Senate Democrats Question Justice Alito’s Impartiality Over Upside-Down Flag Incident

Senate Democrats are publicly challenging Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s impartiality after reports emerged that an upside-down American flag flew outside his home during the days surrounding January 6, 2021, and President Biden’s inauguration. Alito, known for his conservative stance on the Court, is under intense scrutiny as the justices prepare to rule on key decisions related to the January 6 attack.

Alito has stated that he had no involvement with the flag, which symbolizes distress and has been adopted by the “stop the steal” movement claiming former President Trump did not lose the 2020 election. He explained that his wife hung the flag amid a dispute with neighbors. However, this explanation has not quelled the Democrats’ concerns, who are deeply troubled by the incident amidst an ongoing debate over judicial ethics.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) expressed grave concern, saying, “Terribly, terribly alarming. To fly the flag upside down means a very specific thing. … It is not enough to just say, ‘My wife got mad.’ Consider me as alarmed as I possibly could be.” Historically, an upside-down flag has signified distress, such as a ship in trouble. Schatz added, “I never thought he was impartial, but appearing to be impartial is also important. I’d be less alarmed if he had a Trump flag. ‘Nation in distress’ is a very specific thing people do with the American flag. It’s in the U.S. flag code; it means a specific thing. He’s not merely expressing his political preference — he’s saying something that’s borderline revolutionary.”

Led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Democrats are calling for Alito to recuse himself from upcoming rulings on January 6-related cases, notably the decision on whether Trump is immune from prosecution for his actions. However, further action seems unlikely. Durbin noted that the Judiciary panel has no plans to investigate or hold a hearing on the incident, stating that there’s “not much to be gained at this point” by doing so. The only potential recourse if Alito does not recuse himself would be impeachment, which Durbin indicated is not currently being considered.

The news has reignited long-standing Democratic grievances with Alito, particularly following his majority opinion in the Dobbs decision that overturned national abortion rights and reports of him receiving gifts and vacations from wealthy GOP donors. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat, expressed her outrage, stating, “I think that’s outrageous. I think that’s absolutely outrageous,” and further questioning his judicial impartiality. “Without a doubt,” she said. “I don’t know what to say. I find it appalling.”

Durbin has been advocating for a new ethics code for justices, following revelations that both Alito and fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas have accepted lavish gifts and vacations from wealthy benefactors. Thomas has also faced criticism for his wife Virginia Thomas’s involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election result. Despite this, he has not recused himself from January 6-related cases.

Republicans, however, are largely supporting Alito. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) dismissed the Democrats’ calls for recusal as the latest form of “harassment” against conservative justices, dating back to Thomas’s confirmation hearings in 1991. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) echoed this sentiment, calling the recusal demands “an idiotic thing to think that has nothing to do with what’s going on with the flag.”

Some Republican senators did express discomfort with the situation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) acknowledged that it wasn’t a wise decision, despite the high tensions around the Alito residence. “Emotions are apparently high in that neighborhood. But no, it’s not good judgment to do that,” Graham said. “He said his wife was insulted and got mad. I assume that to be true, but he’s still a Supreme Court justice, and people have to realize that [at] moments like that to think it through.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) found the decision to hoist the upside-down flag disappointing and peculiar. “To have it happen at all was really strange. … It’s just weird,” Rounds remarked. “I would expect that he would be professional enough to where it would not cloud his judgment or his ability to make impartial decisions.” He added, “I was [disappointed]. I was, yeah. Just simply having that symbol flown in that way by anybody to me is disappointing.”

Others defended Alito’s account, emphasizing that despite his role on the court, his wife should be free to express herself. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) stated, “I don’t think justices should express political opinions. But Justice Alito didn’t say anything to anybody. He didn’t put the flag up, his spouse did. And I don’t think you can tell spouses that they have to forfeit their right to say what they believe.”

The controversy surrounding Justice Alito’s upside-down flag has intensified the debate over judicial impartiality and ethics. While Democrats call for recusal and express deep concern, Republicans largely defendAlito, viewing the issue as an extension of ongoing partisan battles over the judiciary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Alleges DOJ Plot to Kill Him, Stoking Political Tensions Ahead of 2024 Election

In a recent series of social media posts and a fundraising email sent on Tuesday, Donald Trump made an alarming accusation, claiming that the Department of Justice (DoJ) was poised to kill him. This inflammatory assertion comes amid his ongoing hush-money trial in New York and growing concerns about political violence leading up to the 2024 presidential election, particularly from far-right factions. These comments reinforce a narrative that Trump and his supporters have been promoting, which paints him as a patriotic figure besieged by anti-democratic deep-state operatives.

Such incendiary claims are likely to inflame his supporters’ anger and perpetuate conspiracy theories. The fundraising email, ostensibly signed by Trump, stated, “You know they’re just itching to do the unthinkable… Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.”

On Truth Social, Trump reiterated his claims, alleging, “Crooked Joe Biden’s DoJ, in their Illegal and UnConstitutional Raid of Mar-a-Lago, AUTHORIZED THE FBI TO USE DEADLY (LETHAL) FORCE.” This statement appears to reference the search warrant executed in August 2022, when FBI agents, seeking classified documents that Trump had allegedly withheld, raided his Mar-a-Lago estate.

In a May court filing, Trump’s legal team highlighted a section titled “The Illegal Raid” and quoted a line from the search warrant. They stated, “The Order contained a ‘Policy Statement’ regarding ‘Use Of Deadly Force,’ which stated, for example, ‘Law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force when necessary.’” This language is part of the DoJ’s policy on the use of force during search warrants, which specifies, “Law enforcement officers and correctional officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force only when necessary, that is, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”

The FBI executed the search warrant at Trump’s Florida residence while he was in New York and coordinated with Secret Service agents to ensure the operation proceeded smoothly. An FBI statement clarified that the language in the warrant was “a standard policy statement limiting the use of deadly force. No one ordered additional steps to be taken and there was no departure from the norm in this matter.”

Reports from The Washington Post corroborate that FBI agents chose a day for the raid when Trump would not be at Mar-a-Lago and informed the Secret Service in advance.

Trump’s exaggerated statements have sparked a strong reaction. Christina Bobb, a Trump attorney who had signed documents before the search asserting Trump’s compliance with the subpoena for documents, responded with disbelief on social media. She wrote on X, “WTF?!! They were prepared to kill me?! A few dozen FBI agents v. me and they were ready to kill me?!!! What in the world happened to the United States of America?!”

Similarly, Paul Gosar, an Arizona congressman and Trump ally, expressed his outrage on X, writing, “These people are sick.” He later added, “Biden ordered the hit on Trump at Mar-A-Lago.”

These rhetorical shifts—from the substance of Trump’s various legal troubles, which include allegations of financial misconduct, mishandling classified documents, and attempts to overturn the 2020 election—are part of a broader strategy employed by Trump and his supporters as the 2024 election approaches. This strategy involves redirecting accusations of anti-democratic behavior back at Trump’s critics, whom he labels as “enemies.” According to Trump, it is the DoJ, media, Democrats, and so-called RINOs (Republicans in name only) who are the true threats to democracy.

Despite Trump’s warnings of “death and destruction” if he is charged with crimes and his defense of supporters who called for the execution of former Vice President Mike Pence for not participating in the plan to overturn the election, he continues to position himself as a victim. In his post accusing the DoJ of planning to use lethal force, Trump asserted, “NOW WE KNOW, FOR SURE, THAT JOE BIDEN IS A SERIOUS THREAT TO DEMOCRACY.”

Trump’s escalating rhetoric and dramatic claims about threats to his life highlight the tense and polarized political climate in the United States. As the 2024 presidential election draws nearer, these statements are likely to further energize his base, potentially increasing the risk of political violence and deepening the divide within the country.

Vice President Harris Honors Her Mother and Denounces Division at White House AANHPI Celebration

On May 13, 2024, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at a White House Rose Garden reception celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage (AANHPI) Month, where she highlighted her mother Shyamala Gopalan’s profound impact on her life. Gopalan, born in Chennai, India, immigrated to the U.S. alone at 19, aiming to raise her daughters and combat breast cancer as a researcher. Harris attributed her success to her mother’s unwavering determination, stating, “My mother never asked anyone’s permission to pursue her dreams. And it is because of her character, strength, and determination that within one generation, I stand before you as Vice President.”

Harris also warned about current extremist efforts to foster division in the country, using positions of influence to incite “xenophobia and hate, including anti-Asian hate.” She emphasized the importance of strength in uplifting others and condemned attacks on fundamental freedoms such as voting rights, safety from gun violence, freedom from hate and bigotry, and women’s rights over their own bodies. “We see a full-on assault, state by state on our most fundamental freedoms and rights,” she said.

President Joe Biden humorously introduced himself, “My name is Joe Biden. I work for Kamala Harris,” and highlighted the nation’s identity as a land of immigrants and dreamers. He emphasized the progress made together and promoted his comprehensive immigration reform bill, which includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and an expansion of green cards. Biden urged Congress to act, stressing the need for unity against the divisive rhetoric of former President Donald Trump. Biden criticized Trump’s derogatory statements about immigrants, saying, “He [Trump] calls immigrants’ rapists and murderers… He says immigrants are poisoning the blood of our country.” Biden stressed his vision of a country inclusive of all people.

The reception featured patriotic songs and Indian cuisine, such as Paani puri and Khoya. Additionally, a special celebration, ‘Lasting Legacies,’ was held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium to mark the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative and President’s Advisory Commission on AANHPI.

At the event, Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, discussed the importance of disaggregating data for the AANHPI community and addressed rising hate crimes. He remarked, “We always have known that there is always hate out there and that sometimes it translates to criminal conduct… This commission has taken with a vengeance to address [it].”

Ambassador Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative, acknowledged AANHPI leaders in the Biden administration, including Vice President Harris and others, while recalling pioneers like Representatives Dalip Singh Saund and Patsy Mink, and Secretary Norman Mineta, the first Asian American in a President’s Cabinet. Tai emphasized, “Our administration is fighting against anti AANHPI hate and violence… We are empowering members of our community… to succeed.”

Neera Tanden, Chair of the President’s Domestic Policy Council, emphasized her commitment to representing all Americans, ensuring AANHPI voices are heard in government policies on education, health care, crime, and immigration. She stated, “A priority for us is to make sure the government really represents the needs and views of all Americans.”

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy shared his parents’ story of overcoming hardships to immigrate to the U.S., illustrating the promise of America. Reflecting on his grandfather, a poor farmer in South India, he said, “My grandfather… could never have dreamed that one day his grandson, would be asked by the President to look out for the health of an entire nation.”

Ajay Bhutoria, AANHPI Commissioner, highlighted the commission’s advocacy on economic equality, data disaggregation, language access, and immigration issues, praising the efforts of key figures like Krystal Ka‘ai and Erika Moritsugu. Bhutoria told News India Times, “The Commission has been advocating for issues important to the community around advancing economic equality, data disaggregation, language access, Green Card backlog, H1B visa stamping.”

Ro Khanna Advocates Constructive Dialogue for India-US Relations, Speculation Arises on Presidential Run

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna emphasized the importance of constructive dialogue over admonishment in bolstering relations between India and the United States. Speaking at the Desis Decide summit, Khanna addressed recent criticisms voiced by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar regarding Western attempts to lecture India on human rights issues.

Reflecting on India’s colonial history, Khanna stressed the necessity of approaching discussions with sensitivity. “India was colonized for over 100 years,” Khanna remarked, cautioning against a patronizing attitude. “When we’re having a conversation about human rights… you have to understand… just coming in from a perspective of lecturing India is not going to be productive.”

Khanna advocated for a collaborative approach, suggesting that acknowledging mutual imperfections in democracy and human rights could lead to progress. He urged for a shift in the US government’s strategy when addressing Indian leadership.

Agreeing with Khanna’s sentiments, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal highlighted the multifaceted nature of US interests, encompassing economic and geopolitical considerations. She emphasized the importance of holding all nations accountable for human rights violations while maintaining diplomatic relationships.

Congressman Shri Thanedar echoed the call for a robust India-US alliance, emphasizing India’s strategic significance in countering global challenges, particularly China’s assertiveness. Thanedar urged for a commitment from India to strengthen ties with the United States.

Turning to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Khanna expressed optimism about the prospects of a two-state solution under the Biden administration. He referenced a 1990 law that could impede US support for Palestine’s UN membership and anticipated a more nuanced approach from President Biden.

During a panel discussion, speculation arose about Khanna’s potential presidential candidacy, met with laughter from the congressman himself. When asked about the timeline for an Indian-American president, panelists offered varying predictions, with Dr. Bera suggesting it could happen within a decade, Jayapal expressing optimism for a swifter timeline, and Thanedar boldly asserting it could occur within four years.

President Biden Halts Arms Shipment to Israel Amid Gaza Crisis, Signals Shift in US-Israel Relations

President Joe Biden made a significant move this week that shook up a key global relationship. During a TV interview, he responded to a question about Israel’s potential invasion of Rafah by stating, “I’m not supplying the weapons.” This statement marked a departure from the long-standing tradition of arms shipments being central to the US-Israel alliance. It was the first time in forty years such a crack had appeared. Biden faced pressure from both domestic and international fronts to prevent further civilian casualties and alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Consequently, he took the unprecedented step of withholding arms shipments to Israel, a move not seen since President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Aaron David Miller, a former State Department analyst, noted Biden’s reluctance to take actions that might harm the US-Israel relationship but highlighted a shift in Biden’s stance due to concerns about Israel’s potential invasion of Rafah.

Israel’s announcement of ground forces beginning “targeted activity” in Rafah, coupled with the looming threat of a full-scale invasion, prompted Biden’s decision. The situation in Rafah had led to over 100,000 people fleeing the fighting, facing dire shortages of basic necessities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on launching a full ground invasion exacerbated concerns, despite Washington’s urging for a more targeted approach against Hamas in Rafah.

Biden’s primary concern was de-escalating the conflict and avoiding a crisis with neighboring Egypt while minimizing divisions within the Democratic Party. The temporary halt in arms shipments, including high payload weapons like 2,000-pound bombs and JDAM kits, reflected Biden’s attempt to signal his concerns about the situation in Rafah. However, the impact of this pause on Israel’s military capabilities was deemed inconsequential by some experts.

Nonetheless, Biden’s move sparked strong reactions, with Republicans condemning it as outrageous and a sign of weakness, while Democrats viewed it as a necessary step to address humanitarian concerns. The rift between Biden and Netanyahu comes at a critical juncture in ceasefire negotiations, with disagreements over Hamas’ demands for a permanent end to the war.

The longstanding relationship between Biden and Netanyahu has been characterized by turbulence, with occasional praise from Netanyahu but frequent disagreements over Palestinian policy. Despite historical support for Israel, Biden’s recent actions signal a potential shift in US-Israel relations. Netanyahu’s defiant response to Biden’s move underscores his willingness to resist US pressure, while Democratic senators emphasize the importance of minimizing civilian casualties in any military action by Israel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Battle Escalates: TikTok Challenges New Law Amid National Security Concerns

TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, are facing a significant challenge to their operations in the U.S., prompting them to resort to legal action, once again invoking the First Amendment. The company has filed a lawsuit against a new bipartisan law that mandates it to divest TikTok or face a ban in the country. This law, known as the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, is designed to address national security concerns arising from TikTok’s ties to China. Despite TikTok’s past successes in court using First Amendment arguments, this new law presents additional hurdles, as it is specifically tailored to address national security threats.

Sarah Kreps, director of the Tech Policy Institute at Cornell Brooks School of Public Policy, noted the ongoing efforts to ensure the constitutionality of such measures, emphasizing the evolving legal landscape since the Trump administration’s initial attempts to ban TikTok in 2020. The swift passage of the recent law, signed by President Biden, underscores the bipartisan consensus on the perceived national security risks posed by TikTok.

The law gained momentum in Congress, receiving bipartisan support and advancing rapidly through the legislative process. It was championed by members of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party and eventually incorporated into a broader package of foreign aid bills. Despite previous legislative efforts targeting TikTok, this new law distinguishes itself by providing ByteDance with an opportunity to sell TikTok before facing a ban and by authorizing the president to designate other apps with ties to adversarial nations.

However, TikTok remains steadfast in its First Amendment defense, arguing that the law unfairly targets the company and imposes an unattainable deadline for divestment. TikTok contends that the mandated divestiture is not feasible and represents an unconstitutional overreach by the government. While TikTok has successfully defended itself against previous bans using First Amendment arguments, the focus of the new law on national security presents a unique challenge.

The Knight First Amendment Institute has voiced opposition to both the federal law and previous state-level attempts to ban TikTok. According to George Wang, a staff attorney at the institute, any restriction on free speech must be justified by compelling evidence of harm, which the government has yet to provide convincingly.

The passage of the law was facilitated by a classified briefing to lawmakers from the intelligence community, highlighting potential security threats posed by TikTok. Despite some dissenting voices, the bill garnered broad bipartisan support, signaling a rare consensus on the perceived national security risks associated with TikTok.

Kreps observed that such broad bipartisan support lends credence to the notion of TikTok as a national security threat, given the typically polarized political climate. This unanimity among lawmakers and the executive branch strengthens the perception of TikTok as a significant security concern.

TikTok and ByteDance are challenging a new law aimed at addressing national security threats posed by the app’s Chinese ownership. Despite TikTok’s history of successfully using First Amendment arguments in court, the specific focus of this law on national security presents fresh challenges. The bipartisan support for the law underscores the widespread concern over TikTok’s potential risks, as perceived by both lawmakers and the intelligence community.

Federal Judge Blocks Biden’s Credit Card Late Fee Regulation Amidst Legal Battle

A federal judge in Fort Worth, Texas, issued an injunction on Friday, halting a recent Biden administration regulation that aimed to cap late fees charged by credit card companies at $8.

The ruling by US District Judge Mark T. Pittman, a nominee of former President Donald Trump, granted a preliminary injunction requested by various business and banking entities who contended that the new regulation infringed upon several federal laws.

These entities, spearheaded by the conservative-leaning US Chamber of Commerce, initiated legal action against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) subsequent to the finalization of the regulation in March. The regulation, slated for implementation on Tuesday, was forecasted by the CFPB to save consumers approximately $10 billion annually by reducing fees from an average of $32.

A preliminary injunction effectively stalls the implementation of the regulation until a hearing can be convened to delve into the case with more depth.

“The credit card lobby’s lawsuit is an attempt to derail a rule that will save families $10 billion each year in order to continue making tens of billions of dollars in profits by charging borrowers late fees that far exceed their actual costs,” stated a spokesperson for the CFPB in a communication with CNN. “Consumers will shoulder $800 million in late fees every month that the rule is delayed — money that pads the profit margins of the largest credit card issuers. We will continue to defend this rule so that working families can stop paying excessive late fees that Congress banned more than a decade ago.”

The US Chamber of Commerce declined to comment in response to CNN’s inquiry.

“It is disappointing that the court has granted this last-ditch effort by the banks to prevent these critical limits on credit card late fees from going into effect next week,” remarked Chuck Bell, advocacy program director for non-profit Consumer Reports. “Credit card companies have been bilking consumers out of billions of dollars in excessive late fees for far too long.”

The regulation, initially proposed in February 2023, forms part of a broader initiative by the Biden administration to eradicate “junk fees,” which are regarded as concealed or deceptive charges imposed on consumers.

The newly established regulation would be applicable to major credit card issuers — those with over 1 million accounts. Such companies account for over 95% of the total outstanding credit card debt, according to the CFPB.

The endeavor to target credit card fees aligns with the Biden administration’s endeavors to alleviate financial strains for numerous Americans. Over the past couple of years, high inflation has caused some borrowers, particularly millennials and individuals with lower incomes, to fall behind on their credit card debt.

Furthermore, the regulation aimed to close a loophole from 2010 that the CFPB alleges has been “exploited” by credit card companies to escalate fees on overdue payments.

Based on a national survey conducted by Consumer Reports and published in September, one out of five American adults disclosed that they had incurred a credit card late fee within the preceding 12 months. Eighty-two percent of respondents expressed support for lowering the maximum late fee.

U.S. State Department Report Suggests Potential Israeli Violations in Gaza Conflict: Review Sparks Debate on Policy Shifts

A recent assessment from the U.S. State Department suggests that Israel may have breached international humanitarian law during its military actions in Gaza, though the report refrains from making definitive judgments about Israeli conduct in its conflict with Hamas.

The Biden administration initiated this review of Israel and six other nations receiving U.S. arms. While facing criticism domestically and internationally, this evaluation does not mandate any specific responses.

The report reflects a growing level of scrutiny towards Israel within the administration, coupled with frustration over its handling of the conflict. Despite this, President Biden maintains his support for Israel’s efforts to combat Hamas in Gaza.

The investigation focused on two main inquiries: whether Israel misused U.S. weapons in violation of international law and whether it hindered humanitarian aid.

Regarding the former, the report stated, “It is reasonable to assess that [U.S.] defense articles … have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its [International Humanitarian Law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.” Although numerous instances of civilian casualties in Israeli airstrikes raised serious concerns, conclusive evidence was lacking.

Palestinian health officials claim that over 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have died in Gaza, while Israel asserts it has killed more than 13,000 Hamas fighters.

On the matter of humanitarian aid, the report initially criticized Israel for impeding aid efforts, but acknowledged subsequent cooperation. However, recent disruptions at the Rafah border crossing have severely impacted aid delivery.

The Biden administration’s decision to withhold a shipment of over 3,000 large bombs to Israel indicates a shift in approach, though it is unlikely to significantly affect Israeli operations in Gaza.

While the U.S. supports Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas in Rafah, it opposes a full-scale assault due to concerns about civilian casualties. The lack of a credible plan to protect civilians in Rafah is a point of contention.

A national security memorandum issued in February mandated the report, prompted by congressional Democrats’ concerns about potential violations of international law.

Although the report does not legally obligate the U.S. to cease arms transfers, it may influence future policy decisions. However, analysts doubt significant changes will occur, noting President Biden’s reluctance to alter his stance on Rafah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his resistance to external pressure, including from the White House, highlighting potential challenges in U.S.-Israel relations.

The report raises questions about how President Biden will manage his relationship with Netanyahu, particularly regarding Gaza. Despite threats of policy adjustments, little substantive change has materialized, leaving uncertainty about the administration’s red lines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TikTok Challenges U.S. Law Targeting Its Ownership

TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have taken legal action against a U.S. law aimed at compelling the divestment of the popular social media app from its Chinese-based ownership or facing a ban in the United States. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday against the U.S. government, contends that the law, known as the Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversaries Act, infringes upon the First Amendment rights.

The legislation grants ByteDance a 270-day window to offload TikTok to a new entity that would oversee its operations in the U.S. Failure to comply would result in the app being barred from American networks and online platforms. Additionally, the president has the authority to grant ByteDance an extra 90 days if deemed necessary.

TikTok and ByteDance argue that a “qualified divestiture” is unattainable, citing commercial, technological, and legal challenges. They assert that such a move would inevitably lead to the shutdown of the app in the U.S., impacting millions of daily users. Furthermore, TikTok criticizes the law for singling out the app by name, while the president is granted the power to identify other applications falling under similar regulations, though TikTok and ByteDance are the sole entities explicitly mentioned in the legislation.

Even if a sale were feasible, TikTok maintains that the law represents an “extraordinary and unconstitutional assertion of power.” It contends that the legislation sets a dangerous precedent, allowing Congress to circumvent First Amendment protections by invoking national security concerns to compel the divestment of any media outlet.

This legal challenge represents the latest and most significant threat to TikTok’s presence in the U.S., although it is not the first time the company has faced such peril. Previously, the Trump administration attempted to enact a ban on TikTok, which was thwarted by federal courts. Additionally, TikTok has successfully navigated challenges at the state level, including a Montana law that was later blocked by a judge.

However, the current law poses a formidable obstacle to TikTok’s future operations in the U.S., particularly given its national security underpinnings, which may complicate legal defenses. The legislation garnered swift approval in Congress, with overwhelming bipartisan support. The House passed the bill with a decisive 352-65 vote in March, less than a week after its introduction. Subsequently, the measure was included in a broader foreign aid package that President Biden signed into law last month.

Modi Administration’s Global Image Management: A Struggle Against Rising Criticism

In the lead-up to the G20 summit, the Narendra Modi administration frequently employed the phrases ‘mother of democracy’ and ‘vishwaguru’.

The term ‘mother of democracy’ seemed to be introduced as a counter to India’s swift decline in the global democracy index.

‘Vishwaguru’ aimed to convey the message that Modi is a global leader whose presence cannot be overlooked any longer.

India’s presidency of the G20 rotates, and last year it was India’s turn to host the summit. Yashwant Sinha reminisced about his chairing of the G20 during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure, noting that Vajpayee didn’t utilize it for cult-building purposes. However, the current government’s focus during the G20, symbolized by a globe resting on a lotus, was centered on projecting India as a robust democracy with Modi as its singular leader. This shift prompts the question: why has the BJP manifesto now replaced ‘Vishwaguru’ with ‘Vishwabandhu’?

Recently, several Western nations have expressed concerns about events in India. The US, for instance, has raised issues regarding communal tensions, religious freedom, and the arrests of political figures:

The US State Department’s annual human rights assessment highlighted “significant” abuses in Manipur;

  • It also voiced concerns about communal violence in Gurugram;
  • The US Commission on International Religious Freedom noted a ‘decline in religious freedom’ in India and urged the Modi government to release 37 individuals of various faiths detained for the ‘peaceful exercise of their freedom of religion or belief’.
  • State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stated that the US closely monitored the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the freezing of Congress party bank accounts, emphasizing the need for fair, transparent, and timely legal processes.
  • A State Department official called on India to uphold its human rights obligations.

President Joe Biden’s absence as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, the postponement of the Quad summit, and NSA Jake Sullivan’s cancellation of visits to India have been interpreted by some as indications of US disapproval. The latest negative comment was Biden’s labeling of India as ‘xenophobic’.

Even during the G20 summit in New Delhi, a resolution was passed advocating for religious freedom, freedom of peaceful assembly, and condemning all acts of religious hatred.

In response to criticism, the Modi government’s initial reaction has been to dismiss it as Western propaganda and minimize its impact on domestic politics. Television channels and print media have cooperated, often presenting carefully curated versions of reports that cast the government in a favorable light. Frequently, the mainstream media leads such stories with official denials before briefly acknowledging the criticism and dismissing it.

This age-old tactic, reminiscent of the Cold War era, was employed recently when Germany and the US commented on Kejriwal’s arrest. Envoys were summoned to the External Affairs Ministry and handed formal protests against ‘interference’ in India’s internal affairs. Simultaneously, the government launched a robust diplomatic offensive against what it deemed ‘disinformation’.

One strategy borrowed from the US involves leveraging trade and arms purchases as diplomatic tools, with mixed success. While France, India’s defense collaborator, and Gulf countries have remained relatively silent, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has defended India’s democracy in foreign capitals, and Indian embassies have been tasked with countering ‘Western propaganda’.

The Modi government’s unease with foreign criticism is understandable. Initially, the domestic media highlighted such criticism. However, within the first three years of Modi’s tenure, negative news was largely suppressed in mainstream media. Nonetheless, strategies like ‘sam, dam, dand, bhed’ have failed to silence external critics.

The BBC underwent tax raids and faced FDI inquiries, leading it to separate its Indian newsroom into a distinct company. Emily Schmall of The New York Times recounted being invited to meetings with the government, during which ministers would criticize foreign correspondents. At one such meeting, the “minister of information” read aloud headlines from articles written by the gathered correspondents in a seemingly random manner, with a hint of sarcasm. At least 13 journalists, nine of whom were Muslims in Kashmir, have been booked under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Schmall emphasized that journalism is under threat in India.

Last year, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur accused The New York Times of spreading lies after it published an article on press freedom in Kashmir. His response mirrored the government’s tendency to dismiss negative reports as false.

When Lancet questioned the accuracy and transparency of Indian healthcare data, the government dismissed it. Similarly, a Harvard study indicating 6.7 million malnourished children in India was labeled as fake news.

To refute the IMF’s lower GDP prediction, former Chief Economic Adviser Krishnamurthy Subramaniam criticized the IMF’s estimates as consistently inaccurate. Incumbent CEA Anantha Nageswaran has also questioned the metrics of ratings agencies like Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P.

