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Indian American women a powerhouse in US politics, business, society



New York, March 8 (IANS) Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley’s tenacious battle for the presidency of the US is a symbol of Indian American women’s emergence as a powerhouse in politics and society even though she dropped her sisyphean quest two days before International Women’s Day.

On the other side of the political divide, US Vice President Kamala Harris is set for another run for the vice presidency alongside President Joe Biden, having notched the record of the first woman elected to the position that is just a heartbeat away from the world’s most powerful job.

While the two women have the highest profiles in politics, many Indian American women shine across the spectrum of politics, government, business and beyond.

They have soared into space, headed multinational corporations, led universities, and showing their versatility, served undercover for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and even took the Miss America crown.

Although overrun by former President Donald Trump, Nikki Haley made her mark by standing up to him while other competitors folded and she struck out a line of Republican politics that could have a wider appeal.

She put her stamp on politics by getting a significant chunk of votes – estimated at about 25 per cent of those cast in the Republican primaries till she quit – winning in one state, Vermont, and in Washington, the federal District of Columbia.

She also has the distinction of being elected twice as the governor of South Carolina, the first woman and the first non-White person to head the state, and the first Indian American to be a member of the US cabinet when she was the permanent representative to the United Nations, a post with cabinet rank.

Kamala Harris made her mark as California’s attorney general lofting her to the Senate where her work got her national recognition, paving the way to the second most powerful job in the US, the vice president.

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She is the first woman to become vice president and she was also the first person of Indian descent elected to the US Senate.

Pramila Jayapal, who heads the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, is the other politically powerful Indian American woman.

What helps them shatter glass ceilings despite their being women and, on top of that, women of colour with immigrant backgrounds is a society that values merit as it steadily tries to bring down barriers to women’s advancement.

And they are not dynasts or nepobabies, either, and they got to where they are through their own merit.

As Nikki Haley said on Wednesday while announcing she was ending her race, “Just last week, my mother, a first-generation immigrant, got to vote for her daughter for president – only in America”.

In business, Indra Nooyi created a legend of her own as the CEO of Pepsico, a multinational corporation with over 300,000 employees operating in over 200 countries having a revenue of $62 billion in her final year heading it.

By the time she left in 2018 after 12 years as CEO, she boosted its annual profits from $2.5 billion to $6.7 billion as she chartered a new, more diversified course for the company.

Revathi Advaithi is the CEO of Flex, a global diversified company that is the third-largest globally in electronics manufacturing services.

She also serves on the US government’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

Padmasree Warrior, who blazed a trail as chief technology officer for marquee technology companies Motorola and Cisco and as the US CEO of the Chinese electric vehicle company Nio, is now the CEO of a startup Fable.

In academia, there are scores of Indian American Women heading departments and schools.

Among them are heads of large universities, Neeli Bendapudi, the president of Pennsylvania State University and Renu Khator, the chancellor of the University of Houston System.

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Asha Rangappa, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent-turned-academic, has served as an associate dean of Yale University Law School.

Indian American women have soared into space as astronauts.

Kalpana Chawla, a mission specialist and robotic arms operator, was killed on her second mission when the space shuttle Columbia broke up as it reentered the earth’s atmosphere in 2003.

Sunita Williams has done a stint as the commander of the International Space Station (ISS), on one of her four missions at the multinational orbiting research facility.

The Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishad went to space with Williams, who said that for inspiration she took them along to the ISS, from where she conducted spacewalks.

On Earth as a Navy officer, Sunita Williams was deployed during the first Gulf War and later she became a test pilot.

While the other two were on NASA space missions, aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla went up on a spacecraft of the private venture by Virgin Galactic, where she is a vice president.

Geeta Gopinath is the first managing director of the International Monetary Fund, having made her mark as an economist in the Ivy League and as the organisation’s chief economist.

In the US judiciary, there are several Indian American women, among them Neomi Rao, a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is considered the most influential court below the Supreme Court.

The Biden administration has deployed Indian American Women in senior positions across government.

The most visible of them on media after Kamala Harris is Defence Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Sabrina Singh who often conducts the Pentagon’s media briefings laying out the administration’s strategic positions.

Also at that department, Radha Iyengar Plumb is the deputy under-secretary of defence.

At the White House, Neera Tanden, a veteran of Democratic Party campaigns, is an assistant to the president and domestic policy advisor.

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Arati Prabhakar is the assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Science Advisor while heading the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and to the President.

Shanthi Kalathil is a deputy assistant to the President and the National Security Council’s coordinator for democracy and human rights.

At the State Department, Uzra Zeya is the under-secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, and Rao Gupta is the ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

And, in the other party, Harmeet Dhillon is a member Republican National Committee who ran an unsuccessful insurgent campaign to replace the chair, Ronna McDaniel.

