Indian village cheers for incoming US vice president Kamala Harris

Indian village cheers for incoming US vice president Kamala Harris
People from Kamala Harris maternal grandfather’s hometown of Thulasendrapuram in India are jubilant and gearing up for celebrations. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 20 January 2021

Indian village cheers for incoming US vice president Kamala Harris

Indian village cheers for incoming US vice president Kamala Harris
  • First woman, first woman of color and first person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency
  • People from her maternal grandfather’s hometown jubilant and gearing up for celebrations

THULASENDRAPURAM, India: A tiny, lush-green Indian village surrounded by rice paddy fields was beaming with joy Wednesday hours before its descendant, Kamala Harris, takes her oath of office and becomes the US vice president.
Harris is set to make history as the first woman, first woman of color and first person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency.
In her maternal grandfather’s hometown of Thulasendrapuram, about 350 kilometers (215 miles) from the southern coastal city of Chennai, people were jubilant and gearing up for celebrations.
“We are feeling very proud that an Indian is being elected as the vice president of America,” said Anukampa Madhavasimhan, a teacher.
Harris’ grandfather moved to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, decades ago. Harris’ late mother was also born in India, before moving to the US to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican man, and they named their daughter Kamala, a Sanskrit word for “lotus flower.”
Ahead of the inauguration, special prayers for her success were held at the town temple during which the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, a form of Lord Shiva, was washed with milk and decked with flowers by the priest.
Ahead of the US elections in November, villagers in Thulasendrapuram also pulled together a ceremony at the temple to wish Harris good luck. After her win, they set off firecrackers and distributed sweets and flowers as a religious offering.
Posters of Harris from the November celebrations still adorn walls in the village and many hope she ascends to the presidency in 2024. President-elect Joe Biden has skirted questions about whether he will seek reelection or retire.
“For the next four years, if she supports India, she will be the president,” said G Manikandan, who has followed Harris politically and whose shop proudly displays a wall calendar with pictures of Biden and Harris.
On Tuesday, an organization that promotes vegetarianism sent food packets for the village children as gifts to celebrate Harris’ success.


Cooperate despite ‘genocide’? Biden tests ties with China, Russia

Cooperate despite ‘genocide’? Biden tests ties with China, Russia
Updated 3 min 4 sec ago

Cooperate despite ‘genocide’? Biden tests ties with China, Russia

Cooperate despite ‘genocide’? Biden tests ties with China, Russia
WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration accuses China of genocide but reached a joint pledge to cooperate on climate. The White House is also working to arrange a summit with Russia, despite imposing harsh new sanctions.
Biden’s strategy is not about easing tensions, so often the stated goal of diplomacy, but identifying narrow areas to work together — especially on climate change — while acknowledging that much of the relationship will remain hostile.
Biden alluded to America’s Cold War relationship with the Soviet Union last week after he ordered sanctions and the expulsion of Russian diplomats as a way to impose costs over Moscow’s alleged interference in US elections and a major hacking operation.
“We want a stable, predictable relationship,” said Biden, who proposed a summit in a neutral country during a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin even while pressing him over the health of jailed dissident Alexei Navalny.
“Throughout our long history of competition, our two countries have been able to find ways to manage tensions and to keep them from escalating out of control,” he said.
Biden’s relationship with China is guided by a similar philosophy — described, in a colloquial phrase popular in his White House, as being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a speech Monday, defended the approach from expected criticism by saying that no nation’s climate efforts would “excuse bad behavior.”
“Climate is not a trading card; it is our future,” Blinken said.
Climate envoy John Kerry, after a visit to Shanghai last week, issued a joint statement with China saying the two nations are “committed to cooperating with each other.”
However general in tone, it marked a stark contrast to a testy first meeting between top officials in March in Alaska, where Blinken raised concerns on a host of Chinese actions including what Washington has described as “genocide” against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking people.


Biden has invited Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to a climate summit this week, with Kerry saying it would be tantamount to “killing yourself” not to work together on climate despite other disagreements.
Biden’s cool approach follows the highly personalized diplomacy of his predecessor Donald Trump, who voiced admiration for Putin and in his last year in office incessantly berated Beijing, which he blamed for the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.
Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who advised former president Barack Obama on China, detected a “gradual but significant shift” in the stance toward Beijing under Biden.
“His administration has dialed down the rhetorical heat and focused purposefully on concrete areas of the relationship where American interests are impacted by Chinese actions,” Hass said.
“Both sides also have slowly begun restoring direct functioning channels of diplomatic communication to address areas of concern and explore opportunities for coordination.”
China and the United States are the world’s top two economies and together account for half of global emissions responsible for climate change. Russia is the fourth biggest emitter and Putin has accepted an invitation to speak at the climate summit.
Putin’s decision to participate “signals that he, too, is interested in preserving some space in the fraught US-Russian relationship,” said Heather Conley, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


But, Conley said: “Speaking at a virtual summit and mitigating climate impacts are two very different things.”
“What is striking to me is that while both Beijing and Moscow are speaking the language of climate change before international audiences, at home, they are putting their foot on the accelerator to increase global carbon emissions,” she said, pointing to Russia’s fossil-fuel industry and China’s reliance on coal plants.
In a recent essay, Andrew Erickson, a China expert at the US Naval War College, and Gabriel Collins of Rice University argued that the United States should look to compete rather than coordinate with China on climate.
They said the United States could champion a carbon tax on exports — already backed by the European Union — to force China to cut back on coal.
“Xi’s bullish talk of combating climate change is a smokescreen for a more calculated agenda,” they wrote in Foreign Affairs.
“Chinese policymakers know their country is critical to any comprehensive international effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and they are trying to use that leverage to advance Chinese interests in other areas.”

