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Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?

വായന

27 November, 2012

Fight for cyber freedom

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

When the Indian government pushed the Information Technology Act through Parliament in 2000 its main aim was to regulate e-commerce. During the Mumbai terror strike of 2008, the attackers continuously received encrypted messages from their handlers in Pakistan. This prompted it to amend the law to assume more powers. In the emotionally surcharged atmosphere, Parliament approved the loosely worded amendments without even a debate.

The law covers not only public postings on social networks but also private email messages which may cause “annoyance or inconvenience.” Section 66A, incorporated in 2008, makes it a crime to communicate digitally “any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character.” Anyone found guilty can be fined and jailed for up to three years.

Section 69 allows the government to intercept, monitor or decrypt information conveyed through digital media and Section 69A empowers it to direct the networks to block access to any information through any computer.

Cyber law experts say these provisions bear the influence of two British laws, the Malicious Communications Act of 1988 and the Communications Act of 2003. The colonial hangover which still afflicts the state 65 years after Independence and the police’s propensity to act in the interests of their political masters render such provisions far more dangerous in India than in Britain.

The police often tag provisions of the Indian Penal Code, drawn up by the British rulers in the 19th century, to cyber law cases. Although IPC has undergone a few revisions since the country gained freedom, it retains its character as an instrument of oppression. State governments routinely invoke its provisions regarding sedition against critics of the government. Cyber giants like Google and Facebook have blocked access from India to hundreds of web pages, responding to requests from the government which alleged they contain objectionable material. While it claims the material violates IPC provisions, most of it is critical of prominent politicians rather than of the central and state governments.

When the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was in power in Kerala, the police lured back a young immigrant from a Gulf State who had forwarded to friends a photograph of a mansion which was wrongfully presented as state party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan’s house. Puducherry police recently arrested a small businessman for alleging in a tweet that Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti has amassed more money than Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, whom anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal has accused of profiting from dubious land deals.

The Maharashtra police hauled up Aseem Trivedi, who posted at his website his own cartoons critical of the state of the nation. The sedition charge against him was dropped following a nationwide uproar, but he still faces charges under the IT Act. The West Bengal government arrested a Jadavpur University professor for circulating material lampooning Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Early this month Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal had brushed aside criticism of the IT Act saying the fault lay with law enforcers, not the law. Offences under Sec 66A are bailable and cops had jailed the accused due to ignorance, he said. “Just because some people act improperly the law cannot be scrapped,” he added.

Netizens reacted angrily to the arrest of Shaheen Dhada, who wrote in Facebook that Mumbai had shut down on the death of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray out of fear, not respect, and her friend Renu Srinivasan, who “liked” the comment. They considered Shaheen’s assessment fair and contrasted it with the news channels’ fawning coverage of the funeral of Thackeray, whom a judicial commission had found guilty of inciting mob violence. Sibal conceded the arrests were illegal.

The public outcry encouraged two Air India employees, who were held in custody for 12 days in May for allegedly making insulting comments about politicians, to come out with the story of their humiliation.

Sibal has convened a meeting on Thursday to review the working of the IT Act. But the fight for cyber freedom may well be long drawn out. While civil society groups want the government to amend the law to protect privacy and legitimate criticism, Sibal appears inclined to stop with writing to the state governments to ensure that cases are initiated only after clearance by designated officers of the rank of Inspector General of Police. This may not improve the situation. Several of the reported cases of misuse of the law were in fact initiated with the knowledge and concurrence of high-ranking officers.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, November 27, 2012.

