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NASA has named Indian-American Bhavya Lal, who oversaw the agency’s transition under the administration of US President Joe Biden, as the space agency’s acting chief of staff.
As the senior White House appointee at NASA, she served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for the agency, NASA said.
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Lal brings extensive experience in engineering and space technology, serving as a member of the research staff at the Institute for Defence Analyses (IDA) Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) from 2005 to 2020 before joining NASA.
Before joining STPI, she served as president of C-STPS LLC, a science and technology policy research and consulting firm in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Prior to that, she served as director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Studies at Abt Associates Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
She co-founded and is co-chair of the policy track of the American Nuclear Society’s annual conference on Nuclear and Emerging Technologies in Space (NETS) and co-organizes a seminar series on space history and policy with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
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For her many contributions to the space sector, she was nominated and selected to be a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of Astronautics before being nominated to the NASA chair.
She earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in nuclear engineering, as well as a Master of Science degree in technology and policy, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and holds a doctorate in public policy and public administration from George Washington University. (IANS)
Kamala Devi Harris, Vivek Murthy, Gautam Raghavan, Mala Adiga, Vinay Reddy, Bharat Ramamurti, Neera Tanden, Celine Gounder, Atul Gawande are some of the Indian names that are blooming more now than at any other time in the innermost circles of the White House and that too within weeks after the #MyNameIs blowback to Republicans’ mangling of US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ first name during the 2020 campaign. To date, nearly two dozen Indian-Americans have been appointed or nominated to high powered positions on the Biden-Harris A-team.
“KAH’-mah-lah? Kah-MAH’-lah? Kamala-mala-mala? I don’t know. Whatever,” Republican Senator David Perdue, an ally of outgoing President Donald Trump, mocked as crowds of Trump fans erupted in laughter ahead of a super spreader-type rally in Macon before the November 3, 2020 election.
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As Perdue made a spectacle of himself, little did he or Trump know that two dozen Indian names would make it to the who’s who of the 2021 White House or that the blowback to the Senator’s comments would lead to record fundraising in Georgia, a whopping $1.8 million in 48 hours, where two Senate races were still to be decided. By January 6, the day a violent pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol building in Washington D.C., Harris’ Democratic party colleagues had won both the Georgia Senate seats, America’s balance of power had been transformed.
When Harris and President-elect Joe Biden take their oaths to lead America, they also herald the arrival to the White House of Indian-American success stories across a wide arc of subject matter expertise including medicine, economics, digital communications, and storytelling. There’s nothing remotely American about the lion’s share of these names – Gautam Raghavan, Vivek Murthy, Mala Adiga, Vinay Reddy, Bharat Ramamurthi, Neera Tanden, Celine Gounder.
Their Indian-ness is total, it’s for the white Americans to go figure that Murthy is ‘Moor-thee’ and not ‘Mirth-y’, that the second syllable in Gautam is ‘them’ as in ‘thump’ and not ‘tam’ as in Tim-Tam and so on. Harris has spent a lot of time explaining her name to America.
“First, my name is pronounced “comma-la”, like the punctuation mark. It means “lotus flower”. which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture. A lotus grows underwater, its flower rising above the surface while its roots are planted firmly in the river bottom,” she wrote in her memoir, “The Truths We Hold”.
During the campaign, that became a GIF, a video, a meme, and every kind of cultural insert on the internet. When Shyamala Gopalan Harris chose to name her firstborn Kamala, it was intentional and carefully thought through. “A culture that worships goddesses produces strong women,” she explained to the Los Angeles Times in 2004, when Kamala Harris was 40.
Kamala is one of the 108 names of Goddess Lakshmi, the bestower of wealth, prosperity, and fortune in Indian Hindu culture. In a recent conversation with IANS, a political science professor and founder of AAPI Data Karthick Ramakrishnan pointed to the “very particular Tamil Brahmin experience” that Kamala Harris emerges from.
“But what was interesting was that she was not trying to pander, to speak about some kind of generic Indian-American or South Asian American experience. She was talking about her relationship with her mother, and our ancestors, relatives in India. And I think that came off as very authentic for a lot of people.”
During the Democratic National Convention in August 2020, Kamala Harris introduced herself to America in those very terms: “There’s another woman, whose name isn’t known, whose story isn’t shared. Another woman whose shoulders I stand on. And that’s my mother-Shyamala, Gopalan Harris.” In parallel, though, the US is no stranger to name changes as a method of cultural assimilation.
The quest for American-sounding or white-sounding names has been a tradition in immigrant communities in the US from the time the first outsiders arrived on Ellis Island. In fact, the first of Trump’s family in the US was a Drumpf – the outgoing US President’s grandfather Friedrich Drumpf came here as a 16-year-old. Yet, the roll call of two dozen Indian names headlining wave upon wave of White House appointees and nominees seems to be pointing in a new direction – a return to roots in a foreign field. Anyone who bet that mocking the name Kamala was a good idea in the year 2020 has gone broke. (IANS)
By Arul Louis
US President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said that TikTok may cut off ties to its Chinese parent and become a 100 per cent American company to circumvent demands to ban it as India has done.
