes had to turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s sanctuary for the Taliban. Now, after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Washington has little incentive to gloss over what it has long seen as Pakistan’s double game or to broaden ties. Washington’s attention is now east of Pakistan: on its relationships with India and other countries to counter China.

In this environment, U.S.-Pakistan relations face a reckoning.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan might have been a moment of opportunity to rethink a bilateral relationship that has been defined for much of the last 40 years by Pakistan’s western neighbor. But in early August, I wrote that the relationship between America and Pakistan stood in an uneasy limbo as the U.S. was withdrawing from Afghanistan; and that there would be “little to no appetite in Washington to engage with Pakistan on other matters going ahead if Afghanistan was embroiled in violence or in Taliban hands.”

The latter outcome has come to pass. Warning signs are flashing red for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and it’s safe to say that the scope for cooperation has narrowed. Sherman may not have been engaging in diplo-speak on Pakistan while in India, but she may have given away where the Biden administration is leaning for now on Pakistan: limited engagement on Afghanistan, and little else.

(Madiha Afzal is a Fellow – Foreign PolicyCenter for Middle East PolicyCenter for Security, Strategy, and Technology)

“All People Deserve To Have A Voice In Their Government And Be Treated With Respect” US Secretary Blinken Declares During Visit To India

Democratic values and free citizenry define India, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinkensaid in New Delhi, during his first ever visit to India after the Biden Administration was installed in Washington, DC.  At a press conference after holding bilateral talks with his counterparts in India on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, Secretary Blinken said the United States views India through the prism of common democratic values and that there are challenges that can be ‘ugly’ that need to be dealt through “corrective mechanisms.”

“Our shared values and democratic traditions were part of our conversation,” Blinken said. “The relationship is so strong because it is a relationship between two democracies. Americans admire Indians’ commitment to rights, democracy and pluralism. Indian democracy is powered by its freethinking citizens. I approach this with humility. U.S. has challenges too. The search is for a more perfect union which means we are not perfect. Sometimes, the challenges can be painful, even ugly,” said Blinken to a question about ‘backsliding’ of democratic values in India. Blinken pointed at the free press and independent judiciary as part of the “corrective mechanism” that can repair challenges to democracy.

Blinken arrived in India on July 27th to discuss strengthening Indo-Pacific engagement, seen as a counter to China, as well as New Delhi’s recent human rights record and other issues. Blinken’s visit included meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior officials on Wednesday, and was held just days after his No. 2 diplomat, Wendy Sherman, was in China for face-to-face talks.

Earlier, at a civil society roundtable held by Antony Blinken, Inter-faith relations, the farmers’ protest, freedom of expression and the Pegasus spyware issue were discussed by the participants.

Blinken, in his first visit to the country since joining US President Joe Biden’s administration, discussed supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, the security situation in Afghanistan as well as India’s human rights record.

Speaking to a group of civil society leaders at a New Delhi hotel, Blinken said that the relationship between the United States and India was “one of the most important in the world”. And he added, “The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity and equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion and belief … these are the fundamental tenets of democracies like ours. And of course, both of our democracies are works in progress. As friends we talk about that.”

The role of civil society in India also figured in the discussions, with Blinken saying in his opening remarks that democracies such as the US and India need a vibrant civil society if they are to be “more open, more inclusive, more resilient, more equitable.” He added that “all people deserve to have a voice in their government and be treated with respect”. GesheDorjiDamdul, director of the Tibet House in New Delhi; Inter-Faith Harmony Foundation of India head KhwajaIftikhar Ahmed; Representatives of the Ramakrishna Mission and Sikh and Christian organizations were part of the round table, where the seven representatives spoke and shared their concerns about the situation in India.

Concerns over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and China’s aggressive actions were also raised by the seven civil society representatives who joined the roundtable with the theme “Advancing equitable, inclusive, and sustainable growth and development”, according to participants who declined to be named. “The farmers protest, CAA, restrictions on the media, freedom of expression, rights of minorities, inter-faith relations and the Pegasus surveillance issue were all raised by the representatives but there was no substantial discussion on these matters,” said another participant.

Ahead of Blinken’s visit, the US had said it intended to raise human rights and democracy during his engagements in New Delhi. The US has in the recent past spoken out on issues such as the situation in Kashmir and movements such as the farmers’ protest on the outskirts of Delhi. Following the globally conducted investigation by several media outlets on Pegasus, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken  said that he would discuss human rights and democracy during his two-day visit to India in a constructive way.

“I will tell you that we will raise it, and we will continue that conversation, because we firmly believe that we have more values in common on those fronts we don’t,” Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, Dean Thompson told reporters during a conference call last week. With specific mention to the Indian government’s usage of Pegasus, Thompson said that the US is concerned with the idea of using spyware against a civil society, journalists or anybody for that matter. He also said that the US does not have a particular insight on this issue but they have been quite vocal about ensuring companies do not sell such pieces of technology.

