Mumbai social worker ShreeGauri Sawant becomes the first transgender election ambassador

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In a groundbreaking move, the Election Commission of India (EC) appointed ShreeGauri Sawant, abased 38-year-old transgender activist as one of the 12 election ambassadors from the state.It’s the first time that a transgender has been appointed as an election ambassador in India. While speaking to Mirror, ShreeGauri said, “I felt relieved to know that I was appointed as one of the election ambassadors for the general elections. Casting a vote is a not just an individual’s constitutional right but a social responsibility. It is important that every citizen who’s eligible to vote must do it responsibly. Along with my members of Sakhi Char Chowghi, we help people cast their vote at the polling booths across the city during every election. EC’s decision for the Lok Sabha possibly has given me an added responsibility.““Polling days are holidays for housewives. But I want to ensure that each one of them go and vote; not just housewives but also women who are into sex work and every transgender in this country. They’ve equal rights to have their say in the government they wish for. I got appointed for my work and not my gender,” she adds.Born as Ganesh Suresh Sawant, she moved out of her Pune house and shifted to Mumbai. After years of extensive struggle, ShreeGauri formed an NGO named ‘Sakhi Char Chowghi’ to provide health care services and create sexual awareness amongst transgender and the MSM community.In an another progressive move, in 2001 she adopted a daughter of a sex worker who passed away while fighting HIV.The Supreme Court (SC) passed the NALSA judgement in 2013 and the state government is yet to form a welfare board for the transgender community. ShreeGauri is hopeful and believes that this is an opportunity for her to bring a change and uplift society.Maharashtra will vote in four phases. Read the complete schedule here

Smarty Party

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For the Templeton salon, which was hosted in June, she gathered doctors, journalists, venture capitalists and academics in her New York City home to discuss the human microbiome over mezcal cocktails and lamb meatballs. “The ages ranged from 20s to 90s,” she said.

R.M. Michaële Antoine, 33, lives in San Diego and runs a company named Curios that performs communication training for businesses. She started hosting salons during the pandemic, first virtually and then in person, about topics including sex education (she had people write down a safe word on their name tags as an icebreaker) and salaries (or, why we are so hesitant to talk about money).

“I think these conversations have to be intentional. You can’t just get people together and give them food and see if they talk about something interesting,” she said. “People are craving a real conversation after a time of isolation and death and confusion. I think people want to be reminded of their humanity and one of the best ways to do that is through a real conversation.”

“There is nothing like the buzzy feeling you get when you have a deep, thoughtful, intentional conversation,” she added.

Ziv Shafir, 36, a health care lawyer and strategy consultant, moved to Los Angeles during the pandemic, and started hosting weekly salons at his home to make like-minded friends and expand his community. (These events have been held outside, with guests who have all been vaccinated.) He decided to theme them around psychedelics, a class of drugs that he said helped him battle depression in the past and which have compounds that are being studied for a range of mental health problems.

He invited friends and friends of friends to sit around his dining room table and formally discuss topics from the business of psychedelics to their health benefits. “It loses its intrigue if it is something posted on Eventbrite,” he said. “It has to be a bit of an insider community.” He serves gnocchi with pesto sauce or dates filled with cashew butter and éclairs and puts out wine for those who want it.

POLITICO Playbook: Biden’s stubborn streak paved the way for havoc in Afghanistan

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POLITICO Playbook: Biden’s stubborn streak paved the way for havoc in Afghanistan Presented by

President Joe Biden and his team have often been praised for their discipline and refusal to allow what they see as ankle-biting critics in the media to throw them off course. | Alex Wong/Getty Images



— Bloomberg: “Chaotic Scenes Grip Kabul’s Airport, With Reports of Deaths”: “Desperate scenes played out at Kabul’s international airport on Monday as thousands rushed to exit Afghanistan after Taliban fighters took control of the capital, with Reuters reporting at least five people were killed as people tried to forcibly enter planes leaving the country.

“Citing witnesses, Reuters said it wasn’t clear whether the victims died of gunshots or in a stampede at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Earlier it reported that U.S. forces fired in the air to prevent thousands of citizens from running onto the tarmac, the last remaining area under American control. Afghanistan’s aviation authority suspended flights out of the country and asked people not to rush to the airport.” More from Reuters … One ‘insane’ scene, via Middle East Eye’s Ragıp Soylu

HOURS EARLIER — The Taliban took Kabul, occupied the presidential palace, and declared that “the war is over.” President ASHRAF GHANI left the country, while westerners and their Afghan partners are desperately trying to flee.