Union Minister Rajiv Chandrasekhar described as ‘half-truths’ a report by The Washington Post claiming that India had requested Apple to ‘soften’ its hacking alert.

Despite these efforts, negative news about India continues to surface:

Reporters Without Borders stated that India’s ranking in the World Freedom Index for 2024 is 159 out of 176 countries, compared to 150 in 2022.

India ranked 111 out of 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2023, with the highest rate of child wasting at 18.7%. In the previous year, its ranking was 107 out of 121 countries.

India topped the Global Slavery Index for 2023 among G20 countries, followed by China, Russia, Indonesia, and the US.

Youth unemployment in India in 2022 was 23.22%, higher than in Pakistan (11.3%), Bangladesh (12.9%), China (13.2%), and Bhutan (14.4%), according to World Bank data.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and 10 other international rights groups have criticized the misuse of laws like UAPA and financial regulations to silence journalists, human rights activists, and government critics.

Accordingly, an all-out mobilization effort is underway by the Modi regime to counteract this negative narrative. To counter organizations like Freedom House, V-Dem, and the Economic Intelligence Unit, the government-run Niti Ayog has engaged the Modi-friendly Observer Research Foundation to create India’s own democracy index. The Adani group has announced the establishment of a new think-tank. Additionally, pro-government voices, including academic groups, intellectuals, lawyers, and retired judges associated with the Sangh Parivar, are encouraged to issue statements and contribute articles to the media.

The PMO is coordinating the media response, both in print and digital formats. It appears that Vishwabandhu feels he has nothing to lose but his world.

Hamas Agrees to Temporary Ceasefire with Israel Amid Hostage Negotiations and Diplomatic Tensions

Hamas has reportedly agreed to a temporary cessation of hostilities with Israel amidst ongoing diplomatic maneuvers aimed at securing the release of Israeli hostages held by the group and preventing an Israeli military intervention in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

According to Basem Naim, Hamas’s head of political and international relations, the group has communicated its acceptance of a ceasefire proposal to mediators from Egypt and Qatar. This comes after weeks of intensive diplomatic efforts by the United States, Egypt, and Qatar to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas.

While Israel has indicated its willingness to send a delegation for negotiations on a temporary ceasefire, it has expressed reservations about Hamas’s proposal, deeming it insufficient to meet Israel’s demands. The Israeli government, in a statement from the prime minister’s office, asserted that Hamas’s proposal falls short of their requirements.

Simultaneously, Israel’s wartime Cabinet has unanimously decided to continue military operations targeting Hamas positions in Rafah. Despite efforts by the Biden administration to dissuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from launching an offensive in Rafah, the White House remains cautious about Hamas’s ceasefire offer.

President Biden held discussions with Netanyahu, although the conversation occurred prior to Hamas’s announcement. John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser, emphasized the administration’s commitment to securing the release of Israeli hostages through a temporary ceasefire, as well as safeguarding the lives of over a million Palestinians in Rafah.

Rafah, located on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, serves as a crucial entry point for humanitarian aid into the besieged territory. Following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in numerous casualties and the abduction of over 250 individuals, Israel has been engaged in a protracted conflict with the group.

A brief ceasefire in November facilitated the release of more than 100 hostages, a precedent that the administration seeks to replicate in ongoing negotiations. However, the specific details of the proposed truce have not been publicly disclosed by mediators, and Hamas has refrained from elaborating on the terms.

Nonetheless, the tentative agreement reportedly involves a six-to-eight week cessation of hostilities, during which Hamas would gradually release Israeli hostages, starting with the most vulnerable among them. In return, Israel is expected to release an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners, withdraw troops from select areas of Gaza, and permit movement for Palestinians within the territory.

Additionally, the ceasefire would enable a significant influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza, where the population has endured displacement, casualties, and dire humanitarian conditions due to the prolonged conflict.

Republican Officials Unite to Restore Trust in Elections Amidst Growing Doubt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOPIO Passes Resolution for Full Dual Nationality at the Convention

The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) celebrated its 35th Anniversary on April 26-28, 2024 at its Convention 2024 at Royal Albert Palace, Fords, New Jersey, USA. The convention focused on India’s Present and the Future and what role the Diaspora Indians can play in helping to realize this desirable future with a theme, ‘Opportunities for Diaspora Indians in India’s Big Manifest Future.’ The convention ended with General Body passing four resolutions including one demanding full dual nationality for Overseas Indian Citizens (OCI) card holders.

The convention was inaugurated with a lamp lighting ceremony on April 26th followed by a universal prayer song by GOPIO-Edison President Pallavi Belwariar and an invocation dance in Kathak style by Mitali Nirgude-Kaganeb. The chief guest was Guyana Ambassador to the USA, His Excellency Samuel Hinds, who earlier had served as the Prime Minister and President of Guyana. India’s Deputy Consul General in New York Dr. Varun Jeph delivered the keynote address.

LIGHTING OF THE LAMP
GOPIO Convention 2024 being inaugurated with lighting of the lamp by Ambassador Samuel Hinds, Deputy Consul General Dr. Varun Jeph and GOPIO Officials

New York City Mayor Eric Adams issued a citation honoring the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) on the occasion of its convention and for its contribution to improve life in New York city. The proclamation was presented by Deputy Commissioner for International Affairs Dilip Chauhan who complimented GOPIO for its outstanding work for the benefit of the Indian Diaspora worldwide.

New York Deputy Commissioner Dilip Chauhan presenting Mayor's Citation
New York City Deputy Commissioner Dilip Chauhan presenting citation from Mayor Eric Adams. From l. to r.: Convener Prakash Shah, Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chauhan, Ambassador Samuel Hinds and President Lal Motwani

Ambassador Hinds fondly shared Guyana’s close relation with India and GOPIO, especially since the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan attended the first GOPIO Convention in New York and later inaugurated Second Global Convention held in New Delhi in 1992 as President of Guyana. Again in 1999, Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo inaugurated GOPIO Convention in New York.

Ambassador Hinds said, “President Jagan had high regard for GOPIO and was always seeking to support GOPIO.”  Dr. Jagan played a significant role in Guyana’s progress. “With oil discovery, Guyana will prosper rapidly,” Ambassador Hinds added.

In his keynote address, Dr. Jeph articulated the tremendous progress India has made in many arenas and currently being the 5th largest economy of the world and will soon become the third largest economy.

Dr. Jeph provided India’s growth, success and potentials with amazing statistics and said that India with 65% of youth has bright prospects.

Dr. Jeph said, “Indian Americans are playing pivotal role in the US economy with start ups and other business ventures, while being just over 1% of the population, your contribution in the economy of over 6%.”

“To the USA, we send brilliance and intelligence of the highest number of foreign students creating formidable future,” Dr. Jeph added.

Dr. Jeph complimented GOPIO’s initiatives to network and help new students from India and said that the Consulate would continue to cooperate in this effort.

The inaugural session started with a welcome by Convention Convener Prakash Shah, who also serves as GOPIO’s Global Ambassador. GOPIO President Lal Motwani said that since the new team was elected last year, the organization has been brought with more activities and restarting its newsletter GOPIO News.

GOPIO Chairman in his remarks said that since its inception in 1989, GOPIO had taken up issues of civil rights and human rights violations of the Indian Diaspora around the world and that Indian Diaspora communities have achieved political mainstream in many of the countrie with signficant Diaspora population.

Speakers at the Inauguration
Dignitaries and GOPIO officials at the inauguration, from l. to r.: Indian Deputy Consul |General Varun Jeph, Ambassador Samuel Hinds, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Lal Motwani and Prakash Shah

Dr. Abraham said, “The 35 million strong Indian Diaspora community is the fastest growing Diaspora community worldwide spread into 180 countries and we are remitting over $100 billion dollars every year which has helped India to reach a foreign reserve of over $650 billion and this flow will continue in the same level or more in the near future.”

There were nine conference sessions on Saturday, Aprill 27th at the convention which included how Indian Diaspora can participate in India’s big manifest as well as some on the Diaspora life and social segments.

The first session on “GOPIO Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Worldwide Networking of the Diaspora Businesses,” was chaired by Convener Prakash Shah, who is also President First Growth Mortgage and Realty LLC. Speakers were Dr Vithal Dhaduk, who developed and sold Pharma Companies; Braj Aggarwal, President, Braj Aggarwal CPA PC, New York; Sunil Hali, Chairman, Radio Zindagi, Indian Eye, NDTV USA, New Jersey; Hotel & Realty Veteran Bhavik Shah and Falguni Pandya of Namaste Global.

Panelists at GOPIO Chamber of Commerce Business Session
Panel on GOPIO Chamber of Commerce and Networking Worldwide Diaspora Businesses, From l. to r.: Session Chair and Moderator Prakash Shah, Falguni Pandya, Bhavik Shah, Dr. Vithal Dhaduk Sunil Hali and Braj Aggarwal

During the Women’s Panel session titled “Diaspora Women Making A Difference”, GOPIO women shared their personal stories of contributions to their adopted homelands.  Rooted in Motherland India, five women, namely Soruba Rani Kuusto, Dr. Vimal Goyle, Dr. Rini Johar, Beena Kothari and Suman Kapoor of New Zealand, represented the diversity in membership across GOPIO.  Guided and mentored by the panel Chair and Facilitator J. Nami Kaur who is GOPIO’s International Coordinator-at-Large, they presented their vision for Diaspora engagement in India’s Manifest Future.

Women's Session Panel
Conference Panel Women – Session Chair Nami Kaur moderating the session. Panelists from l. to r.: Soruba Rani Kuusto, Rini Johar, Beena Kop0thari, Dr. Vimal Goyle, Ritu Chopra and Suman Kapoor

Session on “Medical and Health Issues and how Diaspora Indians can Participate in India’s Frontline Role in Pharmaceuticals, Vaccines and other Health Areas” was chaired and moderated by Dr. Asha Samant, GOPIO’s International Coordinator-at-Large, Co-Convener GOPIO Convention-2024 and Associate Professor at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (UMDNJ), Livingston, New Jersey. Speakers were Dr. Anil Diwan, President and Executive Chairman of NanoVirisides, Inc., Shelton, CT, who spoke on “New Frontiers in Drug Development;” ⁠Rakesh Grover, President and CEO, Carnegie Pharmaceuticals, LLC, Delran, NJ; ⁠Dr. Anurag Pande, Vice President, Scientific Affairs, Sabinsa Corporation, East Windsor, NJ; Dr. ⁠Jaya Daptardar, Chief Compliance Officer of Bridges Health Care and CEO of Active Ayurveda and Yoga LLC, as well as President of GOPIO-CT, Fairfield, CT and Hari Singh Panaser, Chairman, Global Indian Trade and Culture USA; VP, Coolsoft LLC and Global Business Consultant, Birla Soft, Monroe, NJ.

Panel of Medical Health and Pharma Opportunities with India
Speakers at Medical, Health and Pharma Opportunities with India – From l. to r.: Chair and Moderator Dr. Asha Samant, Dr. Anil Diwan, Dr. J.M. Daptardar, Dr. Rakesh Grover, Hari Singh Panaser and Dr. Anurag Pande

The Panel on the Emergence of India as a Global Powerhouse which was organized by The Indus Entrepreneur – NJ Chapter (tie.org) focused on the growth of the Digital Economy, Supply Chain and Manufacturing. The session moderator, Professor Suresh Kumar, President of TiE NJ made a powerful bull case regaining its spot among the top three global economies by 2047 and even moving up to the top 2 by 2075. He said that political stability, generation of mass employment by growth of manufacturing, and making the right geo-political alliances over the next decade will be key to sustaining the recent Indian success.  The other panelist included Anjan Lahari, CEO of Navikenz and ex CEO of Birlasoft who cautioned against overconfidence and complacency: Neha Shah, CEO of GEP – who emphasized the importance of digital supply chains; Naveen Puri, Founder of InnoPharma – who stressed in training the workforce and keeping them flexible to develop new skills as neede; and Sanyukta Kulkarni, Manager of Route Development (Indian subcontinent), DB Schenker Inc. who spoke on “Growth of Logistic Operations in India.”

Panel on Digital Infrastructure Supply Chain Logistics and AI
Panel on Digital Infrastructure, Supply Chain Logistics and AI – From l. to r.: Navneet Puri, Sanyukta Kulkarni, Chair and Moderator Dr. Suresh Kumar, Neha Shah, GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham and Anjan Lahari

There was a session on Diaspora Youth and Young Achievers and the role they can play in India’s Future and how GOPIO can facilitate their participation? It was put together and chaired by Ms Vasu Pawar, CEO/Founder of Step2StepUp Inc. and co-chaired by Bhavya Gupta, Founder and Managing Partner of ACE Consultants, New Jersey. The keynote address was delivered by Kunal Devmane from Mumbai, India, who was a keynote speaker at G20-India and author of Buffering to Streaming; Sutro Founder and CEO Ravi Kurani; Investment Management Expert Monica Arora; Grammy Award Winner and Audience Specialist Falguni Shah; Creative Music Genius Neil Nayyar; and Hotel & Realty Veteran Bhavik Shah.

Panelists of Young Professionals Session Being Honored
Young professional achievers recognized after their session. From l. to r.: Session Chair and Moderator Vasu Pawar, Ravi Kurani, Falu Shah, Monica Arora, Neil Nayyar, Kunal Devmane and GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham. Not visible in the photo ae=re Session Co-chair Bhavya Gupta and Bhavik Shah

Session on “Technologies and AI, and other Innovations: How Diaspora Indians are leading Research and Innovations” was chaired by GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, who is a Nanotechnologist and President of Innovative Research and Products in Stamford, CT. It was moderated by Prof. Rajasekhar Vangapaty who is Academic Advisor to Fashion Institute of Technology. Prof. Siddhartha Dalal, Professor of Professional Practice in Applied Analytics, Columbia University, New York, delivered the keynote address. Other speakers were: Kathirvel Kumararaja, President, Founder and CEO, DevJee, Inc., New York, NY, who spoke on “Bridging Traditional Wisdom and Modern Healthcare: Opportunities for Diaspora Indians in India’s Health Innovation Economy;” Abraham Pannikottu, CEO. American Engineering Group, Akron, Ohio, “India’s Opportunities and Challenges of AI in Défense Sector on Overseas Small Business Partnerships;” Dr. Kris Mani, President, NSR Technologies, Basking Ridge, NJ who spoke on “Nanotechnology and Other Technologies;” Dr. Jatin V. Mehta, CEO, MetaSense Digital Marketing, Philadelphia, PA, “Mastering SEO & Marketing with AI.”

Panelists of Technologies and AI Session
Speakers at the Conference Session on Technologies and AI, from l. to r. Prof Raj Vangapaty, Dr. Jatin Mehta, Convention Convener Prakash Shah, Prof. Siddhartha Dala, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Kathirvel Kumararaja, Abraham Pannikottu and Dr. Kris Mani

There was a GOPIO Academic Council Roundtable coordinated by GOPIO Edison President Pallavi Belwariar and was chaired by the Academic Council Chair Dr. Neerja Arun Gupta who is currently the Vice Chancellor Gujarat University. It was atte3nded by GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham and Guyana Ambassador Samuel Hinds. The Council discussed the role of academics in manifestation of future India, Student Start Ups with GOPIO Chamber of Commerce and future studies abroad programs for NRI and PIO students. It also did brainstorm on showcasing India to Diaspora and starting virtual and offline programs. Lastly, it resolved to create a Global Network for Academics.

Photo left Participants at the GOPIO
Photo left: Participants at the GOPIO Academic Council Roundtable, Right: Ambassador Hinds speaking at the session. Sitting are Session Coordinator Pallavi Belwariar, GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham and GOPIO Academic Council Chair Dr. Neerja Arun Gupta

A non-business session on ‘Diaspora Languages and Literature’ was put together by GOPIO General Secretary Ram Gadhavi. Scholars including Dr. Babu Suthar (Gujarati), Anoop Bhargav (Hindi), Ashok Vidwans (Marathi), Dr. Vasu Ranganathan (Tamil), Raju Thomas (Malayalam), and Dilip Chakraborty (Bengali) discussed diaspora writers and the status of their respective languages. While summarizing the session, Suthar highlighted three main issues, the debate surrounding the concept of ‘diaspora’ versus ‘transnationalism’;  the challenge of preserving Indian languages in the USA due to socio-cultural differences, with differing opinions on whether to prioritize language preservation or adapt to local culture; and the role of language in connecting individuals to their cultural roots and expressing shared experiences, exemplified by Suthar’s struggle to express himself in Gujarati following the 2002 violence. The audience also shared concerns about maintaining Indian language and culture abroad.

Discussion Panel on Diaspora Languages and Literature
Panel Discussion on Diaspora Languages and Literature – From l. to r.: Ashok Vidwans, Raju Thomas, Anoop Bhargava, Dr. Babu Suthar, Dr. Vasu Ranganathan and Dilip Chakraborty

A second non-business session on “Diaspora Indians Aging Gracefully,” was put together by Bharat Rana, President, Federation of Indian Senior Association of North America (FISANA) and President of GOPIO-North Jersey. The speakers were Mukund Mehta, President, India Home, Inc. and President, Indo-American Senior Citizen Center of New York, Queens, NY; Sudha Acharya, GOPIO Founding Co-Convener and Executive Director, South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS), Flushing, New York; Anand Patel, Businessman and Philanthropist and Owner of Numerous Dunkin’ Donuts Chain franchises, currently serving as Board of Director of FISANA, Past President of FISANA and Currently Member of FIA Trustees; and Suman Kapoor, Hospitality Entrepreneur, GOPIO Waikato, New Zealand.

Convener Prakash Shah said, “We had the most successful Convention at a time that we consider is pivotal for India and for India’s 38 million strong Diaspora. We are dealing with an Outbreak but this time it isn’t an Outbreak of a Covid like disease but an Outbreak of Optimism!”

“We are very confident that with the infrastructure base having been built, India will rapidly evolve into becoming a net defense exporter and a multifaceted manufacturing hub in pharmaceuticals, automobiles, smartphones, semiconductors and aircraft among many others including continuing the high growth in service sector,” Shah continued.

Audience at the Convention
Audience at the Convention

All these conference sessions brought very interesting and useful knowledge as well as mastery of Indians in their specialized fields. The speakers and audience appreciated GOPIO’s vision and mission in planning such conference topics. Convention attendees agreed that right now India with its third largest Start-Up-Ecosystem and having already achieved 125 Unicorns is the best investment opportunity in the world and therefore especially attractive to the Diaspora Indians.

At the Finale Awards banquet, four individuals and two organizations were honoured with community service awards: Dr Neerja A. Gupta who is the first woman Chancellor of Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India; Dr. V.K. Raju M.D. who has been providing great Service in eradicating childhood blindness; Dharmatma Saran who has been named as the cultural ambassador of India to the world for promoting networking of young women achievers through his annual Miss India Worldwide Pageant and Lion Hina Trivedi of Chicago as a great community builder. Two organizations are also recognized, Heart and Hand for the Handicapped (HHH) for its great service to physically and mentally challenged children and South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS) for its outstanding services to communities in the New York Area.

Community Service Award Presentation Ambassador Hinds GOPIO Officials and Awardees
Community Service Awardees with Ambassador Samuel Hinds and GOPIO officials. From l. to r.: Dr. Thomas Abraaham, Chitranjan Belwariar, Nami Kaur, Prakash Shah, Kewal Kanda, Gujrat University Vice Chancellor Dr. Neerja Arun Gupta, HHH President Balaji Jilla, Ambassador Hinds, Lal Motwani, Eye Specialist Dr. V.K. Raju, Community Motivator Lion Hina Trivedi, Miss India World Pageant CEO Dharmatma Saran, Rajul Shah, SACSS Executive Director Sudha Acharya and Board Member Dr. Swarna Shah, Dr. Asha Samant and Jay Bhandari

Others recognized by GOPIO include Dr Vithal Dhaduk, Pharmaceutical Business in USA. developed and sold pharma companies; Sabinsa Vice President Anurag Pande, Businesswoman Poonam Khubani; AAHOA Past Chairman Bharat Patel; TV Asia Chairman and CEO Dr. H.R. Shah, Parikh Worldwide Media Chairman Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Indian Eye/Radio Zindagi CEO Sunil Hali, New India Abroad Publisher Rajeev Bhambri; Indian Panorama Editor and Publisher Prof. Indrajit Saluja, Emalayalee and India Life Editor George Joseph, Universal News Network editor Ajay Ghosh and Pravasi Channel producer Sunil Tristar. GOPIO Convention Co-Conveners Dr. Asha Samant and businessman Kenny Desai were also recognized at the convention.

Media Recognition to TV Asia ITV and Indian Panorama
Media Recognition, from l. to r.: Prakash Shah, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Prof. Indrajit Saluja of Indian Panorama, Dr. Sudhir Parikh of ITV/News India/Desi Talk, Ambassador Hinds, Dr. H.R. Shah of TV Asia and Lal Motwani.
Sunil Tristar being recognized
Recognition to media for their services to community and GOPIO. From l. to r. Dr. Thomas Abraham, Prakash Shah, Rajeev Bhambri of New India Abroad, Ambassador Samuel Hinds, Deputy Consul General Dr. Varun Jeph, Sunil Tristar of Pravasi Channel and India Life, Lal Motwani, George Joseph of emalayalee, and Sunil Hali of The Indian Eye and Radio Zindagi

The GOPIO General Body meeting on April 28th passed important resolutions, many of which are designed to accomplish and accelerate the Diaspora Participation in India’s high growth in its ‘Suvarna Kaal’. These resolution to Govt. of India include to grant full dual nationality to OCI card holders, make OCI at par with Indian citizens in doing business in India and provide Aadhar Card to NRIs who are citizens of India. A fourth resolution urged Biden Administration and US Congress to pass legislation to eliminate the backlog of Indians waiting for permanent residence in the USA.

Edison Town Mayor Sam Joshi, since he was out of town, joined the convention at its concluding GOPIO General Body session and offered all his help for GOPIO to move forward in Edison and nearby areas. GOPIO in turn told the Mayor Joshi that it would initiate some programs for needy including supporting soup kitchens in Edison.

GOPIO General Body Meeting Attendees with Edison Mayor Sam Joshi
GOPIO General Body Meeting Attendees with Edison Mayor Sam Joshi

The General Body also unanimously elected Dr. Thomas Abraham as Chairman of GOPIO International for the remaining of the current term.

The Convention was attended by many from around the World and from various parts of the USA. The entertainment included a Comedy Hour by the Internationally Acclaimed Comedian Dan Nainan on the first day and concluded with a superb performance of Sarangi and Ghazals by Ustad Kamal Sabri, a seventh Generation Maestro who was accompanied by Avinash Mistry on the Tabla. Grammy Award winner Falu Shah and GOPIO-|Edison President Pallavi Belwariar rendered some songs as well.

Entertainers at the Convention From l to r Avinash Mistry Ustad Kamal Sabri Dan Nainan Falu Shah and Pallavi Belwariar
Entertainers at the Convention From l to r Avinash Mistry Ustad Kamal Sabri Dan Nainan Falu Shah and Pallavi Belwariar

In the afternoon, GOPIO organized a special trip to the recently consecrated Akshardham Temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey for outside delegates. GOPIO, which is 4 Ps, the premier, pioneer, popular and purposeful, organization of Global Indian Diaspora was founded in world’s financial center – New York in 1989 as a non-political and secular organization. Since then, GOPIO has blossomed like a banyan tree with Diaspora in all continents with Life Members and chapters in 35 countries. GOPIO is regarded as the most influential and productive organization dealing and taking up issues concerning to global Indian Diaspora to various authorities and governments. Government of India closely follows GOPIO and seriously takes its suggestions.

Note: For more information or question, please call GOPIO Convention Convener Prakash Shah at 908-267-5021

US House Advances TikTok Ban Legislation Amidst Aid Package Approval

The United States is inching closer to potentially banning TikTok as House lawmakers greenlighted a contentious bill in a sweeping aid package aimed at supporting Israel and Ukraine. With a bipartisan vote of 360-58, this move represents yet another setback for TikTok in Washington. The social media giant, currently under the ownership of ByteDance, its Chinese parent company, is grappling with the threat of being ousted from the US market, where it boasts a user base of 170 million.

The legislation adopted by the House over the weekend mirrors an earlier version from March, proposing to remove TikTok from American app stores unless it undergoes a change in ownership promptly. By bundling the TikTok measure with funding for Ukrainian military gear and Israeli missile defense, House Republicans are exerting pressure on Senate counterparts to address the entire package in a single decisive vote.

Experts anticipate swift action from the Senate on the aid package, raising expectations for its approval. President Joe Biden has signaled his willingness to endorse the TikTok legislation if it crosses his desk. This accelerated push underscores how external policy imperatives have converged to pose a significant and potentially dire threat to an app cherished by many American youths but viewed by US authorities as a national security hazard.

The latest version of the bill, if enacted, grants TikTok a 270-day window to secure a new proprietor, an extension from the approximately six months initially proposed. Moreover, it affords the White House the discretion to prolong this deadline by an additional 90 days if progress toward a sale is evident.

TikTok has vehemently opposed the legislation, launching an extensive lobbying campaign in an effort to thwart its passage. The company argues that the bill encroaches upon the First Amendment rights of its users and jeopardizes small enterprises. In a statement posted on X, TikTok lamented the House’s decision, lambasting it as a move that would stifle free speech, disrupt millions of businesses, and dismantle a platform contributing $24 billion annually to the US economy.

Hinting at potential legal action to challenge the divestiture legislation, TikTok has vowed to continue its fight, invoking its legal prerogatives. A legal showdown over the law could set the stage for a high-stakes clash over Americans’ access to digital content.

While Senate lawmakers had been divided on the House’s proposal for a forced TikTok sale, sentiment shifted somewhat with the unveiling of the latest draft featuring an extended deadline. In the run-up to the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stressed the urgency of approving foreign aid. Schumer disclosed a tentative agreement for the Senate to consider the foreign aid package on Tuesday, suggesting a growing momentum behind the legislation.

Paul Gallant, a policy analyst at Cowen Inc., assesses the likelihood of the TikTok bill’s passage as reasonably high, estimating an 80% chance of Senate approval. Gallant anticipates that TikTok is unlikely to be stripped from the broader aid package, predicting Senate deliberation within one to two weeks, though indications suggest it could happen even sooner.

House Passes Historic Foreign Aid Package Amidst GOP Infighting: Billions Allocated for Ukraine, Israel, and Global Allies

Lawmakers in the House, from both sides of the aisle, united on Saturday to advance a significant foreign aid package to the Senate, effectively ending a prolonged and contentious standoff over the destiny of the legislation and virtually ensuring the provision of billions of dollars in fresh assistance to beleaguered allies worldwide.

The exceptional weekend voting sessions marked the conclusion of months of intense deliberation within the House Republican caucus regarding whether and how Congress should intervene with further military assistance for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, while also extending humanitarian aid to civilian victims in conflict zones like Gaza and other war-ravaged regions globally.

The discourse had splintered House Republicans into opposing factions, setting Reagan-era traditionalists, proponents of robust international interventions to counter the ambitions of Russia and China, against a newer strain of “America First” conservatives advocating for curtailing foreign expenditure and redirecting focus to domestic issues, notably the migrant crisis along the southern border.

Ultimately, Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana defied his conservative detractors, bringing forth a series of four bills on the House floor to furnish overseas assistance. Notably, he disentangled these funds from a separate border security proposal that failed to garner support during Saturday’s proceedings. Johnson underscored the aid as a straightforward yet vital extension of America’s commitment to democratic allies facing threats from autocratic regimes.

“I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important,” Johnson emphasized earlier in the week. “I really do believe the intel and the briefings that we’ve gotten. I believe Xi and Vladimir Putin and Iran really are an axis of evil.”

Representative Mike McCaul of Texas revealed that Johnson sought divine guidance before making the pivotal decision to forge ahead. McCaul noted Johnson’s internal conflict between preserving his position and doing what he perceived as morally right, indicating Johnson’s reliance on prayer for clarity.

The passage of the foreign aid bills marked a significant triumph for the relatively inexperienced Speaker, who assumed leadership less than six months prior. The package, approved through four distinct votes, allocated approximately $61 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel, $8 billion for Indo-Pacific allies, and included additional national security measures such as a potential ban on TikTok.

