2008 US presidential nominee from the Republican Party and influential US senator John McCain had, in December 2016, termed the Russian interference though cyber attacks in the 2016 US presidential election an act of war. Then it did not echo much. Also, John McCain, who is chairman of US Senate Armed Services Committee, has had a long running feud with Donald Trump.
But after the recent hearing of the House Intelligence Committee where the FBI Director James Comey testified that the FBI was indeed investigating the Russian meddling in the US polls and if some members of the Trump campaign team were having Russian connections, many Democratic senators, have started voicing their opinions against the Russian belligerence. And they think the Russian interference was an ‘act of war’.
It was the first public admission by the FBI into the ongoing probe that the FBI director termed ‘unusual’, as the FBI doesn’t confirm or deny that it is investigating a matter unless it is highly ‘unusual’. Here the FBI believed the situation was so serious and in public interest was at stake, as Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee.
After Comey’s admission, the issue has become central to the Democratic Party’s narrative to target US President Donald Trump. “I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles”, charged Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat from New Jersey, during a recent security committee hearing.
Her words were echoed by Democratic Party senator from California Jackie Speier who said during the same hearing where Comey was testifying that ‘he actually thought that their (Russian) engagement was an act of war, an act of hybrid warfare and he thought that’s why the American people should be concerned about it’.
Another Democratic senator for California, Eric Swalwell, who had launched a separate section on his official website to detail Donald Trump’s officials connection with Russia, said, “I see this as an opportunity for everyone on this committee, Republicans and Democrats, to not look in the rearview window but to look forward and do everything we can to make sure that our country never again allows a foreign adversary to attack us”, as quoted by The Hill, a newspaper and website with wide following. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is currently probing Russian meddling matter and Swalwell is one of its members.
In January, the US democrats had written a letter to the US Congress to demand an independent, bipartisan commission, with equal representation of Democrats and Republicans, to probe the allegations but the House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected such calls.
US intelligence agencies believe that Vladimir Putin did order the Kremlin to interfere in the US presidential polls and the charge that it was done in order to hurt the prospects of the US Democrats and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, gained momentum after thousands of Hillary Clinton emails were leaked by Russian hackers, a revelation confirmed by the CIA. The fact that Donald Trump has always been soft on Russia and Vladimir Putin and he would often talks of new alignments with Russia during his campaign days, further bolstered the feeling.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, had to resign after it was found that he had lied on his Russian connection. Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions, who had a controversial ascent to head the Trump administration’s legal team, had to recuse himself from the investigations into the Russian meddling after it was revealed that he was also in touch with the Russian Ambassador in the US during Trump’s campaign days.
After the humiliating setback in the US presidential polls, the US Democrats have got multiple opportunities to target Trump. Trump entered the White House with historically low approval ratings. His controversial travel ban targeting some Muslim majority nations has seen strong disapproval even from some Republicans and has been stayed by the US courts. Most recently, his favourite campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, fizzled out this week when his party could not arrange numbers in a house dominated by the Republicans.
Add to it are the controversies like his official weekend visits to his private mansion Mar-a-Lago that cost US taxpayers millions or his over a dozen visits to Golf Courses when he had promised that he would not take off days. Wrapping it with a grand narrative of its conventional rival Russia, attacking the US, with unconventional tools like cyber wars, that hurt the sovereign interests of the country but benefit the Trump camp, serves the purpose of showing Trump and Republicans in a questionable light. These all together create a perfect recipe for the Democratic Party to bounce back from its low confidence levels some months back.
That might be the case if we go by the increasing number of such assessments in the official Chinese media like this one, an assessment published in China’s Global Times, one of the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. Published in Global Times’ opinion section ‘Insider Eye’, the article argues that like the western countries have successfully done, it is now time for China to leverage huge Indian talent pool to fuel its global competitiveness and presents point by point support to base its narrative.
The article is written by S. Ramakrishna Velamuri, a professor at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. CEIBS is one of the Ivy League B schools globally. This assessment by an Indian origin professor who did his MBA from Spain and PhD from America is important because it is not the first article on the subject in the official Chinese media and because it is published in one of the main official newspapers of China where nothing can go on pages without approval from the higher ups in the Chinese government.
The article says even if China produces largest number of engineers and science graduates in the world, its forte traditionally has been in hardware. Making it complimentary to the huge pool of software professionals in India will give the Chinese economy the edge it needs to succeed in the times when we are heading to Industry 4.0, an era of smart factories that work on seamless integration of hardware with software. The industrial future is automation, driven by the Internet of Things and cyber-physical systems.
