What To Expect As India Assumes G20 Presidency 

 (Reuters) – India began its year-long presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) this week, taking over from Indonesia at a time of geopolitical tumult and uncertainty over post-pandemic economic recovery.

Picture : Reuters

Formed in the wake of the financial crisis that swept through Southeast Asian economies in the late 1990s as a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors, the G20 was upgraded in 2007 to include heads of state and governments.

During and after the 2008 global financial crisis, the G20’s coordinated efforts helped tamp down panic and restore economic growth.

The grouping comprises 19 countries cutting across continents and the European Union, representing around 85% of the world’s GDP.

The G20 also invites non-member countries, including Bangladesh, Singapore, Spain and Nigeria, besides international organisations such as the United Nations, World Health Organization, the World Bank and the IMF.

What Does G20 Presidency Entail?

The G20 does not have a permanent secretariat, and one member takes over the presidency each year to steer the grouping’s agenda that is split into two tracks – one led by finance ministers and another by emissaries of leaders of member countries.

After India, Brazil will take over the presidency of the G20, followed by South Africa in 2025.

During its term, India will hold more than 200 meetings across some 50 cities involving ministers, officials and civil society, leading up to a marquee summit in the capital New Delhi in September 2023.

The summit will be attended by around 30 heads of state and government, from G20 members and invited countries.

What Is G20’s Upcoming Agenda?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for international cooperation to deal with global issues, outlining the country’s approach to the G20.

He said in a statement the challenges of “climate change, terrorism, and pandemics can be solved not by fighting each other, but only by acting together”.

Modi also underlined a need to “depoliticise the global supply of food, fertilizers and medical products, so that geo-political tensions do not lead to humanitarian crises”.

His statement reflects New Delhi’s stance that the conflict in Ukraine, triggered by a Russian invasion in February, must be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.

Asked about Russia’s involvement in G20 during India’s presidency, a spokesperson for the Indian foreign ministry said that as Russia was a G20 member, “we would expect them to be participating in this process … the grouping needs to speak with one voice, particularly on important issues that are affecting the world”.

What Does The G20 Mean For India And Modi?

The timing of the summit, ahead of India’s general elections due in 2024, could help bolster Modi’s already growing reputation at home as a leader of international stature.

The 72-year-old leader also appears to have a personal rapport with many of his G20 counterparts, including U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Still, the current complex geopolitical and economic situation will make it a challenge for India and Modi to shape the international response to multiple crises.

This is a moment for India to transition from being a “rule-taker to being a rule-maker”, said Rajiv Bhatia and Manjeet Kripalani of Indian think-tank Gateway House.

“The country has not invested much in multilateral rule-making institutions like the G20, but it is never too late to start.”

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.

The National Christmas Tree Turns 100

Though the tree has not been lit every single year across the century, it is the second-oldest White House tradition after the Easter egg roll.

(RNS) — It was Christmas Eve in 1923. A church choir sang, Marine band members played and the president of the United States pressed a button to light the first National Christmas Tree under the gaze of thousands of onlookers.

For 100 years, the tree has represented a symbol of civil religion as Americans mark the Christmas season.

On Wednesday (Nov. 30), President Joe Biden is set to do the honors just as President Calvin Coolidge did at that first lighting, and contemporary gospel singer Yolanda Adams is slated to sing for the crowds gathered on the Ellipse in the shadow of the White House.

Though the tree was not lit from 1942 to 1944 — due to the Second World War — it is the second-oldest White House tradition, after the Easter Egg Roll, which began in 1878.

“A hundred years is a fairly significant milestone to reach for consistently practicing a tradition,” said Matthew Costello, senior historian of the nonprofit White House Historical Association. “This is really part of the customs and the traditions of the White House and living in the White House.”

Picture : Share America

Whether the tree will continue as a symbol of civil religion — a Christian tradition, yes, but also a generic celebration of the holiday known for Santa and reindeer — is an open question, said Boston University professor of religion Stephen Prothero. In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the tree’s intersection of politics and religion may be seen as too fraught.

“At this point, these Christian symbols in the public square feel very different to me and to many other Americans, than they have in the past,” he said. “And that’s precisely because of the increasing power of white Christian nationalism in American society.”

Already, the tree can seem like a relic of an America that is now past. “You would think, based on separation of church and state, that the federal government wouldn’t get into the Christmas tree business, but we have been doing these kinds of things for a long time,” Prothero said.

But the tree has always been part of America’s balancing act of alternately welcoming or rejecting religion in the public square. “It used to be that there was a kind of a gentleman’s agreement — and I say, gentleman on purpose, because it was men who were making this agreement — and the agreement was that you could have religious symbols in the public space, but that they would have to be generic, that they wouldn’t be explicitly Christian.”

Here are five faith facts related to the National Christmas Tree:

1. It’s been a place for God-talk by Democrats and Republicans.

In 1940, before the U.S. entered the conflict in Europe, Franklin D. Roosevelt used the tree lighting to condemn the war, referring to the Beatitudes of Christ, and urging “belligerent nations to read the Sermon on the Mount,” a National Park Service timeline notes.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan offered a different interpretation of the holiday. “For some Christmas just marks the birth of a great philosopher and prophet, a great and good man,” he said. “To others, it marks something still more: the pinnacle of all history, the moment when the God of all creation — in the words of the creed, God from God and light from light — humbled himself to become a baby crying in a manger.”

More recently, Barack Obama, referring to baby Jesus, said at a 2010 ceremony that “while this story may be a Christian one, its lesson is universal.”

Donald Trump said in 2017 that the “Christmas story begins 2,000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son, and the most extraordinary gift of all, the gift of God’s love for all of humanity.”

2. The Christmas tree was joined by other symbols of faith.

At times, there has been a Nativity with life-sized figures near the National Christmas Tree. An Islamic star-and-crescent symbol also made a 1997 appearance on the National Mall not far from the White House but it was vandalized, losing its star.

“This year for the first time, an Islamic symbol was displayed along with the National Christmas Tree and the menorah,” said President Bill Clinton that year in a statement. “The desecration of that symbol is the embodiment of intolerance that strikes at the heart of what it means to be an American.”

A public menorah first appeared near the White House in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter walked to the ceremony in Lafayette Park. The candelabra moved to a location on the Ellipse in 1987, and a 30-foot National Menorah has continued to be lit annually as a project of American Friends of Lubavitch.

3. Its lighting continued amid difficult times.

Roosevelt lit the tree weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill standing behind him.

After the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his successor waited until a 30-day mourning period was over before lighting the tree. “Today we come to the end of a season of great national sorrow, and to the beginning of the season of great, eternal joy,” said Lyndon Johnson on Dec. 22 of that year.

A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush rode in a motorcade to the nearby Ellipse for the ceremony.

Costello contrasted these “people-oriented” instances to the more “policy-oriented” rhetoric of State of the Union speeches.

“We see after these moments of national catastrophe, disaster, tragedy, where this can be a really uplifting time for presidents to deliver a message directly to the American people, to remind them about what the season is all about, but also forward-looking,” he said.

4. While it’s kept its name, others have switched to “holiday.”

The neighboring Capitol Christmas Tree was a Capitol Holiday Tree for a time. It reverted back to the “Christmas” title in 2005.

“The speaker believes a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree, and it is as simple as that,” Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, told The Washington Times that year.

Matthew Evans, then landscape architect of the U.S. Capitol, told Religion News Service in 2001 that the tree is “intended for people of all faiths to gather round at a time of coming together and fellowship and celebration.”

Around that time, some state capitols and statehouses also opted to name their pines, firs and spruces “holiday trees” instead.

But the National Christmas Tree has retained its longtime imprimatur.

5. The tree ceremony is really about kids.

President Herbert Hoover and first lady Lou Hoover light the National Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve 1929. Photo courtesy of LOC/Creative Commons

An ailing 7-year-old girl asked that President Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan grant her “Make a Wish” program request that she join them for the tree lighting in 1983.

“The Christmas tree that lights up for our country must be seen all the way to heaven,” Amy Bentham wrote to the program, according to the NPS website. “I would wish so much to help the President turn on those Christmas lights.”

The Reagans granted her wish.

“The bottom line is what the president says and does, it matters; obviously, people listen,” Costello said. “But really, this is about kids, it’s about children and sort of the magical time of the year. And that was just one example, I think, that was especially poignant about why the ceremony matters.”

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).

US Cites Immunity Given To Modi While Justifying The Same For Mohammed Bin Salman

Consternation could be one of the reactions from New Delhi to a comment by State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel citing the reinstatement of Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s US visa in 2014 as part of an answer about granting sovereign immunity to Saudi crown prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

Patel’s reference to Modi’s US visa reinstatement in 2014 came during a media briefing on November 18 in the context of the now controversial sovereign immunity for MBS.

Although the MBS immunity is consistent with the US policy of affording such immunity to heads of state who might be in some serious legal jeopardy on account of their transgressions in their respective countries, Patel’s juxtaposition of Modi with MBS could be diplomatically fraught.

This is what Patel said in reply to repeated questions about the MBS immunity: “It is a longstanding and consistent line of effort. It has been applied to a number of heads of state previously, some examples, President (Jean-Bertrand) Aristide in Haiti in 1993, President (Robert) Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 2001, Prime Minister Modi in India in 2014 and President (Joseph) Kabila in the DRC (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 2018. This is a consistent practice we have afforded to heads of state.”

There is nothing objectionable about Patel’s comments on the sheer facts of what he is saying. These are just bare facts and as a spokesperson it is his duty to offer them unvarnished. However, international diplomacy, especially between Modi’s India and President Joe Biden’s America, is often fraught.

It is from that standpoint that the seeming bracketing of Modi with MBS and other strongmen could be problematic for its optics. Of course, no government, either here in America or that in India, should feel the need to finesse facts no matter how unedifying they may be.

India’s External Affairs Ministry may not necessarily respond to this merely because the assertion came in the context of MBS but Modi’s detractors, and it is a rapidly growing constituency, could cite this as yet another blot on him.

By itself sovereign immunity should be noncontroversial because countries offer it as part of the international law. In the specific context of MBS though, the immunity is rife with the prospects of being seen as the Biden administration going soft on the prime minister in a calibrated fashion at a time when the US-Saudi relations are perhaps at their most tense.

A particular sticking point has been the Saudi decision to slash oil production in an apparent alliance with Russia at a time gas prices are running so high in America. There were suggestions of the Saudis under MBS humiliating Washington by gouging oil prices.

With this as the backdrop, sovereign immunity for MBS looks at the very least curious notwithstanding the longstanding practice as cited by Patel. Of course, Patel was at pains to repeatedly insist that, “This Suggestion of Immunity does not reflect an assessment on the merits of the case. It speaks to nothing on broader policy or the state of relations. This was purely a legal determination.”

He kept saying again and again at the presser the MBS immunity was no reflection on the legal merits of the Khashoggi murder case and accusations. But it has caused a great deal of outrage among certain quarters, specifically the media.

In a statement on Twitter Fred Ryan, the Washington Post’s publisher and CEO, said yesterday that President Biden is “granting a license to kill to one of the world’s most egregious human-rights abusers who is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

The Biden administration made its declaration of immunity in a court filing in the lawsuit filed by  Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. In a tweet Cenzig said, “Jamal died again today.”

Despite the fact that immunity is a longstanding practice, affording it to MBS has opened the door for other prospective violators of human rights who might become heads of state. (Courtesy: iNdica News)

Biden Administration Seeks Supreme Court Nod For Student Debt Plan

The Biden administration on Friday urged the Supreme Court to clear one of the legal obstacles blocking its student debt relief program, as part of the administration’s broader legal effort to have the policy reinstated.

The administration is currently fending off two separate rulings issued over the last two weeks that have effectively halted President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, which would give federal borrowers making less than $125,000 a year up to $10,000 debt relief.

In its Friday filing, the Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the administration, urged the justices to lift a ruling issued Monday by the St. Louis-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that halted the loan relief program, saying its current legal status has left “vulnerable borrowers in untenable limbo.”

“The [8th Circuit’s] injunction thus frustrates the government’s ability to respond to the harmful economic consequences of a devastating pandemic with the policies it has determined are necessary,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices.

Biden’s policy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost about $400 billion over 30 years, has drawn numerous legal challenges. Its aim is to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those making under $125,000 annually and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants, which assist students from lower-income families.

The administration’s move on Friday comes after a unanimous three-judge panel on the 8th Circuit halted Biden’s massive debt relief plan, which had already been blocked nationwide by a separate court ruling.

The panel, which comprised two Trump-appointed judges and one appointee of former President George W. Bush, said its order would remain in effect until further notice by the 8th Circuit or the Supreme Court.

The ruling was a win for six conservative-led states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina — that challenged the program on the grounds that they were harmed by a freeze on the collection of student loan payments and interest. The court’s six-page ruling singled out the impact on a large, Missouri-based holder of student loans called the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri.

“The equities strongly favor an injunction considering the irreversible impact the Secretary’s debt forgiveness action would have as compared to the lack of harm an injunction would presently impose,” the panel wrote. “Among the considerations is the fact that collection of student loan payments as well as accrual of interest on student loans have both been suspended.”

The White House, for its part, maintains that its policy is authorized by a 2003 federal law known as the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, which both the Trump and Biden administrations have drawn upon to alleviate student borrowers’ financial strain during the global pandemic.

In a related legal development last week, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas invalidated the program, saying the presidential action unlawfully encroached on Congress’s power. The Biden administration has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to halt that ruling while it mounts a formal appeal.

Several other similar challenges to Biden’s plan have so far proved unsuccessful. Among them were two cases that eventually sought emergency relief in the Supreme Court but were unilaterally rejected by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

The Supreme Court may be more inclined to intervene now that the U.S. government is the party seeking relief and as courts across the country reach different conclusions about the program’s lawfulness.

The DOJ, in its Friday filing, told the justices they could choose to construe the government’s request as a formal petition for appeal and place it on a procedural fast-track.

The DOJ filing comes as student loan borrowers are anxiously awaiting for payments to restart at the beginning of 2023.

Advocates have been pressuring the Biden administration to extend the pause on payments, which began at the beginning of the pandemic, while the debt relief program is going through the courts.

Before the legal challenges, millions of borrowers applied for the debt relief through an application on the Department of Education’s website. Borrowers were told to apply before Tuesday in order to have a chance at their debt being forgiven before the payments began.

Since then, the applications have been taken down, and borrowers could have to wait months to get a final decision on the legality of the program from the courts.

The Washington Post previously reported talks were happening in the White House to extend the payment pause again due to the court challenges, despite Biden telling borrowers there would be no more extensions.

However, there has been no official word from the White House on the issue with only a month and a half left before payments resume. (Courtesy: The Hill)

The G-20 Proved It’s Our World Government At a time of global conflict, world powers showed that cooperation can actually work.

Ahead of time, the script for the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, seemed to write itself. A grouping conceived in the heyday of globalization was meeting in person for the first time under the shadow of the new Cold War. China and Russia would clash with the United States and its allies. Ukraine would hog center stage. Indonesia made no secret of the fact that it feared that the interests of the rest of the world—sometimes dubbed the new nonalignment—would take second place.

Picture : Foregin Policy

There were moments in Bali that did conform to this script. Russian President Vladimir Putin declined to attend. Russia was at first represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who gave pugnacious press conferences in which he denounced Ukrainian fascists and brandished conspiracy theories about U.S. biolabs. Then Lavrov departed and Russia’s representation was reduced to the finance minister, effectively the junior tier of the G-20. When the missiles landed in Poland, the Indonesian president was obliged to delay a scheduled tour with journalists of a mangrove plantation, while U.S. President Joe Biden convened a war council of the G-7.

But if one takes the occasion as a whole, what is striking is how far the G-20 meeting succeeded in defying expectations.

It was, in fact, a relief that Putin chose to absent himself. It spared China and India the embarrassment of having to distance themselves from him too publicly. In Bali, there was no one who was keen to ally themselves with Russia. Ahead of the meeting, Chinese officials briefed the Western media more openly than ever before about the degree to which Moscow had left them in the dark ahead of the invasion.

This does not mean that China, India, and Brazil were going to fall in line with the United States and Europe in condemning Putin. In that crucial respect, they preserved their stance of nonalignment. But there was no hiding the fact that they regard the war in Ukraine as a threat to the world economy and are aghast at Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling.

Indonesia, which voted with the West against Russia in the United Nations, pushed for an end to the war, even if there was no unanimity. India provided the mantra that this is “not a time for war.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey strutted his stuff as the man who brokered the U.N. grain deal.

The emerging-market nations that might once have been regarded as junior members of the G-20 demonstrated clout and independence. Unlike their European counterparts, their autonomy and influence have grown with the crisis.

Meanwhile, on the most fundamental axis of global conflict, that between the United States and China, President Xi Jinping and Biden decided to talk. After the rather reckless escalation of recent months, there seemed to be a sense that it was time to reduce tension and find new protocols for engagement.

As Xi made clear to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, this does not mean reaching for cheap headlines by spilling the beans on a private conversation with your Chinese counterpart. The Chinese may be bunkering themselves in behind the Great Firewall, but they follow what happens on our side and do not appreciate media stunts at their expense. The Biden team has less need for grandstanding and can be counted on to be more discreet. Not until the archives are opened will we have much idea of what was said in the three-hour conversation between Xi and Biden. And that is probably for the best. Discretion is a sign that things are getting serious.

The G-20 meeting ended with a leaders’ declaration, which made few new pledges but affirmed basic agreements, such as the commitment to the Paris climate accord.

None of this alters the fact that Russia’s war on Ukraine continues. The risk of escalation is serious. The tensions between the United States and China are real. China upholds its claims on Taiwan. The United States will likely continue its campaign of sanctions. Neither side has any room in domestic politics to back down. On both sides, talk of actual war is increasingly commonplace.

The two conflicts—Russia vs. West and China vs. United States—split the world. But there are also countervailing forces.

The nonaligned powers are a force to be reckoned with, more individually than as a group. But even individually they are significant players. They may be nonaligned and wary of any overt alignment with Washington, but at least, as far as Ukraine is concerned, they are not blind to the disruption caused by Putin and the risks of escalation. Clearly, both Beijing and Washington recognize the need to keep channels of communication open.

As in the Cold War, there are existential risks that require active management. If Bali is anything to go by, the G-20 may be one of the arenas in which that management takes place.

Picture : FP

The G-20 may appear like the cliché of globalization, but it was in fact born out of crisis. Its origins lie in the mishandling of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 and the perception in the Clinton administration that a new forum was needed to give legitimacy to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Initially, it was a meeting of finance ministers and economic officials. The meeting was raised to the status of a head-of-government meeting in 2008, when the Bush administration was desperately trying to coordinate its response to the financial crisis.

Today, we are in crisis once again, and once again the G-20 is providing a useful forum for diplomacy, both to defuse tension and, as Indonesia insisted, to balance the claims of geopolitics against the interests of economic development.

The format works because it encompasses 60 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of GDP but is less unwieldy than the U.N. General Assembly or the U.N.’s climate conference.

The Bali G-20 demonstrated that conducting diplomacy in an age of crisis does not mean that things are destined to blow up or fall apart.

The word “crisis” derives from the Greek and captures a moment not of disintegration or explosion but of decision, a turning point, a moment in which you face choices that define your identity. That is true on multiple fronts right now—from the war in Ukraine to U.S.-China tension to climate change. You can manage the moment by deferring, fudging the issue, accepting a further escalation, or making a choice. In Bali, we saw a mixture of all these options.

It may have been bland. It did not resolve anything. But compared to the nightmare of World War III, which seemed to loom on Tuesday evening, it was a relief. (Adam Tooze is a columnist at Foreign Policy and director of the European Institute at Columbia University)  Courtesy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/11/17/g-20-world-government-china-united-states-india-europe/

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.”

Three South Asian Democrats Elected To GA State Legislature

Three South Asian Democrats were elected to the Georgia State Legislature in the recently held mid-term elections.

Sheikh Rahman was re-elected from State District 5, while Nabila Islam won her first election from Senate District 7.

Farooq Mughal, the son of immigrant parents from Pakistan and a public policy expert, has won the race for Georgia House District 105.

Islam will have the honor of being the first Muslim woman to represent the Georgia Senate. Mughal will be the first Muslim to serve the Georgia House.

“We won with 53% of the vote in a challenging year. Our margin of victory is a testament to our brilliant team & hard-working volunteers. We ran a strong campaign & fought hard. My sincerest thank you to the voters who put their trust in me to be their voice in the State Senate,” Islam tweeted after her win.

The daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, Islam was raised in Gwinnett County. She graduated from Gwinnett County Public Schools and Georgia State University.

Farooq Mughal owns a government affairs firm and coordinated the first Asian American Legislative Day at the Georgia Capitol. He is a business leader, public policy expert, mediator, and former chairman of the Gwinnett County Community Outreach Board.