— Biden authorized another 1,000 troops to Kabul, bringing the total to 6,000.

— The State Department and Pentagon announced they were “completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights” and that the United States “will be taking over air traffic control.”

— A joint statement from the U.S. and dozens of allies warned the Taliban not to interfere with the evacuation effort.

— The U.S. Embassy in Kabul advised Americans there to “shelter in place.”

— AP: “Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators on a briefing call Sunday that U.S. officials are expected to alter their earlier assessments about the pace of terrorist groups reconstituting in Afghanistan” because “officials believe terror groups like al-Qaida may be able to grow much faster than expected.”

UNDERSTANDING BIDEN AND AFGHANISTAN: We have rarely seen a statement from President JOE BIDEN like the one he released on Saturday. It was almost Trump-like in its lack of diplomatic niceties, its casting blame on his predecessor and his refusal to give any quarter to critics who say he bungled the withdrawal. This follows comments in July when Biden mocked the idea that the Taliban could take over the country quickly — “highly unlikely,” he said — and bragged about the Afghan military’s superiority.

Biden and his team have often been praised for their discipline and refusal to allow what they see as ankle-biting critics in the media to throw them off course. That has often served Biden well. But now we see the flip side of those traits.

Last Tuesday at the White House, when Biden was in a celebratory mood after the Senate vote on infrastructure, he took a moment to remind the assembled reporters of all the times the media had proclaimed the bill dead.

“I know a lot of people — some sitting in the audience here — didn’t think this could happen,” he said. “This bill was declared dead more often than …” Then he trailed off and ended the thought with an “anyway” in the manner he does in recent years when he thinks he’ll be accused of going on too long.

Later, he admitted that he took time out of one of the most important days of his presidency to review a list of reporters who doubted him. “I was just reading about 50 statements from very serious press people about how I — my whole plan was ‘dead’ from the beginning,” he said.

Every biography or deep profile of Biden emphasizes his stubbornness, the chip on his shoulder, his lifelong desire to prove doubters wrong — whether it was overcoming a stutter, or demonstrating his intellectual bona fides or entering political contests the experts said he couldn’t win. He ran for president more times than anyone who ended up making it to the White House. During the 2020 Democratic primaries he was belittled by the party’s top strategists until he proved them all wrong with a come-from-behind victory that inculcated in him and his team a sense of superiority and an appetite for I-told-you-so moments (e.g. that list of 50 statements that someone in the White House actually took the time to compile and share with the president, who they must have known would appreciate it.)

This is what the right gets wrong about Biden. Many conservatives see Biden’s Afghanistan blunder as evidence of a president who is detached and a plaything of his strongest advisers. Nothing could be further from the truth. In all of our reporting about Biden’s presidential style, the evidence is stronger that he’s a micro-manager, someone who was immersed in the details of the infrastructure bill, who wanted every decision brought into the Oval Office for his approval. On the Afghanistan pullout, he overruled his top military advisers and ignored the near-unanimous view of the Washington foreign policy establishment.

It wasn’t a new position. While Biden championed nation building in Afghanistan in the early years of the war, he had turned against it long ago, as George Packer reported in The Atlantic earlier this year:

“By the time Biden became vice president in 2009, the disastrous war in Iraq, the endemic corruption of the Afghan government, and the return of the Taliban had made him a deep skeptic of the American commitment. He became the Obama administration’s strongest voice for getting out of Afghanistan. In 2010, he told RICHARD HOLBROOKE, Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, that the U.S. had to leave Afghanistan regardless of the consequences for women or anyone else. According to Holbrooke’s diary, when he asked about American obligations to Afghans like the girl in the Kabul school, Biden replied with a history lesson from the final U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia in 1973: ‘Fuck that, we don’t have to worry about that. We did it in Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger got away with it.’”

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THE VIEW FROM THE WEST WING: We don’t pretend to know whether Biden was right or wrong about the long-term impact of the fall of Kabul. But we’ve seen dramatic foreign policy events burn brightly and then fade from the political debate just as quickly. On the big question of the drawdown, the White House has no regrets. “Events of the past few days have just reconfirmed that the POTUS decision to leave was right,” a senior official told us last night. “Can’t ask Americans to fight a civil war that the Afghan army refuses to fight.”

