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US blacklists 24 Chinese firms, individuals for South China Sea work

WASHINGTON, Aug 26: The United States announced sanctions and restrictions on 24 Chinese companies and associated officials Wednesday for taking part in building artificial islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

“Since 2013, the PRC has used its state-owned enterprises to dredge and reclaim more than 3,000 acres on disputed features in the South China Sea, destabilizing the region, trampling on the sovereign rights of its neighbors, and causing untold environmental devastation,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

US probing Pak’s ISIS terrorists in Syria

WASHINGTON, Aug 26: The United States has started an investigation into the role of Pakistanis in the Islamic State movement in Syria, complicating the situation for Prime Minister Imran Khan who is still to emerge from Tuesday’s setback to his attempt to get two “critical” FATF-linked legislations enacted, people familiar with the matter said.

The US backed and predominantly Kurd Syrian Democratic Forces have shared a list of 29 Pakistanis among others who are in their custody for fighting for the Islamic State, the ultra-conservative radical Sunni movement that swept Iraq-Syria in the past decade. The shortlist, according to counter-terror officials in Delhi and Washington, include four Pakistanis who had acquired citizenship of another country such as Turkey and Sudan. Nine of the 29 captured ISIS fighters are women.

“The American security forces are currently interrogating these Pakistani nationals including who sent them to fight for IS in Syria and their past affiliations with terrorist groups like the Al Qaida or any other pan-Islamic group based in Pakistan. As the Pakistani deep state is involved with the so-called Islamic State of Khorasan Province in Afghanistan, the interrogation will also reveal its role if any,” said a counter-terror official in know of the list.

The reference to the IS presence in Afghanistan is a pointer to the Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or ISKP, which had carried out several attacks on civilian installations including a gurdwara in the heart of Kabul. ISKP chief Aslam Farooqui, also a Pakistani national with clear links to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, was arrested for this bombing. Farooqui was earlier associated with the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba before switching over to the ISKP. Farooqui is currently in custody of Afghan government after it rejected the Pakistani request to extradite him.

While Pakistan with the help of China wants to exit out of the FATF Grey List, this new revelation substantiates the Indian claim that Islamabad is the epicentre of terrorism. While two Punjab based terrorist groups—Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayebba—target India, Rawalpindi supports Taliban through Haqqani Network and ISKP to cause mayhem in Afghanistan. The Pakistani involvement in attacks in US, UK and the Middle-East have come out in the open in the past.

While the Islamic State does not hold any territory in Iraq or Syria, the remnant fighters are operating as free-lancers in the Syrian civil war and its ultra conservative Sunni ideology is still radicalizes the Muslim community in the name of puritan Islam.

Democratic nominee for US vice-president Kamala Harris makes history

WILMINGTON (Delaware), Aug 19: Kamala Harris made history on Wednesday after being officially nominated by the Democratic party as its nominee for vice-president. She is the first Indian American and Black woman — actually, the first woman of colour — to be fielded for the second highest political office in the US by a major political party.

Harris accepted the nomination as a tribute to her Indian-born mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who came to the US to pursue her interest in breast cancer research, met and married Donald J Harris, an immigrant from Jamaica, during the civil rights movement, and raised her and her sister as a single mother.

“How I wish she were here tonight but I know she’s looking down on me from above. I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman—all of five feet tall—who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California,” Harris said in a semi-virtual speech, from a room with some reporters.

“On that day, she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States of America,” she added.

“I do so, committed to the values she taught me.”

And, in an unmistakable acknowledgement of her Indian-ness at this highest point of public recognition in her life, Harris used a typical word from Tamil, her mother tongue, for aunts when talking about her expansive vision for the campaign: “Family is my uncles, my aunts—my chitthis,” she said.

Harris was introduced by her younger sister Maya Harris, who is a lawyer and a political operative; Maya’s daughter Meena Harris, also a lawyer by profession; and step daughter Ella Emhoff, who is a student at Parsons School of Design in New York City, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Harris was scheduled to deliver her acceptance speech before former President Barack Obama, who was to headline Night 3 of the Democratic convention, but was given the prime slot at the former president’s request, who wanted her be the star of the evening, in a symbolic passing-of-the-torch to the next generation of Democratic leaders.

Obama used his rescheduled speaking slot to launch an uncharacteristically pointed attack on his successor. “I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.

“But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for Democrats to go out and vote citing her own failed run because many people either did not vote or had not realized how “dangerous” Trump can be. “This can’t be another woulda-coulda-shoulda election,” she said. “If you’re voting by mail, request your ballot now, and send it back as soon as you can. If you vote in person, do it early.”

President Trump responded to the attacks in real time with a string of angry tweets in all-caps. “WHY DID HE REFUSE TO ENDORSE SLOW JOE UNTIL IT WAS ALL OVER, AND EVEN THEN WAS VERY LATE? WHY DID HE TRY TO GET HIM NOT TO RUN?” he said in one of them.

Harris accepted the nomination in a speech steeped in her personal story of being raised, along with her younger sister, by a strong-willed mother to be “proud, strong Black women … (and to)… be proud of our Indian heritage”.

Harris invoked her mother again to frame her historic run as Joe Biden’s running mate. She said she accepted the nomination committed to the values taught to her by her mother. “To the word that teaches me to walk by faith, and not by sight. And to a vision passed on through generations of Americans—one that Joe Biden shares. A vision of our nation as a Beloved Community—where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love.”

That nation “feels distant” today, she said, naming the president she and Biden are running to unseat for the first and only time in her 15-minute long speech, “Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods,” she said, attacking the administration’s handling of the Covid-19 epidemic.