In May 2012, he served on the Steering Committee of the White House Initiatives on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Southeast Regional Summit hosted in Atlanta at Emory University. He also was instrumental in coordinating the first Asian American Legislative Day at the Georgia Capitol. Recognized for his leadership and work, Farooq was invited to the White House in May 2013 to meet President Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden.

Senator Sheikh Rahman, who grew up in Bangladesh, is the first immigrant and first Asian American to serve in the Georgia State Senate. He is also the first Muslim Georgia Legislator. Elected in 2018, he represents the 5th Senate District in the heart of Gwinnett — Georgia’s most diverse county. He is the Chairman of the Gwinnett Senate Delegation. In the Senate, Sen. Rahman is the Secretary of the Urban Affairs Committee.

He also serves on the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Economic Development and Tourism, Government Oversight, and Special Judiciary committees. During his first term, Sen. Rahman was appointed by the Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan to serve on the Senate Higher Education Outcome study committee and Surgical Smoke Evacuation study committee. He was also awarded the Freshman Legislator of the Year by the Democratic Legislative Caucus. In 2019, Georgia Asia Times named Sen. Rahman the 25th Most Influential Asian American in Georgia. In 2020, he was named one of the 100 Most Influential Georgia Muslims by Islamic Speakers Bureau of Georgia.

As Chinese Students Become Less, Indians Expected To Fill Universities Across USA

India is up. China is down. Very few U.S. students studied abroad during the first year of the pandemic.  Those three points, in a nutshell, represent key findings from recent data released jointly on Nov. 14, 2022, by the U.S. Department of State and the Institute of International Education.

The “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange” is published each year at the start of International Education Week. It provides detailed insights regarding study abroad and international students.

Most source countries see a growth in students heading to the U.S., including India sending 19% more students, due to steady decline in Chinese students studying in the U.S., its largest group of foreign students, has opened up opportunities for Indian students as the top global destination for higher education seeks to fill the gap in international enrolments since COVID-19.

Though students from nearly all source countries saw a growth in the number of foreign students in the U.S. for the first time since the pandemic during the 2021-2022 academic session, China was among the few exceptions.

For the second consecutive year, Chinese students in the U.S. saw a decline of 8.6% in 2021-2022 at 2.9 lakh students, according the Open Doors 2022 report on international students released on Monday and brought out by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The student numbers from China are the lowest since 2014-2015. In 2020-2021, China reported a decline of 14.8%.

Overall, in 2021-2022, there were a total 9.48 lakh international students in the U.S. — an improvement of 4% over the previous year when students from across the world reported a sharp decline due to travel restrictions during COVID-19. But international student enrolments continue to be behind pre-pandemic level (2019-2020) by 11.8%.

This year’s report shows a 91% decline in the total number of U.S. students who studied abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year. The pandemic also led colleges to develop more online global learning opportunities. In fact, 62% of colleges offered virtual internships with multinational companies, collaborative online coursework with students abroad and other experiences. While the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a 45.6% decline in new international students in 2020, the latest data, covering the 2021-2022 academic year, indicates that the total number of international students in the U.S. – 948,519 – has started to recover. This can be seen in a 3.8% increase over the 914,095 international students in the U.S. in 2020. Still, the number is well below the nearly 1.1 million international students reported in 2018. Much of the recent growth is driven by an increase in the number of new international students – 261,961 – which is up 80% over the 145,528 from 2020 but still 2.14% below the 267,712 from 2019.

Students from China and India comprise more than half – 52% – of all international students. That isn’t anything new, but what is noteworthy is that during the 2021-2022 academic year, Chinese student enrollment fell 9% and the number of Indian students increased by 19% over the prior year. This has big implications for international diversity at U.S. colleges. This is because Chinese students tend to enroll in a range of majors, while most Indian students – 66.4% – study in just a handful of programs: engineering, math and computer science.

China and India each have around 1.4 billion people, but by 2023 the United Nations predicts that India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country. This continued growth will further strain India’s higher education system, leading to more students pursuing advanced degrees abroad. At the same time, poor job prospects at home are driving many Indian students to pursue academic and career pathways that lead away from India. This is especially true in high-paying, high-growth fields like computers and information technology.

Other contributing factors to the increase from India include a change in tone on the part of the U.S. government. The Biden administration is working to reestablish the U.S. as a welcoming destination for international students by enacting reversals of Trump-era immigration policies. Those policies caused uncertainty and fear among international students. The Biden administration has also prioritized the processing of student visas in India.

Indian-American Nabeela Syed Makes History In US Midterm Polls

“My name is Nabeela Syed. I’m a 23-year-old Muslim, Indian-American woman,” she announced in a tweet on Wednesday.

“We just flipped a Republican-held suburban district.”

She added: “And in January, I’ll be the youngest member of the Illinois General Assembly.”

And as it invariably happens with these path-breakers, she has notched a few more firsts along the way: first Indian-American elected to the Illinois state House — man or woman of any faith — and along with Palestinian-American Abdel Nasser Rashid, the first Muslim elected to the state legislature.

Syed wears a hijab, and some publications noted it.

Kesha Ram, who is now serving in the Vermont state Senate, probably holds the record for being the youngest Indian-American ever elected to a state legislature. She was only 21 when she was elected to the state’s legislative body. She ran unsuccessfully for Lt. Governor in 2016. She belongs to the family of Sir Ganga Ram, the builder of modern Lahore who has a Delhi hospital named after him.

Syed was born in Illinois, but not much else could be ascertained about her family, other than that her parents, or one of them at least came from India.

Syed’s campaign website says she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in political science and business administration, where she served as the President of a pro-bono consulting organisation assisting local businesses and non-profits.

“It doesn’t seem real, but I am a state representative-elect now and I will be the youngest member of the General Assembly,” she told ABC News.

The 2022 midterm will go down in history as responsible for giving the US the first Generation Z member of the US Congress — Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a 25-year-old Democrat elected to the House of Representatives from Florida. President Joe Biden joined the national celebration of his election by congratulating him in a phone call.

Syed frames her election as part of this effort by youngsters to claim their place in politics, rather than wait for their turn, euphemism for waiting for someone to retire.

“It is so important for us to have a seat at the table, for us to have a voice in the legislative process,” Syed went on to say in the ABC interview.

“People say wait your turn or there is no space for you. We made space,” she added. (IANS)

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.)

Stock Market Rally After Inflation Report Shows High Prices May Ease

Stocks surged in their biggest rally in two years last week, after a better-than-expected inflation report showed that the galloping price increases that consumers have endured all year are beginning to slow.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1200 points, or more than 3.7%, over the course of the day to close at 33,715.37, the highest since the middle of August. The Nasdaq soared more than 7% and the S&P 500 more than 5%.

Consumer prices in October were 7.7% higher than a year ago, according to the Labor Department. That’s a slower pace of inflation than September’s 8.2% rate. It’s also the smallest year-on-year increase in prices since January.

And the price hikes between September and October were significantly smaller than forecasters had expected.

Wall Street greeted the report as as a sign that the Federal Reserve may ease up on the gas in its current drive to contain inflation.

The Fed has been raising interest rates aggressively in an effort to tamp down demand and bring prices under control. After ordering jumbo rate hikes of 0.75 percentage points at each of its last four meetings, the Fed is widely expected to adopt a smaller increase of 0.5 points when policymakers next meet in December.

Wall Street analysts said that Thursday’s inflation reading will give the central bank good reason to go with a smaller hike.

Excluding volatile food and energy costs, annual inflation was 6.3% in October — down from 6.6% the month before.

Housing costs accounted for nearly half the monthly price increase, but rents showed their smallest increase in five months. Food costs rose at the slowest pace in 10 months. Gasoline prices rose 4% in October but remain well below their peak price in early summer.

“Today’s report shows that we are making progress on bringing inflation down,” President Biden said in a statement. “It will take time to get inflation back to normal levels – and we could see setbacks along the way – but we will keep at it and help families with the cost of living.”

While prices still rose a swift 7.7 percent over the past 12 months, the annual inflation rate was less than the 7.9 percent expected by economists and lower than the 8.2 percent rate seen in September. The 0.4 percent monthly increase in the consumer price index was also less than the 0.6 percent increase that economists had projected.

Inflation is still near levels not seen since the 1980s and hindering American households. Prices that have already shot up are continuing to rise for food, shelter and other basic needs, pinching the economy along the way.

But the October decline in inflation brought some relief to those struggling to get by.

Used car prices

One of the first pockets of the economy hit by the inflation surge is finally seeing prices come down.

“The run-up in prices for used cars is now unwinding as supply of cars is recovering and demand is hit hard by higher interest rates,” wrote Preston Caldwell, head of U.S. economics for Morningstar Research Services, in a Thursday analysis.

Prices for used cars and trucks fell 2.4 percent in October alone, marking the fourth straight month of declines. While prices are still far above pre-pandemic levels, Americans searching for a used car or truck may finally see relief after months of shortages and supply chain snarls.

Used car and truck prices soared throughout much of 2020 and 2021 as supply chain issues and shortages hindered automobile manufacturing around the world. But supply chains made progress in recovery, making it easier for buyers to trade in older cars for new ones.

Cheaper household supplies

Prices for a wide range of basic household goods fell in October as consumers spent more time bargain-hunting and less money on items once in higher demand.

Picture : WAMU

Household supplies and furnishings fell 0.2 percent in October broadly, with prices for appliances, dishware, furniture and bedding falling sharply. Many of these goods were popular among locked-down American households during the depths of the pandemic and limited by supply chain dysfunction, which boosted their prices.

“Retail promotions are a huge opportunity in inflation. Maybe it’s adjusting your promotions, eliminating profit-draining promotions altogether, or addressing lumpy inventory issues,” said Matt Pavich, senior director at consulting firm Revionics.

“Retailers are looking at all of their options right now to correct issues earlier in the supply chain,” he continued. “Pricing is the fastest lever to do this.”

Clothing and accessories

Prices for apparel dropped 0.7 percent in October after rising 4.1 percent over the past year. The biggest drops came in prices for jewelry, infant and toddler clothes, women’s outerwear and men’s formalwear.

The decline in apparel prices comes before a holiday shopping season that will be closely watched by economists for signs of fading consumer power.

The National Retail Federation expects spending from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 could total as much as $960 billion, which would shatter records. Sales rose 13.5 percent between 2020 and 2021, but the group expects that pace of growth to slow after a booming year for the sector.

Household gas

Households with heating or cooking gas may have caught a break in October as prices for utility gas service plunged 4.6 percent. It was one of the few parts of the energy sector to see prices drop in October, a month when fuel oil prices shot up nearly 20 percent and gasoline prices rose 4 percent.

High prices for oil and gas have been one of the major forces behind the inflationary surge. While prices were destined to rise from 2020 levels — when global lockdowns curtailed energy usage — the war in Ukraine has fueled intense volatility in energy markets.

“We expect some easing in pipeline pressures and rather large negative base-year effects inside the energy complex that will bring down both headline and core inflation through the middle of next year,” wrote Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at audit and tax firm RSM, in a Thursday analysis.

A slower increase in food prices

Food prices are still on the rise, due largely to the war in Ukraine limiting the global supply of wheat and fertilizer. Prices for food are up 10.9 percent on the year, and groceries alone are up 12.4 percent since last October.

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The October inflation report showed that while prices are still increasing, they are moving up at a slower rate — the first step toward a plateau.

Prices for food rose 0.6 percent in October, down from increases of 0.8 percent in August and September and three straight months of increases of at least 1 percent from May to July.

Monthly inflation in groceries also fell from 0.7 percent in September to 0.4 percent in October.

India Assumes Leadership Of G-20 Presidency

Signaling the emergence of India as a significant player on the global scene, India will officially assume the Presidency of the G20 (Group of 20) countries, one of the most consequential amongst current-day multilateral bodies, on December 1st, 2022 at the conclusion of the Indonesian presidency.

Releasing the logo, theme, and website of India’s G20 Presidency, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on November 8th, 2022, “India’s G20 presidency is coming at a time of crisis and chaos in the world. The world is going through the after-effects of a disruptive once-in-a-century pandemic, conflicts, and a lot of economic uncertainty.’’

Picture : The Quint

The current G20 Summit is being organized in Bali, Indonesia from November 15-16, 2022. Heads of states from the world’s largest economies are attending – although Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided not to attend in-person. With unstable global political conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, energy issues, as well as global economic downturn, this is believed to be the most challenging G20 summit yet.

President Joe Biden is confronting competing issues at home and abroad while he’s at the Group of 20 Summit in Bali this week, using the moment on the world’s stage to lean into international support for condemning Russia’s aggression.

The G20 was conceived in 1999, while the repercussions of the Mexican peso crisis (1994), Asian financial crisis (1997) and the Russian ruble crisis (1998) were still being felt. The G20 forum was first established to respond to the global crisis, including the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001, the US subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, and the European debt crisis in 2011.

In a meeting of finance ministers and presidents of central banks of the G7, it was decided to expand the group and make it more representative in order to generate policies that would have a wider impact on the global economy. A group of key emerging economies was invited to a new forum of finance ministers and presidents of Central Banks. This became the G20.

The G20 was upgraded to the Summit level from the finance ministers and presidents of central banks, and became the main instrument to face the global financial crisis of 2007-’08 and beyond.

Picture : News 18

The G20 is an international forum that includes 19 of the world’s largest economies including both industrialized and developing nations, and the European Union. Its core mandate is to address the major challenges related to the global economy and financial architecture such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development among others. It seeks to evolve public policies to resolve them.

Together, the G20 members represent 85% of the global gross product; 75% of international trade; two-thirds of the world population; 80% of global investments in research and development, and 60% of the world land area.

Because the G-20 is a forum, its agreements or decisions are not legally binding but they do influence countries’ policies and spur global cooperation. The G20 is small and cohesive enough to allow concrete in-person discussions to find solutions to the new challenges on the international economic and financial agenda, and is broad and inclusive enough to represent the vast majority of world economic production.

While economic and financial issues tend to lead the agenda, other areas have gained prominence in recent years. New additions include participation of women in the labour market, sustainable development, global health, fight against terrorism and inclusive ventures, among others.

The group’s stature has risen significantly during the past decade. It is, however, also criticized for its limited membership, lack of enforcement powers, and for the alleged undermining of existing international institutions. Summits are often met with protests, particularly by anti-globalization groups.

The G20 seeks to enrich the content of its dialogues by encouraging the participation of civil society through affinity groups. Each of them focuses on an issue of global importance and meets independently throughout the year. From the dialogue in the various meetings, each group delivers a series of recommendations to the G20. Currently, the affinity groups comprise of: Business 20 (B20), Civil 20 (C20), Labour 20 (L20), Science 20 (S20), Think 20 (T20), Women 20 (W20), Youth 20 (Y20).

Modi, Biden review India-U.S. ties during their meeting in Bali

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday reviewed the state of India-US strategic partnership including in sectors like critical and emerging technologies and artificial intelligence.

The two leaders also discussed topical global and regional developments in their meeting that took place on the margins of the G-20 summit in this Indonesian city, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said. It is understood that the Ukraine conflict and its implications figured in the discussions.

The MEA said the two leaders expressed satisfaction about close cooperation between India and US in new groupings such as Quad and I2U2.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President of USA, Joseph R Biden on the margins of G-20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali today,” the MEA said.

“They reviewed the continuing deepening of the India – US strategic partnership including cooperation in future oriented sectors like critical and emerging technologies, advanced computing, artificial intelligence, etc,” it said in a statement.

The MEA said the two leaders discussed topical global and regional developments.

“PM Modi thanked President Biden for his constant support for strengthening the India-US partnership. He expressed confidence that both countries would continue to maintain close coordination during India’s G-20 Presidency,” it said.

While the Quad comprises India, the US, Australia and Japan, the members of the I2U2 are the US, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

India is currently part of the G20 Troika (current, previous, and incoming G20 Presidencies) comprising Indonesia, Italy, and India.

The prime minister is attending the summit at the invitation of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Indonesia is the current chair of the G-20.

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.

Netanyahu To Form Government In Israel With Far Right Support

The former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun coalition negotiations on forming a government, after winning a decisive majority in Israel’s fifth election in four years with the help of ultra-Orthodox parties and a new alliance with the far right.

After a year in opposition, and years of political chaos triggered by his ongoing corruption trial, the veteran politician engineered a comeback in Tuesday’s vote. His majority means that the period of electoral deadlock is in all probability over for now, and Netanyahu – already the country’s longest serving prime minister – is set to stay in the job for at least the next four years. Back in office, the 73-year-old’s first priority will be seeking to get his trial dropped. He denies all charges.

Some of Israel’s allies abroad are concerned about the possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu will appoint far-right politicians to key positions as he forms a new government.

Jewish nationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who met with Netanyahu on Monday, is expected to become a senior Cabinet minister. He could face a boycott by the Biden administration, according to a former Obama administration official.

“I think the U.S. is likely to boycott him,” said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who worked on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks under former President Barack Obama. “I have reason to think that they are strongly considering this.”

President Biden congratulated Netanyahu in a call Monday. Neither Netanyahu’s office nor the White House mentioned the topic of Ben-Gvir.

Convicted by an Israeli court in 2007 for inciting anti-Arab racism, Ben-Gvir stoked tension with Palestinians this year when he visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, or Temple Mount, a contested religious site where there is often violence between Israeli police and Muslim worshippers. “We’re the master of the house here,” Ben-Gvir said.

Now Ben-Gvir hopes Netanyahu will appoint him as public security minister, whose duties would include policing and access at the site — though Netanyahu hasn’t announced his choice.

“Having someone who’s going to, I fear, play with matches, given this flammable piece of real estate, I think is a real danger,” Makovsky said. “I think [Netanyahu is] going to be swimming upstream if he feels that he’s going to be able to normalize the position of Itamar Ben-Gvir.”

Netanyahu has sought to calm fears, assuring his government’s policy would be “responsible” without “pointless adventures.” Ben-Gvir said in an op-ed Monday, “I have matured, moderated.”

Danny Danon, a Netanyahu ally hoping to be the next speaker of parliament, argues Israel will maintain good ties with the Biden administration because Netanyahu, not Ben-Gvir, will be in charge of that relationship.

“I think all the issue of Ben-Gvir, it’s overblown,” Danon told NPR. “We will be running the government, and we will be dealing with the important issues … and we proved in the past that we can be responsible about many of the issues, concerning foreign and domestic issues.”

Other potential members of Netanyahu’s emerging government are religious fundamentalists who support weakening Israel’s Supreme Court and have demonstrated hostility to LGBTQ rights and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, two major U.S. Jewish groups, voiced concern. So has a Democratic member of Congress, and there are U.S. news reports of top American officials raising the issue as well. And according to Israeli news reports, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates also warned that including certain far-right politicians in the Israeli government could hurt their countries’ relations, even as Netanyahu hopes to forge more diplomatic deals with Arab countries.

Sara Greenberg, who served as Netanyahu’s adviser from 2018 to 2019 on foreign affairs and worldwide Jewish communities, warned about allowing “extremism” in the upcoming Cabinet.

“Any move perceived as infringing on Israel’s democratic and pluralistic nature will have a damaging effect on Israel’s relationship with world Jewry, not to mention the free world,” Greenberg told NPR. “The strength of Israel’s democracy — and also its relationship with world Jewry — hinges on how the government portfolios are assigned and how the coalition acts.” (Netanyahu’s far-right Israeli government allies could face U.S. boycott : NPR)

When Could Student Loan Borrowers Know If They’re Actually Getting Relief?

Millions of student loan borrowers find themselves on tenterhooks, waiting to see if they will actually get the relief proposed by President Biden as challenges to his debt forgiveness plan work their way through the courts.

The Biden administration opened up student loan forgiveness applications last month and was planning to start applying the relief this month, but those actions came to a halt after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit temporarily blocked the measure.

Of the multiple court cases across the country, a challenge from six GOP-led states is the only one that has been successful so far in stopping the program, at least for now.

The administration is planning to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loans for borrowers making less than $125,000 annually and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. But the 8th Circuit issued an order two weeks ago to prevent relief from being distributed while it considers arguments over whether the states have standing to sue over the plan.

A federal district judge previously ruled that the six Republican attorneys general who sued do not have standing because they could not demonstrate that Biden’s program directly harmed their states.

The 8th Circuit ended up pausing the relief program to give time for both parties to submit their briefings before making a full ruling on if the forgiveness should be paused until the whole case is settled.

Abby Shafroth, director of National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, told The Hill borrowers will “have a decision” from the 8th Circuit soon since those briefings have been submitted.

Legal experts said the court’s determination on whether the states have standing could be key to whether the administration will be allowed to provide relief in the next couple weeks or months from now, if at all.

Michael Sant’Ambrogio, a law professor and senior associate dean for faculty and academic affairs at Michigan State University, said a ruling on the states’ motion for a preliminary injunction should happen soon, but litigation is “rarely quick” if the full case goes to trial.

“If they grant the preliminary injunction, I would say all bets are off,” he said.

Picture: Mqashable

Biden said in an interview with Nexstar’s Reshad Hudson last week that he expected relief to be disbursed within two weeks, but experts said that is only possible if the injunction is denied.

