Crime and Punishment in Syria

US President Donald Trump has jumped the gun for no justifiable reason. He ordered bombardment of Syrian airbase without waiting to confirm if chemical weapons were really used on Syrian civilians by Assad Government. Assad has no reason to kill his own citizens when everything is going well for him in the protracted civil war.
Photo Credit: Institute for the Study of War, LiveUAMap

Vithal Rajan

When a dastardly crime is committed, criminal investigation procedures demand there should be a primary focus on who has the motive, and then on who has the opportunity to commit the crime. Responsible agencies are not expected to jump to conclusions.

So, it was surprising that at an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday, April 5th,  Nikki Hayes, American ambassador to the UN, held up photos of children dying of sarin gas poisoning in Idlib, a rebel-held stronghold in north Syria, and blamed Syrian President Assad for bombing them to their agonizing death on Tuesday, April 4th morning. However, Kim Wan-Soo, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, could only say ‘the means of delivery of the alleged attack cannot be definitively confirmed, at this stage.’ The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] was also still in the process of gathering and analyzing data and could confirm nothing. Nikki Hayes was not deterred. ‘When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,’ she said. ‘For the sake of the victims, I hope the rest of the council is finally willing to do the same.’

Acting like a chorus, all the Western powers, including faraway Australia, were unanimous in their conviction that Assad ‘had done it’ and they all applauded when President Trump, with lightning speed launched 69 cruise missiles against the Syrian government’s airbase at Homs on Friday April 7th morning. The American government is now directly involved in the ‘internal conflict’ between Assad’s Syrian government and so-called rebels, who are also mixed up with Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

But the mystery remains. A former head of the criminal law division of the Pentagon, Republican Senator from Virginia, Richard Black, cannot understand why Assad would ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,’ by sarin bombing civilians when everything was going his way. Chemical weapons experts say that sarin or chlorine gas can be used effectively only from the ground and not by aerial bombardment because of dispersal effects.  Senator Black suggests that ISIS was the perpetrator. ‘Only way ISIS can defeat Pres. Assad is to draw U.S. into the war. What better way than stage an attack on women and children? Why would we take the word of terrorists about the gas attack when killing innocent civilians is what they engage in, not President Assad.’

The mystery deepens further. For the last few years Trump has spoken out against American involvement in Syria. Even very recently he said that regime change in Syria was not a priority for his regime. Daryll Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association in Washington, says he is stunned that Trump changed his views on Syria in such a short time. He adds, ‘It’s not clear from the statements I have read, from the President or the Pentagon, what the purpose of the attack was. There’s a risk of escalation. The expectation of further punitive military strikes will still be there, on Trump.’

Aleksei Pushkov, communications spokesperson for the Russian Duma [parliament] cautiously criticizes the uniform Western response calling for the ouster of Assad, and adds that what surprises him is the rapid military response, almost as if there was foreknowledge of the sarin attack to come. For time voices within the American administration had been asking for such an attack . Hillary Clinton in a televised interview had demanded the bombing of Assad’s airbase at Homs as a way of strengthening the hands of the ‘rebels.’

The handlers of President Trump have made him come around to their point of view in very quick time, just as they had handled Nobel Peace Prize Winner, President Obama. He and Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, had presided over the destruction of Libya and the murder of Gaddafi. They had recorded an arms sales high of $ 278 billion, more than double that of the Bush regime. A major buyer had been Saudi Arabia, controlled by the Wahhabi cult, which has its own agenda of toppling the Shia-led Assad government in Syria, and its form of religious tolerance towards Christians and others.

If it seems very unlikely that Assad had any motive to sarin bomb his civilians, and the al-Qaeda-ISIS rebels had a much clear motive to do so, there is still confusion as to who had the weapon. However, it must be noted that as early as June 2013, ‘it was widely reported,’ according to Richard Black, ‘that Turkish border agents had arrested al Qaeda soldiers crossing from Turkey into Syria carrying 2.2 kg of Sarin poison gas.’ A sarin gas attack happened soon after near Damascus for which Assad had been blamed by Western powers. Following a huge uproar, Russia had brokered an internationally monitored deal, by which over a thousand tonnes of all chemical material that could make the poison gas were removed from Syria. However, in 2015, Turkish members of Parliament, Eren Erdem and Ali Seker blamed the Turkish authorities for supplying the gas to Syrian rebels, and were arrested for their pains. Their report was corroborated by Pulitzer prize winner and investigative journalist par excellence, Seymour Hersh in his article ‘The Red Line and the Rat line,’ in The London Review of Books, of 17 April 2014. Assad’s government continues to maintain that it does not have gas, and is innocent of any attack.

Why then are the Western powers, led by America, so certain that Assad is the culprit? Criminal investigation experts inform us that all criminals have a distinctive modus operandi, a criminal signature, by which their agency is recognized. Just as Nikki Haley held up a photo of children dying of gas attack to initial America’s direct military engagement in Syria, way back in 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell held up a tube of anthrax in the Security Council meeting to assert Saddam Hussain had weapons of mass destruction. After the destruction of Iraq, no such weapons were found. Even further back, in August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson blamed North Vietnam for launching torpedo boat attacks against the USS Maddox in what came to be known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It is now accepted that this was a false accusation, but it was used to pull America into direct war with North Vietnam.  That terrible war was fought by America to contain China. Why does America want to destroy Assad’s government in Syria?

In August 1953, the Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mossadeq, a popular and secular leader, was toppled by the CIA, and power was restored to the Shah of Iran, to ensure that Iranian oil remained under Western control. Since that time, American policy in the Middle East has been dictated by the interests of American corporates to retain full control over the energy resources of the region. Hawks and doves, Presidents Bush and Obama, have been relentless in destroying comparatively progressive regimes as existed in Iraq and Libya, and supporting not only the regressive Saudi regime, but they have studiously cultivated, financed and armed terrorist fundamentalists such as the Mujaheedin and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and later, more covertly al-Qaeda and the ISIS. To close the ring round Middle Eastern oil, Assad must be removed and a pliant government or chaos put in place. Iran would be isolated and could be brought to heel.

Another key Western strategic aim is to keep Russia from having access to the Middle East. The Crimean War of 1856 was fought precisely for the same reason, the general public gulled as usual by falsehoods into taking a jingoistic position. Senator Richard Black has exposed American falsehoods. The young and talented Tulsi Gabbard, a practicing Hindu and a Democratic Representative from Hawaii, has introduced a bill in Congress: ‘Stop Arming Terrorist Act,’ which is gathering bipartisan support from many Congressmen. Tulsi Gabbard says:

“For years, the U.S. government has been supporting armed militant groups working directly with and often under the command of terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government. Rather than spending trillions of dollars on regime change wars in the Middle East, we should be focused on defeating terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, and using our resources to invest in rebuilding our communities here at home.”

 “The fact that American taxpayer dollars are being used to strengthen the very terrorist groups we should be focused on defeating should alarm every Member of Congress and every American.  We call on our colleagues and the Administration to join us in passing this legislation.”

If this sounds like a Hollywood-scripted conspiracy theory, it is worth quoting William Blum, who wrote in the authoritative Foreign Policy Journal, of Jan 10, 2014:

And let me tell you about American leaders. In power, they don’t think the way you and I do. They don’t feel the way you and I do….It would, moreover, be difficult to name a single brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population. And in recent years as well, Washington has supported very repressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.

