Former President Sirleaf’s Legacy in Domino Effect?

first_imgWith the odds against her, Cornelia Kruah-Togba (pictured) is leaning on the quest to provide a different kind of representation for the people of District #13 in Montserrado County, something they have not seen since 2005.By Kula FofanaEarlier this year, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stepped down as Africa’s first democratically elected female leader after a two-term presidency to usher in Liberia’s football icon turned politician George Weah as her successor. The election was marred by controversies and allegations of malpractices by contending parties, which the Supreme Court of Liberia found non-egregious. In 2006, Madam Sirleaf took over a country recovering from over a decade of civil war that racked a death toll of over 250,000, a nearly empty fiscal reserve, poor infrastructure, lack of basic services, non-existent electricity, exuberant young population, some of who were former combatants, still in possession of firearms and many other challenges. Little did she know her country would later come to deal with Ebola and over 4,000 of her compatriots, the highest count in the region of affected countries, would pay a hefty price with their lives. She would later work to restore electricity, connect counties through roads, rebuild bridges, restore pipe bone water in some communities, create a civil service that attracts some of Liberia’s best, restructured the police and army and bring dignity to the security sector and improve the education and health sectors. While she worked hard to restore, resuscitate, rebuild, and build many sectors, she also upheld the fight for women’s political and economic empowerment and has inspired many women across Liberia and beyond. Initiatives such as the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund (SMWF, now the Sustainable Market Women’s Fund), the Economic Empowerment Program for Adolescent Girls & Young Women, the Adolescent Girls Division of the Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection and many more, were all anchored during her leadership. Despite many visible achievements that I am unable to cover here, many pundits have questioned Madam Sirleaf’s legacy, including on the gender front, citing her failure to appoint more women at higher levels of ministerial positions even though many women were appointed as deputy and assistant ministers, deputies of public corporations and associate justices of the Supreme Court. Although women accounted for a smaller number of her kitchen cabinet in the executive branch, her bravery and audacity to challenge barriers of women’s political participation and contest the country’s highest public office, winning twice, not only presents a break from the “old boys club” but a domino effect that has inspired many women to step on the stage when the opportunity presents itself. While it may appear that fewer women are getting elected, this phenomenon can be explained. In 2005, Liberia had a special election with the suspension of the constitution. New electoral rules were adopted by the National Elections Commission. One of such rules was a mandate to political parties to ensure a minimum of 30% representation on their political party list to be presented. Parties obliged and, as a result, the legislature welcomed a new caucus of women constituting 14% of its membership. In 2011 and 2017, the elections were constitutional and the 30% clause was not enforceable. Then, women elected constituted 10.2% and 12.3% of legislative seats, respectively. However, in 2017, out of 785 registered candidates, 123 were women. This accounts for the highest in recent election history. This manifests that women are beating the odds and that the legacy of Madam Sirleaf is far from complete.One woman who is taking a note or two from Madam Sirleaf’s manuscript is Cornelia Kruah Togba. Having completed coursework for Master of Arts degree in International Politics & Economics in the United Kingdom, she saw the need to step forward and contest for the representative seat in her district that was made vacant by the election to the Senate of her predecessor.With the odds against her, she is leaning on the quest to provide a different kind of representation for the people of District #13 in Montserrado County, something they have not seen since 2005. Being the youngest in the race with limited financial and logistical resources against her major contender who enjoys not only presidential endorsement from the ruling party, but state logistics and personnel at his disposal, she faces an uphill battle. While there are structural barriers prohibiting women’s political participation, resources and attaining political party endorsements remain a challenge. District #13 is one of the highly populated districts with a majority of young people. Challenges of unemployment, infrastructure, health care, women’s empowerment, community voices, and ownership are a major concern. These are issues high on Madam Kruah-Togba’s agenda.  Just in the course of her campaign, with meager resources, she embarked on unprecedented self-help initiatives to uplift her district. Initiatives such as paving feeder roads that were previously impassable, providing street lights in communities that were in darkness, among many others. As the most qualified candidate in the race, who has a well-developed legislative agenda, Madam Togba hopes to bring the needed change her district in particular and Liberia in general desire. With her years of service in the government of Liberia at the Ministries of State, Public Works and, most recently Education, she comes with an understanding of government’s bureaucracy and the work it requires to get things done. She was also a student leader at the Stella Maris Polytechnic, working to ensure cordiality with the administration and the student body. Additionally, an organization she recently established, the Young Women Empowerment Network to contribute to Liberia’s human development sector is becoming a leading voice for women in public service. These are skills important in dealing with a diverse group of people to negotiate on behalf of the people of her constituency.  As the candidate of choice for the alliance of three key opposition parties including Unity Party, Liberty Party, and the Alternative National Congress, she is better placed to build a bipartisan approach to passing key bills for the country. I have known Madam Kruah-Togba for little over 5 years now. We have shared friendship, professional relationship and sisterhood. Most importantly, both our love and passion for Liberia are invincible. More than anything else, I believe she will better serve the people of District 13. She will deliver her promises and sure protect the interest of the people. It is my hope that she will join forces with other members of the Women Legislative Caucus to pick up the pace on the rape bill that is near amendment, the Domestic Violence Act, the political representation bill and many others. Cornelia is a member of the new generation of Liberia’s political actors and public servants who are poised, with every fiber in their being, to rewrite the country’s story that is often told pejoratively. Electing a young woman like herself, who has lived and understands the challenges of her district, will not only be beneficial to the people of her district, it will serve as an encouragement for young people who constitute the majority of the population and young women to step up and ensure an impactful domino effect. The Author:Kula Fofana is a student of Violence Conflict & Development at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She formerly served the Government of Liberia as Assistant Minister for Youth Development. Her interests include Transitional Justice, Public Service, Local Voices, Gender, governance, intersectionality etc . She can be contacted [email protected] Twitter: @kulafofanaShare this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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John Downey remanded in custody after extradition