Sant’Ambrogio said the Supreme Court has increasingly cut back on the power of the executive branch to take action without clear direction from Congress, and the states’ challenge could succeed based on the argument that Congress never expressly approved broad forgiveness.

“This is a very bold move by the administration, and there are certainly some questions given how the Supreme Court has been interpreting the power of the executive and federal agencies,” Sant’Ambrogio said.

While Shafroth acknowledged court cases can go on for a long time, she doesn’t expect the challenges against student debt relief to last for too long or for the courts to halt the program while they decide.

She said it is “unusual for courts to order a party to do or not do something before they’ve decided a case.”

“Normally, a judge would have to find the government was breaking the law before ordering them to stop,” Shafroth said.

The six states that sued –– Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina –– pointed to multiple failed congressional attempts to cancel debt in recent years in their complaint as evidence of a lack of congressional authorization for the administration’s action.

If the appeals court decides the states have standing and grants the preliminary injunction, their briefs on the merits of the case would not be due until mid-December. The government would then have 30 days to respond, and the states would have 21 additional days to respond to that rebuttal, which would almost certainly cause the case to go into next year.

A COVID-19 pandemic-era pause on borrowers making payments on their loans is set to end on Dec. 31, but the Biden administration could seek to extend it again. The administration had been urging borrowers to request relief by mid-November to ensure they receive it in time for the pause to end.

“It’s hard for me to imagine this being wrapped up in less than at least a month. It could potentially be two or three months before the injunction is finally lifted,” said Thomas Bennett, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri. “And of course, if appeals courts agreed with the states that they have standing, then it could be much longer.”

He said either side could appeal an eventual 8th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court on an expedited basis, adding that the high court may be more likely to take it if the federal government loses at the appeals court level.

He said the Supreme Court may also be more likely to take up cases that challenge the program if multiple appeals courts issue different rulings on the constitutionality of the program.

Shafroth pointed out the Supreme Court has already rejected getting involved in one case regarding the debt relief program, Brown County Taxpayers Association v. Biden, and she didn’t expect them to get involved in Garrison v. Department of Education — a prediction that proved correct on Friday when Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied an emergency effort to block the forgiveness program in the Garrison case.

“It remains to be seen if any of the other cases will go up to the Supreme Court,” Shafroth said.

Bennett, in response to Biden’s prediction, said, “It’s not likely that there would be any actual loan forgiveness in the next two weeks.”

“But in the next four weeks, in the next six weeks, I think it just becomes increasingly plausible if they’re able to win,” he added, referring to the administration.

Although Shafroth said it is hard to put an exact timeline on when this could get solved in the courts, she said she does not expect a long timeframe for decisions.

“The parties are very clearly, on both sides, interested in resolving these cases quickly so they’re agreeing to fast briefing schedules. The courts are also recognizing the high importance of these cases and resolving them quickly,” she said.  “I think, hopefully, we should have everything resolved fairly soon,” Shafroth said. (https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/3720140-when-could-student-loan-borrowers-know-if-theyre-actually-getting-relief/)

Cop27 Begins In Egypt

(AP) — “Cooperate or perish,” the United Nations chief told dozens of leaders gathered Monday for international climate talks, warning them that the world is “on a highway to climate hell” and urging the two biggest polluting countries, China and the United States, to work together to avert it.

This year’s annual U.N. climate conference, known as COP27, comes as leaders and experts have raised increasing alarm that time is running out to avert catastrophic rises in temperature. But the fire and brimstone warnings may not quite have the effect as they have had in past meetings because of multiple other challenges of the moment pulling leaders’ attention — from midterm elections in the U.S. to the Russia-Ukraine war.

More than 100 world leaders will speak over the next few days at the gathering in Egypt. Much of the focus will be on national leaders telling their stories of being devastated by climate disasters, culminating Tuesday with a speech by Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Sharif, whose country’s summer floods caused at least $40 billion in damage and displaced millions of people.

“Is it not high time to put an end to all this suffering,” the summit’s host, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, told his fellow leaders. “Climate change will never stop without our intervention… Our time here is limited and we must use every second that we have.”

El-Sisi, who called for an end to the Russia-Ukraine war, was gentle compared to a fiery United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said the world “is on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

He called for a new pact between rich and poor countries to make deeper cuts in emissions with financial help and phasing out of coal in rich nations by 2030 and elsewhere by 2040. He called on the United States and China — the two biggest economies — to especially work together on climate, something they used to do until the last few years.

“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish,” Guterres said. “It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact.”

Guterres insisted, “Today’s urgent crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing.” But bad timing and world events were hanging over the gathering.

Most of the leaders are meeting Monday and Tuesday, just as the United States has a potentially policy-shifting midterm election. Then the leaders of the world’s 20 wealthiest nations will have their powerful-only club confab in Bali in Indonesia days later.

Leaders of China and India — both among the biggest emitters — appear to be skipping the climate talks, although underlings are here negotiating. The leader of the top polluting country, U.S. President Joe Biden, is coming days later than most of the other presidents and prime ministers on his way to Bali.

“There are big climate summits and little climate summits and this was never expected to be a big one,” said Climate Advisers CEO Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. negotiator.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was initially going to avoid the negotiations, but public pressure and predecessor Boris Johnson’s plans to come changed his mind. New King Charles III, a longtime environment advocate, won’t attend because of his new role. And Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine created energy chaos that reverberates in the world of climate negotiations, won’t be here.

“We always want more” leaders, United Nations climate chief Simon Stiell said in a Sunday news conference. “But I believe there is sufficient (leadership) right now for us to have a very productive outcome.”

In addition to speeches given by the leaders, the negotiations include “innovative” roundtable discussions that “we are confident, will generate some very powerful insights,” Stiell said.

The leaders showing up in droves are from the host continent Africa, who are pressing for greater accountability from developed nations.

“The historical polluters who caused climate change are not showing up,” said Mohammed Adow of Power Shift Africa. “Africa is the least responsible, the most vulnerable to the issue of climate change and it is a continent that is stepping up and providing leadership.”

“The South is actually stepping up,” Adow told The Associated Press. “The North that historically caused the problem is failing.”

For the first time, developing nations succeeded in getting onto the summit agenda the issue of “loss and damage” — demands that emitting countries pay for damage caused by climate-induced disasters.

Nigeria’s Environment Minister Mohammed Abdullahi called for wealthy nations to show “positive and affirmative” commitments to help countries hardest hit by climate change. “Our priority is to be aggressive when it comes to climate funding to mitigate the challenges of loss and damage,” he said.

Monday was heavily dominated by leaders of nations victimized by climate change — not those that have created the problem of heat-trapping gases warming up the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuel. It will be mostly African nations and small island nations and other vulnerable nations that will be telling their stories.

And they are dramatic ones, droughts in Africa and floods in Pakistan, in places that could least afford it. For the first time in 30 years of climate negotiations, the summit “should focus its attention on the severe climate impacts we’re already seeing,” said World Resources International’s David Waskow.

“We can’t discount an entire continent that has over a billion people living here and has some of the most severe impacts,” Waskow said. “It’s pretty clear that Africa will be at risk in a very severe way.’’

Leaders come “to share the progress they’ve made at home and to accelerate action,” Purvis said. In this case, with the passage of the first major climate legislation and $375 billion in spending, Biden has a lot to share, he said.

While it’s impressive that so many leaders are coming to the summit, “my expectations for ambitious climate targets in these two days are very low,” said NewClimate Institute’ scientist Niklas Hohne. That’s because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine which caused energy and food crises that took away from climate action, he said. (Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment)

America’s Image Abroad Rebounds With Transition From Trump to Biden

By, Richard Wike, Jacob Poushter, Laura Silver, Janell Fetterolf and Mara Mordecai

The election of Joe Biden as president has led to a dramatic shift in America’s international image. Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, publics around the world held the United States in low regard, with most opposed to his foreign policies. This was especially true among key American allies and partners. Now, a new Pew Research Center survey of 16 publics finds a significant uptick in ratings for the U.S., with strong support for Biden and several of his major policy initiatives.

How we did this

In each of the 16 publics surveyed, more than six-in-ten say they have confidence in Biden to do the right thing in world affairs. Looking at 12 nations surveyed both this year and in 2020, a median of 75% express confidence in Biden, compared with 17% for Trump last year.

During the past two decades, presidential transitions have had a major impact on overall attitudes toward the U.S. When Barack Obama took office in 2009, ratings improved in many nations compared with where they had been during George W. Bush’s administration, and when Trump entered the White House in 2017, ratings declined sharply. This year, U.S. favorability is up again: Whereas a median of just 34% across 12 nations had a favorable overall opinion of the U.S. last year, a median of 62% now hold this view.

In France, for example, just 31% expressed a positive opinion of the U.S. last year, matching the poor ratings from March 2003, at the height of U.S.-France tensions over the Iraq War. This year, 65% see the U.S. positively, approaching the high ratings that characterized the Obama era. Improvements of 25 percentage points or more are also found in Germany, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada.

Still, attitudes toward the U.S. vary considerably across the publics surveyed. For instance, only about half in Singapore and Australia have a favorable opinion of the U.S., and just 42% of New Zealanders hold this view. And while 61% see the U.S. favorably in Taiwan, this is actually down slightly from 68% in a 2019 poll.

In most countries polled, people make a stark distinction between Biden and Trump as world leaders. Nearly eight-in-ten Germans (78%) have confidence in Biden to do the right thing in world affairs; a year ago, just 10% said this about Trump. Similar differences are found in Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, and in all nations where a trend is available from 2020 there is a difference of at least 40 percentage points.

As is the case with views of the United States as a whole, confidence in U.S. presidents has shifted dramatically over the past two decades, especially in Western Europe. In Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and France – four nations Pew Research Center has surveyed consistently – ratings for Bush and Trump were similarly low during their presidencies, while this year confidence in Biden is fairly similar to the ratings Obama received while in office.

Biden’s high ratings are tied in part to positive assessments of his personal characteristics, and here again the contrast with Trump is stark. Looking at 12 countries polled during the first year of both their presidencies, a median of 77% describe Biden as well-qualified to be president, compared with 16% who felt this way about Trump. Few think of Biden as arrogant or dangerous, while large majorities applied those terms to Trump. Assessments of the two leaders are more similar when it comes to being a strong leader, although even on this measure, Biden gets much more positive reviews than his predecessor.

High levels of confidence in Biden are also tied to favorable views of his policies, several of which have emphasized multilateralism and reversed Trump administration decisions. The current survey examines attitudes toward four of the Biden administration’s key policies and finds widespread support for all four.

A median of 89% across the 16 publics surveyed approve of the U.S. rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO), which the U.S. withdrew from during Trump’s presidency. A median of 85% also support the U.S. rejoining the Paris climate agreement. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement was met with widespread criticism, and it was overwhelmingly unpopular in the surveys the Center conducted during his presidency. For example, in 2019 just 8% in France approved of Trump’s plans to withdraw support for international climate change agreements, compared with 91% who now back Biden’s reentry into the agreement.

Picture: AP News

Support for the Biden administration’s proposal to organize a summit of democracies from around the world is also widespread, with a median of 85% saying they approve. There is only slightly less support (a median of 76%) for Biden’s plan to allow more refugees into the U.S. (Biden campaigned on allowing more refugees into the country, briefly reversed his initial goal to raise the refugee cap from levels set by the Trump administration, and then walked back the reversal amid criticism.)

Biden has also made clear that he plans to strengthen America’s commitment to the NATO alliance. As the current poll shows, NATO is viewed positively by the member states included in the survey. (See “NATO continues to be seen in a favorable light by people in member states” for more.)

Although Biden’s more multilateral approach to foreign policy is welcomed, there is still a widespread perception that the U.S. mainly looks after its own interests in world affairs. More than half in most of the publics surveyed say the U.S. does not take their interests into account when it is making foreign policy decisions, although fewer feel this way in Japan, Greece and Germany.

Doubts about the U.S. considering the interests of other countries predate the Trump administration, and this has been the prevailing view – even among close U.S. allies – since the Center began asking the question in 2002.

Despite widely reported bilateral and multilateral tensions between the U.S. and many of its major allies and partners over the last four years, relatively few people describe the U.S. as an “unreliable partner.” But neither do they express great confidence in the U.S. as an ally. Across the 16 publics polled, a median of 56% say the U.S. is somewhat reliable, while just 11% describe America as very reliable.

In addition to the concerns some have about how America engages with other nations, there are also concerns about domestic politics in the U.S. The 16 publics surveyed are divided in their views about how well the U.S. political system is functioning, with a median of only 5o% saying it is working well.

And few believe American democracy, at least in its current state, serves as a good model for other nations. A median of just 17% say democracy in the U.S. is a good example for others to follow, while 57% say it used to be a good example but has not been in recent years. Another 23% do not believe it has ever been a good example.

One of the reasons for the low ratings the U.S. received in 2020 was the widespread perception that it was handling the global pandemic poorly. In the current poll, the U.S. gets significantly more positive marks for how it is handling COVID-19, but most still say the U.S. has done a bad job of dealing with the outbreak (for more, see “Global views of how U.S. has handled pandemic have improved, but few say it’s done a good job”).

In his first overseas trip as president, Biden is preparing to attend the G7 summit in the UK and the NATO summit in Brussels. Once there, he will meet with two other leaders widely trusted for their handling of world affairs.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel actually receives slightly higher ratings than Biden: A median of 77% across the 16 publics surveyed express confidence in Merkel’s international leadership. A smaller median of 63% voice confidence in French President Emmanuel Macron.

Relatively few trust Russian President Vladimir Putin to do the right thing in world affairs, while Chinese President Xi Jinping has the lowest ratings on the survey.

These are among the major findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 16,254 respondents in 16 publics – not including the U.S. – from March 12 to May 26, 2021. The survey also finds that views toward the U.S. and President Biden often differ by ideology and age.

Spotlight: How views of the U.S. vary with political ideology and age

Ideology

In many of the publics surveyed, ideological orientation plays a role in how people view the U.S. and American democracy.

People who place themselves on the right of the political spectrum are more likely to have a positive view of the U.S. in nearly every country where ideology is measured. And this general pattern has not changed much over time, with those on the right holding a more favorable view of the U.S. during the Trump and Obama administrations as well.

In 11 countries, people on the right are more likely than those on the left to say democracy in the U.S. is a good example for other countries to follow. And in a similar set of countries, they are also more likely to think the U.S. political system works well.

Overall, majorities on the left, center and right of the political spectrum approve of the policies included in the survey. However, Biden’s decision to allow more refugees into the U.S. is decidedly more popular among people on the left. In about half the countries, those on the left are also more likely to approve of the U.S. rejoining the World Health Organization.

Age

In general, favorable views of the U.S. do not vary based on age in Europe or the Asia-Pacific region. But age is a factor when it comes to confidence in the U.S. president and other world leaders.

Across most places surveyed, adults ages 65 and older are significantly more likely than those ages 18 to 29 to have confidence in Biden to do the right things in world affairs. Trust in Biden is so high overall, however, that at least half in all age groups hold this view.

Older adults also have more confidence in Merkel in half of the surveyed areas. Trust in Putin shows the opposite pattern, with younger adults more likely to have confidence in the Russian president in most of the publics surveyed.

Adults under 30 also deviate from older adults in their views of American democracy. In about half of the publics surveyed, younger adults are more likely to think democracy in the U.S. has never been a good model for other countries to follow.

Favorable views of the U.S. have rebounded

In every place surveyed except New Zealand, around half or more have a favorable opinion of the U.S. Ratings are highest in South Korea, where 77% have positive views of the U.S., and around two-thirds or more in Japan, France and the UK say the same.

 

These broadly positive views reflect a sharp uptick since last summer, when ratings of the U.S. were at or near historic lows in most countries. For example, in Belgium, where only a quarter had favorable views of the U.S. last year, a 56% majority say the same today.

In France, the UK and Germany, positive views have increased even since this past November and December. Surveys in these three countries found tepid views of the U.S. last December – after major media outlets had called the election for now-President Joe Biden but before his inauguration and the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by a mob of Trump’s supporters. Evaluations ranged from 40% favorable in Germany to 51% in the UK. Today, positive views have increased by double digits in all three countries, with around six-in-ten or more in each of these countries now saying they view the U.S. favorably.

In many places, favorable views of the U.S. have now rebounded to roughly the same levels that were seen toward the end of President Obama’s second term. Take France as an example: The share who have positive views of the U.S. has more than doubled since last year, from 31% – a record low – to 65%, which is comparable to the 63% who had favorable views of the U.S. at the end of the Obama administration.

Views of American democracy and foreign policy both factor into how people feel about the U.S. For example, those who think the U.S. political system is working well and those who think American democracy is a good example for other countries to follow are much more likely to have favorable views of the U.S. Similarly, those who think the U.S. is a reliable partner and who think the U.S. takes other countries’ interests into account also have more positive views of the superpower. And people who believe the U.S. is doing a good job of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic are more likely to express a positive view of the country.

Some concerns about functioning of U.S. democracy

Majorities in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands are skeptical of how the U.S. political system functions. On the flip side, majorities in South Korea, Greece, Italy, Japan, Taiwan and Spain express at least some confidence in the American system of government.

However, even among publics where majorities think the U.S. political system works at least somewhat well, this confidence is lukewarm: At most, about a fifth say the American political system functions very well. In most places surveyed, the share who say this is smaller than one-in-ten.

While attitudes are mixed about how well the U.S. political system functions, publics in the advanced economies surveyed are largely skeptical that democracy in the U.S. is a good example for other countries to follow. Across all publics surveyed, no more than about three-in-ten say the U.S. is currently setting a good example of democratic values.

Rather, majorities or pluralities say American democracy used to be a good example but has not been in recent years, and up to about a quarter reject the idea that the U.S. has ever been a good model of democracy.

Only about a third say the U.S. considers their interests in foreign policy

Despite the sharp uptick in favorable views of the U.S. and its president in 2021, most people surveyed continue to say the U.S. doesn’t take into account the interests of publics like theirs when making international policy decisions. Across the 16 publics, a median of 67% say the U.S. does not take their interests into account too much or at all, while only 34% say Washington considers their interests a great deal or fair amount.

Across the European countries surveyed, there is a fair amount of variation in this assessment. As few as 16% in Sweden say the U.S. considers Sweden’s interests when making foreign policy, but roughly half or more in Greece and Germany do. In Germany, this represents a 32 percentage point increase since 2018, when this question was last asked. Despite this uptick, replicated across many of the European nations surveyed in both years, majorities in the region say the U.S. does not consider their interests when making foreign policy decisions.

Asian-Pacific publics also tend to say Washington discounts their interests, including 85% among New Zealanders. Around seven-in-ten in Australia and South Korea, as well as 54% in Singapore, concur that the U.S. does not consider their interests when making foreign policy.

In Taiwan, which has a complicated unofficial relationship with the U.S., 51% say the U.S. does not consider their interests, while 44% say it does. Among Japanese adults, opinions are almost equally divided between people who say the U.S. takes their views into account when making foreign policy and those that say the U.S. does not. (During the survey fielding, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visited the U.S., attending what was Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader since he became president.)

There have been significant increases in the shares saying the U.S. considers their interests when making foreign policy since the question was last asked during the Trump presidency. In addition to the jump in Germany, there have been double-digit increases in such sentiment in Greece, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, France, the UK and Spain. In Greece and Canada, this is the highest such reading in a Pew Research Center survey, even compared with the Obama era.

Still, the predominant sentiment, going back to 2002 when the question was first asked, is that the U.S. does not consider the interests of countries like theirs. The election of Joe Biden has not fundamentally changed that.

Most say that the U.S. is a somewhat reliable partner

Across the 16 publics surveyed, majorities or pluralities say the U.S. is a somewhat reliable partner. But in no public surveyed do more than two-in-ten say that the U.S. is a very reliable partner.

At the same time, fewer than four-in ten say the U.S. is a not too reliable partner, and in no public do more than one-in-seven say that the U.S. is a not at all reliable partner.

The sentiment that the U.S. is a very or somewhat reliable partner is highest in the Netherlands (80%), Australia (75%) and Japan (75%). But 44% in Taiwan and 43% in Greece say the U.S. is not too or not at all reliable.

Nearly all say relations with U.S. will stay the same or get better over the next few years

When asked whether relations with the U.S. will get better, worse or stay the same over the next few years, a median of 57% across the 16 publics say they will stay the same. While a continuation of current relations with the U.S. is the most common response, a median of 39% say relations will get better and only 5% say they will get worse.

The only place where a majority thinks relations with the U.S. will get better is Germany (60% say this), where attitudes about the transatlantic alliance have become increasingly pessimistic in recent years. Half of Canadians also say relations with their southern neighbor will get better over the next few years.

In 2017, when this question was asked specifically about then-newly elected President Trump and his effect on bilateral relations, the most common answer was also that they would remain the same. But back then, few said that relations with the U.S. would improve under Trump, and significant portions of the population thought they would deteriorate, including 56% in Germany who said this.