However, the move carried political risks, exacerbating tensions among conservatives already discontented with Johnson’s bipartisan collaborations with President Biden on major legislation. This discontent manifested in a nascent effort to unseat Johnson, with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene spearheading a motion to vacate, backed by Representatives Thomas Massie and Paul Gosar.

While Johnson dismissed the threat, emphasizing the imperative of supporting Ukraine amid its struggle against Russia, some allies acknowledged the possibility of Greene’s motion materializing.

Yet, the conservative dissent extended beyond ideological differences. Some were concerned about escalating federal debt, others advocated for an isolationist stance akin to Trump’s priorities, and a faction harbored distrust towards Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stemming from past political entanglements.

The migrant crisis also emerged as a pivotal point of contention, with Johnson initially demanding border security provisions alongside foreign aid, later abandoning this stance to focus solely on international assistance, a move met with incredulity by conservatives.

Despite Johnson’s efforts to mollify conservative objections by introducing amendments aligning with Republican national security interests, his strategy failed to garner full support within the GOP, with over half the conference voting against the Ukraine funding.

The Israel aid component further divided Democrats, reflecting internal disagreements over U.S. policy towards the Middle East. While the bill included significant humanitarian aid, some progressives opposed it for its perceived lack of conditions on assistance to Jerusalem, emphasizing the importance of enforcing human rights and international law.

Saturday’s passage marked the third attempt by Johnson to secure aid for Israel, following previous setbacks in November and February. Despite challenges, the aid package now advances to the Senate, expected to pass in the coming week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Passes $95 Billion Package for Military Aid, Humanitarian Assistance: What’s Inside?

The $95 billion package recently approved by the House, poised for Senate approval next week, is set to address various international concerns, including military aid for Ukraine and Israel, replenishing U.S. weapons systems, and providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza. President Joe Biden has committed to promptly signing the package upon receipt.

The breakdown of the spending is as follows:

For Ukraine and U.S. weapons stockpiles, approximately $61 billion is allocated. This includes a substantial $13.8 billion designated for the purchase of weapons by Ukraine. Additionally, Ukraine is slated to receive over $9 billion in economic assistance through “forgivable loans.”

Israel is set to receive about $26 billion in support, with a portion earmarked for replenishing its missile defense systems. Furthermore, over $9 billion is allocated for humanitarian aid in Gaza, particularly pertinent given the recent Israel-Hamas conflict.

Approximately $8 billion is allocated for bolstering U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region and countering China. This includes over $3.3 billion for submarine infrastructure and development, along with an additional $1.9 billion to restock U.S. weapons provided to Taiwan and other regional allies.

This comprehensive package aims to address key international concerns while reinforcing strategic alliances and promoting stability in various regions.

Trump’s Vice Presidential Pick: A Golden Ticket to GOP’s 2028 Presidential Race

Former President Trump’s choice for his running mate in the upcoming November election holds immense significance, potentially serving as a gateway to the GOP’s presidential candidacy in 2028. Unlike traditional scenarios where a vice president would typically wait eight years before pursuing the presidential nomination, Trump’s selection could instantly elevate the chosen candidate as a frontrunner for the GOP nomination in just four years. This unique circumstance underscores the exceptional weight of Trump’s decision this year.

Alex Conant, a figure from Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 campaign, emphasizes the significance, stating, “To the extent that whoever he picks as vice president could be the presumptive front-runner four years from now, it’s a bigger deal than normal.” This potential nominee not only carries the prospect of assuming the presidency but also inheriting the mantle of the MAGA movement that has reshaped the Republican Party under Trump’s leadership.

While loyalty remains a paramount criterion for Trump in selecting his running mate, the contenders vying for his favor are acutely aware of the extraordinary opportunity this decision presents. Younger Republicans, in particular, perceive this as a chance not just for the vice presidency but as a strategic move towards positioning themselves for the 2028 presidential race.

Among those under consideration is Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who, despite being 58 years old, is viewed favorably due to his strong fundraising abilities and compelling personal narrative as the sole Black Republican in the Senate. Senator JD Vance, another potential contender at 39, has also garnered attention as a staunch Trump ally, although he hasn’t directly discussed the possibility with Trump himself.

Other names circulating as potential future faces of the party include Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, aged 45; Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, aged 39; Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, aged 41; and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, aged 51.

While speculation about the impact on the 2028 race looms large, insiders caution against overestimating its influence on Trump’s decision-making process. Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor, underscores Trump’s prioritization of loyalty over electoral considerations, suggesting that Trump’s choice will primarily reflect on his own image rather than future electoral strategies.

The details of Trump’s vice presidential search remain largely undisclosed, with periodic mentions of candidates on his “short list.” Similar to his approach in 2016, Trump is likely to delay the announcement until closer to the Republican National Convention in July, utilizing the suspense to his advantage for fundraising and media attention.

The anticipation surrounding Trump’s pick echoes the strategic maneuvering seen in the 2020 Democratic cycle, where then-candidate Joe Biden positioned himself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders. However, while Biden’s eventual vice presidential pick, Kamala Harris, was initially seen as a potential frontrunner for 2024, uncertainties have since arisen regarding her presidential prospects.

For Republicans vying for Trump’s endorsement, the stakes are high, offering a potential fast track to the presidential nomination if Trump secures victory in November. However, there’s also a cautionary tale in the fate of former Vice President Mike Pence, whose fallout with Trump over the election results damaged his standing within the party.

As the Republican contenders jockey for position on this year’s ticket, they tread a delicate balance between ambition and loyalty, hoping to avoid the pitfalls that befell Pence in his post-Trump political journey.

The U.S. Vetoes Resolution to Upgrade Palestine’s U.N. Membership

The U.S. blocked on Thursday a draft resolution that would have allowed the United Nations General Assembly to vote on allowing a Palestinian state to become a full member state of the U.N. The move has triggered backlash from other states and pro-Palestinian groups, as global divisions continue to sharpen over Israel’s war on Gaza.

The U.S. was the only nation in the 15-member U.N. Security Council to vote against the resolution. Twelve—including Russia, China, France, and Japan—voted in favor, while two—the U.K. and Switzerland—abstained.

On April 2, the Palestinian Authority again submitted a request to reconsider its 2011 request for full U.N. membership. The U.S. has been urging the Palestinian Authority not to press ahead for a U.N. vote—pressure that was ignored by Abbas.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement that “the Biden administration should be ashamed and embarrassed” of its “unjust veto.” The Muslim advocacy group also criticized what it says are limits of the U.N. Security Council in addressing conflict.

“For decades, the UN Security Council has failed to prevent unjust wars and genocide around the world,” the statement said. “The world should no longer accept a flawed system in which five nations can exercise veto power over the affairs of more than eight billion people, including nearly two billion Muslims who are not represented among the five permanent members.”

The U.N. Security Council was established in 1945 to maintain international peace and security, as well as to recommend new U.N. members to the General Assembly. It consists of 10 rotating members elected on two-year terms and five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.). A typical resolution in the Security Council requires affirmative votes from nine members to pass, though any of the five permanent members reserve veto power.

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan expressed disappointment at the number of countries that have supported the Palestinian request. “Regardless of the Palestinians’ failure to meet the necessary criteria for UN membership, most of you sadly decided to reward Palestinian terror with a Palestinian State,” he said. “It’s very sad because your vote will only embolden Palestinian rejectionism even more and make peace almost impossible.”

Riyad Mansour, a Palestinian-American diplomat and the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., thanked those who voted in favor of the request and reiterated his people’s resolve. “The fact that this resolution did not pass will not break our will, and it will not defeat our determination,” he said. “We will not stop in our effort. The State of Palestine is inevitable. It is real. Perhaps they see it as far away, but we see it as near, and we are the faithful.”

The U.S. has found itself increasingly isolated by the international community because of its support of Israel. But as the human costs of the conflict in Gaza mount, President Joe Biden has also gradually shifted his tone towards his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Netanyahu’s approach to the war a “mistake.” The U.S. vetoed calls at the U.N. for a humanitarian ceasefire for months, but one was eventually passed in March, after the U.S. abstained from voting. Still, the U.S. has maintained its support for Israel, helping it recently shoot down missiles from Iran and vowing “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”

Trump Leads Biden In Latest National Poll

Former President Trump is leading President Biden among potential voters in the upcoming presidential election, an Emerson College Polling national survey released Thursday found, with Biden’s polling rate dropping since early April.

Trump leads Biden 46 percent to 43 percent, according to the poll. Support for Biden dropped 2 percentage points since the previous Emerson College poll in early April, while Trump’s polling stayed at 46 percent.

Another 12 percent reported being undecided, according to Thursday’s results. When undecided voters were pressed to pick a candidate, Trump’s support rose to 51 percent, while Biden’s climbed to 48 percent.

When independent candidates were thrown into the mix, support for Trump dropped to 44 percent and 40 percent for Biden. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. received 8 percent of support, another 8 percent reported being undecided, and 1 percent supported Cornel West.

Among issues that voters cited as most critical in forming their opinion of each candidate were the economy and immigration. When asked about specific economic issues, 70 percent said they think the cost of living is rising, and that 70 percent was more likely to support Trump over Biden, the survey found.

“Voters who think the cost of living is rising support Trump over Biden, 56% to 32%,” said Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling. “Those who feel the cost of living is easing or staying the same support Biden over Trump, 94% to 6% and 67% to 18%”

The Israel-Hamas war also came up as a point of contention among the polled voters, with a plurality of voters, 44, percent, saying they feel they’re not getting the full picture when it comes to the war.

“Perceptions of receiving accurate war information show a significant split,” Kimball said. “Biden leads among those who think they are getting accurate information (53% to 36%), while Trump leads among skeptics (53% to 38%). Those unsure are divided, with 44% leaning toward Trump and 42% toward Biden.”

The Emerson College Polling survey was conducted April 16-17 among 1,308 registered voters and has a 2.6 percent margin of error.

Will Robert F. Kennedy Be A Spoiler In The Presidential Race?

The 2024 presidential race will almost certainly be very close, especially in the few swing states that could decide the Electoral College vote. Hence, a great deal of attention has been paid to the question of “spoilers”—third party or independent candidates who could pull enough votes from President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump to keep one of them from winning an important state.

Now that No Labels has decided not to run a presidential candidate, there are three third-party campaigns going on—one by Cornell West, an African American former Harvard professor who is running as an independent, and another by Jill Stein, who ran as the candidate of the Green Party in 2012 and 2016. And finally, the one getting the most attention, and according to polls the most support, is an independent run by environmentalist and anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew of former President John Kennedy.

For any of these candidates to actually win, they need to first qualify for the ballot in at least enough states to account for 270 electoral votes. That is highly unlikely given the difficulty of getting on ballots in the first place. But for any of these candidates to be a spoiler, they need only get on the ballot in a few swing states. Remember that in Arizona and Georgia in 2020, Biden won by .3% of the vote. When races are that close, third-party candidates can become spoilers.

Of the three most talked about “spoilers,” Jill Stein has the best chance of getting on a large number of state ballots. She is substantially ahead in the delegate count for the Green Party’s virtual convention in July and likely to be the nominee. Because the Green Party has been around since 1984, they have state party organizations, and they have run candidates for office.

1 Even though they don’t have very many winning candidates, they have enough of an infrastructure that as of this writing they claim to be on the ballot in 20 states, and they are running active campaigns in others. In the 2000 presidential race between former Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush, consumer advocate Ralph Nader was the Green Party candidate on the ballot in Florida. Bush’s lead was less than one percent of the vote. If you assume many of Nader’s voters would have voted for Al Gore, his 1.6% of the vote would have been more than enough to put the state into Gore’s column.

The other “spoiler” candidate, Cornel West, is underfunded and without an institutional infrastructure behind him. So far, he has secured ballot access in only three states: Oregon, South Carolina, and Utah. While many people worry that he could pull votes from Biden in big cities with Black populations in key swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, he does not appear, at least yet, to have caught on enough in any swing states to become a spoiler.

Unlike Stein and West, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appears to be closer to becoming a spoiler. Conventional wisdom has that because of his famous name and his environmental work, he will take votes from Biden. However, his anti-vax campaign and his attraction to conspiracy theories have led some to argue that he is also a threat to Trump. So how is Kennedy doing on ballot access? In some states, qualifying for the ballot as a party is easier (fewer signatures) than qualifying for the ballot as a candidate only.

2 Therefore, Kennedy’s strategy has been to create a political party called “We the People” for which he will be the nominee and use it for ballot access in five states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Although he is doing better in the polls than all the other third-party candidates, he seems unlikely to be a spoiler in the three heavily Democratic states of California, Delaware, and Hawaii. Nor does he seem likely to be a spoiler in the heavily Republican state of Mississippi.

But North Carolina is a state that Democrats have won in the past and is likely to be very close. There, a Kennedy candidacy could keep Biden from a win. The most recent Quinnipiac poll showed Trump leading by two points in the two-way race in North Carolina and by three points in the five-way, with RFK Jr. getting double-digit support.

Table 1 shows the differences between filing as an independent and filing as part of an organized party establishment in some states.

As Table 2 illustrates we will not know the exact composition of the presidential ballots until sometime this summer. However, Table #2 shows where Kennedy has been successful so far. They claim to have achieved ballot access in — Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Iowa, and Utah—although Utah is the only state that has confirmed access. In the others, there is either legal or legislative activity around the question of Kennedy’s ballot access. Note that in the eight states where the Kennedy campaign claims to have achieved ballot access, the total is only 51 electoral college votes.

And, in addition to North Carolina, the only other state in this group that is a swing state is New Hampshire. Nonetheless, if Kennedy costs Biden New Hampshire’s four electoral college votes and North Carolina’s 16 electoral college votes, these two states could decide the election. In July, the filing deadlines will pass for Michigan.

In August, the filing deadlines will pass for Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Every time Kennedy gets on a ballot in a swing state, he comes closer and closer to becoming a spoiler in 2024, and so far, his organization has shown the ability to raise money and meet filing deadlines. No wonder the DNC has begun a campaign to educate voters on Kennedy as a ‘stalking horse” for Trump. And the Biden campaign has chosen to publicize the rest of the Kennedy family’s allegiance to him and the Democratic Party.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikki Haley Assumes Leadership Role at Hudson Institute Amid Presidential Speculation

Nikki Haley Joins Hudson Institute as Chair, Eyes Presidential Run

The Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., revealed on April 15th that Nikki Haley, former GOP presidential contender, will be taking on the Walter P. Stern chair. This move sees the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina governor become the fourth member of Trump’s cabinet to do so, as reported by The Guardian.

Expressing her thoughts on the significance of robust partnerships and the necessity of identifying adversaries, Haley underscored the crucial role of Hudson’s mission. She stated, “They believe that to secure a safe, free, and prosperous future for all Americans, citizens must be informed, and policymakers must be equipped with solutions. I am thrilled to collaborate with them in safeguarding the values that have distinguished the United States as the premier nation on Earth.”

Haley’s new position allows her to maintain a prominent presence while contemplating a potential second bid for the presidency in 2028, according to The Hill.

John P. Walters, President and CEO of Hudson, lauded Haley as “a proven, capable leader in both domestic and foreign affairs.” He commended her for remaining resolute in defending freedom and advocating for American security and prosperity amid global political turbulence.

Despite securing victories in Vermont and the District of Columbia, Haley opted to suspend her presidential campaign in March following a substantial defeat in the Super Tuesday primaries. Throughout her campaign, she positioned herself as the prime candidate to steer away from the policies of the previous administration. Haley’s campaign strategy in its final weeks involved intense criticism of both Trump and Biden, highlighting their age and urging the emergence of a new generation of leaders. Notably, polls suggested that in hypothetical matchups against Biden, she outperformed other leading Republican contenders.

Haley directed sharp criticism towards Vice President Kamala Harris, asserting to the people of South Carolina that one of them—either herself or Harris—would soon occupy the presidency. She consistently targeted Trump during her campaign, particularly criticizing his foreign policy stances and the escalating national debt, stressing that “Chaos follows Trump” on two occasions.

Nevertheless, as noted by NPR, Haley encountered challenges in maintaining a coherent message, balancing the need to appeal to the Republican base while also attracting independents, moderate Republicans, and disenchanted Trump voters. During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, she stumbled by not explicitly mentioning slavery as the cause of the Civil War, though she promptly corrected her error.

Similarly, Haley faced scrutiny over her response to a controversial ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that threatened access to in vitro fertilization (IVF). She asserted that “Embryos are babies,” in an interview with Ali Vitali of NBC, but later clarified her stance, emphasizing the importance of preserving fertility treatments for women during an interview with Newsman.

Although Haley gained momentum towards the end of last year, surpassing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in several polls, she ultimately fell short of overtaking the former president, who remains the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency.

President Biden Navigates Middle East Crisis Amid Iran-Israel Tensions

President Biden aims to prevent a full-scale escalation in the Middle East following Iran’s launch of hundreds of missiles and drones, most of which were intercepted, towards Israel in retaliation for an attack on an Iranian facility in Damascus that eliminated a top general.

Biden’s focus now shifts to persuading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other allies against further escalating tensions, which have been strained since the Gaza conflict began in October. Biden assured Netanyahu that the U.S. would refrain from participating in any offensive actions against Iran in the future.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby faced inquiries on whether Biden’s efforts to deter war with Iran were effectively communicated to Netanyahu. Kirby emphasized Israel’s success in intercepting the missiles, highlighting the message of solidarity and self-defense conveyed by President Biden.

Israel’s war Cabinet, however, seems to diverge from this sentiment, with Minister Benny Gantz affirming intentions to retaliate against Iran.

At home, there are pressures on Biden to retaliate against Tehran, with Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lindsey Graham advocating for aggressive strikes on Iran.

Regarding the safety of U.S. military personnel in the region, Kirby refrained from discussing details of Israel’s attack in Damascus but emphasized the need for contextual conversations to ensure the protection of American troops and facilities.

Biden is in discussions with Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding potential adjustments to the U.S. presence in the region to ensure the safety of troops, ships, and facilities.

Iran’s attack may alter the stance of some Democrats who had expressed concerns about Israel’s military operations in Gaza, particularly following an incident where aid workers were inadvertently killed by Israeli forces. Senator Mark Kelly expressed the need for continued aid to Israel despite his concerns.

Kirby, addressing concerns about the risk of wider war, stated that Biden’s actions aimed at de-escalation, exemplified by deploying additional resources to counter the recent attack.

A senior administration official emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to containing the crisis to Gaza, urging Israel to carefully consider its next steps without escalating the situation further.

Iran Launches Massive Aerial Assault on Israel, Escalating Regional Tensions

Iran launched a massive aerial assault on Israel on Saturday night, deploying over 300 drones and missiles in retaliation for a lethal Israeli airstrike in Syria a fortnight earlier, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing hostilities between the two regional adversaries.

The strikes inflicted minor damage on a single Israeli military base, with most of the airborne threats intercepted, according to Israeli military sources. The United States claimed it assisted in downing numerous drones and missiles.

Nevertheless, the extensive assault, targeting locations within Israel and its controlled territory, heralded a precarious new phase in the protracted covert conflict between Iran and Israel.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, via a statement aired on state television, announced the launch of “dozens of drones and missiles” from Iran towards Israel “in response to the Zionist regime’s crimes.” Subsequently, via social media, they asserted hitting military targets within Israel, cautioned the United States against involvement, and issued threats of further strikes in case of attacks on Iran or its interests.

A hospital spokesperson, Inbar Gutter, disclosed that a total of 12 individuals were admitted to the Soroka Medical Center in southern Israel overnight.

Among the targeted areas was the Golan Heights, a strategically vital region bordering Syria that Israel annexed almost six decades ago. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia, claimed responsibility for firing numerous rockets at an Israeli barracks there, though it remained unclear if this barrage was part of the broader Iranian assault.

In the aftermath of the attacks, while Iranians in Tehran gathered to celebrate, air-raid sirens reverberated across extensive areas of southern Israel, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. The Israeli government issued warnings regarding potential missile strikes in the Negev Desert, where several military installations are situated. Moreover, the airspaces of Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon were shut down.

President Biden curtailed a weekend at his Delaware vacation residence to confer with his national security advisors. He also held discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The President of the United Nations Security Council announced an emergency session scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sunday to address Iran’s assaults on Israel, following a request by Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gilad Erdan.

US Braces for Potential Iranian Strikes on Israel, Prepares Defense and Diplomatic Measures

The United States is anticipating imminent strikes by Iran on multiple targets within Israel, CNN sources report. The Biden administration is bracing for a potentially volatile and unpredictable period in the Middle East. President Joe Biden warned that these attacks could happen “sooner than later” and issued a stern public message to Tehran: “Don’t.”

A conflict between Iran and Israel would mark a significant escalation in the region, a scenario the US has sought to avoid since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. The US is prepared to assist in intercepting any weapons aimed at its ally.

According to senior administration officials and intelligence sources, Iranian proxies might also be involved in the upcoming attacks, which could target locations both inside Israel and across the region. The US is poised to intercept weapons launched at Israel, indicating strong ongoing cooperation between the two militaries.

US intelligence has observed Iran moving military assets internally, including drones and cruise missiles, suggesting preparations for attacks on Israeli targets from within Iranian territory. There’s uncertainty whether Iran plans an initial strike from its soil or is posturing to deter potential counterattacks.

President Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to Israel’s security, emphasizing their readiness to support and defend Israel against Iranian aggression. The White House emphasized the “real,” “credible,” and “viable” threat posed by Iran following Israel’s recent attack on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria, which resulted in the deaths of three Iranian generals.

The US, along with Britain and France, issued new travel advisories for government personnel in Israel due to the looming Iranian threat. US Navy forces in the Red Sea have intercepted missiles aimed at Israel in the past, and additional military assets are being deployed to the Middle East to enhance regional deterrence efforts and protect US forces.

The Defense Department is bolstering air defenses for troops stationed in Iraq and Syria following multiple attacks by Iran-backed forces in recent months. While the US does not anticipate direct attacks on its forces, precautionary measures are being taken.

There’s speculation that any Iranian attack on Israel would likely be carried out by proxy forces rather than directly by Iran, as Tehran is wary of a dramatic escalation. However, Iran has urged its proxy militias to launch a large-scale attack against Israel using drones and missiles.

President Biden has been briefed regularly on the situation and is actively engaged in efforts to de-escalate tensions. US officials are in constant communication with Israel, urging restraint and providing support to ensure Israel’s ability to defend itself.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been urging other countries to press Iran to avoid escalating the conflict. Diplomatic efforts include discussions with Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, and European allies to convey the message to Iran.

In response to the heightened threat level, the US State Department has restricted the travel of government personnel in Israel, and France has advised its citizens against traveling to Iran, Lebanon, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories due to the risk of military escalation.

Six Months into Israel-Gaza Conflict: World Leaders Call for Ceasefire and Humanitarian Aid Amidst Rising Tensions

On October 7th, a tragic event unfolded as Hamas militants breached Israel’s borders from Gaza, resulting in approximately 1,200 casualties, mostly civilians, and the capture of over 250 individuals, initiating a harrowing conflict. In the subsequent six months, Israel retaliated by launching incursions and airstrikes on Gaza, reportedly claiming the lives of around 33,000 Palestinians, predominantly women and children, as documented by the United Nations. Moreover, Israel’s military actions and control over humanitarian aid entering Gaza have led to a dire situation, with an estimated one million people teetering on the edge of famine.

This crisis has elicited widespread condemnation and legal challenges, notably a case brought forth by South Africa at the United Nations’ highest court. In January, the court issued an interim order suggesting the plausibility of Israel engaging in acts of genocide, a claim vehemently denied by Israel. Consequently, pressure from Israel’s allies has intensified, particularly following an incident on April 2nd when Israeli military strikes resulted in the deaths of seven aid workers, including six foreign nationals affiliated with the NGO World Central Kitchen, deemed by the military as a “grave mistake.”

Following these tragic events, President Joe Biden issued a stern ultimatum to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging immediate measures to safeguard civilians and facilitate the delivery of food aid into Gaza. Failure to comply would prompt a reassessment of the United States’ military support, which amounts to billions of dollars annually. In response, Israel initiated the opening of new aid channels into Gaza.

Internally, Netanyahu faces significant domestic unrest, with mass protests demanding a resolution to the hostage situation involving the remaining 133 captives. Some demonstrators have joined anti-government rallies, advocating for Netanyahu’s resignation. Addressing the six-month milestone of the conflict, Netanyahu emphasized the perceived achievements of the war, asserting determination to secure a comprehensive victory, secure the release of all hostages, eradicate Hamas across Gaza, and ensure Israel’s long-term security. Netanyahu reiterated to the international community that no ceasefire would be entertained without the return of the hostages.

Reportedly, negotiations between Israel and Hamas are ongoing through intermediaries, with hopes of reaching a resolution.

Reflecting on the six-month mark of the conflict, various world leaders have voiced their perspectives:

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described October 7th as a “most appalling attack” in Israel’s history, emphasizing the need for an end to the conflict, the release of hostages, and immediate humanitarian intervention in Gaza.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock condemned Hamas’ actions and reiterated the call for the release of hostages and cessation of violence.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jordan stressed the imperative of halting Israel’s military operations in Gaza and ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and the facilitation of humanitarian aid.

U.K. Foreign Minister David Cameron demanded the release of hostages by Hamas, advocated for Israel’s right to self-defense within the bounds of international law, and urged for increased humanitarian aid and a temporary ceasefire.

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden acknowledged Israel’s mistakes while upholding high standards for accountability, amidst public and legislative pressure to suspend arms sales to Israel.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres mourned the loss of life on both sides and condemned Hamas’ actions, calling for the unconditional release of hostages and a humanitarian ceasefire.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defense Micheál Martin honored the victims of the conflict while calling for an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages, and enhanced humanitarian aid efforts.

The global response underscores the urgency of ending the violence, addressing humanitarian concerns, and pursuing a sustainable resolution to the protracted conflict, prioritizing the well-being and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona:

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

Georgia:

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

Michigan:

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

Nevada:

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

North Carolina:

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

Pennsylvania:

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

Wisconsin:

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

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

Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Hosts Annual Global Connections

The Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, ComEd and Navy Pier, came together as partners through a shared commitment to Chicago and its diverse communities to host this year’s Global Connections: Holi event on Saturday, March 23rd. “As the Chairman of the Delhi Chicago Sister Cities Committee, it’s really an honor to present and be a part of  this Holi celebration,” said Smita N. Shah, Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Chairman and SPAAN Tech, Inc. President & CEO. “Navy Pier’s Global Connections Program curated a memorable celebration that has grown into the largest program in the United States for Holi.  Chicago Sister Cities International is proud to be its partner as it represents why we do what we do: honor the diverse international communities that make up Chicago, celebrate the best of their culture and support the desire for others to experience the American Dream, all of which makes Chicago stronger.”

Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Hosts Annual Global Connections 2
Picture: Asian Media USA

“Holi is a reminder that good always triumphs over evil and those forces that wish to divide us, make no mistake about it, not here in the city of Chicago. Black. Brown. White. Asian. Young. Old. Rich. Poor. We are the greatest city in the world because of the diversity that makes up this city,” said City of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. “Chicago’s positive impact is felt all around the world…thanks to the hard work of Chicago Sister Cities International and the volunteer work of our committee members like Smita [Shah], who are so passionate about our city, so passionate about diplomacy and so passionate about our democracy.”

The free, public event transformed the Aon Grand Ballroom and Navy Pier Beer Garden into the country’s largest Holi celebration of its kind, featuring live music, traditional cultural performances, authentic food from local vendors, the iconic powder-throwing (which pay homage to the bright colors of spring and represent the triumph of good over evil) and more.

Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Hosts Annual Global Connections 1
Picture: Asian Media USA

Delhi’s position as a sister city to Chicago demonstrates the strong relationship between India and the city, and the cultural impact the established Indian-American community had on Chicagoland. Under Shah’s leadership, the Delhi Committee of Chicago founded the Annual Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi Luncheon in 2014, honoring the long-standing exchange of ideas between Mahatma Gandhi and the U.S., and the ever important principles of truth and non-violence. Shah, who serves on President Biden’s Advisory Commission on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders also helped secure the designation of October 2nd as Mahatma Gandhi Day in Chicago.

This program would not have been possible without the generous support of Niranjan S. Shah and Pratima Shah, the winner of the Pravasi Bharatiya Award, Darryl Tom for whom whose family the famous Ping Tom Park is named, and the Sue Ling Gin Foundation.

