US Presidential Race: Voters Spoiled for Choice


WASHINGTON: American voters looking for a new tenant for the White House are spoiled for choice with 22 candidates, five Democrats and 17 Republicans, including long shot Indian-American Bobby Jindal in the 2016 presidential race.

Leading the Democratic pack is Hillary Clinton, 67, former First Lady and Secretary of State with more than half the party voters backing her but independent socialist senator Bernie Sanders, 73, is fast closing the gap with 17 percent in recent polls.


And if Vice President Joe Biden, 72, too jumps into the fray as speculated, it could really stir the Democratic pot amid questions being raised afresh about Clinton’s use of private email and her handling of the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Biden, according to a New York Times report has been “talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in” to challenge Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states.


Three other candidates, Martin O’Malley, 52, former governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore, Lincoln Chafee, 62, former senator and governor of Rhode Island and Jim Webb, 69, former senator and Vietnam veteran, haven’t really excited the voters any so far.

While the Democrats have yet to announce the dates of six official televised primary debates, knives are out in the Republican camp to get on the main stage for the first of the nine official debates scheduled for Aug 6 in Cleveland Ohio.

With hosts Fox News limiting the main debate to top ten in five most recent national primary polls as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, respected election site fivethirtyeight has picked up top eight candidates who are most likely to make it.

They include celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump, who has shot into the lead with his promise to make America great again overtaking establishment favourite Jeb Bush, 62, former Florida governor and son of a former president and brother of another.

Others likely to make it thanks to their fairly consistent performance in the polls are Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, 47 and Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 59, who has courted controversy by comparing the Iran nuclear deal to “marching [Israel] to the door of the oven.”

So are conservative firebrand Cuban American Texas senator Ted Cruz, 44, libertarian conservative Kentucky senator and physician Rand Paul, 52, Cuban American Florida senator Marco Rubio, 44, and author and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 63.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie, 52, Ohio governor John Kasich, 63, Rick Perry, 65, who served as Texas governor from 2000 to 2015 and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, 57, are considered bubble candidates for the Aug 6 debate. Any two of them could make it.

But Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, 44, a former vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, former HP chief executive Carly Fiorina, 60, former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, 62, South Carolina Lindsey Graham, 60, and former New York governor George Pataki, 70, would most likely miss it.

Only Jindal is polling above 1 percent, and no one in this group has got more than 2 percent in any of the last seven individual live-interview polls, according to fivethirtyeight.

They all face the prospect of being relegated to a secondary forum at 5 p.m. before the prime time main feature.

But the polling day – Tuesday, Nov 8, 2016, – when the voters go to chose their president in an indirect election is still a long way off with a gruelling primary process set to start only in February.

It’s thus hard to speculate who would finally emerge as Democratic and Republic candidates at their national conventions at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio respectively in July next year.

And there could well be a third party candidate jumping in as a wild card.


All at sea: why Sri Lanka’s upcoming election matters to India


Big election

President Maithripala Sirisena has called parliamentary polls on 17 August

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa is contesting to become PM

He was defeated by Sirisena, his former minister, in presidential polls in January

Since both leaders belong to the SLFP, the party stands divided

Key concerns

Sirisena says he won’t appoint Rajapaksa PM if their party wins

It’ll be against the mandate of the presidential polls, he argues

But he may have to if Rajapaksa gets enough sway over the party

Potential fallout

If Rajapaksa does become PM, the state will be pulled in different directions

Sirisena and Rajapaksa don’t agree on many issues, policies

Post-war reconstruction, economy could suffer; foreign policy may be contested

India’s worries

As president, Rajapaksa titled more towards China than India

He got China to fund Colombo Port City, let its submarines prowl the ocean close to India

India has been largely left out of post-war reconstruction, peace process

Colombo has reportedly bought 24 JF-17 aircraft, developed jointly by China and Pakistan

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has, as promised, called parliamentary polls on 17 August. It will be no ordinary election, for more than one reason.

In the running to become prime minister is Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom Srisena had defeated in the presidential election in January this year.

