From Shyamala Gopalan To Kamala Devi Harris: A Timeline Of Two Audacious Journeys

 

When Kamala Harris takes oath as America’s Vice President, it will be a moment without equal in the country’s history. Harris will be the first Indian and Black American, first woman and first woman of colour to ever win election to America’s highest political office.

Her journey was made possible by another audacious traveller – her mother Shyamala Gopalan, who arrived in America as a 19-year-old, in 1958. Below is a timeline that traces the two women’s paths — starting with Gopalan’s arrival in America — that finally culminated in Harris’ barrier-shattering triumph.

1958: Shyamala Gopalan wins the Hilgard scholarship to study at University of California, Berkeley.

1960: Shyamala Gopalan finishes her Masters degree at theA University of California, Berkeley.

1962: Shyamala Gopalan meets Donald Harris, her future husband, who was speaking at a meeting of the Afro American Association.

July 5, 1963: Shyamala Gopalan marries Donald Harris.

1964: Shyamala Gopalan earns a PhD in nutrition and endocrinology at UC Berkeley.

Oct 20, 1964: Kamala Harris is born at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland, California.

1966: Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris move to Urbana Champaign. Donald Harris begins teaching economics at the University of Illinois.

1967: On January 30, Kamala Harris’ sister Maya is born.

1970: Shyamala Gopalan moves back from Illinois to Berkeley. The relationship between Gopalan and Donald Harris goes downhill.

1971: Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris divorce.

1976: Shyamala moves with her girls to Montreal, Canada. She begins teaching at McGill University and doing research at the Jewish General Hospital.

1981: Kamala Harris graduates from Westmount High School, Montreal.

1982: Kamala Harris joins Howard University, a famous historically Black university in Washington, D.C.

1986: Kamala Harris earns undergraduate degree in political science, Howard University.

1989: Kamala Harris earns a law degree from Hastings College, California.

1990: Kamala Harris begins working as deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California.

2000: Kamala Harris joins San Francisco City Hall. She runs the Family and Children’s Services Division representing child abuse and neglect cases.

2003: Kamala Harris elected as the first woman District Attorney in San Francisco’s history. She ran and won in a runoff against her former boss in the DA office.

2004-2010: For six long years, Kamala Harris serves as the first Indian and Black American woman District Attorney in California.

Feb 11, 2009: Shyamala Gopalan Harris passes away, after battling cancer. She was 70.

2010: Kamala Harris is elected attorney general of California, becoming the first woman and the first Indian and Black American to hold the post.

2012: Harris delivers a speech at the Democratic National Convention, raising her profile.

Aug 22, 2014: Harris marries Doug Emhoff in Santa Barbara, California. Kamala’s sister Maya Harris officiates.

2016: Kamala Harris is elected to the US Senate from California after defeating Loretta Sanchez. She replaces retiring Senator Barbara Boxer.

Jan 8, 2019: Harris’ memoir, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, is published.

Jan 21, 2019: Harris launches her presidential run, with an announcement on Good Morning America.

Dec 3, 2019: Citing lack of funds, Harris shutters her presidential campaign.

Aug 11, 2020: Joe Biden announces Kamala Harris as his running mate on the presidential ticket.

Nov 7, 2020: Kamala Harris elected vice president of the United States on the Joe Biden ticket.

Nov 7, 2020: On a chilly Fall evening, Kamala Harris delivers a rousing victory speech, taking the stage before President-elect Joe Biden.

Jan 20, 2021: Kamala Harris will take her oath as America’s Vice President. She is the first woman of color, first Indian and Black American to have ever held this position. (IANS)

GOPIO’s Experts Panel Educates Community on Covid-19 and the Vaccines

(New York, NY: January 23, 2021) What is Covid-19? How to prevent the spread of Covid-19? How effective are the vaccines to prevent Covid-19? Who should get the vaccine and what do we know of its safety? These are questions commonly asked and often there are conflicting responses, making a layman confused about one the most-deadly viruses in a century that has claimed millions of lives, impacting nearly every aspect of human life around the globe.

A lively panel discussion by healthcare professionals, organized virtually by Global Organization of Persons of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Manhattan Chapter in collaboration with the Indian Consulate in New York on Friday, January 15th, 2021 provided answers to these most important questions. The Webinar started with welcome remarks by Dr. Asha Samant, Advisor to GOPIO-Manhattan and International Coordinator-at-Large of GOPIO International. Dr. Asha Samant, in her opening remarks, described the current period experienced by humanity due to COVID-19as “a dark period in human history.”  Dr. Samant presented the chief guest and the panelists.

 

In his opening remarks, Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Jaiswal congratulated GOPIO for organizing the panel discussion and educating the community on such a timely and vital topic with a thoughtful session by experts in healthcare field. While acknowledging the challenges faced by humanity due to COVID, Ambassador expressed hope and said, “There is optimism for the new year and we hope to put this pandemic away.” 

 

Ambassador Randhir Jaiswal referred to India’s massive undertaking under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, beginning to inoculate health workers Saturday in what is likely the world’s largest f vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already underway. India has plans to vaccinate 300 million people, roughly the population of the United States. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers to be followed by 270 million others, who are either aged over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to the Coronavirus. Praising the two India-based pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing the vaccines in record time, Mr. Jaiswal said, “We will be sharing our vaccines with other countries who need. It gives us pride that we can share our scientific knowledge with the world.”

 

GOIO Manhattan President Shivender Sofat welcomed the panelists and participants to the timely and very important discussion on Covid-19 and vaccination. In accordance with the mission, the newly formed Manhattan Chapter has taken several initiatives in the recent past. He referred to the Community Feeding every month organized by the Chapter. He urged the community to support the initiative by being a volunteer and or a sponsor. Shivender was joined with GOPIO Manhattan Vice President Dr. Vimal Goyle to organize the event. 

 

Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman if GOPIO-International shared greetings to the Manhattan Chapter leaders and panelists from GOPIO International. Referring to New York City as “the worst hit in the country in the beginning, and is still reeling with the impact of the pandemic,” he thanked to Dr. Arnab Ghosh for taking the initiative and coordinating the panel discussion.

 

Dr. Arnab Ghosh, a physician in Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) specializing in adult Bone Marrow Transplantation and an immunologist, moderated the lively session, with three expert panelists, who are in the front line, working towards mitigating the challenges posed by Covid-19 in New York. “While admitting that “we do not have answers to many questions to Covid-19 that has changed our lives in all possible ways,” he said, “There is no magic wand to destroy fully the virus yet.” 

 

Dr. Monika Shah, a physician in Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) specializing in diagnosing and managing a broad range of infectious diseases, including Covid-19 patients, gave broad introduction to “What is Covid-19?” Dr. Shah explained Coronaviruses as “a type of virus. There are many different kinds, and some cause disease. A newly identified coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has caused a worldwide pandemic of respiratory illness, called Covid-19”

 

While admitting ignorance in the beginning of the pandemic leading to certain behavior in people and healthcare professionals, Dr. Shah said, “Food is not a transmitter of the virus, while shared common surfaces could be a transmitter.” Dr. Shah emphasized the need for wearing masks. “Any form of masking is better than no masking. Studies have proved that masks help prevent the spread of the virus. N95 mask provides greater prevention, regular mask is good and we should use it in public,” she said.  

 

On the prevalence and impact of Covid-19, Dr. Shah said, “Variability of symptoms is staggering and astonishing. While 80% might do well with Covid-19 symptoms, 20% percent need treatment, and 15% requiring hospitalization, and nearly 5% percent of those diagnosed positive face critical conditions.” While most of these who are at risk of critical care are those above 65 years of age, and with comorbidities, younger people can develop serious disease,” she added. “When diagnosed, do all that you do when you are ill with any other disease,” she told the audience. “Depending on the symptoms, if you can manage, stay home, but when feeling breathless, if you notice palpitations and severe tiredness, seek medical help.” 

 

On vaccines, Dr. Shah explained the differences between the vaccines created in India and in the US, stating that both versions are meant to generate antibodies against viral components to protect from the virus. In the ones available in the US mRNA that codes proteins are used while the other version viral proteins are produced and used to vaccinate. In none of these versions, any viral particles are injected and the vaccines are completely virus-free. She assured that the vaccines are known to be very effective, and also in combating the new variants of the virus, although their effectiveness may be a little different.” “Even if we get vaccine, we need to be cautious,” she advised. 

 

Dr. Sunanda Gaur, is a Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist and Professor of Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS. As its Director of the Clinical Research Center, she is actively involved in leading clinical trials related to antimicrobials and infectious diseases including Covid-19 and educated the audience on “Covid-19 among kids.” She said, “The good news is that children in general do well with this virus.  Most children were spared from it and they are not normally tested for the virus.” While admitting that “We did not have enough data on children,” Dr. Gaur said, there is more data available now and that as many as 2 million kids have been infected with Covid-19 and that there are 175 deaths among children have been reported so far. 

 

Dr. Gaur was of the opinion that “It is safer to send kids to school” Stating that children can transmit the virus, Dr. Gaur said, “Children are not the drivers of the virus. Kids over 10 years of age are more likely to transmit than the younger children.” When the rate of infection is in the community is lower, schools can be opened. Schools are not known to be spreaders. It is safer if all procedures are followed in schools and that it is safer to send kids to school. While education is remote, stress in family is higher,” she said.

 

On the question of breast feeding for mothers who are positive for Covid-19, Dr. Gaur said, “Virus is not in the milk. Pregnant women do not transmit the virus to newborn children. Mother needs to breast feed safely. Bur she needs to isolate from other kids and family members.”  While admitting that there is not enough data on pregnant women, Dr. Gaur pointed out that CDC recommends that they be offered the vaccine. She noted that vaccine conferred protection from many other infections, to the mother are known be transmitted via breast milk to infants. 

 

Dr. Gaur also assured that in spite of the speed of development of the vaccines, they have undergone rigorous testing under progressive phase clinical trials and have been found to be effective and safe. “We have not cut any corners,” she said. She highlighted that the side effects were very few and far in between, and usually due to a reaction against the vehicle in which the vaccine is injected. Dr. Shah emphasized that although the vaccine was developed only recently against Covid-19, the vaccine technology has been backed by several years of biomedical research.

 

Dr. Madhury (Didi) Ray, who works at the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and has built systems for public health emergency preparedness and response against Covid-19, explained as to why Covid-19 is more deadly than prior pandemics. “We are seeing more travel and interaction than ever before in human history. You create a situation where a virus with mutation has the ability to infect human beings. Close proximity has between people has increased infection. Travel hubs like Wuhan and NYC have become epic-centers of the transmission and spread of the virus,” she pointed out. 

 

Dr. Ray told the audience that “You have the power to prevent the transmission of the virus.” She emphasized some of the “CORE Behaviors: 1. Stay home when you are sick. 2. Practice face covering. 3. Maintain physical distance. 4. Wash hands frequently. While trying to prevent infection, follow the steps and avoid spearing the virus.”  Referring to the many initiatives New York City has recently piloted, DR. Ray said, the city is monitoring of clusters in schools. Evidence shows gatherings of kids need not be super spreader events.” 

 

Regarding Covid-19 tests, Dr. Ray said, “All tests are free in NYC. She emphasized that one need not be concerned about one’s citizenship or immigration status and these facilities were accessible to all the members of the community. What is important is to do the test.” Dr. Ray said, contact tracing is the largest in NYC. If you are positive you will be monitored and that will let all of your contacts know. NYC is also offering mandatory paid leave to those infected with the virus and the City is offering free hotel accommodation to isolate and not transmit at home. South Asians have higher rate of hospitalization than many other groups. Allergic reactions to vaccines are extremely rare. 

 

Dr. Ray also highlighted the slow but expanding access to the vaccination program in NYC. She pointed to several web resources where the closest points of distribution of the vaccine can be found, she admitted, “We do not know how long the immunity from the vaccine lasts. Until herd immunity is achieved, we need to be cautious even after vaccine.” 

FIRST-EVER Yellowstone International Film Festival in Delhi

(New Delhi, India – Jan. 20, 2021) More than 70 shorts, documentaries and feature films from all over the globe comprise the curated lineup of the FIRST-EVER Yellowstone International Film Festival (YIFF), taking place from Jan. 28th to Feb. 3rd and powered by Movie Saints (www.moviesaints.com). The festival’s programming also includes SEVEN Oscar-affiliated short films and documentaries.
 
Created by award-winning writer/director Tushar Tyagi (SAVING CHINTU, KAASHI, GULABEE) and curated by renowned festival director (New York Indian Film Festival) and biographer (Shashi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Priyanka Chopra) Aseem Chhabra, YIFF is a New Delhi homecoming, of sorts, for both film personalities, based part-time in Los Angeles and New York City, respectively.
 
“We created this festival to serve as a confluence of our dual identities and cultures,” said Tyagi, a trained filmmaker who has studied at the New York Film Academy and is now based in Los Angeles. “I see the world around me through a cinematic and structured lens, and the films we have chosen to present at our festival reflect my Indo-American sensibilities, while paying homage to some of the best global films focused on women empowerment and LGBTQIA+ issues.”
 
Tyagi’s 2020 film SAVING CHINTU is currently one of THREE Indian short films in the highly-contested, 2021 Oscars race to represent India at the Academy Awards in the live action shorts category. He has made 12 other short films and is currently working on two feature films, to be released in the next two years.
 
Chhabra is the author of the biographies of Shashi Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, and the recently released Irrfan Khan: The Man, The Dreamer, The Star.  A film journalist in New York City and New Delhi, he has been published in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mumbai Mirror, Rediff.com, The Hindu, Outlook, BBC.com, Quartz, Scroll, Newslaundry. He’s been a commentator on Indian cinema on NPR, CNN, BBC, CBC, ABC’s ‘Good Morning America.’ Chhabra is the festival director of the New York Indian Film Festival, the largest and the oldest festival in North America. He is the voice of Shadow Puppet #1 in director Nina Paley’s acclaimed animated film, SITA SINGS THE BLUES.

SAALT Welcomes the Rescission of the Muslim & African Bans

Since January 27th, 2017, countless families have been separated, detained, and refused fair treatment under the Muslim Ban – but as of January 20th, 2020, hope and justice feel nearer, as President Biden has signed an executive order to end the Ban, repealing an explicitly racist immigration policy and standing with Arab, Black, and Muslim Americans.

SAALT spent the last four years as a part of the No Muslim Ban Ever campaign, mobilizing community members and elected officials to stand against the Ban, and stand up for our community. Wednesday’s victory is the fruit of our collective resistance to white supremacy, and our continued defense of (im)migrant rights.

With the rescission of the anti-Black, xenophobic, and Islamophobic policy, SAALT and our allies now have a clearer path to fight for the protection of all migrants and immigrants, regardless of their background. Still, of course, the Muslim Ban is just one cog in a highly flawed immigration system, which must be transformed in its entirety; the enactment of the Muslim Ban only highlighted the entrenchment of Islamophobia and xenophobia in American culture. Therefore, it is critical that the 118th Congress pass and enact the No Ban Act to limit executive authority from issuing future discriminatory bans based on religion and national origin.

It’s equally crucial for our community to recognize that President Biden’s rescission of the Ban only marks the beginning of an arduous healing process – a challenge which we must come together to address. This is why SAALT is prioritizing and practicing restorative justice strategies in our continued fight against institutionalized Islamophobia and xenophobia. Our collective ability to hold space for healing will determine the sustainability of our movement, and we ask our community to recognize the harms that these discriminatory policies have on the mental and physical well-being of impacted community members for generations to come.

As hope and justice draw nearer, we call on President Biden and his administration to continue showing support for Black, Indigenous and all other communities of color, and continue to condemn and act against white supremacy and hatred.

AIR INDIA Starts Non-Stop Flight From Chicago To Hyderabad

Now passengers traveling on Air India can fly direct to Hyderabad from Chicago’s O’hare Airport. The first-ever nonstop flight service between Chicago and Hyderabad launched on Jan 13. The new route is welcomed by passengers traveling from across the US to destinations in Southern and Central India.

“It’s very fortunate that the Indian Government arranged a direct flight from the US to Hyderabad. I came especially to Chicago to take this flight,” said Vijaya Mandeila who traveled from Houston to Chicago O’hare airport to take the maiden flight with his wife and two children.

Mandeila was among the first 238 passengers to board a full flight operated by the state-of-the-art Boeing 777-200LR aircraft offering eight first-class and 35 business class seats on Jan 13. Mandeila says that while he flies to India only once in two years, the new direct flight is very convenient. “The first port of entry will be Hyderabad, and all customs checks and luggage will directly go through Hyderabad instead of Delhi. It saves us time, especially when traveling with family and young children,” Mandeila said.

Air India’s direct flights from Chicago to Hyderabad will operate every Wednesday leaving Chicago at 2130 hrs. (local time) to arrive in Hyderabad at 0040 hrs with domestic connections to Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Kolkata, Bangalore. The return flight from Hyderabad to Chicago will operate weekly every Friday, departing from Hyderabad at 1250 hrs. and arrive in Chicago at 1805 hrs. (local time) on the same day.

Consul General Amit Kumar Commences Launch Ceremonies

The official launch of the first direct Air India flight from Chicago to Hyderabad commenced with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Consul General Amit Kumar at Chicago O’hare Airport on Jan 13. Amber Achilles Ritter, deputy commissioner Chicago Dept of Aviation; Benjamin Sipiora, O’Hare terminal manager for the City of Chicago; Chris Diaferio, executive director of The Chicago Airlines Terminal Consortium (CATCO), also participated in the ceremonies.

Hyderabad is the capital of southern India’s Telangana state, a significant center for India’s tech industry and a cultural melting pot with more than four dominant languages, including Urdu, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi.

Consul General Kumar stated that the new route builds connectivity between the US and India, facilitating commerce, trade, tourism and promoting people to people exchanges. Consul General Kumar took the opportunity to commend Air India for its support during the Vande Bharat Mission’s initial phases. “More than 45,000 people have traveled from Chicago as part of Vande Bharat Mission flights in over 160 flights last year. The Government has reached out to our citizens stranded across the world to facilitate a repatriation and outbound international travel of more than 47.2 lakh people under Vande Bharat Mission so far,” Kumar said in remarks after the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan 13.

Chicago to Hyderabad Direct Flight Receives Tremendous Community Response

Chris Diaferio, executive director of The Chicago Airlines Terminal Consortium (CATCO), which maintains and services the city-owned equipment that Air India uses, said he was delighted with the expansion and the ongoing commitment and partnership with Air India. “We are thrilled. We love Air India. We love that they continue to support their community with better options for travel. Air India has been here from the very start and is now adding more service, especially when there are continued challenges for the airline industry. We could not be more delighted,” Diaferio said.

Consul General Kumar also congratulated Air India and the team in Chicago headed by Vikash Shahal, airport manager and Sampath Jayasekar, senior sales assistant, on the expansion of Air India’s services in the USA. “We have received a tremendous response for this flight. It is very encouraging to see the amount of enthusiasm. We thank our passengers,” said Shahal. Sampath Jayasekar, senior sales assistant who is originally from Hyderabad, said that he felt proud that his native state of Hyderabad now has a direct flight to the US. “Our flight today is completely sold out, including first-class, business class and economy. We are getting an excellent response from the community. People from Andhra are especially excited about the new route. The nonstop flights to Hyderabad are full for the next three weeks,” Jayasekar said.

Passengers were offered a small token and special meals to commemorate the flight. Air India has also resumed offering full hot meals on board. A small group of community members participated in the launch’s diya lighting ceremony, followed by Ganesh aarti sung by Shreya Addanki. Mythri Addanki, Miss Telugu Universe 2020, was among the prominent youth who joined the launch event. “This is a momentous occasion and a big first step in how we are connecting Indians in the US and back home. I am Hyderabadi. I know we have a huge community here in Chicago and across the US. It’s a great way to make sure we are connected to our home, especially during Covid-19, when family is more important than ever,” said Addanki.

Sunil Shah, a prominent community leader and president of the Federation of India Associations (FIA) who attended the event, stated, “It’s an exciting moment for Chicago and Air India. I think so many people from Hyderabad will benefit from this flight. One more nonstop flight from Chicago will assist business travelers and people traveling back home.”

Neil Khot, Chicago area community leader said that while a nonstop flight from Chicago to Hyderabad is a big feather in the cap and will facilitate India’s economic and technological expansion between India and the US, he looks forward to Air India’s first direct flight to Mumbai.

India’s Human Rights Situation Is Very Serious Says UN Special Rapporteur

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy organization dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, today launched a report titled, “Crushing Dissent: 2021 Status Report on Human Rights in India,” detailing human rights abuses in India. At the launch of this report, UN Special Rapporteur Ms. Mary Lawlor called upon the Indian government to immediately release 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned on charges of terrorism in the ‘Bhima-Koregaon Case’.  

 

“These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release,” Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, said on Thursday.

 

Along with Father Stan Swamy, the octogenarian Jesuit priest against whose “arbitrary detention” in this case she has already written to the Indian Government, Ms. Lawlor said 15 others jailed in the same case must also be released.

 

Ms. Lawlor while read out the names of the imprisoned rights activists who have worked to uphold the rights of the others should be acknowledged and they are Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Fereria; Supreme Court lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj; authors Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde; poet Varvara Rao; academicians Hany Babu and Shoma Sen; and theater artistes Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe and Jyoti Jagtap.

 

The so-called Bhima-Koregaon case refers to violence at a public meeting called three years ago by low-caste Hindus at a village known as Bhima-Koregaon in Maharashtra state. Several civil rights investigations have established that upper caste Hindus allied with India’s ruling party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, carried out the violence. Police have, however, targeted human rights defenders, who deny their involvement.  

 

Ms. Lawlor, whose three-year term as UN Special Rapporteur began last May, also called out the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), under which the Bhima-Koregaon accused have been charged, as among the “several prominent pieces of legislation that would appear on paper and in practice to undermine rights contained in the covenant and the work of human rights defenders.”

 

Amendments to the UAPA made in 2019, which granted “greater powers” to designate individuals as terrorists “despite the definition of a terrorist act not being precise or concrete,” failed to “comply with the principles of legal certainty,” Ms. Lawlor said.

 

“This has opened up the Act, which was already being used to target human rights defenders, to greater abuse. In 2020, it continued to be applied against human rights defenders with the extremely damaging effect of conflating the defense of human rights with terrorist activities,” Ms. Lawlor said, adding, there was “a very concerning deterioration of the environment for defending human rights” in India.

 

Saying that India’s human rights “situation is very serious,” Ms. Lawlor said she sent “six communications” to the Indian Government since May to “convey our concerns on human rights issues”. India had responded to just one. In June she wrote to the Indian Government raising concerns over the arrest of 11 human rights defenders for protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. “However, this communication has gone unanswered.”

She added: “Defending human rights is not terrorism. We need to get that message out over and over again.” Noted human rights defender Teesta Setalvad said “among human rights defenders who are today incarcerated, besides those mentioned by Mr. Lawlor, we have a list of almost 23 very young and dynamic human rights defenders incarcerated in post February 2020 anti-Muslim pogrom in Delhi. Among the 23, almost 19 happened to be young Muslims activists, who actually came into the forefront of leadership to resist the draconian citizenship Amendment Act. These young activists were deliberately targeted by the state because of their clarity, courage and determination.

“The lower caste (the untouchables) have been singularly targeted for thousands of years and subjected to othering and discrimination by the dominant caste. Then, it is the Muslim community who is facing discrimination and marginalization for the last 40 years. And since the 1990s, Indian Christian community has also been subject to this kind of othering. added Teesta. 

The Indian Government had arrested Father Stan Swamy only because he had worked for four decades for the uplift of the poor tribal people in Jharkhand state, Father Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest and a human rights defender, said. Fr. Swamy became an obstacle for successive governments who, “in collusion with vested interest, especially those who deplete the forests of the precious resources, like the mining mafia, the timber merchants,” wanted to wrest control of the forests from the tribal people.

“Fr. Swamy was fighting for the release of more than 3000 tribal youth, struggling for their rights, accompanying them in their legal battles, and so on.” Former Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon said “the notion that India is a great secular democracy has become a cloak to conceal the extent of the injustice.” The foundation on which is India’s judiciary, parliamentary and education systems have been “extensively eroded” as Mr. Modi’s government’s “passing discriminatory laws, neutralizing judges and cultivating a BJP controlled police force is at an advanced stage.”

 IAMC National General Secretary Mohammad Jawad said “This exhaustive report’s coverage of all the aspects — from the sedition laws and hate speech, to national security legislation and the criminalization of dissent, from the questions on the independence of the judiciary to the dilution of labor laws and the universal health policies — demonstrates how the Modi government is set to undo decades of positive and progressive work in India.” IAMC will share the 2021 Human Rights report, “Crushing Dissent”, with members of US Congress, the White House, the Department of State, the National Security Council, think-tanks, the US academia and research community and the civil rights activists and NGOs, he added. 

(Picture: Telegraph India)

Hoteliers Optimistic About Biden Administration’s Small Business Priorities

WHASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 20 – AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton issued the following statement today following the inauguration of President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States:

“America’s hoteliers congratulate President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on this historic day for our nation. We look forward to the vision and leadership offered by the Biden administration as our nation works to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and get our economy back on track. The ambitious plan to vaccinate 100 million people in the next 100 days, if achieved, would give a much-needed boost to consumer confidence that could lead to a resumption of travel, tourism, and in-person events. Such a significant increase in vaccinations and testing will go a long way towards alleviating the uncertainty that surrounds the viability and safety of resuming these pre-pandemic activities. Small business owners are struggling with the pandemic’s economic fallout, and the plan outlined by President Biden looks to target those industries, such as hospitality, that are experiencing a disproportionate amount of hardship. We are optimistic that the new administration’s focus on the public good will speed along our recovery, and we look forward to working with President Biden and his team to do right by America’s small businesses.”

About AAHOA:
AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The over 19,500 AAHOA members represent almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

Prism Health Lab Opens Their Sixth Location in Chicago

Chicago IL: Prism Health Lab has developed its sixth COVID-19 testing location in order to provide Chicagoland’s various communities with access to safe, easily accessible, and affordable testing options. 

 The locations, which offer no-cost testing and are open to all, are part of a joint effort with State Rep. Theresa Mah and Ald. Byron Sigcho (25th) to bring permanent testing sites to communities that need them the most. Prism Health Lab’s 6th site, located at the Chicago Public Library in Chinatown at 2100 S Wentworth Ave, is permanent.  

“The goal of having these locations is to do everything we can to eliminate the barriers to our health care for our Chinese and Latinx community, particularly our immigrant community,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

 “Our immigrant communities, particularly our Spanish-speaking and Chinese immigrant community, are disproportionately suffering from COVID-19,” Mah said. “Making testing more widely available is part of what we can do to help people protect themselves and, ultimately, our communities.”

 “We are happy to be here with members of this diverse community because we’re dedicated to getting everyone one step closer to life before COVID-19,” said Zul Kapadia, CEO & President of Prism Health Lab. “We have faith that grassroots initiatives like ours will be recognized, and as we transition into the Biden Administration, we hope our voices – the voices of Chicago’s communities – will be heard when executing the vaccine roll-out.”

 Prism Health Lab’s testing sites offer a wide range of services & support, and can accommodate patients who speak English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Insurance is not required and there is no copay or deductible.