“We have about 260,000 Indian, Indian American, Indian origin people (here), so thank you, Mayor, for making it a great home for them and for hosting Holi every year,” said Indian Counsel General Somnath Ghosh. “This is the second year of celebration for me, and I see it is even bigger than last year. I hope to see the event continue to grow in the years to come and look forward to many more celebrations in Chicago.” For a full video of this weekend’s celebration, please visit here.

Founded in 1998, SPAAN Tech, Inc. is a leading global, award-winning, engineering and construction management firm. SPAAN Tech provides and implements sustainable solutions in transportation, aviation, water, energy, and technology. SPAAN Tech has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as One Of The Fastest Growing Companies and by the Small Business Commerce Association as Best of Business in Chicago Engineering Services. Learn more about SPAAN Tech, Inc. at https://www.spaantech.com/ (Photographs and Press release by: Asian Media USA)

IMF Urges Non-alignment in Second Cold War

(IPS) – The IMF no. 2 recommends non-alignment as the best option for developing countries in the second Cold War as geopolitics threatens already dismal prospects for the world economy and wellbeing.

IMF warning
Ominously, International Monetary Fund (IMF) First Deputy Managing Director Gita Gopinath warns, “With the weakest world growth prospects in decades – and…the pandemic and war slowing income convergence between rich and poor nations – we can little afford another Cold War”.

While recognizing globalization is over, she appeals to governments to “preserve economic cooperation amid geoeconomic fragmentation” due to the second Cold War.

U S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok
Picture: Reuters

Growing US-China tensions, the pandemic, and war have changed international relations. The US calls for ‘friend-shoring’ while its European allies claim they want to ‘de-risk’. While still pleading for ‘globalization’, China realistically stresses ‘self-reliance’.

Multilateral rules were rarely designed to address such international conflicts as ostensible ‘national security’ concerns rewrite big powers’ economic policies. Hence, geoeconomic conflicts have few rules and no referee!

Historical perspective
After the Second World War, the US and USSR soon led rival blocs in a new bipolar world. After Bandung (1955) and Belgrade (1961), non-aligned countries have rejected both camps. This era lasted four decades.

World trade-to-GDP rose with post-war recovery and, later, trade liberalisation. With the first Cold War, geopolitical considerations shaped trade and investment flows as economic relations between the blocs shrank.

According to her, such flows increased after the Cold War, “reaching almost a quarter of world trade” during the “hyper-globalization” of the 1990s and 2000s.

However, globalization has stagnated since 2008. Later, about “3,000 trade restricting measures were imposed” in 2022 – nearly thrice those imposed in 2019!

Cold War economics
Gopinath sees “ideological and economic rivalry between two superpowers” as driving both Cold Wars. Now, China – not the Soviet Union – is the US rival, but things are different in other respects too.

In 1950, the two blocs accounted for 85% of world output. Now, the global North, China and Russia have 70% of world output but only a third of its population.

Economic interdependence grew among countries as they became “much more integrated”. International trade-to-output is now 60% compared to 24% during the Cold War. This inevitably raises the costs of what she terms economic ‘fragmentation’ due to geopolitics.

With the Ukraine war, trade between blocs fell from 3% pre-war to -1.9%! Even trade growth within blocs fell to 1.7% – from 2.2% pre-war. Similarly, FDI proposals “between blocs declined more than those within blocs…while FDI to non-aligned countries sharply increased.”

China is no longer the US’s largest trading partner, as “its share of US imports has fallen” from 22% in 2018 to 13% in early 2023. Trade restrictions since 2018 have cut “Chinese imports of tariffed products” as US FDI in China fell sharply.

However, indirect links are replacing direct ties between the US and China. “Countries that have gained the most in US import shares…have also gained more in China’s export shares” and FDI abroad.

A BIS study found “supply chains have lengthened in the last two years”, especially between “Chinese suppliers and US customers”. Hopefully, Gopinath suggests, “despite efforts by the two biggest economies to cut ties, it is not yet clear how effective they will be”.

For Gopinath, trade restrictions “diminish the efficiency gains from specialisation, limit economies of scale due to smaller markets, and reduce competitive pressures.”

She reports IMF research suggesting “the economic costs of fragmentation… could be significant and weigh disproportionately on developing countries”, with losses around 2.5% of world output.

Losses could be as high as 7% of GDP depending on the economy’s resilience: “Losses are especially large for lower income and emerging market economies.”

Much will depend on how things unfold. She warns, “Fragmentation would also inhibit our efforts to address other global challenges that demand international cooperation.”

Policy options
Policymakers face difficult trade-offs between minimizing the costs of fragmentation and vulnerabilities, and maximizing security and resilience.

Gopinath recognizes her ‘first best solution’ – to avoid geoeconomic hostilities – is remote at best, given current geopolitical hostilities and likely future trends. Instead, she urges avoiding “the worst-case scenario” and protecting “economic cooperation” despite polarization.

She wants adversaries to “target only a narrow set of products and technologies that warrant intervention on economic security grounds”. Otherwise, she advocates a “non-discriminatory plurilateral approach” to “deepen integration, diversify, and mitigate resilience risks”.

Despite the odds, Gopinath appeals for a “multilateral approach…for areas of common interest” to “safeguard the global goals of averting climate change devastation, food insecurity and pandemic-related humanitarian disasters”.

Finally, she wants to restrict “unilateral policy actions – such as industrial policies”. They should only address “market failures while preserving market forces”, which she insists always “allocate resources most efficiently”.

Not recognising the double standards involved, she wants policymakers “to carefully evaluate industrial policies in terms of their effectiveness” But, she is less cautious and uncritical in insisting on neoliberal conventional wisdom despite its dubious track record.

Unsurprisingly, two IMF staffers felt compelled to write in 2019 of ‘The Return of the Policy That Shall Not Be Named’. Despite much earlier extensive European and Japanese use and US President Biden’s recent embrace of industrial policy, the Fund seems caught in an ideological trap and time warp of its own making.

While making excessive claims about gains from globalisation, Gopinath acknowledges “economic integration has not benefited everyone”.

Thankfully, she urges developing countries to remain non-aligned and “deploy their economic and diplomatic heft to keep the world integrated” as the new Cold War sets the world further back.

Pragmatically, Gopinath observes, “If some economies remain non-aligned and continue engaging with all partners, they could benefit from the diversion of trade and investment.”

By 2022, “more than half of global trade involved a non-aligned country…They can benefit directly from trade and investment diversion”, reducing the Cold War’s high costs. (IPS UN Bureau)

How Voters Feel About The US Economy: 4 Takeaways From The Latest Polls

As the 2024 general election begins in earnest, voters’ assessment of the economy and of the candidates’ ability to manage it will, as usual, have a strong impact on the outcome of the race. With little more than seven months until Election Day, the economy remains a key advantage for former President Donald Trump, and a drag on President Biden’s reelection prospects. Here are four takeaways from recent survey research on this topic:

Inflation and high prices remain the electorate’s top concern and dominate voters’ assessment of the economy. In a just-released Economist/YouGov survey, 22% of voters identify inflation/prices as their most important issue, compared to only seven percent who cite jobs and the economy. According to a Data for Progress analysis, 68% of those who put inflation and prices first named the cost of food as their principal concern, followed by housing (17%), utilities (eight percent), and gas (three percent).

Despite some modest recent improvement, voters’ sentiments about the economy remain negative. A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) survey found 31% of voters endorse the proposition that the economy has improved over the past two years, up by 10 percentage points since December. In another sign of progress, a New York Times (NYT) survey from early March found that 26% regard economic conditions as excellent or good, up from 20% since last July.

Still, 74% of the NYT respondents regard the economy as only fair (23%) or poor (51%). And as an analysis of the WSJ data shows, inflation is still the main reason why economic sentiment remains depressed. More than two-thirds of voters say that inflation is headed in the wrong direction, and nearly three-quarters say that price increases are exceeding gains in household income. This helps explain why only 24% of voters expect the economy to get better over the next 12 months.

The Economist/YouGov survey helps us understand how key subgroups of the electorate are feeling about the economy. Only 22% of Black Americans, 13% of Hispanics, and 18% of young adults believe that they are better off financially today than they were a year ago.

(The figure for the electorate as a whole is a rock-bottom 15%.) And during a period in which party affiliation has a much greater effect on economic evaluations than it did two decades ago, only 26% of Democrats say that their economic circumstances have improved over the past year. Just 19% of Black Americans, 14% of Hispanics, 12% of young adults, and 21% of the full electorate believe that economic conditions are getting better, while an outright majority of voters (52%) say that things are getting worse.

President Biden continues to get low marks for his handling of inflation. Overall, only 35% of voters approve of his handling of this issue. Among Hispanics, just 34% approve; for young adults, 28%; among lower-income voters, 29%.

When it comes to the economy, Donald Trump enjoys a clear edge over Biden. According to a CBS News poll released in early March, 65% of voters rate the economy as good during Trump’s presidency, compared to 38% under Biden. Only 17% believe that Biden’s policies will make prices go down, compared to 44% for Trump. Consistent with these findings, 55% think that Trump would do a better job of dealing with the economy, compared to 33% who think that Biden would.1

These recent polls are a snapshot, not a forecast. Much can change between now and Election Day, as it has in the past. In 2012, for example, President Obama faced negative economic ratings and low consumer confidence early on. But as the year went on, voters’ sentiments improved, and Obama went on to defeat Mitt Romney in the fall. If the pace of inflation continues to moderate, allowing the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates, history could repeat itself. If this improvement occurs early enough to affect public opinion, which typically lags behind actual economic conditions, an outright decline in food prices might be enough to secure a second term for Biden, but there are few signs that this will occur. He will have to hope that the stabilization of prices will be enough to change the voters’ evaluation of his performance for the better.

US Congress Members Demand Justice Department Briefing on Attacks Targeting Hindu Temples

Five members of the US Congress who are of Indian descent have called for a briefing from the Justice Department regarding a series of attacks on Hindu temples across the nation. The temples have been targeted with vandalism, some of which included pro-Khalistan and anti-India graffiti. The Congress members expressed their concern in a joint letter, stating, “Attacks at mandirs from New York to California have contributed to increased collective anxiety among Hindu Americans.” The letter highlighted the lack of leads on suspects and the resulting fear and intimidation within affected communities. Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi is leading this initiative, supported by Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, Ami Bera, and Shri Thanedar.

The members emphasized the need for law enforcement coordination and federal oversight to ensure equal protection under the law. They raised questions about the frequency and timing of these incidents, suggesting a potential connection and underlying intent. They stressed the impact of hate crimes on marginalized communities and called for collaborative efforts to combat such acts targeting religious, ethnic, racial, and cultural minorities. The Congress members requested clarity on the Department’s strategy concerning hate crimes against Hindus in the US.

Recent incidents include the defacement of a Hindu temple in Hayward, California, with pro-Khalistan graffiti in January, following a similar incident in Newark, also in California. The Hindu American Foundation noted that these attacks appear to be on the rise, with at least two incidents occurring in the past few weeks. Pro-Khalistani activists were implicated in incidents of arson and vandalism at the Indian consulate in San Francisco in 2023.

Despite assurances from the Biden administration to address these acts of hate, including promises of punishment for those responsible, no arrests have been made thus far. The Congress members’ call for a briefing reflects their commitment to addressing these alarming trends and ensuring the safety and security of Hindu American communities.

Biden’s Transgender Day Proclamation Sparks Christian Criticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Envoy Shares President Biden’s Order To Reduce Wait Time For Visas

Shedding light on visa problems faced by Indians, the US envoy to India, Eric Garcetti, said that President Joe Biden told him to bring down the visa times in India. It was the first instance that an ambassador was told to look into something like this in any country, Garcetti said in an interview with ANI.

Garcetti underscored that a part of the green card backlog issue is a legislative problem and said that it is what Congress will have to address. However, he highlighted that the number of visas that have been adjudicated has brought down the waiting time by 75 percent.

“Now, part of this is a legislative problem that Congress will have to address on the whether it’s the number of legal immigrants, the number of green cards, or the number of people who can become citizens. There’s just limits on that. Like any country, I’m sure there’s limits here, too. And that is frustrating for Indians, I think, because there’s so many Indians who want to come to America. And that’s a great part of our news, by the way. Second only to Mexicans, were Indian visas last year, the biggest number of students, double the second biggest.”

“Last year, over 245,000 student visas came from India. Number one in adoptions, number one in all these categories that show 1.4 billion people, a lot of them would love to come to America. And so it’s a good problem to have. But a couple of things were changing…,” he said, on being asked about the green card backlog issue, and why there are mostly Indians who are on the backlog.

“We’ve here in not just Delhi, but across India, increased 60 per cent in a single year with the same number of people, the number of visas that we adjudicated, and brought down wait times by 75 per cent. So again, that would be more of a question for Congress to resolve.
Garcetti was asked that despite a 75 percent reduction in the time limit for visas, there is a waiting period of 250 days. Responding to which, Garcetti said, “Where the 250 is still a long way. It is, and too high for me. The president said, Eric, I want you to bring down visa wait times in India. I think it’s probably the first time a President ever said that to an ambassador in any country.”

“I don’t think presidents even focus on visa wait times, but we all have so many Indian friends who are saying, Why is this taking so long? That it even went up to the president. So the reality of that 250 is an average. And I think the typical person is actually under 200 days already. It’s difficult with the existing resources,” he noted.

Saying that India is doing quite well in its system, the US envoy went on to say, “…We actually are very responsive. It’s a huge priority for me, for the president. But the rest of the countries are like, wait a second, that isn’t even proportionate to the large population of Indians when they have a quarter of the student visas, when they have the largest group of H1Bs by far. So India is doing quite well in our system. And our system, I think, is looking at how it can continue to improve and maybe even expand the numbers. But that will require Democrats, Republicans, and independents to come together. To come together.”

For the third year in a row, a record number of Indian students traveled to the United States to pursue higher education, the US Embassy in India revealed in a release in November last year.

According to the Open Doors Report (ODR), the number of international students from India to the United States increased by 35 per cent and resulted in an all-time high of 268,923 students in the academic year 2022-23.

Indian students constitute more than 25 per cent of the over one million foreign students studying in the United States. The release of the Open Doors Report marks the beginning of International Education Week (IEW), which celebrates the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide, according to the embassy release.

Garcetti also revealed that the opening of two new consulates is under consideration. “We’ve talked about opening two new consulates in the near future, one in Bangalore, another one that will be in Ahmedabad. Two, we’re working with the Ministry of External Affairs to put more bodies in India, and they’ve been very responsive and helpful. For instance, we opened up in Hyderabad, the newest, most expensive, and most beautiful consulate anywhere in the world for the US. But the counters were only one third filled because we didn’t have enough people approved by the Indian government to come work here. And then we have to, of course, hire them.

“And last year, as part of the state visit, there was an agreement on that. MEA did a wonderful job, allowed us to hire more. And so you’ll see a couple dozen more people come on board this year,” he added.

Rethinking the Dragon’s Roar: The Shifting Dynamics of Global Power

“In 2008, an article in The New Yorker ignited discussions about America’s global dominance, suggesting it might be waning and opening doors for emerging powers like China, India, and Russia. Subsequent pieces in publications like Foreign Affairs and The Economist echoed this sentiment, propelling China’s rise as an inevitable superpower. However, recent years have witnessed a dramatic shift in this narrative.

The once-held belief in China’s imminent economic supremacy over the U.S. now appears uncertain. The notion of China leading the charge in geopolitics, with other nations following suit, is also faltering. Doubts loom over whether China will ever surpass the U.S. economically, prompting countries worldwide to reconsider their connections with Beijing and the potential risks associated with projects like the Belt and Road Initiative.

Simultaneously, China faces challenges on multiple fronts. Its population growth has stagnated, and a wave of Chinese entrepreneurs is seeking opportunities abroad. Optimism among Chinese youth is waning, mirrored by the downturn in the Chinese stock market and plummeting foreign direct investment. These economic woes have prompted Beijing to retract many key economic indicators from public view.

Contrastingly, the U.S. economy continues to thrive, maintaining its position as the world’s fastest-growing and most dynamic economy. Key indicators such as inflation, job growth, real wages, and productivity are all on the rise.

What led to this reversal of fortunes? China’s trajectory underscores the inherent limitations of a state-controlled economy, especially when political directives supersede market dynamics. Sustainable economic growth becomes challenging under heavy state intervention, particularly when coupled with tightening political control over both citizens and entrepreneurs.

Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s visionary move towards embracing global capitalism nearly five decades ago unleashed China’s entrepreneurial spirit, propelling it from a predominantly rural society to the home of the world’s largest middle class within a few decades. However, current leader Xi Jinping’s focus on consolidating power risks stifling this economic dynamism. Economic vitality thrives in environments characterized by freedom—freedom of expression, creativity, business, all upheld within a framework of rule of law.

Historically, major technological innovations have predominantly emanated from democracies like the U.S. and its allies. The synergy between freedom, education, and innovation underscores the role of open societies in driving economic and cultural transformations. Therefore, nurturing an environment conducive to innovation is imperative for sustained economic growth and global leadership.

Despite the U.S.’s economic prowess, challenges persist. The Biden Administration must prioritize reinvesting in domestic economies and addressing economic disparities that fuel anti-democratic sentiments. Strengthening alliances with like-minded nations is also crucial in countering authoritarian regimes’ growing influence.

However, amidst these imperatives, concerns linger over President Biden’s reelection prospects and the potential return of Donald Trump to the White House. Trump’s foreign policy inclinations, particularly his cozying up to leaders like Vladimir Putin and his disregard for China’s rising influence, pose significant risks to global stability.

The onus is now on the U.S. and its democratic allies to fortify their collective economic and political alliances to counter authoritarian threats effectively. Leveraging China’s economic missteps, these alliances must work towards reshaping critical supply chains away from China, thereby reducing dependency on China’s political and economic whims.

By embracing ally-shoring strategies, democratic nations can present a more attractive alternative to China’s diminishing influence, while sending a clear message that they won’t succumb to economic coercion. This concerted effort not only safeguards democratic values but also strengthens the rules-based international order, ensuring a more stable and prosperous future for all.”

U.S. Government Overhauls Racial and Ethnic Categories for First Time in 27 Years to Better Reflect Diversity and Inclusion

The U.S. government is undertaking a significant overhaul in its approach to categorizing people by race and ethnicity, marking the first such change in 27 years. The effort aims to provide more accurate representation for individuals identifying as Hispanic and those of Middle Eastern and North African heritage, reflecting evolving social attitudes, immigration patterns, and the desire for inclusivity in a diverse society.

According to Meeta Anand, senior director for Census & Data Equity at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, this shift holds immense emotional significance for individuals as it shapes societal perceptions and allows people to tell their own stories through data. The key alteration involves combining race and ethnicity questions into a single inquiry, enabling respondents to select multiple categories simultaneously, such as “Black,” “American Indian,” and “Hispanic.”

Previously, many Hispanic individuals faced difficulty in accurately responding to the race question when presented separately, often selecting “some other race” or opting out altogether due to perceived similarities between race and ethnicity. With the inclusion of a Middle Eastern and North African category, individuals from regions like Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, and Syria—who previously defaulted to identifying as white—now have the opportunity to identify within this newly recognized group. The 2020 census revealed approximately 3.5 million residents identifying as Middle Eastern and North African.

Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani, whose parents hail from Iran, expressed her relief at the newfound representation, noting that her family previously checked the “white” box due to the absence of a more suitable option. The removal of outdated and potentially offensive terms like “Negro” and “Far East,” as well as the elimination of “majority” and “minority” labels, underscores a commitment to accurately reflecting the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity.

The revisions extend beyond mere terminology, advocating for the collection of detailed data to capture nuances within racial and ethnic groups. This disaggregation allows for a more comprehensive understanding of disparities in income, health, and other socio-economic factors, as emphasized by Allison Plyer, chief demographer of The Data Center in New Orleans.

While the process of revising these standards involved a non-partisan group of federal statisticians and bureaucrats, the implications are far-reaching, impacting legislative redistricting, civil rights laws, health statistics, and potentially even politics. The initiative gained momentum during the Obama administration but faced setbacks under the Trump presidency before being revived following President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Implementation of these changes will be widespread, affecting federal and state government forms, surveys, and census questionnaires, as well as private sector practices which often align with governmental standards. Federal agencies have been given 18 months to develop plans for incorporating these revisions.

The historical evolution of racial and ethnic categories within the U.S. government reflects shifting societal dynamics. From the inclusion of “Free Colored People” in the 1820 census to the addition of “Chinese” in 1870 following increased immigration, these categories have evolved over time to mirror the nation’s demographic changes.

However, not all individuals are fully supportive of the latest revisions. Some Afro Latinos fear a reduction in their representation within combined race and ethnicity categories, although previous research suggests minimal differences in responses when questions are posed separately versus together. Mozelle Ortiz, of mixed Afro Puerto Rican descent, expressed concern over the potential erasure of her lineage.

Additionally, certain groups such as Armenians or Arabs from Sudan and Somalia feel overlooked in the examples provided to define Middle Eastern or North African backgrounds. Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, while appreciative of the new category, criticized its lack of inclusivity, emphasizing the need for a more comprehensive representation of racial diversity within these communities.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Selects Nicole Shanahan as Vice Presidential Pick in Independent White House Bid

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has selected Nicole Shanahan as his running mate for vice president, a move aimed at bolstering his independent bid for the White House and appealing to disenchanted voters following the 2020 election rematch.

Shanahan, 38, hails from California and brings with her a background as a lawyer and philanthropist, though she hasn’t held elected office before. She founded the Bia-Echo Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding various causes including women’s reproductive science, criminal justice reform, and environmental initiatives.

Kennedy, a former Democrat, announced his decision in Oakland, California, Shanahan’s hometown, emphasizing their shared departure from the Democratic Party due to perceived shifts in its values.

“Our values didn’t change. The Democratic Party did,” Kennedy remarked.

However, Kennedy’s independent candidacy has stirred concerns among Democrats, who fear it could split the vote and impact support for President Joe Biden or even aid former President Donald Trump. Both sides have criticized Kennedy and Shanahan, underscoring the uncertainty surrounding their potential impact on the election.

As an independent candidate, Kennedy faces a daunting challenge in securing ballot access across the 50 states, each with its own set of rules. His selection of a running mate comes as a necessity, with approximately half of the states mandating the designation of a vice presidential candidate before applying for ballot access.

Kennedy has managed to secure ballot access in Utah and claims to have gathered sufficient signatures in several other states, including crucial swing states like Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, though official confirmation is pending in some cases.

In Nevada, for instance, Democratic Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar has stipulated the nomination of a vice presidential candidate before signature collection, a requirement that Kennedy’s campaign encountered after announcing signature collection efforts.

Acknowledging the obstacles ahead, Kennedy urged Americans to take a chance on his candidacy, emphasizing that the biggest barrier is the perception that he cannot win.

“If Nicole and I can get Americans to refuse to vote from fear, we’re going to be in the White House in November,” Kennedy asserted.

Shanahan, in her introduction to Kennedy supporters, echoed the central theme of their campaign, criticizing both major parties, the media, and the government for being influenced by profit-driven interests. She also aligned herself with Kennedy’s controversial stance on vaccines.

“It wasn’t until I met Bobby and people supporting him that I felt any hope in the outcome of this election,” Shanahan expressed.

Shanahan, previously married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is deeply involved in Silicon Valley’s tech culture, an industry frequently critiqued by Kennedy. However, Kennedy believes her connections can be utilized to challenge the tech industry’s dominance, and her expertise in artificial intelligence could inform government policies on emerging technologies.

Outside the venue where Kennedy made his announcement, the scene depicted the stark realities of California’s housing crisis, serving as a backdrop to the campaign’s focus on addressing societal challenges.

Attendees like Dawn Mitchell, impressed by Shanahan’s passion for various causes, highlighted their newfound admiration for the vice presidential pick.

In a prelude to Kennedy’s speech, speakers including Angela Stanton-King, Metta World Peace, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya lent their support to the campaign, representing a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is gearing up to counter Kennedy’s candidacy, along with other third-party options such as No Labels, which is working to recruit a centrist ticket. Critics from within Kennedy’s own family have voiced opposition to his views, suggesting a divide within the Kennedy clan.

Republicans also express concerns about Kennedy’s anti-establishment stance and his views on COVID-19, fearing they could attract voters who might otherwise support Trump.

Kennedy’s lineage, descending from a prominent Democratic family, including his father Robert F. Kennedy and uncle President John F. Kennedy, lends weight to his candidacy. However, his activism, while lauded in some circles, has also been marred by controversy, particularly regarding his stance on vaccines.

His involvement in an anti-vaccine group, currently embroiled in a lawsuit against several news organizations, underscores the contentious nature of his advocacy.

Kennedy’s bid for the presidency, alongside Shanahan as his running mate, presents a challenge to the political establishment, reflecting a growing disillusionment with traditional party politics and a desire for alternative voices in governance.

Shift in American Opinion: Majority Disapproves of Israel’s Actions in Gaza Conflict

A recent poll indicates a significant shift in American attitudes towards Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza. According to the poll, support for Israel’s military action has declined from 50 percent in November to 36 percent in the current month. Conversely, disapproval has risen from 45 percent to 55 percent over the same period, with approximately 9 percent of respondents expressing no opinion on the matter.

Partisan Divide on Views of Israel’s Actions

The poll reveals a clear partisan divide in attitudes towards Israel’s military actions in Gaza. While 64 percent of Republicans support the military action, only 18 percent of Democrats do. Among independents, support has dropped from 47 percent to 29 percent.

Growing Dissent and Calls for Ceasefire

Across the United States, protests calling for a ceasefire and the protection of Palestinian lives have become increasingly common. On the other side, some argue that Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas, citing the incursion by the group on October 7, which resulted in over 1,100 casualties and the capture of approximately 250 hostages, with 100 still believed to be held in Gaza.

Protracted Conflict and Humanitarian Concerns

Despite nearly six months of conflict, there is no end in sight to the violence. More than 32,000 Palestinians have lost their lives, and the United Nations has warned of a looming famine in northern Gaza.

Political Ramifications and Voter Sentiment

Democrats are becoming increasingly frustrated with the mounting death toll and humanitarian crisis. This sentiment is particularly strong among Arab Americans and young voters, with promises of protest votes in the upcoming November elections. Notably, about 13 percent of Democrats in Michigan’s primary voted “uncommitted” rather than for President Biden.

Biden Administration’s Response

The Biden administration is attempting to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while also taking a tougher stance on the conflict. This was evident when the administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages. Although Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled a scheduled delegation to Washington following the vote, the White House has indicated that his office has agreed to reschedule.

Push for Reconsideration of Ground Operations

President Biden and key members of his Cabinet are urging Israel to reconsider a major ground operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. This area is home to more than a million Palestinians who are seeking refuge from the ongoing conflict.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Treasury Imposes Groundbreaking Sanctions on Spyware Maker Intellexa for Targeting Officials and Activists

The Treasury Department has taken a significant step by imposing sanctions on the manufacturer of spyware utilized to target government officials, journalists, and activists. This move marks the first instance of imposing sanctions against sellers of commercial spyware, indicating a shift in discouraging the misuse of such surveillance tools.

In a statement, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson emphasized the importance of these actions in deterring the improper use of commercial surveillance tools. He stated, “Today’s actions represent a tangible step forward in discouraging the misuse of commercial surveillance tools, which increasingly present a security risk to the United States and our citizens.”

The sanctions specifically target two individuals and five entities associated with Intellexa, a Greece-based spyware vendor, for their involvement in the development, operation, and distribution of commercial spyware technology. This technology has been utilized to target various groups, including policy experts, journalists, human rights activists, and government officials.

This move by the Treasury Department represents the first time the U.S. has sanctioned a commercial spyware entity. Commercial spyware has been under scrutiny due to its ability to collect data, access contact lists, and record information without the user’s knowledge or consent.

The sanctions imposed prevent U.S. companies and residents from engaging in business with the listed entities and individuals, which include Intellexa founder Tal Jonathan Dilian and Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou, a manager within the consortium.

The Predator software developed by Intellexa Consortium has been sold to multiple governments globally, with customers paying millions of dollars for its use, according to documents disclosed by Amnesty International in 2022.