23 November, 2012

PUCL renews call for abolition of death penalty

The secretive and stealthy hanging of Ajmal Kasab in Pune’s Yerwada Prison yesterday, 21st November, 2012, brings to an end the legal process involved in trying Kasab for the brutal assault by trained terrorists from across the border on Mumbai, the commercial capital of India which left 166 persons dead.
The Mumbai carnage of November 2008, more popularly abbreviated to a single term `26/11,’ constitutes one of the most heinous and deliberate attempts in recent years to cause mass mayhem and terror in India. Kasab was the only member of the terrorist team sent from Pakistan apprehended alive; he was caught on film diabolically using his modern automatic weapon in a cold blooded fashion, killing numerous people. The hanging, and the trial and legal proceedings which preceded it,  admittedly  complied with existing laws which permit death penalty, and cannot be faulted as such.  While it may be argued, as many do  that the hanging will help in an `emotional closure’ to the families of victims of 26/11, there are others who point out that other key issues still remain to be addressed.  Families of victims in specific, as also other concerned citizens, have pointed out that Kasab was only a foot soldier and not the mastermind, who still remain at large.
We cannot also lose sight of the fact the  reality that the backdrop of the 26/11 incidents is also the festering and unresolved internal conflict inside Kashmir, which provides an easy emotive tool for demagogues to indoctrinate and turn youth to become cold blooded `jihadi’ killers. To them, the execution will not be a deterrence.   
The extensive legal process  ending with the hanging of Kasab is pointed out as a triumph of the of `rule of law process’ in India. In the same breath this is also contrasted to the lack of such situation in neighbouring Pakistan.  This discourse is however very worrisome; it borders on `triumphalism’ on the one hand, and on the other, it amounts to an attempt to `avenge’ or seek `vengeance’, and `eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ mentality, which worldview has been rejected as dangerous amongst a majority of 110 countries worldwide which have prohibited death penalty in their countries.
Such triumphalist discourse is also worrying for it hides behind emotive terminology very harsh truths of failure and miscarriage of justice in other incidents of mass killings that have occurred in India. The `cry for justice’ still remains a silent pouring of helpless anger in the hearts and souls of thousands of families of victims  in incidents like planned and cold blooded slaughter of over 3000 Sikhs during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992-93 (which ironically occurred in Mumbai also), the 2002 post-Godhra anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat which saw over 2,000 Muslims killed and thousands more rendered homeless and more recently in Kokrajhar in Assam. A stark reality is the cynical manipulation and subversion of police investigation by ruling political parties and the executive  to help masterminds and perpetrators escape the clutches of the law.
In the surcharged emotional atmosphere in the wake of Kasab’s hanging,  even raising questions about the usefulness of hanging Kasab is considered to be `traitorous’, unpatriotic and anti-national.  We in the PUCL nevertheless feel that this is a moment in our nation’s history when we need to pause and ponder, and reflect on the values that we, as a nation, should uphold, particularly relating to crime and punishment, justice and equity. We need to be conscious of the fact that a nation consumed by outrage and filled with a sense of retribution easily confuses “punishment and revenge, justice and vendetta”. We, as a nation, need to begin a dispassionate public debate on the death penalty without judgmental, indignant, righteous or moralist overtones.
PUCL has always taken a principled stand against the death sentence as being anti-thetical to the land of ahimsa and non-violence, as constituting an arbitrary, capricious and unreliable punishment and that at the end of the day, the type of sentence that will be awarded depends very much on many factors, apart from the case itself. PUCL and Amnesty International have published a major  study of the entire body of judgments of the Supreme Court of India on death penalty between 1950-2008 which unambiguously shows that there is so much arbitrariness in the application of `rarest of rare’ doctrine in death penalty cases that in the ultimate analysis, death sentence constitutes a `lethal lottery’.
It may not be out of context to highlight that just two days before Kasab was hanged, on 19th November, 2012, the Supreme Court of India pointed out to the fact that in practice, the application of `rarest of rare cases’ doctrine to award death penalty was seriously arbitrary warranting a rethink of the death penalty in India.
It is also well recognised now that there can never ever be a guarantee against legal mistakes and improper application of legal principles while awarding death sentences. Very importantly, the Supreme Court of India in the case of `Santosh Kr. Bariar v. State of Maharashtra’, (2009) has explicitly stated that 6 previous judgments of the Supreme Court between 1996 to 2009 in which death sentences were confirmed on 13 people, were found to be  `per incuriam’ meaning thereby, were rendered in ignorance of law. The Supreme court held that the reasoning for confirming death sentences in theses cases conflicted with the 5 judge constitutional bench decision in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980), which upheld the constitutionality of the death sentence in India and laid down the guidelines to be followed before awarding death sentence by any court in India.
It should be pointed out that of the 13 convicts awarded death sentence based on this per incuriam reasoning, 2 persons, Ravji @ Ramchandra was hanged on 4.5.1996 and Surja Ram in 5.4.1997. The fate of the others is pending decision on their mercy petitions. In the meantime a group of 7 - 8 former High Court judges have written to the President of India pointing out to the legal infirmity in the award of death sentences to these convicts and seeking rectification of judicial mistake by commuting their death sentences to life imprisonment. A very troubling question remains: how do we render justice to men who were hanged based on a wrong application of the law?
It is for such reasons, amongst others, that PUCL has long argued that it is extremely unsafe and uncivilised to retain death penalty in our statutes.
It will be useful to refer to the stand on death penalty taken by 3 of India’s foremost leaders of the independence struggle.
 
