Kal Penn sent an open letter to two undeclared superdelegates urging them to cast their votes for presidential candidate Barack Obama. Penn is not the first big name to contact law student Lauren Wolfe and college senior Awais Khaleel, who are the President and Vice President of the College Democrats of America. On their way to the dining hall or grocery store, student superdelegates field calls from the likes of Bill Clinton and John Kerry (JS). Milwaukee-born Khaleel, of Muslim Indian background, received the Sproul treatment in The Wall Street Journal and had coffee with Chelsea Clinton. He, like Wolfe, plans to stay neutral, working with the College Dems to improve voter turnout.
Penn, who has been campaigning for Obama since late last year, was respectful of their neutral stance, but urged the two undeclared superdelegates that now is the time to pledge their support. “Perhaps three weeks ago was not the right time to pledge. But neither is three weeks from now. Your failure to pledge now risks returning those passionate, first-time voters to a political landscape of the same old games that caused them to maintain such distance from the Democratic Party before.”
In the video clip below Khaleel and Wolfe ask college students to tell them how to cast their votes. “Guess who might decide the leader of the free world?” Khaleel asks. “Me!”
Enthusiastic in his support of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul, Google software engineer Vijay Boyapati flew down this past summer from Seattle to see Ron Paul speak live at his employer’s Mountain View, California, headquarters. (Vijay makes his appearance at 42:31, clad in Paul t-shirt and cap and and mentions that his check for Paul would be blank if it wasn’t for Uncle Sam’s restrictions.)
Boyapati’s support didn’t stop with the $2,300 check he wrote for Ron Paul that day. The 29-year-old left his employer a couple weeks ago to move to New Hampshire and work as a full-time volunteer. He created “Operation Live Free or Die” an online initiative to help canvass for Paul that is now seeking 1000 volunteers to come to the state. “I can’t express how excited I am to finally travel to New Hampshire and begin helping Ron Paul’s grassroots movement win the most important primary in the coming Presidential election,” wrote Boyapati on the site’s blog in a post entitled “New Hampshire or bust!”.
Australia-born Boyapati has lived in the U.S. for seven years and recently became a citizen. In a video interview he talks about Paul’s anti-war stance, respect for the Constitution and message of liberty (I think that last part is campaign-speak for limited government), among other things that drew him to the candidate.
Former Google Employee Engineers NH Ground Campaign For Ron Paul
2006 profile of Boyapati from his alma mater ANU
The Washington Post reports that recent college graduate S.R. Sidarth is “now a paid staff member in the communications office of Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson. He works in the New Mexico governor’s Santa Fe office compiling newspaper articles, drafting news releases and performing other communications tasks.” Presumably these other communication tasks include blogging in Spanish at RichardsonForPresident.com.
Shekar Ramanuja Sidarth was the man of the moment of the so-called Macaca-gate scandal, in which Virginia Senator George Allen, up for reelection, saw his standing plummet after using a word believed to be an ethnic slur to refer to Sidarth, who was recording the speech for Allen’s opponent. The video received over 350,000 views on the web and the ramifications of the scandal with Sidarth at its center were potentially far-reaching, as Allen’s election loss shifted control in the Senate to the Democrats.
Vogue’s Age Issue (August) interviewed political insider Huma Abedin as a fashion exemplar in her 30s and offered a peek at the contents of her closet, suitcase and BlackBerry. The piece adds to the mystique surrounding Abedin, who was profiled this spring in The New York Observer‘s “Hillary’s Mystery Woman: Who is Huma?”, while placing her stage-center in two red dresses, a Vera Wang and an Oscar de la Renta. De la Renta often hosts Abedin and her employer Hillary Clinton at his Dominican Republic vacation home and, as he told the Observer, does not “want to die without seeing [Huma] in a strapless dress.”
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, into a “very traditional family” with a Pakistani mother and an Indian father, Abedin moved at age 2 with her family to Saudi Arabia where her father started an institute devoted to religious understanding and her mother helped create a private women’s college. With aspirations to become the next Christiane Amanpour, Abedin made her way as an intern to the White House in 1996, hoping to be placed in the press office. An assignment to the First Lady’s office hooked her to Hillary’s rising star, where she now plays an integral role in the presidential hopeful’s daily campaign schedule.
“I’m not sure Hillary could walk out the door without Huma.”—Mandy Grunwald, Clinton advisor.
“Huma does make the trains run on time.”—Bob Barnett, the Clinton’s longtime personal lawyer.
