South Asian diaspora group starts mobilizing for Biden-Harris 2024

With just over six months left for the American general elections, some South Asian election activists are mobilizing to re-elect U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to the White House. The all-volunteer group, South Asians for Mr. Biden, kicked off its activities for the election season with a virtual event held on April 25 that featured messages from lawmakers and functionaries of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and focused on issues such as reproductive rights and gun control.

The group, like other groups working in this space, is motivated by the idea that South Asian populations in battleground States had exceeded the margins of victory for Democrats in previous election cycles (2020 and 2021 for example). This makes South Asians, like other Asian American and Pacific Islander groups (AAPI or  AANHNPI to include Native Hawaiians ), a potential deciding factor in who wins in battleground states.

 In a close election, such as the 2020 race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden,  winning swing states could be key to winning the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. However, Democrats and Republicans are focused not just on the Biden v Trump rematch this year but also other ‘down ballot’ races –  crucial Senate and House seats as well as contests for  state offices.  

South Asians for Biden had reached out to  a few hundred thousand South Asian and AAPI voters directly and via its digital and video campaigns in 2020 and 2021, according to Neha Dewan, National Co-Director of the group. Ms Dewan listed the group’s outreach in States such as Georgia and Wisconsin where Mr Biden won by wafer-thin margins ( around 12,000 votes in Georgia for example).

During the virtual event, titled, ‘Mobilizing the South Asian Community to be the Margin of Victory’, Ms Dewan highlighted the work of the Biden administration in areas she said were of importance to the community : reproductive rights (e.g., women’s access to contraception and abortion), curbing gun violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans.

“I know that the calls that were made into Georgia and into Wisconsin, were beyond the winning margin,” said Principal Deputy Campaign Manager for Biden-Harris 2024, Quentin Fulks, in a recorded video message.

The AAPI vote was 4% of the electorate in Georgia, and an important part of the margin (just under 3%) that got Senator Raphael Warnock re-elected the Senate (December 2022), Mr Fulks said. Democrats retained control (51-49) of the U.S. Senate with Mr Warnock – who initially came to the chamber after winning a partial term in 2020 – getting elected for full term in the 118th Congress that began in 2023.

“It’s going to take all of us again in 2024 to make sure that we hit 270 electoral votes,” Mr Fulks said.

The majority of U.S. born and foreign-born Indian Americans lean towards the Democratic Party (as per 2020 data), a statistic the group appears to capitalise on. One of the speakers at the virtual event, Washington (State)  Democrat, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal cited data to support the view that South Asian social and political priorities were aligned with those of the Biden-Harris platform.

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Ro Khanna, an Indian American California Democrat emphasized that South Asian voters were critical  to electoral victories  in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. Mr Biden won the electoral college votes in each of these States in 2020.

“We were key to President Biden and Vice President Harris’s 2020 historic win. We need to mobilize again,” he said.

Mr Khanna, whose constituency includes a part of Silicon Valley,  highlighted his involvement with the CHIPS and Science Act, one of the Biden administration’s big ticket policies aimed at increasing semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. (Mr Khanna was one of the lawmakers who introduced one of the  two pieces of legislation that later went on to become the Act).

“There are so many South Asians involved in creating good jobs and Arizona, in upstate New York, in Ohio, as a result of that act,” he said.

Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) AAPI Caucus Bel Leong Hong described the 2024 elections in existential terms.

“We are fighting for a place for us to be in, we are fighting to be who we are,” she said.

Democrats rallying around abortion rights and gun control

Issues important to South Asian Americans – especially reproductive rights, voting rights and gun violence – featured repeatedly through the event. This mirrors the overall approach of Democrats – starting at the top with Mr Biden and Ms Harris – to rally voters, especially women, will who would otherwise have not voted or voted for Mr Trump, to vote for Mr Biden.

Anita Somani, a physician who is a representative in the Ohio State Assembly had a message about voting officials in who would  protect reproductive rights.