first_imgJohn Downey has been remanded in custody charged with the murders of two UDR soldiers, after being extradited from the Republic of Ireland.The 67 year old Creeslough man appeared before Omagh Magistrates Court on Saturday. Downey was first detained in the Republic of Ireland in October 2018 under a European arrest warrant.He fought extradition but lost his most recent appeal, and handed himself in to Gardaí (Irish police) on Friday.Downey is wanted by prosecutors in connection with the murders of UDR soldiers Alfred Johnston, 32 and a father of four, and James Eames 33, a father of three.Both were killed in a bomb attack in Enniskillen in 1972.Mr Downey is also accused of aiding and abetting an explosion.The BBC reports that a crowd of supporters, including Sinn Fein representatives, gathered outside the court ahead of the hearing.A Detective Chief Inspector told the court police would be objecting to bail as they viewed Mr Downey as a flight risk.He pointed to the defendant’s repeated attempts to appeal the extradition order.“The police view would be the defendant is reluctant to face justice,” he said.In 2013, Mr Downey was charged with murdering four Royal Household Cavalry men in a bombing at London’s Hyde Park in 1982.The case dramatically collapsed after it emerged the defendant had a letter of assurance from the former Prime Minister Tony Blair that he was not actively wanted by the authorities.In court on Saturday, the Detective Chief Inspector said that following the collapse of the Hyde Park bombing trial in 2014, the families of those killed in the incident had launched civil proceedings against Mr Downey.He told the court that Mr Downey subsequently transferred assets including land from his name to his wife’s name.A solicitor acting for the defendant said his client had handed himself in to Gardaí by agreement and had fully complied with previous bail conditions in 2013 and 2014.He described the land transfers as a “red herring”, and said his client was a man of ill health.Judge Michael Ranaghan said he envisaged a “long and protracted” legal process ahead.But said he found the defendant did pose a flight risk and so bail was refused.The judge told Mr Downey he can appeal his decision to the High Court, before ordering him to appear again in court on the 25 October.John Downey remanded in custody after extradition was last modified: October 12th, 2019 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:CreesloughdonegalJohn Downeylast_img read more