US donates 100 more ventilators to India to help fight Covid-19

NEW DELHI, Aug 19: The US on Wednesday donated the second shipment of 100 ventilators to India to help in the country’s fight against Covid-19, saying it had fulfilled President Donald Trump’s commitment to provide critically needed supplies.

The US-made ventilators are compact and easy to deploy, and will provide India flexibility in treating patients. In addition to the ventilators, US Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding a package of support that includes warranties and additional supplies and components needed to operate the machines.

The first shipment of 100 ventilators was donated by the US government in June. These machines have been deployed to support the care of Covid-19 patients at the eight regional All India Institutes of Medical Sciences.

US ambassador Ken Juster said, “We are very pleased to hand over the final tranche of 100 ventilators to India, fulfilling President Trump’s commitment to provide these critically needed supplies to support India’s pandemic response.”

USAID is also working with the Indian government to enhance the capacity of health facilities using the ventilators by facilitating setup, orientation, and clinical training for healthcare personnel responsible for operating the machines.

USAID’s efforts have strengthened the India’s healthcare system’s readiness and response capacity in several states with a high burden of Covid-19 cases. As of August, a total of three million people in India have directly benefited from USAID support, said a statement from the US embassy.

USAID has also trained 40,700 health workers on best practices to integrate Covid-19 prevention and risk mitigation into essential health services, and 46,000 frontline workers on risk communication. It has provided 950 healthcare facilities with support to increase social distancing, infection prevention control, and patient management.

Ex-FBI lawyer pleads guilty to doctoring email in Russia probe of Trump campaign

WASHINGTON, Aug 19: Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court to falsifying a document as part of the bureau’s early-stage probe into whether President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with the Russian government.

Clinesmith is the first person criminally charged in an investigation by John Durham, a federal prosecutor tapped to probe mistakes the FBI made when it sought a warrant to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

During a virtual hearing in the US District Court in Washington, Clinesmith admitted to doctoring a CIA email the FBI used in 2017 when it applied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew its application for a secret wiretap to monitor Page.

“At the time I believed that the information I was providing in the email was accurate, but I am agreeing that the information I inserted into the email was not originally there, and I inserted that information,” Clinesmith said during the hearing.

In an August 2016 email, the CIA advised that Page, who is referenced in court documents as “Individual #1,” had been approved as an “operational contact” from 2008 to 2013.

When Clinesmith was later asked to confirm this information, he doctored a follow-up email from the CIA to make it appear as though Page was not an agency source, according to the charging documents.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz uncovered the doctored email and in December released a scathing report documenting 17 “basic and fundamental” errors and omissions in FBI surveillance warrant applications.

Trump’s Republican allies have repeatedly pointed to that report as evidence of a wider conspiracy by “deep state” government actors to undermine Trump. There was no indication of a broad conspiracy in the charging documents filed against Clinesmith.

US District Judge James Boasberg set a sentencing date for Dec. 10.

While Clinesmith could face a statutory maximum of five years in prison, the U.S. sentencing guidelines in his case call for a range of zero to six months in prison, Boasberg said.

US Postal Service suspends USPS change until after 2020 election

WASHINGTON, Aug 18: US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he is suspending changes to mail service that raised concerns over slow delivery of ballots in the fall election after President Donald Trump criticized the vote-by-mail process.

DeJoy, in an emailed news release Tuesday, cited “some longstanding operational initiatives” that predate his arrival “that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic.”

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said.

DeJoy said that mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are, and no mail processing facilities will be closed. Overtime work will “continue to be” approved as needed, he said.

The announcement follows concerns from Democrats and others over apparent mail slowdowns. They also pointed out that DeJoy was a campaign donor before taking office in June.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back on Saturday to vote on legislation to halt post office cutbacks and give the agency $25 billion in additional funding.

“The post office in these times of coronavirus is really election central,” Pelosi said during an event with Politico Tuesday. “Well, he should,” she said, when suddenly handed a note about a news report on DeJoy’s announcement he is suspending changes.

Meanwhile, the attorneys general for Washington and Pennsylvania were briefing reporters on Tuesday on plans for separate, multistate lawsuits that would seek to halt operational changes at the Postal Service. More than a dozen other states had signed onto the effort, including California, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Nevada. No Republican attorneys general had signed onto the suits.

“By interfering with the Postal Service, President Trump is putting both our democracy and people’s health at risk,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement Tuesday. “We are suing to ensure the integrity of our electoral process and to make sure each and every vote is counted during this election.”

Recent media reports have pointed to the removal of mail sorting machines in various cities, as well as the taking of mailboxes off the streets. Post office operating hours have been reduced and overtime work cut. The agency’s inspector general is investigating those moves.

DeJoy said Tuesday that the Postal Service “is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall.”

“Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards,” he said in the statement. “The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Trump and DeJoy had recklessly made changes in a way that was illegal.

“There is a process for changes like this one that requires going before the postal regulatory commission and holding public hearings,” Shapiro told reporters. “DeJoy opted to do just what he and Trump wanted.”

Trump’s plane nearly hit by small drone: Reports

WASHINGTON, Aug 17: President Donald Trump’s jet was nearly hit by what appeared to be a small drone as it approached an airport near Washington Sunday night, according to several people aboard Air Force One.

The device, which was yellow and black and shaped like a cross, was off the right side of the plane. It was seen by several passengers on the jet, which occurred shortly before the plane touched down at 5:54 p.m.

The Secret Service didn’t immediately respond on Monday to a request to confirm the reports. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, which coordinates air security issues in North America, referred questions to the Secret Service. The Federal Aviation Administration referred questions on the matter to the Air Force.