High confidence in Biden across Europe, Asia-Pacific

In the first year of his presidency, Biden enjoys positive ratings from majorities in each of the publics surveyed. Overall, a median of 74% have confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing in world affairs.

Confidence is particularly high in the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and Canada, where about eight-in-ten or more trust Biden when it comes to international affairs. He receives his lowest ratings in Greece, South Korea and Taiwan, though more than six-in-ten in each trust his handling of world affairs.

Widespread confidence in Biden contrasts starkly with views of his predecessor. Trust in the U.S. president was historically low in most countries surveyed during Trump’s presidency. In many cases, however, the share who have confidence in Biden is not as high as the share who had confidence in Obama at the start or end of his presidency.

Germany is a good example of this pattern. In 2020, only 10% of Germans had confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs (matching a previous all-time low earlier in Trump’s presidency). Once Biden took office, confidence in the U.S. president increased by 68 percentage points in Germany, but it is still lower there than the all-time high of 93% in 2009, Obama’s first year in office. A similar trend can be seen in Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Japan.

However, in Greece, confidence in the U.S. president is the highest it has been since Pew Research Center first asked this question there. A much higher share of Greeks have confidence in Biden compared with Obama in 2016 and earlier. Notably, Biden has shared a positive relationship with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Greeks are more than twice as likely now to say the U.S. takes their country’s interests into account when making policy decisions (53%) than they were when Obama was president (20% in 2013).

Biden more trusted than Putin and Xi, less trusted than Merkel

Publics express much more confidence in Biden than in Russian President Vladimir Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden also fares well in comparison with French President Emmanuel Macron, but his ratings tend to trail those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A median of 77% have confidence in Merkel to do the right thing in world affairs. She receives somewhat higher ratings in the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, France, New Zealand and Australia than in her home country, though a large majority of Germans still express confidence in the chancellor. Of the 16 publics surveyed, Greece is the only one where fewer than half hold this view. Faith in Merkel has also increased since the summer of 2020 in six of the 12 countries where data is available for both years.

A median of 63% have confidence in Macron when it comes to his handling of world affairs. Roughly eight-in-ten or more hold this view in Greece and Sweden. As with Merkel, Macron’s ratings in his home country are positive, but more subdued than in other publics; 53% of people in France trust the French president to do what is right in international affairs.

Medians of only around one-in-five express confidence in Putin or Xi. Singapore and Greece are the only countries where more than half trust either president; 55% in both Greece and Singapore say they have confidence in Putin, and 70% in Singapore say the same of Xi.

Ratings for the Chinese president have been consistently low in many countries, particularly across the Western European nations surveyed, since this question was first asked in 2014. Opinion of Putin in these countries extends back even further and shows a similarly negative pattern there.

Biden seen as well-qualified to be president

Reflecting high levels of confidence in the U.S. president, overwhelming majorities say Biden is well-qualified for the position, and many see him as a strong leader. Very few view Biden as either dangerous or arrogant. And in most cases, these views are in stark contrast to views of his predecessor.

A median of 77% think Biden is well-qualified for his role as president, ranging from 64% in Japan to 84% in Sweden. Among many of these same publics polled in 2017, only a third or fewer saw Trump as well-qualified.

The gap between perceptions of the two American presidents is especially wide in Sweden and Germany. Only 10% of Swedes thought Trump was well-qualified to be president during his first year in office. In the current survey, 84% see Biden as qualified, a 74 percentage point difference. Among Germans, 6% thought Trump was well-qualified, compared with eight-in-ten who say the same of Biden this year.

A difference of roughly 50 points or more on this question appears in nearly every country where data is available for both leaders.

Biden and Trump are viewed the most similarly when it comes to perceptions of them as strong leaders. In 2017, relatively large shares saw Trump as a strong leader, even in countries where few had confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. In countries where data is available for both leaders, more people tend to see Biden as a strong leader, but in several countries, the difference is comparatively small.

Very few people across the publics surveyed think Biden could be described as dangerous (median of 14%) or arrogant (median of 13%). This is a striking difference from how Trump was viewed early in his presidency.

For example, there is an 83-point difference in the Netherlands between those who viewed Trump as arrogant (92%) and those who currently say the same about Biden (9%). Differences of roughly 80 points or more on this question can also be seen in France, Sweden, Spain, Germany and Canada.

Similarly, majorities in each country saw Trump as dangerous in 2017, while no more than 21% hold this view of Biden, resulting in differences of roughly 40 points or more in countries where data is available for both leaders.

Biden’s foreign policy agenda broadly popular across advanced economies

The Biden administration’s foreign policies included on the survey enjoy widespread popularity. Of the four policies tested, the United States’ reentry into the World Health Organization (WHO) garners the most approval, with a median of 89% saying they support the move. Support for this policy is most prevalent in Europe, where shares ranging from 86% to 94% approve of the U.S. returning to the organization. The move is also broadly popular in Canada and the Asia-Pacific.

Biden’s decision to recommit to the Paris climate agreement is also very well received. A median of 85% approve of the U.S. rejoining the accord. Across Europe, about nine-in-ten or more across six countries polled favor the move, with respondents in the Netherlands, Germany and the UK following closely behind. Shares of roughly eight-in-ten or greater are also supportive in Canada and the Asia-Pacific region.

Rejoining the accord represents a reversal from former President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement, a move that was met with widespread disapproval when Pew Research Center asked about it in 2017.

In all countries the Center surveyed both this year and four years ago, Biden’s approach is considerably more popular than Trump’s. For instance, in Spain, only 8% approved of Trump withdrawing support for international climate agreements in 2017, while 93% approve of the U.S. rejoining the Paris agreement this year, an 85 percentage point difference. In every country, rejoining the agreement is met with approval from shares at least four times as large as the shares who supported leaving it.

In addition to Biden’s reversal of Trump-era withdrawals from international organizations and pacts, his plans for the U.S. to host a summit of democratic nations earns widespread approval. Across the 16 publics polled, a median of 85% express support for the convening, and in each, eight-in-ten or more say they favor the plan.

Attitudes toward this policy among several publics are divided by views of American democracy. Among most publics surveyed, those who think the U.S. is a good example of democracy for other countries to follow support the summit more than those who think the U.S. has never been a good example. For instance, in Sweden, 91% of those who think the U.S. is currently setting a good example of democratic values approve of the U.S. convening leaders from other democracies, compared with 71% of those who doubt the U.S. has ever set a good example of democracy, a 20-point difference.

Those who view the U.S. as a reliable partner are more likely to approve of the U.S. hosting a summit of democratic nations in 13 of the publics surveyed. For example, in Germany, 89% of those who think the U.S. is a reliable partner approve of this policy, whereas only 68% of those who view the U.S. as unreliable agree, a 21-point difference.

Approval of Biden’s plan to increase the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. is also widespread. A median of about three-quarters support the change, and nowhere do fewer than six-in-ten agree with the decision. This comes as Biden reversed his initial goal to raise the refugee cap in the U.S. from the levels set by the Trump administration, but then walked back the reversal amid criticism.

Ayurveda Summit Held At Indian Consulate In New York

On the occasion of the 7th Ayurveda Day, Consulate General of India, New York, organized an ‘Ayurveda Summit’ on 29 October 2022. This year’s Ayurveda Day was celebrated with the theme “Har Din Har Ghar Ayurveda” so as to propagate the benefits of Ayurveda to a larger audience by underlining the centrality of families as the carrier of this ancient wisdom. 

The event was organized as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, [email protected] series. The focus of the Summit was how to make Ayurveda appealing for the young generation which has meaningfully embraced holistic health and nature-based wellness as a way of life.  Prominent members of the community, media, yoga and Ayurveda practitioners and people from diverse backgrounds attended the Summit.

Picture: TheUNN

In his welcome remarks Consul General Mr. Randhir Jaiswal spoke on the growing popularity and acceptance of ayurveda in scientific terms. In this regard, he recalled the recently inaugurated World Health Organization’s Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India.  Noting that Ayurveda brings people closer to nature, he urged the audience to adopt Mission LIFE – that is Lifestyle for Environment – and support the cause of planet Earth.  

Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi has recently launched Mission LIFE calling upon each and every member of the global community to contribute towards the well-being of the planet.     

The program began with yoga, breathing and short meditation session led by Mr. Eddie Stern, a well-known yoga teacher, author and lecturer. Following this, a panel discussion was held on the topic – Ayurveda – From the Outside to Within – A timeless, universal science, moderated by Ms. Ruchika Lal. 

The panelists were Ms. Raina Kumra (CEO, Spicewell), Ms. Smrita Choubey (Founder, Veda Farms), Ayurveda health counselor Ms. France Brunel (Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Yoom) and Ms. Kavita Khosa (Founder and Creative Director, PurEarth). A second panel discussion included Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya, nutrition consultant; Ms. Divya Alter, chef and ayurveda expert; Ms. Nidhi Pandya, ayurveda expert; and Ms. Alak Vasa and Mr. Kushal Choksi of Elements Truffles. Following this, talks were held by Ms. Nidhi Pandya and Dr. Srinivasa K. Rao, on how to develop a deeper scientific understanding of Ayurveda. Element Truffles and the Art of Living Foundation partnered the Consulate in organizing the ayurveda summit. 

Miss World 2021 Runner-Up Shree Saini Implanted With New Pacemaker

Women, Entertainment, Health

Pacemakers are usually given to those who have lived a long life and now their heart needs an extra assistance. For me, I was born with a heart defect,” Shree, 26, wrote.

Indian-American model Shree Saini, who was declared the first runner-up at the Miss World 2021 pageant, recently revealed that she is undergoing heart surgery for a new pacemaker implant as her “current pacemaker batteries have died”. A heart patient, Shree, who got a pacemaker at the age of 12, went on to share that she has to “undergo a total of eight pacemaker replacement surgeries” in her lifetime.

Picture: TheUNN

“I would so greatly appreciate your prayers. There will be no visitors allowed at the hospital. I want to thank everyone who has been there for me. For those who may not know, I was born with a complete heart block, where my upper and bottom chambers did not communicate with each other. My block led me to me having a very low heart rate and feel terribly fatigued,” she mentioned in a note on Instagram.

“The pacemaker paces my heart to beat at a normal rate. It does this by using the pacemaker to send electric shocks to my heart which allows it to beat at a normal rate. Average age of a pacemaker recipient is age 80. Pacemakers are usually given to those who have lived a long life and now their heart needs an extra assistance. For me, I was born with a heart defect,” Shree, now 26, penned.

Adding that she is sharing her story to “encourage people to have a greater sense of hope even in their hardships”, she wrote, “Let’s rise up from our challenges with a victor, not a victim mindset.”

Shree, who was also adjudged Ambassador Beauty With Purpose at the 2021 Miss World, thanked her well-wishers for their constant support. “I still remember being a kid and being so confused, scared while waiting for my initial surgery. I do remember the teachers and peers who were there for me. I will forever be grateful for people who cared, reached out with comforting words and whose love filled me with strength. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. I am the sum of God’s blessings, parents’ unconditional love and the blessings of so many people. So grateful for scientists, doctors for creating this remarkable pacemaker technology, that literally allows me to live today!”

About the size of a pocket watch, artificial pacemakers are implanted under the skin through an incision in the chest. The device is connected to the heart through leads or wires that deliver electrical signals that regulate the heart’s activity. “Pacemakers are small machines placed to generate heart beats. When your heart beats slows down to less than 50-60 beats, with or without heart conduction tissue, it indicates damage to your heart’s wiring system, or in cases of heart failure where a patient’s heart do not beat in tandem to produce a good pulse or output, then the doctor recommends these small machines to improve the quality of life, said Dr Bipeenchandra Bhamre, consultant cardiac surgeon, Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai, adding that ECG and Holter monitoring tests help to determine the need of pacemakers.

According to the expert, two types of machines are widely used — single chamber and dual chamber — depending on the number of heart chambers affected. “Periodic check up, every year, is required to check for battery. Your doctor will recommend the type of machine better for you,” he said.

Dr Pankaj Batra, senior interventional cardiologist, Fortis Escorts Faridabad, told indianexpress.com that the PPI or Permanent Pacemaker Implantation procedure takes about an hour to be completed. “Permanent pacemaker insertion is considered a minimally invasive procedure. Transvenous access to the heart chambers under local anesthesia is the favored technique. It is not a surgery,” said Dr Batra, adding that “in case of congenital heart defects, pacemakers may be preferred for a long life.”

Picture: TheUNN

A National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) review also suggested that the primary purpose of such a device is to maintain an adequate heart rate, either because the heart’s natural pacemaker is not fast enough, or there is a block in the heart’s electrical conduction system. “Modern pacemakers are externally programmable and allow the cardiologist to select the optimum pacing modes for patients on a case-to-case basis,” explained Dr Batra and further said that replacement is usually done after 10 to 15 years using a “minor procedure”.

While pacemakers can be temporary in cases of a heart attack, permanent pacemakers are used to control long-term heart issues. “Pacemaker can relieve some arrhythmia symptoms, such as fatigue and fainting. A pacemaker also can help a person who has abnormal heart rhythms resume a more active lifestyle,” mentioned the NCBI review. Agreed Dr Batra and mentioned that pacemakers are needed to “improve the quality of life”, and with minimal heart-related issues. (Courtesy: The Indian Express)

Micron Technology CEO Sanjay Mehrotra To Invest $100 Billion, Creating 50,000 Jobs In NY

Technology, Business

Indian American Sanjay Mehrotra, the CEO of Micron Technology has promised to invest $100 billion over the next 20 years which will be instrumental in the creation of thousands of jobs in New York.

In his LinkedIn post, Mehrotra said that he met President Joe Biden on October 28 and showcased Micron’s future plans and the creation of the largest semiconductor fabrication facility in Clay, New York.

Kanpur-born Indian-origin Mehrotra said in a LinkedIn post that he met US President Joe Biden, and showcased the future plans of his company and the creation of the largest semiconductor fabrication facility in the history of the US. 

“Today, I was humbled to meet with President Biden, introduce him to some of the Micron team, and showcase Micron’s plans for our future megafab in Clay, New York. This $100B investment over the next two decades will create the largest semiconductor fabrication facility in the history of the United States,” he said in the post. 

Mehrotra said in the post that their company will create 50,000 jobs in New York and will partner with local colleges, universities and community organisation to build the workforce. He said that they aim to make New York the hub of leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing. 

he fabs, part of Micron’s manufacturing network, will create memory chips that can be used in the most demanding applications worldwide. “Clay, New York will be able to say with pride that they are home to some of the most advanced semiconductor facilities anywhere in the world. We are proud to drive a vision for high-tech manufacturing leadership here in America,” he said. 

The company further stated in a release that it will invest $250 million in the Green CHIPS Community Investment Fund, with an additional $100 million invested from New York, with $150 million from local, other state and national partners. “To secure US leadership in semiconductor manufacturing, cultivate American innovation and ensure economic and national security, it is imperative we come together to build and transform a workforce for the future. Our commitments through the Community Investment Framework represent the first foundational steps toward Central New York’s transformation,” said Mehrotra on President Biden’s visit. 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that the project’s $500 million community fund will sustain the region in the long term with investments in workforce, housing, and infrastructure. 

Micron Technology is a Nasdaq-listed company that focuses on innovative memory and storage solutions. 

Micron’s founder Sanjay Mehrotra was born in Kanpur, and completed his schooling from Delhi’s Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. He moved to the US at the age of 18, transferring from BITS Pilani to University of California, Berkeley. He earned his BA and MA degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from University of California. Mehrotra then enrolled in Stanford University for an executive business degree. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Boise State University. Mehrotra also holds around 70 patents.

President Biden Hosts Diwali At White House

“We are honored to host you. This is the first Diwali reception of this scale in the White House ever to be held. We have more Asian Americans than ever before in history and we want to thank you for making the Diwali celebration a joyous part of American culture,” US President Joe Biden said, after lighting the traditional lamp, marking the largest-ever celebration of Diwali, the South Asian Festival of Lights at the White House in the nation’s capital on Monday, October 24th, 2022. 

As described by President Biden as the largest ever Diwali Celebration, since the “People’s House” started celebrating the festival during the George Bush administration, the annual event was hosted by US President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden.

President Biden wished a happy Diwali to over a billion Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists celebrating the festival across the world. He thanked the Asian American community in the US for making the Diwali celebration a joyous part of American culture.

“As we host the official White House Diwali reception, we are honored to light the diya surrounded by members of the most diverse administration in American history, led by Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black American and South Asian American to become vice president.”

More than 200 eminent Indian Americans attended the reception at the East Room, a venue, which has witnessed some of the landmark events related to the India-US relationship, including the signing of the nuclear deal and the joint press conference by then US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2008.

“The incredible South Asian community all across America has helped the country emerge stronger from this pandemic, building an economy that works for everyone, teaching children and caring for elders, responding to the cry for action on climate, working to fix immigration system, defending rights and freedoms, building a more just and equitable country, serving and protecting our communities and the nation, informing, entertaining and inspiring,” Biden said. 

Kamala Harris, the Vice President, in her remarks from the White House on the occasion of Diwali celebrations, said, “White House is the people’s house and together our president and first lady have made this place where every American can celebrate their honor and tradition.” Tonight, Vice President Harris said, the Biden administration joins over 1 billion people around the world to light the ‘Diya’ and celebrate the fight for good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and light over darkness.

First Lady Jill Biden praised the Asian American community in the US for “helping us light our way forward. With persistence, with faith, with love, I am grateful that today these diyas have guided you to this home. A home that belongs to all of you,” the first lady said.

President Biden thanked for the optimism, courage, and empathy demonstrated by the incredible South Asian community all across America. “Together, South Asian Americans reflect the soul of who we are as a nation, whether helping us emerge stronger from this pandemic, building an economy that works for everyone, or serving and protecting our communities and our country.”

As the world celebrates this gathering of light, he said, “as this community has experienced too often–that there is always darkness lurking. American history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that we have never fully lived up to it. By marking the victory of light over darkness, Diwali is a reminder that each of us has the power to bring light to the world, whether here in America or around the world.”

The White House reception saw some enthralling cultural events, including performances by sitarist Rishab Sharma and dance troupe, The Sa Dance Company. The guests, dressed in traditional Indian attires such as saree, lehenga and sherwani, relished some mouthwatering Indian delicacies.

“The room is full at the East state dining room… This is a real celebration of what the Indian American community has achieved in the United States. It’s a wonderful recognition by the President and by the White House to host all of us on Diwali. I feel very privileged to be here as an Indian American,” Atul Keshap, president of US India Business Council said during the reception.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be here to celebrate Diwali. Indian Americans thank the President and the First Lady for this,” said H R Shah, chairman and CEO of TV Asia, the largest South Asian television channel in the US.

Ajay Jain Bhutoria, a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, said the event was held to recognize the South Asian community’s contributions in economic development and managing Covid crisis among others.

Lauding the Diwali celebration, Bhutoria said it sent a message “how much President Biden and this administration loves and respects the South Asian community”. Biden has appointed a record number of over 130 Indo-Americans at various high levels of the administrations, he said.

Diwali is an auspicious festival that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. Spectacular lights, firecrackers, irresistible traditional sweets and exchanging gifts mark the festival. While, the Hindus celebrate this festival to commemorate the homecoming of Lord Rama after 14 year-long years in exile and his victory over Ravana, for the people of Jain faith, this festival carries the essence of spiritual upliftment because it marks the achievement of Nirvana or Moksha by Mahavira, the last Tirthankara.

Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights” and is observed incessantly for five days that kicks off in late Ashwin and concludes in the early Kartika month according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar. Each day of the festival is associated with six different principal stories. In North India, worshipping of Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is an important part of Diwali that signifies the welcoming of prosperity and wealth.

King Charles Interprets ‘Defender Of The Faith’ For A New Britain

An estimated 4 billion people worldwide were predicted to watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on television and online, with Presidents Joe Biden of the U.S. and Emmanuel Macron of France and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attending the obsequies in London’s Westminster Abbey in person. The medieval abbey, the sublime music and military processions were all a visual and aural feast, but the event was at its heart a Christian ceremony, with the coffin placed in front of the altar and presided over by robed clergymen.

The queen’s funeral, in this sense, was not entirely representative of Britain’s increasingly secular population. Even its believers are less likely to be Christian than at the start of Elizabeth’s reign, with 2.7 million Muslims, 800,000 Hindus and a half-million Sikhs, among many other faiths. Christians, who once consisted mostly of various Protestants — chiefly members of the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the Church in Wales — and Roman Catholics, have been joined by a growing Pentecostal movement and other evangelical churches, according to the BBC.

There is nothing like a royal wedding or funeral to remind us that the Church of England remains the official, established church, with the monarch as its Supreme Governor, and since Elizabeth’s death on Sept. 8, we’ve seen it in the ascendant. Yet there are also signs that the late monarch, now-King Charles III and the Church of England have recognized that the time has come to adjust.