The article argues that with superior English language skills, “Indian software engineers are more accustomed to developing solutions for global markets, whereas Chinese engineers have been more focused on their domestic market”.
Also, Indian population is youngest in the world. The median age in India is 10 years lower than China. The article argues that as knowledge-intensive industries hire fresh graduates and groom them further, tapping into the Indian talent pool will provide a sustained supply base in the foreseeable future. That will be a boon for a rapidly aging China which is projected to have maximum number of over 65 people in the world.
And to cap it all is India’s cost competitiveness, as the article writes that ‘Indian talent is significantly cheaper than the Chinese talent’.
The article says China is rapidly becoming an innovation-driven economy from being the global manufacturing base and was ranked 25th on the Global Innovation Index 2016. In upper middle income countries, the country was ranked first. India has emerged as the R&D hub for multinational companies. The articles says India has around 1200 R&D centres including 42% of the top 500 R&D spenders in the world which employ over 3,00,000 professionals and the count is only going up. So, India has what China needs.
Last month too, an article in Global Times had written that by not attracting Indian talent, China had made a mistake. Written by a Global Times reporter of Chinese origin, that assessment was more direct in accepting that “talent pool in China was not large and flexible enough to meet demand for the rapid expansion of innovation capability’. The article wrote, “China cannot afford to risk a decline in its attractiveness for high-tech investors and attracting high-tech talent from India could be one of China’s options for maintaining its innovation ability”.
Questions that life so habitually throws
That sometimes they get that overdose
To the extent that it becomes so gloomy
Instead of a simple row with life
Questions, sometimes, embrace thorns
When it had to be a rose, even if verbose
Questions, sometimes, lose their repose,
And, at times, repulse to a listless state
Questions, sometimes, lose their weaving
Any why! Only in order to get apposed
Questions, sometimes, bring us together
But at times, they also send us afar
Questions, sometimes, push us to the altar
When we seem to be lost in a war within
Questions, sometimes, they leave their scars
Visible even in a future where past sucks
Questions, sometimes, split you
Ready with a scimitar, to mutilate you
Questions, sometimes, bring some thoughts
That you find you are totally at odds with
Questions, sometimes, create complexes
To simply get you confused in their maze
Questions, sometimes, ask like a fanatic
As to, why don’t you follow this zealot
Questions, sometimes, behave like an abbot
Who is ready to wait till infinity for his godot
Questions, sometimes, question their space
But a void is all that covers their face
One of the greatest scientists, nature’s laws and human civilization have ever seen, Albert Einstein, had once said that ‘God does not play dice’. Einstein was not a religious person and his observation was about the laws of nature.
One of the best minds of our times, Stephen Hawking, wrote an elaborate piece titled ‘Does God Play Dice?’ on similar lines.
Both of them were opining about scientific determinism, about how laws of nature play out in the universe, and how chaos is a certain part of it.
Mathematician Ian Stewart wrote a book ‘Does God Play Dice? The New Mathematics of Chaos’ that was published in 1989. The book is about chaos theory, about a pattern in randomness that no one sees or senses, that science cannot explain. But simple to complex, events happen. What seems unrelated may very well effect a change where it was never expected. Things are governed by chaos and chaos is governed by quantum mechanics. But what quantum mechanics is governed by?
By uncertainty? By scientific determinism of chaos? By a pattern in uncertainty and chaos that no one can see?
Or in the words of Stephen Hawking, who writes in his ageless classic, that “God doesn’t intervene, to break the laws of Science”.
That is about the philosophy of science. But even the philosophy of life, or your existence here, follows a similar path.
That “God doesn’t intervene, to break the laws of life”.
‘Does God play dice’ is a question that we all come across in our lives. When we ask such questions and when we look for answers, we tend to move to the philosophical realms, questioning our existence, questioning the way life has been, and sometimes questioning even God.
The philosophy of life which every life develops to deal with chaos in his or her life!
Here I am not talking about philosophy as a discourse or discipline but it has more to do with the philosophical underpinnings of existence and identity where philosophy becomes an ironical necessity, a necessity as we interpret and we become so habituated with it – to the extent that it becomes an inherent part of us – motivating us, or propelling us, or forcing us to move ahead or along with life.
If we turn to the ‘philosophy of Puritanism, the ‘dicing’ proposition loses its relevance. If we turn to the philosophy incarnation of the day as preached by the so-called intellectuals and self-made God-reincarnations or even by the academicians, it becomes misleading enough to veer us to the brink of a conscience crisis.