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Warriors HQ: Dubs leave Oracle Arena on a win, may face Clippers, Thunder or Spurs in first playoff round

first_imgThe Golden State Warriors will not know who their opponent in the first round of the NBA playoffs will be until the regular season finale Wednesday. On Sunday, they concluded their final regular season game at Oracle Arena in Oakland with a 131-104 win against Los Angeles Clippers.Beat writer Mark Medina outlines 14 confusing playoff possibilities the Warriors could face and the rotating rest strategy Steve Kerr will employ in upcoming games. Half of the following eight players are slated to …last_img read more

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San Francisco Giants’ draft strategy hints that changes are coming under Farhan Zaidi

first_imgNEW YORK — At the end of Hunter Bishop’s sophomore season at Arizona State, the athletic department made a decision that may have altered the trajectory of Bishop’s college career and helped the outfielder surge up draft boards.The Sun Devils moved in the outfield fences at their home ballpark, Phoenix Municipal Stadium.After selecting Bishop with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, the San Francisco Giants may soon do the same at Oracle Park.Under first-year president of baseball …last_img read more

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‘Hard Knocks’ awards: Antonio Brown delivers tour-de-force performance

first_imgAntonio Brown dominated Episode 3 of “Hard Knocks” just like he ruled the NFL world’s headlines all week.The mercurial Raiders receiver was the thread that tied Tuesday’s episode together.At the outset, the Raiders were waiting on him to return to their training camp, and just before the end came general manager Mike Mayock’s now-famous ultimatum directed toward Brown.In between, he charmed his teammates and coaches, the NFL Films cameras particularly trained on head coach Jon Gruden. …last_img read more

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Largest Dinosaur Mass Grave in Switzerland Found

first_imgAs many as 100 plateosaurs may be buried in a mass grave in Switzerland, reported the Reuters news service.  “The finds show that an area known for Plateosaurus finds for decades may be much larger than originally thought” – as much as a mile in width in the town of Frick, near the German border.  An amateur found bones while investigating a construction site.    The article mentions that Germany has two other large plateosaur burial sites.  It described the animals as peaceful herbivores that lived along a river delta.  Plateosaur fossils are common in Europe.  The four-legged herbivores, classified as Triassic, grew over 30 feet in length and could weigh as much as 1500 pounds.Must have been a bad day in dinotopia.  Anyone know of a modern example of hundreds of large animals like elephants or giraffes all being buried at the same time over many miles while grazing peacefully along a river bank?  We were once taught the present is the key to the past.  Remember the specimen found under the North Sea? (04/25/2006).(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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Texas Press Perpetuates ID Myths