Sirisena, a minister under Rajapaksa, had quit their Sri Lanka Freedom Party, or SLFP, to stand against the former strongman, and prevailed. The verdict was believed to signal the end of the decades-long Rajapaksa family rule in the island nation.

After his victory, Sirisena’s ambivalence on his predecessor’s political comeback was the talk of the town. Now, his sudden statement on Rajapaksa has got everyone talking.

Sirisena has declared he will uphold the mandate of the presidential poll – for change and good governance – and won’t invite Rajapaksa to become prime minister if the SLFP, which is part of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), wins a majority.


Challenger returns

On the face of it, Sirisena is projecting himself as a statesman who won’t take sides in the election, even of his own party.

His posturing, however, hasn’t gone down well with the party leaders who had broken ranks with Rajapaksa to support Sirisena in January.

In January, Sirisena beat his former boss Rajapaksa. Instead of fading away, Rajapaksa is plotting a comeback

His supporters fear that Sirisena’s stand to remain neutral will only strengthen Rajapaksa’s hold over the party’s candidates, especially at a time when he is going strong on electoral issues. it might even reinforce his chances of staging a comeback.

And if he does, they fear, all accusations of corruption and nepotism against him would fall flat. Worse, given that the rival factions of Srisena and Rajapaksa don’t agree on many issues and policies, governance could suffer.

A sea of problems

Sri Lanka can barely afford that. It is faced with several challenges that require urgent attention, post-civil war reconstruction and rehabilitation being on top of the list.

The country has to reduce the trust deficit between various communities, resolve the core issues of the decades-long civil strife, fix the war-torn economy and delicately balance the interests and concerns of major international players and India.

The elephant in the room is the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report on war crimes, due in September. Colombo has little elbow room at the UNHRC and can only hope for greater support from India.

Neighbourhood watch

While India voted against Colombo at the UNHRC in 2012 and 2013, it changed tack to abstain in 2014. None of the votes gave New Delhi any strategic advantage.

By the time the new war crimes report comes up for voting, there will be a new government in Colombo. It would be prudent for New Delhi to convey its stand well in advance, win the confidence of the new regime and regain the strategic space it has lost due to the machinations of some motivated groups in the West.

Narendra Modi was the first Indian prime minister to visit the Tamil areas in March this year and seek to build bridges between them and Colombo. Now, India urgently needs to take control of the post-conflict reconstruction, partnering Colombo as well as the political and social set-up in the country’s north and east.

Apart from New Delhi and the West, China is also closely watching the unfolding political situation in the island nation.

Rajapaksa’s tilt towards Beijing when he was president – inviting it to help build the Colombo Port City and the Maritime Silk Route and looking the other way while Chinese submarines roamed the Indian Ocean backwaters – had caused concern in New Delhi, and rightly so.

It is against this background that the approach of Sirisena’s chosen prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe towards China needs to be viewed.

New Delhi has always maintained that as a sovereign country, it’s Sri Lanka’s prerogative to pursue independent foreign and economic policies. However, it has also reiterated its faith that Colombo will not do anything to imperil India’s strategic and security interests.

Feeling left out

In this context, reports of Sri Lanka acquiring 24 JF-17 aircraft from China are worrying. The JF-17 Thunder is a multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation. It is deployed for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception.

Colombo has denied these reports, but given that Beijing was its trusted arms supplier during the war against the Tamil separatists, the denial doesn’t sound convincing.

Another worry is that to India’s detriment, western players have hijacked the post-war peace process and reconstruction.

Recently, Atul Keshap, President Barack Obama’s ambassador-designate to Sri Lanka, told the Senate that the US wanted to build lasting peace among the island nation’s various religious and ethnic groups.

“We want to help build a lasting peace and fellowship among Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities, including credible justice, accountability and reconciliation that can facilitate closure for those who suffered and lost loved ones during the war,” Keshap was quoted as saying at his confirmation hearing by PTI. “It is important to get this right, and the UN and the international community can lend useful insight to the efforts of the Sri Lankan people.”