In a landmark speech in 2012 at Lambeth Palace, the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the queen said of the Church of England that “Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”

She credited the established church with having done so already. “Gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely,” she said.

The new king has endorsed those words as recently as Sept. 9, the night after his mother died, in his first televised address to the British nation as its king. “The role and the duties of Monarchy also remain,” he said, “as does the Sovereign’s particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England — the Church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted.”

But he continued, ”In the course of the last 70 years we have seen our society become one of many cultures and many faiths.”

Nearly 30 years ago, as prince of Wales, Charles articulated concern about other faiths and Christian denominations in modern Britain not feeling included, and controversially suggested that when he became king he should be called Defender of Faiths — plural— rather than the title Defender of the Faith bestowed on Henry VIII by the pope in 1521 and used by England’s monarchs since.

Anglicans reacted harshly to Charles’ gambit, fearing he would not be fully wedded to assuming his role of Supreme Governor of the Church of England when the time came. Even after he rescinded his statement in 2014, the moment haunted Charles. His statement on Sept. 9 came in part to reassure doubters, who then heard him proclaimed king and Defender of the Faith the next day before the Accession Council, who proclaimed him the new monarch.

Then, bit by bit, we saw more evidence of how the king and his advisers, as well as the late queen, through her funeral plans, tried to embrace other traditions.

Britain’s King Charles III and Camilla, the queen consort, leave after a Service of Prayer and Reflection for the life of Queen Elizabeth II, at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, Wales, Sept. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

The Sept. 12 service of thanksgiving for the queen’s life was held at Edinburgh’s St Giles Cathedral, the main church of the Church of Scotland. Representatives of other faiths were in attendance, and the Gospel was read by Mark Strange, primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the other main Protestant church in Scotland besides the Church of Scotland.

More surprising, a passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans was read by Leo Cushley, the Catholic archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, and included lines often interpreted as encouraging ecumenical dialogue: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

When Charles then paid a visit to Northern Ireland, more efforts were made to include the Catholic population, for whom the monarchy has long been a sensitive issue. At St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast — where the president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, and Taoiseach (as Ireland calls its prime minister) Micheál Martin were in attendance — Eamon Martin, the Catholic archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, offered a prayer; others were said by Methodist and Presbyterian church leaders. At a service during Charles’ stop in Wales, prayers were said by Muslim and Jewish representatives as well as representatives of several Christian denominations.

But a reception at Buckingham Palace for 30 faith leaders on Friday (Sept. 16) — before the new king met any world leaders in London for the funeral, and even before he took part in a vigil with his siblings at the lying-in-state of his mother — spoke volumes about the importance Charles assigns religion in Britain.

Charles welcomed not only the Catholic archbishop of Westminster but Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy and Imam Asim Yusuf, telling them that Britain’s sovereign has an “additional” duty — presumably in addition to being Supreme Governor of the Church of England — to protect “the space for faith itself” in Britain. This duty, he said, is “less formally recognized but to be no less diligently discharged.”

He added: “It is the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals. This diversity is not just enshrined in the laws of our country, it is enjoined by my own faith.”

That Charles’ words were backed up by his mother was evident in the state funeral Monday. The specialness of the Church of England and of multifaith, diverse Britain was acknowledged as a procession of religious representatives entered Westminster Abbey in advance of the main funeral party: Jews, Baha’is, Jains, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus, as well as Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis; Pope Francis was represented by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states.

Reading prayers during the service were the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; Shermara Fletcher, principal officer for Pentecostal and charismatic relations for Churches Together in England; the Rev. Helen Cameron, moderator of the Free Churches; and Roman Catholic Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

This balancing act will be tested again in the next few months when the new king’s coronation takes place. By then, new coins embossed with Charles’ head will likely have been minted, with the legend “Charles DG Rex, FD”: Latin acronyms for Charles, by the Grace of God, King, Defender of the Faith. While proclaimed as that Defender, he has indeed reinterpreted what it means, even if not altering the wording as he once suggested. It looks as if the reign of King Charles III will be dedicated to offering that protection to believers.

But what of those in Britain of no faith? Soon the results of the most recent national census, of 2021, will be published, showing who believes what, and whether the nonbelievers have grown. Last time, in 2011, a quarter of the population said they had no religion. Finding a way to make them feel connected to a coronation blessed by the Church of England and replete with Christian justifications for monarchical power might be a far tougher test than organizing a procession of Buddhists, Jains and Catholics.

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)

Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan To Cost $400 Billion

President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive $10,000 in federal student debt for most borrowers will cost the government about $400 billion, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in an estimate released Monday.

The CBO’s evaluation of the administration’s policy said the price tag is “a result of the action canceling up to $10,000 of debt issued on or before June 30, 2022.”

The estimate applies to the plan Biden announced last month to forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 and $20,000 for borrowers who received Pell Grants.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said 43 million borrowers shared $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt as of June 30. Under Biden’s plan, about $430 billion of that debt will be wiped out, the reporting shows.

The CBO also estimated the costs for the Biden administration’s recent renewal of the moratorium on federal student loan payments and interest accrual, which had been set to lapse at the end of August. The extension, which punts the deadline to the end of the year, was projected to cost $20 billion in the new report.

As of the end of June, 43 million borrowers held $1.6 trillion in federal student loans and about $430 billion of that debt will be canceled, the CBO estimated. The White House, borrowing language from the CBO analysis, responded by focusing on the agency’s own assessment that its $400 billion estimate was “highly uncertain.”

“CBO called its own estimate ‘highly uncertain.’ We agree,'” the White House said in a memo. “By law, the federal budget computes the complete cost of student loan relief over the lifetime of the loans, and then records that cost in the year the loans are modified,” the memo continued. “But that’s not how this program will affect the bottom line in reality. The cost to the government is not the long-term score, but rather, the annual lost receipts.”

Modi’s ‘Rebuke’ Of Putin Heard In US

The “abrupt and unheralded change” in India’s stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as reflected in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “public rebuke” of Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, has been heard in official Washington DC with some relief and satisfaction.

Prime Minister Modi made it “clear to Putin’s face that the invasion is wrong”, said Ro Khanna, an Indian American lawmaker who has been critical of India’s refusal to condemn the invasion. Speaking at a community event on Wednesday, he went on to suggest Modi could also help in a “peaceful resolution and a ceasefire”.

Earlier the same day in New York, a senior White House official pointed to the new Indian position as testimony to the Biden administration’s strategy of just laying out the facts on Ukraine for other countries to see and judge for themselves instead of forcing them to change their stand.

“The US strategy has borne fruit insofar as you are seeing increasing signs of countries that did abstain, to include countries like India speaking out in a different way, including directly in front of Putin,” the official said. “And, you know, we’d like to see more than that, obviously, in the days ahead.”

India was among 34 countries that abstained in an UN general assembly vote in March that deplored Russia for invading Ukraine. China had also abstained.

New Delhi came under significant pressure from the US and its western allies to condemn the invasion and either stop buying Russian oil or not ramp it up, as it would enable Moscow to withstand the economic sanctions imposed on it to force it to end the war and leave Ukraine.

India did neither. Until last week. “Today’s era is not of war,” Prime Minister Modi told Putin in public remarks ahead of their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. That went much further than India’s expression of ‘grave concern’ over the killing of civilians in Ukraine’s Bucha, and call for respecting the UN charter that protects the sovereignty and integrity of all member nations.

US frustration with India’s refusal to condemn Russia and stop oil from it, had led to a rather unfortunate outburst from a senior White House official sent to New Delhi for these talks. He had warned India of “consequences”.

“I’ve been clear about India, and I think India ought to be condemning Putin and India ought not to be getting oil from Russia or China. We ought to rally the world to isolate Putin,” Khanna said on Fox News in days after the UN general assembly vote.

Khanna had gone on to say that it was time for India to choose between the US and Russia. “First, India should condemn Putin in the UN for the blatant human rights violations. Second, they need to realise, they have to pick sides,” he said, adding, “We, the United States, were with them when China invaded India. Putin wasn’t there. And it’s time for them to buy weapons from the United States, not Russia. We’ve got to look at how we can facilitate that and make that easier. We need India as an ally ultimately to contain China.” (IANS)

India Is On The Side Of Peace In Russia-Ukraine War, Jaishankar Tells At UNGA

As the months-long Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to rage on, India on Saturday, September 24, 2022 told the United Nations General Assembly that it is on the side of peace and that it will remain firmly there. Speaking at the General Debate of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles.

“As the Ukraine conflict continues to rage, we are often asked whose side we are on. And our answer, each time, is straight and honest. India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there,” he said.  “We are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles. We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out. We are on the side of those struggling to make ends meet, even as they stare at the escalating costs of food, of fuel and fertilizers,” Jaishankar added.

He also said that it is in our collective interest to work constructively, both within the United Nations and outside, in finding an “early resolution” to this conflict. In another note,  Jaishankar has left the door open for a possible role for India in mediating the Ukraine-Russia war.  Mexico proposed last week at the UN Security Council that a committee of Heads of state and government, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis, could help UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres end the war.

Jaishankar’s response to a question about a possible role for India in mediating an end to the Ukraine-Russia war expertly framed. He did not rule it out. But he also made it clear India is not campaigning for it. “If we can help in some way we will be obviously responsible enough to do that,” the Minister said, adding, “I think the participants know that the rest of the world knows that. Beyond that what happens that’s in the realm of diplomacy so I can’t say anything.”

Mexico has proposed that Modi should mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Foreign Minister Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubon suggested it officially during a meeting of the UN Security Council debate on Ukraine in New York. “Based on its pacifist vocation, Mexico believes that the international community must now channel its best efforts to achieve peace,” Casaubon said.

“In this regard, I would like to share with you the proposal of the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to strengthen the mediation efforts of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, through the formation of a Committee for Dialogue and Peace in Ukraine with the participation of other heads of state and government, including, if possible, His Excellency Narendra Modi and His Holiness Pope Francis.”

According to media reports, Jaishankar kicked off a four-day visit to Washington DC with a first-of-its-kind public interaction for an Indian External Affairs Minister with the Indian American community: a Q&A in which he took unscreened questions from the audience, which, it must be noted, comprised largely of old fans and new fans — the moderator, for instance, repeatedly called him a “rockstar”, and his every answer was greeted with multiple round of applause, with the most excited springing to their feet.

Noting that while the global attention has been on Ukraine, Jaishankar said that India has also had to contend with other challenges, especially “in its own neighbourhood”, in an apparent reference to the unresolved standoff with China in eastern Ladakh and strained relations with Pakistan.

“Having borne the brunt of cross-border terrorism for decades, India firmly advocates a ‘zero- tolerance’ approach. In our view, there is no justification for any act of terrorism, regardless of motivation. And no rhetoric, however sanctimonious, can ever cover up blood stains,” he said.

“The United Nations responds to terrorism by sanctioning its perpetrators. Those who politicise the UNSC 1267 Sanctions regime, sometimes even to the extent of defending proclaimed terrorists, do so at their own peril. Believe me, they advance neither their own interests nor indeed their reputation,” the external affairs minister stated.

The Minister answered a range of questions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Pakistan to Kashmir, education, health and his own experiences as a long-time career diplomat. “Very honestly, it’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well, nor (is it) serving American interests,” the Minister said in response to the F-16 spares, which has greatly exercised some Indian-Americans. He framed his criticism of the package in the overall context of a bilateral relationship, which he argued, has been mutually dysfunctional for both Pakistan and the US.

“It is really for the US today to reflect … the merits of this relationship,” Jaishankar added, asking what it wants with this package. For someone to say I’m doing this because it is all counter-terrorism content and so, when you are talking of an aircraft like a capability of an F-16 where everybody knows, you know where they are deployed and what is their use,” the Minister said, and added, “You’re not fooling anybody by saying these things.”

He slammed the Biden administration’s proposal to provide $450 million worth of spares and services for Pakistan’s F-16s, saying no one is fooled by claims that these highly capable fighter aircraft are meant only for counter-terrorism operations.

The Biden administration informed the US congress earlier in September that it proposed to provide $450 million worth of spares and services for Pakistan’s US-made F-16 for their “sustainment”. No new capabilities or munitions are part of the package, which, it was stated, will also not alter the military balance in the region.

The US administration claimed in the notification that these F-16s are meant for counter-terrorism operations. But Pakistan has used them for other purposes as well, most recently in an air combat with Indian fighters jets in February 2019. India later said it shot down one of the F-16 deployed.

“If I were to speak to an American policy-maker, I would really make the case (that) look what you are doing,” Jaishankar said further. “Forget about us. It’s actually not good for you what you’re doing, reflect on the history, look at the last 20 years.”

Jaishankar will have the opportunity to convey his advice to plenty of American policy-makers he will be meeting over the next few days, including his US counterpart Antony Blinken.  (IANS)

At UN, Despite Global Morass, Hope Peeks Through The Gloom

(AP) — The head of the United Nations had just warned of a world gone badly wrong — a place where inequity was on the rise, war was back in Europe, fragmentation was everywhere, the pandemic was pushing onward and technology was tearing things apart as much as it was uniting them.

“Our world is in big trouble. Divides are growing deeper. Inequalities are growing wider. Challenges are spreading farther,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday morning as he opened the general debate at the 77th U.N. General Assembly. And he was, on all counts, incontrovertibly correct.

Yet barely an hour later, here were two U.N. delegates — one Asian, one African — grinning and standing in the sun-dappled lobby of the U.N. Secretariat Building, thrilled to be there in person on this particular morning as they snapped photos of each other, laughing along the way as they captured the moment.

Hope: It can be hard to find anywhere these days, much less for the people who walk the floors of the United Nations, where shouldering the world’s weight is central to the job description. After all, this is an institution that listened last year as the president of the not-yet-at-war nation of Ukraine described it as being “like a retired superhero who has long forgotten how great they once were.”

And when world leaders are trying to solve some of humanity’s thorniest problems — or, to be frank, sometimes to impede solutions to those same problems — it’s easy, from a distance, to lose sight of hope through the haze of negative adjectives.

Yet beneath the layers of existential gloom Tuesday — and this is no doubt a pandemic-exhausted group of people representing a world in a really bad mood from so many disquieting challenges — there were signs of brightness poking through like persistent clovers in the sidewalk cracks.

“For each and every one of us, the U.N. is a unique platform for dialogue and for cooperation,” Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said. Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. spoke of his country being an “optimistic” nation for whom “solutions are within our collective grasp.”

“There’s one friend of mine who is a neurosurgeon who said my problem is I’m a congenital optimist,” U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with Guterres. “But I am optimistic. I think we can make things better.”

And David Kabua, president of the ocean-besieged Marshall Islands — a man who has little reason to express optimism these days — came to the United Nations and spoke of “this iconic hall, the symbol of humanity’s hope and aspiration for world peace, prosperity, and international cooperation.”

“As humanity strives to defend freedom and build lasting peace, the U.N.’s role is indispensable,” said South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

There were many other such moments Tuesday and Wednesday. Taken together, they are noteworthy: There seems a collective sense — echoed by leader after leader in different, sometimes oblique ways — that even when it disappoints or falters, the United Nations must be a place of hope amid the cold-eyed pragmatism.

Why is that? Part of it is the unswerving commitment since the U.N.’s very beginnings to the principle of multilateralism, a $10 word for playing nicely with each other. And to play nicely when your feuds are ancient or bloody or seemingly insurmountable — to even try — requires hope.

That’s always been true, though. There’s also something else, something unique to this year, to this moment. In the frightening early pandemic days of 2020, the U.N. General Assembly was all virtual, and leaders stayed home and made videos. Last year, despite a theme of “Building Resilience Through Hope,” the hybrid General Assembly produced spotty leader attendance and little sense of the world congregating.

Now, though the pandemic persists, the U.N. grounds are alive with people from most of the planet’s backgrounds and traditions, interacting and talking and generally doing what the United Nations was built to do — take nations and turn them into people, as the late Sen. William Fulbright

“It’s the only place in international organizations where there is this effort to define what is collectively shared,” says Katie Laatikainen, a professor of political science and international relations at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, who studies the United Nations.

“They’re working to figure out what it means to be part of the international community,” she says. “They’ve learned the language of appealing to the `we,′ and it encourages others to define the `we’ and commit to the `we.’”

Guterres made sure to infuse that sensibility as he opened the proceedings with his doom-saturated speech. He told of a ship called the Brave Commander, loaded with Ukrainian grain and — helped by the warring nations of Ukraine and Russia — headed for the Horn of Africa, where it can help prevent famine.

It flew under a U.N. flag, and Guterres said it and the dozens of ships that followed were not only carrying grain; they were carrying “one of today’s rarest commodities” — hope.

“By acting as one,” he said, “we can nurture fragile shoots of hope.”

So, no: Hope is not absent at the United Nations this week. That much is certain. It’s contained, it’s muted, it’s tentative. But it is there, gossamer though it might be — even if some might find the notion naive. “Our opportunity is here and now,” said the president of the General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary.

The world, after all, is not an easy place. Was it ever? The second secretary-general of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, understood that. “The United Nations was not created in order to bring us to heaven,” he said, “but in order to save us from hell.”

(Aource: AP coverage of the UNGA, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly)

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

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)

Queen Elizabeth II Laid To Rest Alongside Husband

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest reigning monarch, has been buried in the King George VI Memorial Chapel in St George’s chapel, Windsor Castle, in a small private ceremony attended by family on Monday, September 19th.

Britain, joined by people from around the world said farewell to Queen Elizabeth II at a historic state funeral attended by world leaders, before a ceremonial journey past hundreds of thousands of mourners to her final place of rest.

Earlier on Monday 2,000 guests including heads of state gathered in Westminster Abbey for her funeral. The coffin was then taken to Wellington Arch in a procession featuring members of the armed forces and their bands.

The Queen’s children, including King Charles III followed behind the coffin on its journey after it left the abbey. His sons, Prince William and Prince Harry joined them. The Queen’s coffin was later driven to Windsor Castle.

To the tune of pipes and drums, the gun carriage — used at every state funeral since Queen Victoria’s in 1901 — was then drawn by 142 junior enlisted sailors in the Royal Navy to Westminster Abbey.

The thousand-year-old church’s tenor bell tolled 96 times at one-minute intervals — one for every year of her life — and stopped a minute before the service began at 11:00 am (1000 GMT).

In his funeral sermon, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby praised the queen’s life of duty and service to the UK and the Commonwealth.

“People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer,” he told the 2,000 guests, who included US President Joe Biden and Japan’s Emperor Naruhito.

A service of committal was held at St George’s chapel, where the Queen’s coffin was lowered in to the royal vault and her instruments of rule were placed on the altar.

Additionally, the coffin of Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip—who died in April 2021 at the age of 99—was moved from its place in the Royal Vault at Windsor Castle and has now been reunited with his wife’s casket in the King George VI memorial chapel, with the two now buried together.

After the death of her father in 1952, Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne at the age of 25. In 2015, she made history, surpassing the previous longest-reigning British monarch, her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. Queen Elizabeth would also go on to become the longest-serving female head of state in world history.

In addition to carrying out her civil and philanthropic duties, the Queen welcomed four children with Prince Philip: King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

The Queen also had eight grandchildren, including Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Vicount Severn and 12 great-grandchildren.

Following the Queen’s passing, her son King Charles reflected on his mother’s legacy moments after news broke of her death. “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother,” he wrote in a statement shared by Buckingham Palace on Sept. 8. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”

 

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]

Vedant Patel, 1st Indian-American To Hold The U.S. Department Of State’s Daily Briefing

Vedant Patel, the Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State, has created history by becoming the first Indian-American to hold the daily State Department news conference that his fellow colleagues said did with the utmost professionalism and clear communication.

With State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on vacation, the 33-year-old Patel from California on Tuesday, September 6th took the briefing room in the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department to represent the country on foreign policy issues before the media.

During his briefing, Patel covered topics ranging from Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine, negotiations around the JCPOA and Liz Truss becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Vedant Patel made an impressive debut from the podium. “Kudos to” Vedant Patel on his podium debut, tweeted Matt Hill, senior Associate Communications Director at the White House. “Representing the United States on the world stage is a huge responsibility, and Vedant did it with the utmost professionalism and clear communication,” Hill said.

Pili Tobar, former White House deputy communications director said: “It’s so great to see Vedant Patel at the podium. Congrats my friend on an amazing debut,” she tweeted.

Patel, who was born in Gujarat, is a graduate from the University of California, Riverside, and previously served as an Assistant Press Secretary and Spokesperson for President Biden in The White House. Prior to that he served as a spokesperson on the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the Biden-Harris Transition. He also held communications positions on the Biden Campaign both in the primary and general election.

Vedant Patel is currently the Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State, and has previously served as an Assistant Press Secretary and Spokesperson for President Biden in The White House. He has also worked as a Communications Director to both Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Congressman Mike Honda.

“Hosted my first Daily Press Briefing at the podium today,” Patel tweeted after his debut. “The Briefing is an important way we stay accountable to U.S. citizens and helps protect our democracy. You have a right to know about the events and policies that shape your life.”

