* Foreign

Democratic frontrunner invokes Obama’s name and policy to attack opponents Warren and Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders, former V-P Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren.REUTERSMIKE BLAKE

The leading Democratic presidential candidates split sharply over the issue of healthcare in a debate on Thursday night, exposing the gulf between former Vice President Joe Biden’s careful moderate politics and the transformational liberal ambitions of Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Mr. Biden, facing all of his closest competitors for the first time in a debate, quickly took the initiative to challenge Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders for supporting a “Medicare for All”-style healthcare system that would displace the existing forms of private insurance. Cloaking himself in the accomplishments of the Obama administration, Mr. Biden branded Ms. Warren as seeking to upend the progress of the Affordable Care Act.

“I know the Senator says she’s with Bernie — well, I’m for Barack,” Mr. Biden jabbed, attacking the cost of a single-payer programme: “How are we going to pay for it?”

Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, flanking Mr. Biden onstage, pushed back in tandem, dismissing Mr. Biden’s criticism and promising that a government-managed health insurance system would ultimately be less expensive for consumers than the private insurance they currently buy. Ms. Warren credited former President Barack Obama with having “fundamentally transformed healthcare in America” but said the country needed to go further.

Cost factor

“The richest individuals and the biggest corporations are going to pay more, and middle-class families are going to pay less,” she said.

But asked twice by a moderator whether she would acknowledge that the taxes of middle-income Americans would go up under her proposal, she declined to respond directly.

The back and forth among the three leading contenders over healthcare was a continuation of the discussion that dominated the first two debates and illustrated the fierce divisions in the party over what approach best honours Obama’s legacy — building upon the Affordable Care Act or replacing it entirely with a single-payer system.

In a tart exchange that channelled their profound philosophical differences, Mr. Sanders held up Canada as a country that provided universal coverage for a lower total cost, prompting Mr. Biden to jump in: “This is America.”

Mr. Sanders fired back: “Americans don’t want to pay twice as much as other countries.”

The remaining field of candidates arrayed themselves around the same philosophical dividing line, most of them aligning more closely with Mr. Biden.

Senator Amy Klobuchar derided Mr. Sanders’ single-payer Bill as a “bad idea,” while Mayor Pete Buttigieg accused Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren of seeking to take away choice from consumers.

While Mr. Biden remains the front-runner in the Democratic race, he has yet to produce the kind of commanding debate performance that might excite undecided Democrats or put to rest their unease about his readiness for a contest with President Trump. NY Times

Panel wants Khalilzad to explain to it how the talks went off the rails

Zalmay Khalilzad. File Reuters

Frustrated by the absence of a clearly communicated strategy on Afghanistan and a lack of responsiveness to invitations issued by it, the U.S House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee has subpoenaed the U.S. envoy to the U.S.-Taliban negotiations, Zalmay Khalilzad, to testify before it on Thursday.

“More than 2,000 American troops have died in Afghanistan, and I’m fed up with this administration keeping Congress and the American people in the dark on the peace process and how we’re going to bring this long war to a close,” HFAC Chairman Eliot Engel said via a statement.

The Committee, which is currently controlled by Democrats, has responsibilities for legislation and oversight related to U.S. Foreign policy and the State Department, and this is the first subpoena for the Committee in the current Congress.

It had invited Mr. Khalilzad to testify before it in February, April as well as earlier this month, when Mr. Engel wrote to Mr. Khalilzad, saying, “I do not consider your testimony at this hearing optional.” In March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to confirm that he would compel Mr. Khalilzad to testify before the Committee, adding that while he was happy to share the State Department’s strategy on Afghanistan, details of negotiations had to stay within “ a very small circle”.

“For months, we haven’t been able to get answers on the Afghanistan peace plan, and now the President is saying the plan is dead. We need to hear directly from the Administration’s point person on Afghanistan to understand how this process went off the rails,” Mr. Engel said, adding that he expected to see Mr. Khalilzad in the hearing room.

