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Trump’s Biggest Betrayal Could Come in the Last Days of his Presidency

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AMERICANS – AND THE WORLD – SHOULD WATCH OUT . . .

by Selvam Canagaratna

“They talk of a man betraying his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience.”

Joseph Conrad – Under Western Eyes {1911)

“Donald Trump is a lame duck”, wrote Neil Baron on the AlterNet website on December 10. “His decisions in the final weeks of his presidency will be driven by delusion, self-enrichment, and trying to handicap Joe Biden so Trump won’t be shamed by comparison. He could wreak untold damage on America unless he’s finally checked by Congress.” Neil Baron is an attorney who has represented many institutions involved in the international markets and advised various parts of the federal government on economic issues.

In the past Trump’s advisers from making misguided decisions, but not anymore. After the election he with sycophants. He Homeland Security Director Chris Krebs and Defense Secretary Mark Esper by tweet. Those firings could foretell more unchecked decisions with disastrous consequences.

A disturbing pro-Russian pattern in Trump’s decision-making suggests the worst is yet to come. His continued alignment with Russian interests must be viewed in light of his for financial survival after numerous bankruptcies. “Russians make up a … disproportionate cross-section of … our assets,” , Donald’s son Eric , “We don’t rely on American banks; we have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

Trump’s financial records show he owes that comes due over four years with the questionable ability to repay it. Some estimates have it at and put Trump’s net worth at a fraction of what he claims. US banks to him in the mid-2000s, so he’ll need help from somewhere else. Russia is a likely go-to source.

It’s therefore not irrational to worry that Trump may have cut a deal with Vladimir Putin. It could look something like this: Trump weakens NATO’s defenses against Russian aggression. In return Putin continues to keep Trump afloat financially and wouldn’t spill the beans about Trump laundering Russian money through his and , Trump’s to Russian organized crime, or his pursuit of Russian election help. Trump reciprocates by pardoning Russians by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The plot thickens: Trump’s of troops throughout Europe including 12,000 troops from Germany, which Republicans and Democrats in Congress are , will degrade NATO’s defenses. The downsizing is scheduled to occur before Biden takes office, complicating his plans for America’s commitment to NATO.

Trump Open Skies treaty which provided for US and European reconnaissance flights to surveil Russian military activity along Europe’s border, and banned Russian missiles capable of reaching Europe in minutes. Trump the specialized aircraft that conducted the flights, which will make it harder for Biden to reinstate the surveillance.

A Putin deal wouldn’t be the first time Trump put personal gain ahead of US security interests, over objections from the US military and both parties. and took payoffs from China after Trump lifted a bipartisan ban on sales to Chinese tech company ZTE. Trump $8.4 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia after that the Saudis spend millions on his businesses.

Trump’s troop withdrawal from Syria was carried out against and outrage. It pushed Turkey to in forcing the Kurds from Syria. Turkey is NATO’s to Russian aggression. Its partnership with Putin strained Turkey’s commitment to NATO, and creates concern over whether Turkey would deploy troops to resist a Russian incursion into NATO territory. Three allege Trump’s businesses in Turkey influenced his foreign policy. His there include Trump Towers in Istanbul.

Russia has been its neighbours Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – all NATO members – ever since it lost control of them when the Soviet Union collapsed. If Putin were to exploit the opportunity Trump handed him, those three Baltic nations would be in Russia’s crosshairs.

It seems unimaginable that any American President would facilitate or that Congress would tolerate a Russian incursion into NATO. But in Trump’s case it’s not so far-fetched, given his history of compromising American interests for his own enrichment, his , his disregard for American security interests (he ), his conviction he can get away with anything, and the complicity of Trump’s Republican subjects in Congress.

It may seem improbable that Putin would venture militarily into NATO territory before Biden takes office. But it’s worth noting Russian forces are ready to do so. They could reach the outskirts of Estonia and Latvia , according to the Rand Corporation.

Russia currently has a large military force and a history of invading or controlling nearby sovereign nations such as , , and . Putin knows Biden would probably follow of acquiescing to Russian aggression, and that Estonia’s and Latvia’s would be welcoming.

Trump has made his commitment to defending Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania conditional on them “paying their fair share” – a point on which Trump still seems unsatisfied.

Putin has the motive, the means and the inclination. Given the opportunity it’s not unthinkable that he’d make the move. If he does, Biden would face the dilemma of what to do about Russia’s presence in NATO territory.

Trump has piled a hundred last straws on the backs of Congressional Republicans, but their backs haven’t broken yet. If Russian troops entered NATO territory, that could be the straw that finally breaks their loyalty to him.

Congressional Republicans should fear Trump’s threat to America’s national interest more than his political clout. Many among the 74 million who voted for Trump , not for the man. Others bought into Republican propaganda warning that Biden would institute socialism and questioning his mental acuity. They settled for Trump. But they aren’t cultists with blind allegiance who will adhere to Trump .

There’s more to worry about. Congressional Republicans and Trump’s inner circle that Trump is with no grip on reality. They note he regularly stumbles, slurs, gets confused, has trouble synthesizing information and exhibits signs of dementia.

Psychologist John Gartner Trump suffers from ‘malignant narcissism’, a diagnosis which combines , , and sadism – “the closest thing psychiatry has to a true human monster.” More than 800 mental-health professionals , “failing to…understand the psychological aspects” of humiliating Trump “could lead to catastrophic outcomes.” Now that he’s been humiliated there’s no telling what he’s capable of.

Both Gartner and Trump’s Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended invoking the 25th to remove Trump. Maybe it’s time to follow their advice before he scorches the earth behind him.



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Features

Strong on vocals

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The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.

 

 

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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year

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Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.

 

 

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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations

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Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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