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Donald Trump’s Win in US triggers Fear and Hope in France that next year’s Presidential Elections may deliver Similar Upset

Complicating matters, French voters are allowed to cast their ballots for either — or both — primaries, regardless of their party affiliation

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A billboard in Paris for former prime minister Alain Juppe, the front runner in the conservative primaries, Paris, Nov. 18, 2016. (L. Bryant/VOA)

If all goes well, Alain Juppe may move into the Elysee presidential palace next May.

The septuagenarian former prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux has been leading in the polls for months, scoring points for his low-key humor and moderate stances on hot-button issues like Islam and immigration.

But in recent days his comfortable margin has been narrowing. And as French citizens head to the polls Sunday for the first round of the conservative primaries, some wonder if the “Trump effect” could boomerang in France.

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“Mr. Trump’s election is frightening many politicians,” said analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. “And that fear could play in many different directions.”

Indeed, the U.S. election results prove just how wrong predictions can be. As elsewhere in Europe, in .

A billboard on a Paris newsstand underscoring how deeply the US elections have resonated in France, Paris, Nov. 18, 2016. (L. Bryant/VOA)
A billboard on a Paris newsstand underscoring how deeply the US elections have resonated in France, Paris, Nov. 18, 2016. (L. Bryant/VOA)

This past week has seen two popular outsiders take new steps in consolidating support, as far-right leader Marine Le Pen inaugurated her campaign headquarters in Paris — not far from the Elysee — and maverick ex-investment banker Emmanuel Macron threw his hat into the race.

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Many of same issues playing out in the U.S. campaign are also resonating in France. Voters are disenchanted with the status quo, worried about jobs, and fearful of the downsides of immigration, globalisation and militant Islam. These concerns are powering a hunger for new faces and new solutions.

All of this has sent Juppe and many other mainstream candidates scrambling to rebrand, eager to ditch their insider image.

Another poster of Alain Juppe in Paris, France, Nov. 18, 2016. (L. Bryant/VOA)
Another poster of Alain Juppe in Paris, France, Nov. 18, 2016. (L. Bryant/VOA)

“All of them are criticizing the elite, the establishment and promising change,” said Jean-Eric Branaa, a U.S. expert and professor at Paris II University. “And of course, all of them are part of the establishment. So voters are quite puzzled.”

Among the seven contenders in Sunday’s primary, for example, two are former prime ministers, one is ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, while the other four are veteran politicians. When candidate Jean-Francois Coppe vastly underestimated the cost of a croissant recently, his rivals and the media pounced, suggesting he was disconnected with the concerns of ordinary voters.

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Juppe, too, has also been quick to note he does his own shopping (at the Monoprix, near Bordeaux’ city hall). He has been credited for transforming the southwestern city — not to mention his own image. He was among the country’s most loathed politicians in the 1990s, when he served as prime minister.

But ahead of Sunday’s vote, polls show a last-minute surge away from Juppe and in favor of another former prime minister, Francois Fillon, who is now running a tight race with Sarkozy for second place.

“Juppe is too old,” said 19-year-old student Victor Lebrun, who is nonetheless uncertain who he will vote for. “I think we need someone who is young, who really understands how people are thinking.”

The two rounds of conservative voting will prove an early test of how voter sentiments pan out in the ballot box. The ruling Socialists hold their own elections in December, marking the first time both parties hold presidential primaries.

Still uncertain is whether the incumbent and deeply unpopular leader, Francois Hollande, will run for re-election, but many experts have written off his chances of winning.

Complicating matters, French voters are allowed to cast their ballots for either — or both — primaries, regardless of their party affiliation.

Entrepreneur Christophe de Courson plans to vote for Fillon in the primaries, but he is eyeing a very different candidate when it comes to next April’s presidential poll.

“I think he’ll cause waves,” he said of Macron, who quit his job as economy minister earlier this year to launch his own political movement called “En Marche!” (“Forward!”). Macron is not running in either of the primaries, trying to sell himself to both the French right and left. He still faces the task of collecting the 500 signatures from elected officials necessary to get on the ballot.

“He really knows the issues, and he has a political plan,” de Courson added. “The fact you can’t label him is a plus.”

Another poster of Alain Juppe in Paris, France, Nov. 18, 2016. (L. Bryant/VOA)
Another poster of Alain Juppe in Paris, France, Nov. 18, 2016. (L. Bryant/VOA)

Far-right leader Le Pen is a more formidable challenge. The National Front head who has been coasting on populist sentiments for months, was among the first to congratulate Trump on his victory. Today, she sees it as a harbinger of her own.

A decade ago, her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made it to the second-round presidential runoff. He was soundly beaten, in what many considered a referendum against extremism.

Until the U.S. vote, few believed the younger Le Pen could win either. Now, some believe 2017 could be different. Trump, they say, has made once-taboo discourse and positions more acceptable.

