A Pipe Dream

This method — H-1B Visas — of going to the US is full of hurdles and that includes the Trump administration’s hardline stance. This has led to top Indian firms reducing their visa applications ~By Kris Lakshmikanth There is a lot of news floating around about H-1B filings for the fiscal year beginning January 2019. Let me clear the mist. The total ceiling for H-1B visas for 2019 stands unchanged and is 65,000. In addition, there is a special quota of 20,000 for any person who has done his post-graduation in the US. H-1B filing began on April 2, and will conclude when the immigration authority—the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—determines that it has received enough applications to meet the upper limit of 65,­000 visas that can be issued in a year. Last year, the H-1B visa limit was reached on April 7 (five working days) and for post-graduates too, it was the same date. In 2016, 1,99,000 applications were received. In fact, this was the first time when the total applications fell after 2013. But it went up again in 2017 when the USCIS received 2,36,000 applications. APPLICATIONS TO FALL This year, according to many experts, the number of applications will fall.…
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How Political Pessimism Helps Doom Tougher Gun Laws

Above: US President Donald Trump with students of the Parkland school at the White House/Photo: UNI  Saying “nothing will change” has empowered the National Rifle Association and ignores its declining punch ~By Alec MacGillis It’s predictable after every new mass-shooting horror: The political right’s reflexive call for “thoughts and prayers,” which is then mocked by people who favour more gun restrictions for lacking any accompanying ideas for preventing future killings. But there’s an equally predictable refrain on the center-left and in the media, too: “Once again, nothing will be done.” Barely had the death toll of 17 been announced… after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida than The Washington Post declared, “The gun debate is going nowhere quickly after Parkland.” CNN offered: “Amid continued string of mass shootings, gun control going nowhere in Congress.” After 59 concert-goers were mowed down in October, former Democratic congressman Steve Israel put to rest any hope for reform in a New York Times op-ed column titled, “Nothing Will Change After the Las Vegas Shooting.” This fatalism is borne of hard-won experience. Congress has failed repeatedly to pass any gun-control measures after past calamities, even the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.…
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Much Twittering over a Tweet

Trump’s Twitter tirade It is unprecedented for a US president to conduct his foreign policy through tweets but the times, they are a-changin’ Relations between the US and Pakistan have deteriorated ever since the new American administration took over. President Donald Trump didn’t help matters this week when he used a Twitter tirade the way a Texas barbecue chef uses charcoal lighter fluid. He said: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Given Trump’s attitude towards nations with a majority Muslim population, his rhetoric is hardly shocking, but few global leaders communicate policy by Twitter, a medium not known for its nuanced presentation of information. Box picture: US troops conduct a patrol in Baylough, Afghanistan/Photo: Staff Sgt. William Tremblay, U.S. Army Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi then called a meeting of his National Security Committee which issued a statement noting “deep disappointment… (recent remarks) were completely incomprehensible as they contradicted facts manifestly, struck with great insensitivity at the trust between two nations built over generations, and negated the decades of sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation”.…
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What setback? The US under Trump is selling even more arms across the board

An F-15 Fighter jet. Photo: Wikipedia ~By Sujit Bhar It has long been known that the US’ Middle East policy is based primarily on the possibility of business deals that can be struck and occasional Presidential rhetoric about democracy and rule of law is little more than hot air. The instances that can be cited are immense and rather well documented. Yet the US has always projected itself as the universal policeman, a position that even the lame-duck United Nations accepts. Recently, President Donald Trump’s unbelievable Jerusalem decision was derided by the entire world and a general assembly vote showed clearly that even staunch US allies have deserted this thoughtless decision of moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. When Trump tried to act peacemaker in the Qatar-Saudi disruptive situation in the area, a certain amount of clarity was expected. The inner-story unfiled had in June when the US in principle agreed to sell 36 F-15 fighter jets (out of the 72 the country wants) to Qatar. The Saudis had obviously protested, but that wasn’t big news. A quid-pro-quo has been worked out with the new rulers of the Kingdom of Saud, and technically the US can say that it is working within the parameters of its pro-Israeli and pro-Saudi policies.…
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ASEAN: Combating the Dragon

