Posts Tagged ‘New York’

New Delhi: Since the shock announcement on August 4 that India’s most powerful politician Sonia Gandhi was to undergo surgery in the US, barely a word has leaked out about her health.

The silence in most of the Indian media about the 64-year-old’s condition and the refusal of the ruling Congress Party to divulge information has raised some uncomfortable questions about transparency in the world’s biggest democracy.

The independence of the media and the country’s openness – it passed a Right to Information Act in 2005 – are a source of national pride, often contrasted with conditions in secretive regimes elsewhere in South Asia.

“I was really shocked to see in regular Congress Party briefings, the media present there did not seek information, did not demand information,” the editor of the Business Standard newspaper Sanjaya Baru says.

“We have had silence from the media… There is nothing about Mrs Gandhi’s health and she’s the most important politician in the country,” he said during a debate on the CNN-IBN news channel.

The Business Standard has been the most aggressive of the Indian newspapers – it demanded answers in an editorial – and Baru believes they are entitled to information.

On India’s boisterous cable news channels, which are normally quick to pressure and criticise the government, Gandhi has featured rarely, with news and debates focused on corruption or the national cricket team’s recent defeats.

Gandhi is the widow of assassinated former premier Rajiv Gandhi and wields enormous clout from her power-broking position as Congress Party president and coalition chairperson.
Since she was admitted to hospital, aides to the leader have confirmed she spent 24 hours in intensive care and was recovering from successful surgery at an undisclosed location, believed to be New York.

The government has argued that further disclosures would be made by the famously media-shy political boss if she desired.

“Only that much information would be shared which they would want to share,” Information Minister Ambika Soni said last week.

Speaking on Monday, Gandhi’s politician son Rahul, who has been left jointly in control during his mother’s convalescence, told journalists that “she is much better” without elaborating.
In the absence of concrete information about the woman who heads the ruling party and chairs the ruling coalition, speculation has been rife on social networks.

A few anonymously sourced news reports have attempted to fill the void.

The investigative current affairs magazine Tehelka reported that Gandhi was operated on at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, while the Deccan Herald newspaper said she had undergone surgery for cervical cancer.

“When you are in the public domain… you cannot claim the benefits of privacy of the private citizen,” the editor of The Hindu newspaper, Siddharth Varadarajan, told CNN-IBN.

“I think it is something that people have the right to know. What we have heard so far is wholly inadequate.”

Others have suggested that the cosy relationships between top journalists and politicians in India means the Congress Party has been able to impose a code of silence among senior editors.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a political analyst and journalist, said he believed the Indian media had done their best to cover the story, but were being wrongly starved of information.

“Do public figures have a right to private lives? Most journalists believe they do,” he said. “But as soon as your personal life in whatever way starts impinging on your public life then everyone has a right to know.”

He contrasted the handling of Gandhi’s problems to those of 78-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who underwent a highly publicised heart bypass operation in 2009 which was fully disclosed.

Singh, a diabetic, had previously undergone surgery for prostate cancer.

“Everybody speculates. Nobody has the foggiest idea,” Thakurta said of Gandhi’s condition.

(Source: AFP)

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Remarkable Photographs

The New York Public Library has recently unveiled some extraordinary pictures of the Statue of Liberty under construction. Take a trip back in time and see extraordinary behind the scenes images of the creation of this superlative structure.

1
A giant is formed. The sheer scale of the statue under construction can be seen here, in contrast to the workmen posing woodenly for that fairly new invention, the camera.. The more formal name for the statue is Liberty Enlightening the World and it is constructed with sheets of pure copper, even though the picture makes it look something like marble.. It is something of a miracle that we now have the finished product standing proudly on Liberty Island. Had it not been for the contributions of ordinary French and Americans then she would never have arisen in the first instance.

2Such is the immensity of the statue one can only wonder whether or not the workmen pictured above had any idea which part of the statue they were working on at any one time. The photographer Albert Fernique, who captured these pictures around 1883, must have been in a certain awe at the immensity of the statue and his images capture its sheer scale and size beautifully. The French had decided to give the United States of America something for their centennial independence celebrations that the Americans and the world would never forget. The process of building was painstaking, slow and fraught with financial difficulties. The copper ?shell’ was only what the public would see. What lies beneath – both in terms of its structure and the story behind its *****ion – is almost as startling
At the time France was in political turmoil and, although at the time under their third republic, many people looked back at the time of Napoleon and the monarchy before that with fondness and wanted its return. The desire for a backwards step to authoritarianism was worrying. French politicians – as wily then as now – saw Lady Liberty as a way, albeit phenomenally huge, to focus the public’s imagination on republicanism as the best way forward. The USA and its centennial of independence from the yolk of England was the perfect focus.