While it has been notoriously difficult for aviation safety investigators to verify such fleeting events, it appears to be among the thousands of such safety incidents involving unmanned devices in the U.S. that have prompted calls by law enforcement and homeland security agencies for greater measures to rein in their use.

Most civilian drones weigh only a few pounds and probably couldn’t take down a jetliner. But government research suggests the damage could be greater than that from a similar-sized bird, which could shatter a cockpit windshield or damage an engine.

Trump was flying in the modified Boeing Co. 757 that is among the fleet of jets known as Air Force One when the president is aboard.

The FAA receives thousands of reports per year in which drones fly too close to other aircraft or operate in restricted areas. Most of the reports come from pilots.

Under current federal regulations, drones must be flown within sight of the operator and no higher than 400 feet (122 meters) above the ground without special waivers. While the most popular drone models are equipped with software designed to prevent longer range flights, incidents continue to pile up, according to government records.

There have been a handful of instances in which drones actually struck aircraft, but none have resulted in a serious crash or injuries, according to National Transportation Safety Board data.

A hobbyist drone being flown illegally near New York City struck an Army helicopter on Sept. 21, 2017, the NTSB found. The impact damaged the helicopter, but it was able to land safely.

The NTSB last month concluded that a drone most likely struck a KABC-TV chopper flying above downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 4.

Drone sightings have occasionally disrupted operations at major airports, such as when pilots nearing Newark Liberty International Airport reported nearly colliding with a small drone in January 2019.

The FAA hopes to unveil regulations requiring that civilian drones transmit their location and identity by the end of the year. The new requirement is designed to help prevent the devices from being used by terrorists and to reduce the risks they pose to traditional aircraft.

At least 18 shot, with 4 dead, across Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, Aug 16: At least 18 people were shot, including four killed, as gunfire erupted in several places around the city overnight, authorities said Sunday.

Officers responded just after 12:30 am Sunday to the Avondale neighborhood and found 21-year-old Antonio Blair with gunshot wounds, police said in a statement. He was taken to University Hospital and died there, they said. Three other gunshot victims were also taken to the hospital.

At about 2:15 am, officers responded to a report of gunfire in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where 10 people were shot, police said. One died at the scene and another at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center; they were identified in a statement as 34-year-old Robert Rogers and 30-year-old Jaquiez Grant.

Three people were shot at about midnight Saturday in the Walnut Hills neighbourhood, about a block away from the Harriet Beecher Stowe house, police said.

News outlets reported the shootings took place within 60 to 90 minutes of each other, but Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate told reporters that they “seem to be separate independent incidents but horrific and tragic.”

Police didn’t immediately provide details about the fourth fatal shooting but confirmed that it occurred on the city’s West End, where television news reports indicated that one person was shot later Sunday morning and was pronounced dead at the scene.

No suspect information was immediately available in any of the cases.

“One extremely violent night in the city of Cincinnati. Looking at possibly 17 victims, up to four that could be fatal at this time. Why? That’s going to be the question,” Neudigate had said before the fourth shooting was announced.

Cincinnati’s police chief later Sunday called the level of violence “unacceptable.”

“I am calling on all citizens of this great city to say enough is enough! We must not sit by silently and say we can’t do anything to end gun violence,” Chief Eliot Isaac said in a statement. “We all have a moral obligation to stop the violence and stop the killing in our communities.”

Police said the department would shift officers from other assignments to beef up the number of uniformed officers in the affected communities and would call on federal prosecutors and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “to focus on repeat shooters and aggressively bring illegal gun charges.”

Mayor John Cranley called it “senseless gun violence that ruined lives and will cause immeasurable suffering” at a time the city was facing “unprecedented circumstances and challenges” in fighting crime during the Covid-19 pandemic. He said the city has seen an uptick as people gather in private homes and public places when the bars close.

“Guns are far too prevalent at these gatherings. Please do not attend gatherings because you could end up as an innocent victim,” he said in a statement.

He stressed, however, that those firing were responsible for the shootings — which he called “attempted or actual murder” — and vowed to bring them to justice.

“I am also calling on everyone to help put an end this culture of resolving personal disputes with guns as well as to reduce the far too prevalent availability of illegal guns on our streets,” he said. “The very sad reality is people are getting in trouble when they have nowhere to go and nothing to do.”

In July, the Enquirer reported that the city had experienced a rise in shootings and homicides from gun violence during the first half of the year as compared to the same time period in 2019.

Biden offers full support to India against China, Pakistan

NEW YORK, Aug 15: Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, will work with India in the Indo-Pacific to ensure no country, including China, “is able to threaten its neighbours with impunity” and will have “no tolerance” for cross-border terrorism in South Asia, if elected president, his campaign said in an expansive agenda released Friday for bilateral relations with India and the welfare of Indian Americans.

A Biden administration also will place a “high priority” on bolstering ties with India, continue to strengthen India’s defence capabilities and bring the United States back into the Paris climate to work with India again to combat climate change, according to the agenda.

On immigration, which has been a major part of India-US relations, Biden will “preserve family unification as a core principle of our immigration system”, increase the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration — Green Cards, overturning the Trump administration’s switch to a merit-based system.

His administration will also exempt from any cap recent graduates of PhD programs in STEM fields, eliminate country limit on Green Cards, which has created a 100-year-long backlog for Indians. He will support reforming the temporary visa system for high-skill — H-1Bs — to protect wages and workers and then their numbers.

The agenda was a first expansive plan released by any presidential campaign yet for aims and goals for relations with India and Indian Americas. And, thus, marked the importance being accorded to India. It was released just hours before a major outreach by senior members of the Biden campaign to the community.

