United States presidential polls: The Middle East right in the middle

Saying that Americans are very popular in the Middle East seems to fly in the face of the facts. Will this issue be politicised in United States polls this time?

Writing for a unanimous court, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said in the case of Shenck Vs United States that “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man from falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing panic. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that may well bring about the substantial evils that congress has a right to prevent.”

Last week the trailer of a film called the “Innocence of Muslims”, a film which shows Prophet Mohammed in a bad light, was distributed on the internet and led to widespread protests in the Arab world and led to an attack on the American missions in Benghazi where the American Ambassador was killed by a rampaging mob to Cairo and Yemen where a large number of protesters tried to enter the American mission and cause damage to life and property. It is worth remembering that the context for shouting fire in a crowded theatre had suddenly changed. Now the theatre was the world itself and shouting fire in a theatre meant something quite different.  

Suddenly foreign policy which had lain dormant in the election campaign despite the ratcheting up of tensions in the Middle East took front and centre in election campaign. Governor Romney, seeing an opportunity to put President Barrack Obama on the back-foot, condemned the weakness of President Obama’s policy and slammed him for the ‘apology’ the Cairo Embassy made while condemning the film. The embassy had released a statement saying “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuous efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of the Muslims... respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the action of those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious belief of others.” Mitt Romney quickly pounced on the statement and accused the American government for apologising to Muslim fundamentalists who had tried to storm the American Embassy in Cairo. However, what Mitt Romney did not realise was that this statement was made before the Embassy in Cairo had been stormed. Further it was soon evident that the Ambassador had acted on his own accord and had not consulted Washington before releasing that statement. President Obama quickly fired back saying that Mitt Romney fired first and aimed later.

But the Obama administration also seemed to have been caught unawares as President Obama declared on television that Egypt was not an ally of the United States. Egypt not an ally?  Further there seemed to be a district disconnect between the way in which the Obama administration saw its relationship to the Muslim world and the reality that we see on television day in and out. Ambassador Susan Rice refused to acknowledge to Candy Crawley that the United States’ relationship with the Muslim world had not improved after President Obama took over as president and insisted that she had walked around Benghazi and that Americans were very popular there  implying that Americans were very popular in the  Muslim world. This seems to clearly fly in the face of the facts. The Republicans tried to compare the circumstance to those during the time when Jimmy Carter was president and students had taken 52 hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran. Of course the reality on the ground was quite different though it was 1979 that an American diplomat had been last killed. Americans generally tend to rally around their president in times of trouble, so it was assumed that no damage had been done to President Obama’s re-election effort but the State Department announced that they were expecting demonstrations in the next two three months in the run up to the presidential election.

Mitt Romney’s attempted politicization of the event had the potential of backfiring. However, even a week after the September 2011 events in Cairo passions in Islamic countries were not cooling down and if the unrest continues and spreads this will be challenge to President Obama in the run up the elections. Americans do tend to rally around their commander-in-chief in times of crisis. However, the narrative of Romney’s attack on President Obama’s foreign policy as being weak will begin to bite if the unrest continues. Governor Romney has a task cut out for him to give an alternate foreign policy vision which would neither lead America into a tangle like Afghanistan and Iraq and is different from the failed neocon policies and at the same time can portray President Obama’s foreign policy as weak and vacillating.  One way or another it seems that the Middle East is going to remain front and centre in the election campaign. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was also busy ratcheting up pressure on President Obama to draw a “red line” for Iran beyond which America would not tolerate progress towards building a nuclear weapon, and the price of oil was steadily climbing and will continue to climb with the quantitative easing that the Fed had introduced.

So the Middle East will pose a challenge to the president and give an opportunity to the challenger in the run up to the presidential election. But Governor Romney will have to be more sure footed now onwards and he will have to sound presidential while attacking the president.

(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)


Uptrend intact on the Sensex, Nifty: Tuesday Closing Report

Subject to the Nifty holding itself above the day’s low

Profit booking after nine days of gains led the market lower today. A weak trend in the global markets also played on the sentiments. Today the Nifty saw marginal loss, however, the uptrend is likely to remain intact if the index manages to hold itself above day’s low. The benchmark made a lower high after nine trading days but continued to make a higher low for the fifth consecutive day. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw high volume of 91.62 crore shares while the advance decline ratio was 882:556.