Prism Health Lab testing sites are open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday and 11a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday in the following areas:

Laramie & 18th, Cicero, IL
Peterson & Western, West Ridge, Chicago, IL
Archer & Wentworth, Chinatown, Chicago, IL
Lake & Bryn Mawr, Roselle, IL
Schaumburg & Plum Grove, Schaumburg, IL
Touhy & Niles Center, Holiday Inn, Skokie, IL

 To make an appointment, visit prismhealthlab.com/appointment or call (800) 325-1812.

(Photographs and Press release by: Asian Media USA)

GOPIO-Manhattan Launches Community Feeding At The Holiday Party

GOPIO-Manhattan organized a Holiday Party to celebrate its achievements in the last four souths since its inauguration in September 2020. Since the launch, GOPIO-CT has organized two major programs introducing all those Indian Americans running for State Houses and a celebration for all those who won the last election. Attended by a full house audience on Zoom, the program started with greetings by its Co-Secretary Bhavya Gupta followed by a formal welcome by GOPIO-Manhattan President Shivender Sofat who said that the chapter is moving forward with several new activities to serve the community.

GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham said that one of the missions of GOPIO was to get our Diaspora in the mainstream politics of countries with substantial Indian Diaspora population and that goal has somewhat been achieved now in many such countries. 

 

“Last year we have made history, not only by the election of Senator Kamala Harris as the Vice President and reelecting the four House of Representatives but also a record number of lawmakers are elected to the state houses.” said Dr. Abraham.

 

Dr. Abraham also launched a new program of GOPIO-Manhattan, Community Feeding in cooperation with Interfaith Services, where on last Monday of every month, vegetarian food is served to the homeless and needy at the Tomkins Square Park in Manhattan, New York City. Members can participate as a volunteer or become sponsor of one feeding. The coordinator from GOPIO-Manhattan is its Vice President Dr. Vimal Goyle (Tel. 316-371-7098).

 

After the brief remarks, the Holiday Party entertainment program started with Film Producer/Director and New York Emmy Award Nominee Tirlok Malik as the Master of Ceremony. Malik was the live wire of the party. Malik presented entertainers from the community one by one.

 

Malik presented younger artists first, high school sophomore Mohita Belwariar who played Sitar followed by Amav Garg playing Tabla and 7th grader Durga Menon rendering a classical Indian music. Next came Pallavi Belwariar, a compliance & RA Manager in Pharmaceutical industry, who has been performing for GOPIO chapters in the last four months through Zoom. Malik then introduced Paul Sladkus for a Piano recital followed by radio personality and singer Kulraj Anand. Music was then continued with Pallavi and Pradip Parikh.

AR Rahman: Proud To See Response To BAFTA Breakthrough India

Oscar and Grammy-winning Indian composer AR Rahman is proud to see the response to the BAFTA Breakthrough initiative in India, and says he wants to encourage more individuals from across film, games and television to get involved in the project.

On Thursday, it was announced that British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has extended the deadline for submission of applications for BAFTA Breakthrough India by two weeks, from January 25 to February 8.

“I am extremely proud to see the response that BAFTA Breakthrough India has received from across the country. We have received applications from across the nation, proving that talent can be found in all corners of India,” said Rahman, who has been roped in as ambassador of the BAFTA Breakthrough initiative in India.

“We are so pleased with the uptake and I am delighted to see BAFTA extend the deadline to February 8. I encourage talented individuals from across film, games and television to get involved and submit their application for what could be a life changing experience,” he added.

The initiative marks BAFTA’s first steps into India. The talent hunt initiative will enable the Academy to identify and nurture up to five talents working in film, games, or television in India.

The exercise, known as BAFTA Breakthrough initiative, is part of the Academy’s year-round effort to support new talent, operating alongside their Awards ceremonies, and is supported by Netflix. (IANS)

(Picture: India TV News)

Metro Park Season 2 On Jan. 29th

 (New York, NY – January 20, 2021) Eros Now, South Asia’s leading streaming entertainment service owned by the Eros STX Global Corporation (NYSE: EROS), a Global Entertainment company, today announced the return of comedy-drama, ‘Metro Park’ – a hilarious sitcom about a typical Indian family settled abroad. Helmed by Abi Varghese & Ajayan Venugopalan and written by Ajayan Venugopalan, Metro Park Season 2 ensembles a stellar star cast of Ranvir Shorey, Purbi Joshi,  Pitobash, Omi Vaidya, Vega Tamotia and Sarita Joshi playing pivotal characters, along with Milind Soman and Gopal Dutt making special appearances.
 
Over the years, the Indian culture has made its presence felt globally. Irrespective of which part of the world we are in, our deeply-rooted Indian values of celebrating and socializing have given birth to many Indian communities around the world. The love and warmth radiated by Indians set them apart from everyone. Similar is the situation of the Indian Desi Gujarati family of Eros Now’s ‘Metro Park’, a perfect blend of drama and comedy, all set to take the audience on an exciting joyful ride as they return with season 2 on January 29, 2021.

After securing much applause and adulation after the first season, fans can now rejoice with their wish to reunite with the uber-cool clan of ‘Metro Park’ getting fulfilled. The audience will witness a fascinating storyline with their favorite Metro Park family bringing madness right to their homes. The show revolves around the eccentricities and quirks of a Desi Indian Gujarati family settled in New Jersey, USA. The entertainment quotient of the show has been raised to a higher level, with its funny yet relatable characters and its modern milieus in season 2, which promise to deliver tongue in cheek humor.

Fasten your seat belts and get ready to roll on the floor with laughter, enjoying a unique out-of-India experience, while the crazy family of Metro Park ushers joy and happiness into your life.

Stay Tuned to get on a joyful ride with Metro Park Season 2 only on 29th January 2020! To subscribe, please visit www.erosnow.com/purchase. Annual subscription costs $49.99 for the year (little over $4 a month). 

Commenting on the Season 2 of Metro Park, Ridhima Lulla, Chief Content Officer, Eros Group said: “Sitcom is a genre that has always impressed everyone. Eros Now’s original series Metro Park is a light-hearted comedy-drama that will be a rollicking fun watch. The Indian Diaspora across the globe will relate to this narrative. The demand for more and more OTT content is rising, and it is, in a way, shaping the future of Indian entertainment. We, at Eros Now, always offer exciting, fresh and relatable content, and Metro Park Season 2 is yet another noteworthy presentation for all our viewers.”
 Talking about the show Ranvir Shorey said: “Metro Park Season 2 with its bigger and crazier Parivaar will chart the daily lives of a Gujarati family cruising through the busy life of New Jersey. The story is freewheeling and has a tongue in cheek humor, and you cannot predict what will happen next. The cast and producers were all very excited to go into production after lockdown, and we have spent several days preparing to deliver the best.”

Milind Soman excitedly commented: “Metro Park Season 2 is certainly going to be a fun watch, as there is drama every second. The comedy in the show pops out of nowhere and turns every scene into a laugh riot. The story and the jokes are absolutely hilarious, and the performances are wonderful. I had such a great time at the shoot! I’m sure the audiences will fall in love with the Metro Park family all over again this time.”

Last Mile Delivery of COVID-19 Vaccines––A Logistical Nightmare

The world has been reeling hard from the COVID-19 pandemic, crossing over two million deaths across the world. Paul Offit, a vaccine developer at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), explains that there are two ways out of a pandemic: “one is hygienic measures–which we don’t seem very good at–and two is the vaccine.” That said, the government has thrown in everything to help build vaccines as all other measures have been unable to contain the virus efficiently. 

 

Eighteen billion dollars have been invested through government funds and Operation Warpspeed to expedite the process of vaccine development. Scientists and researchers have worked hand-in-hand with industry and regulatory authorities and were able to perform almost a miracle of getting an effective vaccine ready in fewer than twelve months. Pfizer and Moderna developed vaccines from the messenger RNA (mRNA) that codes for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Phase 3 clinical trials have proven that the Moderna vaccine has 94.1% efficacy and the Pfizer vaccine has 95% efficacy. Despite its high efficacy rate, the process of vaccination is going to have numerous hurdles as the supply chain management process takes long before the vaccine is actually administered to the user.  This involves transporting the vaccines from factories to national storage facilities to clinics through flights, trains, and trucks. 

 

The major problem in this process is going to arise at the last-mile delivery stage, particularly in remote villages and less developed areas where there may not be as much infrastructure available for transportation. Another significant limitation is that these vaccines need to be stored at extremely low temperatures throughout the process. For example, the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, and the Moderna vaccine needs to be stored at -20 degrees Celsius. As a result, these vaccines need to be stored in specialized freezers and packaged with dry ice. However, studies have shown that only 25 to 30 countries have this ultra cold storage facility. It is therefore going to be a significant challenge for the rest of the countries that do not have this technology for the storage of vaccines and for people to gain access to vaccines for COVID-19. 

 

To overcome the lack of infrastructure networks for storage and transportation, drones can be effective tools. Drones have been effectively used in the healthcare field for the delivery of medications, bandages, etc. Similarly, they can be an ideal solution to deliver COVID-19 vaccines in a cost-effective and efficient way. Drones are beneficial because they are small and compact, and they require minimal infrastructure like roads, airports, and rail lines. They are also less expensive due to low maintenance costs, consume less energy, and are battery operated which is great for sustainability. 

 

Drone technologies are improving each year, enhancing the speed (75 mph) and endurance (8+ hours). By attaching a cold storage box with stored vaccines, it is possible to maintain storage requirements while also delivering vaccines to every corner of the world, regardless of the geographical location or access to transportation of that location. One drawback to utilizing drones is that they can only carry a limited amount of weight, and the cold storage system adds a significant weight. To counter this issue, we will need a large number of drones that can carry the limited baggage they can transport. Vaccines can be initially transported using available infrastructure to the major locations that have an established infrastructure. From these centers, drones can then perform the last-mile delivery to locations that do not have established transport  infrastructures. Drones are one of the most feasible ways to help get the vaccines delivered to everyone, regardless of geography or other socioeconomic factors. The US Government has also realized this, and recently the FAA issued new regulations that will allow small commercial drones to fly short distances over people and at night without a waiver. Small drones will also be permitted to fly over moving vehicles under limited conditions. The new rules mark a significant step forward by the US government towards a future of commercial drone deliveries, which can hopefully translate into getting vaccines for every person in the world.

 

(Kritika Singh is an aspiring pre-medical undergraduate student at Rutgers University as part of the Honors College, double majoring in Biological Sciences and Public Health. Her research focus is on bringing technology and medicine together to aid patients in underserved areas. She has previously worked as a research intern at Nair Hospital, a tertiary care center in Mumbai, India, to study HIV epidemiology and co-infection rates with other significant illnesses. She has also worked as a UI/UX design intern at the Mount Sinai AppLab in New York, where she helped develop a smartphone app that uses surface area for estimating weight of infants and determining their corresponding medication dosages for emergency pediatric settings. Currently, she is a New Jersey Vaccine Advocate, striving to promote health and wellness in local underserved communities by combating vaccine hesitancy among the population. She is a journalist for The Examiner, the pre-health journal of Rutgers University, and has served as an Editor of The Podium, which was her high school newspaper. She is also a Contact Tracer for COVID-19 at the Montville Township Health Department. Outside of academics, Kritika is passionate about yoga, music, and landscape photography. She runs voluntary classes for yoga to raise money for children with autism. She has played the piano for over eight years and enjoys performing for the elderly at assisted living centers.) 

Sources:

https://wamu.org/story/20/08/27/covid-19-vaccine-may-pit-science-against-politics/

https://www.gasworld.com/restarting-global-economy-depends-on-tackling-last-mile-of-vaccine-journey-new-report-says/2020172.article

https://www.softboxsystems.com

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-covid-cold-chain-how-a-vaccine-will-get-to-you/

https://www.dronesinhealthcare.com

https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/faa-drone-rules-what-recreational-and-commercial-pilots-need-to-know

 

 

India’s Three Cardinals’ Meet Prime Minister of India

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi met the three Cardinals – Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Cardinal George Alencherry and Cardinal Baselios Cleemis last week in New Delhi. When the Cardinals emerged from the meeting, they all commented that it was a very cordial and a fruitful meeting and the Prime Minister was very much relaxed. This meeting was more of a dialogue and a conversation on wide ranging issues. 

 After the meeting, at the Press Conference held at Mizoram House, His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias in his opening remarks said that the Prime Minister had invited them for a conversation where they reviewed different works in the Church in India, at the national scene and particularly how the Church is working in different fields of education, medical and social welfare and how we can in the future even more collaborate with the Government. His Eminence then invited the press reporters to ask any questions.  

 In reply to a question whether the Cardinals had asked the Prime Minister about the proposal of inviting the Holy Father to India, Cardinal Oswald said that this was always in the mind of the Prime Minister. He is positive about this and has shared his eagerness to get the Holy Father to India. The Prime Minister has to find an appropriate time when the Holy Father can be invited.  Cardinal Oswald Gracias commented that the present health and safety conditions in India do not warrant a visit of the Holy Father. 

 Cardinal Oswald Gracias raised the issue of the farmers and hoped that a just solution be found. The Prime Minister stated that the government was making every effort for this. With regard to the release of Fr. Stan Swamy, Cardinal Oswald Gracias said that the Prime Minister is aware of the situation and is sympathetic. But this is taken care of by an independent agency and the Government does not want to interfere in the matter. 

 Cardinal Baselios Cleemis shared with the Press what Cardinal Oswald Gracias had shared with the Prime Minister of the massive work and efforts done by the Catholic Church during the Covid pandemic. Rs 152 crores had been spent by the Church to take care of the poor during this pandemic. The different Caritas agencies in India reached out to over 2 crores population. Cardinal Gracias assured the Prime Minister that the Catholic Church will continue to engage in the emergency care for the people of India. 

 Speaking about the minorities in India, Cardinal George Alencherry shared with the Prime Minister that there should be equitable distribution of goods and services. He also spoke about the new Education Policy with the Prime Minister. Cardinal Alencherry insisted with the Prime Minister on religious harmony.  The Prime Minister is open to all that was shared. He shared that much discussion had gone into before the formulation of the policy.

With regard to FCRA, the Prime Minister said that there were so many agencies getting foreign money and not maintaining proper accounts. Therefore, the Prime Minister had to be strict about that, to which Cardinal Alencherry said that we support that. Due to the misdeeds of some people, the others must not suffer. 

 

With regard to the equitable distribution of funds, a reporter asked whether there was discrimination on the basis of religion and minorities. Cardinal Alencherry said that neither the Prime Minister nor the Cardinals spoke of any discrimination. Cardinal Cleemis said that this is the fund given by the Central Government to be distributed among the poor.  What the Cardinals asked the Prime Minister was to make a point of justice so that the funds are fairly distributed. No one should be ignored and this distribution should be done in an equitable manner. The Prime Minister assured the Cardinals that he will look into the matter.

 Cardinal Alencherry spoke to the Prime Minister about certain difficulties faced in the Kerala Church. Cardinal Cleemis shared how the issue of poorest of the poor was raised with the Prime Minister. Mention of the promotion of the Dalit people was made with particular reference to the Christians of Dalit community. These are groups of people who need to be treated and brought to the mainstream of society. The Prime Minister was very positive about this and we have assured our support to this where the Dalits can be brought to the mainstream of the society. How and what means to be followed, they were not clear about that but an appropriate study needs to be made about this, to make provisions for them so that justice can be given to them. 

 Cardinal Cleemis thanked the efforts made by the Honourable Governor of Mizoram for facilitating this meeting. Unfortunately, the Governor could not be present because he is under quarantine in Kerala. It was a very refreshing experience for the Government to invite the three Cardinals and to listen to them. The Governor of Mizoram is very open to all communities and not just the Christians. Since he is the Governor of Mizoram, he understands the Christians very well as there are more than 80% Christians in Mizoram.  Therefore, he has learnt to appreciate the work of the Christian community. We appreciate the many efforts the Governor had taken for today’s meeting. The invitation for this meeting came from the Prime Minister, which was very important for us. 

 The Cardinals were asked if any constitutional amendment was suggested to the Prime Minister to allow the Dalit to come to the reservation category. It was suggested to the Prime Minister that the criteria for assistance should be economic and not religion. 

 Cardinal Oswald Gracias said that he had previously clarified to the Prime Minister that the Church is not political by nature. The Church is not for any political party; it is always apolitical. What we always look for is good governance. We look for the care for the poor, economic growth and development of the people, justice and progress of the country.  

 Cardinal Alencherry said that the Church is a reality in society and always in dialogue with the Government for the betterment of the poor. Cardinal Oswald Gracias thanked all the press reporters that came for this press conference.  The meeting ended with the mutual thanksgiving and the Prime Minister inviting the Cardinals to approach him if they have any issue to discuss.

Dalai Lama: ‘We Can No Longer Say “My Nation” … We Should Say “My Planet”

In this time of COVID-19 and civil unrest in America, happiness often seems increasingly elusive. Yet that may not have to be so, and, in fact, such turmoil can offer opportunities for both personal and professional fulfillment.

That was the theme of an online conversation Saturday night between the Dalai Lama and Professor Arthur C. Brooks of Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Speaking from his home in Dharamshala, India, the Dalai Lama, longtime leader of Tibetan Buddhism, spoke with Brooks, HKS professor of the practice of public leadership and HBS professor of management practice, for 90 minutes in a live segment of Brooks’ HBS class called “Leadership and Happiness.” The Dalai Lama answered questions from students about their concerns and their duties in a troubled world.

Connection — even as people are usually now forced to work and study separately — is the key to happiness, he said. “We need a sense of oneness. We are each one of 7 billion human beings.” Occasionally aided by an interpreter, the 85-year-old religious leader stressed that point repeatedly. Especially when faced with global crises such as the pandemic and climate change, he said, people must engage as a global community.

“We can no longer say ‘my nation, my country,’ ” he said. “We should say ‘my planet.’ We have to live on this planet together.”

The potential for happiness is in that connectivity. “Happiness is in the mind,” the Dalai Lama said. As individuals and as leaders, when we reach out to others, lifting them up, we experience that connection, and the resulting fulfillment brings us happiness.

Even during a pandemic, he advised, we can find peace. Science and intellectual analysis, he stressed, are vital. If health professionals advise that it is not safe to gather, we need to respect that. He said he personally has found solitude useful for meditation. But being alone should be a choice: “With technology, the oneness of people becomes more clear,” he added. “We can communicate with each other.”

Isolation, he pointed out, can be largely a state of mind. “Tibet, in ancient times, was lonely but happy.” Even in the sparsely populated, mountainous country, “When one family needed some help, they could ask,” he said, relying on a strong sense of community.

Now, people are clustered in big cities but often without a sense of their interdependency.  “Instead of trust, there is fear and distrust,” he said. Focusing on material wealth or competition rather than on interdependency and the general good “eventually creates anger, so the person will not be happy.”

Countering this outlook is within our power. He described his own travels and how, as a stateless person, he could have felt isolated and alone. Instead, wherever he was, he saw himself as part of a larger community, anywhere in the world.

Pushing further for being in the world, the Dalai Lama promoted what Brooks called “the sanctity of the intellectual life.” He repeatedly returned to the need for academic rigor, even at the expense of religious doctrine. Following discussions with scientists, for example, he has let go of centuries-old Buddhist concepts, “like Mount Meru and the sun and the moon being the same size,” he said, referring to the sacred peak considered the center of the universe. “You must be realistic and analyze,” he said.

“What kind of future depends on the present, the younger generation — you are the key people who can create a happier future,” the Dalai Lama told a Harvard Business School class on Saturday night.

“We’re not like other animals,” he said, simply seeking sustenance or safety. “A lot of our problems are our own mental creations.” The solution, he stressed, comes in improving our educational systems to teach community and equality rather than division and difference. Science, he added, can further our understanding of our emotions and the human mind. “A lot of problems were created by the human mind itself, so the remedy also, you see, lies within the human mind. Investigate.”

He concluded his talk by speaking directly to the student audience. Referring to his own status as a refugee and to the problems that his generation has left the world, he became, once again, philosophical. “Time is always moving,” he said. “We cannot change the past. The future is not yet come. What kind of future depends on the present, the younger generation — you are the key people who can create a happier future. So, please, you should not just copy what has happened. New thinking is very necessary. Please think more.”

(Courtesy: the Harvard Gazette)

AAPI Sends Best Wishes To President Biden & Vice President Harris

Chicago, Il: January 20, 2021) “On behalf of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), I want to congratulate and offer our best wishes to our President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on the occasion of their solemn swearing ceremony as they commit the nation to unity, prosperity and strengthening of democratic values,” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, President of AAPI said here today. Describing these as “critical times” for the nation, Dr. Jonnalagadda said, “We, the members of the medical fraternity are encouraged by President Biden beginning his presidency with paying tributes to the 400,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID and thanking the services of the healthcare professionals who are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic.”

In her congratulatory note, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT, while wishing the new Administration the very best as Biden and Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States, assume office on January 20th, 2021, praised Biden for pledging “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify; who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.”

 

“America’s leadership is vital on the issues that matter to us all, from climate change to COVID,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI, in a message. She praised Vice President Kamala Harris, who has “made history by being elected to be the first ever woman and of South Asian heritage to become the Vice President of the United States.” Referring to her Indian origins, Dr. Gotimukula described the election of Kamala Harris as “Inspiring and is of immense pride for all Indian-Americans and to all women.”

Describing the 202 elections and the oath ceremony today on Capitol Hilly as a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy, Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI said, “I do hope that the new Biden-Harris administration will be guided by its deep concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, while fostering understanding, reconciliation and peace within the US and among the nations of the world.”

“The overrepresentation of Indians in the field of medicine is striking – in practical terms, one out of seven doctors in the United States is of Indian Heritage. The nominations of dozens of leading experts in the new administration by Biden, including our own Dr. Vivek Murthy as the US Surgeon General makes us all proud,” said, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI said.

Describing the numerous efforts by AAPI during the pandemic, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI, pointed out, “AAPI as an organization has helped and is continuing to help the communities, especially during COVID-19 pandemic. I am confident that under President Biden’s administration the vaccine distribution will take place at a faster pace to end this pandemic. It is really great to see the diversity in the government. AAPI will continue to advise the new administration when needed

Established in 1982, with the lofty ideal to bring together Physicians of Indian Origin in the United States under a single umbrella organization, and be their Voice in this adopted land of ours, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) is a non-political umbrella organization which has over 100 local chapters, specialty societies and alumni organizations. Almost 10%-12% of medical students entering US schools are of Indian origin. AAPI represents the interests of over 80,000 physicians and 30,000 medical students and residents of Indian heritage in the United States. With their hard work, dedication, compassion, and skills, they have thus carved an enviable niche in the American medical community. AAPI’s role has come to be recognized as vital among members and among lawmakers. 

 While offering fullest cooperation to the Biden administration, Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda said,  “The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (APPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the country has taken several proactive steps in educating their members and the general public about the disease, the preventive steps that needs to be taken at this time and most importantly, they are using all their contacts and resources at the hospital administrative and government level to facilitate treatment protocols to be in place at the various hospitals around the country.” For more information on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

(Biden Harris. Picture Courtesy  of Whitehouse.gov)

How Many Senators Will Vote To Convict Donald Trump?

Now that Donald Trump has been impeached for an historic second time, attention turns to the Senate where, according to the Constitution, a trial will begin. The big question is—unlike last year when only one Republican Senator voted to convict Trump on charges resulting from his phone call with the President of Ukraine—will there be 17 Republican senators willing to vote to convict Trump?

Let’s start with what we know. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is the only senator who has said clearly that he is open to convicting Trump. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to convict last year when Trump was impeached over his phone call with the Ukrainian president. The charges in this impeachment are equally if not more serious, so it seems likely that he too may vote to convict. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) have also made statements signaling that they’ve had enough of Trump. Murkowski just wants him out, saying “He has caused enough damage,” and Toomey thinks he committed impeachable offenses but is unsure whether impeachment makes sense this close to the end of the Trump presidency.

So if all four of these senators ended up voting to convict Trump, 13 others would have to join to have him convicted. Most of the other senators are keeping their opinions close, and for good reason. A lot could change between now January 19th, which is the earliest the Senate could begin a trial. If the violence we saw on January 6th is repeated it will probably move some more Republicans towards voting for conviction. If they listen to President Trump’s belated requests for “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” the air may go out of the conviction balloon.

The senators who are most likely to stick with Trump are the ones planning to run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) could fall into that camp. If he opposes conviction he may well inherit the Trump base—especially if Trump is convicted and the Senate votes to prohibit him from running again. So as much as Cruz may, in his heart of hearts, want Trump out of the picture, he will almost certainly vote against conviction. It is likely that most of the potential 2024 candidates will make the same calculation.

Then there is the pool of senators who just got re-elected in 2020 and who will therefore not face re-election until 2026—a lifetime in politics. Chief among these is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is reported to be “livid” with Trump and who is not whipping his colleagues to vote against conviction. McConnell is now 78 years old. He may decide that this is his last term in office and end up voting for conviction. What McConnell does will have a definitive impact on his colleagues. If he continues to signal his desire to rid the Republican Party of Trump it is likely that others will follow. For instance, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) won a 9-point victory over her Democratic challenger while Trump was losing the state of Maine to Biden by 9 points. She clearly does not need to fear revenge from the Trump base. If McConnell sends out strong signals for conviction others may follow, concluding that they are doing the Republican Party a favor by getting rid of Trump, thus enabling the party to turn the page on a contentious and chaotic era.

All in all there are 16 Republican senators who did not vote to sustain the pro-Trump objections to the Electoral College roll call and who are not up for re-election until 2026.[1] In voting to confirm Biden’s election they have already broken with Trump—will they go all the way and vote to convict him or will they decide to limit the fury in the base of the party and refrain from voting to convict? It would only take thirteen of the Republican senators in this group (not counting Ben Sasse) to join Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey in voting with the Democrats to convict Donald Trump.

And there may be more. As we went into the impeachment vote in the House of Representatives, we knew of six members who were going to vote for the Democrats. By the end of the day there were ten who crossed over.

In the past week Donald Trump’s support has been shrinking by the moment. In the end, if 17 Republican senators vote to convict it will probably be because of the way Trump has conducted his presidency, indulging his autocratic beliefs and treating others with legitimate claims to power as if they were groundskeepers at one of his golf clubs. As Majority Leader Hoyer said in the final moments of debate on the floor of the House: “Donald Trump demands absolute loyalty and gives none in return.” More than anything else that may be his undoing.

(Picture: ABC News)

Two Decades Apart, India Do The Unexpected Against Aussies

India vs Australia: What helped India win this series? There could be many logical answers and yet there could be no answer to it at all. It wasn’t meant to happen, such things don’t happen at all. The rarity of such this accomplishment is what makes it surreal and overwhelming. Perhaps like a deus ex machina, that enters a play at the last moment and solves all the problems.

Indian players pose with the winning trophy after defeating Australia by three wickets on the final day of the fourth cricket test match at the Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, (PTI) 

The year was 1999 and there was a lot of anticipation in everyone about what lay ahead. It was the end of a century and the beginning of another. In India, it was a time of great change. ‘Growth’ was the buzz word in every walk of life.

But Indian cricket, on the pitch, was stuck in mediocrity, despite having the biggest star the sport had seen till then in its ranks. Sachin Tendulkar was already reaching stratospheric heights with his batsmanship and had earned praise from the greatest batsman ever, Sir Donald Bradman, after his exploits against the Australians in the unforgettable summer of 1998.