On bilateral relations with India, the former vice-president will bring to the offie years of supporting India. As a senator, the agenda said, Biden had in 2006, said,“My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States”.

In 2008, he led other Democrats to back the India -US civil nuclear deal. The Obama-Biden administration declared support for India’s claim to permanent membership of the UN Security Council and Declared India a major defence partner.

As president, the agenda said, “Biden believes there can be no tolerance for terrorism in South Asia – cross-border or otherwise”. The reference here was unmistakably to cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, which had also been a sore point with the Obama administration.

On China, the Biden administration will ensure continuity. “A Biden Administration will also work with India to support a rules-based and stable Indo-Pacific region in which no country, including China, is able to threaten its neighbours with impunity.” There was no explicit mention of the border clashes but, once against, the sub-text was clear, aligning with growing bipartisan support for India in these clashes.

“Biden will deliver on his long-standing belief that India and the United States are natural partners, and a Biden Administration will place a high priority on continuing to strengthen the US-India relationship,” the agenda said, adding, “No common global challenge can be solved without India and the United States working as responsible partners.”

It added: “Together, we will continue strengthening India’s defense and capabilities as a counter-terrorism partner, improving health systems and pandemic response, and deepening cooperation in areas such as higher education, space exploration, and humanitarian relief.”

For the estimated 4 million Indian Americans, the Biden vowed adequate representation in the his administration if elected and pointed, as evidence, picking Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. “Our government will reflect the diversity of the United States, and Indian American voices will be included in shaping the policies that impact their communities,” said the agenda.

The Biden administration will address the rising incidents of hate crimes against “Indian Americans of all backgrounds -- Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain, and others -- (who) have been subjected to bullying and xenophobic attacks”. He will see a legislation to increase the punishment for certain hate crimes that occur in houses of worship and other religious community sites, such as gurdwaras, mandirs, temples, and mosques.

“We cannot leave our faith-based organizations to rely on donations and internal fundraising efforts to guard against deadly attacks. Biden will work with Congress to attain an immediate and substantial increase in direct security grant funding to faith-based organizations,” said the agenda.

The Biden administration will also work with congress to reform the immigration system and find a way to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, including 500,000 from India.

Kamala Harris wishes on India’s I-Day, talks about ‘our people’

NEW YORK, Aug 15: Kamala Harris, the US vice-presidential candidate, on Saturday congratulated India on the progress “our people have made in the fight for justice” as she extended her wishes on the country’s 74th Independence Day.

US Democratic party presidential nominee Joe Biden named 55-year-old Harris as his vice-presidential running mate earlier this week, making her the first person of Indian descent and the first Black woman in the history of America to hold a major-party national ticket in a presidential election.

“Happy Indian Independence Day! Reflecting on the past 74 years, it’s remarkable how much progress our people have made in the fight for justice. I hope you’ll join me today in celebrating and then commit to building an even better future,” Harris tweeted.

Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was born in Chennai before she moved to the USA to pursue a doctoral degree at University of California Berkeley. Shyamala was the daughter of PV Gopalan, who was active in the Independence movement and then became a high-ranking civil servant and fought against corruption.

Shyamala Gopalan was a cancer researcher, who raised Harris and the younger daughter Maya Harris, as a single mother mostly after early separation from Donald Harris, who had come to the US from Jamaica. Gopalan died in 2009.

Harris also spoke about her mother’s attempts to “instil a love of good idli” in her and sister Maya and “long walks” with her grandfather in Chennai during an event by ‘South Asians of Biden’.

“In Madras, I would go on long walks with my grandfather, who at that point was retired, and we take morning walks where I pulled his hand and he would tell me about the heroes who are responsible for the birth of the world’s biggest democracy, and he would explain that ‘it’s on us to pick up where they left off’. Those lessons are a big reason why I am where I am today,” she said.

Harris is currently the US senator from California. She is also the first African-American of a major party and only the third woman yet to run for the office of the US vice president, after Democrat Geraldine Ferraro and Republican Sarah Palin. The US hasn’t had a female vice-president, or president, yet.

Kamala Harris talks of her South Asian descent in maiden address to Indian American community

NEW YORK, Aug 15: Democratic vice-presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris, during her maiden address to the Indian-American community, reflected on her proud Indian heritage and recalled how her mother always wanted to instil in her a “love for good idli”.

Harris, 55, who is the first black to be selected as a vice-presidential candidate of a major party, took a trip down the memory lane, mentioning her “long walks” in Madras (now Chennai) with her grandfather who would tell her about the “heroes” responsible for the birth of the world’s largest democracy.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, 77, scripted history by selecting Harris, an Indian-American and an African-American, as his running mate in the presidential election on November 3.

Born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, California senator Harris, if elected, would be second in line of succession after Biden.

“Today on August 15, 2020. I stand before you as the first candidate for vice president of the United States of South Asian descent,” Harris said in her address organised by Indians for Biden National Council.

Joined by Biden, she greeted Indian Americans on the occasion of India’s Independence Day.

“To the people of India and to Indian Americans all across the US, I want to wish you a happy Indian Independence Day. On August 15, 1947, men and women all over India rejoiced in the declaration of the independence of the country of India,” Harris said during the virtual inaugural meet of the council.

Harris was born on October 20 in 1964, at Oakland in California. Her mother Shyamala Gopalan migrated to the US from Tamil Nadu in India, while her father, Donald J Harris, moved to the US from Jamaica. “When my mother, Shyamala stepped off the plane in California as a 19-year- old, she didn’t have much in the way of belongings. But she carried with her lessons from back home, including ones she learned from her parents, my grandmother Rajan, and her father, my grandfather P V Gopalan. They taught her that when you see injustice in the world, you have an obligation to do something about it,” Harris said.