first_img Debating:  We need more well-educated, prepared people like Casey Luskin to hold their own against the bigots in debates, for one thing.  Be sure you can articulate the ID position with clarity, without getting sidetracked or flustered by the anti-ID talking points.  The debate will usually not change the bigot, but will impress those overhearing the conversation. Stick to the issue!  So many arguments get dragged off onto tangents, because people opposed to ID typically have a lot of other hot buttons about religious people or conservatives.  Don’t dodge their questions, but return immediately to the issue.  If you can just get agreement on what the definition of intelligent design is, consider it a victory.  It will get the ball rolling, and get the person thinking along new lines. It is especially important at school board meetings not to get sidetracked onto religion, the Bible, age of the earth, and other topics that are not part of the issue being debated.  Such tangents play right into the bigots’ hands.  They drool when well-meaning Biblical creationists toss them religious red meat (conveniently blinding themselves to their own religious premises; explore the Darwin’s God blog).  Next day your quote will be taken out of context and blasted all over the newspapers as proof that “intelligent design is religion.” At school board meetings, or in private conversation, when responding to someone who ignorantly presents the evolutionist talking points, learn the art of parry.  Turn the evolutionary talking points against themselves.  Turn a red herring back to the trail; talk about “separation of dogma and state.”  When the leftist clergyman says “True religion can handle truth in all its forms,” respond that “True science can handle all the evidence.”  When they say, “ID is creationism in a thin veneer of pseudoscience,” respond that “Evolutionism is atheism in a thin veneer of just-so stories.” Use satire: “Yes, you’re right; we need to defend the rights of students to see fraudulent embryo drawings.”  Use humor: “On this issue, ‘mainstream science’ is up the creek without a paddle.”  Notice: parrying propaganda is not propaganda when it deflates the propaganda and returns the focus back to the issue.  That is rhetoric, one of the classical arts, in the most honorable sense of the word. In private conversation: “do not cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).   This proverb by Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount is good advice for everyone.  Don’t waste your time with bigots.  Try to have rational conversations with those willing to listen.  Win the honest inquirers over – and get them to vote. In each of these articles, Luskin not only quoted his opponents accurately and demonstrated knowledge of their arguments, but refuted them with detailed references, quotes, and arguments, refraining from ad hominem attacks. Luskin is no stranger to anti-ID talking points.  Earlier this month in a radio interview, hot talker Thom Hartmann used all the tricks of the trade to portray him as an uneducated, religiously motivated, creationist zealot.  Hartmann’s strategy may have backfired.  Many listeners believe Luskin won the day, responding with clarity and reasoned arguments.  Readers of mainstream press articles such as Vertuno’s miss out on this lively debate.  They get their information handed to them by reporters who reprint old boilerplate talking points, and know how to massage the presentation for a desired outcome. If you want to be informed and forearmed in the evolution controversies, it is imperative you know Baloney Detecting.  Vertuno’s ignorant presentation shows that he didn’t do any homework on the issues.  He failed as a reporter – someone who should stick to the issue, the whole issue, and nothing but the issue.  He tailored every word, every quote, every paragraph to make his bias look good and ID look bad.  Propaganda tricks are everywhere: loaded words, red herrings, fear-mongering, glittering generalities, big lies, half truths, unsupported broad-brush assertions.  His definition of intelligent design was lifted right off the NCSE talking points.  Where else does a reporter quote the enemy’s definition of someone’s position?  The Discovery Institute defines ID as the view that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.”  That’s it – no God, no Jesus, no “Higher Power.”  You can use that definition to infer the cause of an arrowhead, a sculpture, a mysterious death, an alien signal, a message in a string of bits, or an intelligent cause behind DNA.  Legitimate science uses intelligent design already – is it “bad science” to infer an intelligent source for skywriting in a cloud?  What does this have to do with religion?  What does this have to do with the worn-out long-misunderstood cliché, “separation of church and state”?  Nothing!  Yet the anti-ID forces continue to trot out their tired, old, thoughtless talking points. Critics will argue that Casey Luskin is not a reporter, and has an agenda, because his job is defending intelligent design.  So what?  There is nothing wrong with having an agenda, per se; every corporate board meeting has one.  Better to face your day with an agenda than with undirected, purposeless causes!  The issue is not whether one has an agenda, but whether one can support one’s position with facts and reasoned arguments from those facts.  