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From a presidential memoir to COVID-focused reads, the insights by an influential former civil servant, The Dalai Lama’s message on climate change, and a power-packed book by the co-founder of the Black Live Matter movement, 2020 was a significant year for books. Here’s what kept us company during the tumultuous 2020.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making-from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy
In the stirring, the highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from a young man searching for his identity to the leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency-a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
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Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.
A Burning by Megha Majumdar
For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies-and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India
This is an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe. They seek to rise to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies. One is Jivan, a Muslim girl from the slums accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. The second is PT Sir, an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, only to find his own ascent linked to Jivan’s fall.
And the third is Lovely, an irresistible outcast who has an alibi that can set Jivan free-but at the cost of everything she holds dear. Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting right from the outset, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed that it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance, at a breakneck pace, on complex themes that read as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles while nurturing big dreams in a country spinning towards extremism.
The Purpose of Power by Alicia Garza
In a powerful and timely exploration of recent racial history, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter examines the moment we’re in, how we got here, and how together we can create a just and equal world.
Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag when Alicia Garza wrote what she calls a love letter to Black people’ on Facebook. But hashtags don’t build movements, she tells us. People do. Interwoven with Garza’s experience of life as a Black woman, The Purpose of Power is the story of how she responded to the persistent message that Black lives are of less value than white lives by galvanizing people to create change. It’s an insight into grassroots organizing to deliver basic needs – affordable housing, workplace protections, access to a good education – to those locked out of the economy by racism.
It is an attempt not only to make sense of where Black Lives Matter came from but also to understand the possibilities that Black Lives Matter and movements like it hold for our collective futures. Ultimately, it’s an appeal to hearts and minds, demanding that we think about our privileges and prejudices and ask how we might contribute to the change we want to see in the world.
Portraits of Power: Half a Century of Being at Ringside by N.K. Singh
N.K. Singh has been a formidable civil servant, an empathetic politician, a keen chronicler of India’s socio-economic history, and the quintessential academic that academia never got. His life’s work, as chronicled in this book has indeed been intertwined with the progress India has made. In many such cases, Singh has been not just an active contributor but has also given shape to that many momentous decisions-whether through the use of diplomacy or the rigors of understanding the mechanism of the levers of power or, for that matter, by consensus building.
Portraits of Power is not just an autobiography of a man, who for several decades has played an active role in India’s march towards becoming a formidable economy; it is indeed, on multiple levels, a book that profiles myriad institutions that work in harmony to make things happen. And in everything that N.K. Singh has done, so in this book too, there is both incisive clarity and insightful anecdotal heft.
Our Only Home: A Climate Appeal to the World by The Dalai Lama and Franz Alt
Saving the environment is our collective duty. With each passing day, climate change is causing Pacific islands to disappear into the sea, accelerating the extinction of species at alarming proportions and aggravating a water shortage that has affected the entire European continent. In short, climate change can no longer be denied – it threatens our existence on earth.
In this inspiring new book, the Dalai Lama, one of the most influential figures of our time, calls on political decision-makers to finally fight against deadlock and ignorance on this issue. He argues that we all need to stand up for a different and more climate-friendly world and to allow the younger generation to assert their right to regain their future.
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From the voice of the beloved world religious leader comes this eye-opening manifesto that empowers the generation of today to step up, take action, and protect our world.
The Battle Of Belonging: On Nationalism, Patriotism, And What It Means To Be Indian by Shashi Tharoor
There are over a billion Indians alive today. But are some Indians more Indian than others? To answer this question, one that is central to the identity of every man, woman, and child who belongs to the modern Republic of India, eminent thinker and bestselling writer Shashi Tharoor explores hotly contested ideas of nationalism, patriotism, citizenship, and belonging.
In the course of his study, he explains what nationalism is, and can be, reveals who is anti-national, what patriotism actually means, and explores the nature and future of Indian nationhood. He gives us a clear-sighted view of the forces working to undermine the eidea of India’ (a phrase coined by Rabindranath Tagore) that has evolved through history and which, in its modern form, was enshrined in India’s Constitution by its founding fathers.