“Which is what inspired my mother to march and shout on the streets of Oakland, at the height of the civil rights movement, a movement where leaders including Dr Martin Luther King Jr, were themselves inspired by the non-violent activism of Mahatma Gandhi,” she said.

Harris said it was during those protests that her mother met her father. The rest, as they say, is history, she said.

“Growing up, my mother would take my sister Maya and me back to what was then called Madras because she wanted us to understand where she had come from and where we had ancestry. And of course, she always wanted to instil in us, a love of good idli,” Harris said.

“In Madras I would go on long walks with my grandfather, who at that point was retired. We would take morning walks where I’d hold his hand and he would tell me about the heroes who are responsible for the birth of the world’s biggest democracy. He would explain that it’s on us to pick up where they left off. Those lessons are a big reason why I am who I am today,” Harris said explaining the deep influence of the Indian heritage on her.

“Our community is bound together by so much more than our shared history and culture,” she said. The reason there is a kinship between everyone who are a product of the South Asian diaspora, no matter how diverse our backgrounds may be, “is because we also share a set of values: values forged by overcoming colonial past, not only in one nation but in two”, Harris said.

“Values like tolerance pluralism, and diversity and reflecting on the past 73 years it’s remarkable how much progress, people have made in the fight for justice. And should be proud. But we wouldn’t be if we didn’t commit ourselves to building an even better future. So, I hope you celebrate today, and then tomorrow, I hope you join me in getting to work,” she said.

Kamala Harris will build stronger US-India relations, say Indian Americans

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, Aug 12: “We have arrived,” said Ramesh Kapur, President of the US India Security Council and National Finance - Biden Campaign, about Kamala Harris joining Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice-president.

The Tuesday announcement sent a wave of excitement coursing through the small Indian American community of about 4 million people. There was a sense, cutting across party lines, that Harris’s name on the presidential ticket was a badge of recognition for the entire community.

Harris is not only the first woman of color to appear on a major U.S. presidential ticket, but she is also the first person of South Asian descent.

In October 2019 in New York, Ramesh Kapur and his team had hosted her for a major fund raiser where she spoke of her Indian roots and how proud she is of India and the values that her mother Shyamala ingrained into her. She will make America proud and build stronger US-India relations, said Kapur.

Kapur, a veteran Democratic fundraiser, insists that the Biden-Harris ticket, as the team will be called now and until the November 3 elections and beyond, should be called, instead, the “Biden-Kamala” ticket.

“The ‘Biden-Kamala’ name,” said Kapur, who had hosted a fundraiser for Harris at his home in Boston in 2016 during her senate race, had a better Indian ring to it.

Rajendar Dichpally, Director (Communication), US Indian Security Council and Co-Chair - Indian Americans for Kamala Harris also expressed his excitement over the Harris’s name on the presidential ticket.

Rajendar Dichpally said "This is a once in a generation time for the community to come together and support/ elect one of our own. Kamala Harris takes great pride in the indian values instilled into her by her mother Shyamala. She still has many relatives in India and attachments to the country. She will ensure much better US-India relations if she is in White House. She is capable, has a great track record and will be an asset to America in these very troubled times."

Prof. Sanjay Kaul from Boston, a veteran commentator on world politics, is of firm opinion that in a world undergoing constant and rapid changes and of Covid Pandemics , this combination of Biden and Harris is the most pragmatic approach to problems of race relations Americans are facing. They have the capacity to provide the best tools for understanding the world and making it better and anticipating probable development for the global future.

Many Indians are tweeting support Wednesday for Kamala Harris.

"This is a historical, transformational, and proud moment for... all women of colour, all Black women, and all South Asian women," Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra tweeted. "Pride for India!!" says another.

Harris' mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who died in 2009, was a Hindu whose family hails from Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. Gopalan moved to California for graduate school before Harris was born.

"It is a moment of pride for Indians and Tamil Nadu especially," tweeted the state's deputy chief minister, Thiru O. Panneerselvam.

While Harris has most often identified herself as Black, and on occasion, as African American, she wrote about her Indian mother's influence on her in her 2019 memoir, The Truths We Hold. Harris has previously spoken about her family's Indian heritage, including in a giggly cooking video with actor Mindy Kaling. Harris has said she has fond memories of strolling Tamil Nadu's beaches with her late grandfather.

No American of India descent has ever made it on to a presidential ticket. Bobby Jindal, a former governor of Louisiana, was the first of Indian-descent to run for president. But he lost in the Republican primaries to Donald Trump, who went on to win the White House in 2016.

Harris became the second Indian American to try, in 2019. But her run for the Democratic ticket did not last long either, to the disappointment of the community, many of whom were girding up for a long run. including Kapur, who had held some fund-raisers.

Her return to the fray Tuesday, rekindled that optimism and re-energized the community.

“Moment of great pride for the Indian American community,” said Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of Victory Fund, a Democratic party-affiliate focussed on Asian Americans. “It’s a first in so many ways and will help Joe Biden win the presidency which is the first priority. A seismic shift occurred today and its ramifications will be felt for many decades.”

Frank Islam, a major Indian American fundraiser for Democrats, said, “This is a historical day for America, especially for the African American and Indian American communities.”

“Since Dalip Singh Saund entered the US Congress in 1957 against all odds, the community has made tremendous strides in politics,” he added, referring to the first Indian American elected to US congress. “This unquestionably trumps every milestone. Vice presidency is generally referred to as a position that is a heartbeat away from presidency.”