She is a co-chair of Women for Trump and Lawyers for Trump, groups that advocate for Trump.

In an unusual occupation was Sabrina De Souza who had served in a senior role as an undercover Central Intelligence Agency agent.

Unfortunately, her cover was blown while she was on an anti-terrorism mission in Italy and that country has tried to prosecute her for capturing a terrorist who was taken to the US.

On the other side, showing the diversity of political views, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez worked as a lawyer defending an alleged terrorist held by the US detention centre on Guantanamo Bay.

On the trade unions front, Bhairavi Desai is the executive director of the Taxi Drivers’ Alliance, and Saru Jayaraman has organised restaurant workers in New York City.

In entertainment, Vera Mindy Chokalingam, better known as Mindy Kaling, made her mark with the sitcom, The Mindy Kaling Project, which she created, produced and starred in.

Biden awarded her the National Medal of the Arts in 2022.

And, further into the unexpected venues, Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America in 2014.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at and followed at @arulouis)



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Trump assassination bid: Biden orders 'independent review'




Washington, July 15 (IANS) US President Joe Biden on Sunday announced an independent review of the security at the election rally at which a shooter made an assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump who is also the putative Republican nominee for the White House.

The US President also said that he has ordered a continued heightened level of security for his Republican rival and a review of the security arrangements at the Republican party’s presidential convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In a short speech after meeting top security officials in the Situation Room, Biden also said he spoke to Trump.

“An assassination attempt is contrary to everything we stand for as a nation, everything. It’s not who we are as a nation, it’s not America, and we cannot allow this to happen,” he said, adding: “Unity is the most elusive goal of all but nothing is important right now, Unity. We will debate and will disagree. It’s not that’s not going to change. But we’re gonna not lose sight of who we are as Americans”.

Biden said the shooter’s motive remains unclear and appealed to Americans to not speculate and wait for the FBI’s investigation. The FBI is leading the probe into the shooting. He did not specify who or which agency will conduct the “independent review”, but promised to share its findings.

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While the FBI is leading the investigation into the shooting, the US Justice Department’s National Security Division is also involved in it, as Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

This indicates the US is treating the assassination attempt as also a threat to national security.

While the shooter has been identified as Thomas Matthew Crooks, officials have said nothing yet about his motivation. According to news reports, he was a registered Republican but had donated $15 to a liberal voter mobilisation group in 2021. The gunman used an AR-15 military-style assault rifle that has been the weapon of choice for most mass shooting perpetrators. New reports now suggest the shooter was carrying two explosive devices in the car and a possible third at his residence.

Earlier in the day, Trump struck a defiant note the morning after surviving the assassination attempt, writing on social media, “We will FEAR NOT”.

He also announced he would be speaking at the Republican party convention.

Trump is recovering at his home in New Jersey, where he reached last night from Butler, Pennsylvania when a 20-year-old white man opened fire on his election rally, wounding the former President and killing an attendee.

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The shooter was killed by snipers of the US Secret Service that protects past and present American Presidents and their immediate families.

“We will FEAR NOT, but instead remain resilient in our Faith and Defiant in the face of Wickedness,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, a social media platform he launched after he was banished from Twitter, now called X.

He added: “I truly love our Country, and love you all, and look forward to speaking to our Great Nation this week from Wisconsin.”

The Republican party convention kicks off Monday in Milwaukee to anoint Trump formally as the party’s nominee for the White House. He will announce his pick for his running mate over the next few days, if he doesn’t do it on Sunday.

Political violence in US politics has become a new threat, from both the right and the left.

Trump’s supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, to stop a joint sitting of the Congress from certifying Biden as the winner of the 2020 election and the next President. Several people, including a police officer, were killed during or after the rampage.

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An armed man was arrested from outside the house of Brett Kavanaugh, one of the six conservative justices of the Supreme Court.

Biden said: “There is no place in America for this kind of violence. It’s sick. It’s sick. It’s one of the reasons why we have to unite this country. We cannot allow this to be happening. We cannot be like this. We cannot condone this.”

Trump has posted several statements on Truth Social but has not expressly addressed the question of political violence. “In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand United, and show our True Character as Americans, remaining Strong and Determined, and not allowing Evil to Win,” he wrote on Sunday morning.

But his campaign leaders Chris Lacivita and Susie Wile confronted the issue directly. “Please do not comment publicly on the occurrence of today,” they wrote in a memo to staff. “We condemn all forms of violence, and will not tolerate dangerous rhetoric on social media.”



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Hamas claims killing Israeli soldiers in Rafah




Gaza, July 15 (IANS) Hamas has claimed that its fighters killed and wounded some Israeli soldiers, who were trying to infiltrate Rafah City in the southern Gaza Strip.