Divided into six sections, the book starts off by exploring historical and contemporary ideas of nationalism, patriotism, liberalism, democracy, and humanism, many of which emerged in the West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and quickly spread throughout the world. The author then summarizes India’s liberal constitutionalism, exploring the enlightened values that towering leaders and thinkers like Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore, Ambedkar, Patel, Azad, and others invested in the nation. These are contrasted with the narrow-minded, divisive, sectarian, us vs them’ alternatives formulated by Hindutva ideologues, and propagated by their followers who are now in office.
Firmly anchored in incontestable scholarship, yet passionately and fiercely argued, The Battle of Belonging is a book that unambiguously establishes what true Indianness is and what it means to be a patriotic and nationalistic Indian in the twenty-first century.
Till We Win: India’s Fight Against The Covid-19 Pandemic by Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, Dr. Gagandeep Kang, Dr. Randeep Guleria
When will India ever win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic? How long do we have to use masks? When can we expect a safe and effective vaccine? Do we need to wear masks even after we get a vaccine? What if there is no definitive treatment against COVID-19? How can we protect our family from this disease? How should we respond to this ‘new normal’ as an individual and as a community? What is the way forward? Offering insights on how India continues to fight the pandemic, Till We Win is a must-read for everyone. It is a book for the people, for political leaders, policymakers, and physicians, with the promise and potential to transform public health in India.
No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer
Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings reveals for the first time the unorthodox culture behind one of the world’s most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies.
There has never before been a company like Netflix. It has led nothing short of a revolution in the entertainment industries, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue while capturing the imaginations of hundreds of millions of people in over 190 countries. But to reach these great heights, Netflix, which launched in 1998 as an online DVD rental service, has had to reinvent itself over and over again.
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This type of unprecedented flexibility would have been impossible without the counterintuitive and radical management principles that cofounder Reed Hastings established from the very beginning. Hastings rejected the conventional wisdom under which other companies operate and defied tradition to instead build a culture focused on freedom and responsibility, one that has allowed Netflix to adapt and innovate as the needs of its members and the world have simultaneously transformed.
Here for the first time, Hastings and Erin Meyer, bestselling author of The Culture Map and one of the world’s most influential business thinkers, dive deep into the controversial ideologies at the heart of the Netflix psyche, which have generated results that are the envy of the business world. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with current and past Netflix employees from around the globe and never-before-told stories of trial and error from Hastings’s own career, No Rules Rules is the fascinating and untold account of the philosophy behind one of the world’s most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies. (IANS)
Indian American federal appeals court judge Amul Thapar has emerged as a “serious” contender for a spot in the US Supreme court and has been interviewed for the position by President Donald Trump, according media reports.
He was one of four judges interviewed for the position on the nation’s highest court by Trump on Monday, according to The Washington Post and other media outlets that quoted unnamed sources who had been briefed about the meetings.
Trump’s Spokesperson Sarah Sanders confirmed that he met for 45 minutes with four candidates, but would not identify them.
Trump has said he would announce his pick next Monday.
Thapar was appointed by Trump last year to the federal Sixth Circuit Appeals Court based in Cincinnati, Ohio, that covers four states including his home state of Kentucky.
Considered a conservative, Thapar, 49, had served as a federal prosecutor before President George W. Bush appointed him a judge of the federal court for Eastern Kentucky by in 2007.
Thapar has the backing of Mitch McConnell, the influential Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky, for the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy last month.
“I think he’s absolutely brilliant, with the right temperament,” McConnell said on Saturday.
The Washington Post said Trump’s meeting with Thapar “was described by several White House aides as both a gesture of respect for the Senate GOP leader and evidence that he is in serious contention”.
He is the second Indian-American judge to be a leading contender for the Supreme Court showing the community’s reach across both parties and its influence.
Washington Appeals Court Judge Sri Srinivasan was among the top choices considered by then President Barack Obama for the Supreme Court in 2016.