Not exactly the grand savior our sad old world is yearning for. (Oh, did I mention that Washington’s policies create a never-ending supply of terrorists?) And what do American leaders think of their own record? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably speaking for the whole private club when she wrote that in the pursuit of its national security the United States no longer needed to be guided by “notions of international law and norms” or “institutions like the United Nations” because America was “on the right side of history.”

For ‘American national security’ one can read ‘the interests of corporates’ who control the American administration. As a foot-note, it might interest Indian readers to know that  sarin gas, the usage of which in Syria could lead the world into another large-scale war, is closely related to chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate, first developed by Nazi scientists, and now a lethal element in pesticides, which has been banned in America since 2000, but is easily available in India as Dursban marketed by Dow Chemicals. In 2003, The Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi,  found traces of Dursban in India manufactured Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola, well above acceptable norms.

(The writer is a reputed thinker and humanist who lives at Ketti, The Nilgiris)

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Trump Fires FBI Director James Comey

President Donald Trump fired the FBI Director James Comey over the handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigations. But is this the real reason?
James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, arrives to testify before the Senate Intelligence Select Committee during an open hearing.

Washington, D.C.: The White House announced on Tuesday that President Donald Trump fired the FBI director James Comey, over the handling of Hillary Clinton’s email case. It has released two separate letters – one from President Donald Trump and the other from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office, the statement from the press secretary stated.

The letter also stated that Trump took the decision of firing based on the clear recommendations from both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The FBI Director James Comey has been working on the Hillary Clinton’s email case, but most importantly he has been leading the investigation on whether Trump’s team  colluded with Russians during the presidential elections.

The removal came as a shock to many experts and politicians, as it is an extraordinary decision that not every president takes, especially at a time when the FBI is working on investigations that involved the White House.

The FBI under the leadership of James Comey made a sensational decision a week before the election to reopen the Hillary Clinton’s email case. The Clinton campaign claimed that they lost election because of the reopening of the email case and blamed James Comey for his decision. Comey defended by saying that he was just following the rules.

Trump, who supported Comey’s decision at the time, has fired Comey for apparently mishandling the very same case. Experts say that it is merely a pretext to fire Comey, while the actual reason could be the FBI’s investigation into the Russian interference with the elections and collusion with Trump’s team during the elections.

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American Sikhs Welcome Order On Religious Freedom

Sikh community in the US expressed its happiness at the Executive Order granting religious freedom.

Washington: The  Sikh community in the US is happy about the executive order on religious liberty. The order only reflects the commitment of US president Donald Trump to protect religious freedom for all Americans said Jasdip Singh, a prominent member of the Sikh American community.

Alleging that certain vested sections are accusing Trump for the rise of hate crimes in the country, Singh said the motive behind their accusations are political. Further he said that, protecting religious freedom was one of the focal points of Trump’s campaign .

President Trump on Thursday signed the order on religious freedom. The order directs Treasury Department to not take ‘adverse action’ against churches or religious organisations for political speech.

Singh was only American Sikh to be invited to attend Trump’s address on the National Day of Prayer in the Rose Garden of the White House. Singh claimed that the US president is determined to unite the divided country and is against hate crime.

Observing that religious freedom is a crucial issue for the American majority, he said that it’s not the government’s job to censor what is acceptable or unacceptable speech.

“Under the first amendment, individuals do have a right to speech that the listener disagrees with and to speech that is offensive and hateful,” Singh said.

During his election campaign, Trump promised to scrap the Johnson Amendment, which bans organisations like churches that have tax exemptions from political speech and activities.

His executive order relaxes IRS enforcement of that ban.  The executive order, called “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” also gives “regulatory relief” to companies that object to an Obamacare mandate for contraception in health care.

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days Of Presidency

US President Donald Trump completes the first hundred days in office trying to deliver on election promises with little luck.

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington (DC):The US President Donald Trump waited as eagerly as the media did for his first 100th day at his office. His remarks about the milestone lately only increased its significance. For Trump, it’s the time to show his achievements, and for the media, it’s a chance to record his performance.

Trump hastily announced his tax reforms without many details only to push in one more of his promises in the final days before his hundredth day. He said he achieved a lot in his first hundred days.

“President Trump’s successes are unmatched in recent presidential history,” his tweet referred to TV Anchor Lou Dobbs’ statement.

Everyday in Trump’s presidency was eventful with one or the other controversy. As soon as he took office he began signing executive orders one after the other, sometimes in haste creating chaos and at other times facing rebuke and fierce opposition from Democrats and also from fellow Republicans. His interactions with media have become confrontational at times. Shawn Spicer, his media person, found it hard to defend Trump at the press briefings.

His gaffes dominated the discussions in the mainstream media. Experts argued that his rhetoric caused violence and encouraged racism. He slowly softened his rhetoric and started preparing for speeches, which is quite uncharacteristic of him.

Coming to his achievements, during his first hundred days at office he touched many issues, worked on a few issues, but accomplished little.

Trump has won the election promising more jobs. His slogan was “Make America Great Again.” He also promised to protect the borders, take care of the illegal immigrants, and make large tax cuts. He took the side of the workers and said, “Hire American, Buy American.”

His protectionism resulted in travel ban on a few countries, considered to be in warring zone, causing chaos among immigrants. He soon realized checks on his power, when a judge challenged his travel ban. His team reviewed and accommodated a few recommendations provided by the Circuit Court and brought out a new travel ban only to be challenged again by another judge. He accused the judge for his failure to enforce the order.

Trump wanted to build a border wall between Mexico and the United States. He said Mexico would pay for the wall. However, nothing concrete happened in his hundred days at office, so instead he turned toward Canada and NAFTA. As Gwenda Blair, professor at Columbia University, has put it — Trump has always believed in positive thinking, and he attaches himself to success and ignores or diverts others from his failures.

He also wanted to reform the immigration system to support the merit-based approach. He signed an executive order ordering the federal department to come up with proposals to reform the H1B visa, a program that allows foreign workers to temporarily work in the country.

Trump has also been unpredictable at times. Experts argued that he took decisions on fly without much thinking, planning and without a clear strategy. They questioned his strategy behind Syrian bombings, and his plan for Afghanistan.

The allegations that Russians have interfered in the elections and later reports that the Trump campaign had ties with Russia during the elections have made Trump weak early in his administration. Senators like John McCain and Lindsay Graham raised doubts about the ties and supported for a complete probe into the matter. Trump consistently denied Russian ties and blamed media for misleading Americans. However, in the midst of the allegations he had to remove his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. His administration said that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the meetings he had with Russian officials. Trump said that Flynn had done nothing wrong.

Russian ties have been his biggest challenge and how he comes out of it has to be seen.

Trump’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare along with House Speaker Paul Ryan has been unsuccessful. His own party leaders have refused to support the replacement plan to Obamacare, adding yet another failure to Trump’s list of failures.

Trump has touched many issues, but has achieved little. Having said that, a Hundred days is a short period for any presidential term to draw any kind of conclusions.

 

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A nuclear holocaust?

An American clairvoyant believes that the Third World War will begin between May 13 and October 13 this year. Horacio Villegas sees war clouds gathering around the world and warns us to be prepared for a nuclear holocaust. The major players are the US, Russia and China while North Korea and Syria are powder kegs, says the psychic in a chilling warning.

TALKING POINT

Madhusudhana Rao S

Believe it or not, the countdown for World War III has started! That’s what an American clairvoyant claims and his chilling predictions are being flashed all over the world, particularly in the social media.