The Indian stock exchanges will remain closed on Wednesday for a local holiday.


The market opened lower today as traders resorted to profit booking following the nine-day rally. A weak trend in the global stock markets also weighed on the sentiments. The Nifty resumed trade at 5,602, down eight points from its previous close and the Sensex started off 27 points lower at 18,515. Metal, auto and banking stocks were under selling pressure in early trade.


Volatility since the opening of trade kept the benchmarks on both sides of their previous close. Buying interest in banking and fast moving consumer goods sectors enabled the market to hit its intraday high at around 10.30 am. At this point the Nifty rose to 5,621 and the Sensex went up to 18,580.


Soaring vegetable prices pushed up the retail inflation to double digits at 10.03% in August, up from 9.86% in the previous month. In the urban areas, the CPI rose to 10.2% during the month as compared to 10.1% in July. The retail price rise in rural areas worked out to be 9.9% during August up from 9.8% in the previous month.


The indices could not maintain their gains as selling pressure pushed the stock market into the negative once again. Subdued opening of the European stock markets kept the local benchmarks in the red in noon trade.


 The market continued to drift further southward in post-noon trade on the back of profit booking in blue chips. The Nifty dipped to its intraday low at the start of trade with the index touching 5,586 while the low on the Sensex was seen in the last half hour as the index fell to 18,469. The market snapped its nine-day winning streak to close almost flat with a negative bias.


The Nifty settled 10 points lower at 5,600 and the Sensex finished the session at 18,496, down 46 points.


It was the day of the broader markets today as they outperformed the Sensex and settled in the green. The BSE Mid-cap index gained 0.88% and the BSE Small-cap index advanced 0.73%.


The top sectoral gainers were BSE PSU (1.58%); BSE Capital Goods (up 0.90%); BSE Power (up 0.88%); BSE Bankex (up 0.69%) and BSE Realty (up 0.49%). The ones that settled at the bottom were BSE Oil & Gas (down 1.13%); BSE IT (down 0.54%); BSE Healthcare (down 0.22%); BSE Metal (down 0.19%) and BSE TECk (down 0.09%).


Thirteen of the 30 stocks on the Sensex closed in the positive. The key gainers were BHEL (up 5.44%); State Bank of India (up 3.59%); GAIL India (up 3.01%); Jindal Steel (up 2.64%) and Infosys (up 1.45%). The top losers were Wipro (down 3.79%); TCS (down 3.02%); Hindalco Industries (down 2.13%); Reliance Industries (down 2.11%) and NTPC (down 1.51%).


The top two A Group gainers on the BSE were—IFCI (up 13.45%) and Oriental Bank of Commerce (up 12.97%).

The top two A Group losers on the BSE were—Pantaloon Retail (down 4.05%) and Wipro (down 3.79%).


The top two B Group gainers on the BSE were—Infomedia 18 (up 20%) and Tanla Solutions (up 20%).

The top two B Group losers on the BSE were—Atlanta (down 13.48%) and Indo Count Industries (down 10.76%).


Out of the 50 stocks listed on the Nifty, 25 stocks settled in the positive. The major gainers were Punjab National Bank (up 7.90%); BHEL (up 5.20%); SBI (up 3.39%); Bank of Baroda (up 3.02%) and GAIL India (up 2.71%). The top laggards were Cairn India (down 3.81%); Wipro (down 3.78%); TCS (down 3%), Hindalco Ind (down 2.39%) and RIL (down 2.15%).


Markets in Asia closed lower on worries about the slowdown in Chinese growth. The decline in commodity prices in the global stock markets pulled down the Chinese market, making it the worst performer for the second day.


The Shanghai Composite dropped 0.91%; the Hang Seng declined 0.27%; the Jakarta Composite fell 0.74%; the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.39%; the Straits Times retracted by 0.35% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 0.36% lower. Bucking the trend, the Seoul Composite rose 0.13%.


At the time of writing, the key European stock markets were down between 0.81% and 1% and the US stock futures were trading in the negative.


Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares totalling Rs2,252.17 crore on Monday whereas domestic institutional investors were net sellers of equities aggregating Rs837.72 crore.


Buoyed by the good response to its recent initial public offering, jewellery retailer Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri today said it would invest about Rs1,200 crore in the next three years for opening 43 showrooms across the country. At present, TBZ has 18 showrooms across 11 cities, including metros as well as Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. The stock settled at Rs118.80 on the NSE, up 1.67%.


Software services major Ramco Systems said it has bagged an order from Wadia Group-owned Go Airlines for its maintenance and engineering (M&E) suite of software. Under the agreement, Ramco will deliver its web-based Series 5 M&E system and Ramco ePublications, including engineering and configuration, maintenance program and planning, line maintenance, technical records and complete materials. Ramco rose 0.30% to close at Rs135 on the NSE.


Leading pipe manufacturer Welspun Corp (WCL) said it has raised Rs252.80 crore by issuing non-convertible debentures (NCDs). The money was raised by the flagship firm of Welspun Group through placement of secured Redeemable Non-Convertible Debentures to investors including banks and financial institutions, it said in a filing to the BSE. The stock rose 0.69% to settle at Rs102.20 on the NSE.


Salman emerges as 'tiger' among Bollywood on tax office too!

While Salman, Akshay, Katrina, Kareena, Saif, Sachin Tendulkar, the Big B and Aishwarya paid higher advanced tax during September quarter, Shah Rukh's tax outgot remained flat, while Aamir paid lower tax compared with same quarter last year 

Mumbai: After a string of Rs100 crore grossing films including 'Dabangg', 'Ready', 'Bodyguard' and 'Ek Tha Tiger', actor Salman Khan has emerged as the highest taxpayer from Bollywood during the September quarter, reports PTI.
Salman, 46, trumped all his peers and rivals from Bollywood by paying Rs8 crore in advance tax as compared to the Rs5 crore in the same period a year ago, an income tax official told PTI.
Salman was last seen in romantic-action-thriller 'Ek Tha Tiger', which has clocked approximately Rs198 crore at the box office. The film's female lead and Salman's speculated former lady love in real life, Katrina Kaif, paid Rs2.60 crore compared to the year ago period's Rs1.70 crore.
Salman's bete noire Shah Rukh Khan, who has not had any big release this year as yet, had his tax outgo flat at Rs5 crore, the official said.
Among the other Khans, Aamir's fortunes seem to have been hurt by his mega reality show Satyamev Jayate, as he paid only Rs3.25 crore this September versus last year's Rs4.50 crore.
Saif Ali Khan, whose films 'Agent Vinod' and 'Cocktail' had varying responses at the box office, paid a tax of Rs3 crore compared to Rs1.7 crore in the year ago period, the official said.
Kareena Kapoor, who is rumoured to be marrying Saif soon, and is looking forward to the release of the film 'Heroine' has paid an advance tax of Rs2.20 crore compared to Rs1.5 crore she did in the same period last year.
Akshay Kumar, another big name in Bollywood, paid Rs7.5 crore advance tax in comparison to Rs5 crore he had paid last year during the same period.
Actor Amitabh Bachchan, who will soon be celebrating his 70th birthday, paid Rs5 crore against the Rs1.4 crore he paid last year while his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's outgo jumped to Rs3 crore from Rs1.1 crore, the official said.
Big B, who was at one point of time at the brink of bankruptcy, has only had one release this year in 'Department' which was a box office failure.
Interestingly, Aishwarya has also been away from the silver screen since Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Guzaarish' released in 2010.
Meanwhile, master blaster Sachin Tendulkar paid an advance tax of Rs2 crore in comparison to Rs1.75 crore in the same period last year, the official said.
Apart from B-town celebrities, high profile lawyers also had fortunes with Zia Mody emerging the highest with a September quarter payment at Rs3 crore versus the Rs2 crore in the year ago.
Senior counsel Fali Nariman (Rs1.80 crore versus last year's Rs2.10 crore) and corporate lawyer Cyril Shroff (Rs1 crore versus Rs1.10 crore) saw a decline in their tax outgoes, the official added.
Advance tax is a system of staggered payment of tax liabilities and is payable every quarter, based on estimated profits.


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