Tuesday December 12, 2017
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The great American election carnival is rolling

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Washington, It was turning into a right royal clash of two political dynasties before a balding, grey-haired politician and a businessman with a golden mop on top spoiled the fun for frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush that is.

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For the rest of the world, the great American carnival that is the 2016 presidential race has just started rolling and anyone out of the pack of 22 – five Democrats and 17 Republicans – could end up being the Clown-in-Chief, oops Commander-in-Chief.

Among the Republican 17 is our very own Bobby Jindal, born in Louisiana six months after he traveled from Punjab in his mother’s womb, and who fancying himself as all-American is tired of hyphenated Americans and much else.

A ‘Tanned. Rested. Ready’ Jindal, as his campaign slogan pilfered from the much-despised Richard Nixon, describes him hasn’t gained much traction and continues to languish low in the polls known as he is to less than half the Republican voters.

First the disruptor, starting with ‘Teflon’ Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and celebrity reality TV show host, who keeps climbing the popularity charts despite bad mouthing ‘stupid’ politicians and a dust up with a popular female Fox News host.

For a ‘smart’ Trump, Senator John McCain was no ‘hero’ for getting captured during the Vietnam war, illegal immigrants from Mexico were ‘rapists’ and an ‘unfair’ host Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” during the first Republican debate.

But proving pundits wrong, nothing would stick to Teflon Trump, who called his detractors accusing him of making ‘lewd’ and misogynistic comments about women as “sick and deviant” and declared he cherished women.

Trump also targeted Bush, son of a president and brother of another, for saying he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues” and said it was the Republican establishment favorite who owed women an apology.

Other Republican presidential contenders, including Louisiana governor Jindal, tied themselves into knots with pledges to repeal Obamacare, tear up the Iran deal and defend Planned Parenthood, a women’s health organisation.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee sought Planned Parenthood’s criminal prosecution for allegedly selling fetal body parts, a charge it has denied, as unborn fetuses too had constitutional rights.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton once again saw her aura of inevitability threatened as it was in 2008 by a junior senator from Illinois who went on to make history as America’s first African American president.

With questions being raised about her use of a private email server during her time as the secretary of state, self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders overtook Clinton 44 to 37 percent in a new poll in New Hampshire with waves of supporters flocking to his events.

But it’s still early days, and all the official televised debates, nine for Republicans and six for Democrats, and stump speeches the candidates are making are just warming up for the ‘hunger games’ set to begin next February – the caucuses and primaries in every state.

It’s the delegates picked up at these events, starting with the Iowa caucus, where party functionaries choose them, and the New Hampshire primary, where registered voters of a party do so, who will anoint their respective party’s candidate at their conventions in July next year.

There are several other lesser known parties like the Green Party, the Libertarian Party and the Prohibition Party and wary of the Republican party establishment, Trump has not ruled out an independent or third party run if things don’t go his way.

But the debates and campaign stops like the one at Iowa fair where 18 presidential candidates made a “bipartisan stampede” over the weekend do help them raise their profiles and win deep-pocketed donors like the billionaire Koch brothers.

The last Republican debate, for one, gave a huge boost to two other political outsiders  former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Earlier this month, the Koch brothers organised a conclave of 250 top donors at a luxury resort in southern California to pick the Republican horse they would bet on with plans to spend nearly $900 million. But Trump was not among the “Puppets” who went there “to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers,” as he tweeted after the event.

The disruptions’ surge, analysts suggest, has been fueled by public anger at a dysfunctional Washington establishment.

But the question is whether they would be able to sustain their momentum in the face of the well oiled and well-heeled Bushes, the Clintons and the Kochs or would it all end up as just a sweet summer fling?

(IANS)

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Astronaut Peggy Whitson Breaks Record for Most accumulated time spent in Space by American

The 57-year-old Whitson is the most experienced U.S. spacewoman

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Astronaut Peggy Whitson Breaks Record for Most accumulated time spent in Space by American, VOA

April 24, 2017: U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson on Monday broke the record for most accumulated time spent in orbit by an American.

Commander Whitson, who is aboard the International Space Station, was congratulated by U.S. President Donald Trump, who spoke to space station astronauts via video.

“Five-hundred thirty-four days and counting. That’s an incredible record to break,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “On behalf of our nation, and frankly on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you.”

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The 57-year-old Whitson is the most experienced U.S. spacewoman. She is scheduled to return to earth in September, at which time she will have spent 666 days in space over the course of three flights.