The clock is ticking for the start of the Third World War, the mystic Horacio Villegas, who is said to have accurately predicted the victory of Donald Trump as US President way back in 2015, said. He told British newspaper Daily Star recently that the war would start between May 13th and October 13, 2017. The self-proclaimed ‘supernatural being’ said his calculations were based on prophesies, visions and study of the Bible.

Without mincing words, the psychic explained to the Daily Star: “On the 100th anniversary of the visitation of Our Lady of Fatima – the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus – which is May 13, the World War III will begin … Between May 13th and October 13, 2017, this war will occur and be over with much devastation, shock and death! I saw balls of fire falling from the sky and hitting the Earth in my dream (vision)”.

Interestingly, Villegas saw the spark that would trigger the WWIII. He foresaw an American attack on Syria that would suck Russia, China and North Korea into the conflict. (It’s not clear whether he was referring to Tomahawk missile strikes against Syria earlier this month).

Villegas also foresees the US attacking North Korea in the widening of the conflict. He corroborates his prophecies with those made by French clairvoyant Nostradamus in the 16th century. Nostradamus had said, “Mabus will soon die, and then will come, a horrible undoing of people and animals, at once one will see vengeance, one hundred powers, thirst, famine, when the comet will pass.”

Villegas thinks Mabus is none other than Syrian President Bashar Al Assad who will be killed in a bomb attack which in turn will worsen the war. He told the Daily Star that “devastating attacks based on false information” would occur between April 13 and May 13 on Syria and North Korea” leading to the Third World War.

Call it a coincidence or the Stars are ganging up against the human beings, Villegas’ description of D-Day scenario followed President Trump’s surprise military actions in Syria and Afghanistan.

In the past fortnight, Trump surprised the global community with Tomahawk missile strikes against Syria, followed by dropping ‘Mother of all bombs’ on Islamic State hideouts in Afghanistan and dispatched an armada to Korean waters to warn North Korea against testing a nuclear device. The triple action has the familiar ring of the shock-and-awe military strategy followed by former President George W Bush against Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in 2003.

On April 6, 2017, Trump had ordered a devastating missile strike against an air base in Syria to ‘punish’ President Bashar Al Assad for unleashing terror on his own civilian population with chemical bombs. The number of casualties, estimated in hundreds, has been disputed. In fact, Syria challenged the American claim that the government forces had used the banned chemical agents to terrorize the people and blamed the rebels for the attack.

Whoever was responsible for the heinous crime, the world condemned it and perfunctorily called for resolution of the six-year-old civil war. But the most important point strategic analysts have not missed is the direct American intervention in Syria for the first time since 2011 when people started denouncing and revolting against the Bashar regime.

Whether Trump has walked into another quagmire in Middle East with Tomahawk strikes only history could tell. But as of now, it seems the missile attack is one-off, although the proxy war is going on between Washington and the Kremlin on Syrian battlefields. Post-strike, Trump’s Syrian policy is non-committal. He merely said, he had ordered the missile strike because he was moved by the horrible images of children and women choking on poison gas. Could it be considered as a reflex action to teach a totalitarian regime a lesson or send a strong signal that the Big Brother is watching and doesn’t hesitate to step in?

Six days later, on April 13, the US dropped the ‘Mother of all Bombs,’ said to be the most powerful conventional bomb in the Super Power’s arsenal, on a cave cluster of Islamic State (ISIS) in Afghanistan. Again, it was a surprise, coming on the heels of intense Syrian strike. However, there was a difference between the two: while the Syrian missile attack was carried out on Trump’s order, the Pentagon unleashed the fury of the ‘Mother of all Bombs’ on ISIS fighters under additional powers Trump had given it to use extra fire power whenever and wherever the military deemed it necessary.

While the missile attack and the bombing mission were aimed at decapitating the Islamic fighters operating from these two countries, Trump has decided to confront another ‘rogue’ nation North Korea. On April 10, he dispatched a US Navy strike group to waters near the Korean Peninsula. Led by USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, the armada consists of two guided missile destroyers, a guided missile cruiser and an attack submarine. By any stretch of imagination, it was not a part of war preparedness, but a warning to North Korean leaders who are threatening to test a powerful nuclear device and conducted several missile tests with a warning to the US.

Pyongyang’s tactics are not new and its neighbours and allies like China are familiar with North Korean leaders’ jingoistic talk, particularly at the time of national celebrations. It’s no different this time. But what the North Korean helmsman Kim Jong-un has not realized is the man sitting in the White House is a maverick and brooks no nonsense.

Ever since North Korea has embarked upon its ambitious missile and nuclear weapons program in the 1990s, the West, led by the US, has been warning North Korea against developing ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and their launchers. Saying the interests of the US and its Asian allies like Japan and South Korea are threatened by North’s weapons program, Washington has been trying to rein in Pyongyang through UN sanctions and multi-country talks without much success. North Korea’s forte is sabre-rattling and aggressive military posturing to deter the US from initiating strong action.

In recent months, North Korea has tested many missiles –short, medium and long – and paraded them on April 15 at celebrations marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country’s founding father Kim Il Sung as a show of its military might. It is also preparing for another such celebration on April 25 to mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its military and it is expected that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would order a nuclear test to coincide with the event.

President Trump is concerned about North Korea’s ‘threats to free world” and conveyed US unease to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the latter’s American visit on April 7. US officials know, of course, that China would do nothing against North Korean interests, particularly in security and geopolitical matters.

Not surprisingly, a day after US missile strikes against Syria, North Korea had declared it would strengthen its air defences and stressed the need for nuclear weapons to protect itself against US moves towards war.

Meanwhile, both China and Russia are watching the movements of American Navy ships in Korean waters amidst reports of Trump seeking suggestions from top advisors on “removing the “threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea.”

Are war clouds gathering around the world? Villegas’ foreboding has gained traction with numerologists matching the dates of the beginning of the World War I and the US missile strike against Syria.

If we believe that history has a strange way of repeating itself, the United States plunged into WW I on April 6, 1917. Exactly a century later, the US struck Syria with missiles, an act Villegas believes would lead to WWIII.

Though there are no parallels between the circumstances prevailing at that time and now that compelled Washington to go into the first global conflict, doomsayers are quick to draw conclusions for two reasons: One, the mercurial and unpredictable behavior of President Trump. Two, his decision to strike military bases of Syrian government forces that looked like a knee-jerk reaction without thinking of the long-term consequences.

As analysts have pointed out, Trump had opposed direct American intervention in the Syrian conflict before he was elected President. None could explain why he had gone back on his earlier policy. Nevertheless, there was no applause for his derring-do either from Washington’s European allies or Arab friends in the Middle East because no leader is sure of his next move.

Whatever the consequences of his actions are, the doomsday scenario is not likely to dawn upon us in the next few months, if we go by what a Bulgarian psychic had said. Known as Baba Vanga, who died in 1996, had predicted the end of the world in 3797. Apparently, the visually impaired mystic had forecast 9/11, tsunami, emergence of ISIS, Arab Spring revolution, etc with 85 per cent accuracy.

OK. The world won’t end. But a war is still possible!

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Trump Son-In-Law To Be Questioned On Russian Ties

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington: As part of the ongoing investigation regarding the Russian intervention in the 2016 election process, the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to question Trump’s son-in-law, the White House Counsel announced.

Jared Kushner, close adviser to President Trump and Ivanka Trump’s husband, met with the Russian Ambassador Sergey.I.Kislyak in December. Later, Kushner’s deputy met with the ambassador during the presidential transition.

Kushner also met with the chief of Vneshconombank, a top bank in Russia, on which the United States imposed sanctions after Russia had occupied Crimea, and interfered in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

Kushner has agreed to appear before the committee, according to a White House spokesperson.