“I don’t know if it’s a chicken-or-the-egg thing—Hillary affecting Huma or the other way around—but together they work.”—Mary Steenburgen, longtime Hillary friend and actress.
Previously: “Hillary Brings Tanden On Board For ’08”
Earlier this week the Washington Post offered four opinion articles featuring perspectives on America from Muslim writers, including “Why Do They Hate Us?” from Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Moth Smoke. Being born in Pakistan, raised in the States from age 3 to 9, going back to Pakistan and returning to the States for his college and graduate education, in addition to working in NYC provides him with a “textured” view of the U.S. and its foreign policy.
While the main topic is Hamid’s diagnosis of and advice for dealing with anti-Americanism, the piece also offers a glimpse at his own identification as partly “they” and “us.” The encounter he describes in a Dallas bookstore—an elderly gentleman with Hamid’s book in hand points to the man on the cover and asks, “So tell me, sir. Why do they hate us?”—may be seen in contrast to a typical reaction he noted receiving after the publication of his second novel, a work focused on an extended encounter between a Pakistani man who tells his story to an American stranger in a Pakistani cafe: “People often ask me if I am the book’s Pakistani protagonist. I wonder why they never ask if I am his American listener.”
I wish I could say that I first heard about Malalai Joya, the bravest, youngest and first female member of Afghanistan’s parliament in the course of keeping up with international news or listening to current events on the radio, but the truth is she was the footnote in a coffee klatch-style video book club interview with Khaled Hosseini that I clicked through to from a Borders bookstore mass email. Over bundt cake in the kitchen with adoring fans of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini gave props to Joya for speaking out about crimes against girls and women in Afghanistan.
Her colleagues in the Afghan parliament do not share his admiration for her outspokenness. Earlier this week, they voted to suspend her for criticizing them in violation of article 70, a procedural rule that has not been enforced against other members despite their regular criticism of each other. What did she say? BBC reports: “A stable is better, for there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk.” “The parliament is worse than a stable.” Human Rights Watch is calling for her reinstatement.
Joya, 28, famously spoke out in 2003, when as an elected delegate to Afghanistan’s constitutional convention, she objected to the domination of the proceedings by mujahideen. “Why have you again selected as committee chairmen those criminals who have brought these disasters for Afghan people?” Read the rest of this entry »
**NBC may be turning its hit sitcom The Office into an hour-long show, according to Fortune magazine (source). Mindy Kaling writes for the show (she also plays the character Kelly Kapoor). Read about her and other desi American scriptwriters here.
**SCOTLAND has just welcomed its first-ever parliament member of South Asian descent. Bashir Ahmad made history earlier today, becoming a Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Mohammad Asghar also entered the history books this week, when he was elected to the Welsh Assembly—the first time a desi representative has won the vote. Ashgar, a Peshawar-born accountant, was described as being “overcome with emotion” over the announcement. “I will be serving with my heart and soul for the ethnic minorities which are an integral part of the United Kingdom and Wales,” said Ashgar who is called “Oscar” by fellow Party-members (Oscar? Really?).
**IRFAN KHAN impressed movie-goers with his performance in The Namesake. Now he’s back in A Mighty Heart, a new film based on the true story of the late WSJ journo Daniel Pearl and his wife Mariane. Khan plays a police officer in the movie, which also stars Angelina Jolie and the UK’s Archie Panjabi.
The film was shot in Pune, India. The trailer premiered on The Today Show yesterday. Watch it here and tell us what you think:
Yesterday’s Worldview on Chicago Public Radio aired a segment discussing last week’s race riots in Uganda. The unrest was sparked by the government’s decision to give away part of the historic Mabira forest reserve to an Indian-owned sugar company, and violence escalated to the point where an Indian man was killed in a mob lynching. In the piece, Ugandan journalist Kisuule Magala discusses the tempestuous history of South Asian Ugandans and the complicated politics of land ownership.
I know Nirali has quite a robust overseas readership … any Ugandan readers care to comment on the situation?
Racial bullying victim-turned Celebrity Big Brother-victor Shilpa Shetty met the Queen of England yesterday at a Westminster Abbey “diversity” celebration in honor of Commonwealth Day.
“In today’s difficult and sometimes divided world, I believe that it is more important than ever to keep trying to respect and understand each other better,” said the Queen.
Shetty delivered a speech to a crowd of 2,000 about the “her experiences of tolerance” during the taping of the reality show. “In India, in the UK, and the world over we are constantly reminded that we have to cope with difference on a daily basis, ” she said.