When we are asked to ‘accept everything as it comes’ and ‘whatever that happens is for good’ and when we start believing in such propositions, not debating what good it brings to us and if there was any good at all in whatever that happened, we start losing our individuality, slipping into the conscience crisis. We don’t realize it or we are forced not to realize it – in the name of being practical. Chaos starts dismantling us.
We all follow some values in life which we justify anyhow and we are right in doing so but to go beyond, we need to turn to pragmatism of conscience and that only can lead us to a fine blend of ‘the ways we go across to deal with the ‘prompts and hurdles’ of life’ and the ‘optimized scale of conscience, the philosophical element’, so as to fix the ‘dice’ in a poise on the scale of thinking in a way that can achieve a swing state tending to get back to the root of one’s existence whenever it gets disturbed.
And this balance, this ‘philosophy of necessity’ cannot be defined, cannot be measured, and cannot be practiced uniformly. It is subjective and can only be attained and attuned by individual life preferences and circumstances, if one tends to balance the moments in the line of practical and philosophical inputs and practical outcomes.
If philosophy is essentially a way to look back at and understand life gone so far, the ‘philosophy of necessity’ leads us to question us and take decisions that not only support the material-self of our present day lives, our daily lives, destabilized by chaos, but also gives us the much needed spiritual base. Chaos tries to set a pattern in our lives and tries to make us accustomed to that.
We all have this spiritual base, to deal with chaos, but we lack the practicality of getting along with it, limiting us to mostly rituals and temples and shrine visits, and so excluding it out of our daily lives. If spirituality is akin to exploring the deeper of ‘you’, connecting you to your ‘self’ and hence to the ‘light’, it has to be a part of your everyday moments.
We need to realize the ‘necessity of philosophy’ to base our decisions on pragmatism and conscience. And no one can teach it. We are the teachers and we are the learners and so either we make it or we don’t. We are in life’s playground. We are in chaos’ playground. Balancing ‘philosophy’ and ‘necessity’ is a difficult proposition. But it does happen.
And how? No one knows. Laws of life play along. Laws of science play along. Where Gods don’t need to play dice.
The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified.
Previous US President Barack Obama had signed the Affordable Healthcare Act or Obamacare on March 23, 2010. Then it was termed as the most important healthcare legislation in the US since Medicare, the national health insurance plan of the US for senior citizens, was launched in 1965.
Down the line seven years, his predecessor, the current US President Donald Trump is trying all to get Obamacare repealed and replaced with his American Healthcare Act or Trumpcare. It was one of his major campaign promises. The house vote on Trumpcare is likely to be held on March 23, 2017.
But even many Republican senators feel Trumpcare is not comprehensive enough to meet those campaign promises and amendments are needed. Intense parleys are taking place but so far a consensus has not emerged. Estimates say Trumpcare is expected to leave 24 million Americans without insurance by 2016. Obamacare would have these Americans covered. But it may be even worse. A New York Times report says, quoting an analysis, the number of uninsured may be as high as 32 million more Americans by 2026.
The US media is replete with reports on pros and cons of Obamacare, like tax burdens, deductibles, coverage, freedom to choose insures and so on and how and if a Trumpcare can take care of it because as it is an issue that is going to define the Trump presidency as it had defined Obama’s.
Though the Republican Party, along with Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, is presenting Trumpcare as a panacea that will take care of every American’s healthcare needs and Obamacare as a vestige of law that is detrimental enough to be replaced as soon as possible, its own house is not in order.
The house vote on Trumpcare is expected on Thursday, but going by a latest CNN report, the Republicans still have no clear numbers to get Obamacare repealed and Trumpcare passed even if less than 24 hours are left for Trumpcare to go to vote. If Trumpcare fails to pass through a Republican majority house, it will be serious setback for Trump and will further complicate his days ahead. He is already facing serious charges on his Russia connections and the probe has reached to the White House. Then there are other controversial issues like his wiretap claims without evidence or his controversial travel ban, issues for which he is being slammed everywhere.
Trumpcare which the expert have been doubting about from the beginning may end up like another Trump rhetoric which does nothing except stirring up society and market with his uncontrolled flow of tweets. Once the dust settles down, it only gives more energy to anti-Trump voices or in this case to the US pharmaceutical and insurance companies that, after going down because of a hostile Trump tweet, bounce back and even rally on stock exchanges, a CNN Money report says.
Trump, during the campaign phase of the US presidential polls, and even after his election, had raised hopes of a healthcare act to replace Obamacare that would guarantee ‘universal healthcare’. In an interview before his government’s inaugural on January 20, 2017, he said ‘we are going to have insurance for everybody’, a Washington Post copy says.
