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Under Trump, a presidency declines, step by remorseless step

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Donald Trump

As the US constitution was being drafted in utmost secrecy in 1787, an anxious citizen asked Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers, “Well, doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” Without the slightest hesitation, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Franklin’s words seem eerily prescient, if one considers that the Latin words from which the word “republic” is derived — res publica — means a form of government where the country is considered a public matter, not the private concern or property of the rulers.

More than two centuries after Franklin’s warning, Americans, blinded by hyper-nationalism, fear, suspicion and xenophobia, handed over the reins of government to an elected despot. The transformation of the nation’s highest public office into a personal fiefdom was not long in coming.

Since assuming the presidency, Donald Trump has relentlessly expanded his business interests and promoted his family and friends, without even the courtesy of a camouflage.

Even as he was tightening immigration laws including the H1 work visa, the controversial visa EB-5, was being offered to wealthy Chinese families who invested $500,000 in a business owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Jared, 36, who is married to President Trump’s daughter Ivanka, has no prior government experience, but has already accumulated a dizzying range of portfolios under his father-in-law. The satirical magazine, The Onion, recently ran the headline, “Jared Kushner Quietly Transfers ‘Solve Middle East Crisis’ To Next Week’s To-Do List.”
In an interview in February, President Trump called China the “grand champion” of currency manipulation. After a meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping at his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump appears to have a more benign view of the Chinese. Even if the volte- face was abrupt, it was entirely expected.

In a meeting marked more by bonhomie than wariness between two long-time rivals, Trump affirmed the “one China” policy recognising Beijing as the only official government of China, with the assurance that the US will not establish formal relations with Taiwan. China promptly awarded Trump a trademark with the added assurance that several pending trademark applications would be favourably considered.

The Trump administration’s links with Russia has led to another scandal. Media reports assert that, according to sacked FBI Director James Comey’s private notes, Trump had pressured him to drop the investigation into then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s links with Russia. The issue is likely to snowball with legal scholars echoing the belief that this may constitute obstruction of justice by the President, an impeachable offense. Obstruction of justice was one of the charges in President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment.

Challenges to Trump’s travel ban on visitors from predominantly Muslim countries are winding their way through American courts. In the Trump administration, the judiciary appears to be the only branch acting as a check on the executive and legislature — till now. The administration has made a mockery of trias politica, the constitutional separation of powers, ascribed to the French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu, and one of the core principles of the US Constitution.

In 2012, three years before Trump announced his candidacy for American President, retired US Supreme Court Justice David Souter was asked what he considered to be the greatest threat to the US. “I don’t worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion,” he said, “What I worry about is when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem.

“That is the way democracy dies. And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night.”

The middle class, ravaged by technology-induced changes to the job landscape, reposed blind trust in Trump, overlooking his dubious record as a businessman and expansive campaign promises bereft of policy details.

Now barely four months into the new presidency, Trump’s virtual reality seems to have collided with ground reality. Faced with the real possibility of losing their health coverage, town hall meetings of Congressmen in Trump strongholds have angry constituents shouting down their representatives. At one such meeting in Iowa, Republican Senator Rod Blum was hissed, booed and rebuked for lying and asked, “Why should we trust you?”

Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great” may well come to be parodied as “Make America Mocked”. Late night talk shows have never had such unending fodder. The staff of The Onion complain that they are creatively bankrupt since Trump is such an effective caricature of himself.

The French newspaper Liberation had a photograph of a bewildered Trump next to the headline, “America needs a babysitter”. With almost hour-by-hour scandals, a frustrated White House staffer told The Daily Beast that he felt like running down the hallway with a fire extinguisher.

After Brexit, it is now Trexit. With a special counsel in place to investigate the Trump campaign’s links with Russia, gamblers on both sides of the Atlantic are placing wagers on the President’s exit. The political stock market Predict. It has seen a record volume of bets on whether Trump will be impeached.

Reacting to Comey’s firing and subsequent events, Indian American prosecutor Preet Bharara tweeted the dictionary meaning of “backfired”: An attempt to fix something in which the fixing actually makes the situation worse for you. Bharara, who was the US attorney for the southern district of New York, was fired by Trump, along with the Indian American Surgeon General of the US, Vivek Murthy.

With Trump’s many self-inflicted wounds, Republicans, impaired so far by cowardice and opportunism, may find their instinct for survival awakening. A few have publicly admitted to an attack of conscience.

Despite Trump’s propensity to shoot from the hip — at his own foot — he still has a significant number of supporters among Americans.

I cannot resist quoting a couplet which eloquently describes their deafening silence despite Trump’s brazen violations of political traditions, ethics and law.