Abortion and — more broadly — reproductive rights, have been a key electoral issue, especially since June 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, a judgement that broadly protected a woman’s right to have an abortion. With reproductive rights becoming a state issue since the judgement was overturned, a number of States have enacted measures to protect these rights, with Ohio residents voting in November 2023 to do the same.  

“Imagine that kids are now the experts on how to dodge bullets while sitting at their desks are walking to the corner store,” said Shikha Hamilton,  the parent of bi-cultural Indian and Black daughter , who has worked for over two decades on gun violence prevention.

Anita Somani, a physician who is a representative in the Ohio State Assembly had a message about voting officials in who would  protect reproductive rights.

Editorial | Square one: On the 2024 U.S. Presidential election as a Biden-Trump rematch

Ballot access is an issue

Battle lines this year are also drawn around voting rights with a number of Republican governed states passing tightening access to the ballot. Last year (data as of October) at least 14 States had passed laws making it harder to vote while 23 had made it easier to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

At the South Asians for Biden re-launch, Gen Z candidate for Georgia State Senate, Aswhin Ramaswami, a former election security official, discussed the growing legislative challenges to voting in Georgia. The 24 year old is  running against State Senator Shawn Still, who was indicted, along with Mr Trump and others, for illegally trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Americans will elect the next President of the United Sates, as well as a number of U.S. Senators and Congressmen, State governors and local officials on November 5 this year.

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Israel Hamas war: Israel widens evacuation orders as strikes intensify

The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.

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Israel’s military has ordered more areas in and around Gaza’s second-largest city of Khan Younis to evacuate, as it shifted its offensive to the southern half of the territory where it says many Hamas leaders are hiding.

Heavy bombardments were reported overnight and into Sunday in the area of Khan Younis and the southern city of Rafah, as well as parts of the north that had previously been the focus of Israel’s blistering air and ground campaign.

Many of the territory’s 2.3 million people are crammed into the south after Israeli forces ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the 2-month-old war.

With the resumption of fighting, hopes have receded that another temporary truce could be negotiated. A weeklong cease-fire, which expired on Friday, had facilitated the release of dozens of Gaza-held Israeli and foreign hostages and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

“We will continue the war until we achieve all its goals, and it’s impossible to achieve those goals without the ground operation,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address on Saturday night.

UK to carry out flights over Gaza to locate hostages

The United Kingdom will carry out surveillance flights over Israel and Gaza to help locate hostages held by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, the British Ministry of Defence has announced.

“Since the terrorist attacks on Israel on 7 October 2023, the British government has been working with partners across the region to secure the release of hostages, including British nationals, who were kidnapped,” the ministry wrote in a statement.

“The safety of British nationals is our top priority,” it adds.

“To support hostage rescue operations, the UK Ministry of Defense will carry out surveillance flights over the Eastern Mediterranean, including airspace over Israel and Gaza,” the statement said.

These planes “will not be armed” and “will not have a combat role”. Their sole mission will be to locate the hostages. “Only information relating to the release of hostages will be transmitted to the competent authorities responsible for the release of hostages.”

Some 240 people were kidnapped on 7 October during Hamas’ unprecedented deadly attack in southern Israel, then taken to the Gaza Strip.

A seven-day truce allowed the release of around a hundred hostages in the hands of Hamas and 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

But nearly 140 people are still detained in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli authorities.

Evacuation orders step up

On Sunday, the Israeli military widened evacuation orders in and around Khan Younis, asking residents of at least five more areas and neighbourhoods to leave for their safety.

Residents said the Israeli military dropped leaflets ordering residents to move south to Rafah or to a coastal area in the southwest.

“Khan Younis city is a dangerous combat zone,” the leaflets read.

UN monitors said in a report issued before the latest evacuation orders that the residents who were told to leave make up about one-quarter of the territory of Gaza. The report said that these areas were home to nearly 800,000 people before the war.

Ahead of a resumption of fighting, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, had warned Israel to avoid significant new mass displacement.

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New targets hit by IDF

The Israeli military said on Sunday that its fighter jets and helicopters “struck terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including terror tunnel shafts, command centres and weapons storage facilities” overnight, while a drone killed five Hamas fighters.