This is the first time that any close associate of President Trump or anyone currently working in the White House is appearing before the Senate to testify on Russian ties or any other investigations.

Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, Paul Manafort, campaign manager for Donald Trump, were also asked to appear before the Senate intelligence committee regarding the Russian investigations, but they are not currently working in the White House. Flynn resigned as security adviser for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the details of his meeting with Russian diplomats. The communication interceptions by FBI confirm talks between them about the Russian sanctions, which Flynn denied.

During the presidential transition, Kushner was acting as a conduit between the foreign governments and the Trump team, and it is not unusual for any person in that capacity to meet with world leaders and representatives.

According to the New York Times, a White House spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, confirmed that nothing of any consequence was discussed during the meetings and that they went nowhere. She said that there were no indications that these meetings were the focus of the investigations.

A probe into a possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian officials in order to manipulate the election process began this month by the FBI after the bureau had gone through some considerable evidence that suggested further investigations into the matter.

The meetings with Russian Ambassador and other diplomats during and after presidential elections have caused a headache to the Trump administration.

Earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from any inquiries related to Russian ties, as he also met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the elections.

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Major Defeat for Trump: Obamacare Repeal fails

Washington: The health care plan proposed by the Trump administration, as a replacement of Obamacare, failed in the House on March 24. President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have left no coin unturned to get the bill through the House, yet they failed to obtain 216 votes required to pass the bill.

President Trump looked frustrated in the press conference, when he said that they fell short of about 10 to 15 members. Obamacare is imploding and would soon fail, Trump said. He said he wanted a healthcare that works for all Americans.

He said all he had to do was just wait till Obamacare explodes, and then he said the Democrats would come to request him to rescue the healthcare. Now, the Democrats completely own Obamacare, Trump said.

The affordable health care act bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump administration is a three-pronged bill. Only the first part was introduced in the House. The bill aimed to repeal Obamacare and replace it.

Trump campaigned against Obamacare and its increasing premiums during elections. He promised the Americans that he would repeal the healthcare, as it was failing. However, in all practical terms the repealing proved to be more difficult than the Trump administration had imagined.

Repealing Obamacare without an immediate replacement would throw millions out of insurance. So, the administration came up with a replacement plan. Trump’s Health Secretary Tom Price and Paul Ryan have worked together on the plan. They explained it to fellow Republicans and tried to convince to pass the bill in the House. Had the bill passed, the next step would have been to move the bill to Senate for its approval, and if succeeded, then the last step of president signing the bill into law. But the bill has failed in its first phase.

The president has done everything he could, Sean Spicer said in the press conference. At the end of the day, he cannot force people to vote for him, he said.

Paul Ryan, disappointed with the results, said they couldn’t get the consensus. However, he said they would move forward and work on the other issues, such as immigration and tax reforms.

Trump had also promised massive tax cuts for the middle class during his campaign. But first Obamacare has to be repealed before implementing tax reforms, he said many times, pushing the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The government spends a lot of money toward healthcare, more than its defense. The bill proposed massive cuts in the federal payment to Medicaid, a health program for old and disabled people. All this would have provided budget for the tax reforms that Trump planed to bring after the health repeal bill.

Now that the health bill is rejected in the House, the tax reforms will have to be limited. And as per the administration, there is no plan to revise or reintroduce the health bill in the Congress in the near future.

The Trump administration will move on to other issues, such as immigration and infrastructure. And for now Obamacare will remain the law of the land.

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A Judge Challenges Trump’s New Travel Ban

Washington, D.C.: A federal judge from Hawaii on Wednesday blocked the new travel ban that President Donald Trump ordered after the Court of Ninth Circuit had blocked his original order.

Trump and his associates have framed a new travel plan after reviewing the ruling passed by the Court of Ninth Circuit, and narrowed down the new ban considerably compared to their original travel ban, including the exclusion of Iraq from the list of banned countries. The new ban was also made constitutionally strong.

Trump responded to the blocking in his speech at Nashville, Tennessee, saying that the ban is an act of “unprecedented judicial overreach.”

“I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way,” he said.

The order he blocked was water down version of the first order, Trump said. “This new order was tailored to the dictates to the ninth circuit’s, in my opinion, fraud ruling,” he said.

The US district judge Derrick Watson said his rulings apply nationwide. In his 43-page order he stated to the effect that Trump’s new executive order was intended to restrict Muslim immigration.

“The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally fraud,” he wrote.

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Trump’s Merit-Based System: Only Best on H1-B Visa

Washington, D.C.: Trump’s administration wanted to move toward merit-based immigration system to get the brightest and “the best” from all around the world, said Tom Cotton, Republican senator from Arkansas, who spoke to MSNBC on Wednesday, after his meeting with President Trump to discuss the immigration bill that he and David Purdue introduced.

The president wants to get the very best from around the world, he said.

Cotton said that often programs that include green cards (EB1, EB2) and H1B visas are not implemented in the way that is consistent with their purposes. Many Americans believe that the present immigration system has allowed many low-skilled workers that have taken away their jobs.

“They don’t bring in PHDs and computer scientists. They replace mid-level data management workers,” Cotton said, referring to the immigration staff.

President Trump expressed the same when he spoke before the Congress last week. Trump, Tom Cotton and David Purdue discussed the immigration bill that would, according to Cotton, refocus on legal immigration system on high skilled immigrants who come into the country with “English-language competency, education at higher levels and higher level of job skills” that will make them able to contribute to the economy.

Right now only one out of 15 immigrants that we get through immigration system come through such criteria, he said.

The president wants to move in the direction of, for instance Canada and Australia. “Our legislation is the first step in that,” he said.

“Additional steps are based on employment-based visas and green cards and we are going to work on that,” Cotton said.

Referring to Americans, he said people are losing their jobs in companies like Disney, Southern California and Edison, and they are being replaced by foreign workers who are not necessarily high skilled. There is no job that Americans won’t do with the right pay they do any job, he said.

“We have to focus on Americans getting back to jobs and with higher wages,” Cotton said.

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Blocking Media, A Sign Of Authoritarianism

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington (DC): At the press conference when President Donald Trump announced his labor secretary nominee, his peevish face reflected his discomfort standing in front of the media. Trump has always felt so, but regardless that day spent more than an hour with press answering questions and said that he was enjoying the session.

That day, Trump was fixated on blaming media for almost everything that went wrong in his then 3-week presidency. He was unhinged. He accused news media of being dishonest and fake. Talking about the allegations of his election campaign colluding with Russia, he said Russia is a ruse created by the media. On another topic, quitting of his secretary of state, Michael Flynn, he said media had treated him unfairly.

Then on February 17th he tweeted that fake news is the “enemy of the American people.” His attack on media cannot be dismissed as just intolerance toward the news he dislikes. It is not just the news media he is after. He also at times aimed at judiciary. He abused the judge from Washington State for temporarily stopping his executive order.

Is this how authoritarians and fascists start? Suppress judiciary and free press – the two institutions that hinder misuse of power or becoming a powerhouse–and use fear-mongering politics to suppress any other revolting forces, such as public protests? The history has given us many such authoritarians who used the same tactics to rule the roost, but no one would have imagined that such threat could pose to the world’s strongest democracy.

Strategies that work to entrench authoritarians are being followed here, and one can see that the history being repeated. However, the institutions are strong enough to withstand any such attempt, unlike many nascent democracies in the world.