Blinken said India and the US should continue to stand together as leading democracies at a time when global threats to democracy and international freedoms are increasing. Both sides talk about issues such as democracy as friends “because doing the hard work of strengthening democracy and making our ideals real is often challenging”, he said.

Media reports state thatBlinken flagged the concerns of the US regarding democracy and human rights during his talks with external affairs minister S Jaishankar.Asked about these issues at a joint media interaction with Jaishankar, Blinken said shared values and democratic traditions “were very much a part of our conversation today.” He described Indian democracy as a “force for good in defense of a free and open Indo-Pacific and a free and open world” and said both countries have “self-righting mechanisms” made up of free citizens of different faiths, a free media and independent courts powered by a system of free and fair elections.

Jaishankar said he made three points to Blinken, including the fact that the “quest for a more perfect union applies as much to the Indian democracy as it does to the American one”.Ahead of Blinken’s visit, India’s foreign ministry said the country was proud of its pluralistic traditions and happy to discuss the issue with the top US diplomat.Modi’s government has faced allegations it has suppressed dissent, pursued divisive policies to appeal to its Hindu nationalist base and alienated Muslims, the country’s biggest minority.

Opponents of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party have accused it of squashing dissent and introducing policies aimed at refashioning a multi-faith democracy into a Hindu nation that discriminates against Muslims and other minorities. Modi has also been accused of trying to silence voices critical of his administration’s handling of the massive pandemic wave that tore through the country in April and May.India routinely denies criticism of its human rights record and has rejected criticism by foreign governments and rights groups that say civil liberties have shrunk in the country.

Referring to efforts in the US to become a “more perfect union,” Blinken said that “sometimes that process is painful, sometimes it’s ugly, but the strength of democracy is to embrace it”. Blinken also tweeted about “India’s pluralistic society and history of harmony” and said civil society “helps advance these values.” SecretaryBlinken announced an additional $25 million in US government funding to bolster India’s vaccine program. Blinken told a press conference following delegation-level talks between the two sides that the financing will help save lives by bolstering vaccine supply networks across India, since the country has yet to reach a double-digit mark in the percentage of completely immunized individuals.

“This funding will contribute to saving a life by strengthening vaccine supply chain logistics, addressing misinformation, vaccine hesitancy and helping to train more health care workers,” he said.The latest support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) comes on top of the US government’s announcement of more than $200 million in Covid-19 assistance. Blinkenemphasized that the two governments are committed to putting an end to the Covid-19 pandemic in India and the US.

The New Delhi talks were expected to lay the groundwork for a summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – comprising Australia, India, Japan and the US – later this year, Indian media reported. Washington has long viewed India as a key partner in efforts to blunt increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region. The U.S. and India are part of the Quad — a group that also includes Japan and Australia — allies in the region helping deal with China’s growing economic and military strength.

US Lawmakers Urge Action on Pegagus

In the context of Modi government snooping on diplomats, activists, political opponents and the media, U.S. lawmakers are growing increasingly alarmed by reports that the Israeli firm NSO Group leased military-grade spyware to authoritarian regimes around the world, who allegedly used it to hack the phones of politicians, journalists, human rights activists and business executives.

Rep. Tom Malinowski, who has been at the forefront of demands that Saudi Arabia be held accountable over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, told Haaretz that he is considering legislation aimed at regulating the private spyware industry. “I’ve been following this for a while, so I’m not at all surprised that the reporting has uncovered evidence of what any rational person would have assumed to be true given the NSO Group’s client list and potential uses of sensitive technology,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

“I’m glad it’s getting the attention it deserves because this is an industry that is currently completely unregulated — which is a scandal in itself. This kind of sensitive hacking and surveillance technology should not be sold by private companies to the highest bidder on the open market,” Malinowski added. “The problem goes well beyond one company. There’s an industry that has been created to meet a demand for this technology and it’s enabled by the lack of regulation. What they are doing is technically legal; the point is it should not be,” he noted.

Malinowski, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committees, said NSO Group needs to come clean following the company’s firm rejection of the revelations. “The categorical denials, combined with a refusal to provide any information about who their clients are, should be unacceptable to the U.S. government and other governments seeking to prevent the proliferation of this technology,” he said, adding that “their denials suggest either unbelievable credulity or arrogant dishonesty. “A fundamental principle should be that authoritarian governments cannot receive this kind of technology. What NSO Group is saying right now is equivalent to saying ‘we sold silencers to the mafia, but don’t worry, they’re only using it for target practice,” Malinowski continued. “I don’t care what promises are signed on a piece of paper, these are governments that do not distinguish between dissent and terrorism.