Mahatma Gandhi said,
 
“I do regard death sentence as contrary to ahimsa. Only he takes it who gives it. All punishment is repugnant to ahimsa. Under a State governed according to the principles of ahimsa, therefore, a murderer would be sent to a penitentiary and there be given a chance of reforming himself. All crime is a form of disease and should be treated as such”.  
 
Speaking before the Constituent Assembly of India on 3rd June, 1949, the architect of India’s constitution, Dr. Ambedkar, pointed out,
 
“... I would much rather support the abolition of death sentence itself. That I think is the proper course to follow, so that it will end this controversy. After all this country by and large believes in the principles of non-violence, It has been its ancient tradition, and although people may not be following in actual practice, they certainly adhere to the principle of non-violence as a moral mandate which they ought to observe as dar as they possibly can and I think that having regard to this fact, the proper thing for this county to do is to abolish the death sentence altogether”.
 
Jayaprakash Narayan wrote more poignantly that,
 
“To my mind, it is ultimately a question for the respect for life and human approach to those who commit grievous hurt to others. Death sentence is no remedy for such crimes.  A more humane and constructive remedy is to remove the culprit concerned from the normal milieu and treat him as a mental case ... They may be kept in prison houses till they die a natural death. This may cast a heavier economic burden on society than hanging. But I have no doubt that a humane treatment even of a murderer will enhance man’s dignity and make society more humane”. (emphasis ours).
 
PUCL calls upon all Indians to use the present situation as a moment of national reflection, a period of serious dialogue and discussion on the values and ethics which we as a nation of Buddha and Ashoka, who epitomised humane governance, dharma and ahimsa, should accept and follow. The best tribute we can pay to the 166 persons who lost their lives due to the 26/11 Mumbai carnage is to rebuild the nation in a way that equity and justice, dharma and ahimsa prevails; in which there is no soil for discrimination and prejudice, and in which all Indians irrespective of caste, community, creed, gender or any other diversity, can live peacefully and with dignity.
 
We firmly believe that mercy and compassion are key values of a humane society, which are also recognised in the Indian Constitution. We also hold that abolishing death penalty is not a sign of weakness. Rather it is a stand which arises from a sense of moral authority. It is when law in tempered with mercy that true justice is done. Bereft of mercy our society would be impoverished and inhuman; mercy is quintessentially a human quality, not found elsewhere in the natural world. Excluding a fellow human being from the entitlement to mercy will make our society more blood thirsty, unforgiving and violent. We owe a duty to leave a better and less vengeful world for our children by curbing our instinct for retribution. That way we become a more humane and compassionate society. Recalling Rabindranath Tagore’s vision in the `Gitanjali’, let us re-make India into a `haven of peace’ in which future generations of Indians will rejoice and flourish.

Prof. Prabhakar Sinha                                               Dr. V. Suresh,
National President, PUCL                             National General Secretary (Elect), PUCL

20 November, 2012

All eyes on Asian nations

BRP Bhaskar
 
With President Barack Obama winning a second term and the Chinese Communist Party picking a team headed by Xi Jinping to lead the country for the next 10 years, the men who will steer the world’s most powerful nations in the immediate future are in position.

While the Chinese party congress, held once in five years, was on, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta were in the Asia Pacific region, which Obama had identified last year as the new pivot in US foreign, economic and security policies.

How the two nations tackle their internal problems will have its impact on the world. If the US fails to negotiate the fiscal crisis smoothly, it may slide into recession, pulling down others with it. China’s economy has slowed down but is still robust enough to play a big role in global recovery.