On the question of whether the bungled evacuation effort can be salvaged, we see an administration quickly pivoting to fix the problem. “Now we have to do the mission of securing the airport and get our people and allies and Afghan helpers out,” the official said. Now that the airport has been secured, this official said they could move 5,000 people a day out of the country and finish the job in a matter of “days hopefully.”

Will this be a presidency-defining debacle that we are talking about for years to come? Or will it disappear from the front pages? The answer may depend on the success or failure of the currently chaotic American evacuation effort — and how the Taliban respond to it.

On that note, this is a sobering quote from the WSJ: “‘We are not at the worst point yet,’ said CARTER MALKASIAN, the author of a comprehensive history of the Afghan conflict who served as an adviser to former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. JOE DUNFORD. ‘Now that the Taliban are moving into Kabul and overturning the democratic government we have been supporting for 20 years, it is highly likely they will seek to punish, and perhaps even execute, the Afghans who worked with us.’”

More from Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago: “‘Clearly botched’: Biden White House under assault on Afghanistan drawdown”

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While team Biden is often unflappable in the face of bad news, the AP reports that the president “and other top U.S. officials were stunned on Sunday by the pace of the Taliban’s nearly complete takeover of Afghanistan.”

WaPo’s Anne Gearan and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. see POTUS’ statements about the situation as evidence of “an increasingly defiant and defensive tone from Biden and his aides amid criticism that Biden is condemning a U.S. partner to brutal rule by Islamist fundamentalists and opening the door to new terrorist threats.”

NYT’s David Sanger on Biden’s turn from domestic policy competence to foreign policy confusion: “Mr. Biden will go down in history, fairly or unfairly, as the president who presided over a long-brewing, humiliating final act in the American experiment in Afghanistan. After seven months in which his administration seemed to exude much-needed competence — getting more than 70 percent of the country’s adults vaccinated, engineering surging job growth and making progress toward a bipartisan infrastructure bill — everything about America’s last days in Afghanistan shattered the imagery.”

THE EVACUATION: “Rushed Evacuation in Kabul Highlights Disconnect in Washington,” by NYT’s Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes

— “‘Saigon on Steroids’: The Desperate Rush to Flee Afghanistan,” by WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov, Dion Nissenbaum and Margherita Stancati: “The lucky few were already inside, crowded onto the last patch of government territory that hadn’t fallen to the Taliban. Outside, as thousands of civilians surged to break through the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport, security forces fired gunshots into the air to force them back. …

“Inside the terminal, Afghans with small children sat dazed next to European special-forces operators with their sniper rifles and high-tech helmets equipped with night vision and infrared tags. Outside, the engines of helicopters and transport planes provided a steady, almost lulling, hum. Once in [a] while, groups of evacuees—the staff of the Indian embassy, or Bulgarian security contractors—donned helmets and body armor and set off toward their plane.”

Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

BIDEN’S MONDAY: The president is at Camp David and will receive the President’s Daily Brief there.



PHOTO OF THE DAY: Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday, Aug. 15. | Zabi Karimi/AP Photo


MODERATES NOT MOLLIFIED, via WSJ’s Eliza Collins and Kristina Peterson: “Passage of such a rule [to tie the infrastructure bill to the budget resolution] is expected to move the infrastructure bill forward procedurally, but not pass it, according to an aide to [Speaker NANCY] PELOSI. … But in a statement Sunday night, the nine centrist House Democrats indicated Mrs. Pelosi’s suggestion didn’t go far enough and they wanted to see the infrastructure bill passed before voting on the budget framework.

“‘While we appreciate the forward procedural movement on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, our view remains consistent: We should vote first on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework without delay and then move to immediate consideration of the budget resolution,’ the nine Democrats said in the joint statement.”

— More from Bloomberg’s Billy House and Emily Wilkins: “House Democrats scheduled a caucus call for Tuesday at noon as they seek to resolve differences over the path forward and the sequencing of Biden’s two-track approach.”


PRESSURE BUILDS ON TARIFFS — “Corporate America grows impatient on Biden’s China trade review,” by Gavin Bade: “Nearly eight months into his presidency, America’s largest corporations are voicing frustration that Biden has not rolled back any of former President Donald Trump’s major tariffs, particularly the duties on $350 billion worth of Chinese imports.