Obama ultimately picked Merrick Garland but McConnell blocked the nomination refusing to take it up for Senate’s consideration citing the presidential election coming up later that year.
Earlier on Monday, Trump appointed his Deputy Principal Press Secretary Raj Shah to a key role in the difficult process of getting his nominee for the Supreme Court approved by the Senate.
“Raj Shah will oversee communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies,” Sanders said in a statement.
Legalised abortion that many countries like India take for granted is looming over the selection of the next Supreme Court judge, with many Senators making it the litmus test to vote for or against a nominee.
It is likely that a case involving abortions may come up before the Supreme Court leaving open the possibility a conservative majority bench could overturn its 1973 ruling legalising it.
During his election campaign Trump changed his stance and came out as an opponent of abortions and said that he would appoint judges with the same view.
But he said last week that he would not discuss with candidates their views on abortion.
The Republicans have slender two-vote lead in the 100-member Senate and at least one Senator from the party, Susan Collins, has said that keeping abortions legal would be a requirement for supporting the Trump nominee and another, Lisa Murkowski, has previously opposed efforts to overturn the 1973 ruling.
The 49 Democrats and the two independents are all expected to oppose any Trump nominee and Shah will have to work with Republicans in Congress to get a majority backing for the candidate.
However, other factors such as immigration, the powers of the president and any possible litigation involving the 2016 election of Trump and the alleged Russian interference are at play.
Thapar is widely considered to conservative in his approach, which aligns him with Trump and his base.
His father, Raj Thapar, told Courier Journal that his son is so conservative that he “nearly wouldn’t speak to me after I voted for Barack Obama.”
Thapar was born in Detroit and his family wanted him to become a doctor, but he chose law instead, the newspaper said.
Raj Thapar told the newspaper that his son’s only dream was to become a Supreme Court Justice.
Amul’s maternal grandfather had impressed on him how Mahatma Gandhi had defeated the British using non violence, Raj Thapar told the newspaper.
According his father, Amul had converted to Catholicism when he married Kim Schulte, a real estate agent, Courier Journal reported.
Thapar’s mother Veena Bhalla sold a successful restaurant after 9/11 to work as a civilian clinical social worker to help soldiers returning from the battlefield, the newspaper reported quoting McConnell.
According to Thapar’s bio for a convention of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association his father had come to the US to study and after graduating went to work for Ford Motor Company.
Later, he bought a share of a heating and air conditioning company. (IANS)
For former U.S. president Barack Obama, it must seem like old times. Obama has started to hit the campaign trail on behalf of Democrats ahead of the November midterm elections, setting up what amounts to a proxy battle with the man who succeeded him, President Donald Trump.
Trump already has been a fixture on the campaign trail on behalf of Republicans, convinced that aggressive efforts in Republican-leaning states will protect Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Obama’s initial foray into the 2018 congressional campaign came at the University of Illinois where he urged young Democrats to keep up the fight for social and economic justice.
“Each time we have gotten closer to those ideals, somebody somewhere has pushed back,” Obama said. “It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He is just capitalizing on resentment that politicians have been fanning for years.”
Get out the vote
Obama also campaigned in California on behalf of several Democratic House candidates, where he urged activists to turn out and vote in November.
“When we are not participating, when we are not paying attention, when we are not stepping up, other voices fill the void,” Obama told a Democratic gathering in Anaheim. “But the good news in two months, we have a chance to restore some sanity in our politics.”
Obama now finds himself competing against the man who succeeded him, President Trump, and who has vowed to undo much of what Obama did during his presidency.
Touting the economy
For his part, Trump has been eager to get out on the campaign trail and has promised a vigorous effort to energize Republican voters to keep their congressional majorities in November.
“This election is about jobs. It is safety and it is jobs,” Trump said at a recent Republican rally in Billings, Montana. “Thanks to Republican leadership, our economy is booming like never before in our history. Think of it, in our history. Nobody knew this was going to happen.”
Trump also is stoking fear among his Republican supporters that a Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in November could lead to his impeachment.