In northern Gaza, rescue teams with little equipment scrambled Sunday to dig through the rubble of buildings in the Jabaliya refugee camp and other neighbourhoods in Gaza City in search for potential survivors and dead bodies.

“They strike everywhere,” said Amal Radwan, a woman sheltering in Jabaliya, an urban refugee camp. “There is the non-stop sound of explosions around us.”

Mohamed Abu Abed, who lives in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in Gaza City, also said there were relentless airstrikes and artillery shelling in his neighbourhood and surrounding areas.

“The situation here is imaginable,” he said. “Death is everywhere. One can die in a flash.”

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US Vice President condemns death toll rise

The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said Saturday that the overall death toll in the strip since the 7 October start of the war had surpassed 15,200 – a sharp jump from the previous count of more than 13,300 on 20 November.

The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but it said 70% of the dead were women and children. It said more than 40,000 people had been wounded since the war began.

US appeals to protect civilians came after an offensive in the first weeks of the war devastated large areas of northern Gaza.

The territory itself, bordering Israel and Egypt to the south, is sealed, leaving residents with the only option of moving around within Gaza to avoid the bombings.

“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating,” US Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters on Saturday during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

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Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said Israel was making “maximum effort” to protect civilians and the military has used leaflets, phone calls, and radio and TV broadcasts to urge Gazans to move from specific areas. He added that Israel is considering creating a security buffer zone that would not allow Gazans direct access to the border fence on foot.

Israel say they are targeting Hamas hideouts, allegedly among civilians

Israel says it targets Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the militants, accusing them of operating in residential neighbourhoods. It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence. Israel says at least 78 of its soldiers have been killed in the offensive in northern Gaza.

Bombardments on Saturday destroyed a block of about 50 residential buildings in the Shijaiyah neighbourhood of Gaza City and a six-story building in the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya on the northern edge of the city, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

More than 60 people were killed in the Shijaiyah strikes and more than 300 buried under the rubble, the monitors said, citing the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Mahmoud Bassal, a spokesman for Gaza’s Civil Defense, said rescuers lack bulldozers and other equipment to reach those buried under the rubble, confirming the Red Crescent estimate of about 300 people missing. He said the block had housed over 1,000 people.

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“Retrieving the martyrs is extremely difficult,” he said in video comments from the site of the attack.

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in a meeting that “under no circumstances” would the US permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, an ongoing siege of Gaza or the redrawing of its borders, according to a US summary.

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Climate action or distraction? Sweeping COP pledges won’t touch fossil fuel use

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A torrent of pollution-slashing pledges from governments and major oil companies sparked cries of “greenwashing” on Saturday, even before world leaders had boarded their flights home from this year’s global climate conference.  

After leaders wrapped two days of speeches filled with high-flying rhetoric and impassioned pleas for action, the Emirati presidency of the COP28 climate talks unleashed a series of initiatives aimed at cleaning up the world’s energy sector, the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. 

The announcement, made at an hours-long event Saturday afternoon featuring U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, contained two main planks — a pledge by oil and gas companies to reduce emissions, and a commitment by 118 countries to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity and double energy savings efforts. 

It was, on its face, an impressive and ambitious reveal. 

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber, the oil executive helming the talks, crowed that the package “aligns more countries and companies around the North Star of keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach than ever before,” referring to the Paris Agreement target for limiting global warming. 

But many climate-vulnerable countries and non-government groups instantly cast an arched eyebrow toward the whole endeavor.

“The rapid acceleration of clean energy is needed, and we’ve called for the tripling of renewables. But it is only half the solution,” said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands. “The pledge can’t greenwash countries that are simultaneously expanding fossil fuel production.” 

Carroll Muffett, president of the nonprofit Center for International Environmental Law, said: “The only way to ‘decarbonize’ carbon-based oil and gas is to stop producing it. … Anything short of this is just more industry greenwash.”

The divided reaction illustrates the fine line negotiators are trying to walk. The European Union has campaigned for months to win converts to the pledge on renewables and energy efficiency the U.S. and others signed up to on Saturday, even offering €2.3 billion to help. And the COP28 presidency has been on board. 