These sanctions come in the wake of President Biden’s executive order issued last March, which prohibited the use of commercial spyware within the federal government. Nelson reiterated the commitment of the United States to establish clear boundaries for the responsible development and use of such technologies while safeguarding the human rights and civil liberties of individuals worldwide. He stated, “The United States remains focused on establishing clear guardrails for the responsible development and use of these technologies while also ensuring the protection of human rights and civil liberties of individuals around the world.”

US Senate Passes $1.2 Trillion Spending Package, Averts Government Shutdown

The United States Senate has approved a $1.2 trillion spending plan to finance the US government until September, narrowly avoiding a partial government shutdown just moments before a midnight cutoff. Although the votes on numerous amendments are anticipated to persist for hours, the accord ensures uninterrupted funding for crucial government agencies. The bill is poised for President Joe Biden’s signature on Saturday, marking a significant achievement amidst challenging negotiations. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, acknowledged the difficulty of the process, stating, “It is good for the American people that we have reached a bipartisan agreement to finish the job.”

Months of contentious debates between the major political parties will finally come to a close with the passage of this legislation, effectively putting an end to the prolonged wrangling. The White House expressed confidence in Congress’s ability to swiftly pass the bill, with the Office of Management and Budget halting preparations for a shutdown in anticipation of President Biden’s imminent endorsement.

Having already secured passage in the House of Representatives by a slim margin of 286 to 134 votes, the bill encountered resistance primarily from Republicans, with 112 voting against it. The approval, narrowly exceeding the necessary two-thirds majority, saw all but 23 Democrats supporting the measure. Despite opposition from a vocal minority of conservatives, who objected to proposed increases in government spending and advocated for reforms to immigration laws, the legislation successfully made its way through Congress.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, reflecting the dissatisfaction among some Republicans, filed a motion seeking a new House Speaker, citing objections to the current Speaker’s support for the spending package. The House budget vote underscored a departure from recent trends, with a notable majority of House Republicans opposing a funding bill negotiated by their own party. This divergence from party lines signals a shift in dynamics within the legislative body.

The passage of the $1.2 trillion spending package marks a crucial milestone in ensuring the continued operation of the US government. Despite challenges and disagreements, bipartisan efforts have prevailed, demonstrating a commitment to fulfilling essential governmental functions and averting a potentially disruptive shutdown.

Biden Unveils Ambitious Regulations to Drive Electric Vehicle Adoption in US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supreme Court Allows Texas Law Targeting Illegal Immigration to Take Effect Despite Dissent

The Supreme Court issued an order on Tuesday permitting a Texas law to be enforced, granting state law enforcement the authority to detain individuals suspected of illegally entering the United States from Mexico. The statute in question, known as S.B. 4, faced dissent from the three liberal justices. Although this decision does not represent a final judgment, it paves the way for the controversial law’s implementation, with the possibility of further legal proceedings.

The Biden administration had advocated for blocking the law, labeling it as an unprecedented intrusion into federal immigration enforcement. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar emphasized the inconsistency of S.B. 4 with federal law, asserting that it is preempted in all its applications. The law, signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, criminalizes illegal immigration at the state level, granting authority to local law enforcement for apprehension and potential deportation of individuals suspected of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border unlawfully.

In opposition to the majority’s decision, the liberal justices expressed concern regarding the potential ramifications of enforcing the law. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, criticized the move, citing potential chaos in immigration enforcement. Additionally, Justice Elena Kagan voiced her dissent separately.

Texas defended the law by asserting the state’s constitutional right to self-defense, arguing that the Biden administration had failed to adequately address border security concerns. The state contended that the issues raised should not be within the purview of federal courts, especially considering that state courts have yet to interpret S.B. 4’s provisions.

The White House denounced the Supreme Court’s decision, condemning the law as harmful and unconstitutional. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre highlighted concerns regarding its impact on community safety, law enforcement, and the potential for confusion at the southern border. Jean-Pierre urged congressional Republicans to support a bipartisan Senate border security bill, which has faced opposition from former President Trump and numerous GOP lawmakers.

The ruling elicited alarm from immigration advocates and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who warned of increased racial profiling and civil rights violations. Representative Joaquin Castro criticized the court’s decision, expressing concerns about potential targeting of individuals perceived as immigrants by law enforcement. Immigration groups echoed these concerns, emphasizing the risks to both undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens.

The legal battle over S.B. 4 now shifts back to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Texas’s appeal on the law’s merits is being heard. The court has expedited its review, scheduling oral arguments for April 3, with the possibility of further appeal to the Supreme Court. Texas has been at the forefront of aggressive immigration enforcement measures, challenging Biden administration policies and implementing its own initiatives under Governor Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.

In previous clashes with the federal government, Texas has faced legal challenges over measures such as installing buoys in the Rio Grande and concertina wire along the border. Despite initial victories, such as the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the cutting of concertina wire, legal battles persist as Texas continues its efforts to exert control over immigration enforcement within its borders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Favorability Remains Low Despite Nearing Republican Nomination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hindu Vote Is An Important Factor In US Elections

Niraj Antani, a Republican running for US Congress, is aggressively projecting his Hindu faith. Bhavini Patel, a Democrat running for Congress, is battling allegations of courting Hindu nationalist donors. And Indian-descent donors are pressing the Biden-Harris campaign for a “Hindu page” in its 2024 campaign manifesto.

The “Hindu Vote” appears to have become a factor in US politics. There is no rock solid count of Hindus in the US because the US Census does not record religious affiliation in its surveys. But there are several estimates.

Pew Research Center said 0.7 per cent of Americans were Hindu in 2015 and that their number is projected to grow to 4.8 million by 2050. Harvard Divinity School estimated their number to be 2.5 million in 2018. And some Hindu Americans put the number generously at 5 million, which, they concede, includes Sikhs and Jains. As crucial as their number is US politics, so is their ability to write big donation checks.

Niraj Antani, an Ohio state lawmaker who is running in the Republican primary for a congressional seat, has frequently described himself as Hindu and posted this message on X, to mark the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya: “As the 1st Hindu American State Senator in Ohio history, today it was my privilege to do Darshan to Lord Ram at @BAPS Cincinnati Mandir to mark the opening of his Mandir in Ayodhya. As we celebrate this occasion, let us stand for religious freedom around the world. Jai Shri Ram!” His pinned post on X is an endorsement from the Hindu American PAC.

Hindu Vote Is An Important Factor In US Elections (The Week)
Picture: The Week

Bhavini Patel, a Democrat who is seeking to unseat the incumbent Democrat in a congressional race in Pennsylvania, is being attacked by her opponent for courting Hindu nationalist donors, as also for her unstinting support for Israel.

A fundraising call she hosted with Mihi Meghani, a co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation was being cited as proof of her courting Hindu groups. Meghani is also the chair of the Hindu American PACs whose endorsement is a pinned post on Antani’s X feed.

The Patel campaign has denied these allegations. The back and forth only demonstrates the growing presence of a Hindu vote in US politics.

“There was always a Hindu vote, which was not recognized publicly,” said Ramesh Kapur, a longtime Democratic donor and strategist.

“But it is being recognized now, and has come to the fore in the context of the 2024 elections.” A bunch of donors are also pressing the Biden-Harris re-election campaign to include a “Hindu Page” in its manifesto, whenever it is announced.

The same group had tried but failed to convince the Biden campaign to feature the same page in its manifesto that ran on the campaign’s website as “Joe’s Vision”. It had sections dedicated to Muslims, Jews, African American, and so on. The campaign did issue Biden’s agenda for Indian Americans but this group of Hindu donors were insistent on a “Hindu Page” in “Joe’s Vision” specially because of the observances in the section for Muslims.

“Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act into law,” it had said, referring laws that sought to fast-track citizenship request from non-Muslims fleeing neighboring countries and keeping a national registry of citizens.

Both laws remain un-enforced.

These donors are pressing for the page with an offer to provide President Biden the cushion of Hindu American votes to offset the possible boycott of Arab and Muslim votes over the administration’s support of Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza, especially in the key swing states that tend to determine most presidential races.

A phrase being used frequently in this context is “plug the gap”.

Wisconsin, one of the swing states, will be critical. Biden won this state by 20,000 in 2020. It has an estimated 38,400 Hindu Americans and they may be able to cushion the blow from the boycott by the state’s 68,000 Muslims to an extent. These numbers come from a document prepared by these donors to make their case.

Hindu Americans are more confident of their ability to help Biden better in Georgia, a state he won by roughly 12,000. The state is home to 172,000 Hindu Americans, who can more than compensate for its 123,000 Muslims.

In Pennsylvania, which Biden won by 44,000, Hindu Americans number 129,700 to 149,500 Muslim Americans. Hindu Americans are not able to fill the gap completely but, they are arguing, they can help the campaign fill the gap.

But all this presumes Hindu Americans will turn up and vote and not, as mostly before, staying home. These Hindu Americans feel particularly confident of their clout on account of two key political developments.

One, they believe, they helped Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, win the Governorship of Virginia, and, two, convinced Gavin Newsom, the California Governor with widely acknowledged White House aspirations, to veto a legislation passed by the California legislatures to add “caste” to the list of prohibited discriminatory practices.

Hindu Americans are mostly of Indian descent but a sizable number of them are also from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Caribbean, Afghanistan and American converts such as former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s family.

Indian Americans have been a growing political force in the US, but many among them have begun to differentiate themselves as Hindu Americans, a trend that has been helped along by the rise of the BJP in India, specially the immense popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Multiple groups have cropped up with names wrapped around the word “Hindu” — Republican Hindu Coalition, American Hindu Coalition, Hindus 4 America, Hindu American PAC (Political Action Committee).

Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal, the three Indian American members of the House of Representatives are all Hindu, but they have rarely, if ever, flouted their faith to further their politics. And they have now been members of US Congress since 2017, serving three terms. Shri Thanedar, who joined them in the House in 2023 has been demonstrably bolder. He heads the Hindu Caucus in the House. (IANS)

5 Indian-Americans On CNBC Changemakers List

Revathi Advaithi, Sandhya Ganapathy, Dr Geetha Murali, Ritu Narayan, and Aradhana Sarin are among the 50 women on the list.

The CNBC Changemakers: Women Transforming Business list includes five Indian-American women. Revathi Advaithi, Sandhya Ganapathy, Dr Geetha Murali, Ritu Narayan, and Aradhana Sarin.

“The women named to the inaugural CNBC Changemakers list are creating a pattern of what it takes to defy the odds, innovate, and thrive in a volatile business landscape,” a CNBC statement said.

“From startup founders to S&P 500 C-suite growth drivers, from personalities shaking up the media industry to figures taking women’s sports further into the mainstream, the 2024 Changemakers have broken new ground and set the stage for others to follow,” it added.

Advaithi is the chief executive officer of Flex,  a multinational, diversified manufacturing company. Named CEO in 2019, she has helped build the company into one of the most trusted manufacturing partners across a variety of industries. She was also named by US President Joe Biden to the advisory committee for trade policy and negotiations.

Ganapathy took over the helm at EDP Renewables North America as CEO in 2022. The Houston-based company is one of the top five renewable energy operators in the US, operating 60 wind farms and 12 utility-scale solar parks. She has previously worked as an investment banker at HSBC and Morgan Stanley.

As CEO of Room to Read, Murali is dedicated to the eradication of illiteracy and gender inequality through the development of a love of reading in marginalized children. In 2023, the organization launched “She Creates Change,” a multimedia storytelling project intended to broaden its reach by encouraging young women and girls to create change in their communities and achieve educational goals.

Narayan’s Zūm is a transportation company that focuses on students while using technology to create more efficient and environmentally friendly routes. The company raised US$ 140 million in Series E financing in early 2024, putting its valuation at $1.3 billion. The company, which serves thousands of schools, provides guardians with an app, that gives live route notifications to and from school.

Sarin is the executive director and global chief financial officer of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. In November 2023, the company launched its health-tech division Evinova which uses digital technology to develop clinical trials and medicine delivery. Sarin took on the CFO role in 2022, joining from biopharma Alexion, and worked on Wall Street in investment banking for two decades before moving into the pharmaceutical industry.

Fox News Voter Analysis Predicts Disastrous Defeat For Trump

A Fox News contributor predicted that Donald Trump will lose the 2024 election because of the significant number of Republican voters who backed Nikki Haley.

Marc Thiessen, the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said that the results of the GOP primaries suggest that the former president will lose to President Joe Biden in November if he cannot sweep up the voters who backed Haley.

“Nikki Haley won 2.9 million votes in the primary so far. Our Fox News voter analysis shows that somewhere between five in 10 and six in 10 of those Nikki Haley voters said they won’t vote for Trump in November,” Thiessen said.

“If even a fraction of those voters deliver on that promise and stay home or vote third party or just split their votes or something, Trump loses.”

Fox News Voter Analysis Predicts Disastrous Defeat For Trump (FOX)However, others feel differently. According to The Hill, Trump has reasons to be optimistic. He almost never led in any polls during the 2020 election cycle, yet he still came within a few thousand votes of pulling off a second narrow Electoral College victory. In contrast, he now leads in nearly every national poll. He also leads or ties Biden in every important swing state.

Though the numbers are pitted against a Biden win in November, there are more chances for Trump to lose than Biden. The 2024 election has favorable winds for Republicans, with an unpopular president embracing unpopular policies. But nothing is a given for Republicans.

As Nikki Haley said after bowing out of the race last week, Trump has to expand his base of support, and so far, he hasn’t done anything to that end. It will be enough for some people that he is not Joe Biden, but even that won’t be enough to win. For every person motivated to vote against Biden, there is at least one and possibly more motivated to vote against Trump. This is, at best, a zero-sum game, not a pathway to victory.

Indian American Women’s Inspiring Leadership

Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley’s tenacious battle for the presidency of the US is a symbol of Indian American women’s emergence as a powerhouse in politics and society even though she dropped her Sisyphean quest two days before International Women’s Day.

On the other side of the political divide, US Vice President Kamala Harris is set for another run for the vice presidency alongside President Joe Biden, having notched the record of the first woman elected to the position that is just a heartbeat away from the world’s most powerful job.

While the two women have the highest profiles in politics, many Indian American women shine across the spectrum of politics, government, business and beyond.

They have soared into space, headed multinational corporations, led universities, and showing their versatility, served undercover for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and even took the Miss America crown.

Although overrun by former President Donald Trump, Nikki Haley made her mark by standing up to him while other competitors folded and she struck out a line of Republican politics that could have a wider appeal.

She put her stamp on politics by getting a significant chunk of votes – estimated at about 25 per cent of those cast in the Republican primaries till she quit – winning in one state, Vermont, and in Washington, the federal District of Columbia.

She also has the distinction of being elected twice as the governor of South Carolina, the first woman and the first non-White person to head the state, and the first Indian American to be a member of the US cabinet when she was the permanent representative to the United Nations, a post with cabinet rank.

Kamala Harris made her mark as California’s attorney general lofting her to the Senate where her work got her national recognition, paving the way to the second most powerful job in the US, the vice president.

She is the first woman to become vice president and she was also the first person of Indian descent elected to the US Senate.

Pramila Jayapal, who heads the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, is the other politically powerful Indian American woman.

What helps them shatter glass ceilings despite their being women and, on top of that, women of color with immigrant backgrounds is a society that values merit as it steadily tries to bring down barriers to women’s advancement.

And they are not dynasts or nepobabies, either, and they got to where they are through their own merit.

As Nikki Haley said on Wednesday while announcing she was ending her race, “Just last week, my mother, a first-generation immigrant, got to vote for her daughter for president – only in America”.

In business, Indra Nooyi created a legend of her own as the CEO of Pepsico, a multinational corporation with over 300,000 employees operating in over 200 countries having a revenue of $62 billion in her final year heading it.

By the time she left in 2018 after 12 years as CEO, she boosted its annual profits from $2.5 billion to $6.7 billion as she chartered a new, more diversified course for the company.

Revathi Advaithi is the CEO of Flex, a global diversified company that is the third-largest globally in electronics manufacturing services.

She also serves on the US government’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

Padmasree Warrior, who blazed a trail as chief technology officer for marquee technology companies Motorola and Cisco and as the US CEO of the Chinese electric vehicle company Nio, is now the CEO of a startup Fable.

In academia, there are scores of Indian American Women heading departments and schools.

Among them are heads of large universities, Neeli Bendapudi, the president of Pennsylvania State University and Renu Khator, the chancellor of the University of Houston System.

Asha Rangappa, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent-turned-academic, has served as an associate dean of Yale University Law School.

Indian American women have soared into space as astronauts.

Kalpana Chawla, a mission specialist and robotic arms operator, was killed on her second mission when the space shuttle Columbia broke up as it reentered the earth’s atmosphere in 2003.

Sunita Williams has done a stint as the commander of the International Space Station (ISS), on one of her four missions at the multinational orbiting research facility.

The Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishad went to space with Williams, who said that for inspiration she took them along to the ISS, from where she conducted spacewalks.

On Earth as a Navy officer, Sunita Williams was deployed during the first Gulf War and later she became a test pilot.

While the other two were on NASA space missions, aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla went up on a spacecraft of the private venture by Virgin Galactic, where she is a vice president.

Geeta Gopinath is the first managing director of the International Monetary Fund, having made her mark as an economist in the Ivy League and as the organization’s chief economist.

In the US judiciary, there are several Indian American women, among them Neomi Rao, a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is considered the most influential court below the Supreme Court.

The Biden administration has deployed Indian American Women in senior positions across government.

The most visible of them on media after Kamala Harris is Defense Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Sabrina Singh who often conducts the Pentagon’s media briefings laying out the administration’s strategic positions.

Also at that department, Radha Iyengar Plumb is the deputy under-secretary of defense.

At the White House, Neera Tanden, a veteran of Democratic Party campaigns, is an assistant to the president and domestic policy advisor.

Arati Prabhakar is the assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Science Advisor while heading the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and to the President.

Shanthi Kalathil is a deputy assistant to the President and the National Security Council’s coordinator for democracy and human rights.

At the State Department, Uzra Zeya is the under-secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, and Rao Gupta is the ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

And, in the other party, Harmeet Dhillon is a member Republican National Committee who ran an unsuccessful insurgent campaign to replace the chair, Ronna McDaniel. She is a co-chair of Women for Trump and Lawyers for Trump, groups that advocate for Trump.

In an unusual occupation was Sabrina De Souza who had served in a senior role as an undercover Central Intelligence Agency agent.

Unfortunately, her cover was blown while she was on an anti-terrorism mission in Italy and that country has tried to prosecute her for capturing a terrorist who was taken to the US.

On the other side, showing the diversity of political views, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez worked as a lawyer defending an alleged terrorist held by the US detention center on Guantanamo Bay.

On the trade unions front, Bhairavi Desai is the executive director of the Taxi Drivers’ Alliance, and Saru Jayaraman has organized restaurant workers in New York City.

In entertainment, Vera Mindy Chokalingam, better known as Mindy Kaling, made her mark with the sitcom, The Mindy Kaling Project, which she created, produced and starred in.

Biden awarded her the National Medal of the Arts in 2022. And, further into the unexpected venues, Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America in 2014. (IANS)

Kolkata Dancer Shot Dead In Missouri

The Consulate General of India in Chicago promptly responded, expressing deep condolences and ensuring support for Ghosh’s family.

An Indian classical dancer was fatally shot on the evening of Feb. 27 in the St Louis Academy neighborhood in Missouri.

Amarnath Ghosh, a Bharatnatyam and Kuchupudi dancer from Kolkata, was reportedly shot mutiple times by an unknown assailant during his evening walk in the neighborhood. He was pursuing an MFA in Dance at the Washington University in Saint Louis.

The news was initially shared by noted television actor Devoleena Bhattacharjee, who expressed deep sorrow and urged the Indian Embassy to assist in claiming the body.

“Well, the reason, accused details, everything are not revealed yet or perhaps no one left in his family to fight for it except his few friends. He was from Kolkata, an excellent dancer, was pursuing a Ph.D., was taking an evening walk, and suddenly he was shot multiple times by an unknown,” her post on X read.

“Some friends in the US are trying to claim the body but still no update about it. @IndianEmbassyUS kindly see to it if you could. At least we should know the reason for his murder,” she added, tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

The Consulate General of India in Chicago promptly responded, expressing deep condolences and ensuring support for Ghosh’s family. “Taken up the case strongly with St Louis police and the University for investigation of the reprehensible gun attack,” the consulate’s post said.

This tragic incident adds to a concerning trend of attacks against Indian nationals and people of Indian origin in the United States. The country witnessed a surge in such incidents, including the brutal killing of Haryana’s Vivek Saini in Georgia and the mysterious deaths of students Sameer Kamath, Akul Dhawan, and Neel Acharya.

The White House addressed the alarming situation, with John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, stating, “There is no excuse for violence, certainly based on race or gender or religion or any other factor. That’s just unacceptable here in the United States.”

President Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly working tirelessly to prevent and disrupt such attacks, emphasizing the commitment to holding perpetrators accountable. In this context, the Consulate General assured that they are extending all possible help to the relatives of the deceased Amarnath Ghosh.

According to Ghosh’s website, he was pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Dance at Washington University in Saint Louis. As investigations unfold, the artistic community mourns the loss of a talented dancer, and authorities work towards unraveling the circumstances of this tragic incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biden and Trump Poised for 2024 Presidential Rematch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Medical Professionals Challenge Rising Use of Noncompete Agreements Amid Patient Care Concerns

David Lankford, a pediatrician from Indiana with a focus on critically ill children, made the difficult decision to depart from his position at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne. This choice arose following a layoff of pediatricians at the hospital, resulting in a significant surge in the number of patients under his care.

Transitioning to Parkview Health, located nearby, Lankford found himself entangled in a legal dispute initiated by his former employer. Allegations of violating a noncompete clause in his contract were raised, leading to an ongoing legal battle over his ability to continue serving patients in Fort Wayne.

Expressing concern for the implications on patient care, Lankford stated, “There is a shortage of physicians who do the subspecialty work that I do in Fort Wayne.” He emphasized the potential hardship faced by critically ill children and their families due to restricted access to care.

This scenario exemplifies a growing trend where doctors are confronting the prevalence of noncompete agreements, which impose limitations on their ability to practice within a specified geographic area if they leave their job. While employers argue these agreements safeguard their investments in recruitment and support for physicians, medical professionals assert that such provisions can impede patient access to care and deter them from addressing concerns about safety or ethical issues.

According to Omar Atiq, president of the American College of Physicians, the proliferation of noncompete agreements contradicts the core values of medicine. He highlighted the significance of the doctor-patient relationship and warned against the adverse effects of severing such connections.

Once regarded as restrictions primarily for high-ranking executives or individuals with access to proprietary information, noncompete agreements have become ubiquitous across various industries, including healthcare. This trend has resulted in over 30 million workers facing limitations on their employment opportunities, as reported by the Federal Trade Commission.

President Joe Biden’s commitment to banning noncompetes across the economy reflects a growing recognition of the issue’s significance. The FTC is expected to finalize a decision regarding a proposed ban early this year, according to a Biden administration official.

Within the medical field, noncompete agreements have become standard practice, affecting a significant portion of physicians, particularly those employed by hospitals or large health systems. This shift has occurred as healthcare organizations increasingly acquire medical practices, leading to a rise in noncompete agreements’ prevalence.

Critics argue that these agreements exacerbate physician shortages, disrupt doctor-patient relationships, and deter doctors from advocating for patient safety. Concerns have been raised regarding patients’ experiences, with abrupt interruptions in care and limited information on their physicians’ whereabouts.

Despite opposition from organizations like the American Hospital Association, which emphasizes the need to protect investments made in recruiting and retaining physicians, there’s growing support for reevaluating the widespread use of noncompete agreements.

In various instances across different states, doctors have found themselves entangled in legal battles due to noncompete agreements. An OB-GYN in Savannah, Georgia, faced threats of litigation after seeking employment at a clinic focusing on low-income women. Similarly, two cardiologists in North Carolina were confronted with legal action when transitioning to a different hospital.

In Indiana, David Lankford’s case underscores the contentious nature of noncompete agreements. His departure from Lutheran Hospital led to allegations of contract breaches and a subsequent legal dispute. Despite winning a preliminary injunction, Lankford’s battle continues, reflecting the complexities and challenges involved in challenging noncompete agreements.

In Ohio, surgeon Anjay Khandelwal navigated a lengthy legal process before securing the right to practice at Akron Children’s Hospital’s burn center. His case illustrates the obstacles physicians face in challenging noncompete agreements and the potential implications for patient care.

While some physicians have achieved victories in court, many choose to avoid legal confrontation due to the associated financial and reputational risks. This often leads to physicians quietly relocating to new cities, disrupting their personal and professional lives while avoiding potential lawsuits.

Overall, the prevalence of noncompete agreements in the medical field poses significant challenges, impacting both physicians and patients. As debates over their legality and implications continue, the broader healthcare landscape remains marked by uncertainty and contentious legal battles.

A Pivotal Week Unfolds in American Politics

In a week that promises to be pivotal for American politics, the nation braces for a consequential and unprecedented election that challenges established interpretations of the Constitution and presidential powers.

The focus is on a potential landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, expected as early as Monday, regarding the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to exclude former President Donald Trump from the ballot based on the 14th Amendment’s prohibition of insurrectionists. This decision holds immense significance for the ongoing narrative of Trump’s political future.

Simultaneously, the 15-state Super Tuesday GOP primaries loom, where Trump aims to secure a third consecutive Republican nomination. A Trump victory here would signal not just a political comeback but also the potential for a more radical second term.

Contrastingly, President Joe Biden is set to address the nation in his State of the Union speech two nights later, facing skepticism about his fitness for a second term amid global crises and domestic disappointments. The race between Biden and Trump, though dreaded by many Americans according to polls, appears inevitable, barring unexpected events.

This election, scheduled for November, is already testing the resilience of political and electoral institutions, the Constitution, and the nation’s fragile unity. Never before has an election featured a candidate facing multiple criminal trials and running on the false claim of an illegal ousting from power.

The Supreme Court’s potential ruling on the Colorado case hangs in the balance, with uncertainty surrounding the fate of votes for Trump in the Super Tuesday primary if the justices deem him ineligible to serve. Another significant case before the Supreme Court revolves around Trump’s claims of broad presidential immunity, delaying his federal criminal trial over election interference and raising questions about the equality of presidents under the law.

As the political landscape unfolds, Trump’s trajectory towards the Republican nomination gains momentum, marked by victories in Idaho and Missouri caucuses, and securing all Michigan’s delegates. Despite not reaching the required delegates on Tuesday night, Trump is poised to become the presumptive GOP nominee, solidifying his dominance and reshaping the party’s leadership.

While Trump’s campaign exudes confidence and increasingly wild rhetoric, Biden faces challenges highlighted by recent polls. These polls depict public concerns about the direction of the nation, economic benefits, and Biden’s handling of various issues such as the economy, inflation, border security, and international conflicts.

Of particular concern for Biden is the perceptible unease about his age and capacity, as reflected in polls indicating voters questioning his ability to serve effectively. The State of the Union address becomes a critical moment for Biden to project vitality and optimism, countering doubts about his leadership.

Trump’s narrative, on the other hand, revolves around portraying himself as a political dissident facing persecution by the Biden administration, emphasizing the stakes of the Supreme Court case and his aspirations for unchecked political power.

As the week unfolds, the clash between these two figures in American politics becomes more apparent, with each seeking to define the narrative that will shape the upcoming election. The potential rematch between Trump and Biden, despite being dreaded by many, appears increasingly likely, setting the stage for a contest that will test the nation’s democratic foundations and the resilience of its political institutions.

Senate Passes Short-Term Spending Bill, Averting Shutdown: Bipartisan Agreement Ensures Funding Continuity

The Senate has overwhelmingly voted 77 to 13 in favor of a short-term spending measure aimed at averting a partial government shutdown slated for the end of the day on Friday. Echoing the House’s earlier passage, this move grants Congress additional leeway to finalize comprehensive funding arrangements.

This interim measure is part of a broader bipartisan accord forged among the House and Senate’s four key figures. It also encompasses an understanding on six of the twelve annual spending bills. Committing to a decisive timeline, leaders pledged to adjudicate on these bills by March 8, with the remaining half slated for resolution by March 22.

In a joint communiqué issued on Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the principal figures in House and Senate appropriations reaffirmed their collective commitment to a structured timetable for legislative approval. “Negotiators have reached consensus on six bills,” they articulated. These encompass “Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice and Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD.”