Trump has given national security his top priority — safety of the Americans is his highest responsibility. Citing  the example of Chicago, he has always said the city has become dangerous. On February 23rd he tweeted as follows:

Such fear-mongering politics is a sign of authoritarianism. On February 24th, the White House has blocked a few major mainstream news agencies from entering and attending the briefing given by the press secretary. Such a step of that scale is the first in the recent history. It is a threat to democracy. After all, it is the responsibility of the press secretary to treat all the news agencies equally and address the briefings.

Such an attack on the news media is yet another sign of authoritarian regime. Interestingly, Trump is not trying to attack all of the news media. Every time he goes ballistic with media, he sites an example where he says a particular network covered his news properly, and then rants on other media outlets. It could be a way to make all of the media to fall in line. The following is one of many tweets he made accusing media:

In favor of Trump, Media has committed many mistakes in the past, and they were wrong many times. In the press conference, Trump faulted media for mistakenly reporting the absence of the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the oven office. However, such mistakes and many more shouldn’t cost the right to report news.

Even Barrack Obama had issues with FOX News and even tried to stop the network from covering the White House at one time, but he never crossed his limits to accuse and ridicule the agency openly. Obama and his press secretary had always tried to give fair chance to all the news media. Even the Fox News host Shepard Smith has agreed so, and said that CNN is not fake news.

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Trump’s National Security Advisor Resigns

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington D.C.: Michael Flynn has resigned as national security advisor amidst allegations that he had illegal discussions with Russian diplomats on US sanctions imposed on Russia by Barrack Obama as president during Trump’s transition, and that Flynn has misled the Trump’s White House, especially Vice President Mike Pence, about these discussions.

Trump has evaluated Flynn’s case, and as per the reports he had lost trust in his advisor. It’s not yet clear whether General Flynn has resigned on his own or was asked by the president to quit, but more importantly the resignation raises the question of how much does Trump know about these discussions.

“I advertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Mike Flynn apologized in a statement.

According to Kellyanne Conway, the key aid was misleading the vice president with incomplete information or inability to recall of what did or did not happen in his debriefing of his phone calls.

The White House indicated that Flynn’s resignation is because of his violation of protocol of letting his boss know about the full details of his meeting with foreign officials. This, however, doesn’t obviate the very charge on Flynn of his secret discussion with Russian Ambassador while Russia is allegedly attacking the US.

Democrats argue that Flynn’s resignation doesn’t resolve the problem of the matter. They want to know what the president knew and when.

Obama has imposed sanctions on Russia after the intelligence agencies had come forward with details on Russia’s involvement in the US elections. Russia has reacted in an unprecedented way to these sanctions denying its involvement and aspiring good relations under the new administration of Donald Trump.

The reaction has given boost to the previously raised questions on Vladimir Putin’s support and praise for Trump, and a possibility of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, prompting Democrats to ask for a serious investigation into the case.

Democrats demand an explanation from President Trump on the resignation and criticize Trump and Republicans for their silence on the Russian issue.

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Appeals Court Rules Against Trump’s Travel Ban

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington, D.C. – The court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit on Thursday ruled 3-0 against travel ban that President Donald Trump has imposed using his executive order. Reacting to the court’s decision, Trump tweeted, “See you in court, the security of the nation is at stake.”

Trump administration may take the case to the Supreme Court, as his tweet suggests. In such scenario, the court may either accept the case or send the case back to the District Court for review.

“It’s a political decision and we will see them in court, and I look forward to doing it,” said Trump to a reporter after the decision. “We’ll win the case”

When asked if he thought the judges made a political decision, Trump said, “ We have a situation where the security of our country is at stake. And it’s a very, very serious situation, so we look forward – as I just said – to seeing them in court.”

A federal judge in Washington State on February 3rd temporarily restrained nationwide the travel ban that Trump issued through his executive order, which restricted citizens from seven Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen – from entering the United States for a 90-day period.

The case went to the ninth circuit of the Appeals Court and three judges have heard the lawyers from both the Washington State and from the Trump administration. Two Republican and one Democratic former president – Barrack Obama, George Bush, and Jimmy Carter — appointed these judges. The decision was unanimous, as three judges voted against the ban.

The ban is not only unpopular among the Democrats, but also among several Republicans. The unpopularity may trouble Trump even if the case is accepted in the Supreme Court. One other possibility that Trump may go for is to cancel the current executive order on ban and order a new one that can withstand constitutionally in any court by removing some controversial elements, such as restricting green card holders from those seven countries.

But for now, the decision is a relief for all those citizens from these seven countries who want to enter the United States.

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US Indian Communities Panic Over H1B Visa Reform

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington: Chaos and confusion have donned on the Indian communities in the United States after Trump had signed the executive order on immigration banning seven Muslim countries. The communities, especially the techies, have become anxious about the possibility of Trump signing another order on H-1B visa program.

Adding to the heat, the news of a bill that was introduced in the House of Representative on January 24th by Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren regarding the amendment of H-1B and L-1 visa program made the H-1B community jittery.

President Donald Trump has promised during the election campaign that he would amend the H-1B visa – increase the minimum wage on H-1B from $60,000 to $100,000, and limit the number of visas issued annually. As he intends to fulfill his election promises one by one, the H-1B visa holders fear that he would soon get to amend the visa program. Whether Trump waits for the Congress to act upon the amendment proposal or uses his executive order is the question that is making many visa holders restless. 

The White House is already facing a lot of pressure on the executive order Trump has signed recently on immigration. The House has defended by saying that the ban is not a ban, but an improvement to the existing vetting process. At this time, will they be willing to go for another executive order that is going to impact and disrupt many lives? Only Trump and his team may have an answer to this question at this time.

However, the president may also choose to wait and support the Congress to amend the visa program and make it a law. There are already a few bills in the Congress introduced and proposed by many Congressmen.

Potential Impact Unnerves H-1B Holders

The impact on visa community depends on which path the amendments take place. If Donald Trump uses executive order, the impact is hard to imagine. Going by his election promise, the minimum wage for H1B holder would raise to $100,000.

However, if the Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017introduced by Zoe Lofgren, shapes into a law, the minimum wage rises to $130,000, which is more than double the current wage requirement to exempt from non-displacement and attestation, creating a massive impact.

According to Lofgren, any such increase in wages remove the “per country” cap for employment based immigrant visas and allows employers to seek out best around the world.

Another bill introduced by Republican representative from California Darrell Issa on January 4th, might also see light, which could amend visa program, but not as aggressively as the bill by Lofgren.

Indian IT Companies Most Affected

Indian outsourcing companies are the most affected by the potential dangers of the amendments than the technology giants, such as Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, where the wages are relatively higher than that of Indian IT companies.

Infosys, Wipro, and Tata Services, take the maximum hit by the amendments, the stocks of which have already fallen by about 9 percent. According to The Economic Times the companies are already looking at Chinese markets.

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Trump Imposes Temporary Ban on 7 Muslim Countries

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington: President Donald Trump signed executive order on Friday to temporarily ban citizens of seven Muslim nations. According to the order, the citizens of the listed countries are not allowed to enter or reenter the United States of America for at least next 90 days. Trump team, in the meantime, plans to explore strategies of how to deal with the immigrants from these countries. The order has created uncertainty and chaos among immigrant communities.

The order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into United States” has included Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and Libya in its banned terror-prone list. An estimated 134 million citizens of the listed countries are not permitted to enter the United States under this order. In addition, about hundreds of thousands of American visa-holders are impacted by the order. According to Propublica, Some 500,000 citizensof these seven countries have obtained permanent resident status in the past decade and about 25,000 have received temporary employment or student visas.