Xi, the new General Secretary who will replace Hu Jintao as China’s President next March, Li Keqiang, who will succeed Wen Jiabao as Prime Minister, and Wang Qishan, Vice Premier in charge of economic affairs, are cautious reformers. The others elected to the powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee are said to be conservatives. Two strong reformers and the lone woman candidate were defeated.

Experts feel that the emphasis the US and China place on continued expansion of exports may limit their ability to play a constructive role in the global economy recovery.

India last month marked the 50th anniversary of the disastrous China war of 1962. As usual, the media discussed the event without reference to the right-wing jingoism which had forced the government into ordering forward troop movement, which angered Mao’s China, which was itching for some action anyway. China did not rekindle war memories the way India did.

India realises there is no possibility of an early resolution of the border dispute which precipitated the war. However, it expects economic preoccupations to help maintain smooth bilateral relations. The two countries are working together in multilateral forums like BRICS.

There are sore points, though. China suspects that India, like Japan, may be drawn into the US game plan for the Asia Pacific region, aimed at containing it and preventing it from playing its role as a global power. India is gingerly watching Beijing’s efforts to boost its presence in its immediate neighbourhood, particularly Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Clinton and Panetta were in Australia for the annual security meeting with that country’s leaders. Ahead of their visit former prime minister Kenneth Keating talked of the limits on Australia’s foreign policy options resulting from the ties with the US. Clinton found it necessary to state that Australia does not have to choose between the US, its long-time ally, and China, its biggest trading partner.

Later, making his third visit to Asia in five months, Panetta attended a meeting of Defence Ministers of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cambodia. He also visited Thailand for talks on strengthening military ties.

The high point of the ongoing US activity in the region is this week’s visit by President Obama. On his itinerary are Cambodia, venue of the East Asia summit, Thailand and Myanmar. It was only in July that the US resumed diplomatic relations with Myanmar which were snapped a decade ago to pressure the military junta to move towards democracy.

The annual East Asia summit brings together leaders of 18 nations, including the US, Russia, China, Japan and India.

Playing down the China angle in the US activity in the region, a State Department official accompanying Hillary Clinton said: “We want to work with China. We recognise that the Asia Pacific region is big enough for both of us.”

However, different signals too have emerged. The US-China Economic and Security Commission, in a report to Congress, said China, which is modernising its military at a remarkable rate, may have advanced land, sea and air nuclear delivery systems in the next two years. It wants the US to “get a better handle” on the size of China’s nuclear arsenal and nuclear doctrine. There are reports of renewed activity in the abandoned US bases in the Philippines and attempts to secure new bases elsewhere in the region.-- Gulf Today, Sharjah, November 20, 2012.

13 November, 2012

At the edge of the cliff again

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

President Barack Obama’s hard-won second term does not begin until January 21, 2013 but he has a lot to do before that to make sure that his presidency and the US economy have smooth sailing during the next four years.

He was able to register a facile win over his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, thanks to the success of the strategy his team had worked out to take the swing states with the help of the young, the women and minority groups. However, the ghosts that Romney raised have not been laid to rest. With the Republicans still controlling the House of Representatives, which has a key role in fiscal matters, he needs to find ways to break the political gridlock which held up his tax reform proposals during the last four years.

Although the fluid situation in the Middle East too demands immediate attention, at the moment Obama’s main worry must be the economy since the country is poised on the edge of the “fiscal cliff”, a catchphrase describing the situation that will arise on January 1 when taxes are due to go up across the board following the expiry of more than a dozen legislative measures which have held them down so far. Some of these measures go back to the days of George W Bush. They were due to expire in 2010 but were extended by two more years.

It has been estimated that if the Congress does not act in time 90 per cent of US households will have to pay higher taxes, the additional burden being an average of $3,500. The administration will be forced to impose a budget cut of $530 billion, half of it in the Defence department. Mandated spending cuts will throw out of job 277,000 federal employees, which is 14 per cent of the total. The unemployment rate will soar and the economy will go into recession.

With the national debt at $16 trillion, further growth of the budget deficit, which now stands at $1.09 trillion, can harm the economy. This must worry the rest of the world, too, since a recession in the US will throw out of gear the efforts to revitalise the global economy.

