Posts Tagged President Obama

2014 – Year-end Review ——- Theme: Confront Reality & Get Things Done!


English: Biosafety level 4 hazmat suit: resear...

English: Biosafety level 4 hazmat suit: researcher is working with the Ebola virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Year 2014 is coming to a close.  As I see it, it has been a year to confront the reality and get things done.  Affordable Care Act became law in January, increasing the accessibility of healthcare, in the US.  TIME declared Ebola as the defining issue of the 20th century. It was no more in remote regions of Africa but in the capitals and it landed in the USA.  The reality is that we are living in a global world.  

And then President Obama reminded us that even though some of our neighbors entered the border illegally, they have made their home here, are working hard, supporting their families and they should have NOT amnesty, but an opportunity to make it right with the law, and live here temporarily, AND pay their share of the taxes, because people can’t live in the shadows, in a global world of visibility and accountability.   Long overdue immigration reform will enable many people to come out of the shadows and add to the national treasury – a win-win – what’s not to like?

The same applies to our gay neighbors.  They should not have to live in the shadows.  Majority of the states this year, legalized same sex marriages and US supreme court refused to hear appeals from states seeking to keep same sex marriage ban in place.  Many states also legalized marijuana.  But what about our veterans living in the shadows?  Department of Veterans Affairs got more resources (as house passed the bill, at the end of the year, averting shutdown), and it now has to get its act together and make it right with those who defend our freedom and values.

And what about skin color?  We are confronting the reality that more than 50 years after Dr. King laid out his vision for color-fair society, people are still being judged on the basis of the color of their skin and paying with their lives.  This does not just happen when young men turn 22 but prejudice hits in childhood  http://bit.ly/15EInJ4 and it splinters society.  We can heal and move ahead, but scars made by history, and distrust can only heal when there are no new wounds, when there is real dialog, when each side gets to even briefly experience the reality that the other lives with, and have compassion.  We are confronting the reality and lot of dialog is happening.  Much work remains to be done but the issue can’t be ignored any longer.

And then the lowest of the low, terrorists and those plotting terror.  How do we deal with them?  Report on CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the post-9/11 era reveals that “CIA detainees were tortured”.  When we lose sight of our values, when the boundaries between moral and immoral gets blurry, then we lose, regardless of what we were seeking to gain.  This is a true moment for national soul searching. (the fact some people may be only suspected of being terrorists is whole other story).

Globally, also we are confronting realities.  World’s largest democracy, India, elected controversial Mr. Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.  Mr. Modi has reached out to leaders across the world and declared campaigns to clean up India.  My birthplace has so much to offer to the world and if it cleans up its act, under the helm of Mr. Modi, I couldn’t be happier.  Our neighbors need to clean up their act too, even as they rightfully blame the US for its insatiable appetite for drugs.  Capture of “El Chapo” Guzman in Mexico was a HUGE victory that got overshadowed later by disappearance and ruthless murder of 43 Mexican college students.  “#YaMeCanse12”!  Abduction of 270 high school girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria #BringBackOurGirls and scores of Yazidi women bought, sold, raped, and murdered, underscores the need to define rape during conflict as a war crime and not a woman’s issue.  By some estimates, more than 7 million (50% are children) are displaced by war in Syria (200,000 are killed) and 100,000+ Yazidis are displaced by ISIS.  Let us continue to keep theses issues in the spotlight.

The year is ending on a rather sad note of the children who lost their lives in #PeshawarSchoolAttack in Pakistan.  Here is my short poem in their memory – http://bit.ly/1wfp47D .  It was heart warming to see India support its neighbor in the hour of grief as #IndiawithPakistan was a popular hashtag on twitter. And also deeply heartwarming to see Pakistan echo the sentiments when #PakistanwithIndia and sepecially #PakistanwithIndiaNoToLakhviBail became trendy topics on twitter as overwhelmingly Pakistani people reacted negatively to their government’s decision to give bail to Mumbai terror mastermind Lakhvi.  May the balanced sentiments always prevail over extremism, because the reality is that we live in a global world and terror can’t be nurtured and targeted because sooner or later it would hit home.  Global world also demands secularism.

As a ray of light and hope, Malala Yousafzai, courageous young lady from Pakistan, spearheading girls’ right to education and Kailash Satyarthi from india, a brave and dedicated activist for children’s rights and against child labor, shared the Nobel Prize, sending strong messages that fight to honor children’s rights will continue.

Personal

wpid-20140920_173123.jpgHard as it is to confront the reality that one’s parents may not be there forever, I was very happy to spend wonderful time with my mother and my aunty (her sister).  I tried to focus on giving them a break from their routines and enable them to have some fun, some unusual experiences.  Isn’t it amazing that when a mother gives, she gives with her heart and soul, but when she receives from her children, she receives with a feeling of enormous debt and gratitude!  Both my children are focused on their careers; wpid-20140805_201145-1.jpgNeil is working with Cisco in IT and Neesha is finishing college this coming year.  Both are my pride and joy :).  It has also been fun hosting my daughter’s friend from UCSD, originally from Palestine, during the holidays, and alternately being “naughty” with the girls, and playing aunty-mom to two daughters :).wpid-20141221_150415.jpg

wpid-20141221_161442.jpgThis year, I also visited Japan (we were hosted by many amazing friends and you can see all details in my travel blogs), an amazingly polite and most efficient culture, with world’s most interesting toilets http://bit.ly/1sYL5qs.  This year I also started travel blogs and you can see my many blogs at www.darshanavnadkarni.wordpress.com.

