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Personal thoughts/opinion on results of US presidential election

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Torrential cascades have been written in American newspapers and journals. We’ve heard and seen more on CNN and BBC. My contribution in this article is a mere droplet, but I am sure I voice other women’s views too. I base my very personal views on certain criteria or bases. Oops, I almost forgot to say that I was absolutely happy and relieved with Biden being declared winner and elated about Harris being first woman VP with Jamaican/Indian blood running through her.

My son in Atlanta phoned me the moment the results from Pennsylvania were called: 10.30 pm over here on Saturday. He celebrated with a lonely champagne; me with a can of beer the next day! He was amidst rising hoots of horns, shouts of glee and fireworks bursting. I went to bed relieved; so far away but concerned since no one wants such as Trump proved himself to be in the hot seat with finger on nuclear button. Echoing a Sri Lankan resident over there, it was mentioned by others that the greatest relief would be to wake up not dreading the tweet of the day! I was suitably surprised to hear that many Lankans, at least on west coast of US, are Republican. I asked my informant, how come. Oh being Republican means being recognized as having wealth, she replies!!

 

Sense of humanity, fellow feeling, concern

These come through eyes, smile and natural body language when Biden speaks to the public; more so after he was confirmed Prez Elect. He conveys sincerity. His obvious empathy towards people in general could be adduced to his personal life having been full of tragedy. He admitted he considered suicide when his young wife and baby daughter were killed in an accident and his two sons seriously injured and in hospital. Tragedy did not end there; his elder son died at 35 of brain cancer. And then of course, the insults suffered at the hands of his presidential opponent; “Sleepy Joe” being one of the lesser. Khalil Gibran’s observation: ‘Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars’ is so true in Biden’s case.

For Trump there was always money and with it went power over lesser mortals, like women he groped. His blatant act of non-caring and anything goes for his sake was so obvious in his holding mass rallies packed close together, with him scorning face masks. Sure one million of the two dead of Covid 19 in the US could be traced directly to his disregard for medical advice. Then, causing doubt and vetoing a decent transfer of power, he goes off golfing.

 

Those around

Biden has always been a committed family man. After five years (1972-77) of being devoted sole parent to his two sons, travelling 90 minutes each way from Washington DC to Delaware to be with them at bedtime, he married Jill in 1977. You can judge how sensible and committed she is by the fact she said she will continue her teaching job when First Lady living in the White House

Kamala Harris as running mate and VP is a very wise choice. She will balance Biden well: vivacity against staidness; comparative youth against Biden’s three score and ten plus.

Also, Biden would have made his choice with much consideration, one being suitable to be his successor within the next four years or at the end of it. He may not seek a second term.

Biden listens to advisers; apparently his wife and family; and most definitely has said and will give credence to medical specialists and scientists in tackling the Covid 19 pandemic and his next priority: climate change.

How about bossy, blustering Trump? Any sign of criticism or not agreeing with him, meant ‘Off with his head’. Too numerous the VIPs in his government whom he axed; the many he let down after they compromised themselves on his behalf – Cohen. Absolutely self serving and repugnantly pugnacious. Consider his public contempt for Dr Faucci.

 

Honesty and Integrity

These are certainly not in doubt with Biden. No scandals whatsoever in his long political career of any misdeamenour in political and personal life. He was sixth youngest Senator in 1970 when voted in at age 29; was VP twice over; contested to be president, twice. And no whispers ever of scandal. Trump tried to implicate Biden’s son and even asked the Ukrainian President to act spy for him. That proves he could not ferret out any scandal about Joe Biden, so went the next generation.

Trump is the polar opposite: a businessman who learned from his father and outdid him in shady business deals, undercutting opponents. There is no need to talk of his morals – rock bottom, even gentlemanly behaviour. The way he, with total disregard for human lives, preferred to focus on the economy ignoring Covid 19 deaths. The latest tell-all book on Trump by his niece Mary L Trump in 2020 – Too Much and Never Enough: how my family created the world’s most dangerous man documents the depravity of the man given to lying, evading justice, worshipping money, bluster minus brains, letting others carry the blame, tax evading, exploiting women sexually so that he was considered alongside Weinstein when # MeToo was created.