When they say they will use the technology against terrorists, they are saying they will use it against journalists.” “I do think responsibility is first and foremost with the United States government. I’d love to see Israel work with the U.S. and other democratic countries to establish some rules governing this trade, but I wouldn’t expect the Israeli government to do this alone,” said Malinowski, who also previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “The U.S. should lead this effort, and I expect this to be the case moving forward.” While Malinowski is calling for the swift development of rules that would enable companies like NSO Group to be held accountable, he notes there are already tools that can be implemented — namely the Khashoggi Ban, a sanction and visa restriction established by the Biden administration that would target anyone believed to have targeted dissidents outside the borders of their country on behalf of a foreign government.

“The U.S. does have tools to prohibit companies and investors from doing business with entities like NSO Group. Sanctions should be explored and possibly implemented. We can’t deal with this on a case-by-case basis, however,” Malinowski said. “We need much more clear rules for the industry that signal that people cannot be monetizing their talents by selling sensitive technology to authoritarian states. Malinowski is not the only U.S. lawmaker to call for action following the reporting on NSO Group. Sen. Ron Wyden, who has previously called for investigations into whether technology sold by NSO Group and other foreign surveillance companies was involved in the hacking of U.S. citizens, raised the topic during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this week.

“There’s got to be some accountability for spies for hire. And that is going to be a central part of this discussion,” Wyden said, echoing his comments to the Washington Post that “these spy-for-hire firms are a threat to U.S. national security, and the administration should consider all options to ensure that federal employees are not targeted.” A U.S. State Department official told Haaretz that they have no announcements concerning visa restrictions. “The United States condemns the harassment or extrajudicial surveillance of journalists, human rights activists, or other perceived regime critics,” the official said.

“Just as states have the duty to protect human rights, businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights. Thus, they should ensure that their products or services are not being used by end users to abuse fundamental freedoms,” the official added. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and vice chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on Congress to investigate “this threat to democracy,” adding that his office is working with the San Antonio-based family of Paul Rusesabagina, currently imprisoned in Rwanda. His daughter’s phone was among those hacked by NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, according to The Guardian.

He said he did not want to speculate without evidence regarding linkage between NSO Group‘s client list and countries with whom Israel improved diplomatic ties under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but noted that he “would assume if the Israeli government assumes export licenses, that it knows where products are being exported to.” Democratic lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to consider placing NSO Group on an export blacklist, saying that recent revelations of misuse reinforced their conviction that the “hacking-for-hire industry must be brought under control”.

The statement by four members of Congress followed reports by the Pegasus project, a collaboration of 17 media organisations including the Guardian, which investigated NSO, the Israeli company that sells its powerful surveillance software to government clients around the world. The leak at the heart of the Pegasus project contained tens of thousands of phone numbers of individuals who are believed to have been selected as candidates for possible surveillance by clients of NSO. The numbers included those of heads of state such as the French president, Emmanuel Macron, government ministers, diplomats, activists, journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers.

NSO has also said the data has “no relevance” to the company, and has rejected the reporting by the Pegasus project as “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories”. It denied that the leaked data represented those targeted for surveillance by the Pegasus software. NSO has said the 50,000 number is exaggerated and said it was too large to represent individuals targeted by Pegasus. The company has also said that its government clients are contractually mandated to use Pegasus to target suspected criminals and terrorists and has said it would investigate any allegations of abuse.

US Holds UNICEF Monopoly For 74 Years – In A World Body Where Money Talks

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2021 (IPS) – With Henrietta Fore’s decision last week to step down as UNICEF Executive Director, her successor is most likely to be another American since that post has been held– uninterruptedly — by US nationals for almost 74 years, an unprecedented all-time record for a high-ranking job in the UN system. The seven U.S. nationals who have headed the UN children’s agency since its inception in 1947 include Maurice Pate, Henry Labouisse, James Grant, Carol Bellamy, Ann Veneman, Anthony Lake and Henrietta Fore. Pate held the job for 18 years, from 1947 to 1965, and Labouisse for 14 years, from 1965 to 1979. No other agency has had a national stranglehold on such a senior position in the 76-year history of the United Nations.

As for individuals monopolizing office, Dr Arpad Bogsch, another US national, held the post of director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva for 24 long years (1973-1997). But more recently, however, the professional life span of senior officials in the UN secretariat is mostly five years, with a possible extension for an additional five years. Since money talks, the US has continued to stake its claims for the UNICEF job, primarily as its largest single financial contributor. But that claim also applies to several UN agencies, which depend on voluntary contributions, and where some of the high-ranking positions are largely held by donors or big powers, mostly from Western Europe, or China and Russia.

James Paul, former Executive Director at the New York-based Global Policy Forum (1993-2012) and a prominent figure in the NGO advocacy community at the United Nations, told IPS much is at stake in the appointment of the head of a major agency in the UN system. Powerful governments battle over prestige and the shaping of policy, he said, pointing out, that “interest is intense now, as the appointment of a new head of UNICEF comes up”. “Observers inevitably wonder: what country gets the post, what is the region of the appointee, what ethnic or national group does this person represent, what is the person’s gender identify, and finally, last but not least, what is the policy inclination and administrative record of the person selected?” said Paul, author of “Of Foxes and Chickens”—Oligarchy and Global Power in the UN Security Council (2017).