The statement outlined the forthcoming process: “After finalizing the text, this assortment of six comprehensive year-long Appropriations bills will undergo voting and enactment before March 8.” Furthermore, it stipulated that the “remaining six Appropriations bills – Defense, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS, Legislative Branch, and State and Foreign Operations – will be concluded, voted on, and enacted before March 22.”

The bill now awaits the signature of President Biden as it heads to the White House. This development underscores a concerted effort to steer clear of fiscal brinkmanship and ensure the uninterrupted operation of government functions.

White House Reaffirms Commitment to Address H-1B Visa Challenges and Green Card Backlog

The White House has affirmed President Joe Biden’s dedication to tackling challenges within the H-1B visa process and reducing the backlog for green card applicants. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre conveyed this commitment during a press briefing, highlighting steps taken to enhance the H-1B visa process and address the backlog for lawful permanent residents seeking U.S. citizenship.

Jean-Pierre responded to concerns that the Biden administration might prioritize addressing issues faced by illegal immigrants over those encountered by legal immigrants, such as challenges related to the H-1B visa process and the green card backlog. This concern arose following a recent study by the Cato Institute, which projected that only 3 percent of green card applicants would secure permanent residence in fiscal year 2024, with the backlog currently estimated at around 34.7 million applications.

She underscored the administration’s efforts to fortify the integrity of the immigration system and curb potential fraud, citing a recent final rule published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pertaining to the H-1B visa. Jean-Pierre reassured that bolstering legal immigration remains a priority and affirmed the administration’s commitment to addressing these concerns earnestly, with a focus on enhancing the visa process.

“We will continue our work to improve the system within our authorities, and that has certainly been a priority,” Jean-Pierre emphasized, indicating the administration’s serious approach to these issues and its dedication to implementing improvements in the visa process.

To streamline procedures, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has introduced myUSCIS organizational accounts, allowing multiple individuals within an organization and their legal representatives to collaborate on and prepare various documents, including H-1B registrations, petitions, and associated Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

Ahead of the H-1B Electronic Registration Process scheduled to commence in March 2024, USCIS has emphasized the necessity of a new organizational account for participation. The agency has pledged to swiftly address any technical challenges encountered by legal representatives whose accounts were migrated after February 14, 2024, ensuring minimal disruption, particularly concerning cases beyond H-1B filings.

Survey Shows Split Public Opinion on State Efforts to Exclude Trump from 2024 Ballots

State-level initiatives aimed at excluding former President Trump from the 2024 election ballots are causing a rift among the populace, as indicated by a recent survey.

The study, carried out by Marquette University Law School, unveiled a near-even divide among respondents who had formed an opinion regarding the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling to disqualify Trump from the ballot under the 14th Amendment.

In recent weeks, the United States Supreme Court deliberated on the matter, contemplating whether Trump’s support for the January 6, 2021 insurrection warranted his removal from contention. Justices appeared hesitant to take the drastic measure of disqualifying him.

A notable 31 percent of those surveyed expressed either unfamiliarity with the case or insufficient information to formulate an opinion. Among those who did have a stance, half favored the Supreme Court nullifying the Colorado court’s decision, while the other half opposed such intervention.

The Supreme Court’s intervention followed a ruling by Colorado’s highest court in December, which declared Trump ineligible for inclusion on the state’s primary ballot.

Originally crafted to bar ex-Confederates from regaining power, the 14th Amendment found renewed relevance after the Capitol assault, leading anti-Trump factions to pursue legal avenues nationwide to prevent his potential return to the White House.

The survey painted a picture of limited confidence in the Supreme Court, with only a quarter of respondents expressing “a great deal” of trust, while 35 percent possessed some confidence, and 40 percent harbored little to no faith in the institution.

The Supreme Court’s expedited handling of the case suggests a decision could be imminent, potentially within weeks. Until then, Trump’s name will persist on ballots throughout the nation.

Despite the legal wrangling, Trump maintains his status as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination and is anticipated to engage in a showdown with President Biden in the upcoming general election.

Conducted between February 5 and 15, the survey sampled 1,003 adults, with a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

Biden’s Approval Rating Dips to Near All-Time Low of 38%, Gallup Survey Shows

President Biden’s approval rating has dropped to 38 percent, nearing his previous record low, according to the latest Gallup survey released on Friday. The poll revealed that 38 percent of respondents approve of Biden’s performance in the White House, while 59 percent disapprove.

Quoting directly from the original article, “The poll released Friday found that 38 percent of respondents approve of Biden’s performance in the White House, while 59 percent disapprove.”

The survey also highlighted dissatisfaction with Biden’s handling of various crucial issues facing the nation. In terms of the war in Ukraine, only 40 percent of respondents expressed support for Biden’s approach, and his response to the conflict in Gaza garnered approval from only 30 percent. Additionally, a mere 33 percent approved of his handling of other foreign affairs.

Concerns about the economy persist, with 36 percent approving of Biden’s efforts to revive it post-pandemic. Notably, this reflects a 4-point increase since November, although the economy itself continues to perform well.

Quoting again from the original article, “The president also received low ranks for the economy, with 36 percent approving of Biden’s efforts to turn it around following the pandemic.”

Immigration remains a significant point of contention, with only 28 percent of respondents approving of how Biden is managing the surge of migrants at the U.S. border.

The article goes on to discuss the varying levels of support among Democrats. While there is generally support for Biden regarding the economy and his handling of the Russia-Ukraine war and foreign affairs, opinions diverge on the Israel-Hamas conflict and the situation at the southern border. Among Democratic respondents, there is a “bare” majority, with 55 percent approving of Biden’s approach to immigration and 51 percent on the Middle East conflict.

Quoting from the original article regarding Democrats, “According to the survey, Democrats generally support Biden with the economy and his handling of the Russia-Ukraine war and foreign affairs. But opinions about the Israel-Hamas war and the southern border are less favorable among respondents who identify as Democrats; he holds a “bare” majority among them on those issues, securing a 55 percent approval on immigration and 51 percent on the Middle East conflict.”

Biden’s handling of the economy has contributed to a modest improvement in his standing among independent respondents. However, their opinions on other topics, including immigration, remained lower, according to Gallup’s observations.

Republicans, on the other hand, exhibited minimal support for Biden across the board. Only 3 percent of Republicans approved of his immigration efforts, and 4 percent expressed approval for his handling of the economy.

Quoting directly from the original article about Republican respondents, “Very few Republican respondents support Biden on ‘any of the issues measured,’ the survey giant said. Just 3 percent of Republicans approve of Biden’s immigration efforts and 4 percent said the same about the economy.”

The article notes that Biden’s approval rating has not surpassed 44 percent since August 2021, and his average approval rating during his third year in office was 39.8 percent, making it the second-worst rating among post-World War II presidents.

Highlighting historical context, the piece points out that looking ahead to November, Biden faces a significant challenge in improving his approval rating among both independents and Democrats if he hopes to secure a second term. It emphasizes that incumbents who win reelection typically have at least a 50 percent approval rating.

Quoting once more from the original article, “Looking ahead to November, history suggests that Biden has significant work to do to improve his approval rating among independents as well as Democrats if he is to win a second term.”

The Gallup survey, conducted from Feb. 1-20 among 1,016 U.S. adults, carries a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Biden Unveils Extensive Sanctions on Russia, Blames Putin for Navalny’s Death

President Biden made a significant announcement on Friday, revealing that the United States will be implementing more than 500 new sanctions directed at Russia. This action comes as a response to multiple factors, including the two-year anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the recent passing of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Biden emphasized the necessity of holding Putin accountable for his actions, stating, “If Putin does not pay the price for his death and destruction, he will keep going.” The president underscored the potential consequences for the United States and its allies if such actions are left unchecked.

The sanctions are part of a broader strategy involving the U.S. and its international partners to exert pressure on Putin’s ability to continue military aggression in Ukraine. These sanctions are complemented by various forms of support, including military, economic, and humanitarian aid, aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s defense against Russian forces.

The new sanctions package will encompass measures targeting individuals associated with Navalny’s imprisonment, as well as elements of Russia’s financial sector, defense industry, procurement networks, and entities evading sanctions globally. Moreover, the U.S. will implement close to 100 export restrictions, preventing the shipment of certain items to Russia, with a clear warning to exporters regarding potential sanctions for facilitating such deliveries.

President Biden also highlighted plans to impact Russia’s energy profits while pledging increased support for civil society, independent media, and advocates for democracy worldwide.

Furthermore, Biden urged lawmakers to pass a $95 billion national security supplemental bill, with a significant portion allocated to supporting Ukraine, primarily through funding for U.S. weapons production to replenish supplies already sent to the country. He stressed the urgency, stating, “Ukraine needs more supplies from the United States to hold the line against Russia’s relentless attacks.”

Despite these efforts, Russia has displayed resilience against sanctions, maintaining control over roughly 20 percent of Ukrainian territory for the past two years, including territories seized in 2014. The conflict has resulted in significant casualties on both sides, with Russian forces reportedly outnumbering and outmatching Ukrainian counterparts.

Putin’s strategy appears centered on testing the resolve and unity of Western and democratic nations supporting Ukraine. Recent gains by Russian forces, such as the capture of the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, serve as propaganda victories for Moscow but come at a high cost in casualties.

The passing of Navalny, a vocal critic of Putin, further underscores the Kremlin’s suppression of dissent and opposition to its objectives in Ukraine. President Biden, echoing Navalny’s supporters, squarely blamed Putin for the opposition leader’s death.

Biden reiterated the importance of maintaining a unified front among Western nations, emphasizing the need to stand firm against Russian aggression. He pledged continued engagement with leaders from the Group of Seven (G-7), NATO, and the European Union to address these pressing issues.

The death of Navalny marks a significant loss for those advocating for political change in Russia. Despite facing imprisonment and assassination attempts, Navalny remained a symbol of resistance against corruption and authoritarianism in Russia.

Navalny’s passing, occurring under suspicious circumstances in a Russian penal colony, has drawn condemnation from around the world, with Biden joining voices attributing responsibility to Putin.

President Biden’s announcement of new sanctions against Russia reflects ongoing efforts to pressure Putin’s regime in response to its actions in Ukraine and the suppression of dissent domestically. The measures underscore the broader geopolitical tensions and the continuing struggle for democracy and human rights in the region.

Child Tax Credit Expansion Bill Gains Momentum in Bipartisan Push Through Legislative Channels

Child tax credits are poised to see an increase for eligible families as a bipartisan bill progresses through the legislative pipeline.

The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024, currently advancing to the Senate, aims to elevate the refundable portion cap of the child tax credit from $1,800 to $1,900 to $2,000 per tax year from 2023 to 2025. This bill has already cleared the House of Representatives.

Missouri Republican Rep. Jason Smith, chairman of the House’s tax committee, and his Senate counterpart, Oregon Democrat and finance Chairman Ron Wyden, crafted the $78-billion package. Both were contacted for comment by Newsweek, albeit outside regular working hours.

The legislative journey began in January when lawmakers struck a bipartisan deal to broaden child tax credits, enhance low-income housing tax credits, and bolster certain business tax credits.

Under this bill, access to the child tax credit would expand, with a gradual increment in the refundable segment slated for 2023, 2024, and 2025. Moreover, penalties for larger families would be eliminated. Before securing passage in the House, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 40-3 in mid-January to advance the legislation.

President Joe Biden supports the potential legislation. White House spokesman Michael Kikukawa conveyed Biden’s appreciation for the efforts of Chairmen Wyden and Smith in boosting the child tax credit for millions of families and aiding hundreds of thousands of additional affordable homes. Kikukawa’s statement was seen by Newsweek.

The bill received a strong endorsement from the Republican-led House of Representatives, which voted 357-70 on January 31 to approve it, subsequently forwarding it to the Senate.

However, some lawmakers advocate for alterations to the bill. West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito emphasized the need for the bill to go through the finance committee and undergo an amendment process without predetermined decisions. She stressed the importance of providing opportunities for input during policy-making.

Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young expressed his desire for changes to be made to the bill before it reaches the floor, without specifying what amendments he seeks, as per NC Newsline.

To pass in the Democrat-led Senate, the bill requires 60 votes. The schedule for a vote remains undecided. Wyden, the Senate’s tax-writing committee chairman, stated his intention to discuss potential amendment votes with Senate leader Chuck Schumer, according to NC Newsline.

Regarding implementation timelines, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mentioned that disbursement could commence within six to 12 weeks of the bill’s potential passage. IRS Commissioner Danny Wefel urged taxpayers not to delay filing their tax returns, assuring that any additional refunds due to legislative changes would be processed seamlessly.

An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that approximately 16 million children will benefit from the bill in its first year, including 3 million children under the age of 3. George Fenton, senior policy analyst at CBPP, highlighted that once fully effective in 2025, the expansion could lift over half a million children above the poverty line and extend financial support to about 5 million more children from families with incomes below the poverty line.

Chuck Marr, vice president of federal tax policy at CBPP, emphasized the significance of the bipartisan proposal in targeting the nearly 19 million children currently excluded from the full child tax credit due to their families’ low incomes. Marr noted that the proposal would augment the credit for over 80 percent of these children, potentially lifting hundreds of thousands of children above the poverty line in the inaugural year and reducing the poverty levels of an additional 3 million children.

Biden Campaign Slams Trump’s Last-Place Ranking in Presidential Greatness Survey

President Biden’s reelection campaign strongly criticized former President Trump on Monday for his bottom-ranking performance in a recent survey evaluating presidential greatness.

Trump, widely expected to be Biden’s adversary in the upcoming November election, found himself occupying the lowest position on the list, while Biden was recognized as the 14th-best president in the 2024 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey. The survey, conducted by a panel of experts specializing in the American presidency from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, placed Trump at the very bottom.

In a statement titled “Happy Presidents’ Day! … Unless You’re Donald Trump,” the Biden campaign expressed no qualms in emphasizing Trump’s last-place standing.

“It takes a lot to be known as the absolute worst in your profession in the history of your country. But Donald Trump managed to do it, and it’s pretty clear why. Donald Trump spent his four years in office working for one thing only: himself,” remarked Kevin Munoz, spokesperson for the Biden campaign.

Highlighting Trump’s position relative to historical figures, the campaign pointed out that he fared worse than President James Buchanan, responsible for leading the U.S. into the Civil War, and President Herbert Hoover, who was in office during the Great Depression.

Munoz emphasized the contrasting approaches of Biden and Trump, portraying Biden as a president dedicated to the well-being of the American populace.

“President Biden wakes up every day fighting for the American people, helping to create more jobs in three years than any president has created in four, and investing in America at record levels,” Munoz stated. “The choice in this election is clear: a president who has consistently delivered for the American people or Donald Trump who experts agree might be the worst to ever do it.”

The survey, conducted by experts in the field, crowned Abraham Lincoln as America’s greatest president. Biden’s ranking placed him ahead of Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and Ulysses S. Grant.

Interestingly, former President Obama experienced a notable rise in the rankings, securing the seventh position, eight places higher than in the previous year’s survey.

Nikki Haley Vows to Persist in Presidential Race Despite Trump’s Lead: Refuses to Yield in Republican Primary

Nikki Haley asserted her commitment to persist in the Republican presidential primary race against former President Trump, affirming her determination during an address in Greenville, South Carolina. “I’m not going anywhere,” she declared, emphasizing her readiness to vocalize uncomfortable truths and her refusal to yield to intimidation. She asserted, “I feel no need to kiss the ring… My own political future is of zero concern.” Haley drew parallels between her contest against Trump and the biblical tale of David and Goliath, dismissing speculation that she seeks the vice presidency or is positioning herself for a future presidential bid.

Despite trailing Trump significantly in South Carolina according to The Hill’s Decision Desk HQ polling average, Haley remained resolute. Trump’s campaign had issued a memo suggesting her impending defeat, characterizing her as a “wailing loser” clinging to a false reality. Haley brushed off such assertions, reaffirming her intention to persevere beyond the primary, declaring, “South Carolina will vote on Saturday, but on Sunday I will still be running for president.”

She did not shy away from criticizing both Trump and President Biden, targeting their age and mental acuity, alleging they are “at risk for dementia” and act as “dividers.” Haley highlighted public concerns over their age, stressing, “Nearly 60 percent of Americans say Trump and Biden are both too old to be president.” She accused Biden of self-inflicted harm and criticized Democrats for what she perceives as anointing him rather than engaging in robust competition.

In an emotional moment, Haley choked up as she discussed her husband Michael Haley, currently deployed abroad with the South Carolina Army National Guard. Her remarks followed a jab from Trump questioning why Michael wasn’t accompanying her on the campaign trail.

Despite her trailing position against Trump in South Carolina and nationally, polling data suggests Haley outperforms Biden in a head-to-head matchup, holding a slim lead over the president according to The Hill’s Decision Desk HQ polling average.

India’s Feet of Clay: How Modi’s Supremacy Will Hinder His Country’s Rise

This spring, India is scheduled to hold its 18th general election. Surveys suggest that the incumbent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is very likely to win a third term in office. That triumph will further underline Modi’s singular stature. He bestrides the country like a colossus, and he promises Indians that they, too, are rising in the world. And yet the very nature of Modi’s authority, the aggressive control sought by the prime minister and his party over a staggeringly diverse and complicated country, threatens to scupper India’s great-power ambitions.

A leader of enormous charisma from a modest

background, Modi dominates the Indian political landscape as only two of his 15 predecessors have done: Jawaharlal Nehru, prime minister from Indian independence in 1947 until 1964, and Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, prime minister from 1966 to 1977 and then again from 1980 to 1984. In their pomp, both enjoyed wide popularity throughout India, cutting across barriers of class, gender, religion, and region, although—as so often with leaders who stay on too long—their last years in office were marked by political misjudgments that eroded their standing.

Nehru and Indira Gandhi both belonged to the Indian National Congress, the party that led the country’s struggle for freedom from British colonial rule and stayed in power for three decades following independence. Modi, on the other hand, is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which spent many years in opposition before becoming what it now appears to be, the natural party of governance. A major ideological difference between the Congress and the BJP is in their attitudes toward the relationship between faith and state. Particularly under Nehru, the Congress was committed to religious pluralism, in keeping with the Indian constitutional obligation to assure citizens “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.” The BJP, on the other hand, wishes to make India a majoritarian state in which politics, public policy, and even everyday life are cast in a Hindu idiom.

Modi is not the first BJP prime minister of India—that distinction belongs to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was in office in 1996 and from 1998 to 2004. But Modi can exercise a kind of power that was never available to Vajpayee, whose coalition government of more than a dozen parties forced him to accommodate diverse views and interests. By contrast, the BJP has enjoyed a parliamentary majority on its own for the last decade, and Modi is far more assertive than the understated Vajpayee ever was. Vajpayee delegated power to his cabinet ministers, consulted opposition leaders, and welcomed debate in Parliament. Modi, on the other hand, has centralized power in his office to an astonishing degree, undermined the independence of public institutions such as the judiciary and the media, built a cult of personality around himself, and pursued his party’s ideological goals with ruthless efficiency.

Despite his dismantling of democratic institutions, Modi remains extremely popular. He is both incredibly hardworking and politically astute, able to read the pulse of the electorate and adapt his rhetoric and tactics accordingly. Left-wing intellectuals dismiss him as a mere demagogue. They are grievously mistaken. In terms of commitment and intelligence, he is far superior to his populist counterparts such as former U.S. President Donald Trump, former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, or former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Although his economic record is mixed, he has still won the trust of many poor people by supplying food and cooking gas at highly subsidized rates via schemes branded as Modi’s personal gifts to them. He has taken quickly to digital technologies, which have enabled the direct provision of welfare and the reduction of intermediary corruption. He has also presided over substantial progress in infrastructure development, with spanking new highways and airports seen as evidence of a rising India on the march under Modi’s leadership.

Modi’s many supporters view his tenure as prime minister as nothing short of epochal. They claim that he has led India’s national resurgence. Under Modi, they note, India has surpassed its former ruler, the United Kingdom, to become the world’s fifth-largest economy; it will soon eclipse Japan and Germany, as well. It became the fourth country to land a spaceship on the moon. But Modi’s impact runs deeper than material achievements. His supporters proudly boast that India has rediscovered and reaffirmed its Hindu civilizational roots, leading to a successful decolonizing of the mind—a truer independence than even the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi achieved. The prime minister’s speeches are peppered with claims that India is on the cusp of leading the world. In pursuit of its global ambitions, his government hosted the G-20 meeting in New Delhi last year, the event carefully choreographed to show Modi in the best possible light, standing splendidly alone at center stage as one by one, he welcomed world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, and showed them to their seats. (The party was spoiled, only slightly, by the deliberate absence of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who may not have wanted to indulge Modi in his pageant of prestige.)

Nonetheless, the future of the Indian republic looks considerably less rosy than the vision promised by Modi and his acolytes. His government has not assuaged—indeed, it has actively worked to intensify—conflicts along lines of both religion and region, which will further fray the country’s social fabric. The inability or unwillingness to check environmental abuse and degradation threatens public health and economic growth. The hollowing out of democratic institutions pushes India closer and closer to becoming a democracy only in name and an electoral autocracy in practice. Far from becoming the Vishwa Guru, or “teacher to the world”—as Modi’s boosters claim—India is altogether more likely to remain what it is today: a middling power with a vibrant entrepreneurial culture and mostly fair elections alongside malfunctioning public institutions and persisting cleavages of religion, gender, caste, and region. The façade of triumph and power that Modi has erected obscures a more fundamental truth: that a principal source of India’s survival as a democratic country, and of its recent economic success, has been its political and cultural pluralism, precisely those qualities that the prime minister and his party now seek to extinguish.

PORTRAIT IN POWER

Between 2004 and 2014, India was run by Congress-led coalition governments. The prime minister was the scholarly economist Manmohan Singh. By the end of his second term, Singh was 80 and unwell, so the task of running Congress’s campaign ahead of the 2014 general elections fell to the much younger Rahul Gandhi. Gandhi is the son of Sonia Gandhi, a former president of the Congress Party, and Rajiv Gandhi, who, like his mother, Indira Gandhi, and grandfather Nehru, had served as prime minister. In a brilliant political move, Modi, who had previously been chief minister of the important state of Gujarat for a decade, presented himself as an experienced, hard-working, and entirely self-made administrator, in stark contrast to Rahul Gandhi, a dynastic scion who had never held political office and whom Modi portrayed as entitled and effete.

Sixty years of electoral democracy and three decades of market-led economic growth had made Indians increasingly distrustful of claims made on the basis of family lineage or privilege. It also helped that Modi was a more compelling orator than Rahul Gandhi and that the BJP made better use of the new media and digital technologies to reach remote corners of India. In the 2014 elections, the BJP won 282 seats, up from 116 five years earlier, while the Congress’s tally went down from 206 to a mere 44. The next general election, in 2019, again pitted Modi against Gandhi; the BJP won 303 seats to the Congress’s 52. With these emphatic victories, the BJP not only crushed and humiliated the Congress but also secured the legislative dominance of the party. In prior decades, Indian governments had typically been motley coalitions held together by compromise. The BJP’s healthy majority under Modi has given the prime minister broad latitude to act—and free rein to pursue his ambitions.

Modi presents himself as the very embodiment of the party, the government, and the nation, as almost single-handedly fulfilling the hopes and ambitions of Indians. In the past decade, his elevation has taken many forms, including the construction of the world’s largest cricket stadium, named for Modi; the portrait of Modi on the COVID-19 vaccination certificates issued by the government of India (a practice followed by no other democracy in the world); the photo of Modi on all government schemes and welfare packages; a serving judge of the Supreme Court gushing that Modi is a “visionary” and a “genius”; and Modi’s own proclamation that he had been sent by god to emancipate India’s women.

In keeping with this gargantuan cult of personality, Modi has attempted, largely successfully, to make governance and administration an instrument of his personal will rather than a collaborative effort in which many institutions and individuals work together. In the Indian system, based on the British model, the prime minister is supposed to be merely first among equals. Cabinet ministers are meant to have relative autonomy in their own spheres of authority. Under Modi, however, most ministers and ministries take instructions directly from the prime minister’s office and from officials known to be personally loyal to him. Likewise, Parliament is no longer an active theater of debate, in which the views of the opposition are taken into account in forging legislation. Many bills are passed in minutes, by voice vote, with the speakers in both houses acting in an extremely partisan manner. Opposition members of Parliament have been suspended in the dozens—and in one recent case, in the hundreds—for demanding that the prime minister and home minister make statements about such important matters as bloody ethnic conflicts in India’s borderlands and security breaches in Parliament itself.

Sadly, the Indian Supreme Court has done little to stem attacks on democratic freedoms. In past decades, the court had at least occasionally stood up for personal freedoms, and for the rights of the provinces, acting as a modest brake on the arbitrary exercise of state power. Since Modi took office, however, the Supreme Court has often given its tacit approval to the government’s misconduct, by, for example, failing to strike down punitive laws that clearly violate the Indian constitution. One such law is the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, under which it is almost impossible to get bail and which has been invoked to arrest and designate as “terrorists” hundreds of students and human rights activists for protesting peacefully on the streets against the majoritarian policies of the regime.

The civil services and the diplomatic corps are also prone to obey the prime minister and his party, even when the demands clash with constitutional norms. So does the Election Commission, which organizes elections and frames election rules to facilitate the preferences of Modi and the BJP. Thus, elections in Jammu and Kashmir and to the municipal council of Mumbai, India’s richest city, have been delayed for years largely because the ruling party remains unsure of winning them.

The Modi government has also worked systematically to narrow the spaces open for democratic dissent. Tax officials disproportionately target opposition politicians. Large sections of the press act as the mouthpiece of the ruling party for fear of losing government advertisements or facing vindictive tax raids. India currently ranks 161 out of 180 countries surveyed in the World Press Index, an analysis of levels of journalistic freedom. Free debate in India’s once vibrant public universities is discouraged; instead, the University Grants Commission has instructed vice chancellors to install “selfie points” on campuses to encourage students to take their photograph with an image of Modi.

This story of the systematic weakening of India’s democratic foundations is increasingly well known outside the country, with watchdog groups bemoaning the backsliding of the world’s largest democracy. But another fundamental challenge to India has garnered less attention: the erosion of the country’s federal structure. India is a union of states whose constituent units have their own governments elected on the basis of universal adult franchise. As laid down in India’s constitution, some subjects, including defense, foreign affairs, and monetary policy, are the responsibility of the government in New Delhi. Others, including agriculture, health, and law and order, are the responsibility of the states. Still others, such as forests and education, are the joint responsibility of the central government and the states. This distribution of powers allows state governments considerable latitude in designing and implementing policies for their citizens. It explains the wide variation in policy outcomes across the country—why, for example, the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have a far better record with regard to health, education, and gender equity compared with northern states such as Uttar Pradesh.

As a large, sprawling federation of states, India resembles the United States. But India’s states are more varied in terms of culture, religion, and particularly language. In that sense, India is more akin to the European Union in the continental scale of its diversity. The Bengalis, the Kannadigas, the Keralites, the Odias, the Punjabis, and the Tamils, to name just a few peoples, all have extraordinarily rich literary and cultural histories, each distinct from one another and especially from that of the heartland states of northern India where the BJP is dominant. Coalition governments respected and nourished this heterogeneity, but under Modi, the BJP has sought to compel uniformity in three ways: through imposing the main language of the north, Hindi, in states where it is scarcely spoken and where it is seen as an unwelcome competitor to the local language; through promoting the cult of Modi as the only leader of any consequence in India; and through the legal and financial powers that being in office in New Delhi bestows on it.

Since coming to power, the Modi government has assiduously undermined the autonomy of state governments run by parties other than the BJP. It has achieved this in part through the ostensibly nonpartisan office of the governor, who, in states not run by the BJP, has often acted as an agent of the ruling party in New Delhi. Laws in domains such as agriculture, nominally the realm of state governments, have been passed by the national Parliament without the consultation of the states. Since several important and populous states—including Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal—are run by popularly elected parties other than the BJP, the Modi government’s undisguised hostility toward their autonomous functioning has created a great deal of bad blood.