Who did the better job, everyone?  Vertuno or Luskin?  No contest. The evolutionists and their lapdog media succeed in keeping ID at bay not by the strength of their case, but their power.  That’s vital to understand.  Advocates of ID are not (in many cases) dealing with rational people.  They’re dealing with intolerant bigots.  We use that word advisedly.  The dictionary defines bigot as “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.”   It has been this editor’s personal experience that the evolutionists who have knee-jerk opinions against intelligent design know nothing about ID, and they don’t want to know.  They refuse to learn about it, even when a mild, cordial invitation to a conversation, or material to read or look at, is presented.  The knee-jerk response is, “That’s religion, that’s creationism in a cheap tuxedo, and you people need to be silenced because of separation of church and state.”  If that isn’t ignorant, intolerant bigotry, what is?  Is this the kind of society you want to promote, Eugenie Scott and Joshua Rosenau?  Are you proud of your disciples?  Compare that with this site; we continuously read and report from the top evolutionist writers and papers.  Same is true for many ID advocates and creationists.  We are interested in trying to figure out how anyone can justify thinking that blind, unguided processes can produce butterflies and human brains. Assuming most readers of this site are reasonable people, even if opposed to the views presented here, we offer the pro-ID readership some suggestions for strategy.  Some reporters refuse to listen.  Advocates of intelligent design (ID) have clarified their definitions, their evidences, and their goals for years now, with numerous books, essays, web articles, papers and lectures, but the secular mainstream press continues to misrepresent their positions, and divert discussion from the issues to red herrings.  A vote by the Texas School Board concerning supplementary materials to match science standards offered the latest example.  The Associated Press story is filled with talking points and generalities; the Discovery Institute response is detailed and to the point, citing scientific journal references for support.  Will intelligent design ever get a fair hearing in the mainstream media? PhysOrg republished Jim Vertuno’s AP report.  Bias against ID was evident from the opening photo of a protestor holding up a sign, “Keep Church & State Separate.”  The board’s action had nothing to do with religion; it was about removing inaccuracies in textbook evidences for evolution, and keeping critical thinking, a core value in science, intact.  Later in his article, Vertuno did mention board member Ken Mercer offering anyone $500 who could find Jesus or God in the state science standards, but a picture is worth a thousand blurs.  Vertuno either stated or quoted typical anti-ID buzzwords and talking points throughout his short article, Finally, a word to Christians.  (At this point we take the discussion beyond intelligent design.)  We know that the real problem is not lack of information, but rebellion against the Creator.  Paul explained to the Corinthians that the reason he did not come to them with great swelling words of oratory, like the sophists and philosophers of his day (notice; their wisdom is long defunct), was that the real power to change lives is in the cross of Christ (I Corinthians 1-4).  At the core, people need to get saved.  Only then can the Holy Spirit illuminate their dead souls, and transform them from the inside.  Putting people in right relationship to their Creator “turns on the lights” in their darkened minds.  Then intelligent design makes obvious sense, while the folly of wrong paths will fall like the scales from Saul’s eyes (Acts 9), leading to a new mission in life that has lasting impact.  Christianity is not anti-intellectual.  It is not mystical.  It is grounded in history and evidence.  Christians recognize that unbelievers have a fallen remnant of the image of God; therefore, it is necessary to refute false arguments using reason, knowing that deep down, people still know in their heart of hearts that reason is valid somehow.  Christianity is the true intellectualism, recognizing the real problem, and the real cure, grounding reason in the Source it requires.(Visited 12 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Sidetracking the issue to politics: “The Republican-dominated board…” Tossing a red herring: “…a move some creationists hailed as a victory.” Using discredited definitions: “…intelligent design, the theory that life on Earth is so complex it was guided with the help of an intelligent higher power.” Quoting offhand slap from pro-evolution group, inferring that ID is “bad science”. Depicting evolutionists as “mainstream scientists”. Whitewashing Haeckel: “some biology materials that used drawings of embryonic similarities between species,” omitting to point out the drawings were frauds. Sidetracking to politics again: “One conservative group, Texans for a Better Science Education, had put out a call to pack Thursday’s public hearing….” Portraying evolutionists as the good guys to the rescue: “But they were outnumbered by witnesses urging the board to adopt the materials with few changes.”  