He said some candidates may be serious people with years of experience while others may be personal friends of a powerful head of government. How will the selection process work and how much pressure will be put on those with a say over the appointment process: the UN Secretary General and Executive Boards or committees? he asked. In the early years of the UN, he said, there was a tendency to appoint male candidates who were US nationals. The US government often acted very bluntly about getting its way and it threatened many times to withhold funding or punish UN officials if its candidate was not selected. Two well-known cases of US hegemony are UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, and UNDP, the UN Development Programme.

UNICEF is notorious because its Executive Director has been a US national continuously since the organization’s founding 74 years ago, said Paul. Now that the current head is stepping down, the question inevitably arises – will Washington once again be able to get its way? Admittedly, it did make one concession over the years. Under pressure in 1995 to accept a very accomplished Scandinavian woman, the US agreed to drop its male candidate. Washington then proposed a woman and turned up the heat. Carol Bellamy, the US candidate, was eventually appointed. The present head, Henrietta Fore, is also a woman but she too carries a US passport, said Paul.

Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1992-1996), who had a love-hate relationship with the US, tried to break the US monopoly back in 1995. But he failed. In his book “UN-Vanquished–a US-UN saga,” (1999), Boutros-Ghali says he was thwarted by then US President Bill Clinton and US ambassador Madeline Albright. Clinton wanted William Foege, a former head of the US Centres for Disease Control, to be appointed UNICEF chief to succeed James Grant, also an American. Since Belgium and Finland had already put forward “outstanding” women candidates — and since the US had refused to pay its UN dues and was also making ”disparaging” remarks about the world body — “there was no longer automatic acceptance by other nations that the director of UNICEF must inevitably be an American man or woman,” said Boutros-Ghali.

“The US should select a woman candidate,” Boutros-Ghali told Albright, “and then I will see what I can do,” since the appointment involved consultation with the then 36-member UNICEF Executive Board. ” Albright rolled her eyes and made a face, repeating what had become her standard expression of frustration with me,” he writes. When the US kept pressing Foege’s candidature, Boutros-Ghali says that “many countries on the UNICEF Board were angry and (told) me to tell the United States to go to hell.” The US eventually submitted an alternate woman candidate: Carol Bellamy, a former director of Peace Corps. Although Elizabeth Rehn of Finland received 15 votes to Bellamy’s 12 in a straw poll, Boutros-Ghali said he asked the Board president to convince the members to achieve consensus on Bellamy so that the US could continue a monopoly it held since UNICEF was created in 1947. And thereby hangs a tale.

According to the latest published figures, total contributions to UNICEF in 2020 were over US$7 billion. The public sector contributed the largest share: US$5.45 billion from government, inter-governmental and inter-organizational partners, as well as Global Programme Partnerships. The top three resource partners in 2020 (by contributions received) were the Governments of the United States of America (US$801 million), Germany (US$744 million) and the European Union (US$514 million). As UNICEF’s largest donor, the US was considered “an indispensable partner”. “Our partnership with the US Government is broad and diverse, spanning humanitarian and development programmes across key areas of UNICEF’s work, including health; education; early child development; water, sanitation and hygiene; nutrition; child protection; gender equality; HIV and AIDS; immunization; and research programmes,” according to UNICEF.

Samir Sanbar, a former UN assistant secretary-General and head of the Department of Public Information, told IPS the argument over the post of UNICEF Executive Director was the first clash between Boutros-Ghali and Ambassador Albright who otherwise was very friendly, as both were “former professors”. As Boutros-Ghali once quipped: “I may be America’s yes man (as he was described in the Arab press when he was elected secretary-general) but certainly not, yes sir “. Initially, American UNICEF Executive Directors like Henry Labouisse and James Grant proved their value not merely by bringing U.S. funds but by their proven accomplishments, said Sanbar.

Guterres, an experienced politician, will most likely explore options: perhaps await proposals from the Biden Administration while keeping open possible interest by members of the Security Council like Norway–and others, which could offer a substantive contribution, as long as its candidate is a woman, said Sanbar who had served under five different secretaries-general during his longstanding UN career. Paul pointed out that UNDP provides an interesting basis for comparison. It had a US head (the title is Administrator) for thirty-two years consecutively, from its founding in 1967.