But Brussels, in theory, also wants these efforts to go hand in hand with a fossil fuel phaseout — a tough proposition for countries pulling in millions from the sector. The EU rhetoric often goes slightly beyond the U.S., even though the two allies officially support the end of “unabated” fossil fuel use, language that leaves the door open for continued oil and gas use as long as the emissions are captured — though such technology remains largely unproven.

Von der Leyen was seen trying to thread that needle on Saturday. She omitted fossil fuels altogether from her speech to leaders before slipping in a mention in a press release published hours later: “We are united by our common belief that to respect the 1.5°C goal … we need to phase out fossil fuels.” 

Harris on Saturday said the world “cannot afford to be incremental. We need transformative change and exponential impact.” 

But she did not mention phasing out fossil fuels in her speech, either. The U.S., the world’s top oil producer, has not made the goal a central pillar of its COP28 strategy. 

Flurry of pledges  

The EU and the UAE said 118 countries had signed up to the global energy goals.

The new fossil fuels agreement has been branded the “Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter” and earned the signatures of 50 companies. The COP28 presidency said it had “launched” the deal with Saudi Arabia — the world’s largest oil exporter and one of the main obstacles to progress on international climate action.

Among the signatories was Saudi state energy company, Aramco, the world’s biggest energy firm — and second-biggest company of any sort, by revenue. Other global giants like ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies also signed.

They have committed to eliminate methane emissions by 2030, to end the routine flaring of gas by the same date, and to achieve net-zero emissions from their production operations by 2050. Adnan Amin, CEO of COP28, singled out the fact that, among the 50 firms, 29 are national oil companies.  

“That in itself is highly significant because you have not seen national oil companies so evident in these discussions before,” he told reporters.

The COP28 presidency could not disguise its glee at the flurry of announcements from the opening weekend of the conference.

“It already feels like an awful lot that we have delivered, but I am proud to say that this is just the beginning,” Majid al-Suwaidi, the COP28 director general, told reporters. 

Fred Krupp, president of the U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund, predicted: “This will be the single most impactful day I’ve seen at any COP in 30 years in terms of slowing the rate of warming.” 

But other observers said the oil and gas commitments did not go far beyond commitments many companies already make. Research firm Zero Carbon Analytics noted the deal is “voluntary and broadly repeats previous pledges.”

Melanie Robinson, global climate program director at the World Resources Institute, said it was “encouraging that some national oil companies have set methane reduction targets for the first time.” 

But she added: “Most global oil and gas companies already have stringent requirements to cut methane emissions. … This charter is proof that voluntary commitments from the oil and gas industry will never foster the level of ambition necessary to tackle the climate crisis.” 

Some critics theorized that the COP28 presidency had deliberately launched the renewables and energy efficiency targets together with the oil and gas pledge. 

The combination, said David Tong, global industry campaign manager at advocacy group Oil Change International, “appears to be a calculated move to distract from the weakness of this industry pledge.”

The charter, he added, “is a trojan horse for Big Oil and Gas greenwash.” 

Beyond voluntary moves 

A push to speed up the phaseout of coal power garnered less attention — with French President Emmanuel Macron separately unveiling a new initiative and the United States joining a growing alliance of countries pledging to zero out coal emissions.

Macron’s “coal transition accelerator” focuses on ending private financing for coal, helping coal-dependent communities and scaling up clean energy. And Washington’s new commitment confirms its path to end all coal-fired power generation unless the emissions are first captured through technology. U.S. use of coal for power generation has already plummeted in the past decade. 

The U.S. pledge will put pressure on China, the world’s largest consumer and producer of coal, as well as countries like Japan, Turkey and Australia to give up on the high-polluting fuel, said Leo Roberts, program lead on fossil fuel transitions at think tank E3G. 

“It’s symbolic, the world’s biggest economy getting behind the shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal. And it’s sending a signal to … others who haven’t made the same commitment,” he said. 

The U.S. also unveiled new restrictions on methane emissions for its oil and gas sector on Saturday — a central plank of the Biden administration’s climate plans — and several leaders called for greater efforts to curb the potent greenhouse gas in their speeches. 

