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Democrats in the early presidential contest states of Iowa and Nevada will be able to cast their votes over the telephone instead of showing up at their states’ traditional neighborhood caucus meetings next February, according to plans unveiled by the state parties.

The tele-caucus systems, the result of a mandate from the Democratic National Committee, are aimed at opening the local-level political gatherings to more people, especially evening shift-workers and people with disabilities, whom critics of the caucuses have long said are blocked from the process.


The changes are expected to boost voter participation across the board, presenting a new opportunity for the Democratic Party’s 2020 candidates to drive up support in the crucial early voting states.

“This is a no-excuse option” for participation, said Shelby Wiltz, the Nevada Democrats’ caucus director.


FILE – A precinct captain argues his position during a Democratic caucus at the University of Nevada in Reno, Nevada, Feb. 20, 2016. VOA

Party officials don’t have an estimate of how many voters will take advantage of the call-in option. But in Iowa, some recent polls show as many as 20% of Democrats will participate virtually. In Nevada, most voters tend to cast ballots early during regular elections, and party officials expect many will take advantage of the early presidential vote.

While rolling out a new voting system holds the promise of more voter participation, it also comes with potential risk for confusion or technical troubles. But the party is moving forward to try and address long-standing criticism that the caucuses are exclusionary and favor some candidates over others.

Increasing criticism

The Iowa caucuses, a series of party-run, local-level organizing meetings that adopted a presidential preference element more than 50 years ago, have come under increasing criticism in the past decade for their fixed evening time and place. Such rules effectively barred participation in the first-in-the-country nominating contest, for instance, for parents unable to find child care or older voters hesitant to venture out in the dead of winter.

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Hillary Clinton and her supporters complained that Iowa’s process “disenfranchised” those unable to attend after she finished a disappointing third place in the 2008 caucuses.

In 2016, backers of Sen. Bernie Sanders cried foul over the Iowa results when Clinton won a razor-thin margin, 49.9% to 49.6%, despite some irregularities in reporting results. The dispute, replicated in part in Nevada, was a key factor in the push from groups on the left to overhaul the nominating process heading into 2020.

Nevada, the third state in the Democrats’ nominating contest sequence, has only been an early caucus state since 2008, and the process still remains relatively new to many residents.

Rural benefits


FILE – Precinct Chairwoman Judy Wittkop explains the rules during a caucus in Le Mars, Iowa, Jan. 3, 2008. VOA

By opting for a dial-in program, the systems can reach people in Iowa’s and Nevada’s vast rural stretches where broadband internet coverage may be spotty. Iowa since 2014 has offered a smaller-scale tele-caucus, allowing out-of-state members of the military and Iowans living abroad to call in to live neighborhood caucus meetings and participate over the phone.

“One, we are a rural state. And let’s be honest, outside of Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada is a rural state. Everyone is connected by phone,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said.

The DNC’s mandate has been a challenge for party operatives who sought to maintain security while also maintaining the spirit of the caucuses, which are chiefly local, party-building activities aimed at electing delegates to party conventions. Officials say by avoiding an internet-based program, they are reducing the risk of hacking, a key concern in an era of renewed concern about election tampering.

While Nevada Democrats said accessibility, not security, drove them to opt for a phone-in system, Iowa Democrats said they felt a lower-tech option was safer.

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“With this system, it’s easier than making sure thousands of computers across the state are not filled with malware and not being hacked,” Price said.

Security concerns

Yet officials acknowledge that relying on phone systems does raise security concerns.

“Are they unhackable? Certainly not,” said Jeremy Epstein, a voting systems expert with ACM, the largest international association of computer science professionals. “None of these technologies are really bullet proof.”

The state parties presented their plans late last month to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. Committee members applauded the work and gave conditional approval but asked for more information about the security and functionality of the systems.

“We are working with every state party that is integrating these tools so they can make their voting process secure and successful. We look forward to working with Democrats in these states to address the committee’s questions,” DNC spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement.

Both state parties plan to require Democratic voters to register online in advance of their virtual caucus, verifying their identity with a “multi-factor authentication.” Voters will receive a PIN that they’ll have to enter when they call in to participate.

Iowans who register on time will have six times to choose from to participate by phone, including the in-person caucus night, Feb. 3. Nevadans who register for the virtual caucus can participate on Feb. 16 or 17. Unlike Iowa, Nevada is also offering four days of in-person early caucusing to give people more options.

