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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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Why Violence In USA – No Basic Flaw

Any incident in the USA whether big or small gets worldwide publicity almost instantaneously, just like the current George Floyd issue

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The USA
Even after President Trump condemned the George Floyd incident, USA continues to burn. Pixabay

BY N.S.Venkataraman

Any incident in USA , particularly adverse incident, whether big or small, gets world wide publicity almost instantaneously. This is mainly due to the fact that USA is recognized as a rich country with super power status and known for significant advancement in variety of fields. Such news is followed by debates and discussions in the world media, with some pledged critics stating with glee that such adverse incidents clearly show that USA is a troubled society. Is that really so ?

Why shoot out incidents ?

In the recent years, many shoot outs have taken place in USA in universities, malls and other public places, when number of innocent lives have been lost. Shoot outs have been carried out by individuals for one reason or other and even due to psychic problems of individuals . These individuals hail from all background including young and old persons, white or black persons and there is no uniformity in the background, that point to any particular cause or reason. The detailed investigation that follow such shoot outs do not seem to explain the reasons adequately well with clarity .

It is generally said that the liberal gun policy and the prevailing gun culture in USA is the primary reason for such shoot outs and violence. Most of the Americans possess guns and rarely anyone amongst them indulge in such practices. If the violent prone person would not have a gun, he can use a knife or any other weapon. Are the causes for the violence as simple as gun culture ?

No evidence of widespread black-white conflict :

Now, the case of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed his knee into his neck has caused widespread anger across the country. Obviously, the white police officer is a cruel person and should be punished severely. Even while President Trump has condemned the incident, protestors burned businesses in Minneapollis. They smashed police cars and windows in Atlanta, broke into police headquarters in Portland and chanted curses at Donald Trump outside the White House.

Protest USA
This sad incident should not be misinterpreted as result of conflict of interest between the white and black citizens in USA. Pixabay

This sad incident should not be misinterpreted as result of conflict of interest between the white and black citizens in USA. While some protestors turned violent, there have been number of other protestors who conducted themselves peacefully and with dignity , holding placards and demanding justice for George Floyd. Of these protestors, many of them are white , brown or black Americans. Certainly, there is no racial conflict issue involved in the George Floyd murder but only the stupidity of a violent prone police officer was seen.

Is media playing responsible role?

While the sad incident happened, the media in USA played what seem to be a negative role by prominently showing the photograph of the crying George Floyd being attacked by the white police officer, which has whipped up passion and disgust all over USA causing widespread unrest. It is not the case that media should remain silent without revealing such bad news but the case is that media should be aware of the consequence of highlighting such negative photographs that could lead to greater violence and unrest. In USA, media claims that it has the liberty and right to show , speak or criticise any event as per the prejudices and priorities of the editors and journalists.

Can one say that the freedom of media is being abused and freedom without responsibility can only lead to violence, just as the George Floyd incident show. Many seem to think that the media sensationalise such violence issue, without counselling peace and harmony and discuss the causes in dispassionate and constructive manner. Such positive approach of media could have prevented the violence that followed George Floyd murder.

A tolerant country :

George Floyd incident has created an impression all over the world that USA is a country under the boil. This certainly is not so. There are many civilized and sane voices in USA who rarely get adequate coverage in the media and their civilized thoughts are not adequately publicized for the benefit of the country.

Today, one cannot but deny the fact that U S A is the most tolerant country in the world. People from countries with various background seek migration to USA and think that they would be privileged to get US citizenship. This is mainly due to their confidence that they would get fair deal in USA and the law would protect t their interests.

The USA
Any attempt to describe USA as a country under boil after the George Floyd issue is a mischievous and motivated attempt to discredit USA. Pixabay

Today, USA is essentially described as a migrant country with people visiting USA as students , job seekers or immigrants and most of them seeking to stay in USA life long by getting citizenship. Any attempt to describe USA as a country under boil after the George Floyd issue is a mischievous and motivated attempt to discredit USA. This is very unfair.