Medicaid, CHIP Enrollment Process Streamlined

The Biden administration has proposed a new rule to overhaul the application and renewal process for Medicaid and other government programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), CMS announced. By simplifying enrollment and verification processes, CMS is aiming to make it easier for children, older adults, and people with lower income to both attain and retain Medicaid and CHIP coverage.

The federal agency is striving to make it easier for eligible people to enroll in and continue their Medicaid coverage. With the COVID-19 public health emergency slated to end on October 13, the proposed rule comes at a time when states are beginning to notify Medicaid beneficiaries about potentially losing coverage. The proposal includes standardizing eligibility and enrolment policies like limiting renewals to once every 12 months to allow applicants 30 days to respond to information requests.

It would also end lifetime benefit limits in CHIP, allowing children to enroll in coverage immediately by doing away with pre-enrollment waiting periods. Children’s eligibility would transfer directly from Medicaid to CHIP when a family’s income rises, preventing an unnecessary redetermination process.

For adults aged 65 and older, as well as those with a disability, the proposed rule would remove unnecessary administrative hurdles for individuals who are eligible for the government programs.

“This proposed rule will ensure that these individuals and families, often from underserved communities, can access the health care and coverage to which they are entitled – a foundational principle of health equity,” CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement.

USA Today (8/31, Lee) reports HHS “aims to make enrolling in government health care programs easier for low-income kids,” people with disabilities, “and older adults by cutting red tape, according to a proposal announced Wednesday.” This proposed rule “takes steps to reduce the paperwork burden often associated with health care by streamlining applications and standardizing policies and requirements across states for Medicaid, Basic Health Programs and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.” If implemented, “2.81 million more people are projected to enroll in Medicaid over the next five years,” according to the agency.

Modern Healthcare (8/31, Goldman, Subscription Publication) reports among the policies included are “limiting eligibility checks to once every 12 months, requiring renewal forms to be pre-populated with certain information and establishing consistent processes across states,” as well as “measures to help qualified beneficiaries remain on the programs from year to year.”

Arun Subramanian Nominated As Judge Of New York District Court

 US President Joe Biden has announced the nomination of an Indian-American attorney, Arun Subramanian, for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Subramanian currently works as a partner at Susman Godfrey LLP New York and serves as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee.

President Biden’s announcement brought the number of announced federal judicial nominees to 143 as this is Biden’s twenty-sixth round of nominees for the judicial positions and his thirteenth slate of nominations in 2022, according to an official statement by the White House.

Subramanian received his Juris Doctor (J.D) from Columbia Law School in 2004 and his BA from Case Western Reserve University in 2001, the statement added.

If confirmed in days to come, Subramanian will become the first South Asian judge to serve on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He is a partner at Susman Godfrey LLP in New York where he has worked since 2007.

In his career, Arun has successfully redeemed over a billion dollars for public and private entities that were the victims of fraud and other illegal conduct.

Moreover, Arun Subramanian served as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court of the United States from 2006 to 2007, Judge Gerard E. Lynch on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 2005 to 2006, and Judge Dennis Jacobs on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 2004 to 2005, as per the official website of Susman Godfrey.

The Indian-origin attorney has taken up the cause of public entities in False Claims Act cases, victims of trafficking in child pornography, consumers and individuals injured by unfair means.

Notably, Arun also contributes to the legal community by taking on pro bono cases outside of the courtroom and has served for years on the pro bono panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the second circuit.

Arun Subramanian currently serves as Chairperson of Susman Godfrey’s 2022 Pro Bono Committee and is also a longtime Director of the Columbia Law Review, one of the Nation’s pre-eminent legal journals, the official website of Susman Godfrey stated.

Queen Elizabeth, Longest-Reigning British Monarch Dies At 96

Queen Elizabeth II, who served as the beloved face of the United Kingdom and source of strength for seven decades, died on Thursday, Sep. 8th, 2022 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96, Buckingham Palace announced. The Queen’s oldest son Charles has now become King Charles III.

“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow,” the royal family said in a statement posted on its official Twitter account, referring to Charles as the new King for the first time.  The King said in a statement that the Queen’s death was “a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family.”

The Queen was last seen in public on Tuesday, two days before passing away, when she formally appointed Liz Truss as the UK’s new prime minister. A photograph from the audience showed the monarch smiling, standing in the drawing room in Balmoral, carrying a walking stick. Truss is the 15th — and the last — British Prime Minister to be appointed by Elizabeth.

There have been concerns over the Queen’s health ever since a brief hospital stay last October. She has experienced episodic mobility issues, which have at times caused her to withdraw from official engagements.

The royal was preceded in death by her husband, Prince Philip, who spent more than seven decades supporting the queen. The Duke of Edinburgh, Britain’s longest-serving consort, died in April 2021 at age 99. Elizabeth and Philip were married for more than 70 years and had four children: Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

Queen Elizabeth is succeeded immediately by her eldest son, Prince Charles, 73, who has now become the monarch. Charles’ firstborn son, Prince William, 40, is now next in line to the world’s most famous throne, followed by his firstborn son, Prince George, 9.

From the small, curly-haired girl known to her family as “Lilibet” to the gracious, bespectacled great-grandmother who favored broad-brimmed hats, deliberate bright fashion and sensible shoes, the queen was always a favorite with her subjects both at home and in her many visits to Commonwealth nations around the world.

Born April 21, 1926, at her maternal grandfather’s London home and named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the future queen was educated privately at home, along with her younger sister, Margaret Rose. Even as a child, she was considered sensible and well-behaved.

In a broadcast to the British Commonwealth on her 21st birthday, she pledged, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

When her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth’s father became King George VI, and she was next in line for the throne. Elizabeth was on a trip with her husband to Kenya when she received word of her father’s death on Feb. 6, 1952, at age 56. The cause of death was cancer.

On their immediate return to London, Elizabeth, now the queen regnant, and Philip moved into Buckingham Palace, which was to remain her main residence for the rest of her life.

When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952, some Britons were so thrilled by the young queen they declared it was a second “Elizabethan Age.” Following her coronation at Westminster Abbey, she became known for trying to modernize the monarchy and make more personal contact with her subjects — from garden parties to inviting 100 couples from around Britain who shared her wedding date to join the festivities at her 25th anniversary.

Elizabeth II would come to embody not only the British monarchy but a tradition of doing one’s duty and maintaining a stiff upper lip. If she appeared smiling and cheerful in public, the queen also encountered her share of adversity — from wars to the divorces of three of her four children; the 1997 death of her glamorous daughter-in-law, Princess Diana; and the 1992 fire that severely damaged Windsor Castle, one of her official residences. The constant throughout her life appeared to be a sense of duty and self-discipline.

Queen Elizabeth, the longest-lived British monarch, reigned through 14 American presidents, and just as many British prime ministers, proving herself a savvy stateswoman and a constant leader on the world stage.

“I cannot lead you into battle,” the Queen, summing up her role in a 1957 Christmas broadcast, once told her subjects. “I do not give you laws or administer justice, but I can do something else: I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”

The queen, who traveled on more than 271 state visits during her reign, was sometimes the only female on the stage with world leaders, and she always stayed mum on her personal political opinions, proving her mastery of “soft diplomacy.”

As recently as 2021, she met with world leaders at a Group of 7 summit meeting in Cornwall in June, and hosted President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, at Windsor Castle afterward.

In addition to being sovereign of the United Kingdom and 15 Commonwealth realms, she was also the head of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries, that includes India.

Queen Elizabeth’s State Funeral Expected To Be Held In London’s Westminster Abbey

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey in central London is expected to take place on Monday, September 19th, reports stated. Heads of state, prime ministers and presidents, as well as European royals and other key figures from public life will gather in the Abbey, which can hold a congregation of 2,000. President Joe Biden is likely to lead the US delegation at the state funeral.

All Royal Family members are expected to be at the funeral, including Queen Elizabeth II’s children—King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward—as well as their partners and children, among them Prince William and Prince Harry. A Who’s Who of the British aristocracy and political establishment will be among the mourners. Several foreign heads of state are also expected.

Buckingham Palace will confirm the date and the details, but it will be at London’s Westminster Abbey. The abbey is the site of previous coronation ceremonies, including Queen Elizabeth II’s in 1953. It can hold up to 2,000 attendees.

As per reports, the body of the Queen who died in Scotland on Sep. 8th will be transported to Holyrood House, her residence in the Scottish capital Edinburgh. Then, a procession will carry her coffin to St. Giles Cathedral for a memorial service. Next, her coffin will be brought to London by Royal Train or possibly by air. It will be taken to Buckingham Palace, before being escorted to the Palace of Westminster by a gun-carriage procession.

When it arrives at Westminster Hall, lying in state will take place for a few days. Other royals have also lain in state here, including the Queen’s parents—the Queen Mother and King George VI. Viewings will reportedly be allowed for 23 hours a day, in hopes of accommodating the expected half-a-million members of the British public wanting to pay their respects.

The Government will also announce that the funeral day will be a public holiday in the form of a Day of National Mourning. The period of Her Majesty’s coffin lying in state in Westminster Hall – where her father’s body lay for three days after his death in 1952 – is expected to begin on September 14.

The service will be televised, and a national two minutes’ silence is expected to be held. The same day as the funeral, the Queen’s coffin will be taken to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for a televised committal service.

The Queen’s final resting place will be the King George VI memorial chapel, an annex to the main chapel – where her mother and father were buried, along with the ashes of her sister, Princess Margaret. Her husband Prince Philip’s coffin will move from the Royal Vault to the memorial chapel to join the Queen’s.

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.”

IAGB, Saheli, ISW and Other Asian Organizations Condemn Hate and Violence Against Indian Americans

A group of Indian American and Asian organizations such as India Association of Greater Boston and India Society of Worcester have condemned the rising hate and violence against Indian Americas in the United States.

In a statement titled Condemnation of Hate and Violence – From New England Asian American Organizations” and posted on ISW and IAGB websites, the representatives of these and other organizations said the following:

“We the representatives of Indian American organizations in New England and our allies, strongly condemn the recent act of anti-Asian violence in Plano, Texas. We are very disturbed by this and recently increased acts of violence and hate crimes against Indians, South Asians, and Asian Americans in general. We do commend the Plano Police department for responding to the incident with urgency and understanding.

Asian Americans, like all other immigrants, have made significant contributions to this great land despite facing ongoing prejudice based on accents, color, religion, or perceptions of leadership or other abilities.

We believe in the fair treatment of all human beings regardless of age, education level, race, ethnicity, gender expression and identity, nationality, national origin, creed, accent, physical and mental ability, political and religious stance, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, veteran status, profession, or any other human differences.

We unequivocally and unapologetically condemn the divisive forces of hate, inequity, and injustice. We stand united in love and peace and stand against racist, discriminatory, violent acts against any community.

Together, we say to those who are victims of such acts, “We see you; we hear you; we stand with you.”

President Biden dropped the f-word. He 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.”

There is no consensus in the U.S. political conversation on what “fascism” even is, let alone which set of political actors should earn its ignominious attribution. On the left, there’s a hardening belief that a Republican Party still captured by Trump is hostile to fair elections, bent on dismantling liberal democracy, and is taking its cues from more clear-cut would-be authoritarians like illiberal Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

On the right, there’s a parallel, if more histrionic, insistence that the Democrats and the liberal establishment comprise some sort of tyrannical front. That grievance has supercharged their long-running culture war and underlies recent moves by Republican state governments to ban certain books and censor what schools can teach about race, history and sexuality.

Numerous historians and political scientists have weighed in on the uses and misuses of forging analogies to the 1930s, when fascism took root in Europe. Experts in comparative politics have charted how the modern Republican Party has drifted toward the extremes of Western politics, even while the Democrats still occupy what can be broadly considered in Western democratic terms as the center.

Scholars of fascism see Trump’s political ideology and style not as a redux of the past, but a brand of far-right, pseudo-authoritarian for the present. Regular readers of Today’s WorldView for the past half decade will know that we have not been shy about invoking “fascism” in the American context as we parsed the tumult of the Trump yearsthe ultranationalism and nativism animating his supporters and his own conspiratorial demagoguery.

Biden’s decision to deploy the term may reflect a more aggressive stance ahead of a bruising midterm election cycle. That could be a tactic to gin up Democratic voters. “They have thought they weren’t seeing the strong fighter, the person they elected, and they attributed it to age and to weakness,” Celinda Lake, a longtime Democratic pollster, told my colleagues. “I hope we can anticipate more of this. People have been craving it.”

But the substantive claim Biden made is also important. The “semi-” in “semi-fascism” was doing a lot of rhetorical work for the U.S. president, who was not likening Trump and his movement to the genocidal monstrosity of the Third Reich. But his critics nevertheless seemed to suggest that was the subtext of his remarks, and dismissed the charge offhand.

So what may be a useful lens through which to see Biden’s invocation of fascism? Writer Jonathan Katz put forward a thorough analysis over the weekend, citing the work of Robert Paxton, a respected historian of Vichy France and author of the 2004 book, “The Anatomy of Fascism.”

Katz quoted Paxton at length: “Fascism in power is a compound, a powerful amalgam of different but marriageable conservative, national socialist, and radical right ingredients, bonded together by common enemies and common passions for a regenerated, energized and purified nation, whatever the cost to free institutions and the rule of law.”

All of that scans quite neatly onto the rhetoric and atmospherics of modern-day Republicanism, as Katz himself lays out in his essay.

“The danger is not that American fascism will necessarily or even probably turn out like Italian Fascism — or German, Syrian, Argentinian, or any other. We are not going to live a shot-for-shot remake of the Holocaust or the Second World War,” Katz wrote. Rather, he continued, “the danger would be in the triumph of an exclusionary, violent, anti-democratic cult of personality, which by definition will not be dislodged through elections, politics, or civil debate.”

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.

On September 1, Brookings will host a virtual launch event for “Power Politics” where author Darrell West will engage in a fireside chat with USA Today’s Susan Page to discuss the current threats to American democracy and the solutions to help mitigate them.

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?”

Biden’s new midterm message: protect democracy

President Biden issued a midterm-minded message on Thursday 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, speaking in prime-time 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.”

According to The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Morgan Chalfant, 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).

President Joe 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.

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.

Delivering a preemptive rebuttal from Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said it is the Democratic president, not Republicans, trying to divide Americans.

Over 130 Indian-Americans Hold Key Jobs In Biden Administration

Shortly after winning the November 2020 US presidential polls, then president-elect Joseph Biden promised to pick a cabinet that will be “more representative of the American people than any other cabinet in history”. True to his word, Biden’s staffing decisions—both within and beyond the cabinet—reveal many firsts, such as the first Native American interior secretary and the first Black secretary of defense.

The growing clout of Indian Americans is visible more than ever as reports find, there are as many as 130 Indian Americans hold key roles and in many cases leading important departments in the US administration under Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Presidency.  In doing so he has not only fulfilled his promise to the community that he had made as a presidential candidate in 2020, but also shattered the record of his predecessor Donald Trump, who had appointed more than 80 Indian-Americans and his previous boss Barack Obama, who had appointed over 60 Indian-Americans to key positions during his eight years of presidency.

Described as the best representation from the community that makes up around one per cent of the American population, the important roles they occupy speak for their talents, skills, resourcefulness and the many ways they have come to be recognized as thoughtful leaders and partners in contributing to continuing to keep and make the United States, the adopted land of theirs a great nation.

More than 40 Indian-Americans has been elected at various state and federal levels including four in the U.S. House of Representatives. Not to miss the more than 20 Indian-Americans leading top U.S. companies.

While the first-ever presidential appointment was done during the time of Ronald Regan, this time Biden has appointed Indian-Americans to almost all departments and agencies of his administration.

“Indian-Americans have been imbued with the sense of seva (service) and this is reflected in their enthusiasm to pursue positions in public service instead of the private sector,” Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, philanthropist and venture capitalist M. R. Rangaswami told PTI.

“The Biden administration has now appointed or nominated the largest group to date and needless to say we are proud of our people and their accomplishments for the United States,” Mr. Rangaswami said. Mr. Rangaswami is founder and head of Indiaspora, a U.S.-based global organization for Indian-origin leaders. Indiaspora keeps a track of Indian-origin leaders.

Biden, who has maintained a close relationship with the community since his Senator days, often jokes around about his Indian relationship. He made history in 2020 by selecting Indian-origin Kamala Harris as his running mate.

The list of Indian-Americans in the White House reflects that there would be only a few meetings inside the White House or in Mr. Biden’s Oval Office that would not have an Indian-American presence.

His speech writer is Vinay Reddy, while his main advisor on COVID-19 is Dr. Ashish Jha, his advisor on climate policy is Sonia Aggarwal, special assistant on criminal justice is Chiraag Bains, Kiran Ahuja heads the Office of Personnel Management, Neera Tanden is his senior advisor, and Rahul Gupta is his drug czar.

Last week when India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu, hosted a reception at India House on the occasion of Independence Day, Indian-Americans from his administration were representing almost all major branches of the U.S. government.

Young Vedant Patel is now the Deputy Spokesperson at the Department of State, while Garima Verma is the Digital Director in the Office of the First Lady. Mr. Biden has also nominated several Indian-Americans to key ambassadorial positions.

Led by Indian-Americans Sunder Pichai of Google and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, there are over two dozen Indian-Americans heading U.S. companies. Among others include Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, Vivek Lall of General Atomics, Punit Renjen of Deloitte, Raj Subramaniam of FedEx.

There are nearly 4 million people of Indian descent living in the United States; over 1% of the total population of the country as of 2018. Indians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, and about 6% of the country’s foreign-born population is Indian, making them the second largest immigrant group in the country after Mexicans.

The very first Indians came to America when the British East India Company brought them over to the American colonies to work as servants. The next, more significant wave of Indians came in the 19th century, when a group of over 2,000 Sikhs came from both India and Canada for economic opportunities and to escape environmental, financial and racial issues, mostly settling in California.

Throughout the early 20th century, Indian and other Asian immigrants faced racial discrimination in the U.S., struggling to gain citizenship and property ownership rights. Indians began gaining social acceptance by pursuing higher education, gaining more employment opportunities and making their mark in various fields.

The largest wave of Indians immigrating to the US came with the new age of technology, with many Indians finding work in this sector, beginning in the 1990s when over 100,000 computer specialists from India came over to help with the Y2K concerns.

Being one of the largest immigrant populations in the United States, Indians have become a powerful force in various sectors, including tech, business and government. The prominence of Indians in the American political sphere is especially apparent this year, as Kamala Harris, a woman who is half Indian on her mother’s side, has become the Vice President of the United States.

However, it is not only in very recent years that Indians gained prominent government positions in the US. In 1956, Dalip Singh Saund, an Indian born American man, became the first person of Asian descent to be elected to Congress. According to reports, more than 40 Indian-Americans have been elected to various offices across the country. Four are in the House of Representatives — Dr. Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal. This includes four Mayors.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s Student Debt Relief Plan Explained

What the program means for you, and what comes next

President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the U.S. Department of Education have announced a three-part plan to help working and middle-class federal student loan borrowers transition back to regular payment as pandemic-related support expires. This plan includes loan forgiveness of up to $20,000. Many borrowers and families may be asking themselves “what do I have to do to claim this relief?” This page is a resource to answer those questions and more. There will be more details announced in the coming weeks. To be notified when the process has officially opened, sign up at the Department of Education subscription page.

The Biden Administration’s Student Loan Debt Relief Plan

Part 1. Final extension of the student loan repayment pause

Due to the economic challenges created by the pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration has extended the student loan repayment pause a number of times. Because of this, no one with a federally held loan has had to pay a single dollar in loan payments since President Biden took office.

To ensure a smooth transition to repayment and prevent unnecessary defaults, the Biden-Harris Administration will extend the pause a final time through December 31, 2022, with payments resuming in January 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need to do anything to extend my student loan pause through the end of the year?

No. The extended pause will occur automatically.

Part 2. Providing targeted debt relief to low- and middle-income families

To smooth the transition back to repayment and help borrowers at highest risk of delinquencies or default once payments resume, the U.S. Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for households.

In addition, borrowers who are employed by non-profits, the military, or federal, state, Tribal, or local government may be eligible to have all of their student loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. This is because of time-limited changes that waive certain eligibility criteria in the PSLF program. These temporary changes expire on October 31, 2022. For more information on eligibility and requirements, go to PSLF.gov.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I know if I am eligible for debt cancellation?

To be eligible, your annual income must have fallen below $125,000 (for individuals) or $250,000 (for married couples or heads of households)

If you received a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you will be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt cancellation.

If you did not receive a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you will be eligible for up to $10,000 in debt cancellation.

What does the “up to” in “up to $20,000” or “up to $10,000” mean?

Your relief is capped at the amount of your outstanding debt.

For example: If you are eligible for $20,000 in debt relief, but have a balance of $15,000 remaining, you will only receive $15,000 in relief.

What do I need to do in order to receive loan forgiveness?