According to CNN, the list could grow and this order is just a starting point for a broader ban. Trump has also banned refugees for about four months. The order has also limited the number of refugees entering the country to 50,000 for 2017, which previously was capped at some 110,000 under the presidency of Barrack Obama.

“We don’t want them here,” Trump said during the signing ceremony. He also ordered the secretary of Homeland Security to make the vetting and screening process even tighter.

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Donald Trump Sworn in as 45th American President

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington: Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America on Friday at around noon under a cloudy sky along with Michael Pence, who took the office as vice president.

Trump after taking oath on Lincoln Bible and his family Bible gave a 17-minute inaugural speech in which he described his victory as people’s victory. With Former President Barrack Obama sitting behind him, he said the American carnage would stop. Time for empty talk is over and the time for action has begun, he said.

Trump’s speech was much the same as his any other campaign speeches at least in the beginning – divisive, targeting the previous governments and patriotic. On the positive side though, his speech was plain and simple and should appeal to the audience who are “forgotten.” Making an effort for unity, he said, patriotism should overcome the prejudices in Washington, D.C.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in 2016 election, attended the ceremony. Her presence was appreciated by Trump at the inaugural luncheon. A standup ovation was given to both Bill and Hillary Clinton for their presence. Including Bill Clinton four former presidents were present at the ceremony except for George.H.W.Bush, who was hospitalized for pneumonia.

The transfer of power was smooth. President Trump saw Barrack and Michelle Obama off, as they flew to California, where they plan to spend sometime before moving back to Washington, D.C. The ceremony was followed by luncheon and parade.

“Republican or Democrat, we are all good people,” Trump said during inaugural luncheon speech.

Except for a few protests against the inaugural ceremony a few blocks away from the ceremony in Washington, D.C., in which about 90 people were arrested, the ceremony took place smoothly.

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Meryl Streep Slams Trump At Golden Globes

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington: In her powerful speech at golden globe awards Sunday night, Meryl Streep slammed President-Elect Donald Trump for mocking a New York Times journalist in one of his presidential campaign meetings.

Without taking Trump’s name, Meryl said that when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in the country humiliates in the public platform a person of less power it breaks the heart. Meryl was applauded in the hall. She campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election 2016.

In one of the Trump’s campaign speeches, he was seen waving his hands in an effort to imitate a reporter who is physically handicapped. Some conservatives argue that Trump waves his hands whenever he mocks somebody and in this case unfortunately it happened to be a handicapped person.

Trump’s election campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said that Trump should be given the benefit of doubt.

Trump called Meryl Hillary’s lover in response to the comments in a brief interview Monday morning and later tweeted: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16-year-old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!”

Below is the complete Meryl Streep’s Global Globes speech:

“Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I have to read.

“Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.

“Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

“They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.

“O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

“One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.

As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.”

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Trump’s Praise Of Putin Looks Odd

Washington: President-elect Donald Trump praised Vladimir Putin as a smart person for not retaliating over the US sanctions and expulsion of 35 Russian delegates from the United States.

“Great move on delay (by V.Putin),” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon. “I always knew he was very smart!”

Vladimir Putin responded by saying that he won’t create problems to American delegates and even extended invitation to the children of American delegates to a holiday party in Kremlin. He added that he would “plan further steps in restoring the Russian-American relationship based in the policies enacted by the administration of President Donald Trump.”

Putin not reciprocating to the US sanctions is a departure from their long tit-for-tat policies Kremlin adopted toward US in the past. This shift portrays Russia’s willingness to build relationship with the US and the support Putin has been enjoying from Trump. Both of them praised each other throughout the election campaign.

Trump’s reluctance even to give a hard look at the evidence that the intelligence had gathered about the Russian involvement in the hackings of the emails of Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta makes him odds with majority Republicans who ordered an investigation into the matter. Trump’s mere denial to the allegations or the intelligence evidence and playing down on Russia’s involvement and attributing Washington politics for years of animosity with Russia suggests days of complete shift in foreign policy.

Trump blames Washington for posing Russia as a threat and promises friendly relationship with the country in his administration. Further, he considers China instead as the greatest threat to US and blames it for the US trade deficit and the loss of jobs.

Trump’s cabinet is a reflection of his foreign policy. His nominee for general secretary Rex Tillerson, Exxon Chairman and a businessman, is a close friend of Putin and a dealmaker whose interests lie in oil diggings in East Russia. On the other hand, Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwan Prime Minister Tsai Ing-Wen soon after his victory irked China.   

Trump also has businesses in Russia. How successfully Trump deals with country’s interests putting aside his vested interests remains to be seen.

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Unpredictable NaMo and Don factor

VIEWPOINT

smr new

Madhusudhana Rao S

The people of India and the United States of America who share many common values between the two largest and vibrant democracies in the world have now found that their top government leaders too share a common trait. That is, their unpredictable nature. The American President-elect Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been described as alter egos of each other. It may be an uncharitable comment for Modi admirers. But last month’s demonetization of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes in his first major politico-economic battle since he assumed power more than two years ago has won him bouquets and brickbats. He has been receiving them nonchalantly, promising more measures to end corruption and black money and dangling the carrot of ‘achhe din’ in front of the people.

Modi’s announcement on November 8 night making the two high denomination notes invalid was sudden and had an element of surprise. Even today, he and his ministerial colleagues explain at length why it had to be done and declare what the opposition calls ‘financial emergency’ to save the country from a possible economic ruin.

After the initial euphoria died down and a shocked opposition recovered from the trillion-volt jolt, the firestorm surrounding the note ban started gathering dust and heat, mostly fuelled by the opposition parties spearheaded by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and chief ministers of Bengal and Delhi Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejrival respectively. Modi had made little effort to douse the fire during the winter session of parliament, though it was the main reason for its washout. He allowed it to rage on, let his senior ministers handle the situation, which has threatened to go out of control at times. Nevertheless, Modi is very much in control, despite all the efforts made by his adversaries to roll back the demonetization move. He has been standing like a rock facing abuses and criticism without budging an inch. Is he proving himself that he is the leader and self-stating it whenever he opens his mouth is difficult to say. But the fact remains that surprise and unpredictability are Modi’s two weapons in his political arsenal to floor his opponents.

Across the oceans, similar streaks could be found in Donald Trump who will assume power in the most powerful country on January 20. It could be recent history, still fresh in the minds of millions of people in the US and across the world, that Trump had beaten all odds to become the 45th President of the United States of America. The animosity against him is so much that when the Time magazine featured him as Person of the Year 2016 a few weeks ago, its cover page headline proclaimed him as DONALD TRUMP – PRESIDENT OF THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA.

His guffaws, sexist comments, anti-Muslim rant, racial slurs, cultural barbs and no-holds barred talk passed on as frank views before being elected are legendary. Post-election, although he has toned down controversial remarks, Trump’s run-up to taking office is increasingly becoming controversial and ringing alarm bells in world capitals.

Two major powers, Russia and China, both US adversaries, are keenly watching Trump’s every move and word to get a clue to what kind of foreign policy he will follow in the next four years. He has already dumped America’s established practices, foreign policy goals and geo-political strategies set out by his predecessors since World War II.

As recently as Monday, Trump called the United Nations “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time” in a tweet sent from his Florida resort. His derisive remark against the august world body reflects his frustration with the UN, particularly the Security Council’s resolution against Israel for unabated expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied areas of Palestine. For the first time, Washington has deliberately snubbed Tel Aviv over its settlements policy.