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called for a “global methane agreement” at COP28, warning that voluntary efforts hadn’t worked out. Von der Leyen, meanwhile, urged negotiators to enshrine the renewables and energy efficiency targets in the final summit text. 

Mohamed Adow, director of the think tank Power Shift Africa, warned delegates not to get distracted by nonbinding pledges. 

“We need to remember COP28 is not a trade show and a press conference,” he cautioned. “The talks are why we are here and getting an agreed fossil fuel phaseout date remains the biggest step countries need to take here in Dubai over the remaining days of the summit.”

Sara Schonhardt contributed reporting.



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Kamala Harris at climate summit: World must ‘fight’ those stalling action

DUBAI — The vast, global efforts to arrest rising temperatures are imperiled and must accelerate, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told the world climate summit on Saturday. 

“We must do more,” she implored an audience of world leaders at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai. And the headwinds are only growing, she warned.

“Continued progress will not be possible without a fight,” she told the gathering, which has drawn more than 100,000 people to this Gulf oil metropolis. “Around the world, there are those who seek to slow or stop our progress. Leaders who deny climate science, delay climate action and spread misinformation. Corporations that greenwash their climate inaction and lobby for billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies.” 

Her remarks — less than a year before an election that could return Donald Trump to the White House — challenged leaders to cooperate and spend more to keep the goal of containing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. So far, the planet has warmed about 1.3 degrees since preindustrial times.

“Our action collectively, or worse, our inaction will impact billions of people for decades to come,” Harris said.

The vice president, who frequently warns about climate change threats in speeches and interviews, is the highest-ranking face of the Biden White House at the Dubai negotiations.

She used her conference platform to push that image, announcing several new U.S. climate initiatives, including a record-setting $3 billion pledge for the so-called Green Climate Fund, which aims to help countries adapt to climate change and reduce emissions. The commitment echoes an identical pledge Barack Obama made in 2014 — of which only $1 billion was delivered. The U.S. Treasury Department later specified that the updated commitment was “subject to the availability of funds.”

Meanwhile, back in D.C., the Biden administration strategically timed the release of new rules to crack down on planet-warming methane emissions from the oil and gas sector — a significant milestone in its plan to prevent climate catastrophe.

The trip allows Harris to bolster her credentials on a policy issue critical to the young voters key to President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign — and potentially to a future Harris White House run. 

“Given her knowledge base with the issue, her passion for the issue, it strikes me as a smart move for her to broaden that message out to the international audience,” said Roger Salazar, a California political strategist and former aide to then-Vice President Al Gore, a lifetime climate campaigner. 

Yet sending Harris also presents political peril. 

Biden has taken flak from critics for not attending the talks himself after representing the United States at the last two U.N. climate summits since taking office. And climate advocates have questioned the Biden administration’s embrace of the summit’s leader, Sultan al-Jaber, given he also runs the United Arab Emirates’ state-owned oil giant. John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, has argued the partnership can help bring fossil fuel megaliths to the table.

Harris has been on a climate policy roadshow in recent months, discussing the issue during a series of interviews at universities and other venues packed with young people and environmental advocates. The administration said it views Harris — a former California senator and attorney general — as an effective spokesperson on climate. 

“The vice president’s leadership on climate goes back to when she was the district attorney of San Francisco, as she established one of the first environmental justice units in the nation,” a senior administration official told reporters on a call previewing her trip. 

Joining Harris in Dubai are Kerry, White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi and John Podesta, who’s leading the White House effort to implement Biden’s signature climate law. 

Biden officials are leaning on that climate law — dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act — to prove the U.S. is doing its part to slash global emissions. Yet climate activists remain skeptical, chiding Biden for separately approving a series of fossil fuel projects, including an oil drilling initiative in Alaska and an Appalachian natural gas pipeline.

Similarly, the Biden administration’s opening COP28 pledge of $17.5 million for a new international climate aid fund frustrated advocates for developing nations combating climate threats. The figure lagged well behind other allies, several of whom committed $100 million or more.