That India’s assistance and legitimate concerns were not even mentioned was not lost on New Delhi.

That is why it would do well if India were to keep a close watch on the 17 August election.


Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Wife are Expecting a Daughter


SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his pediatrician wife, Priscilla Chan, are expecting a baby.

The co-founder of the world’s largest social network used a Facebook post Friday to announce that Chan is pregnant with a healthy baby daughter. He didn’t say when the baby is due.

Zuckerberg, 31, also said the couple had suffered three miscarriages over the last two years. He acknowledged in his post that many people are reluctant to speak publicly about miscarriages. But he said he and Chan, 30, decided to share the information after hearing from friends who had similar experiences and ultimately were able to have children.

“Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you – as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own,” Zuckerberg wrote. “It’s a lonely experience.”

The social media mogul added, “In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.”

He said the couple, who married in 2012, hopes to encourage other parents who may be struggling with difficult pregnancies.

“We hope that sharing our experience will give more people the same hope we felt and will help more people feel comfortable sharing their stories as well,” he said.

Zuckerberg also said: “Our good news is that our pregnancy is now far enough along that the risk of loss is very low and we are very hopeful.”

So will they be posting baby pictures? Zuckerberg didn’t make any promises, but he wrote: “We’re looking forward to welcoming her into the world and sharing more soon when she’s ready to come out and meet everyone!”


Facebook Introduces New Feature: Text 1 for Happy Birthday


NEW YORK: Making birthday greetings on Facebook even more impersonal, the social networking giant has rolled out a feature that allows a user to wish “Happy Birthday” just by texting ‘1’ from a smartphone.

The new feature works for those who have Facebook notifications pushed to their text messaging programmes, Tech Times reported.

The feature is part of Facebook’s SMS notification functionality, which allows users to interact with friends through text messages.

So with this feature, you receive a message that one of your Facebook friends is having a birthday today.

And to leave a “happy birthday” message on their wall, all you have to do is reply with a text that says “1”.

While the feature makes wishing your friends on their birthdays easier, it risks conveying your feelings in a very impersonal manner.


Facebook ready to test giant drone for Internet service


Menlo Park (US), Jul 30: Facebook says it will begin test flights later this year for a solar-powered drone with a wingspan as big as a Boeing 737, in the next stage of its campaign to deliver Internet connectivity to remote parts of the world.

Engineers at the giant social network say they’ve built a drone with a 140-foot wingspan that weighs less than 1,000 pounds. Designed to fly at high altitudes for up to three months, it will use lasers to send Internet signals to stations on the ground.

Though Facebook is better known for online software that lets people share news with friends, watch viral videos and view commercial advertising engineers in a unit called the Connectivity Lab are working on a different set of problems.

For one thing, they are designing a laser communications system they hope will be accurate enough to hit a target the size of a dime at a distance of 11 miles, said Yael Maguire, director of the unit, which is responsible for drones, satellites and other high-tech communications projects.

“There’s a lot of moving parts here that have to work in concert,” said Maguire, during a press briefing at the company’s headquarters.

The project is part of a broader Facebook effort that also contemplates using satellites and other high-tech gear to deliver Internet service to hundreds of millions of people living in regions too remote for conventional broadband networks.

Other tech companies have launched similar initiatives. Google is experimenting with high-altitude balloons as well as drones and satellites. Microsoft has funded a project that will transmit Internet signals over unused television airwaves.

Facebook also has a separate but related initiative that works with wireless carriers to provide limited mobile Internet service at no cost, in countries where residents are too poor to afford traditional wireless plans.

But the company invited reporters Thursday to hear an update on its effort to provide service to about 10 percent of the world’s population who live in regions where it’s not practical or too expensive to build the usual infrastructure for Internet service.

Facebook’s drone was developed in part with engineering expertise that joined the company when it acquired a British aerospace startup, Ascenta, last year.

Facebook engineering vice president Jay Parikh said the team created a design that uses rigid but light-weight layers of carbon fiber, capable of flying in the frosty cold temperatures found at high altitudes, for an extended period of time.


