Keshap and Verma, the U.S. envoy to India, both trace their origin to Punjab. He was the deputy political counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi from 2005 to 2008. “We want to help build a lasting peace and fellowship among Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities, including credible justice, accountability and reconciliation that can facilitate closure for those who suffered and lost loved ones during the war,” Keshap added.He said that Maldives faces challenges with youth unemployment, rising extremism, and social unrest.“We want a better relationship with Maldives, so that we can deepen cooperation. And we want to help it return to the democratic path on which it courageously embarked a few years ago, and look forward to strengthening our relationship when that happens,” Keshap added. He is currently working as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau of State Department. He joined the Foreign Service in 1994. Indian-American Atul Keshap has been confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, becoming the second Indian-origin diplomat to be posted to the region after Richard Rahul Verma, The Hindu newspaper reported.Keshap (44), a former official at the US Embassy in India, was on Wednesday confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the country’s envoy which would be his first Ambassadorial posting. His father, Keshap Chander Sen, who was from Punjab, was a U.N. development economist working in Nigeria where Keshap was born in June, 1971. His mother, Zoe Calvert, had been in the U.S. Foreign Service when she met and married Mr. Sen in London. She had also served at the U.S. embassy in India.“My parents’ service and my upbringing instilled in me a firm dedication and commitment to American values, and led me to a career in the Foreign Service,” Keshap said in his confirmation hearing on June 23.He had said since January, Sri Lanka has made progress on challenging issues, from fighting corruption and media censorship, to beginning the long process of healing after decades of war. Keshap also served as special assistant for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia for the under secretary of state for political affairs.In 2003, he moved to the White House as director for North African and Middle Eastern regional affairs on the staff of the National Security Council. He was also the director for UN Human Rights in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs from 2008 to 2010. “We want to help the Sri Lankan people strengthen democracy, civil society and human rights, including media freedom and freedom of religion,” he said.
A curse to our bank balancesIt ends up costing a small fortune to deck out our houses to look like the inhabitants have all died and returned as demonic undead that don’t have much use for a feather duster. Fake spider webs are reason enough to skip the whole autumn season. Add to that; lights, plastic bats, stick-up skeletons, bloodied fake limbs.It’s become a precursor to Christmas without the peace and joy – and a curse to our bank balance before we’ve even begun buying turkeys and reams of wrapping paper. I’ll give you cardboard cut-outs in return for cash, happily, I’ll even draw a crude corpse on it if you like. Twenty euro, please, cheers.The sweets are the other big expense, stretching our wallets and our waistlines. If we are a country so concerned with our kids getting fatter, why supply each and every one we know or lives nearby with bags and bags of “gruesome gummies”, “creepy chocolate”, calories and e-numbers?Do we really need more sugar?Twenty per cent of three-year-olds in this country are classed as overweight, they haven’t even had the chance to develop a taste for Dominoes and lager yet, so it’s really time we stopped shovelling sweets down their throats. The days when the young were employed and could see their feet will be a distant memory. In fact I’m surprised Joan Burton hasn’t released a statement.You may think your alternative apple bobbing is the ‘healthy option’ but you’d be wrong there too, it’s a health risk according to a leading eye surgeon at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children. Dr Kathryn McCreery has warned it can cause scratching to the eyes’ surface as well as infections from dirty water. Not to mention the germs you’d end up covered in from the communal spittoon the bob becomes. Mmmm lovely, who doesn’t want a face full of gob?Booze, booze and more boozeWorse perhaps than giving our kids diabetes is the propensity for the mass population to turn any event into an occasion for boozing. The streets become a stronghold of antisocial behaviour as scantily-clad Halloweeners take it too far with the Jäger bombs.And don’t say we don’t, because we do. Irish adults statistically binge drink more than any others in Europe, according to Alcohol Action Ireland. St Patrick’s Day wasn’t enough, we had to invent a whole other occasion under the guise of Arthur Guinness for an excuse to drink the local pub dry – and we’ve now commandeered Halloween as an excuse to get plastered too.The streets at night can be scary enough without the fear of being harassed by someone dressed as Osama Bin Laden. When I lived in Belfast (which I did for four years, hello, nice to meet you) our local Centra refused to sell eggs to anyone under 20 around Halloween, knowing where they would turn up – plastered over some poor sod’s front door. We just can’t behave ourselves, and so it’s best for everyone if we all just sit in and watch EastEnders.Playboy-inspired outfitsIf you don’t fancy dressing up as an international terrorist, how about something sexxxy? For women heading out at Halloween the options for fancy dress include a plethora of Playboy-inspired outfits; army girls, superheroes, Disney characters (none of which are even scary!), witches, vamps, devils etc, all in the uniform of short skirt, low neckline and fishnet or no tights.I’m all for free choice when it comes to fashion but these examples make a mockery of the feminist movement. Why sexy? Why?! It’s apropos of absolutely nothing. You think going out dressed like Snow White who’s had to cut off her skirt to clothe the seven dwarfs is the night you’re going to meet Mr Right? Wrong. Also it’s COLD OUTSIDE! You’ll catch your death, and then you will really look a fright.So the streets are full of freaks, kids are out in force and in costume so we don’t know who they are, and we’re encouraged to make our houses look as empty and haunting as possible. Sounds like a burglar’s dream.I’m not a complete scrooge; Christmas is just around the corner and I’m fully on board for that occasion of excessive calorie consumption, sherry-based binge drinking and inappropriate dressing (ie, all-day pyjamas, novelty onesies and tacky jumpers) the more of all, the better, but bah-humbug to Halloween.Kate Bellamy is a TV and features writer online and in print in Ireland and the UK writing on contemporary women’s issues and television – where possible combining the two. Kate was shortlisted for the Vogue Young Writers Talent Contest this year. She can found tweeting @_KateMate DON’T GET ME wrong, I’m not usually one to be dramatic or exaggerate, but seriously, can we just give Halloween a miss this year? The whole week leading up to it has become a monster! It’s too much, unnecessary and unwelcome.For a start, in its modern form, it’s an American holiday – so there’s no reason why we on this side of the Atlantic we should go all bloody silly over crepe paper ghosts and flashing-eyed Euro Shop skeletons. I’m not keen on Americanising anything to be honest – spelling, historical events, the way we drink our coffee – but Halloween really takes the witches hat-shaped, acid-colour iced biscuit.The “holiday” is now completely devoid of the actual meaning of Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve which is the liturgical beginning of the period in which we remember saints, martyrs and anyone else who’s kicked the bucket. You don’t see many ‘sexy Saint Bridget’ costumes, though, do you?