Nonetheless, Harris called for aggressive action in her speech, which was followed by a session with other officials on renewable energy. The vice president committed the U.S. to doubling its energy efficiency and tripling its renewable energy capacity by 2030, joining a growing list of countries. The U.S. also said Saturday it was joining a global alliance dedicated to divorcing the world from coal-based energy. 

Like other world leaders, Harris also used her trip to conduct a whirlwind of diplomacy over the war between Israel and Hamas, which has flared back up after a brief truce.

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Harris would be meeting with “regional leaders” to discuss “our desire to see this pause restored, our desire to see aid getting back in, our desire to see hostages get out.”

The war has intruded into the proceedings at the climate summit, with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas both skipping their scheduled speaking slots on Friday. Iran’s delegation also walked out of the summit, objecting to Israel’s presence.

Kirby said Harris will convey “that we believe the Palestinian people need a vote and a voice in their future, and then they need governance in Gaza that will look after their aspirations and their needs.”

Although Biden won’t be going to Dubai, the administration said these climate talks are “especially” vital, given countries will decide how to respond to a U.N. assessment that found the world’s climate efforts are falling short. 

“This is why the president has made climate a keystone of his administration’s foreign policy agenda,” the senior administration official said.

Robin Bravender reported from Washington, D.C. Zia Weise and Charlie Cooper reported from Dubai. 

Sara Schonhardt contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.



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Morning Digest: May 5, 2023

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar meets State Councillor and FM Qin Gang of China on the sidelines of the SCO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, in Panaji, on May 4, 2023.
| Photo Credit: PTI

Jaishankar discusses LAC with Qin; holds talks with Lavrov, no talks with Bilawal Bhutto

The unresolved three-year old military stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) remained the “focus” of India-China talks as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang here on May 4, and held a “detailed” discussion on bilateral ties. This is the second time the two Ministers have held talks this year, as Mr. Qin had previously attended the G-20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Delhi in March. 

DRDO scientist arrested in Pune for providing secret information to Pakistani intelligence operative

A scientist working for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) here has been arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for providing confidential information to a Pakistani agent, officials said. An offense under relevant sections of the Official Secrets Act has been registered with Kalachowki unit of the ATS in Mumbai and further probe is on, he added.

Many killed in Manipur riots; State government issues shoot-at-sight order

The Manipur government on May 4 issued a shoot-at-sight order in “extreme cases”, as escalating ethnic violence following a tribal solidarity march displaced more than 9,000 people in the State. There was no official confirmation of the number of people killed or injured in the violence, but Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh admitted that “some precious lives were lost”.

Kamala Harris meets with tech CEOs about artificial intelligence risks

Vice President Kamala Harris met on May 4 with the heads of Google, Microsoft and two other companies developing artificial intelligence as the Biden administration rolls out initiatives meant to ensure the rapidly evolving technology improves lives without putting people’s rights and safety at risk.

After Dantewada attack, roads being combed for IEDs in Chhattisgarh

A week after ten security personnel were killed in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada, a massive exercise is being undertaken to comb newly constructed roads for the presence of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), a senior government official said. The April 26 incident on the Aranpur road in Dantewada, where ten District Reserve Guard (DRG) personnel of the Chhattisgarh police were killed, was the first of its kind in the region in the past five years.

Biden issues order setting path for sanctions in Sudan

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on May 4 setting the path to sanction individuals involved in the recent violence in Sudan that’s left hundreds dead and thrown the African nation into chaos. Sudan’s fighting broke out April 15 between two commanders who just 18 months earlier jointly orchestrated a military coup to derail the nation’s transition to democracy.

Delhi witnesses rare fog in the hottest month of the year, 3rd coldest May morning since 1901

Delhi saw an unusual episode of shallow fog on May 4 morning much to the bemusement of its residents, who are used to a less-happening, sultry weather this time of the year. Delhi is experiencing an unexpected pattern with cloudy skies, sporadic rain, and cool weather, which officials attribute to back-to-back western disturbances affecting northwest India.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is here to stay, and countries need to manage it alongside other infectious diseases: WHO

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is here to stay, and countries need to manage it alongside other infectious diseases, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) issuing an updated ‘COVID-19 Global Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan (SPRP) 2023-2025’ earlier this week. The latest update is WHO’s fourth strategic plan for COVID-19. The document is a guide for countries on how to manage COVID-19 over the next two years in the transition from an emergency phase to a longer-term, sustained response.