Obama has long advocated tax reforms which will provide relief to the middle class and raise the burden on the wealthiest. The House majority does not share his vision. Post-election comments of Speaker John Boehner indicate that the Republicans are in an unrelenting mood.

Obama seeks to invoke his election victory to further his plan, saying the people have voted for action, not politics. Boehner counters that if there has been a mandate it is for the two parties to work together. Exit poll results back Obama’s claim. They show that more than 60 per cent of the voters endorse his tax plan.

The president wants a tax law that will provide relief to middle class people (defined as individuals earning less than $200,000 a year and couples earning less than $250,000). He claims it will benefit 98 per cent of American citizens and 97 per cent of the small businesses. He wants progressive rise in tax on higher incomes. Boehner wants the Bush era tax cuts, which benefited the affluent, to continue.

Customarily presidents rely on party colleagues in the Congress to negotiate with opposition leaders and work out formulas acceptable to both the parties. Obama’s invitation to Boehner and other congressional leaders to the White House this week appears to indicate that he plans to take things into his own hands. The Wall Street bigwigs who funded the Romney campaign liberally are keeping a nervous watch on the developments.

Considering the rigidity the Republicans are publicly displaying it is doubtful if Obama can get the House to adopt the kind of tax bill he has in mind. They want him to revise the definition of the middle class to include those with incomes of up to $500,000. They also want him to abandon thoughts of raising the tax on the rich and stop with ending some tax benefits they now enjoy. He is unlikely to find doing away with minor benefits such as breaks for corporate jets and oil industry manufacturing credit an adequate substitute for his plan.

  • In the circumstances, the two sides may once again settle for a temporary solution. That will mean postponing the evil day.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, November 13, 2012.

06 November, 2012

AHRC asks India to immediately stop persecuting Human Rights Defenders



The Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, has endorsed the following press release and complaint to the National Human Rights Commission of India issued by the People's Union for Civil Liberties.
PUCL has lodged this complaint against the illegal arrest and detention of renowned social activist Medha Patkar, lawyer Ms. Aradhana Bhargava and 21 others.
The AHRC has learnt that the administration of Chhindwara has not only detained the activists but also is not allowing anyone, including their lawyers to meet them.  The deliberate act not only violates the fundamental rights of the detainees but also amounts to 'torture and ill treatment' and deserves not only strongest condemnation but also action against guilty officers.

Following is the full text of the letter and complaint,

Chairperson,
NHRC, Faridkot House,
N Delhi

Subject: Demanding Immediate Intervention and release of activist Medha Patkar, lawyer Aradhana Bhargava and 21 others and who have been illegally arrested and confined in Chhindwara, Jail in MP. (All arrested under sec 151 CrPC).


Sir,   

We are shocked to learn that renowned social activist Ms Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and the Narmada Bacaho Andolan (NBA) was arrested yesterday from the house of Ms Aradhana Bhargava in Chhindwara, MP. Medha Patkar and others had gone to the house of Aradhana Bhargava as the latter had been arrested on the 3rd from her house.

It may be known that lawyer Aradhana  Bhargava had gone to Chhindwara to participate in the death rituals of her mother. It was the last day of her mother's death rites and she was picked up from her house and booked under Section 151 CrPC. When Medha and others on Sunday the 4th had gone to pay their condolences to the family of Aradhana, they were first detained inside the house of Aradhana and later picked up at 10.30 pm and sent into the Jail of Chhidwara. It is learnt that probably they too have been arrested under section 151 of the CrPC.

Sir,

We are shocked at the paranoid manner in which the MP Government through its District Collector Mahesh Chaudhary and SP Purshottam are behaving. They are not even allowing lawyers to meet their clients. This misuse of the law and illegal detention of senior activists in completely is completely unacceptable. This action of the Administration and the police violates fundamental rights of Indian citizen guaranteed by the Article 19 and 21 of the constitution.

Now that Dr Sunilam (ex MLA) and leader of the present struggle against the Adani Peench Power Plant coming up in Chhindwara has been put behind bars for the 14 year old Multai Firing case, the Government of MP, the Administration and the Police want to speed up the process of eviction of the people who are living in the area where the Government plans to have the Peench Water Diversion Project and Power Plant. So anybody even remotely connected going into the area they feel will be a morale booster to the farmers who do not wish to be evicted and therefore arresting them.     .