“We will worry about that if it ever happens,” he told the crowd in Billings. “But if it does happen, it is your fault because you did not go out to vote. OK? You didn’t go out to vote.”
Referendum on Trump
Midterm elections are historically unkind to sitting presidents. But unlike many of his predecessors, Trump has embraced the notion that the November congressional vote will be a referendum on his presidency.
Political analysts said that strategy carries both risk and reward.
“The enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle is really related to the president,” said George Washington University political scientist Lara Brown. “I think the last numbers I saw were that more than 40 percent of people who said that they would be very likely to vote were going to be either voting for the president or against the president in this midterm.”
Trump and Obama already have jousted over who should get credit for the strong U.S. economy. At his rallies, Trump touts economic growth and job creation numbers since he took over the presidency, arguing that the national economy is “booming like never before.”
Obama has offered some pushback on the campaign trail.
“Let’s just remember when this recovery started,” Obama said in his Illinois speech, highlighting job growth during his White House years as part of the recovery from the 2008 recession.
Like Trump, Obama also has proved to be a lightning rod for voters. The 44th president was effective in two presidential campaigns at turning out Democrats but was a drag on the party in his two midterm elections, spurring Republicans to turn out against him.
During this year’s midterm, Obama is likely to focus on mobilizing women, younger activists and nonwhite voters, key parts of the Democratic coalition that helped him win the White House in 2008 and 2012.
“That enthusiasm is there throughout the Democratic Party and across demographic groups,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak. “And for the first time many voters are going to see options on their ballot that look and sound and talk about issues in different ways, and that is always something that is appealing to a voter base.”
Trump and Obama may never appear as opposing candidates on a ballot together, but they are facing off in a closely watched proxy battle in this year’s midterm campaign where party control of Congress is at stake. (VOA)
Did You Hear about the New Species of Spiders Named After Leonardo DiCaprio, Bernie Sanders and Barrack Obama?
Vermont, September 30, 2017 : What if we tell you that a team of researchers has recognized and named 15 new species of spiders in the Caribbean after your favorite stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders?
Not in Hollywood, Washington, DC or Vermont – but you might now be able to catch a glimpse of Spintharus davidattenboroughi, S. barackobamai, S, michelleobamaae, S. berniesandersi, S. davidbowiei along with S. leonardodicaprioi on the Caribbean islands and some other southern spots.
Ingi Agnarsson, expert of spiders and professor of biology at University of Vermont, who led the new study revealed the rationale behind the undergraduate study and on choosing the intriguing names. “(We) wanted to honor people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change—leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world”, he said.
The Smiley-Faced Spider
Popularly recognized as a global hotspot for biodiversity, there continues to be several species in the Caribbean that are outside the spectrum of research and study. This includes the ‘smiley faced’ spider in the genus Spintharus- named for a smiley face pattern on their abdomens.
Previously recognized as one widespread species, researchers from the UVM discovered that there exist many more endemic species within the genus, 15 of which have been recognized in the research.
These samples were collected from Florida, South Carolina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, the Lesser Antilles and Columbia.
Each team member got to decide names for the new species of spiders. Alongside naming them after friends and family members, many species have been named after distinguished figures.
“We all named the Bernie Sanders spider together,” said Lily Sargeant, one of the students who worked on the project. “We all have tremendous respect for Bernie. He presents a feeling of hope.”
— Mongabay (@mongabay) September 29, 2017
Some of the other names include,
Named after the great artist David Bowie, who passed away in 2016. His music will continue to inspire generations and the authors decided to honor his legacy by naming a spider in his name.
Named after the widely popular, and largely loved, former President of the United States Barack Obama. The authors love him for his statesmanship and humanitarianism, and named the spider species after him, to honor their president and his devoted service.
Named in honor of the Former First Lady of the United States for her poise, confidence and elegance, her fight for human rights and for always striving to uphold the principles of justice, fairness and equality for all.
The authors of the research also named a species of spiders after the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, to recognize and celebrate his efforts to educate people of the wonders of the natural world and sowing a seed of caring for nature in humanity.
The study has been published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.