Above: Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with other leaders who attended the ASEAN-India Summit in Manila, Philippines. Photo: UNI The formation of the Quadrilateral on the sidelines of this summit is more like an insurance policy for India against China’s growing clout than a defence pact ~By Seema Guha The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has played a significant role in bringing India out of its sub-continental moorings. It was the economic reforms of 1991 and the consequent opening up to foreign investors, which propelled the 10-nation ASEAN grouping to take an interest in India. Today, Indo-ASEAN relations have come a long way. Indian leaders regularly attend the ASEAN and East Asia summits. Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Manila for the two important meets in the ASEAN calendar. India’s ties with ASEAN fit into former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s slogan, ‘Look East’. This has now been tweaked to ‘Act East’ by the NDA government. Both the UPA and NDA have strengthened ties with ASEAN neighbours. “Our prime minister’s visit takes place in a landmark year because we are celebrating 25 years of India-ASEAN dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level participation and five years of  strategic partnership with ASEAN,” Preeti Saran, secretary, east, in the ministry of external affairs, told reporters at a briefing ahead of the visit.…
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US Probe: Russian Roulette

The special prosecutor’s strategy for outmanoeuvring the president in the Russia links probe zeroes down on his former aides ~By Kenneth Tiven in Washington In biology, the double helix describes how a DNA molecule consists of two strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has presented a double helix approach with the first indictment  and first guilty plea in the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 American election. While the president’s name does not appear in the indictment documents there is much to cause concern for him, his family and many of his associates. The indictment of Paul Manafort, the campaign manager, and the government request for 10,000,000 USD bail for money laundering received all the initial attention in American media this past week. This is mostly because the documentation of the offences mirrors the sort of information that would be used against the Trump Organisation for money laundering in real estate transactions.  THE LOGICAL NEXT STEP In America, a prosecutor first presents his case to a Grand Jury comprising 18 people to substantiate bringing in a criminal indictment. If the Grand Jury agrees, the charges lead to a trial usually with a “petit” jury, 12 people listening in court and deciding guilt or innocence.…
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Indo-US Ties: Fearing the Dragon

Above: A marine guard ship from Vietnam (right in the picture) near a Chinese ship in the South China Sea. Photo: UNI The growing warmth between New Delhi and Washington is part of a strategic alliance in Asia and an offshoot of China’s increasing belligerence in the South China Sea and on the Doklam front ~By Seema Guha Indo-US ties are poised to take a decisive turn under the Trump administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on his maiden visit to India recently, declared US intention to help India attain its full potential and be an ally of Washing-ton and Tokyo to maintain strategic balance in Asia. China’s growing economic and military power is a concern shared by all three countries. “The US supports India’s emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region. In this regard, we are able and willing to provide advanced technologies for its military modernisation efforts…,” Tiller-son said at a joint news conference with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. All this is being done with an eye on China. With the US ready to make India a partner in the new defence architecture of the region, strategic alliances in Asia are changing.…
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Harvey Weinstein Fallout: The Power of Predators

The Weinstein case exemplifies the double standard that defines 21st century America where the powerful think they are invincible ~By Kenneth Tiven in Washington In the movie, Spiderman’s Uncle Ben says: “With great power comes great responsibility.” In the movie industries of Hollywood and Bollywood (and elsewhere), it has been understood for decades that with great power comes great access to whatever you desire: often sex, drugs or both. Given his pugnacious manner and appearance, Harvey Weinstein, the powerful Hollywood producer, was always more feared than loved in Hollywood. Fear has turned to loathing over allegations of his predatory sexual behaviour with beautiful starlets and famous actresses. He’s been dismissed from his eponymous company and expelled from the Directors Guild in Hollywood, among other lost responsibilities and credibility. Authorities in various cities are exploring criminal charges. His reputation and business crash can be compared to the suddenness of a plane hitting a mountain in the middle of the night. Often, the post-accident probe reveals people didn’t talk about faults they knew existed with the aircraft. In this case, people he assaulted and those who enabled or knew about his behaviour, kept quiet, believing in Weinstein’s ability to make or break careers in the entertainment industry.…
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Sino-North Korean Ties: Can Xi Defang Kim Jong-un?