Ironically, the decision was taken by the out-going President Barack Obama, who had tried to bring peace to volatile and oil-rich Middle East throughout his first term. Incidentally, Nobel Committee had rewarded his peace efforts with Peace Prize in 2009. Obama has to abandon his peace drive in his second term because of Israel’s intransigence. Last week, when Obama got an opportunity, which was his last, to vent his frustration with Israel, he showed it at the UN Security Council. Not that US disapproval would change Israel’s behaviour or its stand on occupied Palestinian areas; it’s a morale booster to Palestinians who have been fighting for such a US stand. As expected, Israel has expressed its shock and disappointment over US decision. But soon Israeli leaders have got solace from the President-elect who tweeted, “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th.”

Trump’s views on nuclear disarmament, dealing with Russia and China are as much disturbing as any other issue. For example, in a tweet last week, he said, “the United States must strengthen and expand its nuclear forces until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” That was Trump’s reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reported observation during a meeting with the top military brass in Moscow that “nuclear forces need to be bolstered to penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.” Obviously, The Russian strongman was referring to Pentagon’s futuristic missile shield.

It’s difficult to say what was on Trump’s mind when he raked up the issue of strengthening nuclear forces. Despite his aides’ damage control efforts, his flippant tweet has raised the prospect of another Cold War and nuclear arms race among nuclear powers. China’s unease with Trump even before he stepped into the White House is palpable. Though he has been trying for years to expand his business empire in the communist country, he has never masked his loathing.

Washington’s friction with Beijing under Trump’s dispensation is just showing up. China has already started feeling the heat when Trump accepted a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen who congratulated him on December 2 against all protocol norms; told China it could keep a US drone sub when it was detected in Chinese territorial waters; picked a hardcore critic of China, economist Peter Navarro, to be a key economic advisor, among other things.

What these developments and tweets portend for the world in general and the US in particular? None knows. Trump’s aides in the transition team do elaborate explaining whenever he courts controversy with his tweets saying ‘what he means … ‘ to justify what the President-elect  said. In other words, one has to read between his tweets to know his mind which reminds us of George W Bush Sr. who used to say ‘Read my Lips.’ With Donald Trump, will it be ‘Read my Tweets’ to understand him?

While the world waits for the New Year to know what’s in store in his tweets, in India, we wait what surprises Prime Minister Modi will spring in his war against black money and corruption.

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Trump picks ExxonMobil CEO as Secretary of State

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington: President-Elect Donald Trump has announced Tuesday morning that he has selected ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for the secretary of state.

Tillerson grew up in Texas. After graduating from University of Texas, he joined ExxonMobil. He spent the next 40 years making oil deals across the world.

“We couldn’t be more grateful that someone of Rex Tillerson’s proven leadership and accomplishments is willing to step forward to serve the nation,” said Mike Pence, vice-president-elect. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have also welcomed Trump’s pick.

While Congress is yet to confirm Trump’s nomination, there are concerns among some Republicans and Democrats about his pick. Tillerson is an oil dealmaker and a successful businessman with no experience whatsoever in government and in diplomacy. More importantly, he has close relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin and higher officials in his administration. Many in the Congress fear Tillerson’s ties with Putin.

“I don’t know what Mr.Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was, but I will tell you that it is a matter of concern to me,” McCain, the Republican presidential nominee of 2008 election, said in an interview with Fox News.

Talking about president-elect he said he’d have to examine it. “You want to give the president of the United States the benefit of doubt because the people have spoken. But Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying.”

Also, senator from Florida Marco Rubio has tweeted opposing Trump’s pick:“Being a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I am hoping for from a secretary of state.”

If these Republican candidates vote against Tillerson and Democrats vote no unanimously, then the senate vote would be a 50/50 split.

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Western Democracies Grapple with Globalization Fallout

Venkata Kondubhatla

The recent US presidential elections are another testimony that a large section of people of the west are against globalization in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. The second Brexit, as the US election 2016 is now called by a few, is in part the success of anti-globalization voices.

The two decades of globalization has brought many countries, especially developing ones, out of the economic shackles that once had restricted their growth. For many countries in the East, it is a god’s gift, but for democracies in the western world it is now seen as a scourge.

The middle class of many developing countries has benefitted from globalization. In many eastern countries the globalization has winched up many from poverty. Thomas Friedman’s book, “The World Is Flat” explains how the level-playing field has helped underdogs to show their full potential in the international arena. The book shows how India, a country which was anything but suitable to do business with no minimum infrastructure and considerable red tape, could open up call centers and then technology companies. Now, the country is one of the important technology hubs in the world. China, Mexico, Philippines, and Thailand are a few examples where the middle class has bulged,and have been attracting many consumer businesses to invest.

Businesses worldwide, especially developed countries, have seen the advantages of globalization –they could now find ways to hire cheaper labor even if they were on the other side of the globe, quality products could be manufactured with low costs. Nuts and bolts of an engine are not necessarily required to be designed and manufactured at a single place. Dell has its parts shipped from Thailand, Malaysia and various other countries to finally get assembled at its headquarters.

Sharing resources and skills across nations has undeniably brought great results to global firms, and gave them an edge in the competitive markets. Not only global companies, but the nations also felt the same. Europe has seen economic advantages in the formation of European Union, and the participants have enjoyed the fruits of Union’s trade. Euro currency has grown strong to dictate the world economy.

The world has ultimately become more connected, and the welfare and relevance of the people that are far away has grown tremendously. Economic, consumer market calamities, and political instability in countries on the other side of the globe, have begun to pose direct threats to the global firms. At the same time, the irrelevance to local economies, localities have led to indifference to their problems or concerns among many global firms.

The opposite effects of globalization were hard to discern at the beginning. Rejecting it would mean blocking sunshine and being sclerotic in the face of adapting globalization to excel and making an edge. Even so, a few nationalist firms would stick around resisting to the enthralling benefits provided by global markets only to slowly move toward globalization, as they would suffer from global competition. Furthermore, they couldn’t find much assistance from the local governments.

The idea of being global has compelled many to think of a world without borders and purely in terms of business. It eluded many of their responsibilities toward the country and their people. Furthermore, as a global people they lacked the belongingness to their nations.

The result was a divided and unequal societies in the western democracies. In the book,”Global Inequality: A New Approach for The Age of Globalization,” author Branco Milanovic writes that the world has become equal, but the western democracies have become less equal.

The verdict in the recent US presidential election or the Brexit referendum can be seen as a reaction to the unattended jeremiad of the poor and the working classes who suffered for the last two decades due to the fallout of globalization.

America has benefitted a lot from globalization. The country is the leader in global economy with only five percent of world’s population. However, the fruits of globalization weren’t shared equally across the country and rather the opposite has happened. The white working classes near the Appalachia mountain areas and in the Midwest have suffered from the trade deals that resulted in closing of many manufacturing firms. The firms opted other countries where the products could be manufactured in a relatively lower costs. This pushed many into poverty,whom the federal government under Barrack Obama, George. W. Bush, or Bill Clinton have either ignored or haven’t paid much attention to.

Ironically, Donald Trump, real estate businessman who later became Republican nominee and then President-elect, has seen an opportunity of using this anger among the working classes to get to presidency, and his populist campaign rhetoric has lured many to vote for him. Even his ill-reputation and controversial past hadn’t encumbered his supporters to vote for him. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders from the Democratic Party also had captured the angst of the working class, but lost to Hillary Clinton, who won to become Democratic nominee. She has failed to turn Sander’s ardent supporters on her side.