“I think TikTok is going to pull out of the holding company which is China-run and operate as an independent American company,” he told reporters at the White House on Thursday.
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The US has not made a final decision on whether to ban it – which has been suggested by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he said.
TikTok being divested by ByteDance Technology Company “is a much better solution than banning or pushing away”, said Kudlow, who is the Director of the National Economic Council.
He said that its services will be located in the US and “it will become an hundred per cent American company”.
If it becomes a US company without Chinese links, India may have to reconsider the ban on the short video app wildly popular in the country.
India banned TikTok along with 58 other Chinese apps on June 29 citing threats to its defence and national security. The ban came after a deadly clash between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
Under Beijing’s National Security Law, all Chinese companies have to provide intelligence requested by the government, creating risks for users and their countries.
India was TikTok’s biggest market outside of China, where it operates as Douyin. There were about 200 million users in India and over 300 million downloads. The US comes next with over 30 million users for the app. (IANS)
By Aarti Tikoo Singh
With its new vision document on China, the US has formally announced the onset of its Cold War with the Asian giant, accusing it of exploiting rule-based world order and re-shaping international system in favour of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideology and interests.
Just short of calling it Cold War, the US in its latest report titled, ‘United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China’, released by the White House, has announced that it is “responding to the CCP’s direct challenge by acknowledginga that the two major powers are in a “strategic competition and protecting” their “interests appropriately”.
Until now, the US policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the report said, was “largely premised on a hope that deepening engagement would spur fundamental economic and political opening” in China and make it a “responsible global stakeholder, with a more open society”.
However, after over 40 years, “it has become evident that this approach underestimated the will of the CCP to constrain the scope of economic and political reform”.
Over the past two decades, reforms have slowed, stalled, or reversed, the report said.
“The PRC’s rapid economic development and increased engagement with the world did not lead to convergence with the citizen-centric, free and open order as the US had hoped. The CCP has chosen instead to exploit the free and open rules- based order and attempt to reshape the international system in its favour.”
Beijing openly acknowledges that it seeks to transform the international order to align with CCP interests and ideology, the US said. “The CCP’s expanding use of economic, political, and military power to compel acquiescence from nation states harms vital American interests and undermines the sovereignty and dignity of countries and individuals around the world.”
The White House pointed out that Beijing in its neighborhood, engages “in provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities in the Yellow Sea, the East and South China Seas, the Taiwan Strait, and Sino-Indian border areas”.
Just a day ago, US diplomat and acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Alice Wells had called out the CCP regime for ratcheting up tensions with India along its borders. Chinese soldiers in the last few months has engaged in several violent faceoffs with Indian soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh over boundary issues.
Announcing its approach, the US report said that it is “working in concert with mutually aligned partnersa”Southeast Asian nations, Japan, India, Australia, Republic of Korea and Taiwan on their outlook on the free, open and secure Indo-Pacific region”.
Guided by a return to principled realism, the report said thatA given the strategic choices China’s leadership is making, “the United States now acknowledges and accepts the relationship with the PRC as the CCP has always framed it internally: one of great power competition”.
The White House made it clear that it is not interested in effecting any change in China’s domestic governance model but at the same time said that it won’t make “concessions to the CCP’s narratives of exceptionalism and victimhood” .
The US policies, the report said, are designed to protect its interests and empower its institutions to withstand the CCP’s malign behaviour and collateral damage from the PRC’s internal governance problems.
Accusing the CCP of running propaganda and false narratives, the White House declared that it will continue to challenge Beijing’s attempts at false equivalency between rule-of-law and rule- by-law; counterterrorism and oppression; representative governance and autocracy; and market-based competition and state-directed mercantilism.
The US will not accommodate Beijing’s actions that weaken a free, open, and rules-based international order, the report said, adding that it will continue to refute the CCP’s narrative that the the US is in strategic retreat.
Using the Cold War terminology, the White House announced that it will work with its robust network of allies and like- minded partners to resist attacks on shared norms and values, within their own governance institutions, around the world, and in international organizations.
The US government said it does not cater to CCP’s demands to create a proper “atmosphere” or “conditions” for dialogue because it sees no value in engaging with Beijing for symbolism and pageantry.
“We instead demand tangible results and constructive outcomes. We acknowledge and respond in kind to Beijing’s transactional approach with timely incentives and costs, or credible threats thereof. When quiet diplomacy proves futile, the United States will increase public pressure on the PRC government and take action to protect United States interests by leveraging proportional costs when necessary,” the report said. (IANS)