In 1999, when the moment for a new appointment arose, the UN membership stepped up pressure for a more diverse pool of candidates. At last, the magic spell of US dominance broke, as Mark Malloch Brown of the UK got the nod. And since 1999, there hasn’t been a single US national in that post of UNDP Administrator. That was a sign that Washington’s grip on the UN was slipping and that its global influence was waning – slowly perhaps but unmistakably. A capable woman from New Zealand, Helen Clark, was one of the new breed, along with a Turk, Kemal Dervis, and a German, Achim Steiner, who currently holds the post. But not all US nominees have turned out badly, said Paul.

James Grant, was a widely-respected head of UNICEF, and Gus Speth won plaudits as head of UNDP. But symbolism is important in a multi-lateral organization with a world-wide membership and a very diverse constituency. “No matter how competent the US candidate might be, and no matter how independent-minded, color-coded and engendered, it is time for UNICEF to get a non-US Executive Director. The world of 1947 has long gone. US hegemony is not what it was.” “A bit of fresh air at UNICEF is long overdue,” declared Paul.

(ThalifDeen is the author of a newly-released book on the United Nations titled “No Comment -– and Don’t Quote Me on That.” Peppered with scores of anecdotes-– from the serious to the hilarious-– the book is available on Amazon worldwide. The link to Amazon via the author’s website follows: https://www.rodericgrigson.com/no-comment-by-thalif-deen/)

US Awaits India’s Nod To Dispatch Covid Vaccines

The United States has said it is waiting for the Indian government to give a green signal for dispatching the anti-Covid vaccines that the US is donating to several countries across the world. “We are ready to ship those vaccines expeditiously when we have a green light from the Government of India,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, as reported by news agency PTI. US vaccines have reached Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. But for India, it is taking time as there are some legal hurdles for emergency import, Ned Price said.

The US earlier announced to share 80 million doses from its domestic stock with countries around the world. Under India’s share, it is supposed to get 3-4 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer from the United States. While Moderna has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India, Pfizer has not yet applied for an emergency approval in India yet.India has sought time to review its legal provision to accept vaccine donation, the United States has said as Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh received vaccines from the US.

What are the legal hurdles?

“Before we can ship those doses, however, each country must complete its own domestic set of operational, of regulatory, and legal processes that are specific to each country. Now, India has determined that it needs further time to review legal provisions related to accepting vaccine donations,” Price said.

Sputnik plans 300 million doses a year

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, was granted emergency use authorisation in India in May. Covishield-maker Serum Institute of India (SII) has added yet another brand to its growing portfolio of Covid-19 vaccines, unveiling plans on Tuesday to manufacture Russia’s Sputnik V over the next two months. SII’s addition to a growing list of Indian partners for Sputnik V would enable the country to churn out over a billion doses of the Russian vaccine every year. It is also likely to help improve supply of the vaccine in India, where a soft launch has already taken place through vials imported from Russia but doses from most domestic manufacturers are still awaited.

SII, through its partnership with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), intends to produce over 300 million doses of Sputnik V per year, said Russia’s sovereign wealth fund in a statement. This takes India’s annual production capacity of this vaccine to nearly 1.2 billion doses a year. The Pune-headquartered vaccine maker has already received samples of the cell and vector — crucial components to make the vaccine — from the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology as part of the technical transfer process. The cultivation process has already begun.

“We hope to make millions of doses in the coming months with trial batches starting in the month of September,” said SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. “We expect the ramp-up to be quite quick…we’ve actually been working with Serum for the last three months,” said RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev.

Eric Michael Garcetti Nominated To Serve As US Ambassador To India

President Joe Biden has nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Michael Garcetti to serve as the American ambassador to India. Indian American organizations welcomed the announcement, made Friday, July 9, calling it an opportunity for the Indian diaspora to work together to continue bridging US-India ties. Garcetti, 50, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, has been mayor of Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the US, since 2013.Garcetti’s nomination has long been anticipated. He needs Senate confirmation to get the position. If he makes it, he will be the first sitting Los Angeles mayor to leave the position voluntarily in more than 100 years, according to the Los Angeles Times

Prior to his election to the Los Angeles City Council, Garcetti was a visiting instructor of international affairs at the University of Southern California, and an assistant professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College. His academic work focused on ethnic conflict and nationalism in Southeast Asia and Northeast Africa.

On accepting the nomination Garcetti posted a statement on the city’s website: “I love Los Angeles and will always be an Angeleno. I want you to know that every day I am your mayor, I will continue to lead this city like it is my first day on the job, with passion, focus, and determination. I have committed my life to service –– as an activist, as a teacher, as a naval officer, as a public servant and, if confirmed, next as an ambassador. Part of that commitment means that when your nation calls, you answer that call. And should I be confirmed, I’ll bring this same energy, commitment, and love for this city to my new role, and will forge partnerships and connections that will help Los Angeles.”

Welcoming Garcetti’s nomination MR Rangaswami, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, investor, and founder of Indiaspora, stated in a press note, “We are excited that President Biden has nominated a reputed leader who has proven himself on several fronts. “It speaks volumes to the importance of the U.S.-India relationship that a close and trusted ally of President Biden may be America’s point person in Delhi.”