And finally, here are links to some of the most amazing things that I blogged about, this year.
Best movie – “Last Days in Vietnam” http://bit.ly/1qFIL28
Best play – “Truce” http://bit.ly/1trGhEG and “Andhera Hone Tak” http://bit.ly/1Aij5Rz
Best book – “The Glass Castle” http://bit.ly/1fchcIo
Best biomedical technologies — so many exciting technologies in early to mid stages of development for — treatment of ALS http://bit.ly/1AP2Yd0, for technology for early detection of cervical cancer http://bit.ly/1jalqEz, technology that aims to deliver drugs via inhalation for AFib, point of care solution to minimize prescription filling errors http://bit.ly/1jdfmgr

Wishing my readers, family & friends, and my clients and colleagues, peace and joy in the year 2015.  Best wishes to my many friends in fantastic groups that I am routinely affiliated with (each of them enhance life for many, personally and/or professionally) http://www.bio2devicegroup.org, http://www.eppicglobal.org, http://www.citylights.org, http://www.thestage.org, http://www.theatreworks.org, http://www.naatak.org, http://www.enacte.org, http://www.iwings.org .

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JPM 2014: Keynote by General Michael Hayden, Former Director, NSA & CIA


Three days before President Mr. Obama announced changes in NSA and limitations to Government access to phone data, participants at 32nd Annual J. P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in SF, had an opportunity to listen to the luncheon keynote address given by General Michael Hayden, former director of National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency. See below some highlights from the talk.

Traditionally lunch keynotes at JPM conference have been given by conservative political figures. Hayden is known to have headed the super secret agency from 1995 to 2005 and oversaw some of the controversial programs that followed 9/11.  He has always defended them as effective and proper.  At JPM keynote however, Hayden did not give his opinions but mostly discuss the increasing complexity in the world, where the choices are limited and equally complex, with varying ramifications.

Hayden painted a realistic, complex, and scary picture of the world.  In the new hyper connected world, the boundaries are less defined, said Hayden.  Previously, it was easy to classify the world into domestic and foreign; intelligence and law enforcement.  However, geographical and other boundaries are not that well marked, in this new world.  Today, a security establishment tries to defend the nation against threats that do not neatly fit into domestic or foreign, said Hayden.  To bolster his argument, he quoted the example of Edward Snowden’s actions and its wide ranging implications.

Hayden also said that US has parted ways with its allies a while back.  For instance, while US believes in the use of force, our allies believe that its usefulness is limited.  In the US, law is not concerned with privacy issues of an individual who is not a US citizen.  Whereas in Europe, there is a broader sense of expectation of privacy as a sacred human right, said Hayden.  “Values matter and we have fundamental value differences with our allies”, said Hayden.

Speaking of China, he said, China does not present any major threat to the us because our economies are deeply integrated, with the Chinese economy more dependent on the US than the other way around.  In the coming years, China will face huge labor shortages, due to its one child policy.

Speaking about Al Qaeda, Hayden said, it is not a group, but a movement, focused on scaling “a leaderless jihad”.  Al Qaeda represents some of the toughest choices.  If the US is too tough, too soon then it may be able to squash trouble, before it becomes bigger, but on the other hand, an early use of force can turn people against the US, said Hayden.  In some regions, Al Qaeda only focuses on local grievances and not on the US.  If the US goes there to squash the group in its infancy then it can snuff out the trouble before it begins or it might end up focusing the groups efforts on the US as its new enemy.  Also how the US defines a problem can affect the adoption of the strategy.

Hayden also gave his opinions on his former boss, President Mr. Bush as well as on President Obama.  President Bush’s style was Wilsonian and Jacksonian, said Hayden.  When it came to dealing with external threats, President Bush was an idealist and aggressive and he tended to be rhetorical.  President Obama is also Wilsonian, in that he is idealist and rhetorical.  But additionally, he is Jeffersonian, a thinker, said Hayden.  Hayden is believed to have said before that it is important to understand the scary world we live in and keep a focus on safety, while also protecting civil liberties.  I would have loved to hear his perspectives on how these competing issues would be balanced.   Instead, Hayden focused on sharing his thoughts on the complex set of challenges that the government or the government security agencies like the NSA and the CIA face on a daily basis and discussing how any choice they make could put them on a path of novel set of choices and challenges.

Michael Hayden, director of the CIA.

Michael Hayden, director of the CIA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency....

The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency. The first use was in September 1966, replacing an older seal which was used briefly. For more information, see here and here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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