Tum Apne Zulm Ki Intehan Kar Do,
Na Jaane Fir Koyi Hum Sa Bejubaan Mile Na Mile.

(You can test the limits of your tyranny. Who knows when you will find a voiceless group like us again.)

By : Ashok Easwaran,

(Ashok Easwaran, a Chicago-based senior journalist, has reported from North America for over two decades. Views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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World gearing up for a third world war : UK warns of Russian threat

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There is a growing unease in United States and Britain about Russia  progressing in achieving “Eurasian Union” of former Soviet republics along the lines of the European Union under Vladimir Putin. Britain has warned that Russia is the biggest threat to UK’s security since the end of the Cold War. Drawing similarities with the 1914 First World war, UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson has equated Moscow to North Korea after Russia has threatened to unleash nuclear war.

Due to the Russians’ presence in the Mediterranean region and the Kremlin’s “increased assertiveness,” it is time Britain gets stronger, he said. This comes just a week after Britain ordered ships to pass the disputed South China Sea, much closer to the Chinese coast than the white cliffs of Dover.

General Nicholas Carter has also warned that Britain will be unable to preempt or respond to Russian aggression unless its military capabilities are overhauled to match Moscow’s military capabilities. Since 2000, Putin has been Russia’s most powerful man after the resignation of Boris Yeltsin, holding positions of both prime minister and president and had been consistently working to achieve superpower status for Moscow and global hegemony equivalent to US.

The West became cautious of Puin moves after the Russian seizure of Crimea in March 2014, followed by its annexation. UK former defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon issued calls for increased defence spending, citing growing threats from Russia and cyber-attacks.

Fallon admitted that Britain has all the evidence of Putin’s intent to subvert western democracies, from the Netherlands to Montenegro, from Germany to even the United States.” “Through cyber, our enemies can target us anywhere on the planet: not only stealing our information, but exploiting us, coercing us, disrupting our energy supplies, our armaments, even our governments. Almost anybody can become a cyber-warrior: a laptop and some smart software can inflict enormous financial and physical damage on individuals and entire countries.”

To establish foothold in Middle East, Russia has significantly increased its military operations to Syria. Taking forward the geopolitical and ideological idea, Putin called for the Eurasian Movement of the Russian Federation, and said that there is a unique “Eurasian” civilization in Russia and its neighbors, distinct from both East and the West.

To pursue his goal, Putin clinched free trade pacts with countries to form Eurasian Union. The Russian leader is aggressively trying to achieve Eurasian integration process due to many common factors binding Russia and the European countries together : common history, geographical proximity, massive amounts of trade, etc. But confrontation is most likely between Russia and Europe.

The tensions between Russia and the West escalated after Russia air force purchased 10 of the strategic TU-160M nuclear bombers, code named Blackjacks by NATO. The TU-160M worth 15 billion rubles ($269 million) is capable of carrying 12 cruise missiles or 12 short-range nuclear missiles and can fly 7,500 miles non-stop without refuelling. US, UK and Europe are worried over Putin standing for re-election on March 18 – a poll showing he is likely to win.

Russia has deployed over 330,000 soldiers on its western border while NATO has stationed biggest military build-up on Moscow’s borders since the cold war. Moreover, Russia carried out simulated attack exercises across northern Europe, from Kaliningrad to Lithuania, as part of a new tactic in exploiting the gray areas between peace and war.

Talking about the military hardware, Britain fighter jets are stationed in Romania, US tanks, troops, artillery has been deployed in Poland to counter the Russian warships armed with cruise missiles in Baltic Sea.

An armada of Russian ships from the Baltic Fleet have been dispatched from Baltiysk naval base, in Kaliningrad Oblast, for large scale military exercises. Sweden, whose eastern coast borders the Baltic Sea, is issuing the advise for the first time since 1961 – the height of the Cold War.

U.S. National Security Strategy released by Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster states Russia and China are “revisionist” powers, genuine geopolitical rivals to the United States that “challenge American power, influence and interests,” while “attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”

Russia military has been deeply engaged in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since April 2014, where fighting has claimed 10,000 lives. The United States, European Union and other Western countries are continuing to put political and economic pressure on the Kremlin. Putin’s Russia is active today. “Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine—he is either trying to get those countries back into his realm .

Washington approved for the first time lethal weapons sales to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed militias and the announcement of a new U.S. sanctions list that targets Russians such as the Kremlin-appointed strongman in Chechnya.

Russia denounced the American strategy document as an “imperialist” relic of a delusional superpower that persisted in acting unilaterally on the world stage.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Royal Orchid announces the opening of group’s newest hotel in Nashik

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 Royal Orchid Hotels, the fastest growing hospitality chain in India today announced the opening of its new hotel in Nashik named ‘Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village’. Nashik popularly known as the wine capital of the country has gained immense popularity among the tourist in India.

Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village, with 32 rooms offers boutique accommodation with varied dining and banquet facilities. The glorious property will give travelers a mesmerizing experience and contemporary luxury.

On-site amenities at the hotel include a completely refreshed restaurant, a winery, a state-of-the-art fitness center and outdoor pool, as well as a business centre, and spa services. The hotel has a wide range of facilities that let the guests choose from various room categories designed in keeping the touch of the city with elegance and relaxing atmosphere.

Located in the northern part of the state of Maharashtra, Nashik is developing as a lively city with a blend of the ancient and modern touches attracting tourists from across the country. The city has numerous forts, temples, historic sites as well as a home to industries. The city offers green pastures, mountains and tours of the wine yard.

The most important attraction of the city includes Vineyards and Hindu temples situated in and around Nashik. May it be an important corporate event or a business meet or a simple getaway to explore nature and feel the essence of spirituality, Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village allows enormous options to its guests. The guests can experience the beauty and culture of Nasik just by availing one of the several facilities that the hotel provides to its patrons.

Chander K. Baljee, Managing Director, Royal Orchid Hotels said, “The hotel is the perfect complement to our recently refreshed Regenta portfolio of hotels across India. We are taking continuous steps towards expanding our presence all over India. The new hotel in Nasik is one such move towards achieving our aim. The government push toward tourism sector is giving us the much needed enthusiasm to go aggressive in adding new properties to our bouquet. Going forward we will continue to add more properties to both-explored and unexplored tourist destinations”

By now we have added eight properties – Mysore, Ahmedabad, Dehradun, Kanpur, Dwarka, Indore, Pushkar and now Nasik in the current fiscal year taking the number to 49 hotels. We will continue our efforts in expanding our presence all over India”.

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Nationalism of Narendra Modi is under question

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The economic bungling by Jeweller Nirav Modi, Business tycoon Vijay Mallya  and Lalit Modi has put a serious  question mark on the nationalism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His conspicuous silence on  India’s largest banking fraud to the tune of Rs 11,400-crore and still counting is shocking as he repeatedly claimed to have won the huge mandate on the basis of giving achhe din to the people of India but crony capitalists have escaped India with taxpayers’ money and there is no clarification from Narendra Modi who has taken the voter for a ride.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi  to speak on  the Nirav Modi and Rafale scams rather than seeking suggestions for his Mann Ki Baat programme from the general public.

The intentions of Modi government are also conspicuous when the central government  opposed a plea seeking an independent Special Investigation team ( SIT )probe and deportation of billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi in the Supreme Court,citing an FIR has already been filed and that a probe was on.

The Supreme Court has already admitted the PIL, filed by lawyer Vineet Dhanda in the Rs 11,400 crore PNB fraud and has now been listed for further hearing on March 16.The PIL has made Punjab National Bank, Reserve Bank of India and the ministries of finance and law and justice as parties.

Modi has been touring the world citing that his government is enhancing the status of India as an investor friendly country and where there is an ease of doing business. On the contrary, his reforms of demonetisation and GST has benefitted selected Business people having links with the ruling party and crony capitalists and general public has been made to bear the burnt. The economic frauds have dented the image of India globally and these types of  incidents would amplify questions about distress in the country’s financial sector reeling under bad loans.

What type of image is being projected when the  picture in which billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi is seen with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Davos where the 48th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum took place  from 23 to 26 January 2018. The summit was attended by world’s leading figures .

On January 31, PNB filed a case of “criminal conspiracy and cheating” against the gem trader, members of his family and others two weeks ago alleging a 2.8 billion indian rupee ($44m) fraud.

The Modi government is busy creating eyewash by deploying agencies to probe the scandal  and the Central Bureau of Investigation  on Tuesday arrested five senior executives in connection with the multi-crore PNB fraud including Vipul Ambani (President, Finance, Firestar International/Diamonds group), Kavita Mankikar (executive assistant and authorised signatory of 3 accused firms), Arjun Patil (senior executive, Firestar group), Kapil Khandelwal (CFO, Nakshatra and Gitanjali group) and Niten Shahi (Manager, Gitanjali).

Modi asked people of India in 2014 to vote out corrupt UPA regime then how he and his government is defending the scandals that have occurred under his tenure of just four years . Modi is even trying to bring back the culprits to India .

The question should be asked to the ministers of Modi government what type of nationalism they carry with them when they do not value the life of Indian citizens ,when Dalits are being thrashed ,security personnel get killed on the border when our ruling political class provokes the enemy country just to showoff the Indian voter (woo voters) that they are superior than other political parties. Modi should have strengthened  the country militarily, economically and cohesively as an answer to the huge mandate given by the voters on trust.

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By: Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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