According to Sanjeev Joshipura, Indiaspora’s executive director, “Mayor Garcetti recognizes the importance of international cooperation and how to bring different actors together on the world stage.” Neil Makhija, executive director of IMPACT, another Indian American non-profit organization, said, “Ambassadorship to India is a critical position for strengthening ties between the world’s largest and the world’s oldest democracy, and President Biden has made an excellent choice in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.” He added, “Mayor Garcetti’s credentials and national stature make him an excellent pick for the ambassadorship to India, a position that is critical to key American priorities like the global COVID-19 crisis, climate change, and immigration.

“As mayor, Eric Garcetti oversaw the vaccine deployment in the nation’s second-largest city, where over 50% of people over the age of 16 are now vaccinated. Garcetti understands the urgency and reality of addressing climate change, and is familiar with geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region from his service in the US Navy.” The ongoing trade war between the two countries reached its lowest point in 2018 when India imposed tariffs on 28 products in retaliation to the U.S. government’s imposing of heavy tariffs on aluminum and steel from India. Earlier that year, the U.S. ended its generalized system of preferences for India, a program that allowed for duty-free exports of certain products.

Former President Donald Trump called India “the tariff king,” saying: “When we send a motorcycle to India, it’s a 100 percent tariff. When India sends a motorcycle to us, we brilliantly charge them nothing.” On defense, Rossow noted: “Mayor Garcetti will have a particularly steep learning curve to cover our defense relationship with India.” He referred to military exercises, finding a comfortable “strategic pathway,” pending defense sales, and the evolution of Quad, an initiative by the U.S., Japan, Australia and India to get Covid vaccines to the developing world. Garcetti’s close ties to Biden could accelerate Quad’s strategy, predicted Rossow.

The veteran India expert acknowledged that Garcetti presently has no relationship to India nor to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His views on contentious issues, such as India’s treatment of its minorities, or his position on statehood for Jammu and Kashmir are unknown. However, the two-term mayor serves on the executive committee of Human Rights Watch, which has been critical of the Modi government. Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami cheered Biden’s announcement. “It is good for India to have an ambassador from the U.S., who is a Rhodes scholar and familiar with geopolitics.”

Biden’s First Ever Visit Abroad: Strengthening Alliance With NATO

President Biden embarks this week on the first foreign trip of his presidency to attend a series of European summits. He’ll attend the meeting of the Group of Seven nations (G-7) in Britain. Then, he’ll head to a NATO summit in Brussels.

President Biden embarks this week on the first foreign trip of his presidency to attend a series of European summits. He’ll attend the meeting of the Group of Seven nations (G-7) in Britain. Then, he’ll head to a NATO summit in Brussels where he’ll rub shoulders with the majority of the European Union’s leaders. All of that will precede what is likely to be a tense encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16. After spending the past five months focused on domestic affairs and battling the pandemic, Biden will try to demonstrate how his administration is “restoring” U.S. leadership on the world stage.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post published on Saturday, the U.S. President promised to shore up Washington’s “democratic alliances” in the face of multiple crises and mounting threats from Moscow and Beijing. The U.S. will stand with its European allies against Russia, President Joe Biden has promised ahead of the first face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin.Most recent American presidents have selected North American neighbors for their first cross-border trips, though former President Donald Trump, whose penchant for unilateral action and open skepticism of the NATO alliance unsettled American allies, made his first overseas stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. For Biden, the first trip is meant to turn the page from Trump’s approach to alliances.

“It’s both a practical chance to connect with key allies and partners on shared opportunities and challenges,” said Yohannes Abraham, the chief of staff and executive secretary of the National Security Council, in an interview with the AP. “But also it’s an illustration of something that the president has been clear about that the transatlantic alliance is back, that revitalizing it is a key priority of his, and that the transatlantic relationship is a strong foundation on which our collective security and shared prosperity are built.”

“We are standing united to address Russia’s challenges to European security, starting with its aggression in Ukraine, and there will be no doubt about the resolve of the U.S. to defend our democratic values, which we cannot separate from our interests,” he wrote.“President Putin knows that I will not hesitate to respond to future harmful activities,” he said. “When we meet, I will again underscore the commitment of the United States, Europe and like-minded democracies to stand up for human rights and dignity.”Since taking office in January, Mr. Biden has ramped up pressure on the Kremlin, and his comments likening Mr. Putin to a “killer” were met with fierce criticism in Moscow.

But both leaders have expressed hopes that relations can improve, with the Russian President saying on Friday he expected a “positive” result from the talks.Mr. Biden in his weekend op-ed also stressed that Washington “does not seek conflict” — pointing to his recent extension of the New START arms reduction treaty as proof of his desire to reduce tensions.“We want a stable and predictable relationship where we can work with Russia on issues like strategic stability and arms control,” he wrote.