Russian military build-up near Ukraine numbers more than 100,000 troops, EU says

Russian military build-up near Ukraine numbers more than 100,000 troops, EU says
Updated 37 sec ago

Russian military build-up near Ukraine numbers more than 100,000 troops, EU says

Russian military build-up near Ukraine numbers more than 100,000 troops, EU says

BRUSSELS: More than 100,000 Russian troops have massed on Ukraine’s border and in annexed Crimea, the office of the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said after EU foreign ministers were briefed by Ukraine’s foreign minister.
In a press conference on Monday, Borrell had originally spoken of more than 150,000 troops, and declined to give a source for the figure.
His office later corrected the number to more than 100,000 troops without giving a reason for the change.
Borrell said no new economic sanctions or expulsions of Russian diplomats were planned for the time being, despite saying that the military build-up on Ukraine’s borders was the largest ever.
In Washington, the Pentagon said the Russian military build-up was larger than that in 2014 and it was not clear that it was for training purposes.
A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Russian build-up numbered in the tens of thousands but was not aware of intelligence that pointed to more than 150,000 Russian troops.
The United States also expressed its “deep concern” over Russia’s plans to block foreign naval ships and other vessels in parts of the Black Sea, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“This represents yet another unprovoked escalation in Moscow’s ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine,” Price said.
Russia has temporarily restricted the movement of foreign warships and what it called “other state ships” near Crimea.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, after addressing EU foreign ministers, called on the EU to impose new sanctions on Russia.
Tensions between Moscow and Kyiv have been rising amid the military build-up and clashes in eastern Ukraine between the army and pro-Russian separatists.
The US Federal Aviation Administration on Monday urged airlines to exercise “extreme caution” when flying near the Ukraine-Russian border, citing potential flight safety risks.


Saudi Arabia announces winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative

Saudi Arabia announces winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative
Updated 9 min 4 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative

Saudi Arabia announces winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative

DUBAI: The Governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, awarded on Monday the winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative during the closing ceremony at the Culture Palace in the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh.

Sheikh Muhammad bin Nasser Al-Aboudi was awarded the Cultural Personality of the Year award due to his literary career across multiple fields. His son Khalid bin Muhammad Al-Aboudi received the award on his behalf.

Meanwhile, the Youth Cultural award went to film director Shahad Ameen for her exceptional contributions to the industry.

The Vice Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, who attended the ceremony, praised the Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman for Vision 2030, which said “restored culture as a fundamental pillar in building society and a basis for the national identity.”

“Culture, with its civilizational, social and developmental value, has now been given its rightful place thanks to Saudi Arabia's inspiring and ambitious Vision 2030,” he said, referring to it as the “manifestation of pride in the history and civilization of the Kingdom.”

The National Cultural Awards initiative, according to Fayez, will contribute to cultural development, support intellectuals and appreciate their cultural achievements.

“These awards, with their moral and materialistic value, come in recognition of the outstanding efforts made by local creatives in various cultural fields,” he added.

 The initiative included 14 cultural awards:

Cultural Personality of the Year Award

Youth Cultural Award

Cultural Institutions Award

Film Award

Fashion Award

Music Award

National Heritage Award

Literature Award

Theater and Performing Arts Award

Visual Arts Award

Architecture and Design Award

Culinary Arts Award

Publishing Award

Translation Award


NADEC consortium submits bid for privatized Saudi flour mill

NADEC consortium submits bid for privatized Saudi flour mill
Updated 20 April 2021

NADEC consortium submits bid for privatized Saudi flour mill

NADEC consortium submits bid for privatized Saudi flour mill
  • Saudi Arabia is accelerating plans to privatize key infrastructure in an effort to modernize the economy

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia's National Agricultural Development Company (NADEC) is part of a consortium that has bid for a privatized flour mill in the Kingdom.
It has teamed up with OLAM International Limited, Al Rajhi International for Investment and Abdulaziz Alajlan & Sons Company for Commercial and Real Estate Investment, to bid for one of two mills being privatized, the company said in a stock exchange filing.
The two mills are being offered for privatization by the Saudi Grains Organization.
NADEC said  it has agreed a "term sheet" relating to the creation of a limited liability company to acquire the mill should its bid be successful.
The potential acquisition would be financed through a combination of self-financing by the consortium members and borrowing from local banks, it said.
Saudi Arabia is accelerating plans to privatize key infrastructure in an effort to modernize the economy, speed major infrastructure works and develop its financial services sector.


Dubai’s external food trade hit $14.2bn in 2020

Dubai’s external food trade hit $14.2bn in 2020
Updated 20 April 2021

Dubai’s external food trade hit $14.2bn in 2020

Dubai’s external food trade hit $14.2bn in 2020
  • The emirate imported foodstuff worth 34.7 billion dirhams

DUBAI: Dubai’s external food trade reached 52 billion dirhams ($14.2 billion) in 2020, according to government data.
The emirate imported foodstuff worth 34.7 billion dirhams, Dubai Customs manager Nassim Al-Mehairi said, while exports and re-exports were valued at 10 billion dirhams and 7.3 billion dirhams respectively.
Food security is a major issue in the UAE, which has been investing in technology that will reduce its reliance on importing key staples.
Dubai Customs has streamlined its processes to accelerate the clearance of foodstuff shipments to ensure they are delivered to markets on time, especially during Ramadan when consumption is high, Al-Mehairi said.