Violence everywhere in the world :

Animals try to over power other creatures for self protection and for their feed. Therefore, violence is an essential part of animal’s life. In the case of human beings ( who are supposed to have sixth sense, which animals do not have) ,violence and anger seem to be there in the mindset , which are revealed due to reasons such as prejudices , hatred etc. This is a common trend all over the world including USA. It calls for enormous efforts amongst individuals living anywhere in the world to silence the feelings of anger and violence in the mindset and this is what religions are supposed to aid individuals in achieving such state of mind.

Also Read: What Will Be The Future of Malls and Film Theatres In Post-Pandemic World

Like any other country, in USA too, it requires leaders and scholars advocating peace and harmony as way of life and they should get prominent place to mould the society. It is the duty of the media to identify persons of such ethical and moral stature and publicise their thoughts and preachings for overall betterment of the society. The recent violence in USA due to the death of George Floyd do not indicate any basic flaw in the American society.

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40.7 Million American Workers Seek Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment has increased worldwide as bussinesses remain shut due to COVID-19 pandemic

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Unemployment
People who lost their jobs are reflected in the door of an Arkansas Workforce Center as they wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Fort Smith, Arkansas. VOA
By Ken Bredemeier

 

Applications for unemployment compensation eased again in the U.S. last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, as some employers started to reopen businesses after the coronavirus pandemic forced their closure.

Even so, another 2.1 million more workers sought cash benefits after being laid off as other businesses curtailed their operations in the face of the continuing threat from the virus and less demand for their products.

In all, since mid-March, 40.7 million workers have now sought unemployment compensation, nearly a quarter of the U.S. labor force of more than 164 million.

However, the current actual number of jobless workers is unknown since some who sought unemployment benefits in previous weeks have now been called back to work by their employers. All 50 state governors have begun to ease restrictions on businesses opening in a patch-work array of directives that varies widely throughout the country.

The U.S. death toll from the virus topped 100,000 on Wednesday and health experts predict tens of thousands more will die in the coming months. But President Donald Trump, facing a November re-election contest against former Vice President Joe Biden, is predicting the country will have a robust economic recovery.

“States should open up ASAP,” Trump said on Twitter this week as the stock indexes advanced sharply. “The Transition to Greatness has started, ahead of schedule. There will be ups and downs, but next year will be one of the best ever!”

But the coronavirus has had a major effect on U.S. commerce, with 27 companies already filing for bankruptcy protection in May and some companies announcing they were closing permanently.

The official April unemployment rate was 14.7%, with Trump economic advisers acknowledging that the May figure, when it is announced in early June, is likely to be 20% or more. They say the rate could remain in double digits on Election Day Nov. 3 and could still be about 10% at the end of 2021.

Unemployment
White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow talks to reporters. VOA

The government at first said the national economy dropped 4.8% in the first quarter, but that was before the full impact of the pandemic became apparent. It raised the figure to 5% on Thursday and economists expect a further decline in the April-to-June quarter.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, told the Washington Post recently that there are some “small glimmers of hope” in the economy. But he also acknowledged the ongoing difficulties the coronavirus pandemic poses to the world’s largest economy.

“Look, it’s really hard to model a virus, a pandemic, the likes of which we have not seen for 100 years,” Kudlow said. “The numbers coming in are not good. In fact, they are downright bad in most cases. But we are seeing some glimmers, perhaps … there’s a lot of heartbreak here. There’s a lot of hardship here. There’s a lot of anxiety here. It’s a very difficult situation.”

Numerous states still require social distancing of at least two meters between people in stores and some major retail outlets are requiring their employees and customers to wear face masks. Some governors are limiting restaurants to half capacity.

But in other states, the restrictions have been significantly lifted and crowds have quickly emerged to resume life, shopping or enjoying a day at Atlantic and Pacific beaches, often ignoring the admonitions of health experts to maintain a safe distance from others or to wear a face mask.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell has warned that the American economy could endure a multi-year recession if more aid is not authorized for workers. He said that 40% of American households earning less than $40,000 a year lost jobs in March.

USs-State-of-Reopening
In a few states, the restrictions have been significantly lifted. VOA

But Trump and Republican lawmakers are balking at approving more government assistance until it can be determined how much effect the already-approved funding is helping the economy.

Also Read: COVID-19: Samsung Exclusive Stores get ‘Suraksha’ Certified

U.S. workers filing for jobless benefits normally are paid slightly less than half their normal salaries. But these payments are currently being augmented during the pandemic with $600-a-week supplements from the federal government for four months, through July.