U.S. Trade Report Calls ‘Make In India’ Policy As “Trade Restrictive”

The U.S. tried to resolve “long-standing market access impediments affecting U.S. exporters” with India during 2020, says the 2021 President’s Trade Agenda and 2020 Annual Report — an annual report submitted by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to Congress. The report terms India’s policies “trade-restrictive” and saying the “Make in India” campaign epitomises the challenges to the trade relationship.

“While India’s large market, economic growth, and progress towards development make it an essential market for many U.S. exporters, a general and consistent trend of trade-restrictive policies have inhibited the potential of the bilateral trade relationship. Recent Indian emphasis on import substitution through a “Make in India” campaign has epitomized the challenges facing the bilateral trade relationship,” the report says. The Make in India campaign was launched by Prime Minister Modi in 2014 to incentivise production in India.

The report describes the Trump administration’s revocation of India’s preferential trading status under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program in June 2019 and the ensuing discussion to achieve a mini trade deal (“package”) throughout 2020.

“U.S. objectives in this negotiation included resolution of various non-tariff barriers, targeted reduction of certain Indian tariffs, and other market access improvements. The United States also engaged with India on an ongoing basis throughout 2020 in response to specific concerns affecting the full range of pressing bilateral trade issues, including intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement, policy development affecting electronic commerce and digital trade, and market access for agricultural and non-agricultural goods and services,” the report said.

These issues remain unresolved, leaving inconclusive, negotiations that lasted until close to the end of the Trump administration.

In a country-wise section on Digital Service Tax (DST), a Section 301 investigation on India’s DST, which began in June last year, is highlighted. The investigation is ongoing, as per the report.

India finds a total of 179 mentions in the report which is over 300 pages long. Many of the mentions are in a chapter on trade enforcement activities — describing disputes brought by the U.S. at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Nature and Nurture: How the Biden Administration Can Advance Ties With India

As the administration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to begin in the United States, the U.S.-India relationship is facing new tests. Biden, who deemed India a “natural partner” on the campaign trail, will have the task of upgrading a mature relationship at a time of new global dynamics and challenges.

A new Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) issue paper, “Nature and Nurture: How the Biden Administration Can Advance Ties with India,” outlines the competing pressures currently shaping U.S.-India relations.

In the paper, ASPI Associate Director Anubhav Gupta provides a blueprint for how the incoming U.S. administration can advance bilateral ties to the next level, nurturing Biden’s idea of a “natural” relationship. Presenting a series of 10 recommendations to strengthen the U.S.-India partnership, the paper suggests that a Biden administration:

  • Expand the scope of the relationship to elevate health, digital, and climate cooperation.
  • Turn the page to a positive commercial agenda that emphasizes reform and openness.
  • Renew U.S. leadership and regional consultation in the face of China’s rise.
  • Emphasize shared values as the foundation of the relationship.

The paper also argues that a growing convergence between the views of New Delhi and Washington regarding Beijing will continue to facilitate a stronger security partnership. However, “despite the increasing convergence with New Delhi on the China threat, Washington should not take for granted that a deeper strategic alignment is inevitable,” Gupta writes.

At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated both economies and strengthened support for economic nationalism, which may impede stronger commercial cooperation and the two nations’ ability to take on China. Gupta observes that “at a time when the United States and India are starting to decouple from the Chinese economy, they unfortunately have not found ways to draw closer together commercially.” With India embarking on a new campaign of “self-reliance,” an ambitious commercial agenda may be out of reach; however, Gupta argues that “Biden should not shirk from setting an optimistic tone for the relationship that deviates from the recriminations of the past four years.”

Moreover, Gupta notes that a further weakening of democratic norms in India could raise difficult questions for Biden. The incoming U.S. administration “will have to walk a tightrope of emphasizing shared values and standing up for democratic ideals while ensuring that it does not alienate important partners like India in the process.”

(A new issue paper from the Asia Society Policy Institute)

Trump Honours Modi With Legion of Merit Award

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi was presented with the highest degree Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit on Monday, December 21st in Washington, DC. The award is given only to the Head of State or Government. Modi was given the award in recognition of his steadfast leadership and vision that has accelerated India’s emergence as a global power.
US President Donald Trump on Monday presented the prestigious Legion of Merit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating strategic partnership of the two countries and emergence of India as a global power.

India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, accepted the award on behalf of the prime minister from the US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien at the White House.
President Trump “presented the Legion of Merit to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating the US-India strategic partnership,” O’Brien said in a tweet. Modi was presented with the highest degree Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit which is given only to the Head of State or Government.

He was given the award in recognition of his steadfast leadership and vision that has accelerated India’s emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the United States and India to address global challenges.

O’Brien in another tweet said that Trump also presented the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The awards were received by their respective ambassadors in Washington DC.

President Trump “awarded the Legion of Merit to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his leadership and vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.

Trump awarded the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his leadership in addressing global challenges and promoting collective security, O’Brien tweeted.
The United States is the latest country to confer its highest award to the Indian prime minister. Other awards include Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud by Saudi Arabia in 2016, State Order of Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan (2016), Grand Collar of the State of Palestine Award (2018), Order of Zayed Award by United Arab Emirates (2019), Order of St Andrew by Russia (2019), Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddin by Maldives (2019.

Trump’s Attorney General Barr Denies Voter Fraud In Us 2020 Election

Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

His comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election was stolen, and his refusal to concede his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP.

The comments are especially direct coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voter fraud could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.

Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they existed, before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud. That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.

The Trump campaign team led by Rudy Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence. Local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making similar unsupported claims.

Trump has railed against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. Trump recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but has still refused to admit he lost.

The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.

But they’ve also requested federal probes into the claims. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.

Barr didn’t name Powell specifically but said: “There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” Barr said.

He said people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said such a remedy for those complaints would be a top-down audit conducted by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.

“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all, and people don’t like something they want the Department of Justice to come in and ‘investigate,’” Barr said. He said first of all there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.

“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. They are not systemic allegations and. And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on.”

Under Biden, The United States Should Be There For Its Neighbors In The Western Hemisphere

The Biden administration should pay particular attention to the Western Hemisphere in setting its foreign policy priorities for the next four years. Central and South America, and Caribbean nations, have long been comparatively sleepy in U.S. foreign policy circles. And while the Trump administration, at times, directed its focus to the region — to Venezuela and Cuba, in particular — there remains significant potential to advance important U.S. strategic interests with but a few relatively low-cost, discreet, tailored actions, that would seemingly align with President-Elect Biden’s foreign policy world view.

Here, I do not purport to present a comprehensive policy for the hemisphere, which must address things like transnational criminal organizations, counter-narcotics policy, and energy and environmental issues. Leaving aside that important discussion for now, there are key signals that the Biden administration can send right out of the gate on democracy issues, economic development and immigration policy, trade, and more.

A premium on democracy

As a first step, the Biden administration should try to bring countries in Central and South America, and the Caribbean, into the aspirational coalition of democracies initiative. Doing so would signal renewed American attention on the institution of democracy with our regional neighbors, many of whom are suffering from a marked decline in democratic norms and ideals. The region’s mixed response to the COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated this decline.

Establishing and jealously protecting relationships between the United States and Latin American democracies would alert the more authoritarian leaders in the region — like in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and increasingly Brazil — that this administration will place a premium on its relationship with democratic partners. This should help shape the whole of future regional interactions and transactions.

Improving U.S. policies on economic development and immigration

Next, the administration should pursue new ways, beyond the Alliance for Prosperity and América Crece, for the United States to help enhance economic development in the region.

Improving economic conditions will help check the seemingly constant challenge posed by irregular out-migration, especially as the effects of global climate change continue to exacerbate the risk of such migration. Moreover, economic development could serve as an important counter-balance to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its growing aspirations throughout the region.

While admittedly a bit axiomatic, improving economic conditions — especially in Central and South America, though also in the Caribbean — would address a significant “push” factor for migrants fleeing their respective countries, usually for the United States. This is particularly true of the so-called “Northern Triangle countries” of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Irregular migration from these countries — and others in the region, including increasingly Mexico — to the United States appears to indeed be a persistent issue, despite a near singular focus on it from the outgoing Trump administration.

A new Biden administration might see similar numbers of irregular migrants arriving at the U.S. land border as the Trump administration saw in its initial months (and really, throughout its tenure). As a result, it could very well find itself with an all-consuming foreign policy challenge that prevents it from addressing other important issues.

In such a situation, a Biden team would likely face strong pressure from its political left flank to immediately and aggressively unwind — or at a minimum, not apply — Trump-era immigration policies. These policies, not counting the public health measures at the border in response to COVID-19, include of course the wall construction, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the third-country asylum rule, and the network of Asylum Cooperative Agreements, all of which the outgoing Trump administration used to great effect to deny entry, execute removals, and facilitate the transportation of arriving migrants to other countries. This issue is complicated by U.S. public opinion: A large portion of Americans apparently continue to support at least the ends achieved by such policies, especially during the pandemic, thus creating the condition where rapidly fielding a feasible solution to a fresh surge of migrants at the border may well prove both operationally and politically untenable.

So, as they say, the best defense is a good offense, which makes it critical for a new Biden administration to take the initiative to improve the economic conditions of our regional neighbors. It should do so rapidly, especially as a Biden presidency in and of itself likely creates its own not insignificant immigration “pull” factor. While this initiative may not stop all of the inevitable flow to the U.S. southwest border, clearly articulating this goal may help mitigate the numbers involved.

(By Michael Sinclair at Brookings)

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