A list of things the Modi government says it has no data on

As India’s parliament resumed its monsoon session on Sept. 14, the central government was faced with a volley of questions about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on various aspects of the economy. But the answers were few.

For starters, on the first day of parliament, the government said it had maintained no data on the number of migrants who lost their lives because of the pandemic-related lockdown.

This is after the evidently severe impact of Covid-19 on the lives of migrant workers. When India’s coronavirus lockdown was announced on March 24, millions of hapless migrant workers had no means of going back to their hometowns and villages. They began walking home, and hundreds died in the two-month period.

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Author: Manavi Kapur

The pandemic has taken away the delight of companionship while having a meal

Covid-19 has heralded an era of eating on the couch.

The world has changed and so has the thinking about culinary gatherings. We baulk at the idea of conviviality. Life is all about masks and social distancing, contactless encounters and online ordering.

At a time of public health and financial challenges, the mere mention of hedonic pleasures raises eyebrows. How dare one be so shallow when so many around us are struggling with adversity?

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Author: Sona Bahadur

The pandemic has taken away the delight of companionship while having a meal

Covid-19 has heralded an era of eating on the couch.

The world has changed and so has the thinking about culinary gatherings. We baulk at the idea of conviviality. Life is all about masks and social distancing, contactless encounters and online ordering.

At a time of public health and financial challenges, the mere mention of hedonic pleasures raises eyebrows. How dare one be so shallow when so many around us are struggling with adversity?

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Author: Sona Bahadur

Trump’s Properties Billed Taxpayers $1.1 Million for Secret Service Rentals

Flanked by U.S. Secret Service agents, then-President-elect Trump gets into his car at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.

Properties owned by President Trump have billed the U.S. Secret Service at least $1.1 million in rental stays and other charges since he took office more than three years ago, according to The Washington Post.

The Post obtained documentation outlining the expenditures from the Secret Service to Trump Organization properties after it filed a public-records lawsuit with the agency.

The Secret Service is tasked with following and protecting Trump wherever he goes, but it also provides security detail to his family members. If he or they stay at one of his properties, agents are tasked with staying there as well. Trump’s properties charge the agency for their stay, which is then paid off with taxpayer funds.

Although Trump relinquished control of his company when he assumed the presidency, he remains the sole beneficiary of all of his properties, meaning he directly benefits from the Secret Service payments to them.

In one example, during the Passover holiday earlier this year, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump stayed at his Bedminster property in New Jersey, even though traveling there was in defiance of coronavirus stay-at-home directives from both that state and Washington, D.C., at the time (the order in New Jersey, however, did exempt federal employees). Charges to the Secret Service to rent out a cottage near where Ivanka Trump and her family were at exceeded $20,000 for that stay alone.

The new documents also demonstrate that the Trump Organization may have overcharged the Secret Service for their stays. The Bedminster property, for instance, charged $567 per night for the three-bedroom cottage that agents rented, while other rentals in the area typically charge a much lower rate, according to the Post.

The Secret Service frequently rents out spaces at Trump Organization properties in order to prepare ahead for the president’s arrival. But because Trump doesn’t make travel plans too far in advance, it’s hard for the agency to know when he will be at one place or another, resulting in the Secret Service renting out places for several months at a time. This practice has meant that the agency is often paying Trump Organization properties often without Trump or any of his family members actually staying there.

“We always had space reserved at Bedminster weeks before the president arrived, just in case,” a former Trump official said. “If he came in the Oval [Office] on, let’s say, on a Wednesday and said, ‘I want to go this weekend,’ you have to be ready.”

At one point, the Secret Service rented out space at his Bedminster property for 200 nights, yet no member of the Trump family actually ended up staying there at any point during that time.

The Secret Service, however, isn’t the only government agency to have utilized Trump’s properties, nor to use taxpayer dollars to pay for staying at them. According to reporting from CNN in March, a number of federal agencies had spent at least $1.2 million of government funds that went directly to the Trump Organization.

Eric Trump has defended his father’s use of his own properties, arguing in October 2019 that the federal government was actually getting a good deal for doing so.

“If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free,” Eric Trump said last year. “So everywhere that he goes, if he stays at one of his places, the government actually spends, meaning it saves a fortune because if they were to go to a hotel across the street, they’d be charging them $500 a night, whereas, you know we charge them like $50.”

That statement was determined to be a lie, as several reports have concluded the Trump Organization was not providing discounts to federal agencies like the Secret Service.

Trump benefits from his properties in other ways. Even though he failed in his push to have his Doral Resort host the next G7 summit, it was estimated that he received more than $1 million in free advertising. Trump properties have also received tens of millions of dollars in campaign expenditures by the Republican National Committee and his own reelection campaign.


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Author: Chris Walker

The US doesn’t have enough printing capacity to meet demand for Obama’s new book

President Barack Obama’s new memoir A Promised Land is expected to sell so many copies that its publisher is printing one million of them in Germany and shipping them to the US.

The massive cargo, enough to fill 112 shipping containers, is part of Crown’s total order of 3 million copies for the book’s first US printing, according to a report by the New York Times. Crown, an imprint of Penguin Random House, is handling the US edition of the book, which is scheduled to be released on Nov. 17, after the US national election. (The book will also be issued in 25 languages around the world.)

A Promised Land’s first run is significantly higher compared to past presidential memoirs, which set records at the time of their publication.

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Author: Karen Ho