Calcutta High Court stays move to take part of Amartya Sen’s Shantiniketan land

Calcutta High Court on May 4 gave an interim stay against a move by Visva Bharati to take away a part of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s property — Pratichi — at Shantiniketan. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen moved the Calcutta High Court, seeking relief as the university had passed an order directing the petitioner to vacate 0.13 acres (5,500 sq ft) of land at his ancestral Santiniketan residence by May 6, even as an appeal for a stay on possible eviction was fixed for hearing on May 15, 2023 at a court in Suri in Birbhum district of West Bengal.

Russia says U.S. masterminded drone attack on Kremlin

Russia on Thursday accused the U.S. of masterminding a drone attack on the Kremlin and said sabotage attacks by Ukraine behind Russian lines had reached “unprecedented momentum”. The Kremlin has said Ukraine carried out the attack with two drones aiming to kill President Vladimir Putin — a charge which Kyiv has denied. “Decisions on such attacks are not made in Kyiv, but in Washington,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

President Droupadi Murmu rejects mercy petition of man convicted for raping, killing 4-year-old girl

President Droupadi Murmu has rejected the mercy petition of a man convicted for raping and stoning to death a four-year-old girl in Maharashtra in 2008, according to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. While upholding the death penalty awarded to the convict, the top court had said that the rape of a minor girl was “a monstrous burial of her dignity in darkness.” The court had referred to the sequence of events in the case and said that the convict, who was a neighbour, lured the girl, raped her and then battered her to death using two heavy stones.

Go First cancels all flights till May 9; suspends bookings till May 15

Budget airline Go First on Thursday extended flight cancellations until May 9 and informed the DGCA that it would not be taking any further bookings till May 15 on a day the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) reserved its judgment on the airline’s plea for insolvency proceedings and an interim moratorium on lessors re-possessing its planes. The airline’s CEO, Kaushik Khona, who was present at the NCLT hearing in Delhi told The Hindu that the total refunds for tickets booked directly through the airline amounted to “₹30-40 lakh”, in addition to which there were refunds for tickets bought through travel agents and web portals.

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Oh Sure Kamala And Old Joe LOOOOVE Insurrection When It’s … Nah We Can’t Keep This Up

We’re pretty sure the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee House of Representatives had no idea that Thursday’s semi-successful effort to expel three Democratic lawmakers would get anything like the national attention it did. When they hold power, the comfortably bigoted have a hard time imagining anyone could possibly disagree with them, or pay attention to a little old score-settling against some pipsqueak liberals. The hasty, slapdash proceedings, with only a homeopathic trace of due process, made pretty clear the Republicans planned to quickly give the three a fast show trial and be done with them.

Instead, they ended up with a national media spectacle, and came out looking like arrogant, out of touch racists, expelling Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones — two young, charismatic Black members — while falling one vote shy of expelling Rep. Gloria Johnson, the white, 60-year-old retired teacher whom they seemed to feel more kinship with. As we’ll note again and again, Johnson knew exactly what was up, telling reporters, “It might have to do with the color of our skin.”

Following the Republican lynching of democracy, Vice President Kamala Harris flew to Nashville Friday to call for gun control and to meet with all three Democrats — the ones targeted for expulsion, not all three Democrats in Tennessee. Heck, the Tennessee House has an entire Democratic caucus, and Harris met with them Friday, too.


Harris tweeted Thursday to call out the Republicans’ swift action on precisely the wrong thing:

Six people, including three children, were killed last week in a school shooting in Nashville.

How did Republican lawmakers in Tennessee respond?

By expelling their colleagues who stood with Tennesseans and said enough is enough.

This is undemocratic and dangerous.

