Wednesday October 18, 2017
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Indian-American author wonders about ”the perfect candidate”

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By-Arun Kumar

Washington: T Dasu, an Indian-American author got a suggestion for the Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump: “Veer to the centre, and pick a positive, uplifting message.” His new novel is about a former spy who turned a politician.

“Fear-mongering can only take you so far,” says T Dasu, by day a research scientist working on problems in statistics, stream mining, and machine learning, and author of “The Perfect Candidate”, the second in her “Spy, Interrupted” trilogy.

“Also, pick a smart woman as a running mate,” she says on behalf of the campaign team of her novel’s hero, a former CIA operative with an Indian-American wife, running for a US Senate seat.

“No, not Carly Fiorina. Nikki Haley?” she asks, referring to former HP CEO, who has quit the presidential race, and the Indian-American governor of South Carolina.

“Intolerance of any kind should be rejected forcefully, particularly when it is institutionalized and turned on those least able to fight it,” Dasu said in an email interview.

“Politicians will say and do anything to get elected,” she said when asked about the intolerance debate in India and the kind of rhetoric heard on the US presidential campaign trail.

“And very often the media fans the fire by amplifying and repeating the most obnoxious and heinous words,” Dasu said.

“That’s why it was important to me that the hero, Stephen James, should have no part in it; his intolerance is turned towards people’s behaviour – for example, terrorist acts.”

In Dasu’s opinion, “there is no perfect candidate in the presidential race at the moment, not counting her fictional hero Stephen James, who “is principled, fearless and wants to save the world”.

Among the Democrats, Bernie Sanders “is impractical and too focussed on one issue, (Hillary) Clinton has a credibility problem, and the Republicans all want to take us back to medieval times”.

She, however, believes that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified and capable candidate in the field.

Dasu said she was inspired to write spy novels as “I have always been a fan of literary espionage, starting with Graham Greene’s ‘Our Man in Havana’, and the early works of John le Carre, particularly the Karla trilogy”.

“The focus is on characters and their motivation rather than pure plot developments,” she said. “And being a spy is such a rich and complex human condition – to deceive in order to defend.”

Dasu said her novels had more romance and social drama than spy craft because “I am curious about the lives of spies rather than their deeds or craft”.

“How do they relate to the people around them? How do their significant others ever trust them? What do they need to do in order to keep their professional habits from seeping into their personal interactions?”

“I wanted to write about the spy as seen through the eyes of the people close to them,” Dasu said. “And, I have to admit, I love Jane Austen as much as I love literary espionage.”

“So, romance and social drama and other situations faced by every thinking woman naturally creep into my writing.”

But she disagreed “strongly that the South Asian characters in the book are stereotypical”.

“First of all, most South Asian characters and writing focus on immigrant angst and adjustment issues – Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Divakaruni – the whole culture clash between Western and Indian values.”

Most of the South Asian characters in her book, she acknowledged, are “very well adjusted and happy, to the point of perfection”.

But the last book in her trilogy “is very different from the first two books,” she said. “It has a unique setting and an unusual story arc.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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Trump Endorses Short-Term Bipartisan Fix For Obama Care

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Obamacare

Washington, October 18: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday expressed support for a bipartisan initiative to restore the Obama Care subsidies he suspended last week.

“We have been involved and this is a short-term deal because we think ultimately block grants going to the states is going to be the answer,” Trump told reporters at the White House, Efe news reported.

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) announced on Tuesday an accord “in principle” to re-instate for two years the cost-sharing reduction payments, known as CSRs, that Trump halted last week.

The proposal would at the same time give states “more flexibility in the variety of choices they can give to consumers”, Alexander said.

Alexander, the chair of the Senate Health Committee, received encouragement from the President last weekend for his attempt to find common ground with the Democrats.

“Lamar has been working very, very hard with … his colleagues on the other side, and, Patty Murray is one of them in particular, and they’re coming up, and they’re fairly close to a short-term solution. The solution will be for about a year or two years, and it will get us over this intermediate hump,” Trump said on Tuesday.

Trump signed an executive order last Thursday loosening some of the requirements set down for health insurance plans by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the signature domestic policy initiative of his predecessor Barack Obama.

He signed another directive terminating the CSR payments late Thursday night.

The President, who vowed to repeal and replace the ACA – popularly known as ObamaCare – has grown frustrated by the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to pass a bill undoing the 2010 legislation.

“This takes care of the next two years,” Alexander said of his and Murray’s proposal. “After that, we can have a full-fledged debate on where we go long-term on health care.”

Murray, meanwhile, said that the plan would protect people from sharp increases in premiums resulting from Trump’s decision to end the CSR payments.

“Overall we are very pleased with this agreement,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, praising the deal for including “anti-sabotage provisions” to prevent the administration from undermining the ACA.