The peak of the unemployment benefit claims likely came in late March with 6.9 million workers filing for the jobless compensation.

The weekly pace of claims has diminished each of the last 10 weeks since then, but the millions of claims have still been unparalleled over decades of U.S. economic history, reaching back to the Great Depression in the 1930s. The number of claims has far exceeded those made during the Great Recession in 2008-2009. (VOA)

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“Unfair Practices Smack The Elections For Herricks Board of Education”, Claims Candidate Bhajan Ratra

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the elections will now be conducted exclusively by absentee ballot via US Mail

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Herricks
The Year 2020-21 School Budget Vote and its Board of Education Election is to be conducted on Tuesday, June 9th. Herricks.org

By Kashish Rai

The Herricks Board of Education is accredited by the New York State Board of Regents and the Middle School Association.

The Year 2020-21 School Budget Vote and its Board of Education Election is to be conducted on Tuesday, June 9th. Two seats in the board are being challenged. Henry R. Zanetti and James Gounaris are running for re-elections against challengers Bhajan S. Ratra and Tarantej S. Arora.

Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the vote was postponed from its original date scheduled in May and it will now be conducted exclusively by absentee ballot via US Mail.

Challenger Bhajan S. Ratra is an adjunct professor of Mathematics at Baruch College and SUNY Farmingdale. He is a panel member on the content advisory and bias review committees of New York State Teaching Certification Examination and has served in the past on the standards setting committee for the NYS Regents exams. He claims that unfair practices and inappropriate approach is smacking the election for the board.

The preceding position holders- Zanetti and James Gounaris have violated the code of conduct by doing undesirable posts through social media.

In the below given screenshot it can be observed that they are instigating the audience to vote for them by posting a picture of the ballot having their names marked. They can also be seen getting criticized by a user questioning the “appropriateness” of the post.

Post
Screenshot of the facebook post by Gounaris tagging Henry Zanetti.

According to the rules, it is illegal to take selfies/ post the picture of the ballot during the time of election in New York. Zanetti and James were seen violating the rules, thus, Ratra claims that their candidature should be disqualified.

In the above added screenshot, it can also be seen that the incumbents have pointed out “yes” To the budget vote. This can be considered as an act of misleading the public regardless of prior audits. According to the rules, an incumbent can not urge the public to vote “yes”. This raises some very serious questions- Does the incumbent(s) has/have their personal interest in voting “Yes”?

Screenshot
Screenshot of the discussion by the audience in comments on the Facebook post by Gounaris.

Mr. Ratra states that the reason for him contesting the election is because of his will to serve his community being an educator. As a member of the board of education he wants to use his experience to influence the decisions taken by the board that will help to move the Herricks School district from good to great. Bhajan aims to establish a transparent approach between students, families, Teachers and board members.

Bhajan Ratra
Challenger Bhajan S. Ratra is an adjunct professor of Mathematics at Baruch College and SUNY Farmingdale. He is a panel member on the content advisory and bias review committees of New York State Teaching Certification Examination and has served in the past on the standards setting committee for the NYS Regents exams.

There were many issues emerging earlier in the board, among them which was an inordinate approach with the board’s budget. The NY State Auditors concluded that The Herricks school district consistently overspent its budget for custodians’ overtime pay — thousands of dollars in expenditures that in many cases may not have been necessary. Bhajan aims to focus on solving these very core issues, he says that he aims to take a stand but every time he tries, his voice gets dominated.

Headline
This picture represents the headline of the news story published on newsday.com which highlights the plight of mismanagement in budget of the Herricks Board.

Despite these frustrations and pressures, Bhajan has refused to give up because his only aim is to establish a clean and fair approach. In his concludary words Bhajan told NewsGram- “It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, my only aim is to serve my community in any possible way, these frustrations and pressures doesn’t affect me as I continue to take stand for my role and responsibility as someone who wants to contribute to the society”.

ALSO READ: COVID-19: Samsung Exclusive Stores get ‘Suraksha’ Certified

Now, it is to be think upon~ what best possible action would be taken as far as the code of conduct and the rules are concerned with due respect to the elections. Here position doesn’t matter, what matters is ethics and the truth.