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He was the diminutive ‘giant’ in a team that was still a mixed bag of sorts. When he led this team to Australia in the December of 1999 for a three-match Test series, in what was his second coming as captain of the side, there was fear in the hearts of Indian cricket fans and prayers on their lips.

Australia were the reigning world champions of ODI cricket and were an even greater force in Test cricket. To speak in footballing terms, they were the ‘Brazil’ of cricket in terms of dominance.

As was feared, India’s campaign came unstuck and ended in a 0-3 debacle. Tendulkar stood tall in the ruins, along with a certain VVS Laxman, but it didn’t matter much, as the team’s morale had touched its nadir. That defeat followed by a home series loss in years, against South Africa, meant Tendulkar gave up captaincy for good to concentrate on his batting.

It was an hour of crisis off the pitch too with the match-fixing scandal exploding and spinning out of control. India needed a leader, not just of a cricket team but of men and they found one in Sourav Ganguly. The Bengal cricketer had the elegance and charm of a prince in his batting, but he combined that with the tenacity of a street fighter as captain of the team.

(Picture: Yahoo News)

“To Heal, We Must Remember”

One of the great tragedies of the past year, as some 400,000 Americans lost their lives to Covid-19, was not only that many victims died alone — their loved ones robbed of the chance to say goodbye — but that the pain of that loss was whitewashed by a President who chose to minimize and deny it.

In a somber ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday night that was his first stop in Washington, President-elect Joe Biden signaled that honoring that grief and the terrible toll of the last year would be at the very heart of his administration. Elected because of his empathy and his compassion for Americans, who are suffering through a confluence of crises that have created a time of great uncertainty, Biden spoke just a few words as the sun set over the National Mall, casting a rosy glow in the twilight. 

The President-elect told Americans he shared in their grief — with his own understanding deepened by the loss of his first wife and daughter in a car accident as a young man and the loss of his son Beau to cancer at the age of 46.

“It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said in brief remarks before 400 lights were illuminated along the edges of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, marking the more than 400,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19. 

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He and his wife, Jill Biden, watched in silence, alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, as the reflections of the lights glimmered in the water. Hundreds of towns, cities and communities across the country joined in the tribute, lighting up buildings from the Empire State Building in New York to the Space Needle in Seattle. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, delivered the invocation and gospel singer Yolanda Adams performed “Hallelujah” after Biden spoke.

Harris spoke briefly at the memorial, noting that “for many months, we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.”

“Though we may be physically separated, we, the American people, are united in spirit and my abiding hope, my abiding prayer, is that we emerge from this ordeal with a new wisdom: to cherish simple moments, to imagine new possibilities and to open our hearts just a little bit more to one another,” Harris said.

The President-elect arrived in Washington, DC, on Tuesday for the start of his inaugural ceremonies at a dark moment in American history, preparing to take his oath of office as the US passes 400,000 coronavirus deaths and is more divided than at any time since the Civil War.

As he departed for the nation’s capital earlier in the day, Biden gave an emotional farewell to his home state of Delaware, his voice breaking at times as he thanked the state’s residents for believing in him and standing with him throughout his career.

“I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” Biden said at the Delaware National Guard headquarters in New Castle County. “Excuse the emotion,” he said, tears streaming down his face, “but when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart and the hearts of all of us — all the Bidens. We love you all. You’ve been there for us in the good and the bad.” 

He gave a moving tribute to his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46, stating that he had hoped to see his son become president one day. “We should be introducing him as president,” he said. 

The President-elect also noted the historical arc of his career witnessing the civil rights struggle as well as signs of progress in the United States. He said he came home to Wilmington, Delaware, from law school after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated — inspired by the turmoil to become a public defender. In 2009, he made the journey to Washington with Barack Obama, who became the nation’s first Black president. And he is returning to Washington, DC, this week “to meet a Black woman of South Asian descent, to be sworn in as President and vice president of the United States. That’s America,” he said Tuesday. 

The nation’s continuing struggles for equality and racial justice also drew Biden into the 2020 presidential race. He has said he decided to seek the highest office after watching President Donald Trump’s dismissive handling of the deadly White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

(Picture: Market Watch)

The Many Identities Of Kamala Harris

Born in Oakland, California, to two immigrant parents – an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father – her parents divorced when she was five and she was primarily raised by her Hindu single mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist. 

She grew up engaged with her Indian heritage, joining her mother on visits to India, but Ms Harris has said that her mother adopted Oakland’s black culture, immersing her two daughters – Kamala and her younger sister Maya – within it. 

“My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters,” she wrote in her autobiography The Truths We Hold. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.” 

 

On the eve of her taking over as the path-breaking first Indian American vice president, Kamala Harris assured her fellow Americans from the continent celebrating her victory that she will ensure a pathway is open for the community – and that is a lesson she learnt from her mother.

She said at a celebration by Asian Americans on Jan. 19, “My mother Shyamala Gopalan arrived in the United States from India, she raised my sister Maya and me to know that though we may be the first, we should not be the last. And I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career.”

The Asian American Pacific Islander Ball is one of the traditional galas held around the inauguration ceremony and this year’s events were held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Asian Ball held a special significance for the community this time as one of their own was becoming the vice president, the second most powerful position in the nation. Americans of Asian origin expressed their joy and congratulated the community for contributing to her election.

Performances and speeches by Asian American entertainers were the highlight of the event which also featured members of Congress and community leaders.

Harris said, “Your continued faith in me has brought me to this moment. When I accepted the nomination to be your vice president, I did so, fully-committed to realizing the vision of a stronger, more united America that provides an opportunity for all.”

The pan-Asian event on the theme “Breaking Barrier” was sponsored by the Indian American Impact Fund, better known as just IMPACT, which aims to produce more political leaders from the community, and RUN AAPI, a youth organization.

IMPACT co-founder Raj Goyal was jubilant about the rapid rise of someone with Indian heritage to be the vice president.

“We never knew how quickly we may see a ‘desi’ at the national level. When I was elected to the Kansas legislature in 2006, it was unimaginable. We’ve come so far in such a short period of time,” Gopal said.

The other co-founder, Deepak Raj, said that Harris had been at the founding of IMPACT and has been a “trailblazer for the community.”

Usually people wear formal clothing like tuxedos and gowns or national dresses, but everyone was dressed informally for the virtual event.

Hollywood Indian American actor Kal Penn joked, “I don’t know how everybody else is dressed, since we can’t really see each other until we see each other. But I am wearing a hoodie. I just want everybody to know that this is my tuxedo for 2021 for the inaugural.”

When “my parents came here didn’t really see folks who look like us on TV or in sports or in politics,” he said.

Therefore, Harris’ election has been an emotional moment and “there’s been a lot of good cry. You know what I mean? Like a lot of good inspirational cries,” he said.

Hip hop artist Raja Kumari performed a number that melded rap and hip-hop with taals and swaras. Bangladeshi American singer Ari Afsar, who performed in the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” also sang.

The founder of Indiaspora, an international community network, M.R. Rangaswami, said he had met her when she was the San Francisco public prosecutor and “seen her grow from strength to strength” and now she is going to be the new vice president in a “historic administration.”

Neera Tanden, who will be a member of the cabinet as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said, “For many in our community, there is so much to be proud of. Not only can we celebrate an incredibly diverse cabinet, but we can also celebrate the fact that we have the first vice president-elect who is from Asian descent. I am incredibly proud to serve alongside Kamala Harris”

IMPACT executive director Neil Makhija said, “Our community turned out in record numbers. We really made our voices heard. And we changed the course of history” with the Biden-Harris election.

He said the Asian members of Congress at the event, who included those of Indian, Chinese and Korean descent, “are some of our luminaries, they are role models. They showed us the meaning of service.”

Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi echoed the community’s excitement at the election of Harris. Representative Ro Khanna said, “I can’t stress what an amazing moment this is for our community, and frankly, for a multiracial democracy in America.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal said that she was excited to see “the first woman, the first South Asian American, and the first black American to ever be elected to this position of public trust.”

The work of Asians who contributed to the Biden-Harris election though financial contributions, helping with the campaign and going house to house to ask for votes was mentioned by Representative Ami Bera.

“I am so grateful that we got this right,” said Hollywood actress Sheetal Seth about the election of Harris and Biden. TV actor Sendhil Ramamurthy said, “We made a difference,” as he recalled the campaign work of the Asian community to get the votes out.

Pakistani American comedian-actor Kumail Nanjiani said that after the alienation felt by people like him and his family, finally his mother “feels proud to call America home.”

“I’m excited to see if it shows that people who look like me and my family, who sound like me and my family, who have names like me and my family, that America is our home, because the new administration sees us as belonging here too,” he added.

(Picture: POLITICO)

Vice President Kamala Harris Says She’ll Ensure a Pathway for Community

Three women tried unsuccessfully to break the glass ceiling to reach the top positions of the US, one as president and two as vice presidents, and finally Kamala Harris has managed to smash it.

Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016 but was defeated by Donald Trump on the basis of the Electoral College votes although she got more popular votes than him.

Geraldine Ferraro was the Democrat Party vice presidential candidate in 1984 running with Walter Mondale, the presidential candidate. They ran against a very popular president, Ronald Reagan, and his Vice President George H.W. Bush, who defeated them in a landslide.

Republican Sara Palin, considered a political lightweight, ran for vice president in 2008 with the presidential candidate John McCain. They lost to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Palin was the governor of Alaska state with no experience in national politics or international affairs and her campaign was punctuated by gaffes.

There have been other women running for president and vice president but they were from smaller parties with no chance of election.

Harris was not the only vice president candidate of Indian origin in the 2020 election. Sunil Freeman, whose mother is an immigrant from India, ran for vice president on the ticket of the Party for Socialism and Liberation with presidential candidate Gloria La Riva. They received 84,905 votes or 0.01 per cent. 

The many identities of the first woman vice-president

In a video posted to her social media she shares the news with President-elect Joe Biden: “We did it, we did it Joe. You’re going to be the next president of the United States!”

Her words are about him but the history of the moment is hers. 

Just over a year ago, as the senator from California hoping to win the Democratic nomination for presidency, she launched a potent attack on Joe Biden over race during a debate. Many thought it inflicted a serious blow on his ambitions. But by the end of the year her campaign was dead and it was Mr Biden who returned the 56-year-old to the national spotlight by putting her on his ticket. 

“It is a big reversal of fortune for Kamala Harris,” says Gil Duran, a communications director for Ms Harris in 2013 and who has critiqued her run for the presidential nomination. 

“Many people didn’t think she had the discipline and focus to ascend to a position in the White House so quickly… although people knew she had ambition and star potential. It was always clear that she had the raw talent.”

What she has demonstrated from the moment she took the national stage with her pitch for the presidency – is grit. 

(Picture: ABC News)

In Inaugural Address, Biden Stresses Unity and truth

There are two kinds of inaugurations. For some, the theme is “Let us continue”; for others, “Let us begin anew.” Rarely has the latter seemed more apt—or necessary. It was a foregone conclusion that newly sworn-in President Joe Biden would speak of unity and democracy in his inaugural address. From the very beginning, these were the themes of his presidential campaign, and he adhered to them in the face of pressure from pundits and politicians to change course.

“We come together as one nation,” Biden declared. “Democracy has prevailed.” We have much to repair, much to restore, much to build, much to heal–and much to gain. But we cannot do it while divided against ourselves. “My whole soul is in this—bringing America together,” he said. It is time to end our “uncivil war.”

Mr. Biden acknowledged that calls for unity in our current circumstances can sound naïve, and he worked to dispel this impression. “The forces that divide us are real,” he said. But he reminded us that this has often been so throughout our history.

Calls for national unity at inaugurations are nothing new, of course—most memorably by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Back then, however, the better angels of our nature were not strong enough to avert a disastrous civil war. Now, two weeks after an unprecedented assault on the Capitol by an insurrectionary mob of its own citizens, the new president faces a similar challenge—to avert conflict and to build anew on what we have in common.

But there was another, newer theme in President Biden’s inaugural address—an invocation of truth as the foundation of unity. The reason is clear: never has truth been more necessary, or more endangered. “There is truth and there are lies,” he told us. Lies told for profit and for power.” And then he promised, “I will always level with you.”

A new beginning takes more than rhetoric and promises, of course. It will require governing with full awareness of our differences—and with the fact that we are closely as well as deeply divided. The Senate is evenly divided; the House, nearly so. President Biden may be able pass a handful of bills with the support of only his own party. For the rest, bipartisanship is more than a slogan; it will be a necessity.

This morning, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate joined Joe Biden as he attended mass at St. Matthews Cathedral. And although President Trump was absent from the inaugural ceremonies, Vice President Mike Pence and the only other former Republican President, George W. Bush, were present. In the months to come, Biden’s Oval Office should welcome leaders of both parties, and a wide swath of America. Only then will Biden be able to make good on his hopes to end this “uncivil war” that for too long has pitted us against one another.

(Picture: Yahoo News)

From Madras To The White House: Idlis Come Full Circle

When was the last time we took the names of fluffy, white idlis, sambar, okra fry and the White House in the same sentence? On January 20, we’ll get there.

Seen through a culinary perspective, the travels of US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ mother Shyamala Gopalan from Madras (now Chennai) and father Donald Harris from Jamaica nearly 60 years ago set in motion a blended kitchen culture that Kamala Harris brings with her to the Vice President’s home in Washington D.C.

With it come idlis, sambar, okra, roast chicken, tuna melt sandwiches and a Veep who’s an unapologetic food connoisseur, for Kamala Harris the act of cooking is meditative and joyful in equal measure.

Kamala Harris writes in her memoir: “My mother cooked like a scientist.”

She describes the “giant Chinese-style cleaver that she chopped with, and a cupboard full of spices” and loved that “okra could be soul food or Indian food, depending on what spices you chose”.

As a young girl, Harris began by loving okra either fried to a crisp with a seasoning of oil and mustard seeds or floating in tamarind stew, in her mother’s kitchen in a yellow stucco house in Oakland, California.

Later, among a diverse group of friends and family came new ways to cook the vegetable and an appreciation for soul food, a term that swept into America’s collective vocabulary right around the time that Harris’ parents met and later married.

In an ask me anything session on Twitter, Kamala talks about how idlis “with like, really good sambar” are among her favourite South Indian foods. Harris recalls how her mother, during trips to India, sparked a “love for good idli”.

Harris is both indulgent and minimal, depending on the context. The idli fits neatly within that construct, it’s survivalist cuisine or heavenly, depending on your approach.

Idli is a traditional fermented rice and black gram-based food which originated in South India and makes an important contribution to diet as a source of protein, calories and vitamins, especially B complex vitamins.

The idli and its cousin the dosa are as much about Shyamala Gopalan’s roots as they are about Kamala Harris’.

Long before the Kamala connection transported Chennai’s Besant Nagar into international fame, the neighbourhood has been a go-to for the city’s prime real estate, the softest idlis and famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed god of good luck and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth – from where Kamala gets her first name.

The location of Kamala Harris’ grandfather home in Chennai, in Besant Nagar, is dotted with plenty of big and small idli shops, with Murugan Idli being among the most popular. An idli is an idli, wherever you go – soft, round, white and fluffy but like Kamala Harris says, “with like, really good sambar” is the secret.

In Indian homes, this round, white rice cake is staple fare, it’s available for a few rupees at food carts on street corners, it’s the first thing that goes on the stove in millions of Indian homes every morning, it’s now firmly on the all-time favourites menu of the first Indian American Vice President of the US.

Plenty from Kamala Harris’ network have vouched for the straight A student quality she brings to almost everything she does. She took it seriously when her mother told her not to do anything “half-assed”.

In the kitchen too, her joy and involvement with the particulars of what she puts on the table has served to define Indian American-ness in more granular terms, the way things show up in recipes. It’s no longer generic curry or Indian food. The idli has come full circle. (IANS)

(Picture: Onmanorama)

US To Operationalize India As Major Defense Partner: Austin

US Secretary of Defense nominee, Lt Gen Lloyd Austin (retd) has said that he would further operationalize India’s major “Major Defense Partner” status.

During his confirmation hearing in Congress, the former US Central Command chief was asked on how he would enhance the overall defense relationship between the US and India and what priorities would he establish.

Austin said: “If confirmed, my overarching objective for our defence relationship with India would be to continue elevating the partnership. I would further operationalise India’s ‘Major Defence Partner’ status and continue to build upon existing strong defence cooperation to ensure the US and Indian militaries can collaborate to address shared interests.”

“I would also seek to deepen and broaden our defence cooperation through the Quad security dialogue and other regional multilateral engagements,” he added.

On Pakistan, Austin said: “I understand Pakistan has taken constructive steps to meet US requests in support of the Afghanistan peace process.”

Austin said that Pakistan has also taken steps against anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, although this progress is incomplete.

“Many factors in addition to the security assistance suspension may impact Pakistan’s cooperation, including Afghanistan negotiations and the dangerous escalation following the Pulwama terrorist attack,” he said.

On the Afghanistan issue, Austin said that Pakistan is an essential partner in any peace process in Afghanistan. “If confirmed, I will encourage a regional approach that garners support from neighbours like Pakistan, while also deterring regional actors, from serving as spoilers to the Afghanistan peace process,” he added.

Austin said Pakistan will play an important role in any political settlement in Afghanistan. “We also need to work with Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and to enhance regional stability,” he said.

Austin said he will press Pakistan to prevent its territory from being used for terrorist purposes. “If confirmed, I will press Pakistan to prevent its territory from being used as a sanctuary for militants and violent extremist organisations.”

Continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues, Austin said. (IANS)

(Picture: POLITICO)

Joe Biden Inaugurated As The 46th President

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. took the oath of office during a solemn ceremony on Wednesday, January 20th as the 46th president of the United States, followed by a powerful inaugural address in which he emphasized the importance of democracy and unity. 

Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, was administered the oath of office as the US Vice President becoming the first woman, Black person, and first Asian-American to serve in the position, on the same day as thousands attended the event in person and millions watched the ceremony online and social media.  

President Biden gave his first presidential address to Americans on Wednesday in a star-studded Inauguration Day event that went unattended by his predecessor. Biden emphasized themes of unity and recovery in his inaugural address, saying, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.”

Now that President Biden has taken office, he faces the reality of governing in the middle of a pandemic with narrow majorities in Congress and a lengthy list of policy goals. Biden unveiled a coronavirus road map on Thursday with 10 executive orders that focus on boosting vaccinations, wearing masks, testing and treatments. Biden signed a range of executive orders on Wednesday that include revoking a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, reversing a travel ban from several largely Muslim and African countries, and rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Biden’s call for unity bears significance in the aftermath of Capitol riots when his predecessor, Donald Trump, egged on his supporters to storm the Capitol building, leading to five deaths. In an apparent reference to the tumultuous period of transition, Biden said the country has learnt that democracy is “precious” and “fragile.”

In his remarks, Biden promised to help the nation heal, both from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as well as from political rifts that had deepened considerably during the term of former President Donald Trump.

“Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause: the cause of democracy. The people — the will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded,” Biden said. “To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”

Here are 10 memorable quotes from Biden’s speech:

  1. “This is America’s day, this is democracy’s day, the day of history and hope. Today we celebrate a triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause. We have learned again that democracy is precious democracy is fragile. At this hour my friends, Democracy has prevailed.”
  2. “I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. I also know they are not new.”
  3. “Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonisation have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured.”
  4. “Through civil war to the Great Depression, World War, 9/11…our better angels have always prevailed. And each of these moments…enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward…we can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbours…we can treat each other with dignity and respect”
  5. “For without unity, there’s no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only state of chaos…this is our historic moment of crisis and challenge…unity is the path forward.”
  6. “And today, we marked the swearing-in of the first woman in the American history elected to national office – vice president Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change.”
  7. “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.”
  8. “To all of those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably…is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength.”
  9. “Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and profit. Each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, especially as leaders … to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
  10. “Here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days when you need a hand. There are other days when we are called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another.

 

(Picture: Irish Times)

New H-1B Rule Is “Last Gasp” Of Trump Effort To Limit Immigration

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced last week that it is issuing a 247-page rule to increase wage levels significantly for the H-1B nonimmigrant worker category and for certain employment-based green card applications.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School and co-author of a leading 21-volume immigration law series, says the new rule will require employers to pay significantly higher wages for H-1B and other foreign national employees. 

Yale-Loehr says: 

“The rule changes the prevailing wage levels 1-4 from the 17, 34, 50 and 67th percentiles to the 45, 62, 78 and 90th percentiles of surveyed wages from the DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The result: employers will have to pay significantly higher wages for H-1B and other foreign national employees.

“The DOL issued a similar interim rule in October. Several federal courts struck down that rule. Nevertheless, after making only minor changes, the DOL is issuing this new final rule. DOL justifies the new rule as a way to help U.S. workers, but it will have the opposite impact. Companies may decide to offshore jobs overseas, hurting U.S. workers.

“This rule is the last gasp of the Trump administration to restrict legal immigration. I am confident that courts will strike down this new rule, just as they did the prior rule.”

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IT companies’ clients are required to meet H1-B filing obligation under new US rule. According to the office of foreign labor certification, the regulations require all common-law employers of H-1B workers to file a labor condition application (LCA).

 

The US department of labor (DOL) on Friday followed the final wages rule, signed in the Federal Register on January 14, with a new interpretation of the regulations and accompanying guidance for companies that sponsor H-1B visa holders. Under the new guidance, the secondary employers, also known as clients, will have to comply with the filing requirements and other obligations which, currently, only lie with the primary employers or the staffing agencies.

According to the office of Foreign Labor Certification (FLC), the regulations require all common-law employers of H-1B workers to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA). It will not only put the liability on employers for compliance obligations relating to wages and working conditions but will also lead to higher administrative burden and costs for clients. The new guidance documents will take effect in 180 days, which means the employers have to comply with the obligations for the applications filed on or after July 14.

 

The labor department said that the interpretation and guidance are “more consistent with the H-1B statute and regulations”, adding that it is also “appropriate” in the wake of interpretative changes made by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “This revised interpretation is long overdue in light of the language of the regulations, better comports with the goals of the H-1B program, and is consistent with recent Executive Branch directives,” John Pallasch, assistant secretary for employment and training, said in a statement.

 

After the announcement, US Tech Workers, a non-profit organisation “representing the voices of American workers harmed by the H-1B visa program”, said that the new guidance was a “great way to target companies” that use staffing agencies to “displace Americans.” In a series of tweets, US Tech Workers said that the new regulation will hold those secondary employers accountable that claim to be not directly involved in the sponsoring of H-1B visas.

“When Disney was sued for laying off American workers and replacing them H-1B workers brought in from third party IT outsourcing firms (Cognizant & HCL), Disney’s defense was that they weren’t the ones who sponsored the H-1B visas. This regulation would now hold them accountable,” it tweeted.

The US department of labor (DOL) on Friday followed the final wages rule, signed in the Federal Register on January 14, with a new interpretation of the regulations and accompanying guidance for companies that sponsor H-1B visa holders. Under the new guidance, the secondary employers, also known as clients, will have to comply with the filing requirements and other obligations which, currently, only lie with the primary employers or the staffing agencies.The US department of labor (DOL) on Friday followed the final wages rule, signed in the Federal Register on January 14, with a new interpretation of the regulations and accompanying guidance for companies that sponsor H-1B visa holders. Under the new guidance, the secondary employers, also known as clients, will have to comply with the filing requirements and other obligations which, currently, only lie with the primary employers or the staffing agencies.Bottom of Form

 

(Picture Courtesy: REUTERS)

Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Covid Relief Proposal Has Ambitious Plans for Rekindling US Economy

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion relief package Thursday that included more stimulus payments and other direct aid, but don’t expect to see those funds in your bank account anytime soon. There’s a lot that has to happen before Biden’s plan — which is chock-full of measures long favored by Democrats — becomes law. And even though Democrats will soon control the White House and both chambers of Congress, that doesn’t mean lawmakers will follow Biden’s suggestions to the letter.

As per Kevin Kosar, resident scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute and co-editor of the book “Congress Overwhelmed,” the earliest the stimulus money could reach one’s home maybe mid- to late February.

Biden’s massive plan includes several immediate relief items that are popular with a wide swath of Americans, including sending another $1,400 in direct stimulus payments, extending unemployment benefits and eviction protections, and offering more help for small businesses. It also would boost funding for vaccinations by $20 billion and for coronavirus testing by $50 billion.

But it also calls for making some larger structural changes, such as mandating a $15 hourly minimum wage, expanding Obamacare premium subsidies and broadening tax credits for low-income Americans for a year.

It’s the first of two measures Biden has planned to right the nation’s economy and fight the coronavirus. He intends to announce a recovery strategy at his first appearance before a joint session of Congress next month.

The plan, which would require congressional approval, is packed with proposals on health care, education, labor and cybersecurity. He has outlined a five-step approach to getting the vaccination to the American people, and to ensure that it is distributed equitably. “Equity is central to our COVID response,” he said.

Here’s a look at what’s in Biden’s plan: 

CONTAINING THE VIRUS

— A $20 billion national program would establish community vaccination centers across the U.S. and send mobile units to remote communities. Medicaid patients would have their costs covered by the federal government, and the administration says it will take steps to ensure all people in the U.S. can receive the vaccine for free, regardless of their immigration status.

— An additional $50 billion would expand testing efforts and help schools and governments implement routine testing. Other efforts would focus on developing better treatments for COVID-19 and improving efforts to identify and track new strains of the virus.

THE VACCINATION PLAN

— Working with states to open up vaccinations beyond health care workers, including to people 65 and older, as well as essential front-line workers.

— Establishing more vaccination sites, including working with FEMA to set up 100 federally supported centers by the end of his first month in office . He suggested using community centers, school gymnasiums and sports stadiums. He also called for expanding the pool of those who can deliver the vaccine.

— Using pharmacies around the country to administer the vaccine. The Trump administration already has entered into agreements with some large chains to do that. 

— Using the Defense Production Act, a Cold War-era law to “maximize the manufacture of vaccine and vaccine supplies for the country.”

— A public education campaign to address “vaccine hesitancy” and the refusal of some to take the vaccine. He called the education plan “a critical piece to account for a tragic reality of the disproportionate impact this virus has had on Black, Latino and Native American communities” 

INDIVIDUALS AND WORKERS

— Stimulus checks of $1,400 per person in addition to the $600 checks Congress approved in December. By bringing payments to $2,000 — an amount Democrats previously called for — the administration says it will help families meet basic needs and support local businesses.

— A temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures would be extended through September.

— The federal minimum wage would be raised to $15 per hour from the current rate of $7.25 per hour.

— An emergency measure requiring employers to provide paid sick leave would be reinstated. The administration is urging Congress to keep the requirement through Sept. 30 and expand it to federal employees.

— The child care tax credit would be expanded for a year, to cover half the cost of child care up to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more for families making less than $125,000 a year. Families making between $125,000 and $400,000 would get a partial credit.

— $15 billion in federal grants to help states subsidize child care for low-income families, along with a $25 billion fund to help child care centers in danger of closing.

SCHOOLS

— $130 billion for K-12 schools to help them reopen safely. The money is meant to help reach Biden’s goal of having a majority of the nation’s K-8 schools open within his first 100 days in the White House. Schools could use the funding to cover a variety of costs, including the purchase of masks and other protective equipment, upgrades to ventilation systems and staffing for school nurses. Schools would be expected to use the funding to help students who fell behind on academics during the pandemic, and on efforts to meet students’ mental health needs. A portion of the funding would go to education equity grants to help with challenges caused by the pandemic.