Going by that scale, anything less would be like betraying those hopes. But a universal healthcare was always an impossible concept because it would be so unwieldy, so expansive and so therefore so expensive, that it was not never in the Republican Party’s plans for a healthcare act to replace Obamacare. The Washington Post op-ed, headlined ‘Donald Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare’ wrote, “Donald Trump emphatically promised universal health coverage. That’s an absolutely gigantic promise, and it’s one that Republicans have no intention of keeping”.
Sometimes, you feel empty from within
Sometimes, you need to feel lost
Sometimes, it is a journey to nowhere
Sometimes, words just don’t add up
Sometimes, you just need it to be like this
When you fail to speak to even your soul
Life has been brutalized by expectations
‘What was there yesterday’ is not over
Yet ‘what will be there tomorrow’ begins
Life has become a maze of equations
Of burdening relations, of forced lies
You don’t know when you stopped caring
For a life that you had begun together
You could not realize when it slipped out
Like a borrowed identity, like a fake living
That life became a stranger in your chores
You got habituated to what you despised
Words used to be your friends in a past
But they sound like quirky existences now
Sometimes, they flow, like a yesterday
But their friction hounds every other day
Asking questions you don’t want to answer
But the truth is you need to answer them
It is not that you don’t realize this
But swept over by expectations of a life
That you never thought would be yours
You find those spaces of sanity choked
You meet your estranged life and soul
And fail to read your past and present
In a mad rush to meet expectations
When you can’t connect with words
Where you can’t correlated with journey
When your identity looks like a stranger
Where your life stops making any sense
In moments, when pain becomes unbearable
You cry for an honest introspection
You long for a clean slate, again, from within
And you madly try to make sense of words
On a journey that you did not choose
In moments like these, you try to feel lost
In a desperate effort to speak to your soul
To make sense of where it all began
To see if you can still heal your existence
After the US, the UK, too, has announced a ban on large electronic devises in cabin baggage on some flights. A BBC report said that the UK action was in coordination with the measures taken by the US. As per the BBC report, the ban is for commercial flights originating from Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon and will affect six UK and eight foreign carriers including British Airways, Thomas Cook, Turkish Airlines, Saudia and Egyptair. Like the US ban, the UK, too, has banned electronic devices larger than a smartphone, like laptops, tablets, DVD players and even phone larger than a specified size from cabin baggage.
Earlier, a report in the The Telegraph said that the UK, too, had come across same intelligence inputs as the US that terrorists could use electronic devices like laptops to conceal explosives. The intelligence inputs say terrorists are planning ‘innovative methods to bring down planes’ as the report in The Telegraph says.
Earlier in the day, the US ban came into force, putting stiff conditions on foreign airlines from the eight Middle-East and African countries. The US ban will affect 10 airports that serve as last point of departure to the US.
According to the US Department of Homeland Security, the 10 airports affected are Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan, Cairo International Airport, Ataturk International Airport in Turkey, King Abdul-Aziz International Airport in Saudi Arabia, King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait International Airport, Mohammed V Airport in Morocco, Hamad International Airport in Qatar, Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport.
The Department of Homeland Security says that these airports were selected on current threat inputs and their analysis and more airports can be added in future if security assessment demands so. These new measures will remain in place as long as the threat persists.
As per the US ban, electronic devices other than mobile phones will not be allowed in cabin baggage on flights originating from these 10 airports. Devices larger than a mobile phone or a smartphone, like laptops, tablets, cameras, e-readers, travel printers and scanners, portable DVD players and even electronic games which are larger than a smartphone must be put in the checked-in luggage. And this list is not exhaustive. The US ban is not limited to just these electronic devices but applies to any electronic device larger than a smartphone.
In support of its ban, the Department of Homeland Security cites terrorist propaganda on how an Egyptian plane was brought down by a soda can stuffed with explosives killing 224 onboard in 2015 or how a laptop bomb was used to carry out explosion in an aircraft at a Somali airport in February 2016. According to the Department of Homeland Security, terrorists have used in past methods like concealing explosives in shoes and printers, suicide devices in underwear and using liquid explosives.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is in China, met the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday after which both held a joint press conference. There are reports in the US and Chinese media that US President Donald Trump is scheduled to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a two-day summit on April 6-7 at his mansion Mar-a-Lago in Florida which Trump is using as his winter retreat. Tillerson’s China visit is being seen as intended to lay groundwork for the upcoming summit.
According to Global Times, the sister publication of People’s Daily, Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, Tillerson’s visit to China has ‘served to reduce anxiety over US-China’ ties. Global Times writes quoting Wang Yi that “the phone call between the two countries’ leaders has served as guidance for both sides” to work out further details.