In this manner, in his decade in office, Modi has worked diligently to centralize and personalize political power. As chief minister of Gujarat, he gave his cabinet colleagues little to do, running the administration through bureaucrats loyal to him. He also worked persistently to tame civil society and the press in Gujarat. Since Modi became prime minister in 2014, this authoritarian approach to governance has been carried over to New Delhi. His authoritarianism has a precedent, however: the middle period of Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership, from 1971 to 1977, when she constructed a cult of personality and turned the party and government into an instrument of her will. But Modi’s subordination of institutions has gone even further. In his style of administration, he is Indira Gandhi on steroids.

A HINDU KINGDOM

For all their similarities in political style, Indira Gandhi and Modi differ markedly in terms of political ideology. Forged in the crucible of the Indian freedom struggle, inspired by the pluralistic ethos of its leader Mahatma Gandhi (who was not related to her) and of her father, Nehru, Indira Gandhi was deeply committed to the idea that India belonged equally to citizens of all faiths. For her, as for Nehru, India was not to be a Hindu version of Pakistan—a country designed to be a homeland for South Asia’s Muslims. India would not define statecraft or governance in accordance with the views of the majority religious community. India’s many minority religious groups—including Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Muslims, Parsis, and Sikhs—would all have the same status and material rights as Hindus. Modi has taken a different view. Raised as he was in the hardline milieu of the Hindu nationalist movement, he sees the cultural and civilizational character of India as defined by the demographic dominance—and long-suppressed destiny—of Hindus.

The attempt to impose Hindu hegemony on India’s present and future has two complementary elements. The first is electoral, the creation of a consolidated Hindu vote bank. Hinduism does not have the singular structure of Abrahamic religions such as Christianity or Islam. It does not elevate one religious text (such as the Bible or the Koran) or one holy city (such as Rome or Mecca) to a particularly privileged status. In Hinduism, there are many gods, many holy places, and many styles of worship. But while the ritual universe of Hinduism is pluralistic, its social system is historically highly unequal, marked by hierarchically organized status groups known as castes, whose members rarely intermarry or even break bread with one another.

The BJP under Modi has tried to overcome the pluralism of Hinduism by seeking to override caste and doctrinal differences between different groups of Hindus. It promises to construct a “Hindu Raj,” a state in which Hindus will reign supreme. Modi claims that before his ascendance, Hindus had suffered 1,200 years of slavery at the hands of Muslim rulers, such as the Mughal dynasty, and Christian rulers, such as the British—and that he will now restore Hindu pride and Hindu control over the land that is rightfully theirs. To aid this consolidation, Hindu nationalists have systematically demonized India’s large Muslim minority, painting Muslims as insufficiently apologetic for the crimes of the Muslim rulers of the past and as insufficiently loyal to the India of the present.

Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, is a belief system characterized by what I call “paranoid triumphalism.” It aims to make Hindus fearful so as to compel them to act together and ultimately dominate those Indians who are not Hindus. At election time, the BJP hopes to make Hindus vote as Hindus. Since Hindus constitute roughly 80 percent of the population, if 60 percent of them vote principally on the basis of their religious affiliation in India’s multiparty, first-past-the-post system, that amounts to 48 percent of the popular vote for the BJP—enough to get Modi and his party elected by a comfortable margin. Indeed, in the 2019 elections, the BJP won 56 percent of seats with 37 percent of the popular vote. So complete is the ruling party’s disregard for the political rights of India’s 200 million or so Muslims that, except when compelled to do so in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, it rarely picks Muslim candidates to compete in elections. And yet it can still comfortably win national contests. The BJP has 397 members in the two houses of the Indian parliament. Not one is a Muslim.

Electoral victory has enabled the second element of Hindutva—the provision of an explicitly Hindu veneer to the character of the Indian state. Modi himself chose to contest the parliamentary elections from Varanasi, an ancient city with countless temples that is generally recognized as the most important center of Hindu identity. He has presented himself as a custodian of Hindu traditions, claiming that in his youth, he wandered and meditated in the forests of the Himalaya in the manner of the sages of the past. He has, for the first time, made Hindu rituals central to important secular occasions, such as the inauguration of a new Parliament building, which was conducted by him alone, flanked by a phalanx of chanting priests, but with the members of Parliament, the representatives of the people, conspicuously absent. He also presided, in similar fashion, over religious rituals in Varanasi, with the priests chanting, “Glory to the king.” In January, Modi was once again the star of the show as he opened a large temple in the city of Ayodhya on a site claimed to be the birthplace of the god Rama. Whenever television channels obediently broadcast such proceedings live across India, their cameras focus on the elegantly attired figure of Modi. The self-proclaimed Hindu monk of the past has thus become, in symbol if not in substance, the Hindu emperor of the present.

THE BURDENS OF THE FUTURE

The emperor benefits from having few plausible rivals. Modi’s enduring political success is in part enabled by a fractured and nepotistic opposition. In a belated bid to stall the BJP from winning a third term, as many as 28 parties have come together to fight the forthcoming general elections under a common umbrella. They have adopted the name the Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance, an unwieldy moniker that can be condensed to the crisp acronym INDIA.

Some parties in this alliance are very strong in their own states. Others have a base among particular castes. But the only party in the alliance with pretensions to being a national party is the Congress. Despite his dismal political record, Rahul Gandhi remains the principal leader of the Congress. In public appearances, he is often flanked by his sister, who is the party’s general-secretary, or his mother, reinforcing his sense of entitlement. The major regional parties, with influence in states such as Bihar, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu, are also family firms, with leadership often passing from father to son. Although their local roots make them competitive in state elections, when it comes to a general election, the dynastic baggage they carry puts them at a distinct disadvantage against a party led by a self-made man such as Modi, who can present himself as devoted entirely and utterly to the welfare of his fellow citizens rather than as the bearer of family privilege. INDIA will struggle to unseat Modi and the BJP and may hope, at best, to dent their commanding majority in Parliament.

The prime minister also faces little external pressure. In other contexts, one might expect a certain amount of critical scrutiny of Modi’s authoritarian ways from the leaders of Western democracies. But this has not happened, partly because of the ascendance of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Xi has mounted an aggressive challenge to Western hegemony and positioned China as a superpower deserving equal respect and an equal say in world affairs as the United States—moves that have worked entirely to Modi’s advantage. The Indian prime minister has played the U.S. establishment brilliantly, using the large and wealthy Indian diaspora to make his (and India’s) importance visible to the White House.

In April 2023, India officially overtook China as the most populous country in the world. It has the fifth-largest economy. It has a large and reasonably well-equipped military. All these factors make it ever more appealing to the United States as a counterweight to China. Both the Trump and the Biden administrations have shown an extraordinary indulgence toward Modi, continuing to hail him as the leader of the “world’s largest democracy” even as that appellation becomes less credible under his rule. The attacks on minorities, the suppression of the press, and the arrest of civil rights activists have attracted scarcely a murmur of disapproval from the State Department or the White House. The recent allegations that the Indian government tried to assassinate a U.S. citizen of Sikh descent are likely to fade without any action or strong public criticism. Meanwhile, the leaders of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, seeking a greater share of the Indian market (not least in sales of sophisticated weaponry), have all been unctuous in their flattery of Modi.

The rampant environmental degradation across the country further threatens the sustainability of economic growth. Even in the absence of climate change, India would be an environmental disaster zone. Its cities have the highest rates of air pollution in the world. Many of its rivers are ecologically dead, killed by untreated industrial effluents and domestic sewage. Its underground aquifers are depleting rapidly. Much of its soil is contaminated with chemicals. Its forests are despoiled and in the process of becoming much less biodiverse, thanks to invasive nonnative weeds.

This degradation has been enabled by an antiquated economic ideology that adheres to the mistaken belief that only rich countries need to behave responsibly toward nature. India, it is said, is too poor to be green. In fact, countries such as India, with their higher population densities and more fragile tropical ecologies, need to care as much, or more, about how to use natural resources wisely. But regimes led by both the Congress and the BJP have granted a free license to coal and petroleum extraction and other polluting industries. No government has so actively promoted destructive practices as Modi’s. It has eased environmental clearances for polluting industries and watered down various regulations. The environmental scholar Rohan D’ Souza has written that by 2018, “the slash and burn attitude of gutting and weakening existing environmental institutions, laws, and norms was extended to forests, coasts, wildlife, air, and even waste management.” When Modi came to power in 2014, India ranked 155 out of 178 countries assessed by the Environmental Performance Index, which estimates the sustainability of a country’s development in terms of the state of its air, water, soils, natural habitats, and so on. By 2022, India ranked last, 180 out of 180.

The effects of these varied forms of environmental deterioration exact a horrific economic and social cost on hundreds of millions of people. Degradation of pastures and forests imperils the livelihoods of farmers. Unregulated mining for coal and bauxite displaces entire rural communities, making their people ecological refugees. Air pollution in cities endangers the health of children, who miss school, and of workers, whose productivity declines. Unchecked, these forms of environmental abuse will impose ever-greater burdens on Indians yet unborn.

These future generations of Indians will also have to bear the costs of the dismantling of democratic institutions overseen by Modi and his party. A free press, independent regulatory institutions, and an impartial and fearless judiciary are vital for political freedoms, for acting as a check on the abuse of state power, and for nurturing an atmosphere of trust among citizens. To create, or perhaps more accurately, re-create, them after Modi and the BJP finally relinquish power will be an arduous task.

The strains placed on Indian federalism may boil over in 2026, when parliamentary seats are scheduled to be reallocated according to the next census, to be conducted in that year. Then, what is now merely a divergence between north and south might become an actual divide. In 2001, when a reallocation of seats based on population was proposed, the southern states argued that it would discriminate against them for following progressive health and education policies in prior decades that had reduced birth rates and enhanced women’s freedom. The BJP-led coalition government then in power recognized the merits of the south’s case and, with the consent of the opposition, proposed that the reallocation be delayed for a further 25 years.

In 2026, the matter will be reopened. One proposed solution is to emulate the U.S. model, in which congressional districts reflect population size while each state has two seats in the Senate, irrespective of population. Perhaps having the Rajya Sabha, or upper house, of the Indian Parliament restructured on similar principles may help restore faith in federalism. But if Modi and the BJP are in power, they will almost certainly mandate the process of reallocation based on population in both the Lok Sabha, the lower house, and the Rajya Sabha, which will then substantially favor the more populous if economically lagging states of the north. The southern states are bound to protest. Indian federalism and unity will struggle to cope with the fallout.

If the BJP achieves a third successive electoral victory in May, the creeping majoritarianism under Modi could turn into galloping majoritarianism, a trend that poses a fundamental challenge to Indian nationhood. Democratic- and pluralistic-minded Indians warn of the dangers of India becoming a country like Pakistan, defined by religious identity. A more salient cautionary tale might be Sri Lanka’s. With its educated population, good health care, relatively high position of women (compared with India and all other countries in South Asia), its capable and numerous professional class, and its attractiveness as a tourist destination, Sri Lanka was poised in the 1970s to join Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan as one of the so-called Asian Tigers. But then, a deadly mix of religious and linguistic majoritarianism reared its head. The Sinhala-speaking Buddhist majority chose to consolidate itself against the Tamil-speaking minority, who were themselves largely Hindus. Through the imposition of Sinhalese as the official language and Buddhism as the official religion, a deep division was created, provoking protests by the Tamils, peaceful at first but increasingly violent when crushed by the state. Three decades of bloody civil war ensued. The conflict formally ended in 2009, but the country has not remotely recovered, in social, economic, political, or psychological terms.
India will probably not go the way of Sri Lanka. A full-fledged civil war between Hindus and Muslims, or between north and south, is unlikely. But the Modi government is jeopardizing a key source of Indian strength: its varied forms of pluralism. One might usefully contrast Modi’s time in office with the years between 1989 and 2014, when neither the Congress nor the BJP had a majority in Parliament. In that period, prime ministers had to bring other parties into government, allocating important ministries to its leaders. This fostered a more inclusive and collaborative style of governance, more suitable to the size and diversity of the country itself. States run by parties other than the BJP or the Congress found representation at the center, their voices heard and their concerns taken into account. Federalism flourished, and so did the press and the courts, which had more room to follow an independent path. It may be no coincidence that it was in this period of coalition government that India experienced three decades of steady economic growth.

When India became free from British rule in 1947, many skeptics thought it was too large and too diverse to survive as a single nation and its population too poor and illiterate to be trusted with a democratic system of governance. Many predicted that the country would Balkanize, become a military dictatorship, or experience mass famine. That those dire scenarios did not come to pass was largely because of the sagacity of India’s founding figures, who nurtured a pluralist ethos that respected the rights of religious and linguistic minorities and who sought to balance the rights of the individual and the state, as well as those of the central government and the provinces. This delicate calculus enabled the country to stay united and democratic and allowed its people to steadily overcome the historic burdens of poverty and discrimination.

The last decade has witnessed the systematic erosion of those varied forms of pluralism. One party, the BJP, and within it, one man, the prime minister, are judged to represent India to itself and to the world. Modi’s charisma and popular appeal have consolidated this dominance, electorally speaking. Yet the costs are mounting. Hindus impose themselves on Muslims, the central government imposes itself on the provinces, the state further curtails the rights and freedoms of citizens. Meanwhile, the unthinking imitation of Western models of energy-intensive and capital-intensive industrialization is causing profound and, in many cases, irreversible environmental damage.

Modi and the BJP seem poised to win their third general election in a row. This victory would further magnify the prime minister’s aura, enhancing his image as India’s redeemer. His supporters will boast that their man is assuredly taking his country toward becoming the Vishwa Guru, the teacher to the world. Yet such triumphalism cannot mask the deep fault lines underneath, which—unless recognized and addressed—will only widen in the years to come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Joe Manchin Rules Out Presidential Bid, Focusing on Unifying America

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia declared on Friday his decision not to pursue a presidential bid, dispelling persistent conjectures regarding his potential involvement in a third-party campaign.

“I will not be seeking a third-party run. I will not be involved in a presidential run,” Manchin affirmed during his address at West Virginia University, emphasizing his commitment to contributing to the selection of a unifying president for the nation.

The West Virginia senator, renowned for his moderate stance within the Democratic Party, had previously disclosed his intention not to seek reelection for his Senate seat, though he had refrained from definitively ruling out a presidential candidacy.

Speculation surrounding Manchin’s prospective bid had instilled apprehension among Democrats, who feared that his candidacy could siphon votes from President Biden and potentially disrupt the electoral landscape.

Manchin’s association with No Labels, an organization spearheading a ballot access initiative for an independent bid in November, had further fueled speculations. Confirmation of Manchin’s intentions was provided by his spokesperson Jon Kott prior to his official statement on Friday.

The national co-chairs of No Labels, including former Senator Joe Lieberman, Benjamin Chavis, and former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, expressed their acknowledgment of Manchin’s efforts to fortify the movement for a pragmatic majority in America. They disclosed ongoing discussions with various distinguished leaders regarding the prospect of forming a unity ticket.

“We are continuing to make great progress on our ballot access efforts and will announce in the coming weeks whether we will offer our line to a Unity ticket,” they stated.

Manchin, having served in the Senate since securing a special election victory in 2010 and subsequently winning reelection in 2012 and 2018, has wielded significant influence as a pivotal swing vote in the closely divided Senate, particularly during the Biden administration.

His decision against pursuing a third term in the Senate reflects the formidable challenge of navigating a reelection campaign in a predominantly conservative state amidst the backdrop of a presidential election year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Threatens to Abandon NATO Allies Over Defense Spending, Sparks Concerns Over Alliance’s Future

Former President Donald Trump has asserted that the United States would not come to the defense of NATO allies in the event of a Russian attack if those allies failed to meet his criteria for defense spending. This declaration, made during a campaign rally in Conway, S.C., raises significant concerns about the future of the alliance should Trump be reelected in 2024.

Trump’s stance on NATO spending has been a longstanding point of contention, with him consistently criticizing other member countries for not meeting defense spending targets and inaccurately claiming that there are outstanding balances owed by allies. However, his recent remarks take this criticism a step further, suggesting that Russia should be encouraged to attack countries that are “delinquent” in their contributions.

During the rally, Trump recounted a hypothetical scenario where a country asked if the U.S. would protect them in the event of a Russian attack due to unpaid contributions. Trump’s response was blunt: “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”

Trump also claimed that his threats led to a significant increase in NATO spending, stating that “hundreds of billions” flowed into the alliance as a result. However, data shows that NATO spending was already on the rise before Trump took office in 2016.

The issue of NATO spending has been a focal point since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. In response, NATO countries pledged to increase defense spending to 2% of their gross domestic product by 2024. Yet, according to data from July 2023, only 11 out of the 31 member countries have met this target. Notably, the United States contributes 3.49% of its GDP to defense, while several other countries, including France, Germany, and Canada, have fallen short.

The White House swiftly condemned Trump’s remarks, describing them as “unhinged” and emphasizing President Joe Biden’s commitment to strengthening NATO. White House spokesman Andrew Bates emphasized that Biden’s approach prioritizes American leadership and national security interests.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed these sentiments, stating that any suggestion of allies not defending each other undermines collective security and increases risks for American and European soldiers.

Trump’s comments on NATO come amid a campaign rally in South Carolina, just weeks before the state’s Republican presidential primary. At the rally, he reiterated his hardline stance on immigration, promising to reverse Biden administration policies and implement aggressive deportation measures.

Trump also addressed the legal challenges he faces, including numerous criminal indictments, attributing them to bolstering his poll numbers rather than seeking revenge against Biden.

These remarks on foreign policy coincide with congressional struggles to advance aid packages for Israel and Ukraine, issues Trump claims would not have arisen under his administration’s leadership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiscal Forecast: CBO Projects Temporary Dip in Deficit, Long-Term Challenges Loom

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on Wednesday, projecting a decrease in the federal budget deficit by $188 billion for this fiscal year, down to $1.5 trillion. However, this dip is expected to be temporary, with forecasts indicating a likely increase in the deficit over the next nine years. The decline in this year’s deficit is attributed to two specific factors, both of which are one-off events, highlighting the ongoing challenge for policymakers to reconcile tax revenues and expenditures.

One factor contributing to the decrease is the timing of the fiscal year, which began on an October weekend, resulting in payments being recorded in fiscal 2023 without corresponding revenues. Additionally, tax revenues are projected to rise due to improved returns on financial investments and the collection of taxes postponed from the previous year due to natural disasters.

Looking ahead, the cumulative budget deficits over the next decade are expected to be 7% smaller than previously forecasted by the nonpartisan CBO. This adjustment is primarily due to an agreement reached between President Joe Biden and Congressional Republicans last summer. This agreement temporarily lifted the statutory debt ceiling in exchange for imposing restrictions on government spending. Economic growth is also anticipated to be stronger than previously predicted, with an increase in the number of people employed.

However, despite these improvements, deficits remain a concern for lawmakers in the years ahead. Challenges include the burden of servicing the total debt load, an aging population leading to increased costs for Social Security and Medicare, and rising healthcare expenses.

The report also warns that the nation’s publicly held debt is projected to escalate from 99% of the gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2024 to 116% of GDP by the end of 2034, marking the highest level ever recorded. This increase is fueled by persistent gaps between tax revenues and government expenditures, resulting in borrowing from investors.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, emphasized the need for policymakers to address the severity of the situation and commit to taking necessary actions. While acknowledging that the debt ceiling agreement was a positive step, MacGuineas stressed that more substantial efforts are required.

The CBO’s projections are subject to uncertainties, as laws can change, and economic performance may differ significantly from expectations. For example, last year’s projection of a 4.7% unemployment rate in 2023 contrasts with the current rate of 3.7%. The CBO anticipates a 4.4% unemployment rate by the end of 2024.

Persistent disagreements between Democrats and Republicans regarding the causes and solutions for the national debt have made it a recurring topic in political discourse without leading to comprehensive solutions. Republicans criticize Democrats for excessive spending during President Biden’s administration, while Democrats attribute costs to tax cuts implemented during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Bill Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, highlighted the uncertainty injected into the economic outlook by political brinkmanship. Hoagland stressed the necessity of bipartisan efforts to address entitlement reform, revenue generation, and the budget process.

The CBO’s 10-year deficit projections may be overly optimistic, assuming the expiration of many tax cuts signed into law by Trump by the end of 2025. Republicans advocate for retaining and potentially expanding these tax cuts, which could reduce expected revenues while simultaneously increasing spending.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell underscored the unsustainable nature of the growing debt relative to the economy during a recent interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, echoed the urgency of the situation, calling for a bipartisan fiscal commission to propose solutions for placing the country on a more sustainable fiscal trajectory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FCC Bans AI-Generated Robocalls Amid Rising Concerns of Fraud and Misinformation

The United States federal agency responsible for overseeing communications has enacted a prohibition on robocalls utilizing AI-generated voices. This announcement was made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday, with the regulation immediately coming into effect. FCC emphasized that this decision empowers state authorities to pursue legal actions against individuals or entities involved in such calls.

The proliferation of robocalls imitating the voices of well-known personalities and political figures has prompted this regulatory move. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated, “Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities, and misinform voters.” She underscored the agency’s determination to combat fraudulent activities associated with these robocalls.

This regulatory action follows an incident from the previous month wherein voters in New Hampshire received robocalls impersonating US President Joe Biden ahead of the state’s presidential primary. These calls, estimated to be between 5,000 to 25,000 in number, urged voters to abstain from participating in the primary. New Hampshire’s attorney general disclosed that investigations are ongoing and have traced the calls back to two companies based in Texas.

FCC highlighted the potential of such calls to mislead consumers by disseminating misinformation while impersonating public figures or even family members. While state attorneys general retain the authority to prosecute individuals and entities behind such calls for offenses like scams or fraud, this latest measure specifically outlaws the utilization of AI-generated voices in robocalls, thereby broadening the legal mechanisms available to hold perpetrators accountable.

This regulatory move was spurred by a joint effort from 26 state attorneys general, who urged the FCC to take action to curb the use of AI in marketing phone calls. Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry, leading this initiative, emphasized the importance of ensuring that technological advancements are not exploited to prey upon or deceive consumers. This request came subsequent to a Notice of Inquiry issued by the FCC in November 2023, soliciting input nationwide regarding the use of AI technology in consumer communications.

The emergence of deepfakes, which utilize AI to create manipulated video or audio content impersonating individuals, has raised significant concerns globally, especially in the context of major elections. Instances of senior British politicians being targeted by audio deepfakes, alongside occurrences in nations like Slovakia and Argentina, have underscored the potential threats posed by AI-generated fakes to the integrity of electoral processes.

In the United Kingdom, the National Cyber Security Centre has issued warnings regarding the risks posed by AI-generated fakes to the upcoming elections, emphasizing the need for vigilance and regulatory measures to safeguard the democratic process.

Grocery Prices Surge 30% in Four Years: Consumers Bear the Brunt of Industry’s Profit Drive

The cost of groceries has surged by 30% over the past four years, marking a significant departure from the industry’s foundational aim of providing affordable and abundant food supplies post-World War II. The pandemic-induced disruptions in supply chains have been exploited by the grocery sector to inflate prices substantially, yielding substantial profits despite selling less food. This trend not only burdens consumers’ budgets but also underscores ongoing policy shortcomings within the Biden Administration.

The U.S. grocery market, valued at $1.03 trillion, has seen prices soar nearly 30% across all categories and channels since 2019, even as unit volumes remain stagnant. This translates to consumers spending more while obtaining fewer goods. Corporate dominance in various grocery segments, particularly by a select few consumer packaged goods (CPG) giants, accentuates the market’s lack of competition.

Soft drinks exemplify this consolidation, with Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Keurig Dr. Pepper controlling around 90% of the market. Despite a 2% decline in unit volumes, soda sales surged by 56%, with prices spiking by 59%. Pepsico, for instance, witnessed a 21% surge in operating profit, primarily driven by consecutive double-digit price hikes over two years.

Similarly, Kraft Heinz, commanding 65% of the packaged cheese market, prioritizes profitability over volume, leading to a 21% price hike despite a mere 6% increase in unit volumes. Chocolate candy sales soared by 34%, accompanied by a 46% price surge, largely dictated by the top three companies—Hershey’s, Mondelez, and Mars—controlling over 80% of the market.

The trend extends to beef, where unit volumes plummeted by 14%, while prices skyrocketed by over 50% in four years, enabling major meat processors like Tyson Foods to double profits through strategic pricing actions.

In the diaper market, unit volumes dropped by 11.7%, yet prices surged by 38%, exceeding $13 per pack, as industry giants like Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly Clark monopolize 70% of the sector.

Further analysis of NIQ data unveils a consistent pattern: processed commodities experience sharper price hikes than their base ingredients. For instance, milk prices surged by 23.8% with a 5.8% decline in unit volumes, while yogurt prices soared by over 47% despite a 10% drop in volumes.

Shrinkflation, a practice of reducing pack sizes while maintaining prices, further exacerbates consumer woes, affecting various categories like household paper products, salty snacks, and cleaning products.

Experts attribute much of this pricing surge to sellers’ inflation, driven by supply shocks that enable tacit collusion among corporations to hike prices and maximize profits.

While conventional wisdom often blames labor costs and consumer demand for inflation, the math doesn’t align. Corporate profits have soared to historic highs, while workers’ share of national income has dwindled. Labor shortages, although garnering media attention, have minimal impact on grocery prices.

Despite widespread consumer outcry and economic strain, initiatives to address corporate price gouging remain limited. However, opportunities abound for regulatory intervention, including summoning food executives to Capitol Hill, scrutinizing anti-competitive practices, and potentially implementing price controls to ensure affordability.

Failure to seize these opportunities could perpetuate high prices, exacerbating food insecurity and economic hardship for millions of Americans. As such, the era of cheap food appears to be nearing its end unless significant policy changes are enacted promptly.

Federal Appeals Panel Rules Trump Can Face Trial for 2020 Election Plot: Rejects Immunity Claim

A federal appeals court panel declared on Tuesday that there is no legal shield preventing former President Donald Trump from standing trial over allegations that he conspired to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. This ruling forcefully rebuffed Trump’s claims of immunity from prosecution and reignited a pivotal legal battle that had been stalled for weeks pending the appeal’s resolution.

The court’s decision carries significant weight not only because it dismantles Trump’s unconventional immunity argument but also because it revives a high-profile prosecution that had been effectively halted during the appeal process. However, the one-month gap between the oral arguments and the issuance of the ruling has introduced uncertainty regarding the trial’s scheduling in an already crowded election year calendar. The initial trial date set for March 4th was canceled last week by the overseeing judge due to this uncertainty.

Trump’s legal team has vowed to continue the fight, signaling their intent to appeal the ruling, a move that could potentially prolong the legal proceedings by weeks or even months, especially if the case reaches the Supreme Court. The appeals panel, comprising two judges appointed by President Joe Biden and one by a Republican president, granted Trump a week to petition the Supreme Court for intervention.

The timing of the trial holds significant political implications, with special counsel Jack Smith aiming to proceed with prosecution this year, while Trump, as a leading contender for the Republican nomination, seeks to postpone the trial until after the November elections. If Trump were to win, he might exploit his executive powers to influence the case’s outcome, either by directing a new attorney general to dismiss the charges or by seeking a self-pardon.

This unanimous ruling marks the second instance since December in which judges have affirmed Trump’s liability for actions taken during his presidency and in the lead-up to the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot. The court’s opinion unequivocally rejects Trump’s assertion of absolute immunity for official actions, stating, “For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant.”

The judges emphasized the importance of holding individuals accountable for criminal conduct, dismissing the notion that a president possesses unchecked authority to flout election outcomes or infringe upon citizens’ voting rights. They firmly stated, “We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”

In response to the ruling, a spokesperson for Trump affirmed his intention to appeal, citing the necessity of preserving the integrity of the presidency and the Constitution. Trump himself reiterated his stance on Truth Social, asserting that presidential immunity is essential for effective governance.

The legal battle over Trump’s immunity came to the forefront in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after the Supreme Court declined to intervene in December. The absence of a definitive timeline for the Supreme Court’s action leaves the trial proceedings in limbo. If the Supreme Court rejects Trump’s appeal, the trial could resume under the jurisdiction of U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

However, if the Supreme Court grants Trump’s appeal, the length of the trial’s delay would hinge on the court’s established timetable. Trump’s legal team has argued for extending the immunity from civil to criminal liability for official acts, maintaining that Trump’s contested actions were within the bounds of his presidential duties.