A president can propose ideas, but Congress passes the laws

 

Biden’s relief proposal now shifts to Congress, where it may change substantially as Democratic leaders transform it into a bill. They must decide whether they want to use a special legislative process called reconciliation, which would require only a simple majority of votes to pass the Senate — eliminating the need for Republican support — but would limit the provisions that could be included. Also, reconciliation also be used only sparingly each year. 

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Another factor that could determine the path and speed at which lawmakers act is the health of the economy, said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. If the nation’s jobs report in early February shows a continued deterioration of the labor market, for instance, Congress may be spurred to move faster and approve more assistance.

Whatever leaders decide, the effort is expected to have an easier time passing in the House — which approved a $3 trillion relief package last May that contained measures similar to those in Biden’s plan — even though Democrats now hold a slimmer majority there.

“A new president and a new tone from the White House can put some pretty significant pressure when pressure is needed,” Hudak said. “For this to happen in some expedited time, it’s really going to require significant influence from the president, especially on key senators.”

Jesuit Fr. Leo O’Donovan to deliver invocation at Biden inauguration

Jesuit Fr. Leo O’Donovan, former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.

O’Donovan confirmed to NCR that Biden had personally called him and invited him to offer the prayer at the inauguration, which will mark the election of the nation’s second Catholic president, and that he had accepted.

O’Donovan is a longtime friend of the Biden family. In 2015, he presided at the funeral Mass for Biden’s oldest son, Beau, after he died of brain cancer at the age of 46.

Biden is known to be close with a number of Jesuit priests, and while he was vice president, he occasionally attended Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown. In 1992, when Biden’s son Hunter was a senior at Georgetown, O’Donovan invited the then-senator from Delaware to give a lecture at the Jesuit university on his faith and public life. Biden told O’Donovan at the time it was the “toughest assignment he’s ever had.”

More recently, just days after his presidential election, on Nov. 12, Biden appeared at a virtual fundraiser for Jesuit Refugee Service, where O’Donovan now serves as director of mission. On that occasion, Biden announced that he would raise the annual admission target of new refugees into the United States to 125,000, marking a sharp increase to the Trump administration’s cap of 15,000 individuals. 

Previously, in 2018, Biden penned the foreward to O’Donovan’s book Blessed Are the Refugees: Beatitudes of Immigrant Children.

Catholics have a long history of participating in prayers for inaugural events. In 1937, Fr. John Ryan offered the benediction at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration. Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston offered the invocation at the inauguration of the nation’s first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, in 1961. More recently, in 2017, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan provided a Scripture reading at the inauguration for President Donald Trump.

While other specific details of the inauguration lineup of speakers have yet to be announced, the Biden-Harris transition team announced last month that on the eve of the inauguration, there will be a memorial to honor lives lost to COVID-19, which will include the ringing of church bells throughout Washington, D.C.

CDC To Require All Air Travelers To US To Show Negative Coronavirus Test

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it will require a negative Covid-19 test from all air passengers entering the United States — a move it says may help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Air passengers will be required to get a viral test within three days before their flight to the United States departs, and to provide written documentation of their lab results, or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19, the agency said in a statement to CNN.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is expected to sign the order on Tuesday and it will go into effect on January 26. “Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants,” the CDC said in a statement. “With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.” 


If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must not allow the passenger to board, the CDC said. “Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations,” Redfield said in the statement.

The new variant of coronavirus, which appears to be more transmissible, has already been found in at least 10 states in samples dating back to mid-December. An airline industry group has expressed support for the new measure.

“[We are] writing to express our support for a [CDC] proposal to control the spread of COVID-19, including variants of the virus, by implementing a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States,” the industry group Airlines for America wrote to Vice President Mike Pence on January 4.

The new rule is similar to one put in place last month for passengers from the UK to the US, which requires that passengers have a negative test within three days of boarding their flight. For the UK requirement that went through last month, airlines can be subject to criminal penalties if they fail to comply, and passengers can be subject to criminal penalties if they willfully give false or misleading information.

The earlier requirement for UK travelers was a response to a new coronavirus variant that was identified in the UK. While the variant appears to spread more easily, there’s no evidence that it’s any more deadly or causes more severe disease, according to CDC.

At least 72 cases of a variant first identified in the UK have been found in 10 US states, according to data posted Monday by the CDC. That includes at least 32 cases in California, 22 cases in Florida, five cases in Minnesota, four cases in New York, three cases in Colorado, two cases in Connecticut, and one case each in Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Georgia.

The variant has been identified in dozens of countries worldwide.

India Begins World’s Largest Vaccination Program

India on Saturday began one of the most ambitious and complex initiatives in its history: the nationwide rollout of coronavirus vaccines to 1.3 billion people, an undertaking that will stretch from the perilous reaches of the Himalayas to the dense jungles of the country’s southern tip.

The campaign is unfolding in a country that has reported more than 10.5 million coronavirus infections, the second-largest caseload after the United States, and 152,093 deaths, the world’s third-highest tally. India’s rollout, among the first in a major developing country, comes as millions of people in the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and the European Union have received at least one dose.

The first dose was administered to a health worker at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, after the prime minister, Narendra Modi, kickstarted the campaign with a national televised speech as 3,000 centers nationwide were set to inoculate a first round of health care workers. About 300,000 people were set to receive the vaccines on Saturday alone, followed by millions more health care and frontline workers by spring. “Everyone was asking as to when the vaccine will be available,” Mr. Modi said. “It is available now. I congratulate all the countrymen on this occasion.”

Covishield and another vaccine called Covaxin were authorized for emergency use in India this month. Neither Covaxin’s manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, nor the Indian Council of Medical Research, which contributed to the vaccine’s development, has published data proving that it works. In a Covaxin consent form at District Hospital Aundh, one of a handful of sites in Pune where the vaccine was being administered, the manufacturer noted that clinical efficacy was “yet to be established.”

At Kamala Nehru Hospital in Pune, a city of about 3.1 million southeast of Mumbai, 100 long-stemmed red roses were stacked neatly on a table beside a bottle of hand sanitizer. Each person registered to receive the Covishield vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, was to get a rose.

Dr. Rajashree Patil, one of the health workers who received the Covishield vaccine at Kamala Nehru Hospital, said she was both excited and nervous. After contracting the coronavirus while working in the government hospital’s emergency room in May, she spent 12 days in a Covid ward at another hospital, having lost her senses of smell and taste and experiencing extreme fatigue. “I’m a little bit worried. Actually we’re on a trial basis,” Dr. Patil said. “But I am happy we are getting it so we can one day be corona-free.”

Another doctor who received the Covishield vaccine at that hospital, Usha Devi Bharmal, said that she had wanted to get a shot to dispel people’s fears about coronavirus vaccines. “There are rumors on social media,” she said, adding that she hoped to help show that vaccines are a “positive thing.”

Mr. Modi has pledged to inoculate 300 million health care and frontline workers, including police officers and, in some cases, teachers, by July. But so far the Indian government has purchased only 11 million doses of Covishield and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin.

Indian television stations showed Dr. Randeep Guleria, the director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi and a prominent government adviser on Covid-19, receiving a jab on Saturday. It was unclear whether Mr. Modi was vaccinated.

India’s vaccination effort faces a number of obstacles, including a growing sense of complacency about the coronavirus. After reaching a peak of more than 90,000 new cases per day in mid-September, the country’s official infection rates have dropped sharply. Fatalities have fallen about 30 percent in the last 14 days, according to a New York Times database.

City streets are buzzing. Air and train travel have resumed. Social distancing and mask-wearing standards, already lax in many parts of India, have slipped further. That alarms experts, who say the real infection rate is probably much worse than official numbers suggest. 

 (Picture Courtesy: ITV Hub)

Men Are Not Expressive In Their Friendships

Expressing yourself leads to better mental health, something that’s crucial for us all during a global pandemic. But, it turns out that Indian men are not keen on showing emotion, no matter how close the bond with their friend is.

A recent survey by YouGov India & McDowell’s No1 Soda has revealed that most friends prefer to not express their true emotions. The survey conducted across the country among men in the age group of 25-45 years aimed to understand the complex nature of Indian friendships. Here are some of the findings. 

 

  60% of the people said they call/reach out to their family members and partners every day. However, when it came to best friends, less than one-third (28%) stated that they are able to keep in touch on a daily basis. 

  However, over 50% of them are likely to reach out to their friends first and foremost if they were left stranded in the middle of the night, indicating that the relationship is not just casual, but one that’s based on dependability. 

    Close to 7 in 10 (68%) say that they don’t actually tell their best friends how they feel about them very often. This was further validated where the respondents said, even though friends are trusted to come to the rescue in difficult times, talking to them about feelings or emotions is somehow not the “norm”, and is saved for times of need. 

  The reasons indicate that they believe the bond to be stronger than words can express. Whilst 44% say that they don’t do it “Because it is not .. 

  Whilst 44% say that they don’t do it “Because it is not required, they know how I feel”; another 38% say that its “Because they mean more to me than I can express in words.” 

  Data suggests that they are most likely to do it when things are not right – like when either of them is facing any stress in personal life (56%), or when either of them is heart broken or had their heart broken (42%) 

The survey also brought forth statistics that confirmed that nearly 40% of the men interviewed in this survey agreed that the frequency of calling/reaching out to their friends had gone down compared to a time before the pandemic. Whereas, 7 in every 10 men also indicated that the pandemic has not been able to shake their bond – while on one hand, 38% of the men agreed that talking to a friend helps them feel normal during these times, another 32% say that despite the physical restrictions, their friendship has remained strong.

WHO’s Rare Rebuke Of China On Covid

The World Health Organization took the rare step of criticizing China on Tuesday, using its first press conference of the new year to express disappointment that Beijing has still not given permission to United Nations investigators to probe the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that several scientists on the U.N. agency’s team researching the pandemic’s source had left their home countries on Monday and Tuesday, after the Chinese government had agreed to allow their entry. But while team members were en route, Tuesday, the WHO was told that Chinese officials had not yet finalized the necessary permissions for their arrival, Dr. Tedros said. 

Some members were still waiting for visas, said Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, and at least one member has begun returning home.

China played down World Health Organization (WHO) concern about a delay in authorisation for a visit by team of experts looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, saying arrangements were being worked out.

The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Tuesday he was “very disappointed” that China had not authorised the entry of the team for the investigation, which he said was a WHO priority. “We are eager to get the mission underway as soon as possible,” he said. 

The coronavirus disease was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has since spread around the world.

Much remains unknown about its origins and China has been sensitive about any suggestion it could have done more in the early stages of the pandemic to stop it.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, told a regular news briefing in Beijing that the problem was “not just about visas” for the team.

Asked about reports that the dates had been agreed upon, she said there had been a “misunderstanding” and the two sides were still in discussions over the timing and other arrangements and “remain in close communication”.

“There’s no need to overinterpret this,” she said. 

China’s experts were also busy dealing with a renewed spurt of coronavirus infections, with many locations entering a “wartime footing” to stop the virus, she said.

The delay by Chinese authorities fuels concern that Beijing is obstructing international efforts to trace the origins of a pandemic that has now killed over 1.8 million people worldwide.

The 10-strong team of international experts had been due to set off in early January as part of a long-awaited mission to investigate early cases of the disease.

China has been seeking to shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began, with senior diplomat Wang Yi saying “more and more studies” showed that it emerged in multiple regions.  WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan has previously called this “highly speculative”. 

China has also dismissed criticism of its handling of early cases although some including US President Donald Trump have questioned its actions during the outbreak.

The WHO, too, has been criticised for being too deferential to China through the course of the pandemic, and has been blamed by other countries for initially downplaying the severity of the crisis. Trump said last year that the superpower would terminate its relationship with the WHO unless it “demonstrated independence” from China. The US President also called for a “transparent” investigation and criticised the terms under which Chinese experts conducted a first phase of research.

The mission is due to be led by Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s top expert on animal diseases that cross the species barrier, who went to China on a preliminary mission last July.

Alarming Rate Of Nation’s Opioid Deaths

On 5th July 2020, Ikonkar Manmohan Singh Sandhu, a young 23 year old boy, died from an opioid overdose in Michigan just months before he was to be married. He is by no means an isolated case in the Indian American community.

 

A small group of doctors are sounding the alarm on the nation’s opioid crisis. Dr. Arun Gupta is one of those who is urging health authorities to wake up to this catastrophe, which is ripping through communities with scant regard for race, gender, educational level or financial standing.

 

To be fair, before COVID-19 ravaged the country, the growing opioid addiction was giving the nation’s health officials sleepless nights. The pandemic put this issue on the back burner and while more Americans are dying from the virus, it can be just as deadly if left unchecked.

 

Opioid overdoses have killed more than 70,000 young people annually between the ages of

18-54 for the past five years. In 2011, the CDC reported that overdose deaths superseded auto accident deaths for the first time in 32 states This is now virtually true for all 50 states. The organization also reported that more than 700,000 young Americans have died between 1999- 2017 from poly drug overdose. That number is expected to be as high as one million by the end of 2020. The report further states that, “preventable disease & retroactive analysis show that most of these deaths were unintentional.”  Isolation, stress and the depression, that came in the wake of the pandemic is shooting cases through the roof. “Parents are burying their children and children are burying their parents,” says Dr. Gupta.

 

Dr. Gupta is quick to rid you of the rosy view that Indo American families have been unaffected by this affliction. It is a growing trend in the community, he says, largely due to parents’ unrealistic expectations for their children or the ABCD generation that faces conflicting cultures. What worsens it, is that many are either in denial or wary of seeking professional help for fear of being stigmatized or shunned. These are lives that could have easily been saved, he laments, much like the case of a distant relative who died because the family hesitated to reach out for help or were unaware of the problem.

 

A physician for 34 years, of which 14 are as a doctor of addiction management, Dr. Gupta has seen enough to be worried. He has been charting the surge in cases throughout the nation for the past decade and is seeing it played out at his doorstep – the rural region of Monroe, Michigan where he runs his private practice.

 

For 11 years, Dr Gupta was the local prison doctor where he saw the interplay of drugs and death up close and the ineffectiveness of the administration’s efforts to curb it. This pushed him to change tracks from being a general physician to addiction management. Rural communities, he observes, are more prone to opioid addiction than urban areas where the population is better educated and have higher paying jobs. The problem is compounded when there is family instability, lack of education, poverty,  physical, mental and sexual abuse in childhood, mental illness or addiction both in the family and the patient.

 

So why are addictive opioids prescribed in the first place and how do they hook us? About 25 years ago, pharma company Purdue, manufacturers of the painkiller Oxycodone, pushed the government to sanction prescribing painkillers for non-cancer related pain. The American Pain Society also classified pain as the fifth vital sign after blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and weight. Statistically, 40% of the country’s population is in chronic pain and many require pain medication to carry out their daily activities or even go in to work.

 

Addiction starts innocuously enough with a prescription for a painkiller to treat post-surgery or chronic pain as in instances of back pain. Consuming these painkillers diminishes the pain but also brings on a euphoric feeling as it raises dopamine – the brain’s pleasure hormone. Celebrities like Michael Jackson were known to use them before a performance, a term referred to as, “spotlight euphoria.” Additionally, it changes the perception of reality for those dealing with psychological issues such as an inferiority complex or anxiety,  these people now start “liking themselves and feeling good.” This altered reality quickly spirals into an emotional and social need followed by dependence and cravings for the painkiller.

 

The signs of addiction are evident in drastic mood changes, lethargy or impaired decision-making, among others. Discontinuing the painkillers could lead to a host of withdrawal symptoms such as chills, tremors, body aches, bone pain, vomiting, diarrhea or irregular respiration. However, Dr. Gupta clarifies that not everyone gets addicted to painkillers and the risk of  addiction is only about 10%.

 

Soon, Oxycodone grew so popular that it began to have, “street value.” When prescriptions ran out, users turned to the streets where it could be obtained illegally. Hustlers began faking health issues to procure and sell these painkillers giving rise to the term “pill-mill.” The cost of one milligram of Oxycontin is one dollar so someone using 1000mg was spending $1000 a day. While insurance took care of legitimate prescriptions, those who were addicted were shelling out their own money. This, of course, was done in connivance with “some doctors who played the game.” Dr. Gupta estimates that about 1000 doctors have been apprehended so far for violating this practice and have “tarnished the image of doctors.”

 

There is an obvious connection between mental disorders and addictive disorders and its consequences can sometimes be life threatening. Doctors, however, are required by law to treat pain with painkillers even if there is a sense/awareness that this medication could become addictive to the patient. On the other hand, if doctors practice caution in prescribing pain medication, they risk a bad review on their practice, something every doctor understandably wants to avoid.

 

In 1999, the Center for Disease Control went on record for the first time and shared its report of 4000 young Americans who died from drugs. The government scrutinized the problem and rolled out the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000. For the first time, this law allowed practicing doctors to learn and treat addiction with an FDA approved drug. The law also stipulated that any practicing doctor could complete an addiction program and receive a X DEA license which would allow them to treat 30 patients per month for a year. If the doctor’s records are found in order, they could treat 100 patients per month. Past President Barack Obama signed a law that would allow some doctors with specific credentials to treat 275 patients a month. This number was controlled to prevent its misuse but sometimes the best-intentioned laws have unintended consequences.

 

This one did.

 

Only 4300 doctors in the US can treat 275 patients a month and Dr. Gupta is one of them. It’s a drop in the ocean for the estimated 20-40 million people who need help overcoming their addiction. There are more than 100,000 healthcare providers in the country that include doctors, nurses and physician assistants who have the necessary X- DEA credentials  to treat opioid use disorders. But less than 20,000 are actively involved in dealing with the growing opioid epidemic in the country. This lack of access to a healthcare provider aggravates the problem leading to more deaths than recoveries. Meanwhile, the pandemic has not made things easier. There is excessive stress and limited counselling due to the shutdowns and prescriptions cannot be given on the phone without the necessary drug testing. This explains the rise in overdose deaths and addiction cases in the past nine months.

 

Apart from flawed policy, the American Society of Addiction states that every doctor who graduates from medical school is required to study addiction management. There are 179 medical schools and approximately 9000 residency programs in the country and not one of them teaches this course.  Moreover, addiction management is not considered on par with other areas of medical specialization and neither do insurance companies view addiction like other chronic diseases such as blood pressure or diabetes.

 

In 2002, a drug Buprenorphine was approved for addiction treatment and ten years later another drug Zubsolv made it to treatment plans. These drugs block the opioid receptors in the brain and reduce a person’s craving for the painkiller. Another ingredient in the drug, naloxone, reverses the effects of opioids. Together, they prevent withdrawal symptoms and deter the abuser from snorting or injecting it. Dr. Gupta pairs medication with counselling, and non-addictive medication in cases of insomnia or anxiety. Recovery takes anywhere from six weeks to six months depending on the severity of the addiction, but the struggle to remain clean continues for the rest of their lives.

 

With death rates from opioid misuse surging, more than 500 laws were enacted in the last 10 years against doctors, pill mills and pharmaceutical companies to curb the problem but this has only exacerbated the issue. Addicts are now forced to go to the streets instead of visiting a doctor for treatment. Dr. Gupta notes that national autopsy results over the last 5 years consistently show that fentanyl, heroin and cocaine are the first three drugs in more than 55% of the people with drug overdose deaths as opposed to prescription medication.

 

Over the past few years, Dr. Gupta has presented more than 150 talks to schools, doctors, healthcare systems and social organizations like Rotary clubs and the Kiwanis Club to highlight the gravity of the problem and his message that addiction can be cured. He is talking to elected officials to leverage their influence and galvanize the government to rethink the limit of patients and allow greater access to people who want to overcome their addiction. 

 

Addiction, he warns, has become synonymous with a death sentence in this country.

 

 

(Picture Courtesy: Times Herald)

Indians In UAE No Longer Need To Register With Embassy To Fly Back To Country

Air India Express announced that Indians in the UAE will no longer be needed to register with the Indian Embassy for travelling back to the nation.

Air India Express, on October 12, announced that Indians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will no longer be needed to register with the Indian Embassy for travelling back to the nation. As part of the Air Bubble agreement between the two countries, the airline said that passengers travelling from UAE to India can book flights directly with Air India Express. 

Phase 7 of Vande Bharat Mission 

Last week, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had said that the Vande Bharat Mission of the central government has brought back nearly 20 lakh employable Indians to the country from foreign shores. The Ministry of External Affairs had also informed that under the phase seven of the Vande Bharat Mission, which has been operational since October 1, 873 international flights have been scheduled from 25 countries to be operated during the course of October 2020. 

MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said that the Phase 7 mission include flights from among the 14 countries with which India has a bilateral ‘air bubble’ arrangement in place. He added that the air bubble agreement has been working satisfactorily. Further, Srivastava also said that the flights in phase 7 include Air India and Air India Express flights, private and foreign carriers, chartered flights, naval ships and land border crossings. 

(Picture Courtesy: Onmanorama)

Emirates Launches a Premium Economy Cabin

As the air travel industry attempts to find its footing after the holiday travel rush, Dubai-based airline Emirates has announced a welcome bit of good news: Its much-anticipated premium economy cabin has officially launched.

“While others cut back, Emirates is working hard to restore the products and services that we’ve had to suspend or adjust due to pandemic precautions, and introduce new offerings and enhancements,” Emirates CEO Tim Clark said in a statement.

The new premium economy cabin is located at the front of the double-decker plane’s main deck—or first level—and has 56 seats in a 2-4-2 layout. Each seat has 40 inches of pitch and is 19.5 inches wide. (Seats in its regular economy class have 32 to 34 inches of pitch and are 18 inches wide).

According to the carrier, Emirates premium economy seats emulate design elements found on its beloved business-class product. The new seats feature “cream-colored anti-stain leather with stitching details and a wood panel finishing,” an airline release said. Each seat also has a six-way adjustable headrest, calf rests, footrests, and an in-flight entertainment screen measuring 13.3 inches wide.

“Our First, Business and Economy experiences reset industry standards when they were introduced, and we are confident that our Premium Economy will also make its mark as a distinct premium offering,” Clark said.

The airline received its first Airbus A380 fitted with the new cabin class at the end of December. Five additional A380s with premium economy seats will be delivered throughout 2021 and 2022, in addition to being installed on a handful of the airline’s forthcoming Boeing 777X jets that will join Emirates’ all wide-body fleet in 2023. The carrier is also considering retrofitting its current A380 planes with the new premium cabin.

For now, Emirates premium economy seats on the single A380 will only be offered as a complimentary upgrade to certain customers “until we have a viable number of seats in our inventory,” Clark said. The airline has yet to announce which routes the new plane will fly, but Clark noted that the aircraft will be scheduled “on various routes so that our customers can experience our latest offering in all classes.” No additional service elements were announced, so the new cabin will likely have the same service standards as regular economy.

Other additions on board the new A380 include upgrades and refreshes to Emirates’ three other cabin classes, including wider and taller doors on the first-class suites; revamped flexible leather headrests in economy; refreshed design trims and modern fittings in the jet’s famous first-class shower spa; and a new color scheme for its business- and first-class bar lounge.

Both the shower spa and bar area have reopened to passengers as of October—with some COVID-19 safety tweaks, like drinks to-go from the bar to avoid congregation—after going on pause earlier in the pandemic.

To celebrate the premium economy cabin’s launch and entice bookings in the new year, Emirates is also having a fare sale, bookable through January 18 for travel through the end of May. Round-trip fares in economy between the U.S. and Africa start at $699, $909 to East and South East Asia, and $798 to Dubai; business-class fares start at $3,119 to the Middle East and $3,499 to Africa.

The carrier is allowing fee-free changes for up to two years after the original booking date on all trips for travel on or before June 30, 2021, as long as changes are to the same destination or within the same region in the same travel class. To find fares that are part of the sale, visit Emirates’ booking page.

(Courtesy: Travel & Leisure)

Rule Expected to Protect the Economic Interests of American Workers

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced a final rule that will modify the H-1B cap selection process, amend current lottery procedures, and prioritize wages to protect the economic interests of U.S. workers and better ensure the most highly skilled foreign workers benefit from the temporary employment program.

Modifying the H-1B cap selection process will incentivize employers to offer higher salaries, and/or petition for higher-skilled positions, and establish a more certain path for businesses to achieve personnel needs and remain globally competitive.

“The H-1B temporary visa program has been exploited and abused by employers primarily seeking to fill entry-level positions and reduce overall business costs,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “The current H-1B random selection process makes it difficult for businesses to plan their hiring, fails to leverage the program to compete for the best and brightest international workforce, and has predominately resulted in the annual influx of foreign labor placed in low-wage positions at the expense of U.S. workers.”

This effort will only affect H-1B registrations (or petitions, if the registration process is suspended) submitted by prospective petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. It will be implemented for both the H-1B regular cap and the H-1B advanced degree exemption, but it will not change the order of selection between the two as established by the H-1B registration final rule.

The final rule will be effective 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. DHS previously published a notice of proposed rulemaking on Nov. 2, 2020, and carefully considered the public comments received before deciding to publish the proposed regulations as a final rule.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook (/uscis), and LinkedIn (/uscis).

(Picture Courtesy: Connected to India)

A Flight Of Firsts

Four of Air India’s most experienced women pilots took off from San Francisco (SFO) on  January 11th, (India time) for Bengaluru to operate the first-ever scheduled service between south India and the US. It is also the first time that an all-women cockpit crew of an Indian carrier flew over the North Pole.

“This will be the longest commercial flight in the world to be operated by Air India or any other airline in India…The total flight time on this route will be of more than 17 hours depending on the wind speed on that particular day,” Air India said in a statement. The direct distance between the two cities at opposite ends of the world is 13,993 km, with a time zone change of around 13.5 hours, an Air India official said. 

The four record-setting pilots operating the almost 18-hour AI 176 that was scheduled to reach Bengaluru (BLR) early morning today are captains Zoya Aggarwal, Papagari Thanmai, Akansha Sonaware and Shivani Manhas. They are flying a Boeing 777 200 (long range or LR) VT-ALG that is named ‘Kerala’. The SFO airport wore the Indian flag colours to celebrate this occasion. 

Bengaluru-SFO shortest flight distance is over 14,000 km, about 1,000 km more than Delhi-SFO. Very often airlines take longer routes to get tail winds and avoid headwinds. Kerala, for instance, took the longer Pacific route from Delhi to SFO on Wednesday with the same set of four pilots. The inaugural to Bengaluru came back via over the North Pole — getting tail winds on both sectors.

“Air India’s woman power flies high around the world,” Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said on Twitter. “All women cockpit crew consisting of Capt Zoya Aggarwal, Capt Papagari Thanmai, Capt Akansha Sonaware & Capt Shivani Manhas will operate the historic inaugural flight between Bengaluru & San Francisco,” Mr. Puri said.

Flight AI176 will depart from San Francisco in the U.S. at 8.30 p.m. (local time) on Saturday, and land at the Kempegowda International Airport at 3.45 a.m. (local time) on Monday. “Captain Zoya Aggarwal is an accomplished pilot with a flying experience of more than 8000 hrs and command experience in a B-777 aircraft of more than 10 years and more than 2500 flying hours,” the national carrier said.

The flight will operate with a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft VT ALG with a seating capacity of 238 seats, including eight First Class, 35 Business Class, 195 Economy class configuration, besides four cockpit and 12 cabin crew, Air India said. 