Most vice-presidents go on to run for the top job, with the rare exception in recent years of Dick Cheney, vice-president to President George W Bush. And most of them win, against with the rare exception in recent years of Al Gore, vice-president to President Bill Clinton. And former Vice-President Biden is himself in the fray, continuing the tradition.

The nomination sets up Harris for another presidential run, according to experts. It could be in 2024, if Biden, should he win this time in 2020, doesn’t want to continue, which is a widely considered possibility given his age (he is 77 now); or in 2028 at the end of the full two-term Biden presidency.

“It’s the beginning of her becoming the first Indian American president,” Kapur said of the Tuesday announcement.

US designates Confucius Institute ‘foreign mission’

WASHINGTON, Aug 13: The United States on Thursday designated the Confucius Institute US Center (CIUS) as a foreign mission calling it an “entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign” on American campuses and schools.

“The goal of these actions is simple: to ensure that American educators and school administrators can make informed choices about whether these CCP-backed programs should be allowed to continue, and if so, in what fashion,” secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

As a “foreign mission” CIUS will be subject to the same administrative rules and restrictions that apply to the Chinese diplomatic missions on a reciprocal basis.

The Trump administration shut down the Chinese mission in Houston recently alleging it has become a den of spies.

The United States has also designated Chinese media outlets operating here as ‘“foreign missions”, subjecting to the same treatment as diplomats.

Joe Biden raises $26 mn in 24 hours after Kamala Harris VP announcement

Aug 13: Joe Biden raised $26 million in the 24 hours after he named Kamala Harris as his running mate, doubling his previous one-day record and signaling enthusiasm among Democrats following the selection of the first Black woman on a major party’s presidential ticket.

“It’s really palpable, the excitement,” Biden said Wednesday.

The campaign hopes the haul is the beginning of a prolific fundraising push in the final stretch before Election Day. Democrats are close to matching, if not surpassing, the massive $300 million cash stockpile President Donald Trump and Republicans reported in July.

Harris is expected to play a key role in that effort. She joined Biden in Delaware on Wednesday for their first fundraiser together as running mates and talked to grassroots donors about how her parents’ activism inspired her interest in politics.

“This is a campaign that really fuels my hope because it is about knowing that this is fighting for something and not against something and it’s fighting for the best we are as a nation,” Harris said. “It’s fighting for the best of who we can be.”

With large in-person events out of the question because of the pandemic, the campaign has an aggressive schedule of online fundraisers planned for Harris. That could play to one of her political strengths and offset an area where Biden has sometimes struggled.

Harris already has a robust network of donors in her native California, a state that has long been referred to as the ATM of the Democratic Party. She can rake in cash from Wall Street. And Harris, who is also of Asian descent, has the potential to bring new money into the Democratic fold because of the historic nature of her candidacy.

“To have someone on the ticket whose mother is from the south of India is a dream come true,” said Swadesh Chatterjee, a businessman from North Carolina who also raises money for political candidates. “You will see more fundraising from the Indian American community.”

Lisa Hernandez Gioia, who was a deputy finance director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, called Harris a “fundraiser’s dream.”

“Donors already have an eagerness,” she said. “She adds the star power that will be like an afternoon shot of espresso to the campaign’s fundraising.”

Before it was clear he would win the Democratic nomination, Biden was never a particularly successful fundraiser. As a longtime senator from Delaware, a small, solidly blue state, he never had to cultivate a national network of donors. And party fundraisers have long grumbled that he lacked the same touch with donors that he has shown when working a rope line.

Biden’s campaign was virtually broke the time he won the South Carolina primary, which revived his prospects and powered his way to the Democratic nomination. And while his clinching of the nomination has led to a flood of campaign contributions, some believe Harris can juice totals even higher.

Yet Harris, who dropped out of the Democratic primary last year, has had her own struggles with fundraising.

She launched her presidential bid in early 2019 and raised $15.5 million by mid-March, an impressive showing at an early stage in the race. But her campaign hemorrhaged money. And while she wowed well-heeled donors, she struggled to develop a competitive base of grassroots contributors who chip in small amounts online, a phenomenon that fueled the fundraising success of rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But there are also big differences between a primary and the general election, where agreements struck between the nominee and the party enable massive checks to be raised from individual donors.

Already there are signs that suggest Harris is seeing some success.

Act Blue, the left’s online fundraising arm, reported taking in almost $11 million in the hours after the Harris announcement. And Biden aides later said the flood of money generated by the Harris announcement broke the online fundraising platform’s all-time one-day record for a campaign.

“The primary campaign folding early was not indicative of a lack of fundraising ability,” said Bakari Sellers, a CNN commentator and prominent Harris supporter from South Carolina. “Kamala is going to raise money and it’s going to be money that wouldn’t otherwise be raised.”

The connections Harris makes fundraising now will serve her well in the future. At 55, she has years left in her political career. That could give her a leg up on the competition in 2024 or later.

Steve Westly, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who has known Harris for over 20 years, said her dynamic presence serves her well in the staid world of political fundraising.

“She’s animated, she’s smart and she’s lively. And this is in a world of bland, cautious, older Caucasian men,” said Westly. “She is going to do very well.”

US Allows H-1B Visa Holders To Return For Same Jobs They Did Before Ban

WASHINGTON, Aug 13: The Trump administration has relaxed some rules for H-1B visas allowing visa holders to enter the US if they return to the same jobs they had before the visa ban.

The US Department of State advisory said dependents, or spouses and children, would also be allowed to travel with the visa holders.

"Travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification," the state department advisory said.

The US has also allowed travel by technical specialists, senior-level managers and other workers who hold H-1B visas, saying it is necessary to facilitate the "immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States".

President Donald Trump had signed a proclamation on June 22 banning the entry of certain non-immigrants with H-1B and L1 visas until the end of the year to protect the US labour market following record unemployment rates because of the Covid19 pandemic.

The US tech industry, including Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, had backed a lawsuit against the move.

America has also allowed the travel of visa holders working as public health or healthcare professionals, or researchers as the country battles the raging pandemic.

"Travel supported by a request from a US government agency or entity to meet critical US foreign policy objectives or to satisfy treaty or contractual obligations. This would include individuals, identified by the Department of Defense or another US government agency, performing research, providing IT support/services, or engaging other similar projects essential to a US government agency," the advisory stated.

'Don't Complain, Do Something': What Kamala Harris Learnt From Her Mother

WASHINGTON, Aug 13: Taking the center stage of American politics for the first time after becoming the presumptive vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic party, Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris remembered her mother Shyamala Gopalan, saying it was she who taught her not to sit and complain about things during the time of problem but do something to improve it.

Making her first appearance along with Biden in Wilmington in Delaware, Harris said her mother had a great role in her life.

"My mother, Shyamala, raised my sister Maya and me to believe that it was up to us, and every generation of Americans, to keep on marching. She'd tell us, Don't sit around and complain about things, do something," said Harris during her appearance in Wilmington, Delaware.

Harris, whose father is from Jamaica and mother an Indian, is currently the US Senator from California.

"You know, my mother and father, they came from opposite sides of the world to arrive in America, one from India and the other from Jamaica, in search of a world-class education," she said.

Harris' mother Shyamala was a breast-cancer specialist who emigrated from Tamil Nadu in 1960 to pursue a doctorate in endocrinology at the University of California Berkeley. Father Donald J Harris, who migrated from British Jamaica in 1961, is a Stanford University emeritus professor of economics.

"What brought them together was the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and that's how they met as students in the streets of Oakland, marching and shouting for this thing called justice, in a struggle that continues today," Harris said.

"And I was part of it. My parents would bring me to protests, strapped tightly in my stroller. And my mother, Shyamala, raised my sister Maya and me to believe that it was up to us, and every generation of Americans, to keep on marching," she said.

Inspired by her mother frequently telling her to do something, Harris said that she did something.

"So I did something. I devoted my life to making real the words carved in the United States'' Supreme Court, Equal justice under law. And 30 years ago, I stood before a judge for the first time, breathed deep, and uttered the phrase that would truly guide my career and the rest of my career, Kamala Harris for the people," she said.

"The people, that's who I represented as district attorney, fighting on behalf of victims who needed help. The people, that's who I fought for as California's attorney general, when I took on transnational criminal organisations who traffic in guns and drugs and human beings," Harris asserted.

Taking a jibe at President Donald Trump, Harris said she has worked to hold his officials accountable to the American people.

"And it's the people who I have fought for as a United States Senator, where I've worked every day to hold Trump officials accountable to the American people. And the people are who Joe and I will fight for every day in the White House," she said.

In her maiden speech, Harris also talked about her family.

"I cannot wait for America to get to know my husband, Doug, and our amazing kids, Cole and Ella," she said.

Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate

By Deepak Arora

WASHINGTON, Aug 11: Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has named Kamal Harris, who is of mixed Indian and African-American descent, as his pick for vice-president.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden wrote on Twitter.

Harris is first American of Indian and Asian descent to run for vice-president. She is also the first African American and only the third woman to run for that office.

The 55-year-old first time senator from California is the daughter of Indian mother, from Chennai, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher who passed away in 2009, and Jamaican father, Donald Harris, who teaches at Stanford University. The parents separated when Harris and her younger sister Maya Harris were still very young.

Harris became the first Indian American woman to run for US president ever — from either party in 2019. The first from the tiny minority community of 4 million was Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, who didn’t last the primaries that were won by President Trump. Harris is also the first Indian American Democrat to try for the job.

US Congressional Panel expresses bipartisan ‘concern’ over J&K situation

WASHINGTON, Aug 8: A US House of Representatives panel on foreign relations expressed bipartisan “concern” at the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in a letter to external affairs minister S Jaishankar, but India contended on Thursday that “positive changes” in the Union territory have ensured a “return to complete normalcy”.

“We note with concern that conditions in Jammu and Kashmir have not normalised one year after India’s repeal of Article 370 and the establishment of Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory,” Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and Michael T McCaul, a Republican member, wrote in the letter.

It was a rare instance of bipartisan criticism of the changes in Kashmir. Democrats have condemned it before at many public forums, headlined most prominently by senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, an Indian-American.

Republicans have been mostly supportive through their silence, taking the lead from the Trump administration’s response that it was an “internal matter” of India.

Engel and McCaul sought to soft-land the criticism by averring themselves as “champions” of the India-US relationship.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said: “This letter reflects a strong bipartisan support for India in the US. Regarding the specific issue that you referred to, there have been several positive changes in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir over the past one year, whether it be in terms of ensuring good governance or socio-economic development or delivering justice to disadvantaged sections of the population.”

Trump bars US government agencies from outsourcing to foreign workers

WASHINGTON, Aug 4: President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday that bars federal government agencies from displacing American nationals and citizens with foreign workers. It also calls for prohibiting American employers from using H-1B workers to displace Americans in outsourcing contracts. Indians have been largest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa programme.