Conversely, Smith’s team contends that such immunity does not exist constitutionally and that Trump’s actions were outside the scope of his official responsibilities. Judge Chutkan had previously dismissed Trump’s claims of immunity, stating that the presidency does not grant lifelong immunity from legal accountability.

During the appellate court proceedings, the judges displayed skepticism towards Trump’s arguments, posing hypothetical scenarios to challenge the validity of his immunity claims. Trump’s lawyer asserted that a president could be prosecuted only after impeachment and conviction by Congress, aligning with their argument that impeachment acquittals shield ex-presidents from prosecution.

Beyond the Washington case, Trump faces legal challenges in Florida, Georgia, and New York, including federal charges related to classified documents and state-level accusations concerning election interference and hush money payments. Despite his denials of wrongdoing, these legal battles loom large as Trump continues his political ambitions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Biden Triumphs in South Carolina Democratic Primary, Solidifies Support Among Black Voters

President Joe Biden secured a solid victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary, reaffirming his strong support among the state’s voters. This win holds significant symbolism as it mirrors his previous triumph in the state during the 2020 primaries, which revitalized his then-struggling campaign. Biden’s success in South Carolina underscores the importance of the state as a crucial battleground for mobilizing Black voters, a key demographic pivotal to his electoral strategy.

“In 2020, it was the voters of South Carolina who proved the pundits wrong, breathed new life into our campaign, and set us on the path to winning the presidency,” Biden emphasized in a statement, expressing gratitude for the continued support. He further asserted his confidence in reclaiming the presidency, framing the upcoming election as another opportunity to defeat former President Donald Trump.

The Associated Press officially declared Biden’s victory, highlighting his decisive lead across key locations in the state. This win not only secures South Carolina’s 55 Democratic delegates but also serves as a testament to the effectiveness of Biden’s reelection campaign’s efforts to engage and mobilize voters.

Biden’s strategic focus on South Carolina is evident in his advocacy for a revamped primary calendar, aimed at prioritizing states with greater racial diversity. This move reflects a broader push within the Democratic National Committee to address concerns about the lack of diversity in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The significance of South Carolina’s primary is underscored by its substantial Black population, comprising 26% of the state’s residents. Black voters played a crucial role in Biden’s 2020 victory, with overwhelming support contributing to his nomination and eventual election as president.

Biden’s longstanding relationships within South Carolina, coupled with the endorsement of influential figures like Rep. Jim Clyburn, have solidified his position within the state’s political landscape. Clyburn’s continued support underscores Biden’s resonance with Black voters and his commitment to advancing their interests.

Throughout his presidency, Biden has consistently expressed gratitude to South Carolina’s Democratic voters for their unwavering support. His acknowledgment of their pivotal role in his political journey reinforces the significance of the state within the broader Democratic Party.

Campaigning in South Carolina, Biden emphasized the state’s critical role in shaping the outcome of the 2020 election, framing it as instrumental in defeating Trump. This narrative reflects the president’s confidence in his ability to secure victory once again, positioning himself as the strongest contender against the GOP’s current frontrunner.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, a South Carolina native, hailed Biden’s decision to prioritize the state’s primary, recognizing its historical significance. Harrison emphasized the importance of representation and inclusivity in the electoral process, applauding Biden for acknowledging and addressing these concerns.

Black voters in South Carolina cited various reasons for their continued support for Biden, ranging from his administration’s defense of abortion rights to his commitment to diversity in judicial appointments. Concerns about the age of both Biden and Trump were also acknowledged, yet many voters expressed a preference for Biden based on his policies and leadership qualities.

Despite concerns about age and readiness, Biden’s track record and policy positions resonated strongly with voters, positioning him as the preferred choice over his opponent. This sentiment reflects a broader confidence in Biden’s ability to lead and navigate the challenges facing the nation.

Biden’s victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary reaffirms his strong support among Black voters and underscores the state’s pivotal role in shaping the outcome of the upcoming election. His strategic focus on engaging diverse communities highlights a commitment to inclusivity and representation within the Democratic Party.

US and UK Conduct Joint Strikes on Houthi Targets in Yemen, Escalating Regional Tensions

The United States and the United Kingdom have executed strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen utilizing aerial and surface platforms, including fighter jets, backed by several other nations. According to two US officials, a minimum of 30 targets were hit across at least 10 locations.

The targeted sites encompassed command and control infrastructure, an underground depot for storing weapons, and other armaments utilized by the Houthis to threaten international shipping routes, as stated by an official.

The coalition, comprising the US, UK, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea while issuing a warning to the Houthi leadership regarding their actions. The statement emphasized their determination to safeguard lives and ensure the unhindered flow of commerce through one of the world’s vital waterways.

In the operation against Houthi targets in Yemen, two US destroyers, the USS Gravely and USS Carney, fired Tomahawk missiles, serving as a component of the offensive, as per a US official. Additionally, F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier were engaged in the strikes.

Preceding these strikes, the US intercepted six Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles before they could be launched towards the Red Sea, as confirmed by US Central Command.

These successive strikes come in response to a drone attack that claimed the lives of three US service members and injured many more, prompting the Biden administration to adopt a nuanced approach. Instead of targeting Iran directly, the US is focusing on influential proxies supported by Tehran, signaling a message to Iran’s leadership through indirect means.

While the strikes in Yemen are distinct from those in Iraq and Syria, both operations target Iranian-backed groups in the Middle East. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asserted that the recent strikes aim to disrupt and degrade the capabilities of the Houthi militia, emphasizing a collective resolve to impose consequences if the Houthi attacks on international shipping and naval vessels persist.

President Joe Biden authorized Saturday’s strikes earlier in the week, emphasizing that they are a direct response to Houthi actions and not indicative of a desire for escalation.

Mohammed Al Bukhaiti, a prominent figure in the Houthi Political Council, reiterated the group’s determination in the face of coalition strikes, emphasizing their commitment to ongoing military operations against Israel until certain conditions are met.

Separately, the US conducted unilateral strikes against sites in Syria and Iraq, hitting over 85 targets, including command centers and weapons facilities. While the administration deemed these strikes successful, it pledged further action against Iranian-backed groups in the region.

Austin characterized Friday’s strikes as the beginning of a broader response, without specifying the timeline for subsequent actions.

Approximately 24 hours after the initial strikes in Iraq and Syria, the US carried out additional strikes in Yemen. These strikes mark the third instance in recent weeks of joint US-UK operations targeting Houthi sites. In previous rounds, the coalition targeted weapons storage facilities and radar sites to impede Houthi attacks on critical waterways.

Despite these efforts, the Houthis have remained resolute, expressing defiance towards the US and UK, reaffirming their determination to confront what they perceive as aggression.

In addition to major strikes, the US has undertaken smaller-scale operations targeting Houthi drones. Recent actions included intercepting drones deemed an imminent threat to shipping lanes and US warships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Polls Signal Peril for Trump: Conviction Could Cost Him 2024 Election, Survey Shows

Former President Trump has managed to sidestep numerous controversies that might have been detrimental to other political candidates. However, recent developments suggest that he may not be entirely impervious to the consequences of his actions, especially in the eyes of voters.

A new survey, released by Bloomberg and Morning Consult, indicates that the outcome of the four criminal trials Trump is currently embroiled in could dramatically influence his political future. According to the poll, a significant majority of voters in crucial swing states would be disinclined to support Trump if he were to be convicted of a criminal offense or sentenced to prison.

The poll, conducted in seven pivotal states including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, revealed that a conviction could sway the decisions of a substantial portion of voters, potentially impacting the outcome of the election. GOP strategist Doug Heye emphasized the significance of this, noting that a conviction could serve as a decisive factor in an election where either Trump or President Biden could emerge victorious.

The survey also highlighted a noteworthy shift among Trump’s own voter base. Approximately 20 percent of voters in the surveyed states who had previously supported Trump expressed reluctance to vote for him again if he were to face conviction. GOP strategist Dan Judy commented on this trend, suggesting that while Trump might still retain a significant portion of Republican support, any erosion of this base could significantly impact the election outcome.

However, it remains uncertain whether the polling figures accurately reflect potential outcomes in a general election. At present, in the absence of any criminal convictions, Trump maintains a lead of six points among registered voters in battleground states, as indicated by the Bloomberg poll.

Historically, dissatisfied voters have sometimes compromised their reservations and supported candidates who align most closely with their beliefs, regardless of misgivings. For instance, in 2016, despite controversies such as the release of the Access Hollywood tape, Trump managed to secure victory with the backing of his party faithful.

Despite facing four indictments comprising a total of 91 criminal charges last year, Trump’s grip on the Republican nomination appeared to strengthen, with his supporters rallying around him amidst allegations of unfair targeting.

While Trump has emerged victorious in the initial contests of this year’s primary process, a significant disparity exists between the sentiments of the GOP electorate and the broader public. A recent Economist/YouGov poll revealed that while Trump enjoys favorable ratings from 79 percent of Republicans, only 40 percent of the general public view him favorably.

Moreover, Trump faces relentless attacks from the Biden campaign and its supporters, who argue that his reelection would jeopardize democracy itself. Trump maintains his innocence regarding all charges against him, while his legal team continues to seek delays in proceedings.

Currently, Trump faces impending trials in New York, Georgia, and federal courts, with charges ranging from hush money payments to alleged conspiracies to overturn the 2020 election. The timing of these trials presents a challenge, particularly as Trump seeks to secure the GOP nomination and mount a reelection campaign.

Should Trump emerge victorious in the GOP primary cycle, he would be officially nominated at the Republican National Convention in mid-July. However, the possibility of a federal trial relating to events surrounding the 2020 election looms, pending court decisions regarding presidential immunity from prosecution.

Aside from the question of guilt or acquittal, Trump faces the practical dilemma of allocating his time between campaign efforts and legal defense. GOP strategist Dan Judy noted the inherent challenge in balancing these priorities, emphasizing the importance of time as a candidate’s most valuable resource.

Nonetheless, predicting Trump’s future remains uncertain, as his political trajectory has defied conventional wisdom time and again. Despite skepticism, observers acknowledge the absence of historical precedent to guide assessments of Trump’s prospects.

“In many ways, predicting Trump’s fate has been a futile endeavor,” Judy conceded. “There’s no precedent to rely on here, no past events to draw parallels from. It’s impossible to say for certain what lies ahead.”

US Approves $4 Billion Sale of Drones to India Amidst Allegations, Strengthening Military Ties in Face of China

The United States gave its approval on Thursday for a significant $4 billion transaction involving cutting-edge drones destined for India, a move aimed at bolstering India’s military capabilities vis-à-vis China. This approval comes after a delay attributed to an alleged plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader on US soil.

This sale signifies a notable shift in India’s procurement strategy from its traditional reliance on Russian arms, which have increasingly faced scrutiny due to sanctions stemming from Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The discussions regarding the drones began during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit last year, at the invitation of President Joe Biden. These talks gained urgency against the backdrop of skirmishes between India and both China and Pakistan.

Following extensive deliberations with US lawmakers and Indian authorities, the State Department formally notified Congress about the sale, comprising 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardians, the most advanced variant of General Atomics’ Predator drones.

According to a statement from the State Department, “The proposed sale will improve India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation.” It further asserted, “India has demonstrated a commitment to modernizing its military and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

While India has historically enjoyed bipartisan support in the US Congress, the sale encountered a setback following allegations by US prosecutors of a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader with US citizenship on American soil. The Justice Department went as far as to allege remote direction of the plan by an Indian government official.

India responded to these allegations with a more measured approach compared to its vehement reaction to similar accusations by Canada in the past. However, some US lawmakers questioned the seriousness with which both the Modi government and the Biden administration addressed these allegations, leading to a temporary halt in the informal approval of the sale.

Despite this, observers anticipate that Congress will not obstruct the sale within the 30-day window it has to do so. Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute, commented, “The notification gets the sale back on track, but it could still encounter some choppy seas in Congress. The assassination allegations against India continue to cast a shadow over US-India relations.” He added, “Strategic imperatives tend to carry the day in this partnership, and that will likely ensure the sale eventually goes through, but one can’t rule out the possibility of some hiccups during the finalization process.”

Regarding the approval process, Randhir Jaiswal, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, stated that the United States was following its “internal processes,” refraining from further elaboration.

The drones in question, Sea Guardians, possess the capability to monitor seas, submarines, and remain airborne for up to 35 hours, equipped to fire Hellfire missiles and carry approximately 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) of bombs.

India’s navy has been operating two Predator drones on lease, utilizing them to monitor the Arabian Sea, safeguarding ships from potential threats posed by Yemen’s Huthi rebels and Somali pirates.

In 2019, India made headlines by conducting airstrikes in Pakistani airspace, marking a departure from past precedents. Additionally, tensions along the Himalayan frontier between India and China, the two most populous nations globally, have been escalating, highlighted by a deadly clash in 2020 that claimed the lives of 20 Indian troops and at least four Chinese soldiers.

Despite concerns expressed by some US lawmakers regarding Modi’s human rights record, US policymakers generally view India as a strategic partner due to shared apprehensions about China.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Economy Surges Ahead While China Falters: Expert Insights and Corporate Shakeups Dominate Headlines

The United States economy is surpassing expectations, with markets soaring and inflation inching closer to the Federal Reserve’s target of 2%. There’s optimism for a soft landing, a scenario where inflation is controlled, and recession is avoided. On the flip side, China is facing economic challenges: markets are sluggish, consumer confidence is waning, growth is slowing, and there’s a demographic decline. Evergrande’s winding-up, mandated by a court, adds uncertainty to China’s real estate crisis.

In light of these economic dynamics, questions arise about the relationship between the world’s two largest economies. Eswar Prasad, a trade policy professor at Cornell University and former head of the IMF’s China division, sheds light on the matter.

Prasad observes the US solidifying its global growth leadership while other nations struggle. He attributes this to the US economy’s resilience compared to China’s, which grapples with labor force decline, a faltering property market, and dwindling confidence in governmental policies.

Regarding US-China tensions, Prasad suggests China’s weak economy fuels its desire to ease trade tensions with the US, especially with the approaching US election season and escalating anti-China rhetoric.

Investors monitoring China should note the government’s efforts to stimulate the economy through increased spending, interest rate cuts, and market interventions. However, these measures have limited efficacy in addressing fundamental issues like low consumer and business confidence.

Transition planning at JPMorgan Chase, led by CEO Jamie Dimon, is in the spotlight. With Dimon nearing 68, speculation mounts about his successor. Marianne Lake’s appointment as the sole CEO of the consumer division, alongside Jennifer Piepszak’s new role leading the commercial and investment bank, signals a potential leadership shift.

Dimon, an influential figure in global banking, has expressed contentment in his current role but hasn’t ruled out a future in politics, citing his love for the country.

In a concerning revelation, it’sdisclosed that the NSA has been purchasing Americans’ web browsing data from commercial brokers without warrants. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden revealed unclassified documents confirming these transactions, highlighting the routine acquisition of sensitive citizen information by government agencies.

These disclosures coincide with fears of foreign governments engaging in similar data purchases, prompting the Biden administration to consider measures to safeguard US citizens’ personal data from foreign exploitation.

https://edition.cnn.com/2024/01/29/investing/premarket-stocks-trading/index.html

ICJ Directive Puts Pressure on Israel: U.S. Support Tested Amid Calls for Gaza Ceasefire

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued a directive to Israel, compelling it to enhance its protection of civilians within the Gaza Strip amidst its conflict with Hamas. The court has granted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administration a one-month window to furnish a comprehensive plan in response to this mandate.

This deadline presents a significant challenge to President Biden’s backing of Israel’s offensive, especially in light of escalating global pressure for a cessation of hostilities. The United States has been a vocal advocate for respecting decisions emanating from international judicial bodies, adding weight to the ICJ’s verdict.

Stephen Rapp, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, emphasized the significance of this decision for Israel, stressing that compliance holds substantial consequences in international relations. He noted that key U.S. allies would anticipate Israel’s adherence to the ICJ’s directives, cautioning that defiance could isolate the Israeli government diplomatically.

Despite South Africa’s plea for a ceasefire, which was part of its accusations against Israel presented to the ICJ, the court’s ruling did not explicitly demand one. However, South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, asserted that implementing a ceasefire is imperative to fulfill the court’s stipulations, emphasizing the need to mitigate harm to innocent civilians.

The Biden administration has expressed concerns about the humanitarian toll of the conflict, urging Israel to take greater measures to safeguard civilians. While the U.S. acknowledges Israel’s right to self-defense, it advocates for actions aimed at minimizing civilian casualties and facilitating humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The administration’s stance aligns with the ICJ’s ruling, albeit it has rebuffed efforts to impose direct action against Israel, notably at the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. favors “humanitarian pauses” over a blanket ceasefire, aiming to balance Israel’s security concerns with the urgent humanitarian needs of Gaza’s population.

Critics contend that Israel’s military operations have inflicted extensive damage, necessitating an immediate ceasefire to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. They also oppose U.S. military aid to Israel, citing the ICJ’s acknowledgment of potential violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The ICJ’s ruling has prompted reactions within the United States, with some calling for a reassessment of military aid to Israel to avoid complicity in potential violations of international law. Calls for a ceasefire have resonated among Democratic lawmakers, with proposals for increased congressional oversight on arms sales and aid to Israel gaining traction.

While the majority of Congress opposes compelling Israel into a ceasefire, there’s growing concern among Democrats regarding Israel’s conduct of the conflict. Senators are exploring avenues to enhance congressional oversight and ensure that U.S. military assistance aligns with international humanitarian standards.

The ICJ’s comprehensive ruling on the allegation of genocide against Palestinians is anticipated to unfold over several years. Proponents of Israel’s right to self-defense view the initial verdict as a cautionary signal, acknowledging the mounting concern over civilian casualties and humanitarian conditions.

Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, cautioned against complacency, emphasizing the real political implications of the international community’s concerns regarding civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Medical Experts Urge Supreme Court Action to Combat Vaccine Misinformation

Vaccines play a vital role in saving lives, preventing diseases, and easing the strain on healthcare systems. Recognizing this, various medical organizations, including the AMA, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, and American Geriatrics Society, have jointly submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Murthy v. Missouri. This document emphasizes the crucial need to counter vaccine misinformation to safeguard public health.

The brief highlights the collective experience of hundreds of thousands of medical professionals who have witnessed both the life-saving potential of vaccines and the damaging impact of misinformation. Drawing on decades of research and practice, these organizations stress the unparalleled benefits of vaccines as a cornerstone of public health.

On the legal front, Missouri and Louisiana’s attorneys general have filed suits against social media platforms, alleging coercion in censoring individuals critical of COVID-19 policies, masks, and vaccine mandates. Conversely, the Biden administration argues that its engagement with these platforms aimed to curb online misinformation, particularly by flagging content violating platform policies.

A central point of the brief is the detrimental effect of misinformation on COVID-19 vaccine uptake, which undermines the vaccines’ effectiveness in saving lives and controlling the spread of the virus. The government’s intervention, therefore, becomes imperative in combating falsehoods that endanger public health.

The brief underscores the safety of FDA-approved vaccines, emphasizing the rigorous process of clinical trials and ongoing monitoring by regulatory agencies. In contrast, it highlights baseless claims circulating widely, such as individuals becoming “magnetized” post-vaccination or being implanted with tracking microchips, which lack credible evidence.

Moreover, the decline in vaccination rates due to misinformation has led to the resurgence of diseases like measles, once on the brink of eradication. Legal proceedings surrounding the case have seen a district court ruling in July 2023 limiting governmental communication with social media companies, partially upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court’s intervention in October temporarily halted the district court order until its own ruling, expected in June.

In a related case, the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies has filed an amicus brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, urging the upholding of a permanent injunction against a 2021 Montana law barring physicians from accessing vaccination status information of employees or patients who decline to disclose it.

Trump and Biden Face Uphill Battles Beyond Primary Victories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMEC: Paving the Way for Global Prosperity through Economic Connectivity

Economic corridors are emerging as transformative agents, capable of fostering increased trade, foreign investment, and societal improvement across participating nations. The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) stands out as a beacon of economic integration, promising to revolutionize interactions among India, the Middle East, and Europe. As we delve into the details of IMEC, its potential as a catalyst for global prosperity becomes increasingly apparent.

At its core, IMEC seeks to establish a multi-modal transport network, seamlessly integrating sea and rail routes, accompanied by innovative infrastructural components like hydrogen pipelines and advanced IT connections. The corridor’s game-changing potential is highlighted by its ability to significantly reduce transit times for goods, offering a more efficient alternative to the Suez Canal and projecting a 40% reduction in transit times. This efficiency not only expedites trade but also renders it more cost-effective, setting the stage for robust economic growth and expanded trade opportunities.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s characterization of IMEC as a “game-changing investment” underscores its potential to influence not only the regions it directly connects but also the global community. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) emphasizes the establishment of a “reliable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network,” showcasing the corridor’s potential to reshape global supply chains and international trade dynamics.

European Union President Ursula von der Leyen further emphasizes the corridor’s significance, branding it the “quickest link between India, the Middle East, and Europe.” This accolade positions IMEC as a major catalyst in reducing logistical costs and streamlining trade routes.

Beyond its role in trade facilitation, IMEC holds the promise of driving industrial growth and employment in participating regions. By providing an efficient mechanism for transporting raw materials and finished goods, the corridor is poised to stimulate industrial activity, addressing prevalent employment challenges. The correlation between enhanced transportation infrastructure and economic growth suggests that IMEC’s impact on job creation and industrial development could be substantial.

IMEC’s strategic importance extends to energy security and environmental sustainability. Access to the Middle East’s abundant energy resources is enhanced, bolstering the energy security of participating nations. The corridor’s emphasis on clean energy transportation aligns with global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, presenting a model for sustainable development.

Furthermore, IMEC’s potential to attract foreign investment and strengthen diplomatic ties positions it as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, reshaping global trade dynamics and reducing dependency on traditional maritime routes. The corridor’s focus on cultural integration fosters connections among diverse cultures and civilizations, contributing to enhanced regional connectivity and peace.

IMEC is evidence of India’s strategic realignment towards the Middle East, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCCs), under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership. This evolving relationship encompasses security cooperation, cultural ties, and technological exchanges, transcending a simplistic framework of oil trade and market access.

In the context of a shifting global landscape, IMEC represents a transition from a unipolar or bipolar world to a more multipolar system. By knitting together diverse economic, cultural, and political strengths, the corridor contributes to a balanced and resilient global system.

However, the success of IMEC is contingent upon the geopolitical stability of the Middle East. The region’s historical political unrest underscores the global necessity for peace in the Middle East. A stable Middle East is vital for ensuring secure trade routes, reliable energy resources, and unhindered knowledge and people exchange. It creates an environment conducive to the economic and technological collaborations envisioned by IMEC and contributes to global economic stability.

In conclusion, IMEC stands as a testament to the transformative power of economic connectivity, promising to shape a more prosperous and interconnected world. As leaders and nations come together to support this initiative, the potential for IMEC to catalyze global prosperity becomes increasingly tangible, fostering a future of shared economic growth, cultural integration, and geopolitical stability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White House Proposes Overdraft Fee Reduction to Alleviate Financial Strain on Consumers

The White House has unveiled a proposal aimed at significantly lowering the cost of overdrawing a bank account, potentially reducing it to as little as $3. This move, announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is part of the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to tackle what it perceives as excessive fees burdening American consumers, especially those living paycheck to paycheck.

President Joe Biden expressed his concerns, stating, “For too long, some banks have charged exorbitant overdraft fees — sometimes $30 or more — that often hit the most vulnerable Americans the hardest, all while banks pad their bottom lines. Banks call it a service — I call it exploitation.”

The proposed rule from the CFPB suggests that banks should only charge customers an amount equal to their cost of providing overdraft services. This would necessitate banks to disclose the operational costs associated with their overdraft services, a requirement that many financial institutions may find challenging.

Alternatively, banks could opt for a benchmark fee applicable across all affected financial institutions. The proposed benchmark fees range from $3 to $14, with the CFPB seeking industry and public input to determine the most suitable amount. The suggested figures are derived from an analysis of the costs incurred by banks in recovering losses from accounts with negative balances that were never repaid.

Another option presented in the proposal is for banks to offer small lines of credit, functioning similarly to credit cards, to allow customers to overdraft. Some banks, such as Truist Bank, already provide such services.

The average overdraft fee, according to Bankrate’s research in August, was $26.61, with certain banks charging as much as $39. Despite various changes made by banks in recent years, the largest banks in the nation still generate around $8 billion annually from overdraft fees, disproportionately impacting low-income households and communities of color.

President Biden, in line with his economic agenda leading into the 2024 election, aims to eliminate what he terms as “junk fees,” with overdraft fees being a major focus. The regulations proposed by the CFPB would exclusively apply to banks with assets exceeding $10 billion, approximately 175 banks that constitute the majority of financial institutions Americans engage with. Smaller banks and credit unions, which often rely more heavily on overdraft fees, would be exempt.

The roots of overdraft services trace back to decades ago when banks initially offered a niche service to allow certain checking account customers to go negative to avoid bouncing paper checks. However, with the surge in popularity of debit cards, overdraft fees became a substantial profit center for banks.

Despite industry changes in response to public and political pressure, the proposed regulations are expected to face strong opposition from the banking sector. The regulations could potentially lead to a prolonged legal battle, with the Supreme Court being the final arbiter. If adopted and successfully navigates political and legal challenges, the new rules are anticipated to take effect in the autumn of 2025.

Acknowledging industry concerns, Lindsey Johnson, President and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, warned that the proposal might have unintended consequences, stating, “If enacted, this proposal could deprive millions of Americans of a deeply valued emergency safety net while simultaneously pushing more consumers out of the banking system.”

Despite some banks having introduced measures like reducing fees and adding safeguards to prevent overdrafts, concerns persist that increased regulations might prompt banks to eliminate the service altogether. The fate of the proposal will likely have significant implications for both consumers and the banking industry, setting the stage for a contentious debate on financial regulations and consumer protection.

Experts Call for Congressional Hearing on State Department’s Exclusion of Nigeria and India from Religious Freedom Violations List

A coalition of international religious freedom experts is urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to testify before a congressional hearing regarding the exclusion of Nigeria and India from a list of nations with severe violations of religious freedom. The group, comprising more than 40 religious freedom experts and organizations, sent a letter on Wednesday, expressing concern over the omission of these countries despite alarming instances of religious violence and persecution.

The letter, initially obtained by The Daily Signal, emphasizes the urgent need for accountability and transparency in the decision-making process. The experts cited significant data, stating that since 2009, over 50,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria, with 18,000 churches and 2,500 Christian schools attacked. In the case of India, they reported that between May of the previous year and the present, 200 to 400 churches and 3,500 Christian homes have been targeted.

In the letter, the religious freedom advocates declared their support for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and its call for a congressional hearing into the State Department’s exclusion of Nigeria and India from the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list.

“Nigeria and India have been rocked by alarming instances of religious violence and persecution,” the letter states. “Pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act, both countries meet the statutory definition of ‘engaging in or tolerating particularly severe violations of religious freedom’ to be designated as CPC. They should be designated as such.”

The designation of a “Country of Particular Concern” is made by the secretary of state if a nation is found to be involved in severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. Under the administration of former President Donald Trump, Nigeria was designated as a CPC, but the Biden administration subsequently removed that designation, and the reasons for this decision remain unclear.

The experts stress the importance of the United States taking an active role in addressing these issues and ensuring that the principles of religious freedom are upheld globally. They call for hearings by both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to thoroughly examine the rationale behind excluding Nigeria and India from the CPC list.

“Accountability and transparency are essential to understanding the State Department’s rationale for declining to designate Nigeria and India as CPCs,” the letter continues. “We urge the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to convene hearings to thoroughly examine the reasons behind the exclusion of Nigeria and India from the CPC list. Secretary of State Antony Blinken must answer to Congress and the American people.”

Prominent signatories of the letter include McKenna Wendt from the International Christian Concern, former Representatives Frank Wolf of Virginia and Dan Burton of Indiana, Nadine Maenza, President of the International Religious Freedom Secretariat, Lela Gilbert from the Family Research Council, and William Murray, Chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition, among others.

Despite the request for comment, the State Department has not responded to inquiries from The Daily Signal at this time. The urgency and gravity of the situation, as highlighted by the religious freedom experts, underscore the need for a thorough examination of the decision-making process and a clear understanding of why Nigeria and India were excluded from the CPC list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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