Almost fully booked

The first ever direct flight between the two tech hubs is almost fully booked — 225 out of 238 seats — despite the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over air travel. 

The flight, which has long been in the pipeline, will be the first direct non-stop flight between the west coast of the United States and southern India. Given the significant population of south Indians in San Francisco, home to the Silicon Valley, a direct flight has been a long-pending demand. 

The biweekly flight will take off to San Francisco from Bengaluru on Mondays and Thursdays, and leave San Francisco for Bengaluru on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Nature and Nurture: How the Biden Administration Can Advance Ties With India

As the administration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to begin in the United States, the U.S.-India relationship is facing new tests. Biden, who deemed India a “natural partner” on the campaign trail, will have the task of upgrading a mature relationship at a time of new global dynamics and challenges.

A new Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) issue paper, “Nature and Nurture: How the Biden Administration Can Advance Ties with India,” outlines the competing pressures currently shaping U.S.-India relations.

In the paper, ASPI Associate Director Anubhav Gupta provides a blueprint for how the incoming U.S. administration can advance bilateral ties to the next level, nurturing Biden’s idea of a “natural” relationship. Presenting a series of 10 recommendations to strengthen the U.S.-India partnership, the paper suggests that a Biden administration:

  • Expand the scope of the relationship to elevate health, digital, and climate cooperation.
  • Turn the page to a positive commercial agenda that emphasizes reform and openness.
  • Renew U.S. leadership and regional consultation in the face of China’s rise.
  • Emphasize shared values as the foundation of the relationship.

The paper also argues that a growing convergence between the views of New Delhi and Washington regarding Beijing will continue to facilitate a stronger security partnership. However, “despite the increasing convergence with New Delhi on the China threat, Washington should not take for granted that a deeper strategic alignment is inevitable,” Gupta writes.

At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated both economies and strengthened support for economic nationalism, which may impede stronger commercial cooperation and the two nations’ ability to take on China. Gupta observes that “at a time when the United States and India are starting to decouple from the Chinese economy, they unfortunately have not found ways to draw closer together commercially.” With India embarking on a new campaign of “self-reliance,” an ambitious commercial agenda may be out of reach; however, Gupta argues that “Biden should not shirk from setting an optimistic tone for the relationship that deviates from the recriminations of the past four years.”

Moreover, Gupta notes that a further weakening of democratic norms in India could raise difficult questions for Biden. The incoming U.S. administration “will have to walk a tightrope of emphasizing shared values and standing up for democratic ideals while ensuring that it does not alienate important partners like India in the process.”

(A new issue paper from the Asia Society Policy Institute)

The Devil Is A Better Loser Than Donald Trump

US bishops who pandered to Trump have failed to guide Catholics to be a discerning, peaceful, loving community. 

The legendary Faust’s desire for power led him into a pact with Mephistopheles, the agent of Satan. The deal was straightforward. In exchange for the fulfillment of all his desires in this life, hell would get Faust’s soul after death.

There are variations on the story. Goethe’s version differs from the tradition in having Faust saved in the end.

An American variation, Stephen Vincent Benét’s The Devil and Daniel Webster, has the devil bested in a trial over the contract. The devil is a better loser than Donald Trump.

But overall, those who contract with the devil are eventually told, “Go to hell!”

The attack by Trump’s partisans upon the verification of the American presidential election was no surprise to those who had paid attention to that man’s actions, the manipulation of his followers and the enabling by the Republican Party over four years. The only surprise for me was that the mob did not burn down the Capitol building.

 

This is the fruition of a pact with the devil that the Republican Party made in the 1960s. As civil rights legislation empowered Black Americans and threatened the political supremacy of Whites, especially in the South, the Republicans played upon the prejudices of those people to wean them from the Democratic Party. It was called the Southern Strategy.

Had that strategy included plans for guiding new supporters to openness toward other races and ethnic groups, it might have been good for the party and the nation. Instead, prejudices were nurtured and encouraged. In 2005, the chairman of the Republican National Committee finally apologized to Blacks in a de facto admission of his party’s use of racism as a means to draw voters.

But it was too late. Increasingly, the racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic stream that had been channeled into the Republican Party took control. The presidency of Donald Trump is the result. His rallies are festivals of racism and anti-Semitism with Confederate flags, swastikas and sweatshirts emblazoned with anti-Semitic slogans like 6MWNE (six million was not enough) or Camp Auschwitz.

The attack on the Capitol and democracy may mark the beginning of a “Go to hell!” period for Republicans as their pact with evil bears fruit.

The Republican Party must repent, reform and recover from that pact. But that is not the only institution that succumbed to the Faustian allure of power.

What of the American Catholic Church?

Traditionally, Catholics tended to support the Democratic Party. They were often city dwellers, immigrants and industrial workers. Their concerns differed from those of the business-oriented Republicans. However, their children and grandchildren prospered and began to find the Republicans attractive, overlooking the Faustian bargain the party had made.

But there is more to the Catholic story than a semi-natural migration to the Republicans. There has been a Faustian bargain on the part of some in the Church who for their own ends have allied themselves within the larger bargain with racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, though they might not admit that they have become fellows of those attitudes.

Their situation is like that of Germans who did not like what the Nazis were doing but went along for the sake of what that party might do for them. However, guilt by association is real and saying one does not like the way a ship is going does not change the fact that one has booked passage or even become a crew member.

Can we see that in the US Catholic Church? Yes.

Half of Catholics who voted in the November presidential election voted for Trump even after four years of blatant lies, hypocrisy, racism, nepotism, corruption, narcissism, bullying, boorishness, sexual abuse, defiance of the law, divisiveness, pettiness, general incompetence and childish petulance. Is there nothing in that list that repels those Catholics? Why not?

One reason may be that men who are supposed to guide Catholics in their lives as Christians told them to overlook those failings. Bishop Joseph Strickland said, “As the bishop of Tyler [Texas] I endorse” a priest’s message that said, “Repent of your support of that [Democratic] party and its platform or face the fires of hell.”

Bishop Strickland later took part virtually in one of the “Stop the Steal” rallies that denied Trump’s loss and was a precursor to the invasion of the Capitol. After that terrorist attack, he spoke of “a sad day” and that “we have to turn to God.” He did not say that the turn to God would include repentance for his part in laying the groundwork, nor anything about hell for terrorists.

He is only one of several bishops and priests who pandered to Trump and Trumpism. The question is, where are the US bishops who disagree? The episcopal code of omertà that allowed the scandal of Theodore McCarrick to fester remains an indictment of the whole pack.

The bishops and their clerical underlings have failed to guide America’s Catholics to be a discerning, peaceful, loving community shaped by the Gospel. But that’s their job!

They are failures who have decided to rely upon the political system to do what they failed to do, for example, regarding abortion. If they had done their job and led society to a vision of life that would make abortion as unthinkable as public hanging, drawing and quartering, they might not have resorted to supporting a fascist movement marked by racism, anti-Semitism and injustice.

Calling the bishops and not a few pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States “leaders” is a violation of truth and language. And so, to the managers of the United States Catholic Church: “Go to hell!”

(Father William Grimm is the publisher of UCA News based in Tokyo, Japan. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.)

(picture courtesy: Tulsa World)

Indian Farmers, We Need Not Fail!

The government and the farmers remain unchanged in their positions. For the eighth time, the farmers ordinance were discussed with the leaders of the farmers’ organizations. But the Central government washed their hands by saying that they let the Supreme Court decide on the issue.The panel, which will be nominated by the Supreme Court, will hold further deliberations. 

 

Supreme Court orders non-implementation of agricultural law The Supreme Court also directed the formation of an expert committee on agricultural law. The Center has asked for one day to decide the members of the expert committee. The Chief Justice also directed that the venue where the farmers are currently protesting should be changed. The court also directed that adults, women, and children withdraw from the strike. The court had earlier told the central government that it did not want to spill farmers’ blood. The court also said it was responsible for preventing the bloodshed. The apex court said it knew how to decide the matter

 

Representatives of the farmers’ strike ask if the discussions with the government could not yield any solution, what is the solution if it is discussed with the Supreme Court Committee? Farmers’ organizations are also confirming that the struggle is not over until the rules are upheld, and they have not stopped the protest.

 

On the other hand, supporting the farmers over the three farm laws, the Congress on Saturday said the Prime Minister should resign if he can’t repeal the laws and depend on the Supreme Court to break the deadlock with farmers. Incidentally, with the next round of deliberations among the representatives of both sides on January 15th, the opposition party Congress has decided to conduct Kisan Adhir Diwas [Farmer’s Rights Day] holding protest marches, dharnas, and petition Governors to annul the farm laws.

 

“The Constitution has not given the responsibility of framing the laws to the Supreme Court but to the Parliament of India. If this government is incapacitated to discharge this responsibility, then the Modi government has no moral authority to remain in power even for a minute,” Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala added.

 

The central government is misleading the farmers declaring that the new laws are good for farmers.”Our stand is unequivocal — we want a legal guarantee for minimum support prices (MSPs) for farm produce, besides revoking all the three farm laws. If our demands are not fulfilled, we will continue with our agitation indefinitely,” Mr. Singh said.

 

The Sikh people are fighting to defeat the new agrarian laws that are not farmer-friendly, not wanted by the farmers, and implemented only for the corporates. All Indians, and all future generations, will have to pay bribes to corporates and work for them, of course.

 

Farmers are gearing up to intensify their strike after the eighth failed talks with the central government. The farmers’ decision is to block the Palwal Manesar highways. The farmers said that the tractor would march to the four borders of Delhi, and the Desh Jagran campaign will continue for two weeks. The question arises as to what is next as the farmers are not ready to accept the conditions put forward by the government or the government is not ready to accept the demands of the farmers. But the farmers are adamant that they will not back down from their stand. 

 

Joginder Singh, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), one of the largest outfits in Punjab, alleged that The government has been trying to justify the laws by saying that several farmers’ unions are supporting them, but this is only an attempt to weaken the ongoing movement and divert attention. “The government intends to establish a parallel platform to weaken the ongoing agitation.”

 

Punjabi actor Gurpreet Ghuggi at Singhu meeting protesting farmers, said, “This fight is of the ‘zameerdar’ (one with a conscience) the farmers have rejected the three farm laws, so you (Centre) should also reject it now.”

 

It is also alleged that some middlemen, commission agents & political leaders with vested interests are running this movement. The farm laws are meant to favor the farmers, but eventually, the new reforms are likely to hurt the peasants and be controlled by few corporates.

 

Despite the cold and rain, many are arriving at the border. The farmers have decided to hold a tractor rally led by women. With elections looming in four states and one union territory, the central government will try to end the peasant agitation as soon as possible.

 

Under a Blanket Challenge, AIYF youngsters at Thrissur, Kerala could collect 5000 new blankets they are sending to the Farmers on strike in the shivering cold weather in New Delhi.

 

Recently, Indo American Press Club hosted two Zoom Conferences with Ambassador Pradeep Kapur’s active participation, Mr. Khanderao Kand (Director of FIIDS USA, Yogesh Andlay, Co-founder of Polaris and Nucleus, Dr. Nishit Choksy, Berkeley, MI and another one with the leadership of Mr. N.K.Premachansran MP, Mr. P.C. Cyriac IAS, Dr. Ejaz Ghani ( Lead Economist at World Bank), Prof. M.D. Nalappat (Vice-Chair Manipal Advanced Research Group) analyzed the damaging Farmers Ordinance’s various features and how the laws are destroying the traditional agricultural system in India.

 

Media projection is more important on the Farmers’ agitation in India. As a responsible media club, Indo American Press Club is prompted to impact the mainstream western media for global narrative,” Ambassador Pradeep Kumar Kapoor said while presiding over the Zoom Meeting hosted by Indo-American Press Club (IAPC) on “What’s the truth behind the Indian Farmers Protest?”

 

Mr. Vimal Goyal, CPA, and industrialist from Long Island, NY, expressed a different perspective on economic considerations. He affirmed that the latest one is the most comprehensive farmers bill, as the farmers were left behind with no recognitions so far. He believed that this bill is going to promote the abundance of rice and wheat. He also mentioned that the poor farmers do not have resources for e-commerce or transporting facilities, and hence they have to resort to the greedy private middlemen.

 

For every grain produced by the peasantry, the leading share goes to the corporates without making a fair profit to the toiling masses. Today there is no Mahatmaji, no Nehru to lead a second freedom struggle. If the opponents were foreigners then, today the enemies are inside the democratic republic. It is not easy to fight and win against them.

 

If farmers fail today, in future we may to have to pay the price for the air we breathe, by leasing the entire atmosphere above India to the monopolies. If we fail today, we will have to lease out all the rivers flowing through the nation to the monopolies and even pay for the water we drink. It’s time to respond.

(Picture Courtesy” Gulf Today)

College Campuses Are COVID-19 Super-spreaders

Newswise — College campuses are at risk of becoming COVID-19 superspreaders for their entire county, according to a new vast study which shows the striking danger of the first two weeks of school in particular.

Looking at 30 campuses across the nation with the highest amount of reported cases, experts saw that over half of the institutions had spikes – at their peak – which were well above 1,000 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people per week within the first two weeks of class.

In some colleges, one in five students had been infected with the virus by the end of the fall term. Four institutions had over 5,000 cases.

In 17 of the campuses monitored, a new computer model developed by scientists at Stanford University shows outbreaks translated directly into peaks of infection within their home counties.

Out today, the team’s research – published in the peer-reviewed journal Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering – crucially shows, however, that tight outbreak management, for example the immediate transition from in person to all online learning, can reduce the peaks within about two weeks.

Lead author Hannah Lu, from Stanford’s Energy Resources Engineering program, says the incidence levels of 1,000 cases per 100,000 people per week – when compared to the first and second waves of the pandemic with peak incidences of 70 to 150 – means colleges are at real risk of developing an extreme incidence of COVID-19.

“Policy makers often use an incidence of 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week as a threshold for high risk counties, states, or countries. All 30 institutions in our study exceeded this value, three even by two orders of that magnitude,” she states.

“The number of students who had become infected just throughout the fall is more than twice of the national average since the beginning of the outbreak of 5.3%, with 17.3 million reported cases at a population of 328.2 million.

“At the University of Notre Dame, for instance, all 12,607 students were tested before the beginning of class and only nine had tested positive. Less than two weeks into the term, the seven-day incidence was 3083, with a reproduction number R0 of 3.29.

“However,” she adds, “with around 90 reported deaths nationwide, mainly college employees and not students, the campus-related death rate of 0.02% remains well below the average death rate of COVID-19.”

Members of the research team used advanced modelling, which assesses the real-time epidemiology of the COVID-19 outbreak using an SEIR (susceptible, exposed, infectious, and recovered) model to map how the disease spread across the campuses.

They drew COVID-19 case reports from 30 publicly available college dashboards across the United States throughout the fall of 2020. These institutions were either teaching in person, online or a hybrid of both. They selected colleges for which case numbers are reported on a daily basis and the total cumulative case number exceeded 100. During this time window, the nationwide number of new cases had dropped below 50,000 per day.

A limitation of this study is that the true on-campus student population was often unreported and had to be approximated by the total fall quarter enrollment. “This likely underestimates of the real maximum incidence and the fraction of on-campus students that have been affected by the virus,” the authors state.

Senior author, Ellen Kuhl, adds: “Strikingly, these local campus outbreaks rapidly spread across the entire county and triggered a peak in new infections in neighbouring communities in more than half of the cases.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that these initial college outbreaks are unrelated to the national outbreak dynamics. Instead, they are independent local events driven by campus reopening and inviting students back to campus.

“Our results confirm the widespread fear in early fall that colleges could become the new hot spots of COVID-19 transmission. But, at the same time, college administrators should be applauded for their rapid responses to successfully manage local outbreaks.”

All reported campuses pursued regular surveillance testing, weekly or even twice per week, combined with aggressive test-trace-isolate strategies.

“The majority of colleges and universities were able to rapidly manage their outbreaks and suppress campus-wide infections, while the neighbouring communities were less successful in controlling the spread of the virus. As a result, for most institutions, the outbreak dynamics remained manageable throughout the entire fall of 2020 with narrow spikes of less than 300 cases per day,” Lu states.

The team believes that this methodology, in combination with continuing online learning, is the best way to prevent college sites from becoming the major hub of the disease.

“Our study suggests that tight test-trace-isolate strategies, flexible transition to online instruction, and-most importantly-compliance with local regulations will be critical to ensure a safe campus reopening after the winter break,” she added.

Professor Kuhl concludes: “We anticipate that the most important aspect upon campus reopening within the coming weeks will be the human factor. Unfortunately, the fall term has shown that the best of all strategies can become meaningless if people do not follow the recommendations.”

(Picture Curtesy: ABC News)

Is The COVID-19 Vaccine Safe For Nursing Mothers?

Newswise — New Rochelle, NY, January 12, 2021–The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) does not recommend cessation of breastfeeding for individuals who are vaccinated against COVID-19. In a new statement, the ABM suggests that lactating women discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with their health care provider, within the context of their risk of contracting COVID-19 and of developing severe disease, according to the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding MedicineClick here to read the ABM statement now.

This is a challenging topic because the vaccine trials excluded lactating women. Thus, there are no clinical data regarding the safety of the Pfizer/BioNtech or the Moderna vaccine in nursing mothers. According to the ABM statement, “there is little biological plausibility that the vaccine will cause harm, and antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] in milk may protect the breastfeeding child.”

“Without clinical data, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine relied on biological plausibility and expert opinion to craft a statement on considerations for mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in lactation,” says Alison Stuebe, MD, President of ABM. “The available information is reassuring; however, pregnant and lactating people deserve better than plausibility to guide medical decisions. Henceforward, phase 3 clinical trials should routinely include pregnant and lactating participants. It’s time to protect pregnant and breastfeeding individuals through research, not from research.”

Arthur I. Eidelman, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, states: “The publication of the balanced ABM statement will serve as an immediate guide for clinicians and families in deciding to proceed with Covid-19 vaccination of nursing mothers.”

Breastfeeding Medicine, the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, is an authoritative, peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal published 10 times per year in print and online. The Journal publishes original scientific papers, reviews, and case studies on a broad spectrum of topics in lactation medicine. It presents evidence-based research advances and explores the immediate and long-term outcomes of breastfeeding, including the epidemiologic, physiologic, and psychological benefits of breastfeeding. Tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on the Breastfeeding Medicine website.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is a worldwide organization of medical doctors dedicated to the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding. Our mission is to unite members of the various medical specialties with this common purpose. For more than 20 years, ABM has been bringing doctors together to provide evidence-based solutions to the challenges facing breastfeeding across the globe. A vast body of research has demonstrated significant nutritional, physiological, and psychological benefits for both mothers and children that last well beyond infancy. But while breastfeeding is the foundation of a lifetime of health and well-being, clinical practice lags behind scientific evidence. By building on our legacy of research into this field and sharing it with the broader medical community, we can overcome barriers, influence health policies, and change behaviors.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers is known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research. A complete list of the firm’s 90 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available on the Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers website.

(picture courtesy: Science) 

A Rift In The Retina May Help Repair The Optic Nerve

Newswise — In experiments in mouse tissues and human cells, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have found that removing a membrane that lines the back of the eye may improve the success rate for regrowing nerve cells damaged by blinding diseases. The findings are specifically aimed at discovering new ways to reverse vision loss caused by glaucoma and other diseases that affect the optic nerve, the information highway from the eye to the brain.

“The idea of restoring vision to someone who has lost it from optic nerve disease has been considered science fiction for decades. But in the last five years, stem cell biology has reached a point where it’s feasible,” says Thomas Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The research was published Jan. 12 in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

A human eye has more than 1 million small nerve cells, called retinal ganglion cells, that transmit signals from light-collecting cells called photoreceptors in the back of the eye to the brain. Retinal ganglion cells send out long arms, or axons, that bundle together with other retinal ganglion cell projections, forming the optic nerve that leads to the brain.

When the eye is subjected to high pressure, as occurs in glaucoma, it damages and eventually kills retinal ganglion cells. In other conditions, inflammation, blocked blood vessels, or tumors can kill retinal ganglion cells. Once they die, retinal ganglion cells don’t regenerate.

“That’s why it is so important to detect glaucoma early,” says Johnson. “We know a lot about how to treat glaucoma and help nerve cells survive an injury, but once the cells die off, the damage to someone’s vision becomes permanent.”

Johnson is a member of a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute looking for ways scientists can repair or replace lost optic neurons by growing new cells. 

In the current study, Johnson and his team grew mouse retinas in a laboratory dish and tracked what happens when they added human retinal ganglion cells, derived from human embryonic stem cells, to the surface of the mouse retinas. They found that most of the transplanted human cells were unable to integrate into the retinal tissue, which contains several layers of cells.

“The transplanted cells clumped together rather than dispersing from one another like on a living retina,” says Johnson.

However, the researchers found that a small number of transplanted retinal cells were able to settle uniformly into certain areas of the mouse retina. Looking more closely, the areas where the transplanted cells integrated well aligned with locations where the researchers had to make incisions into the mouse retinas to get them to lie flat in the culture dish. At these incision points, some of the transplanted cells were able to crawl into the retina and integrate themselves in the proper place within the tissue.

“This suggested that there was some type of barrier that had been broken by these incisions,” Johnson says. “If we could find a way to remove it, we may have more success with transplantation.”

It turns out that the barrier is a well-known anatomical structure of the retina, called the internal limiting membrane. It’s a translucent connective tissue created by the retina’s cells to separate the fluid of the eye from the retina.

After using an enzyme to loosen the connective fibers of the internal limiting membrane, the researchers removed the membrane and applied the transplanted human cells to the retinas. They found that most of the transplanted retinal ganglion cells grew in a more normal pattern, integrating themselves more fully. The transplanted cells also showed signs of establishing new nerve connections to the rest of the retinal structure when compared with retinas that had intact membranes.

“These findings suggest that altering the internal limiting membrane may be a necessary step in our aim to regrow new cells in damaged retinas,” says Johnson.

The researchers plan to continue investigating the development of transplanted retinal ganglion cells to determine the factors they need to function once integrated into the retina.

Other researchers involved in the study include Kevin Zhang, Caitlyn Tuffy, Joseph Mertz, Sarah Quillen, Laurence Wechsler, Harry Quigley and Donald Zack of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

This work was funded by the National Eye Institute (K12EY015025, K08EY031801, R01EY002120, P30EY001765), the ARVO Dr. David L. Epstein Award, Research to Prevent Blindness, the American Glaucoma Society, the Johns Hopkins Physician Scientist Training Program, and generous gifts from the Guerrieri Family Foundation, the Gilbert Family Foundation, and the Marion & Robert Rosenthal Family Foundation. The authors declare no competing interests.

(Picture Credit: Thomas Johnson and Johns Hopkins Medicine. Transplanted retinal ganglion cells marked with a fluorescent tag.)

Tibetans in Exile Vote to Elect New Government

Even after 70 years of Tibet’s occupation by China, ethnic Tibetans across the globe, who mostly follow Lamaism, are determined to maintain their independence.

Based in neighboring India, the Tibetan government in exile has started the election process for its new Tibetan parliament-in-exile, called the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) scheduled to be sworn in on May 30.

The first round of elections, in which Tibetans across the world participated, ended on Jan. 3 and the results are expected on Feb. 8. According to the election commission, the final list of candidates is expected on March 21 and the general elections are scheduled for April 11.

Braving the pandemic, thousands of diaspora Tibetans took part in the ongoing polls to elect the next Sikyong (president) and new members of parliament.

Tibetans in countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Spain also cast their votes on Jan. 3. According to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) election commission, of the total 80,000 voters, 56,000 reside in India, Nepal and Bhutan, while 24,000 live in other countries.

Eight candidates are in fray for Sikyong, including representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi and former CTA home minister Kasur Dongchung Ngodup, former representative of Dalai Lama to North America Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang, former speaker of the Parliament-in-exile Penpa Tsering and incumbent deputy speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntosok.

Incumbent Sikyong Lobsang Sangay was the first elected political leader of exiled Tibetans. An individual can serve only two terms as a Sikyong.

Around 150 candidates are vying for 45 seats of members of parliament—10 representatives from each of the traditional provinces of Tibet – U-Tsang, Dhotoe and Dhomey; two from each of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the pre-Buddhist Bon religion.

Tibet, called “the roof of the world” occupies a vast area of plateaus and mountains in Central Asia, including Mount Everest. Tibet is on a high plateau—the Plateau of Tibet—surrounded by enormous mountain masses. The relatively level northern part of the plateau is called the Qiangtang; it extends more than 800 miles (1,300 km) from west to east at an average elevation of 16,500 feet (5,000 metres) above sea level.

Before the 1950s Tibet was largely isolated from the rest of the world. It constituted a unique cultural and religious community, marked by the Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhism. Tibet’s incorporation into the People’s Republic of China began in 1950 and has remained a highly charged and controversial issue, both within Tibet and worldwide. Many Tibetans (especially those outside China) consider China’s action to be an invasion of a sovereign country, and the continued Chinese presence in Tibet is deemed an occupation by a foreign power.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw Is New Vice-Chair Of US-India Business Council

US-India Business Council (USIBC) has selected Biocon Executive Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw as one of its vice-chairs effective immediately. US Chamber of Commerce’s USIBC on January 14 announced three vice-chairs to its 2021 Global Board of Directors. The two other business executives joining Shaw as vice-chairs are Amway CEO Milind Pant and Edward Knight who is the vice-chair at Nasdaq. 

 “Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw will be one of the three vice-chairs for the US-India Business Council’s board of directors,” said USIBC Chairman Vijay Advani in a statement from Washington DC. “The perspectives of the new vice-chairs will be invaluable as the Council charts a path forward in the post-pandemic era and work to deepen the US-India partnership,” said Advani.

As vice-chairs, Mazumdar-Shaw, Pant and Knight will work with Council President Nisha Biswal and its policy directors to elevate priorities in key sectors and lead meetings between industry and government.

The trio will also work to amplify the voice of industry on international trade and investment issues and emphasise the key role that businesses can play in strengthening democratic institutions and combatting the global pandemic.

“I am honoured to serve the Council, which is committed to enhancing the US-India bilateral trade. In my new role, I look forward to forging collaborative initiatives in pharma and healthcare in research, innovation and skill development between our two nations,” Mazumdar-Shaw said.

The pandemic has provided an opportunity for robust engagement between the two countries that can lead to knowledge sharing in digital healthcare, medical technologies and Intellectual Property-led drug and vaccine innovation to deliver healthcare solutions, she added.

The Council represents top global firms operating across the US, India and the Indo-Pacific. Recognising that US-India trade is driven by new business hubs, the Council is also focused on strengthening connections between cities and states in both countries.

Sonia Aggarwal Named To Be Biden’s Climate Policy Adviser

Sonia Aggarwal, an energy policy expert has been named by President-elect Joe Biden as the senior advisor for climate policy and innovation, the latest of several key Indian American nominees for his administration.

She led America’s Power Plan, bringing together 200 electricity policy experts, at Energy Innovation, of which she was a co-founder and Vice President, according to the biography from Biden’s transition team.

Aggarwal also directed the team that developed the Energy Policy Simulator to analyse the environmental, economic, and public health impacts of climate and energy policies

Earlier, she managed global research at ClimateWorks Foundation, “where she worked on the McKinsey carbon abatement cost curves and led research for the American Energy Innovation Council”, the biography said. Born and raised in Ohio, Aggarwal has a masters at Stanford University in civil engineering.