Wiltz said security experts with the DNC will be vetting the systems later this year to test for vulnerabilities to breaches or hacking.

“This isn’t something that we’re taking lightly. We understand our responsibility,” Wiltz said. (VOA)


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Upcoming medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages

The new medical colleges being opened in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages.

The state government has issued an order naming four district hospitals that are being converted into medical colleges.

These district hospitals are in Bijnor, Fatehpur, Chandauli, and Siddharth Nagar.

The Bijnor medical college has been named after Mahatma Vidur, a philosopher during the Mahabharata era and uncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas.

The Chandauli medical college has been named after Baba Keenaram, said to be the founder of the Aghori sect.

The Siddharth Nagar district hospital will be called Madhav Prasad Tripathi Medical College after the BJP politician from the region. Tripathi, popularly known as Madhav Babu, was also the first Uttar Pradesh BJP chief. He was elected MP from Domariyaganj in 1977, besides being two times Jan Sangh MLA and also a member of the UP legislative council.

The Fatehpur hospital has been named Amar Shaheed Jodha Singh Ataiya Thakur Dariyawn Singh Medical College, after the freedom fighter of 1857.

It is said that he was among the first to use Guerrilla warfare against the British, as taught by freedom fighter Tatya Tope.

Meanwhile, according to official sources, the medical college in Deoria will be named after Maharishi Devraha Baba and the medical college of Ghazipur in the name of Maharishi Vishwamitra.

The medical college of Mirzapur will be in the name of Maa Vindhyavasini, the medical college of Pratapgarh in the name of Dr. Sonelal Patel and the medical college of Etah will be named after Veerangana Avantibai Lodhi. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Medical Colleges, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, India, Politics


Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Indian cricket team on the ground

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has picked India as the favourite to win the ongoing ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Oman and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Inzamam feels that the Virat Kohli-led India have a greater chance of winning the trophy as the conditions in the Gulf nations are similar to the subcontinent, which makes India the most dangerous side in the event, according to Inzamam.

"In any tournament, it cannot be said for certain that a particular team will win' It's all about how much chance do they have of winning it. In my opinion, India have a greater chance than any other team of winning this tournament, especially in conditions like these. They have experienced T20 players as well," said Inzamam on his YouTube channel.

He said more than the Indian batters, the bowlers have a lot of experience of playing in the conditions. The Indian Premier League (IPL) was played recently in UAE and most of the Indian bowlers did well in that leg.

Inzy heaped praises on the Men in Blue for the confident manner in which they chased the target against Australia on a challenging track without needing Kohli's batting prowess.

"India played their warm-up fixture against Australia rather comfortably. On subcontinent pitches like these, India are the most dangerous T20 side in the world. Even today, if we see the 155 runs they chased down, they did not even need Virat Kohli to do so," he added.

Though he did not pick any favourite, Inzamam termed the India-Pakistan clash in the Super 12 on October 24 as the 'final before the final' and said the team winning it will go into the remaining matches high on morale,

"The match between India and Pakistan in the Super 12s is the final before the final. No match will be hyped as much as this one. Even in the 2017 Champions Trophy, India and Pakistan started and finished the tournament by facing each other, and both the matches felt like finals. The team winning that match will have their morale boosted and will also have 50 percent of pressure released from them," Inzamam added. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Pakistan, Sports, ICC T20 World Cup, UAE.


Photo by Diana Akhmetianova on Unsplash

Skin problems like itchiness, dryness and flakiness can occur anytime if you're not moisturising your body enough.

Skin problems like itchiness, dryness and flakiness can occur anytime if you're not moisturising your body enough. It is commonly observed that while many people take their skincare routine seriously, a majority of them neglect to moisturise the body. It is important to keep in mind that timing matters a lot when it comes to applying moisturisers. Therefore, knowing the appropriate time to apply body lotion is essential.

Take a look at the ideal times to moisturise your body shared by Kimi Jain, Head of Retail, KIMRICA.

Morning
Moisturising the body in the morning sets your skin up to face countless irritants and environmental factors during the day. The skin is constantly exposed to harsh chemicals and pollutants when you're outside which is why using a protective and soothing moisturiser while going out is necessary. Kimirica's Five Elements Body Lotion comes with natural Aloe Vera extracts that act as a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins that helps protect your skin and provide a deep nourishing effect.

man in white crew neck t-shirt Moisturising the body in the morning sets your skin up to face countless irritants and environmental factors during the day. | Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

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