Both the Clintons are big fans of globalization. Bill Clinton has signed NAFTA, a trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and Hillary Clinton supported the deal until 2009. Trump’s campaign called the deal a worst deal that took away many jobs from the white working class.Democrats have ignored working classes and their solution to the lack of jobs issue has always been education. Hillary believed that education and learning new skills should enable the working classes come back into the job market. With unemployment less than five percent, her argument made sense to many.

Whereas, Trump’s campaign ran broadly on protectionism and closing doors for the outsiders and stopping the jobs for themselves. His anti-globalization rhetoric was focused on deporting illegal immigrants and creating jobs of the working class; banning Muslims from entering the country or conducting extreme vetting, as he later changed his position; and building wall on the Mexican border.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, ran her campaign on big-heartedness, diversity, and pro-globalization, which a large section of people rejected. Though she won the popular vote, she has lost the electoral vote. The country’s mandate was clear and simple – globalization has increased the inequality and made the lives of the working class worse.

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యూ ఎస్ అధ్యక్షుడిగా ట్రంప్ తొలి రోజు…

అమెరికా అధ్యక్షుడిగా ఓవల్ ఆఫీసులో డొనాల్డ్ ట్రంప్ మొదటి రోజు…ఆయనకు సీఐఏ, పెంటగన్(సైనిక కార్యాలయం), ఎఫ్ బీ ఐ ల మొదటి బ్రీఫింగ్…

ట్రంప్: మనం ఐఎస్ ఐ ఎస్ (ఐసిస్)ను వెంటనే ధ్వంసం చేయాలి. ఆలస్యం జరగడానికి వీల్లేదు.

సీఐఏ: మనం ఆ పని చేయలేం సార్. టర్కీ, సౌదీ, కతర్ మొదలైన వాటితో కలసి మనమే దానిని సృష్టించాం.

ట్రంప్: దానిని డెమోక్రాట్లు సృష్టించారు.

సీఐఏ: ఐసిస్ ను మనమే సృష్టించాం సార్. అది మనకెంతో అవసరం. లేకపోతే నేచురల్ గ్యాస్ లాబీ నుంచి మనకు నిధులు రావు.

ట్రంప్: అయితే పాకిస్తాన్ కు నిధులు ఆపేయండి. ఇండియా దాని సంగతి చూసుకుంటుంది.

సీఐఏ: కుదరదు సార్

ట్రంప్: ఎందుకని?

సీఐఏ: ఇండియా పాకిస్తాన్ నుంచి బెలూచిస్తాన్ ను విడగొట్టేస్తుంది.

ట్రంప్: విడగొడితే విడగొట్టుకోనీ.

సీఐఏ: అప్పుడు కాశ్మీర్ లో శాంతి ఏర్పడి ఇండియా తలనొప్పి తగ్గిపోతుంది. దాంతో మన ఆయుధాలు కొనడం ఆపేస్తుంది. తను సూపర్ పవర్ అయిపోతుంది. ఇండియా కాశ్మీర్ సమస్యతో నలుగుతూ ఉండాలంటే మనం పాకిస్తాన్ కు నిధులు ఇవ్వాల్సిందే.

ట్రంప్: అయితే తాలిబన్ ను ధ్వంసం చేసేయండి.

సీఐఏ: సార్, మనమా పని చేయలేం. ఎనభైల్లో రష్యాను అదుపులో ఉంచడానికి మనమే తాలిబన్ ను సృష్టించాం. ఇప్పుడు అదే పాకిస్తాన్ కు చేతినిండా పని చెబుతూ, దానిని తన అణ్వాయుధాలకు దూరంగా ఉంచుతోంది.

ట్రంప్: అయితే మధ్య ప్రాచ్యంలో టెర్రరిస్టులకు మద్దతు ఇచ్చే పాలకవర్గాలను ధ్వంసం చేసేద్దాం. సౌదీలతో మొదలు పెట్టండి.

పెంటగన్: మనం ఆపని చేయలేం సార్. మనకు వాళ్ళ చమురు అవసరం కనుక మనమే ఆ పాలకవర్గాలను సృష్టించాం. అక్కడ ప్రజాస్వామ్యం ఏర్పడడం మనకు మంచిది కాదు. ఏర్పడితే అక్కడి చమురు సంపద జనం చేతుల్లోకి పోతుంది. మనం అలా జరగకుండా చూసుకోవాలి.

ట్రంప్: అయితే ఇరాన్ మీద దాడి చేద్దాం.

పెంటగన్: మనం అది కూడా చేయలేం సార్.

ట్రంప్: ఎందుకని?

సీఐఏ: వాళ్ళతో మనం మాట్లాడుతున్నాం.

ట్రంప్: ఎందుకు?

సీఐఏ: అక్కడినుంచి మన స్టెల్త్ ద్రోన్లను వెనక్కి తెచ్చుకోవాలి. వాళ్ల మీద మనం దాడి చేస్తే సిరియాలో మన మిత్రుడు ఐసిస్ ను చేసినట్టుగా రష్యా మనల్ని నలిపి పారేస్తుంది. అదీగాక ఇజ్రాయెల్ ను అదుపులో ఉంచాలంటే మనకు ఇరాన్ అవసరం.

ట్రంప్: అలా అయితే మళ్ళీ ఇరాక్ మీద దాడి చేద్దాం.

సీఐఏ: సార్, మన మిత్రులు(ఐసిస్) ఇప్పటికే మూడోవంతు ఇరాక్ ను ఆక్రమించుకున్నారు.

ట్రంప్: మొత్తం ఇరాక్ ను ఎందుకు ఆక్రమించుకోలేదు?

సీఐఏ: ఐసిస్ మీద చెక్ పెట్టాలంటే అక్కడ షియా ప్రభుత్వం ఉండడం మనకు అవసరం కనుక.

ట్రంప్: ముస్లిం లు అమెరికాలోకి రాకుండా నిషేధిస్తున్నాను.

ఎఫ్ బీ ఐ: కుదరదు.

ట్రంప్: ఏం, ఎందుకని?

ఎఫ్ బి ఐ:  అప్పుడు మన జనాభాలో బొత్తిగా భయభక్తులు ఉండవు.

ట్రంప్: అక్రమ వలసదారులందరినీ పంపించేస్తాను.

సరిహద్దు గస్తీ దళం: మనం ఆ పని చేయలేం సార్.

ట్రంప్: ఎందుకు చేయలేం?

సరిహద్దు గస్తీ దళం: వాళ్ళంతా వెళ్లిపోతే గోడ ఎవరు కడతారు?

ట్రంప్: అయితే హెచ్ 1 బి వీసాలను రద్దు చేసేస్తాను.

యూఎస్ సిఐఎస్: లేదు సార్, కుదరదు.

ట్రంప్: ఎందుకని?

చీఫ్ ఆఫ్ స్టాఫ్: మనం ఆ పని చేస్తే వైట్ హౌస్ కార్యకలాపాలను కూడా ఇండియా లో ఉన్న బెంగళూరుకు ఔట్ సోర్స్ చేయాల్సి వస్తుంది.

ట్రంప్: ( విపరీతంగా చెమటలు పట్టేసిన స్థితిలో) ఇంతకీ అధ్యక్షుడిగా నేను చేయాల్సిందేమిటి?

సీఐఏ: హాయిగా వైట్ హౌస్ జీవితాన్ని ఎంజాయ్ చేయండి సార్! మిగతావి మేం చూసుకుంటాం.

(సోషల్ మీడియానుంచి)

 

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