Indian Americans named to important positions in the administration of Biden, who will take over as President, and Kamala Harris, as Vice President next Wednesday, include Neera Tanden, who will be the director of the Office of Management and Budget with cabinet rank, and Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, both of whom will have to be confirmed in their positions by the Senate, and Vedant Patel, to be his assistant press secretary, Vinay Reddy to be the director of speechwriting and Gautam Raghavan, to be the deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel.

Among others are: Atul Gawande and Celine Gounder, members of the COVID-19 task force; Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council; Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary for Harris; Mala Adiga, policy director for Jill Biden, who will become the First Lady, and Maju Varghese, executive director of their inauguration — the swearing-in ceremony and the festivities around it.

At the powerful National Security Council, the nominees are Tarun Chhabra, senior director for technology and national security; Sumona Guha, senior director for South Asia, and Shanthi Kalathil, coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights. 

A media strategist, Garima Verma, has been named the digital director for Jill Biden, who will become the First Lady next week. Making the announcement about Verma and other additions to her staff, President-elect Joe Biden’ wife Jill Biden said, “Together, we will work to open the White House in new, inclusive and innovative ways, reflecting more fully the distinct beauty of all our communities, cultures and traditions.”

On Jill Biden’s staff, Verma will be joining Mala Adiga who was appointed the policy director. The president’s spouse has a large staff and an office because of the extensive social life and work on chosen public causes.

One of Jill Biden’s causes is helping military service members, their families and ex-service members. That program will be run through a relaunched Joining Forces, a nationwide effort that had been started by her and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

William Burns, Architect Of India-US Nuclear Deal Is Named CIA Chief

US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named William Burns, who guided the nuclear deal between India and the US but is a strong critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

A former Deputy Secretary of State and a senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council, and now the President of the think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he emphasised the importance of relations with India while criticising Modi over Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

But he has also acknowledged that “outsiders” cannot resolve these issues.

“I continue to believe strongly in the wisdom of the strategic investment that America and India have made in each other’s success over the past two decades,” Burns wrote last year in an article in The Atlantic magazine.

Recalling his role in bringing about the landmark agreement, he wrote: “I was the diplomat charged with completing the US-India civil-nuclear dealing the summer and fall of 2008.”

The agreement reached while Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister and George W. Bush the US President enables the two countries to cooperate on civilian nuclear projects and India to have broader access to nuclear technology and materials.

Burns recalled strong-arming European allies to go along with the exemption for India from the Nuclear Supplier Group to enable it to get access to nuclear material and equipment.

“This was about power, and we were exercising it – hardly endearing ourselves to groggy (European) partners, but impressing our Indian counterparts with the strength of America’s commitment to get this done,” he wrote.

As the US grapples with the rise of China and its hostility to Washington’s treaty allies in Asia, Burns will have to balance his nation’s strategic priorities with his personal attitude to Modi and India that he expressed as the head of a liberal think tank.

The announcement of the appointment by Biden’s transition office mentioned the threat from China.

It said, “Whether it’s cyber attacks emanating from Moscow, the challenge China poses, or the threat we face from terrorists and other non-state actors, he has the experience and skill to marshal efforts across government and around the world to ensure the CIA is positioned to protect the American people.”

Drawing on his experience of working with New Delhi, he wrote in what could be his roadmap for relations between New Delhi and Washington emphasising continuity saying that it was bigger than the ties between President Donald Trump and Modi.

“For India and the US to maximise the return on their investments, we must take a long view, keeping in mind why this strategic bet was made in the first place: our common democratic values, a long-term vision of economic openness, and a growing confidence in each other’s reliability,” he wrote in the Atlantic article published last year around Trump’s visit to India.

He criticised both Trump and Modi saying, “As intolerance and division in both societies erode their democracies, I fear that the leaders may reinforce each other’s worst instincts.”

But Trump will be gone next week and Biden will take over with resets of international and domestic issues.

“A battle for the idea of India is under way, between the tolerant constitutional convictions of its founders and the harsher Hindu majoritarianism that has lurked beneath the surface,” Burns said.

It is “testing India’s democratic guardrails in much the same way that the Trump era is testing America’s” but “either struggle will not be settled by outsiders – but both will shape the nature of Indian-American partnership in the years ahead,” he wrote.

In criticising Modi and the BJP, he listed the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave a special status to Kashmir, the CAA that he asserted “discriminates against Muslims seeking refuge in India”, feeding “tensions over disputed religious sites” and “pressures against critical journalists and academics”.

He wrote that Modi like Trump is “skilled in the business of political showmanship, with a keen eye for the vulnerabilities of established elites, and for the dark art of stoking nativist fires”.

Burns was also executive secretary of the State Department and special assistant to then Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, and minister-counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Moscow. (IANS)

(Picture Courtesy: The New Indian Express)

Vanita Gupta Named By Bident As Associate Attorney General

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated notable Indian-American civil rights attorney, Vanita Gupta, as Associate Attorney General, the third highest ranking position at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“As associate attorney general, the number three job at the department, I nominate Vanita Gupta. A woman I’ve known for some time. One of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America,” said Biden. “The proud daughter of immigrants from India, I’m grateful that Vanita is leaving her current job leading one of the premier civil rights organizations in the world as she answers the call to serve once again to ensure our justice system is even more fair and equitable,” the President-elect said in his announcement address.

One of the best-known and most respected civil rights attorneys in America, Gupta served as acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division at the Justice Department under President Obama. She is currently the president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“I am humbled and honored to return to the Department of Justice and to once again work alongside the women and men who defend our Constitution and enforce our federal laws,” Gupta said. “My parents were proud immigrants from India; who taught me early on the values that led me to civil rights work and public service.”

Vice-President elect Harris in her speech highlighted the damage that has been done to the Justice Department and the country’s long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice, once again condemning the storming of the US Capitol and Trump’s role in inciting the violence.

Gupta had served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in former President Barack Obama’s administration when Biden was the Vice President.

Vanita Gupta, has recalled her experience of racial bigotry as a four-year-old while she pledged her commitment to civil rights and justice reform. Speaking on Thursday after Biden introduced her as “one of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America”, Gupta spoke of her parents as “proud immigrants from India”, and the family’s experience of bias, “an early memorybut one that is seared in my mind”.

“One day, I was sitting in a McDonald’s restaurant with my sister, mother, and grandmother. As we ate our meals, a group of skinheads at the next table began shouting ethnic slurs and throwing food at us until we had to leave the restaurant,” she said. “That feeling never left me of what it means to be made to feel unsafe because of who you are,” said Gupta, who went on to a brilliant career as a fighter for civil rights.

She gained fame when straight out of law school she won the release of 38 people, most of them African Americans, who had been wrongly convicted on drug charges in a Texas town by all-White juries. She also got them $6 million on compensation.

She was then working for the Legal Defence Fund of NAACP (National Association of Coloured People). Gupta went on to work as a staff lawyer for the top human rights organisation, the American Civil Liberties Union, where she took on several cases for immigrants and victims of mass arrests.

A landmark case she won was getting a settlement for children held in privately run immigration prisons. She is now the president and CEO of Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 human rights organisations.

Gupta will have to be confirmed by the Senate as associate attorney general, which would be smooth sailing because the Democrats have taken control of the Senate. She is the latest of a series of Indian Americans appointed to important posts by Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

They include Neera Tanden, who will be the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, both of whom will have to be confirmed in their positions by the Senate, and Vedant Patel, to be his assistant press secretary, Vinay Reddy to be the director of speechwriting and Gautam Raghavan, to be the deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel.

Indian-American Dr Raj Iyer has also taken over as the first Chief Information Officer of the US Army, after the Pentagon created the position in July 2020. Equivalent in rank to a three-star General, Iyer will supervise an annual budget of USD 16 billion for the US Army’s IT operations.

One of the highest ranking Indian-American civilians in the US Department of Defense, Iyer, who holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering, serves as the principal advisor to the Secretary of the Army and directs representation of the secretary in matters relating to information management/information technology (IT), the Pentagon said in a statement.

Biden on Friday named health policy expert Vidur Sharma as the testing adviser on his Covid-19 Response Team. Sharma, the latest Indian American nominee for a key position in the administration of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris that takes over next Wednesday, will be joining others dealing with the fight against coronavirus like Surgeon General-nominee Vivek Murthy, and Covid-19 Task Force members Atul Gawande and Celine Gounder.

Sharma, like many Biden nominees, is an old White House hand having served in the administration of former President Barack Obama, when Biden was Vice President. In that stint, he was a health policy adviser on the Domestic Policy Council working on implementing Obama’s signature programme of trying to ensure health insurance for all, known as Obamacare.

Among others are Atul Gawande and Celine Gounder to the Covid-19 task force, Mala Adiga to be the policy director for Jill Biden, who will become the First Lady, and Maju Varghese to be the executive director of their inauguration – the swearing-in ceremony and the festivities around it. Appointment of Gupta with a strong civil rights records could reassure them about Biden’s commitment to the cause. 

(Picture Courtesy: OneIndia)

Trump Will Skip Biden’s Inauguration

President Donald Trump will leave Washington next Wednesday morning just before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration to begin his post-presidential life in Florida. Refusing to abide by tradition and participate in the ceremonial transfer of power, Trump will instead hold his own departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before his final flight aboard Air Force One.

Officials are considering an elaborate send-off event reminiscent of the receptions he’s received during state visits abroad, complete with a red carpet, color guard, military band and even a 21-gun salute, according to a person familiar with the planning who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement. 

Trump will become only the fourth president in history to boycott his successor’s inauguration. And while he has said he is now committed to a peaceful transition of power — after months of trying to delegitimize Biden’s victory with baseless allegations of mass voter fraud and spurring on his supporters who stormed the Capitol — he has made clear he has no interest in making a show of it.

He has not invited the Bidens to the White House for the traditional bread-breaking, nor has he spoken with Biden by phone. Vice President Mike Pence has spoken with his successor, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, calling her on Thursday to congratulate her and offer assistance, according to two people familiar with the call. Pence will be attending Biden’s inauguration, a move Biden has welcomed.

While Trump spends the final days of his presidency ensconced in the White House, more isolated than ever as he confronts the fallout from the Capitol riot, staffers are already heading out the door. Many have already departed, including those who resigned after the attack, while others have been busy packing up their offices and moving out personal belongings — souvenirs and taxidermy included.

On Thursday, chief of staff Mark Meadows’ wife was caught on camera leaving with a dead, stuffed bird. And trade adviser Peter Navarro, who defended the president’s effort to overturn the election, was photographed carrying out a giant photo of a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Staff are allowed to purchase the photographs, said White House spokesman Judd Deere.) Also spotted departing the West Wing: a bust of Abraham Lincoln.

Stewart D. McLaurin, the president of the White House Historical Association, said he had reached out to the White House chief usher, who manages the building’s artifacts with the White House curator, because of questions raised by the images.

Trump Impeached For 2nd Time By US Congress For Insurrection When Will Senate Begin Impeachment Trial?

The United States House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday, January 13th for inciting a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, condemning Trump’s behavior and blamed him for sparking the insurrection.

The House voted 232 to 197 to impeach Trump. Ten Republicans joined the Democratic effort – including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican – making it the most bipartisan impeachment in US history. 

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., while warning that a second Trump impeachment would further divide America.

According to the format for impeaching a sitting president, The House introduces and passes the articles of impeachment, but the Senate is where the person being impeached faces a trial — and potential punishment. 

A more consequential vote awaits later this month in the Senate, where Trump’s party is hardly rallying to his side. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will proceed with a trial and hold a vote on Trump’s conviction. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will proceed with a trial and hold a vote on Trump’s conviction:

“A Senate trial can begin immediately, with agreement from the current Senate Majority Leader to reconvene the Senate for an emergency session, or it will begin after January 19th. But make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again. The president of the United States incited a violent mob against the duly elected government of the United States in a vicious, depraved and desperate attempt to remain in power. For the sake of our democracy, it cannot and must not be tolerated, excused, or go unpunished.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hasn’t ruled out convicting Trump, giving fellow Republicans cover if they choose that option. That step could ultimately prevent Trump from holding public office again. McConnell said Wednesday that the chamber could take up the issue at its “first regular meeting following receipt of the article from the House.” But he said a trial couldn’t be held before Trump’s term expires at noon Jan. 20. The Senate next meets on Tuesday. “Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office,” McConnell said.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is reported to be “livid” with Trump and who is not whipping his colleagues to vote against conviction. McConnell is now 78 years old. He may decide that this is his last term in office and end up voting for conviction. What McConnell does will have a definitive impact on his colleagues. If he continues to signal his desire to rid the Republican Party of Trump it is likely that others will follow. For instance, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) won a 9-point victory over her Democratic challenger while Trump was losing the state of Maine to Biden by 9 points.

Since the House passed just one article of impeachment, rather than the two the chamber passed during Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, a Senate trial could be shorter, said a source familiar with the impeachment trial plans, but who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The source added that witnesses would likely be part of the trial but cautioned that lawmakers were just beginning their work and would be having daily meetings to discuss strategy. One reason Democrats want to hold a trial even after Trump leaves office is to bar him from future office, if he’s convicted. But conviction requires two-thirds –or 67 votes – in the closely divided Senate.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is the only senator who has said clearly that he is open to convicting Trump. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to convict last year when Trump was impeached over his phone call with the Ukrainian president. The charges in this impeachment are equally if not more serious, so it seems likely that he too may vote to convict. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) have also made statements signaling that they’ve had enough of Trump. Murkowski just wants him out, saying “He has caused enough damage,” and Toomey thinks he committed impeachable offenses but is unsure whether impeachment makes sense this close to the end of the Trump presidency.

So if all four of these senators ended up voting to convict Trump, 13 others would have to join to have him convicted. Most of the other senators are keeping their opinions close, and for good reason. A lot could change between now January 19th, which is the earliest the Senate could begin a trial. If the violence we saw on January 6th is repeated it will probably move some more Republicans towards voting for conviction. 

If they listen to President Trump’s belated requests for “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” the air may go out of the conviction balloon. In the past week Donald Trump’s support has been shrinking by the moment. In the end, if 17 Republican senators vote to convict it will probably be because of the way Trump has conducted his presidency, indulging his autocratic beliefs and treating others with legitimate claims to power as if they were groundskeepers at one of his golf clubs. As House Majority Leader Hoyer said in the final moments of debate on the floor of the House: “Donald Trump demands absolute loyalty and gives none in return.” More than anything else that may be his undoing 

“The president of the United States incited a violent mob against the duly elected government of the United States in a vicious, depraved and desperate attempt to remain in power,” Schumer said. “For the sake of our democracy, it cannot and must not be tolerated, excused, or go unpunished.”

(Picture Courtesy: Boston Globe)

“A Nightmare Called Trump”

The breach of security on Jan. 6 at the ‘Capitol Building’ in Washington, D.C. while certification of Mr. Joe Biden as the next President of U.S. was under way, wasn’t just an incidence of one more demonstration of violent protest that besieged Yr.2020 … It was a total failure of our nation’s security apparatus, triggered by our own enragedly egotist President Trump. This day will remain as one of the darkest days in the history of U.S. It was a defining moment as an attempt to hijack the democratic values of this great nation in a coup by intimidating Congressional body to overturn the election results. Let’s not forget that the out-of-control mob of hoodlums, anarchists, white-supremist and false conspiracy theorists who converged on the Capitol were, incited earlier by none other than deranged Trump himself who exhorted them to take the matter in their own hand. It exposed how fragile our nation is, not only to the wide-spread barrage of venomed falsehood and divisiveness, but also, how vulnerable it is to anti-national militia & terrorist attacks.

 

Let’s stop the charade or pretend that what happened on Jan.6 was ‘totally shocking’. It was 4 years in making with the support of misguided supporters. Trump’s core support comes from numerous splinter ‘anti-groups’ – anti-immigrant, anti-nonwhites, anti-govt, anti-women’s rights, anti-establishment, anti-environment, anti-media, anti-rules & regulations for good governance etc. He systematically tapped into these lot’s insecurities and nurtured them to his selfish ends. President John Kennedy from the same ‘Capitol’ steps had motivated the Americans to work in harmony for the collective bright future with a historic proclamation – “Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country”. Trump, on the other hand put Americans against each other. Though this had been a country of immigrants, he made ‘immigrant’ an exclusionary word in the life of this country by equating it to only the ‘white people’, and making ‘non-white people’, the root-cause of all U.S. problems. Never in the history of U.S., there had been so many violent acts of bullying and infamous pogrom-style vengeful killings that ultimately resulted into global movement of ‘Black Lives Matter’. In spite of losing all court cases for lack of even a shred of evidence, except his own mere psycho-rhetoric to boot, all the way to the Supreme Court & ‘Electoral College’, Mr. Trump, in his delusional alternative world kept on spreading the falsehood just to satisfy his own whimper. The Republicans, right-wing media, and the so-called conservatives – all bear the responsibility for this greatest historic American tragedy.

He bullied them and this spineless lot caved in. They fully knew that the words have consequences, but intentionally kept mum as long as he did not turn against them. They did not stand with Sen John McCann, decorated Generals, experienced career Diplomats when he insulted them nor objected to his hundreds of lies, each month. They did not do a thing when he refused to take any action against Covid-19 epidemic or Russia’s cyber-attacks on vital components of U.S. government. They, in fact, stroked his outlandish conspiracy theories and went against the constitution they had pledged to upheld, to confirm their loyalty to him. When Trump was stroking his goons with hateful speeches, no republican or conservative protested that to be ‘unamerican’, then.  In short, the responsibility of creating this self-centered, self-absorbed monster rests solely with them. Some of the ardent supporters rallied around him even after his disgraceful fall simply because the reality was too painful and bruising for their own ego. It is worth noting the ‘double standards’ of some of the nationalist Indians who were Trump supporters. This cadre, had unequivocally lambasted outrageous accusations of the Indian Congress and its allies against Hon. N. Modi and BJP as ‘mere allegations without any shred of proof or merit’ but readily accepted Trump’s whimsical personal allegations against the electioneering process as the truth, when he lost the second term. The enthusiasm of some of them overflowed so much so that they even attached the word ‘Hindu’ to their support groups. This was outright blasphemy of what ‘Hinduism’ stands for. Trump had never ever exhibited any trait that ANY religion – leave alone just Hindu – could take pride in. All his life, Trump had cheated people & the government, ruined thousands of businesses, taken advantage of vulnerable women, spread hatred and never ever repented or regretted any of his unscrupulous actions.

Trump has been universally condemned after what happened on Ja.6. He personally has no political future, in my opinion. He lost his year 2024 chance to get elected when he refused to gallantly accept his loss in November elections. A Lot has been lost during four tumultuous years of Trump presidency. As a nation, our Democracy not only been disgraced, but also, lost clout or the power to make the things happen in our interest. Trump had already isolated U.S. from the rest of the world by going against all our allies. Jan.6, proved that we cannot manage our own affairs, peacefully and according to the ‘law of the land’. How different was Trump-era than the era of third world country dictators like ‘Mugabe’, ‘Idi Amin’ or ‘Gaddafi’. Like them he refused to relinquish the power when the time came. This was disgraceful, despicable and shameful to be played out on the world stage.

At such junctures, it is always customary to stress that the goodness in U.S. outweighs all negativity, lapses or bad episodes etc., put together … I say – not so fast … Make no mistake; Trump and his hateful twisted ideology is not going to go away, at least in near future, unless people and the lawmakers are vigilant about the future of this country. He and his humiliated surrogates in the Congress are likely to create hurdles for Biden administration, every which way they can, every step of the way for the next 4 years. Also, there is plenty of room to wonder whether challenging election results, is going to be the future ‘norm’? If it does, then it will be the beginning of U.S. becoming a ‘Banana Republic’.

World Reacts to US Capitol Riots

On January 6, 2021, while members of Congress met to certify the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, a pro-Trump mob — urged on by the president — stormed and occupied the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The insurrection was met with shock around the country and the world.

Below, Brookings experts on foreign policy explain how the dramatic events are being viewed globally.

Madiha Afzal (@MadihaAfzal), David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and the Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology: The official reaction in Pakistan was limited to the foreign ministry, which issued a relatively bland statement saying it was watching the events in Washington, and that it hoped for the situation to normalize soon and not to impact the presidential transition.

The public reaction was louder — and many-layered. People were watching closely, certainly. There was shock at the images of the insurrection in Washington unfolding on their screens. Some noted that past statements that American officials made on political transitions in Pakistan would be more applicable to the United States at this point. But at the same time, there was strong resistance to simple comparisons between the United States and countries like Pakistan. There was a sense that America had to reckon with its problems rather than indulge in a facile takedown of other countries at its own moment of crisis. And Pakistani meme-makers went to work — juxtaposing pictures of the pro-Trump extremists who stormed the Capitol next to right-wing extremists in Pakistan who have caused major destruction in the streets of Islamabad during sit-ins, very close to the seat of government.

All in all, it seems clear that these images will linger in the minds of those abroad. And that means that there will be a need for greater humility and sensitivity as America deals with issues of democracy around the world, including in countries like Pakistan.

RanjAlaaldin (@ranjalaaldin), Nonresident Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy: The insurrection has empowered nefarious actors in Iraq, the militia groups and criminal enterprises who thrive when America’s democracy becomes imperiled. That has deadly implications for the local population. Away from the glare of the international media, it is the progressives and moderates in unstable and conflict-stricken countries like Iraq that suffer, both in the short and long term. Iraq’s protest movement has made a brave push for democratic values and good governance, at great cost to the wider civilian population and in the face of powerful Iran-aligned death squads and paramilitary groups. The rioting in Washington on January 6 will empower these groups as they look to exploit the insurrection to mount additional violent crackdowns against protesters and civil society. Some in Iraq also wish to use the January 6 events to distort and undermine the fundamental international norms and democratic principles that large swathes of the Iraqi population have embraced, but that ruling elites have struggled to implement. America’s failure to practice what it preaches has limited consequences at home, where democratic and law enforcement institutions are still strong and effective, but the consequences for others elsewhere around the world can be deadly and devastating.

MarsinAlshamary (@MarsinRA), Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Foreign Policy program: In Iraq, the public is seeing parallels between the Washington, D.C. insurrection and their own experience with politics in the last 17 years. Iraqi social media is flooded with comedic takes on the events in Washington, which make direct comparisons between Iraqi and American political figures. For example, Iraqis are recalling an event in 2016 when the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr overtook the Iraqi parliament, although that event was unrelated to election results. In a tweet, Sadr wrote: “We have always told you that Western democracy is misleading and artificial.”

Other Iraqi political elites, particularly those not allied with the U.S., have reacted in a similar way to leaders of authoritarian countries who were eager to expose the pitfalls of American democracy and double standards. More balanced analysis of the events in Washington point to the fact that democratization is always a work in progress and should never be taken for granted. In the future, the U.S. would be well-advised to approach democratizing states with less hubris and to recognize that the social divisions that make governance difficult in Iraq are similar to the unaddressed social and racial inequalities that plague American society.

Célia Belin (@celiabelin), Visiting Fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe: The events this week have been intensely covered by French media and followed by a French public mostly staying at home under COVID-19 restrictions. On social media, they expressed incredulity and shock, but also dismay at the underperformance of law enforcement, and the perceived amateurism of the rioters. Compared to other European countries, official reactions came in relatively late in the day and did not directly lay the blame on President Trump. French President Emmanuel Macron issued an unusual video in front of U.S., French, and European Union flags, where he expressed solidarity and faith in the resiliency of American democracy. He stressed the common threats facing democracies such as France and the United States, echoing a favored theme.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, deplored the events and recognized Biden as the president-elect. But her camp continues to express support for Donald Trump and spread conspiracy theories regarding fraud allegations and antifa rioters. She also denounced censorship of Trump on social media, which the vice president of the National Rally called “digital totalitarianism.” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the far-left France Insoumise, suggested that this was a natural backlash in response to the U.S. “organizing coups” and “rigging elections” abroad. Some French have compared the violence of the riot in the Capitol to the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vest) protests, in particular the 2018 vandalizing of the Arc de Triomphe. In the context of a tense pre-presidential campaign season, many French view the political divisions and violence plaguing America as harbingers of conflicts to come in their own country.

Charles T. Call (@call4pax), Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology and the Latin America Initiative: The sight of the U.S. Capitol being invaded by a mob sparked diverse reactions among Latin Americans, including horror, sympathy, and familiarity. One common reaction was to dismiss the notion of American exceptionalism. The United States showed itself to have much in common with other countries that have experienced instability, racism, and authoritarianism. Correspondingly, many used the occasion to criticize the moralizing tone of U.S. policy toward the region, noting that preaching about democracy and human rights will ring hollow. Some denounced the centuries-old “Monroe Doctrine,” which had been re-embraced by the Trump administration. Humorous memes about banana republics and the U.S. role in perpetrating coups swept through social media.

On the other hand, Latin American commentators also expressed sadness and sympathy with the plight of the United States. Already concerned about the rise of authoritarian populism in the region, pro-democracy advocates in the region see the urgency of the fight against white nationalism and extremism in the United States. There is little question that the fate of political movements in the United States affects the region, and the disquiet felt by North Americans is also being felt by Latin Americans.

Vanda Felbab-Brown (@VFelbabBrown), Senior Fellow in the Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology: Mexican President Andrés Manuel LópezObrador remains one of the world’s few leaders who has not condemned the violence on Capitol Hill. Under the guise of non-interference in other countries’ affairs, he stated: “We’re not going to intervene in these matters, which are up to the Americans to resolve.” Yet at the same time, this very week, he offered asylum to Julian Assange, clearly prepared to interfere in U.S. justice issues.

Despite the invectives President Trump has levied against Mexican people, LópezObrador has maintained a sort of friendship with Donald Trump, a relationship based on the Trump administration’s willingness to ignore Mexico’s faulty policies and backsliding in a range of issues. LópezObrador issued an oblique statement in response to questions about the mob aggression on Capitol Hill, saying: “We hope there will be peace, that democracy, which is the people’s power, will prevail.” That can be read between the lines as an endorsement of Trump’s tactics of street protests and thuggery, something LópezObrador, a fellow populist, employed in order to protest and try to reverse his electoral defeat in 2006. The Mexican president also criticized Facebook and Twitter for banning Trump for his incitement of the violence.

LópezObrador’s lack of condemnation is all the more significant given the Mexican government’s recent actions: LópezObrador refused to congratulate Joe Biden on his electoral victory and recently announced that he would not attend Biden’s inauguration. And last month, he eviscerated U.S.-Mexican security cooperation. LópezObrador is setting up a posture of a very cold shoulder, bordering on hostility, toward the incoming Biden administration.

Lindsey W. Ford (@lindseywford), David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Center for East Asia Policy Studies: The images of an armed mob attacking the U.S. Capitol sent shock waves through allied capitals. In Canberra, Australian officials expressed dismay over the violent attack, but were quick to affirm their faith in the resilience of America’s democratic institutions and the strength of the American people. This support from U.S. allies is not merely an offering of friendship. It reflects the recognition that the resilience of the American system and America’s exercise of democracy at home has implications for the exercise of democracy abroad. As one Australian scholar argued this past week: “American democracy matters too much for us to remain silent.”