We would like you to immediately intervene and ensure the release of Medha the 21 other activists and Aradhana today itself and take action against the SP and the Collector against this arbitrary action

With regards,


Kavita Srivastava
(PUCL, National Secretary)

email: kavisriv@gmail.com, kavita.pucl@gmail.com, puclnat@gmailcom
09351562965, 0141-2594131

PEOPLE'S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
270-A, Patpar Ganj, Opposite Anand Lok Apartments (Gate No. 2), Mayur Vihar-I, Delhi 110 091
Phone: (011) 2275 0014        PP FAX: (011) 4215 1459



And now for the verdict

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

The costliest, dirtiest and most suspenseful presidential election in America’s history enters the final phase today with voters going to booths to record their preference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who are virtually tied in last-minute opinion surveys.

As votes are cast they will be tabulated electronically and, relying upon voting figures and exit poll reports, the media will announce the verdict of each state as it becomes available and proclaim the winner as soon as one of the two candidates bags enough electoral votes to clinch the issue.

The channels and the news agencies have agreed not to project the winner until poll closing time but who occupies the White House for the next four years will be known late tonight — early tomorrow in this part of the world — unless electoral glitches hold up the process, as happened in 2000 when the outcome remained a matter of speculation for weeks as first a Florida court and then the Supreme Court considered a demand for recount of doubtful votes cast in that state. Law permits citizens to vote by e-mail or fax before the polling day. Both Democrats and Republicans had urged supporters to vote early but superstorm Sandy dashed hopes of a 40 per cent early vote target. Sandy probably did Obama a good turn by providing an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership qualities.

Americans do not elect the President directly. Formal choice of the President is the prerogative of an electoral college. Its 538 members will assemble in their respective states on Dec. 17 to vote. The seats in the college are distributed among the states in proportion to their population. The quotas fixed on the basis of the 2010 census give California the largest number of 55 seats, followed by Texas with 38 and New York and Florida with 29 each. At the bottom are the District of Columbia, where the national capital is situated, and seven small states, each of which has three seats.

Custom or rules require the electors of a state to cast their vote for the candidate who secures a majority of the popular votes in that state. In 2008, breaking tradition, one of Nebraska’s five electors voted for Obama, although his Republican rival had secured more popular votes there. The system, designed to leverage the small states, leaves room for divergence between the popular vote and the electoral college verdict. In 2000, Democratic candidate Al Gore won a majority of the popular votes but lost to Republican George W Bush who got more electoral votes than him. Some analysts say there may be an inverse repetition of it this time with Romney getting more popular votes but losing to Obama who manages an electoral majority.

A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. With 237 votes believed to be already in Obama’s kitty and 206 in Romney’s, the two men spent the last days of the campaign, which Sandy had interrupted, flitting in and out of the swing states which hold the remaining 95. Obama ignored the incorrigibly Republican state of Utah and Romney avoided the obstinately Democratic Rhode Island.

Visions of repetition of 2000 have prompted the parties to assemble teams of lawyers to take the battle to court if the voting figures are too close. Benjamin Ginsberg, who fought the Republican Party’s successful 2008 battle, and Robert Bauer, who led the Democratic Party’s fight against some poll-eve rule changes disadvantageous to it, head the teams.

Although the world’s attention is focused on the presidential race, the current exercise also involves the election of a large number of others, including Senators, Congressmen, Governors and local officials.

A Washington-based group tracking poll spending has said this year’s total expenses exceed $6 billion, a new record. Nearly half of it were expenses connected with the presidential contest.

Both the parties resorted to negative advertising. The Republicans were said to have spread false reports to deflect possible Democratic votes of minority groups.

In 2008 Americans had risen above ingrained racial prejudices and elected Obama, son of a black African Muslim father and a white American mother, to the highest office. This time Republican campaigners used video recording of a speech he had delivered at a black college in 2007 to paint him as an anti-white racist. In the speech he had said the white majority was profiting by exploiting black Americans.-- Gulf Today, Sharjah, November 6, 2012.