Nivin Pauly ventures into uncharted zones in a quest to find oneself in the film

The first look of Moothon.Special Arrangement

On the face of it filmmaker-actor Geetu Mohandas’ sophomore film Moothon (The Elder One) is about the search for the lost elder brother that takes young Mulla all the way from the pristine, idyllic and tranquil home in the islands of Lakshadweep to the chaotic, violent, ruthless and ugly underbelly of Mumbai.

It is also a metaphorical, inner quest to find oneself by facing up to life’s vagaries. As Ms. Mohandas herself put it, in a lively session with the audience at the Scotiabank theatre in downtown Toronto, it is about “the sense of identity and the crises within”.

However, at the heart of Moothon lies an unforeseen, uncommon and extraordinarily tender love story that makes actor Nivin Pauly venture into hitherto uncharted zones. He is on top of things, be it expressing the ecstasy in finding an abundance of love amidst a shoal of fish or resorting to the religious/cultural practice of self flagellation to express the pain of surreptitious, forbidden passion. “I can’t get a hold of myself,” he says, as a visibly broken and tormented Akbar who has nowhere to hide in the islands. The only option is to run away, from home and also from himself.

Ms. Mohandas jostles with interesting ideas — that of a rare fluidity when it comes to matters of both gender and sexuality. “The idea was not to see gender but love,” she said in the audience interaction.

The film marks a unique collaboration of talent from Kerala and Bollywood. It has been co-produced by Anurag Kashyap, Ajay G. Rai of Jar Pictures, Vinod Kumar and Alan McAlex. Besides Mr. Pauly, Dileesh Pothan and Sanjana Dipu, it also stars Sobhita Dhulipala and Shashank Arora.

The film left the audience wondering about the ambiguous end, with Ms. Mohandas adding to their curiosity by putting primacy on their own individual interpretation than imposing any given “reading” of the ending.

(The writer is in Toronto at the invitation of TIFF)

Hong Kong hill shines in protest light

Olive branch: Demonstrators holding up their mobile phone at the Peak, a tourist spot in Hong Kong.APKin Cheung

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters took to the hills to form flashlight-carrying human chains on Friday, using the colourful Mid-Autumn Festival as a backdrop to the latest in more than three months of sometimes violent unrest.

The peaceful protests, on a day when families traditionally gather to gaze at the moon and eat mooncakes, came after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam promised to focus on housing and jobs to try to end the turmoil. “Housing and people’s livelihoods are the main priorities,” Ms. Lam said. “The government will add to housing supply measures which will be continuously put in place and not missed.”

Hong Kong has some of the world’s most expensive real estate and many people say the city’s housing policy is unfair, benefiting the rich while forcing the less well-off to live with their parents or rent “shoe box” apartments at exorbitant prices.

Vallalar, in his Deivamanimalai, says that Lord Shanmukha treated his (Vallalar’s) drawbacks as good qualities. Manickavachagar expresses a similar sentiment, said M.A. Manickavelu, in a discourse. Manickavachagar says that his faults are like hills, and he prays to Lord Siva to treat these sins as good qualities! The story of Thiruneelanakka Nayanar shows how the Lord is kind, and appreciative of even little gestures of love that we show Him. He forgives what others see as faults or sins. Thiruneelanakka Nayanar lived in Sathamangai. He was well versed in the Vedas and his knowledge helped him see that the Vedas enjoined worship of Lord Siva. Every day he not only served the Lord, but also His devotees.

One day, he went to the temple with his wife to worship the Lord. After he completed the puja, Thiruneelanakka Nayanar, prostrated before the Lord. Even as he continued worship, a spider dropped onto the Linga. His wife, noticing this, blew away the spider. She acted like a mother, who, if she notices a spider on her baby, will blow it away from the child. But, Thiruneelanakka Nayanar, felt that what she had done was offensive to the Lord. He scolded her and said that by blowing on the linga, some of her saliva might have fallen on it, thereby polluting it. He performed expiatory rites, and left for home, leaving his wife behind in the temple.

That night, in his dream, the Lord appeared. The Lord showed the Nayanar His divine form. On the side where the lady had blown, there were no boils. But everywhere else, the Lord’s form was covered with boils, caused by the spider. Thus, the Lord showed that He was not offended even when the saliva of a devotee touched Him, for He knew of the love behind that gesture.

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