Vertuno did not identify the “witnesses” or who put out a call to them. Offering platform to anti-ID voices: “I don’t want my children’s public school teachers to teach faith and God in a science classroom,” said the Rev. Kelly Allen of University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio. [Note: the vote had nothing to do with religion.] “True religion can handle truth in all its forms.  Evolution is solid science.” Offering platform to anti-ID voices, continued: “Intelligent design is creationism, wrapped in thin veneer of pseudoscience,” [Tom] Davis said. “Creation isn’t really science at all.  It’s philosophy.”  [Note: the vote had nothing to do with intelligent design.]  Vertuno did not tell who this speaker was, or what his credentials were for analyzing science standards, ID, creationism, pseudoscience, or philosophy. Using scare quotes and genetic fallacy:  Vertuno set up one proponent of the changes for debunking, by first tying him with religion, and then using scare quotes for his points:  “David Shormann of Magnolia, who runs a Christian-based math and science education software company, said evolution has too many ‘untestable’ components and can’t provide a real look at ancient life without a ‘time machine or a crystal ball.’” Giving anti-ID the last word:  Vertuno followed Shormann’s points with a professor making broad-brush accusations: “But Lorenzo Sadun, a math professor at the University of Texas, said those opposing evolution overstate gaps in the fossil record and other areas when trying to discredit the theory.” Ending with a stinger: “‘‘The theory of evolution is based on almost as much evidence as the theory of gravity,’ Sadun said.”  This confuses a physical theory with a historical theory, and begs questions about what constitutes evidence, and simply makes an assertion, not an argument. Disarm your opponent by undermining his or her basis for argument .  A materialist, for instance, has no grounds for using reason, because reason is not made of particles or forces, does not obey natural laws, and refers to logical truths that are universal, necessary, timeless and certain.  As such, reason is “supernatural” by definition.  If an evolutionist argues that creation is disqualified because it is supernatural, or starts listing all the things that make evolution “solid science,” interrupt gently and say, “Excuse me, are you trying to reason with me?”  Probable answer is, “Of course.”  Next question.  “I’m confused; can you tell me how you got reason out of a big bang, or out of an unguided, undirected, purposeless process of evolution?”  At this point, it’s game over; you just have to get your interlocutor to realize it.  Tell him, “I’m sorry, but since you cannot justify reason, I cannot allow you to use it.  I can justify it for me, because my premise is that it derives from a truthful, intelligent cause, whom I believe is God.  So I will use reason on you, but you cannot use reason on me.”  Every time he tries to argue with you, stop him.  “Sorry, you know the rules.  You cannot use reason if you cannot justify it.  It is part of my world view, but not part of yours.  Now if you want to become a theist, and affirm the existence of a personal, truthful source of reason, I will be happy to reason with you; otherwise, all you can say is nonsense, so you will have to allow me to do all the talking.”  The purpose of this tough love exercise is to hold a mirror up to the person’s self-refuting position, to expose it for the folly it is. The bias continued in Vertuno’s follow-up Associated Press story that described a compromise vote later in the day.  There, he gave the pro-evolution anti-ID group a prominent victory parade over the “ultra-conservatives” who had hoped for more accuracy in the teaching of evolution (no ultra-liberals were referenced on the pro-evolution side).  The picture painted was one of victorious scientists pushing back the forces of evil: “Today we saw Texas kids and sound science finally win a vote on the State Board of Education,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a group that supports mainstream scientists in the teaching of evolution and has repeatedly sparred with board conservatives over education standards. “We saw the far right’s stranglehold over the state board is finally loosening,” Miller said. The Discovery Institute is a well-known ID advocacy group, but it is instructive to compare the reporting by the anti-ID press with their coverage written by spokesman Casey Luskin on Evolution News and Views: In “Eugenie Scott Misrepresents the Law on Evolution Education,” Luskin focused on the issue before the board, that of allowing accurate teaching of evolution, including critical thinking.  He cited case law and standards in 11 other states. In a second post, responding to the mocking ad hominem attacks of a local professor.  In “University of Texas Evolutionary Biologist Andy Ellington Mocks Fellow Texans as ‘Idiots’ and ‘Laughingstocks’ for Doubting Darwin,” Luskin argued three points that show the Texas Board standards for critical thinking about evolution would actually increase scientific literacy.  Luskin refrained from name-calling against Ellington. In a third post, Luskin checked the original literature to refute claims by Ellington that the Miller-Urey Experiment was scientifically valid material for inclusion in textbooks.  Luskin quoted the actual paper Ellington cited to show that it did not, in fact, offer evidence that the Miller experiment reproduced conditions on the early earth.last_img read more