Yet this past week’s events also reminded U.S. allies that the power of America’s example can cut both ways. Over the past few months, President Trump’s disinformation campaign spread to Australia’s shores as well. Conservative media outlets echoed President Trump’s talking points. Members of parliament shared social media posts spreading U.S. conspiracy theories. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is now under fire to denounce these statements from members of his party.

Australia and the United States have fought side-by-side to defend democracy for decades. In the past few years, both countries have both been on the forefront of global efforts to fight disinformation and authoritarianism abroad. But this past week should serve as a powerful reminder that these efforts cannot be divorced from the need to protect democratic institutions at home.

Ryan Hass (@ryanl_hass), Senior Fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center and the Center for East Asia Policy Studies: The January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., provided powerful ammunition to Chinese propagandists that long have sought to delegitimize democracy as a dangerous Western conceit that lacks solutions for 21st-century societal challenges. Chinese media outlets broadcast images of mayhem inside the American Capitol to a domestic audience to buttress a narrative of America as a country in descent, plagued by deep divisions and a broken political system. Externally, official Chinese media outlets used news of the insurrection to make the case that the greatest threat the United States faces is itself, not China. When the day began January 6, one of the major news stories was the arrest of over 50 pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong. The insurrection in Washington, D.C., deflected international attention away from this deeply troubling development. The images of insurrectionists occupying America’s legislative seat of power will be part of the Chinese official media’s playback loop for a long time to come. The incoming Biden administration will need to take early and durable steps to chip away at a solidifying perception in Beijing that the United States has lost its capacity for self-correction.

Kemal Kirişci (@kemalkirisci), Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe: The images from the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob attracted reactions from all around the world. The Turkish response raised some eyebrows. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called “on all parties in the U.S. to maintain restraint and prudence,” as if the winners of an extensively scrutinized election were on par with sore losers, ready to disregard all institutions and norms of a democratic country. It then went on to advise “Turkish citizens in the U.S. to avoid crowded areas and places where protests are taking place,” mirroring standard U.S. State Department travel advisories for U.S. citizens visiting countries facing disturbances (including a recent one for Turkey).

A second response came from the speaker of the Turkish parliament in the form of a tweet expressing the belief that problems can “always be solved within law and democracy,” adding: “As Turkey, we have always been in favor of the law and democracy and we recommend it to everyone.” Since those statements, “law and democracy” in the U.S. has prevailed, setting the scene for a peaceful transfer of power. The disingenuity of the calls coming from a country listed as “not free” by the Freedom House’s annual study of political rights and civil liberties worldwide is self-evident.

More striking is the wording of these statements. They are an almost verbatim translation of the statements issued by the U.S. government as the Turkish parliament was attacked by F-16s during a military coup attempt in July 2016 — suggesting sarcasm rather than genuine concern.

Suzanne Maloney (@maloneysuzanne), Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy program: For Iran’s leaders, the dramatic developments in Washington offered tantalizing vindication of their long-held narrative about the failure of liberal democracy and the inevitable decline of the West. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used the episode to deride American politics as a “fiasco,” adding that “today, the U.S. and ‘American values’ are ridiculed even by their friends.” Hossein Dehqan, a former defense minister and aspiring presidential candidate, sneered on Twitter that the “architect of all riots, coup d’etats, and color revolutions” now had its own Congress “overtaken by protesters.”

Elsewhere, pro-government social media highlighted the apparent hypocrisy of American public diplomacy during times of turbulence within Iran. Some made derisive comparisons between the death of a woman who joined in the attack on the Capitol and Neda Aghasoltan, whose murder became a symbol of Tehran’s vicious repression of its 2009 protests. However, the effectiveness of the government’s propaganda is unclear; in a televised discussion, several activists challenged the seeming approval of the upheaval at the Capitol against the condemnations of Iranian protesters.

Wednesday’s scenes of frenzied crowds scaling the walls of the U.S. Capitol and overrunning security to wreak havoc in the halls of American power evoked memories of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Iran’s descent in mob violence did not end well. The embassy takeover facilitated the full descent of the revolution’s democratic aspirations into an authoritarian theocracy and generated a bitter standoff with Washington that continues today. At a time when tensions between the two countries are at a discomfiting high, the unrest and political polarization in the United States only intensifies the dangers.

Michael O’Hanlon (@MichaelEOHanlon), Senior Fellow and Co-Director for the Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology: I am not tracking any one country or region in particular; my esteemed colleagues do that much better than I can, and I take seriously what they say about the concerns around the world. However, I am more relaxed than some on this issue. While January 6 was a terrible day for our nation, it was also a sobering day that has already produced a partial correction. Moreover, the nation has made huge mistakes before — think Vietnam, for example, or the early conduct of the Iraq war — and recovered internationally. Other countries do not make their decisions about alliances and other such grave matters of war and peace, or economic alignment, based on popularity contests or any expectation that the United States is unblemished. Had Trump won reelection, that would have been serious. But this domestic tragedy, however scary, will soon be placed in a larger context. Based on its geography, its demographics, its Constitution, and its power, the United States will still enjoy much the same position in future world affairs as it has had in the recent past, I predict.

Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy: Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states closely watched the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The Saudi media covered the story extensively; Qatar’s Al Jazeera was even more fixated on the dramatic attack and the condemnation of President Trump that has ensued. The Saudis have been very supportive of Trump since 2016, especially after they were implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Riyadh is very concerned that the new administration is going to reassess ties with the kingdom for the worse. With President Trump leaving under the shadow of inciting violence against Congress, their alarm is all the more unsettling for the royals closest to Trump and his family. Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is especially vulnerable, given his role in reportedly orchestrating Khashoggi’s death and in the Yemen war. He can expect nothing like the complete support he got from the Trump, and he will face skeptical scrutiny from the Biden team and the new Congress. The Saudis are right to be worried by their four years of close association with a man now tainted as both a loser and a violent threat to the rule of law.

Natan Sachs (@natansachs), Fellow and Director of the Center for Middle East Policy: The scenes in Washington on January 6 were deeply troubling for America and, by extension, for its standing in the world and for the very image of democracy worldwide. The most important aspect is clear: an attempt, incited by a sitting president, to disrupt the core constitutional process of transfer of power. There is a major silver lining here: Congress reconvened, and there is value in the symbolism of Vice President Mike Pence himself officially confirming the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And yet the images were striking and reached across the globe. America was unable to conduct what should be regular and boring business without mayhem sent from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Moreover, as more than one foreign observer said to me: If the United States cannot even protect the office of the speaker of the house, or the dais in the House of Representatives chambers, from rioters clad in Viking helmets, what has happened to America’s basic capacity to govern its affairs? This comes, of course, after four years of domestic turmoil and amid a remarkable and continuing failure of the U.S. government to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here too, the silver lining is important. Despite all the gloating on official media in Russia, China, and Iran, the United States institutions did prevail. The “city upon the hill” shines less brightly today, but it’s still standing, if in need of a major cleanup.

ConstanzeStelzenmüller (@ConStelz), Senior Fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe: In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel made unusually frank comments on the day after the storming of the Capitol: She spoke of “disturbing images” that had made her “furious and also sad.” Laying the blame squarely at the feet of the president, she said “I greatly regret that president Trump did not concede his defeat in November — or yesterday,” and she added that this had “created the atmosphere in which such violent events become possible.” The country’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was even more forthright; he called the protesters “an armed mob, incited by a sitting president.” However, he also reminded Germans that QAnon believers had attempted to storm the Reichstag building in Berlin in August. Daniel Brössler, a commentator for the German daily SüddeutscheZeitung, reminded readers that democracy in Germany has also been under attack from right-wing forces in Germany. He wrote: “Germany‘s democracy owes its existence to the U.S. Now it owes them solidarity, no less than after the attacks of 9/11. Including for its own sake. The notion that German democracy could survive without its American counterpart is absurd.”

(Picture Courtesy: People.com)

India To Chair 3 Key Subsidiary Bodies Of UNSC

Beginning its eighth term, India, as a non-permanent member of the UNSC on Monday with the stated objective of raising its voice against terrorism, speaking for the developing world and bringing human-centric inclusive solutions to matters of global peace and security, will Chair three important Committees of the United Nations Security Council.

“Happy to announce that Flag of India #India will be chairing 3 key subsidiary bodies of @UN #SecurityCouncil during #IndiainUNSC (2021-22): Taliban sanctions committee, #CounterTerrorism committee (for 2022), #Libya sanctions committee,” TS Tirumurti, Inbdia’s Envoy to the UN tweeted.

Tirumurti said the Taliban Sanctions Committee has always been a high priority for India. “The Taliban Sanctions Committee, also called the 1988 Sanctions Committee, has always been a high priority for India. Chairing this Committee at this juncture will help keep the focus on the presence of terrorists and their sponsors, threatening the peace process in Afghanistan,” Tirumurti said a video message attached with the tweet.

The Libya Sanctions Committee is a very important subsidiary body of the council, which implements the sanctions regime, including a two-way arms embargo on Libya, an assets freeze, a travel ban, measures on illicit export of petroleum. “We will be assuming the Chair of this Committee at a critical juncture when there is an international focus on Libya and on their peace process,” Tirumurti said in a video message.

India will also chair the Counterterrorism Committee in 2022, which coincides with the 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence. It was formed in September 2001 soon after the tragic terrorist attack of 9/11 in New York. India had chaired this committee in the Security Council in 2011-12. “The chairing of this Committee has a special resonance for India, which has not only been at the forefront of fighting terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism but has also been one of its biggest victims,” said Tirumurti.

India won the eighth term in an election last June securing 184 of the 192 votes cast. It was last on the council in a two-year term ending 2012. Its previous terms were 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985 and 1991-1992.

(Picture Courtesy: Indian Mission at UN)

Risks Of Flying in Covid Times

In the past, research into outbreaks on airplanes focused on flights that took place last spring, when planes were full, passengers mostly didn’t wear masks and preventive measures weren’t broadly understood. A new study, however, examined a more recent outbreak on a flight that put numerous containment measures in place — and the results were not great for travellers.

In September, an outbreak occurred aboard a flight from Dubai to Auckland, New Zealand. The 86 passengers onboard went into a mandatory 14-day quarantine in New Zealand, and seven eventually tested positive. Researchers at the New Zealand Ministry of Health found that at least four were infected on the flight.

The aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER, with a capacity of nearly 400 passengers, was only 25% full and the four people infected in flight were seated within four rows of one another during the 18-hour trip.

The in-flight outbreak occurred when additional precautions were in place and passengers were more cautious. But researchers still identified a number of holes. Two of the four people infected on the plane said they didn’t wear masks on the flight. The airline also did not require passengers to wear masks in the lobby before boarding or be tested preflight.

Previous studies on the risk of infection during air travel are mixed (airplane filtration systems are thought to help, even when a passenger is infected), but the latest research suggests that airlines need to tighten precautions even more to avert in-flight outbreaks.

(Picture Courtesy: NPR)

2020 Tied for Hottest Year on Record

As if we don’t have enough to worry about, climate change is becoming an increasing burden on humanity. The year 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest on record, according to an arm of the European Commission. (NASA will release its own assessment, using slightly different measurements, later this month.) According to the European assessment, every year since 2015 has been warmer than every year before it, based on records going back to the late 1800s.

Global average temperatures tied with 2016 at 0.6°C above the long-term average – despite the absence of an El Niño event, a climate phenomenon that has a warming effect. There was an El Niño in 2016.

Europe, by contrast, demolished records by a wide margin, at 1.6°C above the long-term average. This compared with 2019’s 1.2°C above the average – itself record-breaking at the time. Norway and Sweden both had their hottest years on record.

Although the figures today from European Earth observation programme Copernicus place 2020 as joint hottest globally, aggregated data from other major temperature data sets including those of US agencies NASA and NOAA, and the UK Met Office – expected next Thursday – may yet relegate it to the second or third warmest.

Copernicus’s 2020 figures show a clear north-south split, with below-average temperatures in the southern hemisphere and above-average ones in the northern hemisphere. Siberia and other parts of the Arctic were exceptionally warm, at 3-6°C above average in some regions.

“The year 2020 was extreme for the Arctic, even compared to the past 20 years,” said the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in a statement on Tuesday. That led Arctic sea ice to shrink to its second-lowest extent on record in September 2020.

Figures published this week by Mark Parrington at Copernicus also show that, while media attention focused on exceptional blazes in the US and Australia, globally wildfires were at one of their lowest levels in two decades due to below-average fires in Africa.

Separately, the UK Met Office today said it expects carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere this year to pass the milestone of being 50 per cent higher than before the industrial revolution, reaching 417 parts per million between April and June, when seasonal CO2 levels peak.

(Picture Courtesy: KBTX News)

WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram: Which is More Secure?

Facebook-owned WhatsApp’s Privacy Policy updates have prompted unhappy users to look for alternative apps. Find out which of the three most popular messaging apps is more secure. Whatsapp currently is the largest messaging service in the world with over 2 billion monthly active users. Following that, Telegram accounts for 400 million and Signal stands at a ballpark of 10-20 million monthly active users. Simply looking at the raw numbers would suggest that WhatsApp is hugely popular and almost ubiquitous while Telegram is catching up and Signal seems to have just joined the million downloads race. However, numbers do not often tell you the entire story, hence here we do a comprehensive comparison of the three app’s security and features.

Whatsapp

WhatsApp offers almost every feature you might need. You get support for group chats with up to 256 members. You can also broadcast messages to multiple contacts at the same time. It also supports voice and video calls, both for individuals and groups. However, for group video calls, you are restricted to 8 users at any time. Further, WhatsApp also offers a Status feature (also called WhatsApp stories) similar to Instagram stories.

Whatsapp also allows you to share all sorts of files and documents, but there are file size limits to adhere to. For photos, videos, and audio files, the limit is 16 MB. However, documents can be up to 100 MB. You can also share live location with your contacts and I am sure many users find this feature helpful.

And since WhatsApp is meant for general users, it offers seamless backup and restore functionality through cloud services like Google Drive and iCloud. And the best part is that cloud backup is completely free.

Telegram

Telegram app offers so many features that it’s incredible. Similar to WhatsApp, you get the basics such as chats, group chats, and channels. However, unlike WhatsApp’s 256 member limit, Telegram brings support for groups with up to 200,000 members. It also offers multiple group-specific features such as bots, polls, quizzes, hashtags, and a lot more which can make group experiences a lot more fun.

The app also offers a unique feature, self-destructing messages (like Snapchat) which is great if you’re sending messages that you don’t want to remain on the recipient’s device for eternity. The size limit for sharing files on Telegram is a whopping 1.5 GB. The app now has both voice and video call on Android and iOS devices, which is great because video call support was a big omission from the app.

Signal

Signal offers its users secure messaging, voice, and video calls and all communications are end-to-end encrypted. Further, you can create groups, however, you don’t have the option to broadcast messages to multiple contacts at once. Plus, Signal has recently added support for group calling as well.

It has a feature similar to the self-destructing messages of Telegram. The best feature of Signal is “Note to Self”. Unlike WhatsApp, you don’t have to create a single-member group to send notes to yourself. On Signal, the feature is available natively and you can jot down your thoughts and ideas while messaging with your friends and family.

Apart from that, Signal allows you to relay voice calls to its servers so your identity remains concealed from your contacts. The feature is somewhat similar to what a VPN does. There are also emojis and some privacy stickers, but they are very limited in comparison to WhatsApp and Telegram.

Security:

Whatsapp

The end to end encryption (E2E) introduced in 2016 on WhatsApp is available on every single mode of communication that the app enables. So all your messages, video calls, voice calls, photos, and anything else you share are end-to-end encrypted. WhatsApp uses the E2E protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems, which is the name behind Signal messenger. That’s a good thing, because the Signal protocol is open source, widely peer-reviewed, and is generally considered one of the best protocols for implementing end-to-end encryption in messaging platforms.

However, WhatsApp does not encrypt backups (cloud or local). Also, it does not encrypt the metadata which is used to carry communication between two endpoints. This is one of the major criticisms of WhatsApp’s security model. While metadata does not allow anyone to read your messages, it lets authorities know whom and when you messaged someone, and for how long.

All in all, WhatsApp does a pretty decent job of ensuring security for its users. That being said, WhatsApp has suffered a couple of major privacy nightmares, especially the recent issue with group chats getting indexed on Google search. That issue has been fixed, however, it was not a good look for the messaging app.

Telegram

Telegram does offer some level of protection to its users. While Telegram supports E2E encryption, it’s not enabled by default. The only way to use E2E encryption on Telegram is to use its secret chats feature. However, Telegram states that it manages its message storage and decryption keys in a way that one would require court orders from multiple legal systems around the world to be able to access any of your data. The company says that it has shared 0 bytes of data with third-parties and governments to this date.

Telegram groups are not encrypted because Secret Chats are only supported for single-user communication. Moreover, Telegram’s desktop client doesn’t support E2E encryption on any platform other than macOS.

Signal

Signal is by far the best when it comes to security, be it on the back-end or the user-facing side of the service. Signal uses the open-source Signal Protocol to implement end-to-end encryption. And just like WhatsApp, the E2E encryption covers all forms of communication on Signal.

Signal goes one step further than others and encrypts your metadata too. To protect user privacy from all corners, Signal devised a new way to communicate between the sender and the recipient and it’s called Sealed Sender. Basically, with Sealed Sender, no one will be able to know not even Signal who is messaging whom, which ensures ultimate privacy. Signal by default encrypts all the local files with a 4-digit passphrase. And if you want to create an encrypted local backup then you can do that as well. The app now also supports encrypted group calls.

All in all, in terms of security and privacy protection, Signal stands head and shoulder above WhatsApp and Telegram and that makes it the most secure messaging app between the three.

What data does each app collect?

Following is the list of data that each of the three messaging apps collects from their users:

WhatsApp
Device ID
User ID
Advertising Data
Purchase History
Coarse Location
Phone Number
Email Address
Contacts
Product Interaction
Crash Data
Performance Data
Other Diagnostic Data
Payment Info
Customer Support
Product Interaction
Other User Content

Telegram
Contact Info
Contacts
User ID

Signal
None. (The only personal data Signal stores is your phone number)

(Story Courtesy: India Today; Picture Courtesy: Tech Life)

Indian AmericanWins Prestigious Infosys Prize In Mathematical Sciences

Sourav Chatterjee, a world-renowned mathematician, and a professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University’s School of Humanities and Sciences, has been awarded a prestigious mathematics prize – Infosys Prize in Mathematical Sciences.

Now for his contribution to mathematics, the Infosys Science Foundation, awarded Chatterjee the prestigious Infosys Prize in Mathematical Sciences, which is a $100,000 reward.

The award aims to recognize outstanding researchers and scientists around the world. Through the award, the Foundation aims to encourage the spread of science in India, particularly among young people.

“I’m very honored and humbled to receive this prize,” said Chatterjee, who first came to Stanford as a doctoral student in 2002 after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata. “It means a lot to be recognized by the group of esteemed mathematicians assembled by The Infosys Science Foundation, and I feel encouraged to continue pushing ahead with my research.”

Deeply embedded in probability and statistics, Chatterjee’s work has had significant impacts not only in mathematics but also broadly in physics, technology and other fields. Across his many papers, Chatterjee has devised novel mathematical approaches for scientists to apply in their own research.

“One of the big guiding practices in my work has been making mathematical tools other people can use,” Chatterjee said.

Topics that have benefitted from his mathematical insights include occurrences of rare events, the dynamics of social as well as technological networks, the behavior of magnets and efforts to further solidify a mathematical basis for quantum mechanics.

Chatterjee enjoys the challenge of breaking down a problem to its tiniest form and figuring out a fresh perspective. Reflecting both this range of applications and the helpfulness of Chatterjee’s work, the jury of the Infosys Science Foundation, composed of academics from around the world, described Chatterjee as “one of the most versatile probabilists of his generation” and praised his “formidable problem-solving powers.”

Chatterjee completed his Bachelor and Master of Statistics from Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. Later he moved to Standford to complete his Ph.D in 2005, where he worked under the supervision of PersiDiaconis, another renowned mathematician.

Chatterjee later joined University of California, Berkeley, as a Visiting Assistant Professor, then received a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in 2006.

(Picture Courtesy: Stanford News)

Trump Scrambles To Find New Social Network After Twitter Ban, As White House Prepares To Blast Big Tech

Twitter’s decision to ban President Trump mere days before the end of his term sparked a fierce political backlash among his most fervent allies on Saturday, sending some of his supporters — and the White House itself — scrambling to find another potent tool to communicate online.

Many prominent conservatives — including Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Rush Limbaugh, the leading voice in right-wing radio — reacted to Trump’s suspension by blasting Twitter, quitting the site outright or encouraging the president’s loyal following to turn to alternative services. Trump himself signaled he is in negotiations to join other social networks, and he raised the possibility he could create a new online platform on his own.

For now, the White House is considering an early push as soon as Monday against Twitter and other tech giants, blasting it for having silenced the president’s ability to reach supporters while calling for fresh regulation against Silicon Valley, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Trump, who is apoplectic about being banned, plans to spend the final days of his term in office railing against the industry, the person said.

Yet Trump’s threats also underscore his reliance on the very social media sites he has long disparaged for perceived political biases. On Twitter, the outgoing president frequently leveraged his more than 88 million followers to savage his rivals, boost allies, and sometimes spread falsehoods on a viral scale.

This vast online reach offered Trump an online megaphone that was unparalleled in American politics. But his rhetoric was also vitriolic — the consequences of which turned deadly after a mob of his supporters seized on his baseless tweets about the 2020 election and stormed the U.S. Capitol this week.

The president and his allies now face a daunting technical and logistical challenge in relocating to a new social network or setting up their own online hub, which is likely to be much smaller than the grand audiences Trump had enjoyed until recently. A shift away from mainstream platforms would mark a retreat to more insular conservative communities and threaten to exacerbate the partisan divisions in a country that Trump already had left on edge.

“For more casual supporters of the president, I think they will receive his messages less frequently,” said Emerson T. Brooking, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who studies issues including disinformation.

“Obviously, he will have millions of hardcore supporters tuned into broadcast sources still carrying his messages, or [they will] go into whatever online space he occupies … but that is going to be a smaller, more devoted group,” Brooking said, expressing fears they may become “extremely radicalized.”

Trump’s removal from Twitter came as part of a broader reckoning late Friday across much of the mainstream Web, as tech giants including Apple, Facebook and Google took unprecedented steps to discipline apps, users and accounts seen as instrumental in stoking the violence that left lawmakers under lockdown earlier in the week.

Before it banned Trump, Twitter removed a slew of users affiliated with QAnon, a prominent conspiracy theory. Google-owned YouTube suspended channels associated with Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former campaign manager. And Apple and Google both removed Parler, a pro-Trump app where users have threatened further violence, from their portals for smartphone software downloads. Apple announced its move late Saturday, saying the app is suspended until it improve its content-moderation practices. Amazon delivered the biggest blow Saturday, saying it would stop offering its web hosting services to Parler, a move that threatens to darken the conservative site indefinitely. (Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post).

The actions reflect a new vigor on the part of Silicon Valley to punish those that have peddled harmful content — from election disinformation to hate speech and violent threats. Congressional lawmakers, digital researchers and human-rights groups praised the moves this week, even as they decried them as too little, too late, coming near the end of Trump’s term.

But the bans amounted to a digital massacre in the eyes of Trump’s conservative allies, many of whom decried them as censorship. One of Trump’s top allies, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), pledged he is “more determined than ever” to try to terminate legal protections for Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, faulting them for censorship. Limbaugh deleted his Twitter account, and fellow talk-radio host Mark Levin also announced he would leave, encouraging users to do the same. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., posted a widely watched video on Facebook that warned supporters it is only a matter of time until social media companies “inevitably throw us all off the platforms they so heavily censor and regulate only one way.” He solicited Trump supporters to sign up for alerts on his website.

“I’ll let you know where I end up, my father ends up, where we can direct ourselves so we can keep this going,” Trump Jr. said. On Friday, Trump threatened to decamp to a new social networking serving almost immediately after Twitter banned him, vowing he would “not be SILENCED!!” — and promising a “big announcement soon.” More than any other social service, the loss of Twitter seemed to strike a personal note: Trump had been obsessed with the platform, and he loved to post a tweet and time how long it would take to command attention on television. He often would pull out his phone and say, “Watch this, bingbingbing,” recalled senior administration officials. And Trump regularly would tell senators, world leaders and others about his most popular posts, scrolling through his mentions for feedback and ideas. The White House on Saturday declined to comment on the president’s plans or timing.

Already, though, Trump’s team has been inundated with requests for him to join alternate social networks — and his emissaries have entertained conversations with other companies. But Trump has told allies he prefers to launch his own services, according to two aides, who cautioned it may be infeasible and expensive. He also plans to hammer lawmakers in the coming days for failing to repeal Section 230, a provision of federal law that spares tech giants from being held liable for the content posted by their users. Such a repeal could have backfired on Trump, some experts note, resulting in his removal from Twitter sooner.

Parscale, his former campaign manager, encouraged the president on Saturday to strike out on his own. “I believe the best avenue for POTUS is to use his own app to speak to his followers,” he said. If Apple or Google block the service, Parscale added, Trump has “a clear path to a victorious lawsuit against them.”

Even before the Capitol riot led to his suspension, Trump had weighed turning to other social media services. In the summer of 2019, aides to Trump at the White House and others on his reelection campaign discussed joining Parler, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump even invited Parler’s top executive to the White House as part of a broader social media summit that summer where he blasted Silicon Valley over unproven allegations that they censor conservatives online.

A locked, private account with the name @realDonaldTrump — the same username the president once had on Twitter — appears to have sat dormant on the site since this June. The president’s campaign — under the account Team Trump — also has had an active account on Parler dating back to 2018. On Saturday, the Team Trump account blitzed their roughly 3 million followers with posts that faulted Twitter for having censored the president. Parler did not respond to a request for comment.

Another conservative hub online, Gab, took to Twitter to reveal it had a “big call with someone very special” scheduled on Saturday. The company did not mention Trump or anyone else by name, but later tweeted a story mentioning the president’s negotiations with potentially new social services, fueling speculation.

Like other pro-Trump online communities, Gab departs from much of Silicon Valley by eschewing aggressive enforcement against content that its critics see as harmful, dangerous and violent. Asked about Gab’s tweet, the company’s chief executive, Andrew Torba, responded with an insult and otherwise declined to comment. Gab later tweeted Saturday that “threats of violence have no place” on the site, noting it has “tens of thousands of volunteer users” who monitor it.

Several advisers said they believed Trump is unlikely to quickly join an outlet like Parler because he feels it doesn’t have the influence. Earlier this year, the president himself also told aides from the 2020 campaign, the White House and the Republican National Committee that he would have his own platform, but repeatedly declined to name it, saying only it would be coming “soon.”

But the president also would face a daunting task in standing up his own social network, which could be an expensive, time-consuming endeavor. Social media sites are attractive to users only insofar as they manage to capture a large number of them and their friends. Trump may struggle to incubate such an audience given the overtly political nature of his digital endeavor, some experts said.

“It’s very hard to build a new network,” said Yochai Benkler, the co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “Maybe he’s so big and important he could get some millions of people to join a network. The economics will make it much more insular and internal. … Networks benefit from being an option for people to reach lots of different people.”

But Trump’s quest to rebuild his online reach — securing himself a prominent voice as he prepares to relinquish the presidency — marks only the latest effort on the part of Republicans to serve as their own information gatekeepers. The party and its allies dominated talk radio starting in the late 1980s, set their sights on cable news in the ’90s and in more recent years have stood up a wide array of websites that operate under the banner of conservative news. Social media, experts said, is simply the next frontier.