Google now update allows to send WhatsApp messages


Google is now making it easier for you to send WhatsApp messages without typing them on your android device. The update to Google Now, allows to send messages to your contacts using voice. Not just WhatsApp, but this update will allow you to send IMs to a number of 3rd party apps including Viber, WeChat, Telegram and NextPlus.


Half of World’s Online Population Use Facebook


WASHINGTON: Half of the world’s estimated online users log on to Facebook at least once a month, the social networking site has claimed.

According to the company, the number of people who use Facebook at least once in a month grew 13 per cent to 1.49 billion in the three months to the end of June this year.

The number is equal to half of the estimated three billion people who use the internet globally.

Facebook said of those users, well over half, 65 per cent, were now accessing the social networking site daily, ‘BBC News’ reported.

People were now spending more than one out of every five minutes on their smartphones on Facebook, the company said.

The majority of the monthly users now access the social network through mobile devices.

The rise in monthly active users helped drive second quarter revenue up 39 per cent year-on-year to USD 4.04 billion, the report said.

Mobile advertising revenue was the biggest factor, accounting for more than three quarters of the total.


People’s President Abdul Kalam laid to rest with full state honours in Rameswaram


Former President APJ Abdul Kalam laid to rest (Photo: Twitter)

Rameswaram (TN):Thousands poured into Rameswaram, some walked miles, to pay their last respects to former President Dr Abdul Kalam as he was laid to rest a little before noon at the Pei Karumbu ground in his hometown.

The funeral procession travelled from his ancestral home to the local mosque before reaching the public ground. The People’s President was accorded full state honour before he was laid to rest.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and a host of other dignitaries, including chief ministers of some states, wre present during the last rites held around 11 am after the ‘Namaz-e-Janaza’.

Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day and Rajya Sabha was adjourned till 2 pm as a mark of respect to the former President.

The body of 83-year-old Kalam, who passed in Shillong on Monday, was taken from the house around 9.30 am to the mosque by officers of the three services with the casket covered with the traditional green shawl.

At the mosque, the Aalin or the chief priest read out special prayers and spoke about the former President, who grew up from in this island.

Later, it was taken to the place of burial where prayers were be offered again.

The body of the “Missile Man” was brought to his house on the narrow Pallivasal Street around 10 pm last night and left in the privacy of his family till this morning.

Thousands of mourners kept pouring through the night by various transport including buses, trains and boats to attend the last rites and many of them even slept on the roads last night.

Shops, business establishments and hotels remained shut in the town and throughout Tamil Nadu as a mark of respect to the late leader fondly called the “People’s President”.

Police said tight security arrangements have been made in and around the town and Navy, Coast Guard and marine police personnel deployed in the sea.

Tamil Nadu Government has declared a public holiday today as a mark of respect to Kalam.

Several people were seen holding the national tri-colour as they waited in the jam-packed streets around Kalam’s house to have a last glimpse of their hero. Many were perched on the terraces of buildings.

The burial will be at Peikarumbu here where about 1.5 acre had been allocated for the purpose.

Slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai” rent the air as the body was taken in flower-bedecked carriage to the burial site, about 3.5 km from the mosque, accompanied by the personnel of three services.

Kalam’s family members, including his eldest sister 99-year-old Mohammed Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraicker accompanied the body.


Windows 10 finally unveils with better features than its predecessor


Microsoft Windows 10, the next operating system from the Cupertino software giant, has been long awaited and finally rolled out of the stables today. Windows 10 debuted today and the launch wbe accompanied by a global marketing campaign, which the company hopes will be pivotal.

Windows 10 will be released for tablets and PCs first, and following the two platforms, the operating system will also show up on smartphones, gaming consoles and holographic headsets. The operating system will be free to download and around 5 million people, who have already enrolled in the test programme earlier, will get to download the new operating system right away. Those who already have a licensed version of Windows 7 and Windows 8, Home and Pro editions, will also be allowed to freely upgrade to Windows 10, any time, over the next year. Microsoft CEO said that he aims to see more than 1 billion devices using Windows 10, within the next three years.