“People could vote for Marine Le Pen in the second round, saying, why not after all?” said analyst Branaa. “I don’t think she’s going to win. But she’s going to come pretty close.” (VOA)

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Here’s Why Yoga is the Potential Game Changer in India’s Soft Power!

India is the land of culture and spirituality, known for its richness and legacies around the globe

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India
India's soft power
  • The Yoga day celebrations across the globe is a sign of India’s increasing influence through soft power
  • India’s culture and worldview has made an impact on the western societies as well
  • The revival of Yoga as a soft power tool has started a new era of change 

July 12, 2017: India is seen in the world as a hub of cultural importance and historical legacies. The spiritual and natural teachings of India have influenced different parts of the world and to an extent shaped their philosophies.

In the Indochina and Indonesian region, subsets of Indian culture reached out. The presence of these is still seen in China and Japan. Gradually, it spread west to the Central Asian region. India bridged the trade between East and the West, also inserting its cultural teachings and rituals in the process. It was through trade that Indian Vedic system landed in Europe, thereby greatly influencing it.

The rise of academic philosophy in the 1800s came to the East and particularly India, to form a perspective on life. Many of these philosophers also admired India and its teachings.

It was Swami Vivekanand’s visit to the west, in 1893, that brought the Indian philosophical thought, centered around Yoga, to the Western spotlight.

Vivekanand’s work on universal consciousness went on to later inspire Einstein’s masterpiece. He introduced Yoga as a form of spiritual awakening, and it instantly touched upon the masses of the western society.

Vivekananda’s Yoga was also a major player in the Indian freedom struggle. Opposed by the alien rulers, Yoga was a symbol of Indian traditions and rituals, something to stick to in a situation of foreign dominance.

ALSO READ: Here is an Elephant inspired by PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan!

Since the popularity of Yoga, many Hindu teachers and gurus have traveled abroad, spreading the ideology. These were sometimes coupled with Dharmic and Vedic teachings. Teachings of Bhagwad Gita have also had a great influence on the people.

This Indian lifestyle got more attention with the introduction of Ayurveda (a natural way of living), Mantras, Kirtans, and Indian folklores.

More than hundred million people in the world practice different forms of Yoga today. Names like Paramahansa Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Satya Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mata Amritanandamayi, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, and many others are familiar with the Westerners from various countries.

The sovereign state of India had never reaped the advantages of this soft power. The governments have mostly put minimal efforts to benefit out of Yoga. It has always been the Hindu thought that has been subject to emphasis and priority.

All that has changed in the past few years. The present Government of India’s Yoga initiatives has brought the country’s soft power approach to a new era. International Yoga Day’s success is beyond comprehension for any former political regime.

The changing face of India owes a lot to the revival of Yoga and its significance. This cultural gift to the world will provide more scope for India to climb further up the diplomatic ladder.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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India’s Textile and Fashion Heritage now part of Google project

Google's project 'We Wear Culture' is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

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we wear culture
Google's new art project 'We wear Culture' digitizes fashion, Wikimedia
  • Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India
  • It intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures
  • Its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

June 15, 2017: To a certain extent, a culture is defined by what is worn by its people. In a country as diverse as India, vast and varied spectrum of cultures and clothes is one of the specialties. Google’s latest virtual exhibition project now provides us the opportunity to explore and know more about it.

Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago, from the ancient Silk Road to the unmatched elegance of the Indian Saree,  from the courtly fashion of Versailles, to the Victorian ballgowns with intricate thread work.

According to Amit Sood, director of Google Arts and Culture,”We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your Saree, jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art.”

Culture is defined by what is worn by its people. Click To Tweet

The company also mentioned that noteworthy collections from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and varied weaves from across India, from Gharchola to Patola to Temple to Ikat sarees will be included in the online project, as it intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures.

ALSO READ: New Google Project Digitizes World’s Top Fashion Archives.

According to PTI reports, the world fashion exhibit also includes designs from north-eastern India including the weaves of tribes such as the Nagas, Meitis. it will showcase the traditional attire from Meghalaya called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ worn by the Khasi women as well.

As a part of the exhibit, Sewa Hansiba Museum has brought the unique colorful and rich embroidery arts, applique and mirror work from different communities such as the Ahir, Rabari, Chaudhury Patel and many others from the western part of India online.

The exhibition conducted by Salar Jung Museum brings to light the Sherwani and its journey of becoming the royal fashion statement of the Nizams from 19th century Hyderabad. Fashion and textiles enthusiasts can revisit Colonial Indian attires with Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Over 400 online exhibitions and stories sharing a total of 50,000 photos, videos and other documents on world fashion are open to exploration as well.

The ‘We wear Culture’ initiative highlights significant events in the growth of the world fashion industry; the icons, the movements, the game changers and the trendsetters like Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Audrey Hepburn and many more.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang