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US COVID-19 crisis failure of democracy: Obama’s ex-speechwriter

Citing a report analyzing the changes in the US political map in recent years from the University of Chicago’s Law Review, Litt said “Americans’ political power has been further diminished”.

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David Litt and Obama

Washington, May 23 : David Litt, a speechwriter for former US President Barack Obama, has said the COVID-19 pandemic in America is a “failure of democracy” at the root.

“It’s become commonplace to refer to COVID-19 as ‘the worst public health crisis of our lifetimes’. But what has cost the US so many lives and jobs during the pandemic is not, at root, a failure of public health. It’s a failure of democracy,” Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday citing Litt as saying in an article published by the Time magazine.

“Poll after poll has shown that a clear majority of Americans trust, want our leaders to heed the experts’ advice. Yet that hasn’t happened. We were far too slow to implement social-distancing guidelines — a delay epidemiologists found is responsible for 90 per cent of US coronavirus deaths.

“Now we’re acting far too quickly to reopen the economy,” Litt, also the author of “Democracy in One Book or Less: How It Works, Why It Doesn’t, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think” and “Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years”, added.

Dozens of US states have rolled out reopening plans in late April, with Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas among the first to allow certain non-essential businesses to resume operations.

Litt pointed out that lower-income and non-white Americans are those most likely to suffer from the US government’s flailing response to the health crisis.

Citing a report analyzing the changes in the US political map in recent years from the University of Chicago’s Law Review, Litt said “Americans’ political power has been further diminished”.

“As we battle the coronavirus, American lives depend on a successful government response. But with rare exceptions, House Members’ jobs do not,” he said.

“In early March, for example, as the virus was spreading, the first 15 US states to report cases of the coronavirus accounted for 56 per cent of America’s population but only 30 per cent of America’s Senators. No wonder the Senate was initially slow to act,” he said.

Litt further said “the corporations’ increasing clout with policymakers” has pushed the US government into acting more slowly and reopening more quickly than the American people believe is safe.

That capitalistic influence has more influence on policymaking than the people’s welfare, in Litt’s view, is “no surprise”.

Currently, the US accounts for the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 1,600,782 and 95,972, respectively, according to the latest figures by the Johns Hopkins University.

Politics

Congress bets on Man Friday Shivakumar to revive in Karnataka

Taking over the reins of the party’s state unit, Shivakumar vowed to bring the Congress back to power in the state with the support of its leaders and cadres.

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DK Shivakumar

Bengaluru, July 5 : The opposition Congress has picked its Man Friday D.K. Shivakumar to revive its fortunes in Karnataka after three consecutive electoral defeats since May 2018 state Assembly polls, with the worst being in May 2019 general elections, when it retained one and lost 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats it contested in a pre-poll alliance with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in the southern state.

In a stunning performance, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 25 of the 27 parliamentary seats it contested and supported Independent Sumalatha Ambarish to win the 28th seat in Mandya, about 100km from Bengaluru.

The JD-S, which contested 7 Lok Sabha seats, also retained one.

In the December 5, 2019 by-elections to 15 Assembly seats, the grand old party won 2 and lost 12 to the BJP and one to an Independent in triangular contests as it did not have pre-poll tie-up with its estranged ally — the JD-S.

Ironically, the 12 who won on the BJP ticket were defectors from the Congress and the JD-S, whose resignations from their Assembly seats led to the fall of their 14-month old coalition government on July 23, 2019 for losing majority in the 225-member House under its JD-S Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.

Though the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government completed 5-year term from 2013 to 2018 and hoped to retain power, a hung verdict in the 2018 Assembly elections forced it to enter into a post-poll alliance with its arch rival JD-S to keep the BJP out of power and formed a coalition government on May 23, 2019, after the 3-day BJP government fell on May 19, 2019.

Resignation by Congress’ state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao on December 9, owning moral responsibility for the party’s humiliating defeat in the Assembly by-elections caused a huge void to fill in.

After 3 months of deliberations, especially the caste equations in the faction-ridden party, the Congress high command in mid-March pitched for Shivakumar, its troubleshooter, who rose from the ranks to become a strong leader in the politically dominant Vokkaliga community across the state.

Shivakumar, 58, is a 7-time legislator from the Kanakapura assembly segment, about 60km south of Bengaluru. His younger brother D.K. Suresh is the party”s Lok Sabha member from the Bangalure Rural seat for the second time.

Covid-19 induced lockdown and its extension delayed Shivakumar from taking charge as president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) along with three working presidents – Eshwar Khandre, Sameer Ahmed and Satish Jarkiholi.

“The Congress high command is betting on Shivakumar to bring the party back to power in the state after the next Assembly elections, due in 2023. The onerous task is cut out for him, as he has to take on a formidable BJP, which consolidated its position by securing a majority in the lower House through its time-tested operation kamala strategy,” a political analyst told IANS here.

Though the BJP will be gunning for him as a tainted politician who was arrested and jailed in money laundering and tax evasion cases during 2017-19, Shivakumar remains unfazed in view of his popularity as a mass leader with huge resources and as one of the richest ”netas” in the country.

“Knowing my strength and capabilities, the BJP and its governments at the state and centre tried to finish me off politically by misusing the enforcement agencies and sending me to jail though I did not commit any offence. I am not afraid of anyone,” thundered Shivakumar on July 2 while addressing the party”s leaders and cadres across the state through video-conferencing.

With the backing of party president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi, Shivakumar is upbeat on galvanising the Congress in the state by rebuilding it from the booth level, a strategy the BJP mastered over the years to win elections at the hustings across the country.

“The high command assessed Shivakumar”s popularity and the following in the party after he returned to Bengaluru on October 26, 2019 from New Delhi on release from Tihar jail to a rousing welcome from the airport to the party office in the city centre and the protests that were held across the state against his arrest in Delhi early September in 2019,” the analyst recalled.

The party leaders are also of the view that by projecting Shivakumar as the chief ministerial candidate in the next Assembly elections, it will be able to get more Vokkaliga votes, especially in the old Mysuru region, where it lost badly in the 2018 Assembly elections to the JD-S, which is a Vokkaliga-dominant party in its traditional bastions.

Taking over the reins of the party’s state unit, Shivakumar vowed to bring the Congress back to power in the state with the support of its leaders and cadres.

“Though it”s the high command, which names the chief minister after the Assembly elections in the event of winning the mandate, the party”s state unit president is favoured for the top executive post, as in the case of S.M. Krishna and Dharam Singh who became Chief Ministers after leading the party in the elections in the past,” said party leader M.A. Saleem.

(Fakir Balaji can be reached at [email protected])

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Business

Congress to PM Modi: Roll back imposition of tax on disability pension of defence forces

He cited that 20 Indian soldiers including commanding officer also had attained martyrdom on the fateful night of June 15. He insisted that some of them, god forbids, may also be disabled.

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adhir ranjan chowdhury congress

New Delhi, July 5 : Leader of Congress party in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a review and roll back the decision of the imposition of tax on disability pension of defence forces including Army, Navy, and Air Forces.

“I must appreciate your visit to the army hospital (crisis expansion capacity of 100 beds) at Leh where scores of Indian soldiers have been admitted who have sustained grievous injuries during their valiant fight against Chinese intruders at Galwan Valley,” said Chowdhury in a letter to the PM.

He cited that 20 Indian soldiers including commanding officer also had attained martyrdom on the fateful night of June 15. He insisted that some of them, god forbids, may also be disabled.

“In future how would those disabled army personals earn and run the livelihoods? Disability pension comes as succour to those brave soldiers,” he added in the letter.

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Election

Lalu seeks bail ahead of Bihar Assembly elections

Lalu Prasad has applied for bail in the Jharkhand High Court. Earlier, he had been granted bail in three fodder scam cases.

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Lalu Yadav

Ranchi, July 4 : Jailed former Bihar Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad has applied for bail in the Chaibasa treasury fraudulent withdrawal case in the run-up to the Bihar Assembly polls.

On Saturday the RJD chief met political leaders at the paying ward of Rajendra Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) where he is undergoing treatment.

Lalu Prasad has applied for bail in the Jharkhand High Court. Earlier, he had been granted bail in three fodder scam cases.

According to Lalu”s lawyer, he has applied for bail on the ground that he has spent half of the prison term in jail. Lalu has been in custody since December 23, 2017, after his conviction in three different cases related to the fodder scam. He was granted provisional bail for treatment in May 2018 which was later cancelled by the Jharkhand High court. He has been undergoing treatment in RIMS since August 2018.

“The Bihar Assembly polls are crucial for the RJD”s survival. Lalu cannot bank on his two sons Tej Pratap and Tejashwi Yadav for the elections. The RJD did not manage to secure a single seat in Bihar in the Lok Sabha polls which was humiliating for the party,” said a RJD leader to IANS.

In 2015 Nitish Kumar, currently Chief Minister of Bihar, and Lalu Prasad had joined hands for the Assembly polls and won more than 150 of the 240 seats. Nitish Kumar, however, parted ways from the RJD after one and a half years in 2017.

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