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India Today profiles India’s young adventure sports enthusiasts

first_imgSome people just can’t be kept indoors. For adventure sports addict Ajeet Bajaj, the outdoor is home, and life is beautiful provided he’s trekking, kayaking or making polar expeditions.For equestrian Vanita Malhotra-who set a new national record in Dressage last month-nothing beats the adrenalin rush she gets every time she,Some people just can’t be kept indoors. For adventure sports addict Ajeet Bajaj, the outdoor is home, and life is beautiful provided he’s trekking, kayaking or making polar expeditions.For equestrian Vanita Malhotra-who set a new national record in Dressage last month-nothing beats the adrenalin rush she gets every time she mounts a horse.SIMPLY DELHI meets the two outdoor junkies as they prepare to scale new heights.Ajeet BajajAjeet Bajaj holds the Indian flag aloft upon reaching the North PoleOn April 26, 2006 (0100 hours, Norway time), a jubilant Ajeet Bajaj put down his skies and hoisted the Tricolour at 90 degrees north latitude. By doing so, he became the first Indian to have skied to the North Pole. While he and his team of four celebrated their victory against the odds (and weather gods), Bajaj called his family on his satellite phone and said, “Ho-ho-ho, this is Santa Claus from the North Pole.” A nickname that’s likely to stick for a bit as he plans to head to the South Pole this Christmas.An extreme sportsman, Bajaj had earlier earned the distinction of being the first Indian to have rafted and kayaked in six continents, including down the daunting Zambezi river in Africa. “Having grown up on stories of explorers like Sir Edmund Hillary, setting foot on North Pole was an overwhelming, yet humbling, experience for me,” he says.Bajaj’s love for the outdoors took root when his father took him trekking to Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir when he was nine. This interest shaped his life with his hobby becoming his profession, leading to the foundation of his adventure sports company, Snow Leopard Adventures in 1990. Snow Leopard’s activities include river rafting on the Ganga, trekking in the Himalayas, cycling on forest trails and rappelling down cliffs.advertisement”Extreme sports need mental strength as much as physical prowess.”Ajeet Bajaj”Extreme sports are as much about mental strength as they are about physical prowess,” says Bajaj, as he talks about the training he underwent for the North Pole expedition. It ran for a week and took place in North Minnesota in the US. All the five members of the team (three Americans, one Swiss and one Indian) trained under extreme conditions.Not only were the worst polar conditions simulated, they even trained for extreme eventualities like falling into and crawling out of frozen lakes. The journey itself began in the second week of April at 78 degrees north latitude at Svalbard, an island made entirely of snow and ice that lies midway between Norway and the North Pole.Talking about the importance of team spirit on an expedition like this, Bajaj says: “It cannot be a single-handed effort. You just cannot make it alone on a polar ice cap for 14 days. All of us in the team were there for each other and, in the process, have become friends for life.”Bajaj, who has won a silver and two bronze medals in international rafting competitions in Switzerland (1987) and Siberia (1989), says he is fortunate to have a family which understands that this is his way of life. His daily regime includes a run, tennis and the gym. And on days when he’s feeling exceptionally adventurous, he cycles to office-a 17-km stretch from his house in Gurgaon’s Garden Estate to his office at Vasant Kunj.Vanita MalhotraVanita Malhotra with Hanoverian Horse Pink Floyd”I can’t imagine life without horses. People ride up to the age of 70 and I hope to be one of them,” declares Vanita Malhotra (26), one of India’s finest dressage riders. Dressage, an Olympic equestrian discipline, is a form of stylised horse riding. Malhotra likes to call it “ballet performed on the horse with rider and horse in harmony.”On November 13, Malhotra won the National Championships at the Prix St George Level in Delhi with an aggregate of 64.62 per cent (the highest percentage ever achieved by any Indian rider). Earlier in the month, she defeated veteran rider Lt Col Sunil Shivdas by six points and also won the FEI World Dressage Challenge, the biggest dressage event in India.”Like most teens, I tried my hand at various sports and extra curricular activities, but by 14 I had decided to stick to riding, a passion I discovered entirely on my own,” says Malhotra who fell in love with horses at the Army Polo Riding Club.”Dressage is like ballet by rider and horse moving in harmony.”Vanita Malhotra”Initially I only did show jumping but in 2001, my friend Kapil Modi, who also happens to be a former national champion in dressage, introduced me to his trainer Major Ahluwalia (a national riding champion who is competing in dressage in the 2006 Asian Games at Doha). So you could say that I found my forte at the age of 21,” she says.advertisementCurrently training for the 2010 Asian Games, she rides her horse Pink Floyd for two hours every morning. “One’s relationship with one’s horse is of vital importance. In fact, the horse is 60 per cent of the deal. I’m lucky that Pink Floyd and I have become the best of friends,” she says, patting the majestic 10-year-old Hanoverian imported from Germany earlier this year.A commerce graduate from Hindu College, Malhotra hopes to study further in order to play a more active role in her family’s Haryana-based export business, Svam Power Plants. But at the end of it all, she says, the race course is where you’re most likely to find her.last_img read more

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