Here’s her speech at Fisk University:

youtu.be

President Biden also issued a statement Thursday condemning the expulsions, noting that more than 7,000 students had gone to the Tennessee Capitol on March 30 to peacefully “call on their lawmakers to take action and keep them safe.”

Instead, state Republican lawmakers called votes today to expel three Democratic legislators who stood in solidarity with students and families and helped lift their voices. Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent. Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.

On Friday, before Harris met with Jones, Pearson, and Johnson, Biden also spoke with them on a conference call, and invited them to come to the White House sometime soon. As far as we know, none of the Republicans who engineered the expulsion effort have been invited anywhere nice. That statement will hold even if Donald Trump invites them to one of his trash palaces.

We also found this slightly encouraging news McNugget: Only one Republican in the Tennessee House, Rep. Charlie Baum, voted “Nay” on all three expulsions. Baum has a 92 percent rating from the NRA (and a 100 percent score from National Right to Life), but we want to to encourage Republicans when they do the right thing — positive reinforcement can lead to improvements. So an imaginary chocolate chip cookie to Rep. Baum, in hopes that he’ll stop selling death sticks and go home to rethink his life.

In Washington DC, the Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement condemning the expulsions, saying that the treatment of Reps. Pearson and Jones

makes clear that racism is alive and well in Tennessee. The GOP-led House chose to silence dissent from not only the Black representatives in the chamber, but the voices of their constituents as well. This move is not only racist and anti-democratic, it is morally bankrupt and out of step with the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that we need common sense gun control reforms to save lives.

Not everyone found fault with the Tennessee Republicans, starting with the Tennessee Republican Party, which sent out a fundraising email praising the brave House Republicans who “upheld the rule of law” — or at least the iron rule of rules — by voting to “remove 2 Democrat State Representative that [it should be “who” — Dok] disrupted and protested the legislative process on March 30th,” which doesn’t make any sense at all since they were definitely not protesting the legislative process, they were protesting the GOP’s chronic firearms priapism disorder.

Fox News, not surprisingly, ran a ton of stories on its website, including one ripping Johnson for saying that “North Korea has more democracy” than Tennessee (the subhed said she “faced expulsion after storming the state Capitol with gun control protesters,” which would have been quite a feat since she was already inside the building, and the protesters had all gone through security like any visitor. The story repeated the claim that all three Democrats were charged with “rushing the state Capitol,” too. Another story Thursday claimed that “Chaos erupts again” at the Capitol because crowds came to protest the vote — or rather, “stormed the Capitol” and “chanted” like some kind of insurrectionists.

On Fox News proper, the Fox & Friends crowd Friday morning explained that the expulsions were justified, because rules are rules and they have to be followed unless you think Donald Trump’s election was stolen. Host Ainsley Earhardt said the expulsions sent an important message “not to storm our government buildings. Right?”

Wrong, as we keep noting, because nobody stormed anything, no matter how much the Right insists this was just like January 6. Earhart also straight up lied that the three Democrats “were leading those protesters onto the balcony in the House chamber last week,” a difficult trick to accomplish from the floor of the House, with people who went through security (but also shouted once inside!) And also, what is “gallery”?

Cohost Will Cain kept the bullshit comparison going, calling Joe Biden a hypocrite while he was at it.

So during January 6th, people condemnably rioted and stormed the Capitol and it is described as undemocratic. In Tennessee, people stormed the Capitol, interrupted the democratic process, and used bullhorns. And if you punish them, that’s undemocratic. So it’s undemocratic as long as it is in disfavor with Joe Biden.

Brian Kilmeade chimed in with a witty observation that would be funny to viewers who know nothing about what Fox staff were actually saying about January 6:

Here’s the big difference. It’s okay to storm the Capitol if you are against assault, against gun control laws, or if you’re for gun control, it is. Okay. Here’s the difference. It’s a statehouse as opposed to the Capitol. I get it. Number two is lawmakers were leaning toward this. They were just like, “Hey, guys, I agree with you, but get out.”

OK, scratch what I said before. That made no sense at all, the end.

[White House / USA Today / The Hill / Mediaite]

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