As China attempts to take on the mantle of a superpower, its ambitions could be stymied by its belligerent neighbour whose nuclear tests are threatening the US and other nations  ~By Colonel R Hariharan On September 3, 2017, when Chinese President Xi Jinping held a reception for dignitaries attending the ninth BRICS summit in Xiamen, he got a rude shock. North Korea (Democratic Republic of Korea—DPRK), under the leadership of the irascible Kim Jong-un, carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of China’s strong opposition. This was not the first time it has happened. China had strongly opposed North Korea’s nuclear testing ever since it started it in 2006. But after Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011, North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile development projects have made giant strides to enable him to test both nuclear devices and inter-continental ballistic missiles. China’s prompt response to North Korea’s nuclear tests feature two operative phrases—“firm opposition” to North Korea’s conduct which was “flagrant and brazen violation of international opinion”.  That may not be sufficient any more as China under President Xi aspires to become a superpower in the emerging international security environment. The rapid progress in North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile capabilities is a testimony to the dynamics of change.…
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Donald Trump: The Riddles of Impeachment

Despite the President’s erratic conduct and the conspiracies under investigation by the Special Counsel, the constitutional road to his removal is anything but a cakewalk ~By Kenneth Tiven in Washington The best way to start a story about President Donald Trump is with a Barack Obama anecdote. We know Trump’s only ideology is to avoid or eliminate anything Obama ever said or did. Obama famously said there are no red states or blue states, only the United States. He said this before social media software—Facebook, Google, email—helped Russian trolls and bots to subdivide Americans with hate to promote the Trump campaign in 2016. These interconnected devices have fostered a level of social division in America (and elsewhere) never before experienced, and not fully understood in the context of rapid technology change. This helped Trump win a job he apparently does not understand. Significant numbers of Americans are asking: “What can be done?” In taking a close-up view of the impeachment clause of the US Constitution and the 25th Amendment—both describe removal of an inappropriate president—it is obvious that such an effort only succeeds when the partisans wanting removal have full legislative control. A year from now, the November 2018 elections for Congress could theoretically provide the Democratic Party the votes for impeachment or the use of the 25th Amendment.…
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Indian Navy sailor who changed sex is sacked, says will move Supreme Court

Above: Indian Navy sailor Manish Giri (left), who later became Sabi after the sex-change surgery. Photo: gaylaxymag.com Manish Giri became Sabi using own money, but the engineer allegedly was mentally tortured within the establishment The Indian Defence establishment is opening up to accept women in more proactive roles, including combat, and the Indian navy is no laggard in this aspect. New defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has made it clear that women would be acceptable in fully commissioned positions slowly, including fighter combat pilots. The India Navy itself, however, has refused to move from ancient ideas and perceptions about gender, it seems. Recently, a naval officer, a man called Manish Kumar Giri, had gone on leave for 22 days and had a gender reassignment operation with his own money that led to him becoming a woman. Now she goes by the name Sabi. When Sabi returned from leave and wanted to rejoin work—she (when she was a he) had joined the Marine Engineering department of the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam seven years back—she was promptly discharged, with the authorities saying her services were not required any more. This has come at a time when, in the US, the government, through the Pentagon, has decided to pay an estimated $2.4 million to $8.4 million per year for gender reassignment treatments and surgeries for eligible soldiers.…
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Donald Gets a D

If one were to have some fun with this presidency, let us use the dictionary format and use the alphabet to unravel what’s happening in the US ~By Kenneth Tiven in Washington Understanding American political behaviour is not easy this year, so to help you, let’s deploy the style of the television programme Sesame Street. Today’s letter is “D”. Words that sum up the past weeks in America all seem to start with the fourth letter of the Ro-man alphabet. Donald: The president’s first name so perhaps that explains his penchant for the letter. Defeat: When in a match, contest or a conflict, you come out second best. Donald hates defeat, is quick to label people “losers” whom he believes he has defeated. His Republican choice for reelection in a Senate race in Alabama loses to an ultra-right-wing opponent. Republican efforts to destroy existing medical care in America fail again, maybe finally for now, leaving massive egg on GOP faces but relief for a majority of Americans. Trump tax cut plan, mislabeled as reform, likely to fail without the windfall money the medical plan change was going to deliver. Cabinet officers, in defiance of rules and procedures, have been renting private planes for travel rather than flying commercial, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.…
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