The Republican lawmakers were reluctant to comment on the Alexander-Murray accord.

“We haven’t had a chance to think about the way forward yet,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after meeting with his Republican colleagues.

Despite his encouraging words for Alexander, Trump kept up his criticism of the ACA.

“Obama Care is virtually dead. At best you could say it’s in its final legs. The premiums are going through the roof. The deductibles are so high that people don’t get to use it. Obama Care is a disgrace to our nation and we are solving the problem of Obama Care,” he said. (IANS)

 

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4 Ships Banned From All Ports For Violating North Korea Sanctions

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South Korea's naval ships
South Korea's naval ships take part in a military drill for possible attack from North Korea in the water of the East Sea, South Korea. voa

The U.N. Security Council has banned all nations from allowing four ships that transported prohibited goods to and from North Korea to enter any port in their country.

Hugh Griffiths, head of the panel of experts investigating the implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, announced the port bans at a briefing to U.N. member states on Monday. A North Korean diplomat attended the hour-long session.

Griffiths later told several reporters that “this is the first time in U.N. history” that the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang has prohibited ships from entering all ports.

He identified the four cargo ships as the Petrel 8, Hao Fan 6, Tong San 2 and Jie Shun.

According to MarineTraffic, a maritime database that monitors vessels and their moments, Petrel 8 is registered in Comoros, Hao Fan 6 in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tong San 2 in North Korea. It does not list the flag of Tong San 2 but said that on Oct. 3 it was in the Bohai Sea off north China.

Griffiths said the four ships were officially listed on Oct. 5 “for transporting prohibited goods,” stressing that this was “swift action” by the sanctions committee following the Aug. 6 Security Council resolution that authorized port bans.

That resolution, which followed North Korea’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, also banned the country from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products. Those goods are estimated to be worth over $1 billion – about one-third of the country’s estimated $3 billion in exports in 2016.

The Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions on Sept. 11, responding to North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3.

These latest sanctions ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap its crude oil imports. They also prohibit all textile exports, ban all joint ventures and cooperative operations, and bars any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers-key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

Both resolutions are aimed at increasing economic pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the country’s official name – to return to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs.

Griffiths told U.N. diplomats that the panel of experts is getting reports that the DPRK “is continuing its attempts to export coal” in violation of U.N. sanctions.

“We have as yet no evidence whatsoever of state complicity, but given the large quantities of money involved and the excess capacity of coal in the DPRK it probably comes as no surprise to you all that they’re seeking to make some money here,” he said.

Griffiths said the panel is “doing our very best to monitor the situation and to follow up with member states who maybe have been taken advantage of by the tactics deployed by DPRK coal export entities.”

As for joint ventures and cooperative arrangements, Griffiths said the resolution gives them 120 days from Sept. 11 to close down.

But “in a number of cases, the indications are that these joint ventures aren’t shutting down at all but are on the contrary expanding _ and therefore joint ventures is a major feature of the panel’s current investigations,” he said.

Griffiths also asked all countries to pay “special attention” to North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, also known as the Mansudae Art Studio, which is on the sanctions blacklist and subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.

According to the sanctions listing, Mansudae exports North Korea workers to other countries “for construction-related activities including for statues and monuments to generate revenue for the government of the DPRK or the (ruling) Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Griffiths said Mansudae “has representatives, branches and affiliates in the Asia-Pacific region, all over Africa and all over Europe.” Without elaborating, he added that “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa.” (voa)

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Donald Trump Expands Travel Ban, Restricts Visitors from 8 Countries

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Donal Trump
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Air Force One at Morristown,Municipal airportN.J. (source: VOA)

Washington, September 25:— The revised US travel ban will restrict travellers from eight countries to visit the United States, says an order signed by President Donald Trump on Sunday. The new travel ban, which takes effect on, October 18, will restrict residents of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

According to the U.S. officials, these countries have refused to share information about terrorism and other issues with the United States.The new travel ban drops Sudan from the list but adds Chad, Venezuela and North Korea to the original six Muslim-majority countries.

The announcement late Sunday came as Trump’s previous temporary travel ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries was expiring, 90 days after it went into effect. The earlier order had barred citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. unless they had a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

US President Donald Trump’s travel ban inflicts “Significant harm” on Muslim Americans

Reaction to the president’s order from human-rights organizations and other groups that work with immigrants was largely negative.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said the latest version of the “Muslim ban” that Trump tried to introduce on taking office earlier this year as part of the administration’s “ugly white supremacist agenda.”

Trump said in the new proclamation: “As president, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people. The restrictions announced are tough and tailored, and they send a message to foreign governments that they must work with us to enhance security.”

Trump last week called for a “tougher” travel ban after a bomb partially exploded on a London subway.Trump last week called for a “tougher” travel ban after a bomb partially exploded on a London subway.