 

Policy

Biden has outlined the work ahead for the government he leads. It is hoped both Houses will have Democrats in the majority. Biden named four major concerns: successfully battling the Covid 19 pandemic; peacefully uniting the US – politically and racially (he said this in stirring words); climate change/global warming; economy. Among many further tasks is building foreign relation bridges broken or chipped at by Trump; the most important being re-entering the Paris Agreement for Climate Change, NATO and WHO. He will restore, as far as possible, the lead given by Obama in social measures.

There really is no call to discuss Trump’s policies. They seemed to be his wholly and he acted the bull in a China shop world. For instance he left the last G7 meeting early, it is whispered, having heard that Macron, Trudeau, Johnson and Merkel on the fringe, had a good laugh over his pugnacious accusations against Canada and evident rudeness.

 

Peaceful and tolerant

As Senator, VP and now in power, Joe Biden absolutely advocated a non-belligerent US, multiracial and fair to all its citizens. While Trump was rabid against migrants and separated permanently children from parents at the southern border, Biden will not lock out urgent immigrants. He respects Black Lives, was totally for women’s rights and equality and opposed the Gulf War and guns freely possessed by Americans. He was against homosexuality, voting against the army’s recruitment of such, due perhaps to his Catholic faith. Maybe he holds more tolerant views on this and same sex marriage. He is pro-abortion though a regular churchgoer.

 

First Ladies

They play significant roles when their husbands are Presidents. Melania Trump fades into obscurity she rose from after marrying The Trump with wealth and power, when compared to solidly foundationed Jill Biden. Superficial beauty and an East European model, suspiciously (it is said) given a US passport positioned against dedicated teacher who holds a BA, two MAs and a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware. Melania is third wife of Donald Trump who threw away wives as he did women who he bedded, often amounting to rape. Biden married Jill after years of single and devoted parenthood and lives a Roman Catholic life.

 

Sense and sensibility versus gross crudity and overpowering selfishness

That sums up the 46th and 45th Presidents of USA. While Trump lied atrociously, had an attention span of a few minutes and no deep knowledge about the world, Biden is sharp and seems full of good sense. He does make a gaffe once in a way, but that makes him all the more a human being.



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BRICS emerging as strong rival to G7

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It was in the fitness of things for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold a special telephonic conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently for the purpose of enlightening the latter on the need for a peaceful, diplomatic end to the Russian-initiated blood-letting in Ukraine. Hopefully, wise counsel and humanity would prevail and the world would soon witness the initial steps at least to a complete withdrawal of invading Russian troops from Ukraine.

The urgency for an early end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine which revoltingly testifies afresh to the barbaric cruelty man could inflict on his fellows, is underscored, among other things, by the declaration which came at the end of the 14th BRICS Summit, which was held virtually in Beijing recently. Among other things, the declaration said: ‘BRICS reaffirms commitment to ensuring the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all with the aim to build a brighter shared future for the international community based on mutually beneficial cooperation.’

It is anybody’s guess as to what meanings President Putin read into pledges of the above kind, but it does not require exceptional brilliance to perceive that the barbaric actions being carried out by his regime against Ukrainian civilians make a shocking mockery of these enlightened pronouncements. It is plain to see that the Russian President is being brazenly cynical by affixing his signature to the declaration. The credibility of BRICS is at risk on account of such perplexing contradictory conduct on the part of its members. BRICS is obliged to rectify these glaring irregularities sooner rather than later.

At this juncture the important clarification must be made that it is the conduct of the Putin regime, and the Putin regime only, that is being subjected to censure here. Such strictures are in no way intended to project in a negative light, the Russian people, who are heirs to a rich, humanistic civilization that produced the likes of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, among a host of other eminent spirits, who have done humanity proud and over the decades guided humans in the direction of purposeful living. May their priceless heritage live long, is this columnist’s wish.

However, the invaluable civilization which the Russian people have inherited makes it obligatory on their part to bring constant pressure on the Putin regime to end its barbarism against the Ukrainian civilians who are not at all party to the big power politics of Eastern Europe. They need to point out to their rulers that in this day and age there are civilized, diplomatic and cost-effective means of resolving a state’s perceived differences with its neighbours. The spilling of civilian blood, on the scale witnessed in Ukraine, is a phenomenon of the hoary past.