Microsoft planned to skip Windows 9 and headed directly to Windows 10, in a move to distance itself further from the last release. The main reason was to help themselves and PC makers to erase the memories of the failed 2012 Windows 8 operating system, which had a jarring, unwieldy design. However, Analysts are unsure if Windows 10 will spur the industry back to growth.

So what is Windows 10 all about? What are the newer features that users will see? Well, a new streamlined browser has replaced the old, outdated Internet Explorer with Microsoft Edge, which MS hopes to give you a better experience. You can write or type notes directly on the web pages and share them with others. You can read online articles free of distraction and save your favorite reads for later access. Additionally, Microsoft has also added Cortana, a desktop version of the personal voice assistant, found on the Windows Mobile platform. Using Cortana, you get instant access to key actions – like making reservations or reading reviews – without leaving the page that you’re on.

Multi-tasking is better. You can snap up applications together, see all tasks running in a single window, create virtual desktops to get more space on your desktop, and a few other features are included.

Microsoft has also introduced Windows Store, a unified shopping experience across all Windows 10 devices. You can use it to download applications, music, videos, TV shows, Movies and games.

A new customized Start menu will greet you to a whole new experience. The new Start menu can be pinned with almost everything. These include apps, people, playlists and more. It also includes tiles which showcases your content without you even opening your app.

Windows 10 is also optimized to work and look complete across all devices, be it PC, mobile or tablet.

The task bar has also received a big facelift. Dumping the Windows 8 task switcher, Microsoft has replaced it with a new Task View, which helps users switch between apps and virtual desktops with great simplicity.

Though a small change but an important inclusion, Windows 10 incorporates a new edition of the Command Prompt. It will now allow you to paste commands directly from the keyboard, along with a few other keyboard shortcuts.

Continum is a great new added feature to Windows 10. It is an intelligent mode which automatically detects PCs, tablets and all-in-ones, whether they have a keyboard or not. Applications will automatically detect a keyboard or touchscreen mode, with the help of Continum, and decide whether to switch the input mode to onscreen or not.

Microsoft is also planning to merge the gaming console with Windows 10. The biggest Xbox franchises and the best of Xbox Live are coming to Windows 10. Start recording gameplay in seconds, compete against console players and stream games from your Xbox One console to your Windows 10 device from anywhere in your home.

Standard applications are bundled along with Windows 10, out of the box. These include Maps, Photos, Mail & Calendar, Music and Films and TV. Additionally, you can also download the Office applications from the Store.

There are many more features, small to big, that will be seen on the new Windows 10.


‘No force can stop Rajapaksa from becoming PM’


A day after Sri Lankan President and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) chairman Maithripala Sirisena came down heavily on his predecessor and prime ministerial hopeful Mahinda Rajapaksa, leaders of the SLFP-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) on Wednesday said Mr. Sirisena’s statement would not have any bearing on the outcome of the next month’s Parliamentary polls.

Going ahead with plans

“We are undeterred. We are going ahead with our plans for the elections,” Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, SLFP general secretary and one of the candidates contesting alongside Mr. Rajapaksa in the Kurunegala constituency, told The Hindu on Wednesday.

Vasudewa Nanayakkara, leader of the Democratic Left Front, a constituent of the UPFA, said the remarks have only portrayed Mr. Sirisena as an “open ally” of the United National Party (UNP). The President’s statement is “very hostile to us”, he added.

“There is no force on the earth that can stop Mr. Rajapaksa from becoming the Prime Minister,” said Mr. Nanayakkara.

SLFP general secretary Yapa feels that as people have realised that the present government [which has a number of UNP representatives], is “incapable” of handling the economy and it has no vision, they will vote for the UPFA this time. Earlier in the day, the UPFA announced that Mr. Rajapaksa would head its election committee, after a meeting of chairpersons of constituents of the alliance. The former President was also present.



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