“Other than announcing a top-to-bottom China review in January, Biden’s administration has given little indication how it will handle trade issues with its chief global rival. That has corporations leaning on Congress to pass relief on tariffs and trade restrictions this fall. … ‘If the Biden administration wants to make the case that they have a different approach, it’s time to lay out the strategy they have promised,’ said ANNA ASHTON, vice president at the U.S.-China Business Council, which represents more than 250 corporations that do business in both countries.”


A SEA CHANGE IN THE GOP — “The GOP waves the white flag on the gay marriage wars,” by Meridith McGraw: “To mark the beginning of Pride Month this year, Republican National Committee chairwoman RONNA MCDANIEL did what party leaders do on these types of occasions: She sent out a tweet. ‘Happy #PrideMonth!’ she wrote, ‘@GOP is proud to have doubled our LGBTQ support over the last 4 years, and we will continue to grow our big tent by supporting measures that promote fairness and balance protections for LGBTQ Americans and those with deeply held religious beliefs.’

“Inside the RNC, the missive barely registered. … But outside the building, those 265 characters prompted immediate backlash. Not just from Democrats, who accused her of disingenuousness, but from social conservatives too who furiously dialed up McDaniel with complaints. …

“McDaniel’s willingness to brush aside complaints would have been unthinkable not too long ago, Republicans say. The evangelical right remains the most committed part of the party and the Family Research Council leader is among its most powerful figures. But the GOP has, in recent years, undergone a quiet but consequential evolution: Party leaders still exhibit strong opposition to transgender rights, and oppose the top legislative priorities of the LGBTQ community. But on the most prominent battlefield of the past few decades, same-sex marriage, they’ve all but conceded defeat.”

2022 WATCH — “The next big existential fight for Democrats? Pennsylvania,” by NBC’s Henry Gomez, on the road with CONOR LAMB in Coudersport: “What it means to be a Democrat in Pennsylvania is, really, the question of next year’s Senate primary. … The Democrats who attended Lamb’s kickoff events tended to view him and [Lt. Gov. JOHN] FETTERMAN as the front-runners. Fetterman signaled this, too.”

RECALL ME MAYBE — “California recall campaign hits high gear as Newsom tries to rally Democratic base,” by the L.A. Times’ John Myers, Esmeralda Bermudez, Faith Pinho and Julia Wick: “With voters beginning to receive ballots and election day less than a month away, California’s historic recall campaign kicked into high gear with Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM rallying the crucial labor and Latino vote and his Republican challengers stepping up their attacks.

“The ground campaign is expected to be crucial in the coming weeks, with Democrats acknowledging they need a big turnout in the special election to blunt motivated Republicans.”

A WIN FOR GREG ABBOTT — “Texas Supreme Court blocks local mask mandates,” San Antonio Express-News: “The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court on Sunday temporarily revived Gov. GREG ABBOTT’s ban on local mask mandates, thwarting attempts by officials in Dallas and Bexar counties to implement COVID-19 restrictions as virus patients strain hospitals. The justices granted Abbott’s request for an emergency stay that blocks lower court decisions allowing officials in those counties to require masks in schools or indoor spaces.”

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Kamal Bell, Founder of Sankofa Farms


BIG NEWS FOR LOW-INCOME AMERICANS — “Biden Administration Prompts Largest Permanent Increase in Food Stamps,” by NYT’s Jason DeParle: “The Biden administration has revised the nutrition standards of the food stamp program and prompted the largest permanent increase to benefits in the program’s history, a move that will give poor people more power to fill their grocery carts but add billions of dollars to the cost of a program that feeds one in eight Americans.

“Under rules to be announced on Monday and put in place in October, average benefits will rise more than 25 percent from prepandemic levels. All 42 million people in the program will receive additional aid. The move does not require congressional approval, and unlike the large pandemic-era expansions, which are starting to expire, the changes are intended to last.”

CLIMATE FILES — “Cost to Bury Carbon Near Tipping Point as Emissions Price Soars,” by Bloomberg Green’s Rachel Morison and Samuel Etienne: “With carbon more than doubling in the past year and prices set to reach 100 euros ($118) as soon as the middle of this decade, capture technology finally is going mainstream as governments push to reach net zero.”

KNOWING TORI COOPER — “Meet Tori Cooper, the 1st Black trans woman on the presidential HIV council,” by NBC’s Jo Yurcaba: “Cooper said one of her priorities as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS is ‘to be a voice for trans people.’”


THREAT LEVEL — “Homeland Security Considers Outside Firms to Analyze Social Media After Jan. 6 Failure,” by WSJ’s Rachael Levy: “The effort, which remains under discussion and hasn’t received approval or funding, would involve sifting through large flows of internet traffic to help identify online narratives that might provide leads on developing attacks, whether from home or abroad. …

“JOHN COHEN, a top DHS official, is spearheading the project, which he describes as part of an upgrade to the department’s capabilities in social-media analysis. … Mr. Cohen’s push has sparked internal debates in DHS and elsewhere in the Biden administration over longstanding tensions between civil liberties and security efforts. Some officials in the agency and the White House worry about governmental overreach.”


BOOK CLUB — “In Backlash to Racial Reckoning, Conservative Publishers See Gold,” by NYT’s Elizabeth Harris: “‘Blackout,’ by the right-wing media personality CANDACE OWENS, has sold 480,000 copies across formats since it was published last fall … ‘American Marxism,’ by the best-selling author MARK R. LEVIN, which devotes a chapter to critical race theory, sold 400,000 books in just its first week on the market last month. …

“There are still a lot more books exploring race in America from the left than from the right. … But publishing moves slowly, and widespread outrage over critical race theory is relatively new. … So far, conservative independent presses generally haven’t been able to compete in terms of advances they can offer authors. What they offer instead is sometimes a profit-sharing model, along with an assurance that a book won’t be canceled because of outrage on Twitter or among publisher staff.”

BEN SMITH’S NYT COLUMN — “You’ve Never Heard of the Biggest Digital Media Company in America,” with an Indian Land, S.C., dateline: “Red Ventures, which started as a digital marketing company, has attracted serious investments from private equity firms. Its location has helped obscure what is perhaps the biggest digital publisher in America, a 4,500-employee juggernaut that says it has roughly $2 billion in annual revenues, a conservative valuation earlier this year of more than $11 billion, and more readers, as measured by Comscore, than any media brand you’ve ever heard of — an average of 751 million visits a month. …

“I felt as if I were back in the Ping-Pong days of Silicon Valley in the early 2000s. Red Ventures has built a culture that blends warm enthusiasm, progressive social values and the ruthless performance metrics of the direct marketing business. The company found itself in the publishing business almost by accident, and is now leading a shift in that industry toward what is sometimes called ‘intent-based media’ — a term for specialist sites that attract people who are already looking to spend money in a particular area (travel, tech, health) and guide them to their purchases, while taking a cut.”


STAFFING UP — Charles Shaw is now director of legislative affairs at FEMA. He most recently was counsel for the House Homeland Security emergency preparedness subcommittee.

TRANSITIONS — Gaby Hurt is now press secretary for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). She most recently was press secretary for the House Foreign Affairs GOP, and is a Trump White House and Marco Rubio alum. … Ashley Gunn is now a public policy manager for legislative affairs at Coinbase. She previously was senior adviser for Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.). … Sarah Monte and Amanda Qualls have launched Amethyst Operations, a boutique operations consultancy. Monte most recently was systems director for Biden’s inaugural committee and is a Biden and Pete Buttigieg campaign alum. Qualls previously was national human resources director for the Buttigieg campaign.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) … Business Roundtable’s Josh Bolten … Jen Cytryn … Michael Grunwald … Ramesh Ponnuru … Jack Quinn of Manatt … Voter Participation Center’s Tom Lopach … Lisa Graves … Erin Casey French … Axios’ Danielle Jones …’ Chris Golden … Dave DenHerder … Steve Abbott … Neil McKiernan … Tom Anfinson (8-0) … Rick Chessen … Adam Hersh … Karly Moen … Michael K. Lavers … Seth Colton … Jane Elizabeth … Jerry Hagstrom of the Hagstrom Report/National Journal … Justin (JP) Griffin … Stacey Daniels … Options Clearing Corporation’s Jim Hall … Sol Levine … Ben Brody … Edelman’s Tyson Greaves … Grant Rumley … Ellen Weissfeld … Marshall Cohen … former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) … Steve Demby … Matt Silverstein … former Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Dick Zimmer (R-N.J.), Rick Berg (R-N.D.) and Gary Myers (R-Pa.) … Tricia Moffatt … Matt Spence … Dean Thompson … Meg Sullivan … Abe Adams of Targeted Victory … POLITICO’s Dominick Pierre

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