The BRICS grouping, which encompasses some of the world’s predominant economic and political powers, if not for the irregular conduct of the Putin regime, could be said to have struck on a policy framework that is farsighted and proactive on the issue of global equity.

There is the following extract from a report on its recent summit declaration that needs to be focused on. It reads: BRICS notes the need to ensure “Meaningful participation of developing and least developed countries, especially in Africa, in global decision-making processes and structures and make it better attuned to contemporary realities.”

The above are worthy goals that need to be pursued vigorously by global actors that have taken upon themselves the challenge of easing the lot of the world’s powerless countries. The urgency of resuming the North-South Dialogue, among other questions of importance to the South, has time and again been mentioned in this column. This is on account of the fact that the most underdeveloped regions of the South have been today orphaned in the world system.

Given that the Non-aligned Movement and like organizations, that have espoused the resolution of Southern problems over the decades, are today seemingly ineffective and lacking in political and economic clout, indications that the BRICS grouping is in an effort to fill this breach is heartening news for the powerless of the world. Indeed, the crying need is for the poor and powerless to be brought into international decision-making processes that affect their wellbeing and it is hoped that BRICS’s efforts in this regard would bear fruit.

What could help in increasing the confidence of the underdeveloped countries in BRICS, is the latter’s rising economic and political power. While in terms of economic strength, the US remains foremost in the world with a GDP of $ 20.89 trillion, China is not very far behind with a GDP of $ 14.72 trillion. The relevant readings for some other key BRICS countries are as follows: India – $ 2.66 trillion, Russia – $ 1.48 trillion and Brazil $ 1.44 trillion. Of note is also the fact that except for South Africa, the rest of the BRICS are among the first 15 predominant economies, assessed in GDP terms. In a global situation where economics drives politics, these figures speak volumes for the growing power of the BRICS countries.

In other words, the BRICS are very much abreast of the G7 countries in terms of a number of power indices. The fact that many of the BRICS possess a nuclear capability indicates that in military terms too they are almost on par with the G7.

However, what is crucial is that the BRICS, besides helping in modifying the world economic order to serve the best interests of the powerless as well, contribute towards changing the power balances within the vital organs of the UN system, such as the UN Security Council, to render them more widely representative of changing global power realities.

Thus, India and Brazil, for example, need to be in the UNSC because they are major economic powers in their own right. Since they are of a democratic orientation, besides pushing for a further democratization of the UN’s vital organs, they would be in a position to consistently work towards the wellbeing of the underprivileged in their respective regions, which have tremendous development potential.

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Queen of Hearts

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She has certainly won the hearts of many with the charity work she is engaged in, on a regular basis, helping the poor, and the needy.

Pushpika de Silva was crowned Mrs. Sri Lanka for Mrs. World 2021 and she immediately went into action, with her very own charity project – ‘Lend a Helping Hand.’

When launching this project, she said: “Lend a Helping Hand is dear to me. With the very meaning of the title, I am extending my helping hand to my fellow brothers and sisters in need; in a time where our very existence has become a huge question and people battling for daily survival.”

Since ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ became a reality, last year, Pushpika has embarked on many major charity projects, including building a home for a family, and renovating homes of the poor, as well.

The month of June (2022) saw Pushpika very much in action with ‘Lend a Helping Hand.’

She made International Father’s Day a very special occasion by distributing food items to 100 poor families.

“Many are going without a proper meal, so I was very keen, in my own way, to see that these people had something to keep the hunger pangs away.”

A few days later, the Queen of Hearts made sure that 50 more people enjoyed a delicious and nutritious meal.

“In these trying times, we need to help those who are in dire straits and, I believe, if each one of us could satisfy the hunger, and thirst, of at least one person, per day, that would be a blessing from above.”

Pushpika is also concerned about the mothers, with kids, she sees on the roads, begging.

“How helpless is a mother, carrying a small child, to come to the street and ask for something.

“I see this often and I made a special effort to help some of them out, with food and other necessities.”

What makes Pushpika extra special is her love for animals, as well, and she never forgets the street dogs that are having a tough time, these days, scavenging for food.

“These animals, too, need food, and are voiceless, so we need to think of them, as well. Let’s have mercy on them, too. Let’s love them, as well.”

The former beauty queen served a delicious meal for the poor animals, just recently, and will continue with all her charity projects, on a regular basis, she said.