Nearly 8 million borrowers may be eligible to receive relief automatically because relevant income data is already available to the U.S. Department of Education.

If the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t have your income data – or if you don’t know if the U.S. Department of Education has your income data, the Administration will launch a simple application in the coming weeks.

The application will be available before the pause on federal student loan repayments ends on December 31st.

If you would like to be notified by the U.S. Department of Education when the application is open, please sign up at the Department of Education subscription page.

What is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives the remaining balance on your federal student loans after 120 payments working full-time for federal, state, Tribal, or local government; military; or a qualifying non-profit.

Temporary changes, ending on Oct. 31, 2022, provide flexibility that makes it easier than ever to receive forgiveness by allowing borrowers to receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF.

Enrollments on or after Nov. 1, 2022 will not be eligible for this treatment. We encourage borrowers to sign up today. Visit PSLF.gov to learn more and apply.

Part 3. Make the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers

Income-based repayment plans have long existed within the U.S. Department of Education. However, the Biden-Harris Administration is proposing a rule to create a new income-driven repayment plan that will substantially reduce future monthly payments for lower- and middle-income borrowers.

The rule would:

Require borrowers to pay no more than 5% of their discretionary income monthly on undergraduate loans. This is down from the 10% available under the most recent income-driven repayment plan.

Raise the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary income and therefore is protected from repayment, guaranteeing that no borrower earning under 225% of the federal poverty level—about the annual equivalent of a $15 minimum wage for a single borrower—will have to make a monthly payment.

Forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of 20 years, for borrowers with loan balances of $12,000 or less.

Cover the borrower’s unpaid monthly interest, so that unlike other existing income-driven repayment plans, no borrower’s loan balance will grow as long as they make their monthly payments—even when that monthly payment is $0 because their income is low.

The Biden-Harris Administration is working to quickly implement improvements to student loans. Check back to this page for updates on progress. If you’d like to be the first to know, sign up for email updates from the U.S. Department of Education.

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

Indian Embassy Celebrates India’s 75th Anniversary Of Independence

Indian Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Sandhu hosted a reception at India House to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence and to commemorate 75 years of U.S.-India relations.

Indian Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu addressing guests at the reception on August 15th at India House in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Addressing guests at the reception, Sandhu stated “when India became independent in 1947 predictions on its ability to survive challenges, political, economic, and social were rather mixed. 75 years later, India is here strong, full of hope and optimism for the future of humanity,” adding that India’s strength lay in its diversity. Sandhu went on to highlight India’s progress in different areas, and emphasized how India and U.S. are ‘indispensable partners’ whose strength would keep growing.

The chief guest at the reception, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said, “As we commemorate India’s 75 years of independent history and 75 years of US-India relations, I want to say what a privilege it is to be a part of this bilateral relationship at a moment when it’s perhaps never been stronger.” Leaders of both countries are clearly committed to addressing  challenges together, she said, and reminisced about her trip to India last November.

“I came away with a real flavor of your nation’s vibrant culture. Rich and very long history and dynamic economy. And while I’m always reluctant to draw comparisons among our very important trading partners around the world, I will acknowledge that Indian hospitality is hard to beat.”

The Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf while addressing guests said he was honored to be at the anniversary celebrations. “I’m here as an ordinary citizen, who has a great personal regard for India and a grand admiration for the way especially India won its independence, becoming the largest democracy in the world on  August 15, 1947.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, said it’s an incredible honor and pleasure to celebrate 75 years of Indian independence, Indian democracy, and US-India friendship. As a proud Indian-American, Dr. Jha said he was grateful to President Biden for crediting the three-and-a-half million Indian-Americans and its vibrant community for making America more innovative, inclusive, and a stronger nation.

“Now, I spent a lot of time in the last two-and-a-half years thinking about and working on this pandemic. And I can’t think of two nations that have done more to vaccinate and protect their own populations and to donate, support and vaccinate, and protect the world, than India and the United States.”

Director of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta, said “Knowledge is the lever that moves mountains and that’s where India invested its power, its mind, and its youth all the way from 1947. It is that what is paying off today,” adding, “and that is a very important reason why working in the White House right now, I feel not only comfortable but enthusiastic. We’re looking at a future of two countries, the largest and the oldest democracies, working together to solve some of the most complex, and difficult often turbulent problems.”

Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Brian McKeon, Deputy Secretary of  Treasury Department, Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Secretary of US Department of Commerce, Don Graves, and Secretary of United States Air Force, Frank Kendall spoke at the reception in which Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Christopher Grady, Astronaut and Deputy Administrator of NASA, Pamela Melroy, Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming at USAID, Isobel Coleman, Nobel laureate Dr. William Phillips, several members of the US-India CEOs forum, Punit Renjen, Rajesh Subramaniam, and Venkatesh Sharma along with other members from industry, US government, and others were also present.

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.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci To Step Down In December After More Than 50 Years Of Public Service

Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president and longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said he will be leaving those positions to “pursue the next chapter in my career.” Fauci, 81, has led the NIAID for 38 years, and has advised every president since Ronald Reagan.

“While I am moving on from my current positions, I am not retiring,” Fauci said in a statement Monday. “After more than 50 years of government service, I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field.”

Fauci has become a household fixture during the Covid-19 pandemic, battling back misinformation — sometimes from the highest levels of government. His steadfast commitment to science, challenging former President Donald Trump on everything from the use of hydroxychloroquine to mask mandates, made him a quasi-celebrity in the process.

The 81-year-old has advised seven U.S. presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan through the HIV/AIDS epidemic, West Nile virus, the 2001 anthrax attacks, pandemic influenza, various bird influenza threats, Ebola, Zika and, most recently, Covid and monkeypox.

In a statement, President Biden praised Fauci as a dedicated public servant with a “steadying hand” who helped guide the country through some of “the most dangerous and challenging” public health crises.

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Fauci has been at the forefront of every new and re-emerging infectious disease threat the country has faced over the past four decades, including HIV/AIDS, West Nile virus, the 2001 anthrax attacks, pandemic influenza, Ebola and Zika, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved. As he leaves his position in the U.S. Government, I know the American people and the entire world will continue to benefit from Dr. Fauci’s expertise in whatever he does next,” Biden said.

Biden worked closely with Fauci during the Zika and Ebola outbreaks when he was vice president, and has leaned heavily on Fauci’s expertise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden noted one of his first calls as president-elect was to ask Fauci to become his chief medical advisor.

Fauci previously said he does not plan to stay beyond the end of President Biden’s first term in 2025, but had yet to give a formal announcement.

“I want to use what I have learned as NIAID Director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats,” Fauci said.

Fauci said he would use his remaining time in government to “continue to put my full effort, passion and commitment into my current responsibilities” and to help prepare his institute for a leadership transition.

Fauci has been one of the leading infectious diseases researchers for decades, but he became a household name at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic during the Trump administration as part of the White House pandemic response team.

It was in this role that Fauci became a political lightning rod. He fell out of favor with Trump after numerous public disagreements over unproven COVID-19 treatments as well as the level of danger posed by the virus.

Fauci’s embrace of mitigation measures like masks and temporary business closures early in the pandemic made him a villain to conservatives, who view him as a symbol of government overreach and “lockdown culture.”

Threats from the public led to Fauci needing a security detail. Fauci has clashed repeatedly with Republicans in Congress, who are are eagerly floating investigations into the Biden administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic if they win back control of the House or Senate in November’s midterm elections.

Fauci’s fiercest clashes have come against Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a libertarian ophthalmologist who has repeatedly antagonized Fauci over the benefits of masks, vaccinations and the origins of COVID-19.

“Fauci’s resignation will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic. He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak,” Paul tweeted Monday.

Following Fauci’s announcement Monday, House Republicans also indicated Fauci’s decision to leave government won’t shield him from any potential investigations.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement Monday Fauci needs to answer questions about what he knows about the origins of the coronavirus, including whether the National Institutes of Health helped fund controversial research that led to the virus’s creation in a lab in Wuhan, China.

“Retirement can’t shield Dr. Fauci from congressional oversight,” Comer said. “The American people deserve transparency and accountability about how government officials used their taxpayer dollars, and Oversight Committee Republicans will deliver.”

The U.S. intelligence community has ruled out the possibility that COVID-19 was a bioweapon developed by China, but beyond that the origins of the virus are unclear.

Some scientists have said the idea that it escaped from a lab needs further investigation but acknowledge that won’t happen without China’s help. Many others think that it spilled into the human population from animals sold in a Wuhan market. Still, there is little evidence to suggest it was created in a lab or with funding help from the National Institutes of Health or Fauci.

Why FBI Searched Trump’s Home?

Former President Trump could be facing mounting legal troubles as new details emerge about the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation that prompted an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Trump has called for the release of more information tied to the search, an effort that corresponds with bashing the agency for what he claims is a politically motivated attack.

Meanwhile, the DOJ has fought to limit how much information will come out about an ongoing investigation with Trump as its target.

Here’s what we’ve learned this week.  Trump eyed for “willful” violations of the Espionage Act

Although the most highly sensitive materials underlying the Mar-a-Lago search warrant remained under seal this week, the judge presiding over the case did make one court record newly available to the public. That document, known as a criminal cover sheet, provided additional insight into the nature of the crime under investigation, according to some legal experts.

It was already known that investigators believed the materials housed at Trump’s residence were linked to a likely violation of the Espionage Act, a WWI-era statute designed to help safeguard the country’s vital national security secrets. What the criminal cover sheet revealed, after it was unsealed Thursday, is that law enforcement had probable cause to think a “willful retention of national defense information” occurred.

That new detail appeared to lend further support to the theory — one that was already widely assumed — that Trump himself is the target of the investigation.

“This aligns with what we know so far from public media reporting, as well as the minimal information we have derived from the unsealed court filings,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer and partner in the law office of Mark S. Zaid, told The Hill in an email.

“All indications are that the government’s argument will amount to three things: (1) Trump took the properly marked classified records with him to Florida; (2) he left them in boxes in the basement; (3) when confronted about it, he willfully held onto records despite demands from NARA and later the FBI to return them,” he added, referring to the National Archives and Records Administration, which takes custody of White House records when a president leaves office.

DOJ appears to be investigating Trump’s claims around a “standing order”

In a sign the Department of Justice is not content to have simply secured the return of classified materials, its investigators appear to be contacting former Trump-era officials about his claims of having declassified the contents removed from his Florida home.

According to reporting from Rolling Stone, the FBI has thus far been conducting voluntary interviews with those who could have knowledge of such an order, including former staff on the National Security Council.

Shortly after the warrant was executed, Trump claimed the documents removed from his home were “all declassified.” He later elaborated in a statement to Fox News that he had “a standing order” to declassify any documents.

“If the DOJ was really focused on recovering the classified material and was not criminally investigating the former president, they would not be calling in former NSC officials to question them about Trump’s supposed “standing order” declassifying documents,” Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, wrote on Twitter.

National security law experts who previously spoke with The Hill noted that while Trump would have broad powers as president to declassify documents, such a practice is usually done on a  case-by-case basis, and also triggers notification to other agencies that hold classified information, so that they can reclassify them appropriately in their own system.

“Realistically, no one actually believes that Trump had such an order.  It was not written down anywhere, doesn’t make a lot of sense (as some of his own appointees have pointed out), and was never raised by Trump’s lawyers during their communications with DOJ,” Mariotti continued.

Even if Trump did declassify documents, that isn’t a defense for the Espionage Act, one of the three statutes cited in the warrant. That law only requires mishandling national defense information to trigger a violation.

Trump wants it all released

Former President Trump and his allies have responded to the government’s desire for redactions with calls for the release of the full document.

“Pres. Trump has made his view clear that the American people should be permitted to see the unredacted affidavit related to the raid and break-in of his home. Today, magistrate Judge Reinhard rejected the DOJ’s cynical attempt to hide the whole affidavit from Americans,” Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for the former president, said Thursday.

Trump separately posted on Truth Social, his social media platform, calling for the “immediate release” of the unredacted affidavit, citing the need for transparency. He also called for Reinhart to recuse himself from the case without giving a clear reason.

The former president and his allies have attacked the credibility of the FBI and DOJ ever since the search was executed earlier this month, pointing to the handling of the Russia investigation to allege it is the latest politically biased attack on Trump.

By calling for the unredacted affidavit to be released when the government opposes such a move, Trump will likely further fuel distrust in the Department of Justice among his supporters.

DOJ is working through redactions

The Department of Justice, however, does not want its affidavit for the warrant fully released.

The department argued that the affidavit should remain under seal in its entirety, saying the information it contained laid out a “roadmap” to its ongoing investigation, “highly sensitive information about witnesses,” and “specific investigative techniques.”

But a federal magistrate judge on Thursday dismissed efforts by the DOJ to maintain the affidavit entirely under seal.

“I find that on the present record the Government has not met its burden of showing that the entire affidavit should remain sealed,” Judge Bruce Reinhart said in a brief order.

According to The New York Times, Reinhart said there were parts of the affidavit that “could be presumptively unsealed.”

The DOJ has until noon Thursday to submit their proposed redactions, after which Reinhart, who approved the initial warrant, will review them — meaning a redacted version of the affidavit could be released as early as next week.

What it means for Trump and 2024

Casting a cloud over the entire proceeding is the fact that Trump is likely to announce a 2024 White House bid in the coming months, though he may wait until after the midterm elections.

Trump denied in an interview last month with New York Magazine that any presidential run would be a way to insulate himself from criminal consequences as he faces investigations over election interference in Georgia, business dealings in New York, the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots and now his handling of classified information.

And while some experts believe it’s unlikely Trump will ultimately be indicted over the documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago, the political consequences could still loom large over his desire to return to the White House.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted this week found that 54 percent of Republicans believe the FBI behaved irresponsibly following the Mar-a-Lago search, compared to 23 percent who said the agencies behaved responsibly.

Comparatively, 71 percent of Democrats felt law enforcement had acted responsibly, as did 50 percent of independent voters. It is the latter category that bears watching in determining how the search could swing Trump’s political fortunes.

Former President Trump has shifted his defenses for taking classified documents to his Mar-a-Lago residence in the wake of the FBI search of the estate last week, when agents seized 33 items including nearly a dozen sets of classified items.

Trump has ripped the FBI and Department of Justice while giving varying explanations for why he did nothing wrong.

On Monday, in an interview with Fox News he said the “temperature has to be brought down” but then added that his supporters would not “stand for another scam,” repeating his criticisms. Those statements came amid worries that law enforcement could come under attack given the fierce criticism of the FBI coming from some voices on the right.

An unsealed warrant shows the FBI executed the warrant while investigating whether the Espionage Act had been violated. Agents seized 11 sets of classified documents from the estate. The warrant was approved by a federal judge.

Here’s what Trump has said about the FBI’s actions and his shifting explanations about the documents. Trump told the world that the FBI had executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago home, calling it “not necessary or appropriate.”

He said at the time he had been “working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies” and described his home as “under siege” by FBI agents.

Investigators had provided Trump’s attorneys with their own copy of the search warrant and a receipt that would have itemized the materials seized during the search, which follows standard practice.

Trump at the time also decried the search as “political persecution” and included a link for donations to his political action committee in his statement. The investigation comes amid growing speculation over how soon the former president might announce he’s running again in 2024.

Trump and his supporters also in the days that followed floated a conspiracy theory that the FBI had planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump’s initial reaction led to a flurry of finger-pointing from his supporters, including Republican lawmakers who blamed President Biden and claimed the president had used the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) to go after his political opponent.

Attorney General Merrick Garland made his first public appearance since the search to say he personally made the decision to seek a warrant and that it was not done “lightly.” He announced at the time that the DOJ would move to unseal the warrant authorizing the search.

The Trump camp put out a statement later, saying “everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time” and that Trump would take documents, including classified documents, to his residence to “prepare for work the next day.”

“He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them,” the statement said.

The 33 items that were seized from the property included the executive order of clemency for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, information regarding the “President of France,” binders of photographs, and a handwritten note. The FBI reportedly sought documents containing information about nuclear weapons in the search, but it’s unclear if such records were seized.

Fearing Imminent Russian Invasion, India Asks Citizens To Leave Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How A Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Could Affect The World?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy prices could soar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shock to international stability could hit global markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A major invasion would likely spark a refugee crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

AAHOA Applauds Lifting of Travel Restrictions with Canada and Mexico

America’s hoteliers applauded the Biden administration’s announcement that it will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals from Canada and Mexico to enter the United States starting in early November after a 19-month freeze. For air travel, the policy would require travelers to be fully vaccinated and to test negative for the virus. No testing will be required to enter the country by land or sea, as long as travelers meet the vaccination requirements.

AAHOA is working with the administration to promote vaccine awareness in the hospitality industry and called for new measures to restart international travel safely earlier this year. “This is a big win for our Members, families, business, and tourism industries, especially those living in Texas and in the states bordering Canada,” said AAHOA President & CEO Ken Greene. “Cross-border operations were halted at the start of the pandemic, and AAHOA pressed the administration on the financial toll the travel ban took on small businesses.”

Travel industry studies estimate that international travel spending in the U.S. fell 76% year-over-year compared to 34% for domestic travel in 2020. “Lifting the COVID-19 restrictions on foreign travelers from Mexico and Canada is a significant step in the right direction and signals yet another phase of recovery for the hotel industry,” said AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel. “This decision from the Biden Administration will help return two significant sources of travel and tourism to the U.S., visitors who have historically visited by the tens of millions annually.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the nation, with Member-owned properties representing a significant part of the U.S. economy. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own 60% of the hotels in the United States and are responsible for 1.7% of the nation’s GDP. More than one million employees work at AAHOA member-owned hotels, earning $47 billion annually, and member-owned hotels support 4.2 million U.S. jobs across all sectors of the hospitality industry. AAHOA’s mission is to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners through advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, member benefits, and community engagement.

U.S. To Allow Vaccinated International Travelers From Nov. 8th

After a nearly 19-month pause, the U.S. has announced that fully vaccinated international travelers will be able to enter the country as of November 8. This follows a Wednesday announcement from the White House, saying the U.S. would open its land borders and ferry ports of entry from Canada and Mexico for non-essential purposes—but only to those who have completed their approved vaccination doses.

That means travelers looking to enter the country, whether it’s to reunite with family and friends or as a tourist, will be able to do so again for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The policy will start November 8, “in alignment with the new international air travel system,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement, referring to the newly announced date given by the White House for when all international plane passengers coming into the U.S. will need to be vaccinated.

The reopening of the Canadian and Mexican land borders will happen in two steps. First, international travelers with non-essential business will be able to enter starting November 8 by showing documentation that they are fully inoculated with an approved vaccine, while those who haven’t been vaccinated still won’t be able to enter the country for non-essential reasons. Then, in the second phase starting in January 2022, even those who do have essential travel purposes—like students, truckers, and health care workers—will also need to have proof of full vaccination to cross the borders.

“These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of [COVID-19] and will create a consistent, stringent protocol for all foreign nationals traveling into the United States whether by land or air,” a senior administration official told reporters, according to CNN.

While international travelers coming in by plane will also need to show a negative COVID test in addition to being fully vaccinated, those crossing the borders by land will only need proof of vaccination, The New York Times explained. Any of the vaccines that have been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization will be accepted, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, and Sinopharm. The procedure for those who received doses of different vaccines —which was commonplace in Canada—is still being determined, according to the Associated Press.

Since both the northern and southern borders were sealed off in March 2020, the timeline for reopening had been continually pushed back, most recently in 30-day increments, with the latest one in effect until October 21. But the reciprocal policy hadn’t been the same, as Canada reopened to American travelers August 9, while Mexico never shut down its border.

The reopening news is being lauded by the travel industry, with many expecting the relaxed restrictions to rev up leisure tourism. “U.S. Travel has long called for the safe reopening of our borders, and we welcome the Biden administration’s announcement of a set date to welcome back vaccinated international travelers,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement on Friday. In a previous statement, Dow noted that the closed borders have meant losses of about $700 million per month to the U.S. economy, totaling an estimated $250 billion in lost export income and likely more than a million lost jobs in the U.S.

The news is especially welcome at border cities, where restrictions have had a serious impact on their bottom line for the last 19 months. “Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy,” Mayorkas said. “We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Those steps have been slowly coming, as news of the November welcoming of vaccinated air passengers first was limited to those in the U.K. and European Union, but started to become more general as a White House senior administration official said in September, “We’ll be moving to a consistent requirement for all international air travelers coming to the United States,” explaining that “strict protocols” would be put into place in early November “requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling here be fully vaccinated.”

As of now, vaccination requirements for domestic travel aren’t on the books, though they have been talked about. President Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN Sunday: “It’s always discussable, we always wind up discussing it, but right now I don’t see that immediately.”

AAHOA Applauds Biden Administration & SBA On New Enhancements To The EIDL Program

AAHOA’s enhanced advocacy and education efforts are continuing to help AAHOA Members and the industry get back on track. The Small Business Administration (SBA) just announced more help is on the way for the hotel industry. Over the past several months, AAHOA has worked with the SBA and the Biden Administration to advocate for expansion and improvement of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, and the SBA heard AAHOA and our Members loud and clear that help is still needed.