“Our fighters monitored a private Israeli force hiding inside a truck loaded with humanitarian aid … then the soldiers entered a local Palestinian house and hid inside it,” al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said on Sunday in a press statement.

Al-Qassam said, “Our fighters clashed with the soldiers, attacking them with homemade shells, killing and wounding all of them.”

The Israeli army has not commented on the incident yet, Xinhua news agency reported.

Israel has been waging a large-scale offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip to retaliate against a Hamas rampage through the southern Israeli border on October 7, 2023, during which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 others were taken hostage.



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4 killed in armed clashes, 42,000 displaced in Somalia: UN




Mogadishu, July 14 (IANS) At least four people were killed and 42,000 others displaced by recent armed clashes between local clans in the town of Luuq in southern Somalia, the United Nations relief agency said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Sunday that the three-day fighting that started on July 5 in the Gedo region was caused by a dispute over land ownership, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The displaced people were not only caught up in the crossfire but also were targeted in some cases due to their clan affiliation. Some of them faced secondary displacement due to fear of being directly affected,” the OCHA said in its latest update released in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

The OCHA added that some calmness has been observed since July 8 as the armed clashes ceased, though tensions remain high.

It said access to the displaced population in some areas is restricted due to possible attacks from non-state armed actors, including militiamen from the conflicting parties.

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The UN agency said the conflict paralysed the ongoing delivery of humanitarian services, including health, nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions.

Conflicts over land and revenge killings have been fueling inter-clan violence in Somalia for years, instilling widespread fear among the populace, with minimal efforts visible to mitigate the violence, leading to numerous fatalities, according to residents.

The OCHA said the burnt-down market will have a significant economic impact, as many people have lost their livelihoods and may face food insecurity.

“Initial assessment by humanitarian partners on the ground indicate that the displaced communities, especially women, children, elderly, and persons with disabilities, are facing critical conditions and urgent needs of humanitarian assistance, including temporary shelters, health services, clean water, and provision of food,” the OCHA added.



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Campaigns end as Rwanda readies for presidential, legislative elections




Kigali, July 14 (IANS) Campaigning has ended in Rwanda ahead of presidential and legislative elections.

Three presidential candidates are facing off, including incumbent President Paul Kagame of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), Frank Habineza of the opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate, Xinhua news agency reported.

On Monday, polling will open at 7:00 a.m. local time and end at 3:00 p.m. for about 9.5 million eligible voters, according to the National Election Commission.

The electoral commission demarcated more than 2,500 polling stations throughout the country to ensure fair elections.

All three candidates ended their campaigns with rallies in Kigali, the country’s capital.

Kagame, who has been in office since 2000, ended his campaign in Kigali’s Kicukiro District.

The RPF politics is about ensuring the development of all Rwandans without leaving anyone behind, according to Kagame. RPF’s manifesto for the next five years, unveiled earlier this year, will build on what has been achieved so far toward the country’s national Vision 2050, which aims to achieve sustainable development and better quality of life for every Rwandan.

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After his last rally in Kigali’s Nyarugenge District, Habineza said this year’s campaigns were different from 2017’s, attributable to an increased level of political maturity.

“It was quite different across the country this time as voters received us quite well. You could see that there was a better atmosphere despite a few issues here and there,” he said.

Campaigns also ended for over 500 parliamentary candidates contesting for 80 seats in the lower chamber of parliament.



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Hamas denies freezing ceasefire negotiations following attack on Khan Younis




Gaza, July 14 (IANS) Hamas on Sunday denied freezing indirect ceasefire negotiations with Israel following a massive bloody attack on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Izzat al-Rishq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said in a statement that “all reports over the movement’s decision to stop negotiations in response to the Al-Mawasi massacre is baseless.”

He added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are trying to obstruct reaching an agreement to stop the aggression on Gaza, Xinhua news agency reported.

Some reports said that Hamas asked mediators Egypt and Qatar to stop ceasefire negotiations and a swap deal after the Al-Mawasi incident.

On Saturday, 90 Palestinians were killed and 300 others wounded after an Israeli airstrike hit tents for displaced people in Khan Younis, the Gaza-based health authorities said.

Israel said that the target of the Israeli attack was Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif, noting that the army was awaiting the results of the raid.

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Meanwhile, Netanyahu said in a press conference on Saturday that the “war will end only after Israel achieves all its goals.”

In addition, the Hamas movement said in a press statement on Saturday that the head of the political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, held a series of contacts with mediators and some regional countries in light of the “massacre” committed by the Israeli army in the Mawasi area.

Haniyeh pointed out that while Hamas showed a positive and responsible response to the latest proposal with the aim of reaching an agreement to stop the aggression against our people, the Israeli position taken by Netanyahu was to place obstacles that prevent reaching an agreement, added the movement.



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