After Donald Trump assumed the US presidency, the US-China ties have been under cloud with Trump indicating that he may take a different approach to the issues that China finds vital to its interests.
Though Trump put his faith in the One China policy during his first phone call with Jinping last month, his acts in the past have indicated otherwise. Breaking the three decade old US protocol of not speaking to Taiwan, Trump spoke to Taiwan president in November after his victory. Further, Trump said that the ‘One China’ policy was not sacrosanct and was open to new realignments, like with new trade deals. China ferociously follows the ‘One China’ policy and believes Taiwan is a rouge province that will sooner or later come to its fold.
WHAT CAN FIGURE PROMINENTLY IN TRUMP-JINPING TALKS?
The issue is expected to figure prominently in Trump-Jinping talks. And if we go by a report published in The Independent today that says the Trump Administration is preparing to sell Taiwan arms it needs in case of a Chinese attack, there are bound to be hard negotiations as Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, said after the Trump-Jinping call last month that ‘Trump always gets something in return in negotiations’. The new arms sales package to Taiwan, at a time when both countries are preparing for a summit between their leaders, tells that Trump is not satisfied with what assurance he got from Jinping during his phone call and he intends for more.
Though there were no discussions on Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) issue, it is another issue that Tillerson and Wang Yi would be hoping to work on set the contours of the talks when Jinping-Trump meet next month. China has come down heavily on South Korea for deploying the US missile defense system against North Korea after North Korea tested ballistic missiles this month. China is opposed to THAAD’s deployment in the region saying it disturbs power balance and is inimical to its interest in the South China Sea, another disputed region where China is pitted against the US and other world powers after a UN panel rejected Chinese claims on the South China Sea.
Tillerson’s China visit, it seems, is aimed at finding common grounds for bottleneck issues to prepare conducive atmosphere for Trump-Jinping summit, something that China also realises. Global Times, quoting Wang Yi, writes, “It is normal for China and the US to have their differences, and that open communication is essential.”
A new BJP government is in place in Manipur. And even before it can prove its majority in the Manipur assembly slated for tomorrow, it has added a feather in its cap, by convincing the United Naga Council (UNC), the body representing the Naga tribal population of Manipur, to lift the economic blockade from midnight that has badly hit the state with supply of essential commodities choked.
During the campaign phase, prime minister Narendra Modi had promised that a BJP government in Manipur will end the blockade within 48 hours of assuming the office. Blaming the state’s Congress government for blockade and governance deficit, Modi had promised to develop the state in 15 months, something that he said the Congress could not do even in 15 years of its rule since 2002.
After taking oath, state’s new chief minister, it seems, took the matter on a priority basis. After a successful tripartite meeting, involving the Government of India, Manipur government and the UNC, the UNC has agreed to lift the economic blockade of national highways in Manipur that it had imposed on November 1, 2016 protesting the then Congress led Manipur government’s decision to create two new districts of Sadar Hills and Jiribam. The UNC demanded a rollback arguing that creation of new districts would affect the interests of the Naga people of the state.
The five months old blockade of the state’s two main highways has restricted its access to Nagaland, Assam and Myanmar and has crippled the delivery of essential items to the north-eastern state. Though a restricted number of supply trucks were allowed to pass every week, these were never enough.
NEW POLITICAL ALIGNMENTS
BJP leader N Biren Singh, along with eight other cabinet ministers, took oath on March 15. He is heading a coalition government of Nagaland People’s Front (NPF), National People’s Party (NPP) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). His government is also supported by an independent MLA, the lone TMC MLA in the house and a Congress MLA who has defected and has been made minister.
A ruling coalition involving Naga parties may have helped in convincing the UNC in taking a swift decision to remove the blockade. The NPF, ruling party of Nagaland and an NDA alliance partner, is now the BJP’s ruling partner in Manipur. Besides NPP, the party that won four seats and has got four ministerial berths in Biren Singh’s cabinet including the post of the deputy chief minister, had also got the UNC support.
Biren Singh’s BJP led coalition government is scheduled to face the trust vote tomorrow. In the 60-member strong Manipur legislative assembly, the ruling Congress party won 28 seats while the BJP got 21 seats in the recently concluded elections. A simple house majority needs support of 31 MLAs. The BJP could garner the required numbers and staked claim to form the government while the Congress’ claims were rejected as it could support them with documentary evidence. The BJP is claiming to have 33 MLAs in its fold now, including 4 each from NPF and NPP, one from LJP and TMC, one independent and one defected from the Congress.