“It’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this,” Whitson told Trump.

Whitson also explained to Trump how technology in the space station allows astronauts to convert their urine to drinking water. “It’s really not as bad as it sounds,” she said. (VOA)

 

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Americans not part of US Army Die Fighting Islamic State, return Home to Military-type Honors

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WILLIAM SAVAGE Picture Credits: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter presented flags Friday to the families of two men who never joined the U.S. military – but died fighting the Islamic State group in Syria – after their bodies returned to Colorado on Friday.

The caskets of Levi Shirley, 24, Jordan MacTaggart, 22, along with that of William Savage, 27, arrived Wednesday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after a complicated journey back to the U.S. without ceremony.

From there, Shirley and MacTaggart arrived by train in Denver, while Savage was being transported to North Carolina, where his father lives.

In Denver, the bodies were delivered to their sobbing loved ones in plain, gray caskets. A team of pallbearers unloaded the caskets from an Amtrak train and lifted them into hearses as sleepy passengers watched curiously.

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“Though they did not fight as members of our armed forces, they are Americans and as Americans we have a responsibility to bring these young men home and to give the families relief and closure,” Perlmutter said in a statement.

The men died separately in combat after joining the People’s Protection Units, the main Kurdish guerrilla group battling the Islamic State in Syria.

Turkey’s tense relationship with the Kurds and the U.S. since July’s failed coup stalled efforts to bring the men home.

The remains of Keith Broomfield of Massachusetts, believed to be the first American to die alongside Kurds fighting Islamic State, were returned to the U.S. through Turkey last year in 2015.

But Kurdish groups determined it would be too dangerous to repatriate the bodies of Shirley, MacTaggart and Savage through Turkey and instead shipped them hundreds of miles east to Iraq. The bodies were then flown to Amman, Jordan, and on to Chicago.

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Susan Shirley said she worked with the State Department to bring her son’s body home, and her friends contacted Perlmutter to help navigate the frustrating terrain. He enlisted aid from people at the White House.

“It took extraordinary measures by many people to get these men from Syria to the U.S., especially given the ever-changing and dangerous geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East,” Perlmutter said. “It seems we are in the final stages of this long and sad situation.”

Susan Shirley said her son was in Syria “as an American to protect Americans.”

But unlike fallen members of the armed forces, the young men had no military escorts to accompany their caskets and no 21-gun salute.

Still, Susan Shirley said she appreciated the homecoming for her son and extended her condolences to families that have lost military members in action.

“You can do all the pomp and circumstance you want, but those families aren’t getting their sons back, either,” Shirley said.

Veterans groups said they had no problems with the honors planned for the three men.

“They went to fight for the right side,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the national Veterans of Foreign Wars. “You can’t fault a state for honoring their own.”

Shirley, of Arvada, Colorado, was killed by a land mine July 14. MacTaggart, of Castle Rock, Colorado, died Aug. 3 while fighting in a squad that included two Americans and a Swede in Manbij, Syria.

Savage, of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, also died in Manbij on Aug. 10. (VOA)

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After 6-Month Space Station Mission, 2 US and Russian Astronauts Return to Earth

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ASTRONAUT PHOTOS

Sept 07, 2016: Two Russian and American astronaut returned to our planet at Kazakhstan in the wee hours of Wednesday. After completing work for 6 months on the International Space Station.

After spending 534 days in the space across four space stations American astronaut Jeff Williams became the U.S. record-holder for most time spent in orbit. Previously NASA astronaut Scott Kelly holds the record with 520 days in space. The world record is been set by  Russian Gennady Padalka who spent 879 days in space.

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Nasa quoted “Williams, along with Russian astronauts Alexy Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka landed their Russian-made Soyuz capsule in central Kazakhstan just after 7 a.m. local time Wednesday.” About three and a half hours prior to their landing the three men disembarked from the space station.

In a statement, NASA called Williams “instrumental in preparing the station for future arrival of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft.” Nasa quoted that “Williams had performed five space walks during his time at the space station, one of which included the installation of a docking station for the commercial flights.”

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Russian Anatoly Ivanishin took command after Williams left the space station.Ivanishin remained in the space station with American Kate Rubins and Japan’s Takuya Onishi.

“Vast gratitude toward my crewmates, ground teams, supporting friends, and family.” Along with a picture of the Earth’s outer atmosphere, Williams posted on Twitter that “I would certainly miss this view!” (VOA)