31The plaster surface of the left arm and its hand take shape, the skeleton underneath revealed. As there is a deal of work under the carapace, so the French politicians had ulterior motives. Using the USA – which many saw as the ideal of government and populist aspirational politics – the French used the statue as a Trojan Horse in reverse, as it were. Its true purpose, in the eyes of the political gift givers, was to make republicanism the center of political ideology in the minds of the people. How greatly it succeeded can never fully be quantified but the French cannot be faulted for thinking big. It must be said here that the ordinary French, through their substantial buying of lottery tickets (and other fundraising efforts) had a much purer purpose at heart than their politicians.

4It must surely have been amazing for the workers to turn up each morning to the sight of a colossal head looking down upon them. The inspiration for the face seems to be the Roman god of the sun, Apollo or his Greek equivalent, Helios. More down to earth sources of inspiration center on the women in the life of the sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. It may well have been Isabella Eugenie Boyer, a good looking and well-known figure in Paris at the time. More worrying, some believe the face of the statue actually belongs to Bartholdi’s mother. Bartholdi never revealed the true model of the face, but if this is the case Freud would have had a field day.

5Bertholdi made a small scale model first, which is still displayed in the Jardin du Luxembourg in the city of the statue’s original construction, Paris. Before the statue was shipped to America, though, it had to be seen to be tested. If it had not been for money, it may never have landed in the states – particularly in the form we all know. On a visit to Egypt, Bartholdi’s vision of liberty expanded to its present proportions. Had his original idea received financial support, then whatever gift the French gave the Americans for the 1876 centennial could not possibly have been the statue.

6Little by little, the statue arises. Bertholdi saw the Suez Canal under construction in the eighteen sixties and was inspired to build a giant figure at its entrance. He drew up plans which bore a remarkable similarity to what now stands on Liberty Island but his ideas were rejected by the Egyptian ruling body of the time because of the financial problems the country was facing at the time. Had the statue been built in Egypt as a lighthouse, the idea would never have been taken up for America. The Statue of Liberty as we know it was in fact used as a lighthouse, from its unveiling in 1886 right until 1902 – the very first in the world to use electricity.

7Almost there! There were huge structural issues that had to be addressed in the design and construction of a sculpture of such enormity. Enter a certain Gustave Eiffel, who would later go on to build that eponymous tower which still dominates the skyline of Paris. It was his job (which he delegated to Maurice Koechlin, his favored structural engineer) to ensure that Liberty’s copper sheath could move while still remaining vertical. Koechlin created a huge pylon of wrought iron and the famous skeletal frame to ensure that the statue would not fall down in high winds.

8Money was always a problem. The plan had been to get the statue to the US by the fourth of July, 1876. Only the right arm and torch were finished by then. However, as the Americans had taken responsibility for the construction of the pedestal, these pieces of the statue were displayed to the American pubic at the Centennial Exposition (in Philadelphia) .

9Money raised by allowing people to climb this part of the statue (see here) started the funding efforts for the base of the statue. The French did their bit too, showing the head in their own exposition in 1878.

101886 must have been one of those years that people remembered for the rest of their lives. A statue of gigantic proportions, symbolizing the ideas and aspirations of America, was unveiled by President Grover Cleveland at Liberty Island (renamed from Bedloe’s Island or Love Island). In an ironic twist, President Cleveland had vetoed the New York legislature from contributing fifty thousand dollars to help with the building of the statue’s pedestal. Letting bygones be bygones, President Cleveland was more than happy to officiate at the ceremony. This had not been the only problem to face the statue in the years before its final unveiling, of course. From the model stage, above, to its triumphant moment of revelation, the process was fraught with difficulty – mostly of a financial nature. However, thanks to the efforts of both the American and French people we now have a permanent reminder of what we should hold dear – liberty still symbolically steps forth from her shackles to protect, shelter and enlighten.