The announcement of the program’s changes and improvements represent a significant step toward meaningful and tangible COVID-19 relief and our industry.

The EIDL program provides economic relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. These loans help businesses meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

For months, AAHOA has worked with the SBA, the Small Business Committees, and Members of Congress to push for more relief when it comes to an increase in EIDL caps and parity between the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and EIDL with regards to a waiver of the affiliation rules. This week, AAHOA cohosted a webinar with the SBA to walk through the soon-to-be-announced revisions to the EIDL program that mirror AAHOA’s asks – a huge win for our nearly 20,000 Members and the industry at large.

The expected enhancements and expansion of the EIDL program include:

  • Raising the threshold up to $2 million per property
  • Raising the aggregate loan cap up to $10 million
  • A waiver of affiliation rules (that mirrors that of the Paycheck Protection Program)
  • A waiver of the credit-elsewhere requirement
  • Priority for NAICS Code 72 businesses
  • A 30-year fixed amortization period with a low 3.75% interest rate
  • Funds can now be used to pay down prior commercial debt and make monthly payments towards federal debt (including principal and interest payments)

It is anticipated that SBA will officially announce and begin accepting new applications and increase requests for existing EIDL holders as soon as next week. Hoteliers who are interested in applying for a loan can review EIDL FAQ here, and more information on how to apply here. Note that AAHOA will keep hoteliers informed on updated documents to reflect the expanded program.

“AAHOA applauds the Biden Administration and the SBA for their work in making the EIDL program more accessible and helpful for America’s hoteliers,” said AAHOA Interim President & CEO Ken Greene. “The EIDL program’s enhancements break down barriers for hoteliers to access critical funds that are needed as hoteliers still struggle to deal with the ramifications of the pandemic.”

AAHOA recently hosted the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, which was the first major convention in Dallas since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re grateful for SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, who addressed attendees and highlighted the importance of small businesses getting back on their feet to help our economy.

“Coming together as an industry is paramount to economic recovery, especially as new variants threaten to inhibit the reopening of the country,” said AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel. “Industry estimates continue to project a full recovery some time in late 2023 or 2024, and until then, AAHOA is committed to continuing its advocacy efforts and outreach to the Biden Administration and lawmakers as we lead the way on the road to recovery.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60 percent of hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

US To Continue Travel Restrictions As Covid Spreads

The United States served notice this week that it will keep existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant. It was the latest sign that the White House is having to recalibrate its thinking around the coronavirus pandemic as the more infectious variant surges across the U.S. and a substantial chunk of the population resists vaccination.It was also a reversal from the sentiment President Joe Biden voiced earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the U.S. could lift the ban on European travel bound for the U.S. after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

The United States said it would maintain restrictions on international travel into the country, sidestepping European pressure, pointing to a surge of cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant at home and abroad. “We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the restrictions would continue for now. “Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appears likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” she said.

The rising cases also are causing the administration to take a closer look at policies on wearing masks. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require its health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. And over the weekend, U.S. health officials acknowledged they’re considering changing the federal government’s recommendations on wearing masks. The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world. Last week, U.S. health officials said the variant accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, and noted a 32% increase in COVID hospitalizations from the previous week.

The rise in cases has prompted some state and local officials to reinstate masking guidance, even for vaccinated Americans.The White House follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance released in May, which states those who are unvaccinated don’t have to wear masks indoors. They’ve thus far made no changes to Biden’s public events, and the president is still traveling the country and participating in events unmasked.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday that recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration” by the government’s leading public health officials. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, describing himself as “very frustrated.” The surge in the delta variant poses a major political challenge for Biden, who called it a “great day” for Americans when the CDC released its relaxed masking guidance in May and on July 4 declared that “the virus is on the run and America is coming back.” He’s spent the past few months shifting his focus from dire warnings to Americans to get vaccinated to public events pitching his infrastructure, education and jobs proposals, which are currently in the middle of fevered negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The administration has touted strong economic growth as fears about the pandemic waned, states relaxed their coronavirus restrictions and their economies opened back up. But the surging delta variant risks undermining that economic progress and drawing Biden’s attention away from his domestic agenda and Democratic Party priorities like gun, voting and policing reforms, back to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. It could also highlight one of the administration’s greatest struggles thus far: The sluggish vaccination rate nationwide. As of Sunday, 69% of American adults had received one vaccination shot, according to the CDC — still slightly below the 70% goal Biden had set for July 4. Sixty percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

When asked Monday if he had confidence he could get unvaccinated Americans to get the shot, Biden said, “we have to,” but ignored a follow-up question on how. And prior to the VA’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki skirted questions from reporters on why the administration hadn’t yet issued its own vaccination mandates for healthcare workers, deferring to the CDC for guidance and hospitals and healthcare associations on the ultimate decision.

Psaki acknowledged that the administration runs the risk of undermining its vaccination goals by further politicizing an already fraught issue if the president becomes the face of vaccine mandates. “The president certainly recognizes that he is not always the right voice to every community about the benefits of getting vaccinated, which is why we have invested as much as we have in local voices and empowering local trusted voices,” she said. Still, it’s clear the administration is taking steps to address the continued impact of the pandemic. Biden announced Monday that those Americans dealing with so-called “long COVID” — sometimes debilitating side effects caused by the illness that last for months after the initial infection — would have access to disability protections under federal law.

“These conditions can sometimes, sometimes, rise to the level of a disability,” he said, adding they’d have accommodations in schools and workplaces “so they can live their lives in dignity and get the support they need.”And the CDC advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom this past Monday given a surge in cases there. Most of continental Europe has relaxed restrictions on Americans who are fully vaccinated, although the United Kingdom still requires quarantines for most visitors arriving from the U.S. Airlines say, however, that the lack of two-way travel is limiting the number of flights they can offer and seats they can sell. But the rise and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Europe, especially the delta mutation, has caused the Biden administration to tread slowly about increasing transatlantic travel.

Canada Extends Border Restrictions To July 21

The Canadian government has announced that the Canada-US border agreement on travel restrictions will be extended for another month to July 21. “In coordination with the US, we are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel and with the US until July 21st, 2021,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a tweet on Friday.
Blair also said the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, and others who are currently permitted to enter the country and will provide further details on June 21.

The new extension comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers met to discuss the possibility of opening the land border between the two countries, which has been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020. The restrictions, which do not cover trade or travel by air, has been extended several times. he current restrictions were to expire on June 21.

Trudeau said on June 13 he had spoken with US President Joe Biden about how to lift the restrictions, but added that no breakthrough has been achieved. The Trudeau government closed its borders to non-essential travellers in March 2020. Since then, it has adjusted the rules to require Covid-19 testing before and after arrival, as well as a period of mandatory quarantine. Canada also limited international flights to just four airports in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. In the fall of 2020, Canada expanded the list of travellers who were exempt from travel restrictions.

International students going to a Designated Learning Institution with a Covid-19 readiness plan were allowed to come to Canada to study. The exemptions also included extended family members, as well as travelers coming to Canada for compassionate reasons such as a funeral. In February 2021, Canada also added the mandatory hotel quarantine on incoming international travelers. New airport arrivals were to go immediately to wait for the results of a Covid-19 test at a government-approved hotel at their own expense.

 

U.S. Restricts Travel To & From India

The U.S Embassy in India encourages U.S. citizens who wish to depart India to take advantage of currently available commercial flights. Airlines continue to operate multiple direct flights weekly from India to the United States; additional flight options remain available via transfers in Paris, Frankfurt, and Doha.

President Joe Biden has issued a proclamation restricting entry into the United States of certain nonimmigrant travelers who have been physically present in India. These restrictions will go into effect on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 12:01 AM EDT. The full text of the proclamation is available here.

The U.S Embassy in India encourages U.S. citizens who wish to depart India to take advantage of currently available commercial flights. Airlines continue to operate multiple direct flights weekly from India to the United States; additional flight options remain available via transfers in Paris, Frankfurt, and Doha.

The policy will not apply to American citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPR), or other people with these specific exceptions:

  • Any immigrant who has an unused or unexpired immigrant visa;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or LPR, provided that the U.S. citizen or LPR child is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or LPR, provided that both the non-U.S. citizen and the U.S. citizen or LPR sibling are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or LPR, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Any holders of nonimmigrant visas in the following categories: C-1, D, C-1/D air and sea crew, A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, E-1, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6; or
  • Students who already possess a valid student (F or M) visa and who will begin their studies on or after August 1, 2021. (Note that direct travel to the United States from India with a student visa may begin no more than 30 days prior to the start date of a student’s classes.)

Visa holders with definite plans to travel who can demonstrate qualification for a National Interest Exception (NIE) may contact the U.S Embassy or  Consulate that issued their visa to request a national interest exception prior to travel. (The contact email for the Embassy in New Delhi is [email protected].) Your request must include the following information to seek an exception: last name, first name, date of birth, place of birth, country of citizenship, passport number, visa Number and category, travel dates, travel purpose, and national interest category–including a clear justification for receipt of a NIE.

Qualifying family members do not need a NIE or any pre-approval from the embassy or consulates. Travelers should bring proof of relationship when initiating travel to the United States. More details on NIEs are available here.

If you currently have a flight booked, or plans to travel to the United States but do not fall into an exception category, contact the embassy or consulate that issued your visa before departing, as you may not be allowed to travel at this time. General travel information between India and the U.S as well as information about COVID-19 within India, is available via the U.S. Embassy here.

This proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by President Biden. Thirty days after the proclamation, and then at the end of every calendar month, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra will recommend whether the president should continue, modify, or terminate this proclamation.

Note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice and the Department of State has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory recommending against all travel to India. Level 4 is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. U.S. citizens who must travel to India are strongly urged to get fully vaccinated before travel and to continue to take personal health safety measures to protect themselves, including practicing social and physical distancing, cleaning hands with soap/hand sanitizer frequently, wearing masks, and avoiding crowded areas with poor ventilation.

The CDC’s broader guidance for fully vaccinated people–including information about when you should still wear masks and maintain social and physical distancing–is here; be sure to review our other vaccine availability and safety resources as well.

The U.S. told its citizens to get out of India as soon as possible as the country’s covid-19 crisis worsens at an astonishing pace.

In a Level 4 travel advisory — the highest of its kind issued by the State Department — U.S. citizens were told “not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.” There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the U.S. and other services that connect through Europe, the department said.

Indian authorities and hospitals are struggling to cope with unprecedented covid infections and deaths. Official data on Thursday showed new cases rose by a staggering 379,257 over the prior 24 hours, another record, while 3,645 additional lives were lost. More than 204,800 people have died.

“U.S. citizens are reporting being denied admittance to hospitals in some cities due to a lack of space,” the website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India said in a health alert. “U.S. citizens who wish to depart India should take advantage of available commercial transportation options now.” All routine U.S. citizen services and visa services at the U.S. Consulate General Chennai have been canceled.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone returning to the U.S. from overseas must have a viral Covid-19 test between three and five days after travel. Individuals who haven’t been vaccinated should also stay at home and self-quarantine for a week.

The South Asian nation now has the world’s fastest-growing caseload with 18.4 million confirmed instances. The virus has gripped India’s populace with a severity not seen in its first wave. Mass funeral pyres, lines of ambulances outside overcrowded hospitals and desperate pleas on social media for oxygen underscore how unprepared India’s federal and state governments are to tackle the latest outbreak.

The unfolding tragedy is prompting some of the world’s biggest corporations to organize aid. Amazon.com is harnessing its global logistics supply chain to airlift 100 ICU ventilator units from the U.S., and the equipment will reach India in the next two weeks. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said he was “heartbroken” by the situation and the tech behemoth is using its voice, resources and technology to aid relief efforts and help buy oxygen concentrators.

Blackstone Group Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said his private equity firm is committing $5 million to support India’s covid relief and vaccination services to “marginalized communities.” Local companies, too, are wading in, with the philanthropic arm of India’s most valuable company — Reliance Industries Ltd., controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani — pledging to create, commission and manage 100 ICU beds that will become operational mid next month.

As thousands of doctors, nurses and non-medical professionals work around-the-clock to save what patients they can, countries around the rest of the world are drawing up their bridges.

Within Asia, Hong Kong banned flights from India, as well as Pakistan and the Philippines, for 14 days from April 20. Singapore has barred long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have recently been in India from entering. Indonesia is also denying entry to people traveling from India.

Further afield, the U.K. has added India to its travel ban list, and the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have halted passenger flights from India. Canada last week banned flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days. Australia banned flights from India this week.

Tourism in USA Looks Towards A Brighter 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, severely affecting businesses across various industries. While some were able to survive with a shift to online sales and services, not every sector was as fortunate.

One of the most affected industries was tourism, and in the past year, it has struggled to bounce back from a dismal 2020, which saw a massive decline in tourist arrivals in and out of America. However, tourism in the U.S. may be on the rise again sooner than previously thought.

Limitations on travel have severely affected our pandemic-stricken country. The statistics are astounding, surpassing even the impact on the travel industry after 9/11, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). As a result, tourism across the country is affected across different levels and state lines.

Popular destinations like California and New York have polarized projections. While California is expected to recover more quickly than the rest of the country thanks to strong fiscal relief and the waning pandemic, tourism in New York paints a very different picture. Highly anticipated events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, and the New Year’s Eve ball drop saw a significant reduction in spectators, leading to a glum outlook. This leaves many wondering when pre-pandemic levels will be restored.

Las Vegas is another major tourist spot that was not spared from the effects of COVID-19, susceptible to the same sudden drop in visitors between 2019 and 2020. Fortunately, things are starting to look up for the city and its hotels a year after the pandemic gripped the country. As the number of COVID-19 cases drops and more people are vaccinated, fewer restrictions address much of the pent-up demand. Casino floors and restaurants can now operate at 50% capacity as large gatherings capped at half the limit can also take place.

The newfound attraction to Las Vegas is not only due to the confidence in lower COVID-19 cases and its respective recovery. It also helps that there’s a diverse range of tourist attractions here, to begin with, as highlighted by this list of things to do in Sin City by Poker.org. The Strip is home to resorts like the Aria, Bellagio, and the Venetian – all iconic destinations in their own right. You’ll also find well-loved restaurants like Peppermill that are absolutely worth the visit. Exploring Vegas goes beyond the city lights as tourists can also take in the majestic views of Red Rock Canyon. These attractions are just some of the highlights that visitors can enjoy when in Nevada as the COVID-19 outlook continues to look even more promising in the coming months.

As some tourist hotspots like Vegas boast a positive path to recovery, others are still very much clouded in uncertainty. States such as Florida and equally sunny Hawaii fall somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Hawaiians opposing the return of tourists while others seek to encourage more movement in tourism.

What’s Next for Tourism in the U.S.?

The varying states of progress in these tourist hotspots illustrate how the fight against COVID-19 still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to the tourism industry. However, there is one fact present in all these examples: Progress is well underway. The Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate 100 million people in the first quarter provides much needed support for local businesses, especially smaller-sized enterprises. Whether you’re a local hotel hoping for guests or a restaurant that needs diners, there is a silver lining yet to be reached akin to Vegas’ impressive and optimistic trajectory.

America’s Hoteliers Welcome New CDC Travel Guidelines

AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton issued the following statement in response to new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that greenlight fully vaccinated people to resume travel. Over 100 million Americans have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and evidence of the vaccine’s efficacy continues to grow:

“The new CDC travel guidelines are welcome news for America’s hoteliers and the millions of Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For more than a year, lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines in response to the pandemic decimated the travel and tourism industry as people simply stopped traveling.

The Biden administration’s aggressive vaccination goals and recent studies on the different vaccines’ real-world effectiveness are giving people the confidence they need to safely resume pre-pandemic activities like travel. It could not have come at a better time for hoteliers, for the gradual reopening of America now could lead to significant increases in occupancy and revenue during the summer season. The hotel industry’s road to economic recovery is long. A full recovery remains unlikely until at least 2023, but this news is a shot in the arm to the hotel owners and hospitality professionals who are eager to welcome guests back into their hotels and communities.”

HOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA members represent almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

U.S. Tourism Sets Sights on a Hopeful 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, severely affecting businesses across various industries. While some were able to survive with a shift to online sales and services, not every sector was as fortunate.

One of the most affected industries was tourism, and in the past year, it has struggled to bounce back from a dismal 2020, which saw a massive decline in tourist arrivals in and out of America. However, tourism in the U.S. may be on the rise again sooner than previously thought.

Tourism in Pandemic-Stricken America

Limitations on travel have severely affected our pandemic-stricken country. The statistics are astounding, surpassing even the impact on the travel industry after 9/11, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). As a result, tourism across the country is affected across different levels and state lines.

Popular destinations like California and New York have polarized projections. While California is expected to recover more quickly than the rest of the country thanks to strong fiscal relief and the waning pandemic, tourism in New York paints a very different picture. Highly anticipated events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, and the New Year’s Eve ball drop saw a significant reduction in spectators, leading to a glum outlook. This leaves many wondering when pre-pandemic levels will be restored.

Las Vegas is another major tourist spot that was not spared from the effects of COVID-19, susceptible to the same sudden drop in visitors between 2019 and 2020. Fortunately, things are starting to look up for the city and its hotels a year after the pandemic gripped the country. As the number of COVID-19 cases drops and more people are vaccinated, fewer restrictions address much of the pent-up demand. Casino floors and restaurants can now operate at 50% capacity as large gatherings capped at half the limit can also take place.

The newfound attraction to Las Vegas is not only due to the confidence in lower COVID-19 cases and its respective recovery. It also helps that there’s a diverse range of tourist attractions here, to begin with, as highlighted by this list of things to do in Sin City by Poker.org. The Strip is home to resorts like the Aria, Bellagio, and the Venetian – all iconic destinations in their own right. You’ll also find well-loved restaurants like Peppermill that are absolutely worth the visit. Exploring Vegas goes beyond the city lights as tourists can also take in the majestic views of Red Rock Canyon. These attractions are just some of the highlights that visitors can enjoy when in Nevada as the COVID-19 outlook continues to look even more promising in the coming months.

As some tourist hotspots like Vegas boast a positive path to recovery, others are still very much clouded in uncertainty. States such as Florida and equally sunny Hawaii fall somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Hawaiians opposing the return of tourists while others seek to encourage more movement in tourism.

What’s Next for Tourism in the U.S.?

  • The varying states of progress in these tourist hotspots illustrate how the fight against COVID-19 still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to the tourism industry. However, there is one fact present in all these examples: Progress is well underway. The Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate 100 million peoplein the first quarter provides much needed support for local businesses, especially smaller-sized enterprises. Whether you’re a local hotel hoping for guests or a restaurant that needs diners, there is a silver lining yet to be reached akin to Vegas’ impressive and optimistic trajectory.SAG top honours for ‘Chicago 7’ sets up intriguing Oscar raceThe Trial Of The Chicago 7 — Aaron Sorkin’s 1969 courtroom drama for Netflix — was judged the year’s best performance by a motion picture cast at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards for film and television on Sunday. Starring the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Frank Langella and Mark Rylance, it marked the first time a film from any streaming service won the guild’s ensemble award.
  • The win now strengthens the film’s case for the Oscars (April 25). This even as modern recession-era movie Nomadlandgrabbed many of the pre-Oscar awards, including the Golden Globes.
  • The SAG awards though remain a key predictor of Oscar glory, where actors form the largest voting bloc. FYI: Last year, South Korea’s Parasitebegan its historic charge to the Best Picture Oscar by winning SAG’s top prize.
  • Also:For the first time in SAG awards’ 27-year history, all four of the winning film actors were people of colour. The late Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis picked up the best actor and best actress awards, respectively, for jazz period film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
  • And while Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for portraying Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, South Korea’s Yuh-jung Youn won best supporting actress for Minari, an immigrant tale set in 1980s Arkansas.

Hoteliers Optimistic About Biden Administration’s Small Business Priorities

WHASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 20 – AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton issued the following statement today following the inauguration of President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States:

“America’s hoteliers congratulate President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on this historic day for our nation. We look forward to the vision and leadership offered by the Biden administration as our nation works to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and get our economy back on track. The ambitious plan to vaccinate 100 million people in the next 100 days, if achieved, would give a much-needed boost to consumer confidence that could lead to a resumption of travel, tourism, and in-person events. Such a significant increase in vaccinations and testing will go a long way towards alleviating the uncertainty that surrounds the viability and safety of resuming these pre-pandemic activities. Small business owners are struggling with the pandemic’s economic fallout, and the plan outlined by President Biden looks to target those industries, such as hospitality, that are experiencing a disproportionate amount of hardship. We are optimistic that the new administration’s focus on the public good will speed along our recovery, and we look forward to working with President Biden and his team to do right by America’s small businesses.”

About AAHOA:
AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The over 19,500 AAHOA members represent almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

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