Through her charity project, ‘Lend a Helping Hand,” she believes she can make a change, though small.

And, she says, she plans to be even more active, with her charity work, during these troubled times.

We wish Pushpika de Silva all the very best, and look forward to seeing more of her great deeds, through her ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ campaign.

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Hope and political change:No more Appachis to the rescue

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KUPPI on the current economic and political crisis: intervention 1

by Harshana Rambukwella

In Buddhist literature, there is the Parable of the Burning House where the children of a wealthy man, trapped inside a burning house, refuse to leave it, fearful of leaving its comfort – because the flames are yet to reach them. Ultimately, they do leave because the father promises them wonderful gifts and are saved from the fire. Sri Lankans have long awaited such father figures – in fact, our political culture is built on the belief that such ‘fathers’ will rescue us. But this time around no fathers are coming. As Sri Lankans stare into an uncertain future, and a multitude of daily sufferings, and indignities continue to pile upon us, there is possibly one political and emotional currency that we all need – hope. Hope is a slippery term. One can hope ‘in-vain’ or place one’s faith in some unachievable goal and be lulled into a sense of complacency. But, at the same time, hope can be critically empowering – when insurmountable obstacles threaten to engulf you, it is the one thing that can carry you forward. We have innumerable examples of such ‘hope’ from history – both religious and secular. When Moses led the Israelites to the promised land, ‘hope’ of a new beginning sustained them, as did faith in God. When Queen Viharamahadevi set off on a perilous voyage, she carried hope, within her, along with the hope of an entire people. When Martin Luther King Jr made his iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech, hope of an America where Black people could live in dignity, struck a resonant chord and this historical sense of hope also provided inspiration for the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa.

This particular moment, in Sri Lanka, feels a moment of ‘hopelessness’. In March and April, this year, before the cowardly attack on the Gota Go Gama site, in Galle Face, there was a palpable sense of hope in the aragalaya movement as it spread across the country. While people were struggling with many privations, the aragalaya channeled this collective frustration into a form of political and social action, we have rarely seen in this country. There were moments when the aragalaya managed to transcend many divisions – ethnic, religious and class – that had long defined Sri Lanka. It was also largely a youth led movement which probably added to the ‘hope’ that characterized the aragalaya. However, following the May 09th attack something of this ‘hope’ was lost. People began to resign themselves to the fact that the literally and metaphorically ‘old’ politics, and the corrupt culture it represents had returned. A Prime Minister with no electoral base, and a President in hiding, cobbled together a shaky and illegitimate alliance to stay in power. The fuel lines became longer, the gas queues grew, food prices soared and Sri Lanka began to run out of medicines. But, despite sporadic protests and the untiring commitment of a few committed activists, it appeared that the aragalaya was fizzling out and hope was stagnant and dying, like vehicles virtually abandoned on kilometers-long fuel queues.

However, we now have a moment where ‘hope’ is being rekindled. A national movement is gathering pace. As the prospect of the next shipment of fuel appears to recede into the ever-distant future, people’s anger and frustration are once again being channeled towards political change. This is a do-or-die moment for all Sri Lankans. Regardless of our political beliefs, our ideological orientation, our religion or class, the need for political change has never been clearer. Whether you believe that an IMF bailout will save us, or whether you believe that we need a fundamental change in our economic system, and a socially and economically more just society, neither of these scenarios will come to pass without an immediate political change. The political class that now clings to power, in this country, is like a cancer – poisoning and corrupting the entire body politic, even as it destroys itself. The Prime Minister who was supposed to be the messiah channeling international goodwill and finances to the country has failed miserably and we have a President who seems to be in love with the idea of ‘playing president’. The Sri Lankan people have a single existential choice to make in this moment – to rise as one to expel this rotten political order. In Sri Lanka, we are now in that burning house that the Buddha spoke of and we all seem to be waiting for that father to appear and save us. But now we need to change the plot of this parable. No father will come for us. Our fathers (or appachis) have led us to this sorry state. They have lied, deceived and abandoned us. It is now up to us to rediscover the ‘hope’ that will deliver us from the misery of this economic and political crisis. If we do not act now the house will burn down and we will be consumed in its flames.

Initiated by the Kuppi Collective, a group of academics and activists attached to the university system and other educational institutes and actions.

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