The White House said in a statement the order will “create a policy where Federal agencies will focus on United States labor in lucrative Federal contracts” as it will be "unfair” for federal government agencies to “replace perfectly qualified Americans with workers from other countries”.

All federal agencies will conduct an internal audit following to order to ensure “only United States citizens and nationals are appointed to the competitive service.”.

The executive order also enjoins upon the department of labor, which is responsible for ensuring the fairness of the process of hiring foreign workers, to “finalize guidance to prevent H-1B employers from moving H-1B workers to other employers’ job sites to displace Americans workers”, in what is called third-party locations, essentially the practice of outsourcing using foreign workers on H-1B.

“President Trump’s actions will help combat employers’ misuse of H-1B visas, which were never intended to replace qualified American workers with low-cost foreign labor,” said the White House.

The is a follow-up of the April 2017 “Buy American, Hire American” executive order that unleashed a series of ongoing steps and measures bringing unprecedented scrutiny and tightening of the H-1B visa programme that has been in the crosshairs of the administration’s immigration hardliners.

Indian hired by US companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon and US subsidiaries of Indian IT forms Infosys, TCS and Wipro are the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa programme, accounting for more than 70% of the 85,000 that are issued every year.

A response is awaited from Nasscom, which represents the Indian IT industry.

The immediate provocation for the Monday order is the decision in May for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the largest federally owned power provider, to outsource 20% of its highly skilled tech workers to Accenture, Capgemini and CGI, that are based in Ireland, France and Canada respectively.

The White House said TVA’s action could lead to the firing of 200 highly-skilled American tech workers, who will be replaced by “low-wage, foreign workers hired on temporary work visas” and cost the local economy tens of millions of dollars in the coming 5 years.

“So let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board,” Trump said at a White House event to sign the order, where he also said he was pushing for the firing of the TVA CEO Jeff Lyash. “If you betray American workers, then you will hear two simple words ‘you’re fired. You’re fired’.”

The Trump administration said outsourcing of hundreds of workers was “especially detrimental in the middle of a pandemic”, which has led to millions of job-losses. Trump has also suspended the H-1B visa programme — as well as Green Cards — to ensure Americans get the first shot at jobs becoming available now as the economy struggles to get back to normalcy, from record job losses.

It also sought to frame the practice of outsourcing, with a new twists, asa “national security risk”, if linked to IT jobs that involve sensitive information. The reference was probably to the country’s growing estrangement from China, which the Trump administration has accused of theft of intellectual property rights.

Trump says TikTok must sell US operations by September 15 or close

WASHINGTON, Aug 3: President Donald Trump said TikTok will have to close its U.S. operations by September 15 unless there’s a deal to sell the social media network’s American operations.

He said that he’s okay with the idea of Microsoft Corp. buying TikTok -- as the company has said it’s negotiating to do -- and that there would have to be a substantial payment to the U.S. as part of the deal.

Trump set off a furious scramble over the fate of the Chinese-owned app on Friday, when he said he would ban the company’s operations through an executive action on Saturday. But the weekend passed without any official move from the White House, after the president spoke with Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella about his company’s efforts to purchase the viral video application.

Microsoft said in a blog post that it was aiming to complete a deal for TikTok’s operations in the U.S., as well as in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, no later than September 15. The White House had insisted upon that deadline, according to people familiar with the matter. It could prove an uphill climb, with key details for the deal -- including price -- still not worked out, people familiar with the discussions said.

The White House has said it’s concerned that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance Ltd., could be compelled to hand over American users’ data to Beijing or use the app to influence the 165 million Americans, and more than 2 billion users globally, who have downloaded it. And Trump has looked to ratchet up pressure on China ahead of November’s election, frustrated by slow implementation of the trade pact inked earlier this year and the spread of the coronavirus for which he blames China.

Teenagers opposed to the president have also used the app to disrupt the president’s campaign activities, including signing up for tickets to the president’s first rally since the beginning of the pandemic, in Tulsa. Attendance at the late June event was far below expectations, and Trump hasn’t held another rally since.

In its blog post, Microsoft pledged to add more security, privacy and digital safety protections to the TikTok app and ensure that all private data of Americans be transferred back to the U.S. and deleted from servers outside the country. The company also said it may invite other American investors to take minority stakes in the company.

“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns,” the company said. “It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.”

Still, U.S. lawmakers and administration officials have favored shutting down the application altogether to send a message to China after Beijing restricted American companies like Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. White House adviser Peter Navarro on Monday said in a pair of interviews with CNN and Fox News that he wasn’t sure Microsoft was the right company to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations, saying it had helped China construct its internet firewall.

“Should we trust any company that operates in China?” Navarro told Fox News.

US condemns Hong Kong decision to postpone legislative council polls

WASHINGTON, Aug 2: The United States on Saturday condemned the Hong Kong’s administration move to postpone Legislative Council elections and urged the government to reconsider their decision.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Friday that the Legislative Council elections scheduled for September 6 will be postponed over the Covid-19 threat.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a statement, said that the elections should be held as close to September 6 date as possible and in a manner that reflects the will and aspirations of the people of Hong Kong.

“The United States condemns the Hong Kong government’s decision to postpone by one year upcoming Legislative Council elections originally scheduled for September 6. There is no valid reason for such a lengthy delay. It is likely, therefore, that Hong Kong will never again be able to vote - for anything or anyone,” Pompeo said in the statement published on the State Department website read.

“We urge Hong Kong authorities to reconsider their decision. The elections should be held as close to September 6 date as possible and in a manner that reflects the will and aspirations of the Hong Kong people. If they aren’t, then regrettably Hong Kong will continue its march toward becoming just another Communist-run city in China,” the statement added.




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