“The quote-unquote liberal bias of the media is not simply an assertion, it’s a taken-for-granted reality on the right,” said Lawrence Rosenthal, the chair of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, adding that many conservatives now see the same bias in Silicon Valley. “It is the current incarnation of something that has been taken for granted on the right for decades and decades.”

(Story Courtesy: https://oltnews.com; Picture Courtesy: The Day)

Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines May Vanquish Covid Today, Cancer Tomorrow

The night is darkest just before dawn, they say. Dark it certainly is right now. The more contagious variants of SARS-CoV-2 coming out of the U.K. and South Africa will make the pandemic worse before mass vaccination can make it better.

But take another look at some of these new vaccines. And then contemplate the dawn to come — not just its first rays in the coming months but also the bright light of future years and decades. It looks increasingly plausible that the same weapons we’ll use to defeat Covid-19 can also vanquish even grimmer reapers — including cancer, which kills almost 10 million people a year.

The most promising Covid vaccines use nucleic acids called messenger RNA, or mRNA. One vaccine comes from the German firm BioNTech SE and its U.S. partner Pfizer Inc. The other is from the U.S. companyModerna Inc. (its original spelling was ModeRNA, its ticker is MRNA). Another is on the way from CureVac NV, also based in Germany.

Ordinary vaccines tend to be inactivated or weakened viruses which, when injected into the body, stimulate an immune response that can later protect against the live pathogen. But the process of making such vaccines requires various chemicals and cell cultures. This takes time and provides opportunities for contamination.

mRNA vaccines don’t have these problems. They instruct the body itself to make the offending proteins — in this case, the ones that wrap around the viral RNA of SARS-CoV-2. The immune system then homes in on these antigens, practicing for the day when the same proteins show up with the coronavirus attached.

Therein lies mRNA’s bigger promise: It can tell our cells to make whatever protein we want. That includes the antigens of many other diseases besides Covid-19.

In its day-to-day function, mRNA takes instructions from its molecular cousin, the DNA in our cell nuclei. Stretches of the genome are copied, which the mRNA carries into the cytoplasm, where little cellular factories called ribosomes use the information to churn out proteins.

BioNTech and Moderna shortcut this process, by skipping the whole fiddly business in the nucleus with the DNA. Instead, they first figure out what protein they want — for example, a spike on the coat around a virus. Then they look at the sequence of amino acids that makes this protein. From that they derive the precise instructions the mRNA must give.

This process can be relatively fast, which is why it took less than a year to make the vaccines, a pace previously unimaginable. It’s also genetically safe — mRNA can’t go back into the nucleus and accidentally insert genes into our DNA.

Researchers since the 1970s have had a hunch that you can use this technique to fight all sorts of maladies. But as usual in science, you need huge amounts of money, time and patience to sort out all the intermediary problems. After a decade of enthusiasm, mRNA became academically unfashionable in the 1990s. Progress seemed halting. The main obstacle was that injecting mRNA into animals often caused fatal inflammation.

Enter KatalinKariko — a Hungarian scientist who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s and has heroically devoted her entire career to mRNA, through its ups and downs. In the 1990s, she lost her funding, was demoted, had her salary cut and suffered other setbacks. But she stuck with it. And then, after battling cancer herself, she made the crucial breakthrough.

In the 2000s, she and her research partner realized that swapping out uridine, one of mRNA’s “letters,” avoided causing inflammation without otherwise compromising the code. The mice stayed alive.

Her study was read by a scientist at Stanford University, Derrick Rossi, who later co-founded Moderna. It also came to the attention of UgurSahin and OzlemTureci, two oncologists who are husband and wife and co-founded BioNTech. They licensed Kariko’s technology and hired her. From the start, they were most interested in curing cancer.

Today’s weapons against cancer will one day seem as primitive an idea as flint axes in a surgery room. To kill a malignant tumor, you generally zap it with radiation or chemicals, damaging lots of other tissue in the process.

The better way to fight cancer, Sahin and Tureci realized, is to treat each tumor as genetically unique and to train the immune systems of individual patients against that specific enemy. A perfect job for mRNA. You find the antigen, get its fingerprint, reverse-engineer the cellular instructions to target the culprit and let the body do the rest.

Take a look at the pipelines of Moderna and BioNTech. They include drug trials for treating cancers of the breast, prostate, skin, pancreas, brain, lung and other tissues, as well as vaccines against everything from influenza to Zika and rabies. The prospects appear good.

Progress, admittedly, has been slow. Part of the explanation Sahin and Tureci give is that investors in this sector must put up oodles of capital and then wait for more than a decade, first for the trials, then for regulatory approvals. In the past, too few were in the mood.

Covid-19, fingers crossed, may turbo-charge all these processes. The pandemic has led to a grand debut of mRNA vaccines and their definitive proof of concept. Already, there are murmurs about a Nobel Prize for Kariko. Henceforth, mRNA will have no problems getting money, attention or enthusiasm — from investors, regulators and policymakers.

That doesn’t mean the last stretch will be easy. But in this dark hour, it’s permissible to bask in the light that’s dawning.

(Story Courtesy: Business Standard; Picture Courtesy: Moneyweb)

India To Begin Rollout of CovidVaccine

The nationwide Covid vaccination rollout will begin on January 16, with an estimated 3 crore healthcare workers and frontline workers identified to get the jab in the initial phase. They will be followed by those above 50 years of age and those under-50 with co-morbidities. And for the vaccine distribution effort, an unprecedented official machinery is being cranked up.

India has recorded the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world, after the US.Since the pandemic began it has confirmed more than 10.3 million cases and nearly 150,000 deaths.

The country’s drugs regulator has given the green light to two vaccines – one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University (Covishield) and one by Indian firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin), India’s first domestic pharmacy to get nod for vaccine distribution in India, with more than 1.3 billion people.

The Drug Controller General of India has approved the company’s application to conduct a Phase I and II clinical trial of Covaxin, which was developed along with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology, the company said in a statement on Monday.

Bharat Biotech, which makes the vaccine in partnership with ICMR, said it found that the “serious adverse reaction” was “not related to vaccine or placebo”.

January 16 has been chosen as the launch date for Covid-19 vaccination since it falls after the festivals of lohri, makarsankranti, maghbihu and pongal. The government didn’t say why festivals were a factor in choosing the date.

The effort: 20 central government ministries, including the Railways, Power, Defence and Civil Aviation, among others, are being used to roll out the vaccination programme which will initially target 30 crore healthcare and frontline workers, along with the high-risk population.

The roles: Each ministry has a specific role — Railways will conduct vaccination sessions at its hospitals and other premises, apart from doing their brand promotion on its tickets; Power to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply at vaccine storage facilities and vaccination sites; Defence to ensure supply of vaccines in remote and inaccessible areas; IT to utilise its village-level Common Service Centres for vaccination registrations and ensure telecom companies send SMS and voice messages on vaccination; and Civil Aviation to ensure proper transportation logistics, including temperature regulation.

State level: State PWDs are being tasked with the logistics such as identification of vaccination centres and supply of drinking water while state police forces will provide security to vaccine consignments and ensure crowd management at vaccination centres. State education departments will launch an awareness campaign to explain why children aren’t being inoculated in the first phase while the Panchayat level apparatus will be used for registration of healthcare workers.

The challenges: A shortage of vaccine supply in the first phase itself, admitted to by Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla — whose company’s vaccine, Covishield, will be the first to roll out — who said the shortage of vaccine will be felt for the first six months of 2021 after which it will ease off. Low internet penetration along with the mandatory requirement of pre-registration — no on-the-spot registrations allowed — for vaccination, lack of cold chain facilities coupled with their uneven spread and vaccine hesitancy are some of the challenges India’s vaccination drive will encounter.

P Chidambaram writes on the pandemic, vaccine and controversy: “There was, I suspect, a tinge of business between the SII and Bharat Biotech. Happily, both Mr Adar Poonawalla and Mr Krishna Ella buried the hatchet in a couple of days and promised to cooperate and work together. That is the way frontline companies, especially in research and development, should conduct their affairs, with a right mix of public good and private profit.”

(Picture Courtesy: Bloomberg News)

PravasiBharatiyaSamman Awards-2021 Given to 30 Luminaries

Suriname President ChandrikapersadSantokhi, Curacao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath and New Zealand minister PriyancaRadhakrishnan were among 30 NRIs, and Indian-origin people and organizations who were conferred the PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award on Saturday, January 9th.

President Ram NathKovind, who delivered the valedictory address on the third and final day of the 16th PravasiBharatiya Divas celebrations, presented the awards at a virtual event.

The PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award (PBSA) is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians. PBSA is conferred by the Hon’ble President of India as part of the PravasiBharatiya Divas Convention on Non-Resident Indians, Persons of Indian Origin or an organization/institution established and run by the Non-Resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin in recognition of their outstanding achievements both in India and abroad.

The 16th edition of the PravasiBharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention was held virtually on 9th January 2021. A Jury-cum-Awards Committee with Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu as the chairman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar as the vice chair and other distinguished members from various walks of life considered the nominations for the PravasiBharatiyaSamman Awards, 2021, and unanimously selected the awardees, the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.”The awardees represent the vibrant excellence achieved by our diaspora in various fields. Several countries have been represented for the first time among the awardees,” it said.

MukheshAghi, president and CEO of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, was also among the awardees.In an acceptance speech on behalf of all awardees, MrAghi said this award represents the very best of India from all over the world linking our ‘janambhumi’ (homeland) with our ‘karambhumi’ (the country where one works).”The Indian diaspora is changing the world in a gentle way. From Sciences to Academia, Arts, Politics, Philanthropy and even Hollywood, the range of contribution for the diaspora community has been immense.

The awardees also included Dr. Rajani Chandra D’Mello (Azerbaijan), BaburajanVavaKalluparambilGopalan (Bahrain), Jamal Ahmad (Botswana), JanakiramanRavikumar (Cameroon), Debashish Chaudhuri (Czech Republic), Mohammed HuseinHasanaliSardharwala (Ethiopia), BalasubramanianRamani (Germany), Lal LokumalChellaram (Hong Kong), Dr. (Prof.) MuralidharMiryala (Japan), Rajib Shaw (Japan), SalilPanigrahi (Maldives), Ravi Prakash Singh (Mexico), Mohan Thomas Lazarus Pakalomattom (Qatar), Arvind Phukan (US), Nilu Gupta (US) and SudhakarJonnalagadda (US).

Four organizations — NGO Cultural Diversity for Peaceful Future in Armenia, Sai Prema Foundation in Fiji, Indian Cultural Association in Nigeria, Federation of Indian Associations of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — were also awarded for community service and their work for promoting cultural ties.

Sabrina Singh Named White House Deputy Press Secretary

Indian American Sabrina Singh, a longtime aide to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, has been named White House Deputy Press Secretary in the incoming administration, according to a statement released Jan. 8 by the Biden-Harris transition team.

Singh was earlier the senior spokesperson for the Mike Bloomberg presidential campaign and the national press secretary for Cory Booker’s presidential campaign.

In roles prior to that, she served as deputy communications director for the Democratic National Committee; spokesperson for American Bridge’s Trump War Room; and regional communications director on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. She has also worked at SKDKnickerbocker, served as communications director for Rep. Jan Schakowsky and worked on various Democratic committees.

In the weeks since the U.S. election results have been announced, several Indian Americans have been appointed to important posts by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

They include NeeraTanden, who will be the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, both of whom will have to be confirmed to their positions by the Senate. Vedant Patel has been tapped to serve as Biden’s assistant press secretary, Vinay Reddy to serve as the director of speechwriting and GautamRaghavan to be the deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel.

Others include AtulGawande and Celine Gounder to the Covid-19 task force, Mala Adiga as the policy director for Jill Biden, who will become the First Lady, and Maju Varghese as the executive director of their inauguration – the swearing-in ceremony and the festivities around it.

(Picture Courtesy: Punjab News)

Joe Biden Certified By Congress As Next United States President

The US Congress has certified Joe Biden as the next president of the US, hours after an insurgent mob loyal to Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in what lawmakers condemned as an attempted insurrection aimed at overturning the results of an American election.

After weeks of speculation and uncertainty, US Congress has formally validated Joe Biden’s presidential election victory on a day that saw a time-honored ceremony become a nightmare of unprecedented political terror.The House and Senate certified the Democrat’s electoral college win early in the hours of Jan. 7thafter a violent throng of pro-Trump rioters spent hours running rampant through the Capitol.

After claiming he would “never concede” during a rally hours earlier, President Donald Trump admitted defeat in the November 3 election for the first time, following the vote count.A statement from Trump following the certification said there would be an “orderly transition” to a Biden administration “even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out.

Congress voted down challenges to reject Biden’s wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania, based on spurious claims of widespread voter fraud. The House rejected the challenge to the Arizona result by a vote of 303-122 and the Senate voted it down 93-6. The Pennsylvania challenge was voted down 282-138 in the House and 92-7 in the Senate.

A majority of House Republicans voted to overturn the Pennsylvania result, despite no evidence of significant voter fraud in the state and multiple failed court challenges in past weeks. Attempts by House Republicans to object to the electoral slate in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin failed to garner support from a senator and were not considered.

Earlier in the day, rioters for hours roamed the marbled halls of Congress shouting: “We want Trump.” Amid the bedlam, one woman was fatally shot, DC police confirmed. The building was placed on lockdown, and the DC mayor imposed a rare 6pm curfew, as national guard troops were activated.The outcome had never been in doubt, but had been interrupted by rioters who forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the Capitol building.

Vice-President Mike Pence, in declaring the final vote totals behind Mr Biden’s victory, said this “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons elected president and vice-president of the United States”.

(Picture Courtesy: VOX)

Voices Supporting Trump Impeachment Grows

Support continues to grow among Democrats for impeaching President Trump over the Capitol riot and a new Republican senator indicated openness to such a step, while the president remained out of public view and authorities charged more rioters, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

“An expanding number of House Democrats had signed onto an article of impeachment by Saturday that a trio of House Democrats plan to introduce on Monday. Their single article of impeachment focuses on Wednesday’s violent breach of the Capitol complex and accuses the president of inciting an insurrection,” WSJ wrote.

Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to introduce misconduct charges on Monday that could lead to a second impeachment of Trump, sources familiar with the matter said. “If the President does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

From Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Occasio-Cortez to Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Democrats banded together to call for Trump’s impeachment to ensure he can never run for office again. One of its authors, Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.), said Saturday on CNN that they now have 185 Democratic supporters and hope to get some Republicans as well, up from more than 150 on Friday as fallout from the deadly riot at the Capitol continued. “We have a responsibility to hold him accountable and take this action,” Mr. Cicilline told CNN.

It is not only Democrats who want Trump impeached, but a growing number of Republicans also have sought his removal before he is officially scheduled to leave office on January 20th. “We are witnessing absolute banana republic crap in the United States Capitol right now,” Mike Gallagher, a Republican representative from Wisconsin, tweeted, adding an appeal to Trump: “You need to call this off.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski became the first Republican U.S. senator to say Trump should resign immediately, and Republican Ben Sasse said he would “definitely consider” impeachment. Senator Pat Toomey, a conservative supporter of Trump said on Sunday: “I think the best way for our country is for the president to resign and go away as soon as possible,” Toomey said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” calling Trump’s behavior since the election “outrageous.” Toomey said he did not think there was time for impeachment with only 10 days left in Trump’s term, and noted there did not appear to be consensus to use the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his powers.

Republican Trump, who has falsely contested the validity of Democrat Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 presidential victory, praised and egged on his supporters before they laid siege to the Capitol, where lawmakers were certifying the Electoral College vote for Biden.

The chaotic scenes unfolded after Trump addressed thousands of protesters and repeated unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him. Five people died and 64 were arrested as protesters forced their way into the building. Under pressure on Thursday, Trump took a more conciliatory tone – promising a smooth transfer of power and calling for ‘healing and reconciliation.’

 

Even though Trump has only two weeks in office, people pointed out that keeping him in office for even this period could put the country in danger. The New York Times columnist Brett Stephens said in an opinion piece, “To allow Trump to serve out his term, however brief it may be, puts the nation’s safety at risk, leaves our reputation as a democracy in tatters and evades the inescapable truth that the assault on Congress was an act of violent sedition aided and abetted by a lawless, immoral and terrifying president.”

Fifty-seven percent of Americans want President Donald Trump to be immediately removed from office after he encouraged a protest this week that escalated into a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. An overwhelming majority of Democrats support impeachment, Republicans apparently much more supportive of Trump serving out the final days of his term, which ends on Jan. 20.

A Reuters/Ipsosnational public opinion survey, conducted Thursday and Friday, showed that seven out of 10 of those who voted for Trump in November opposed the action of the hardcore supporters who broke into the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.Nearly 70% of Americans surveyed also said they disapprove of Trump’s actions in the run-up to Wednesday’s assault. At a rally earlier in the day, Trump had exhorted thousands of his followers to march to the Capitol.

Seventy-nine percent of adults, including two-thirds of Republicans and Trump voters, described the participants as either “criminals” or “fools.” Nine percent saw them as “concerned citizens” and 5% called them “patriots.”The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,005 American adults, including 339 who said they voted for Trump. The results have a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points.

It was unclear whether a significant number of other Republicans would follow suit. Republican leaders have urged the Democratic-led House not to initiate impeachment proceedings for a historic second time against Trump. A few Republicans have joined Democrats’ call for Vice President Mike Pence to exercise the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. Pence has opposed the idea, an adviser said.

CNN reports suggest that Vice President Mike Pence has not ruled out an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment and wants to preserve the option in case President Donald Trump becomes more unstable. Quoting a source close to the vice president, CNN reported that there is some concern inside Pence’s team that there are risks to invoking the 25th Amendment or even to an impeachment process, as Trump could take some sort of rash action putting the nation at risk.

(Picture Courtesy: WSJ)

FIA-Tristate Honored With ParavasiBharatiyaSamman Award

The Federation of Indian Associations of New York, New Jersey & Connecticut (FIA-Tristate), was conferred with the prestigious recognition of the PravasiBhartiyaSamman on the 16th PravasiBhartiya Divas (PBD) held on Jan.9,t, 2021 for its outstanding community service. The 16th edition of the PravasiBharatiya Divas was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Jan. 9 in New Delhi. The theme of the convention, aimed at encouraging Indian diaspora to be part of socio-economic development in India, was “Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat.”

 

 

The PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award is the highest honor conferred on a non-resident Indian, Person of Indian Origin; or an organization or institution established and run by non-resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin, who have made significant contribution in better understanding of India abroad, support India’s causes and concerns in a tangible way, community work abroad, welfare of local Indian community, philanthropic and charitable work, etc. During the PBD convention, select eminent Indian diaspora members are awarded the PravasiBharatiyaSamman Awards in the presence of Hon’ble President of India, Shri Ram NathKovind.

 

“We are very proud, humbled and thankful to be the recipient of the PravasiBhartiyaSamman,” President Anil Bansal said.  “It is the recognition of hard and selfless work of so many people in the FIA family. This award is for the exceptional and meritorious contribution to India, the Indians for social and humanitarian causes.  We at FIA have been totally dedicated to serving the interest of India and Indian diaspora in the USA. I have no doubt that under the new leadership of Ankur Vaidya, we will expand our footprint and activities immensely in future. This award certainly gives us the encouragement and incentive to reach for the stars. Thanks India, our motherland and Jai Hind,” a statement issued by FIA stated here.

“It is truly a moment of pride for FIA and for me to witness this prestigious recognition bestowed upon FIA,” Chairman Ankur Vaidya said. “I take this opportunity to thank the founders and patriarchs, some of them are on our board who dedicated a lifetime in serving the community through the organization and when told of the news had tears of joy. The timing has a cryptic hint in it having lost Ramesh Patel to COVID when we had already rolled our sleeves to prepare for the golden jubilee grandeur celebration, we still continued and faced the worst times in history, we managed with the motivated team and Ramesh Patel’s spirit and soul to show us light and inspiration, the magic worked.  I know he would be ecstatic. A big thank you to Rohit Korat, Srujal Parikh, and Alok Kumar for their contribution to make this FIA dream a reality.  Anil Bansal’s presidency has created history and full credit to him, his executive team and a big thank you and salute to the diplomatic community who took the message of our work back to the motherland.  This is only the beginning and bigger and better things are coming, stay tuned… God bless the USA and Bharat Mata ki Jai!”

 

The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is one of the largest esteemed umbrella organizations in the Indian community. It represents over one million strong and vibrant Asian-Indians who provide significant grass root support and assistance. Established in the year 1970, the FIA has blossomed into a commendable organization that has become an effective mouthpiece and mobilizer for the community.

 

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, over 11 events, including Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu’s reception, events surrounding FIA’s flagship India Day Parade, women empowerment celebration, Long Island Diwali Gala, visa assistance camps, among other events had to be called off.

 

While facing the dire impact of the pandemic, including on its fundraising activities, FIA has continued with the challenges faced, to serve and uplift the community in these unprecedented times. Among the unique initiatives introduced during the challenging year were assistance to first responders which included serving meals in local hospitals and to NYPD, including front line heroes, hot meals in the International Diwali Soup Kitchen Drive in the U.S.and India, Bi-Weekly Diaspora newsletter which will complete one year in January 2021; historic flag hoisting ceremony at Times Square on India’s Independence Day, accommodation assistance in partnership with the Consulate General of India in New York to find accommodations for the students from India who were stranded in the U.S. due to COVID-19 travel ban;  OCI & visa Town Hall; and several other events on the hybrid as well as exclusively virtual platforms. For its work during the pandemic, the FIA, along with its core members, was recognized as COVID Heroes by Brooklyn Borough President, Hon. Eric Adams.

Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda ReceivesPravasiBharatiyaSamman Award

Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda, President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), was conferred The PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award (PBSA) during the 16th edition of the annual PravasiBharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention, held virtually on January 9th, 2021. The PravasiBharatiyaSamman Awards were conferred by the Hon’ble President at the PBD Convention in the valedictory session of the PravasiBharatiya Divas celebrations.

 

The PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award (PBSA) is the highest honor conferred on Non-Resident Indians, Persons of Indian Origin or an organization/institution established and run by the Non-Resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin in recognition of their outstanding achievements both in India and abroad.

 

Dr. Jonnalagadda was chosen for the prestigious award by the government of India in the field of Medicine and for his great leadership of AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the US, especially during the Pandemic.

 

Dr. Jonnalagadda, said, “I wanted to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the government of India for selecting me for the prestigious award. In recognizing me, the government has recognized all the medical professionals who have been in the forefront fighting Covid, including those who have laid their lives at the services of treating patients infected with the deadly virus. This award will strengthen the medical fraternity to recommit our efforts, skills and talents for the greater good of humanity. Congratulations to all of my co-awardees.”

Dr. SudhakarJonnalagadda assumed office as the 37th President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) on Saturday, July 11, 2020, and committed himself to “make AAPI stronger, more vibrant, united, transparent, politically engaged, ensuring active participation of young physicians, increasing membership, and enabling that AAPI’s voice is heard in the corridors of power” .

 

AAPI is the largest Medical Organization in the United States, representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian origin in the United States, serving the interests of the Indian American physicians in the US and in many ways contributing to the shaping of the healthcare delivery in the US for the past 39 years. “AAPI must be responsive to its members, supportive of the leadership and a true advocate for our mission,” he said.

 

Dr. Jonnalagadda was born in a family of physicians. His father was a Professor at a medical college in India and his mother was a teacher. He and his siblings aspired to be physicians and dedicate their lives for the greater good of humanity. “I am committed to serving the community and help the needy. That gives me the greatest satisfaction in life,” he said.  Ambitious and wanting to achieve greater things in life, Dr. Jonnalagadda has numerous achievements in life. He currently serves as the President of the Medical Staff at the Hospital. And now, “being elected as the President of AAPI is greatest achievement of my life,”

 

As the President of AAPI, the dynamic physician from the state of Andhra Pradesh, wants to “develop a committee to work with children of AAPI members who are interested in medical school, to educate on choosing a school and gaining acceptance; Develop a committee to work with medical residents who are potential AAPI members, to educate on contract negotiation, patient communication, and practice management; Develop a committee to work with AAPI medical students, and to provide proctorship to improve their selection of medical residencies.”

 

A Board-Certified Gastroenterologist/Transplant Hepatologist, working in Douglas, GA, Dr. Jonnalagadda is a former Assistant Professor at the Medical College of Georgia. He was the President of Coffee Regional Medical Staff 2018, and had served as the Director of Medical Association of Georgia Board from 2016 onwards. He had served as the President of Georgia Association of Physicians of Indian Heritage (GAPI) 2007-2008, and was the past chair of Board of trustees, GAPI. He was the chairman of the Medical Association of Georgia, IMG cection, and was a Graduate, Georgia Physicians Leadership Academy (advocacy training).

 

His vision for AAPI is to increase the awareness of APPI globally and help its voice heard in the corridors of power.  “I would like to see us lobby the US Congress and create an AAPI PAC and advocate for an increase in the number of available residency positions and green cards to Indian American Physicians so as to help alleviate the shortage of Doctors in the US.”

Indian Americans Express Shock At Trump-Incited Attack on US Capitol

The Indian American community has expressed shock and is dismayed at the events that unfurled on Wednesday, January 6th on Capitol Hill.  Supporters of President Donald Trump breached one of the most iconic American buildings, US Capitol, engulfing the nation’s capital in chaos after Trump urged the mob of rioters and domestic terrorists to fight against the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes that would confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

The rioters first breached exterior security barriers, and video footage showed protesters gathering and some clashing with police near the Capitol building. Soon, after breaching through barricades and security checkpoints, the protesters were inside the building — forcing lawmakers to go into lockdown.

The violent mobsters went door to door waving Confederate flags, looting the offices of senators and congressmen and repeating the false rhetoric that the president has spread since November — that Trump was the real winner of the election.

Smoke grenades were used on the Senate side of the Capitol, as police worked to clear the building of rioters. Windows on the west side of the Senate were broken, and hundreds of officers amassed on the first floor of the building.

The Capitol police officer in the House chamber told lawmakers that they may need to duck under their chairs and informed lawmakers that protesters were in the building’s Rotunda. Lots of House members were seen wearing gas masks as they moved between Capitol buildings. Members were calling family to say they were OK.

As the minutes turned to hours of violence, politicians called on Trump to instruct his supporters to leave the Capitol. In a Twitter video that was later removed, Trump told them to go home, but repeated that the election was “stolen” from him and said he “loved” the protesters.

The chaos on Capitol Hill, in which a police officer and four others died, has been widely condemned by both Democrats and Republicans. “Our democracy is under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we have seen in modern times,” President-elect Joe Biden said. He described it as “an assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, was right when he finally stood up to Trump and warned the Senate that legislative moves to overrule voters by excluding some states in the Electoral College count “would damage our republic forever.”

Dr. SampatShivangi, president of the Indian American Forum for Political Education and a delegate for Trump, and a veteran leader of AAPI, called the events as “shameful, shocking and unprecedented in the history of once upon a beacon of democracy on the planet. Even though I am a strong Republican and longtime serving US Republican Party delegate for the last four Republican Party conventions, I would not support a bit in any fashion. Now with all that carnage, President Trump has promised for smooth transfer of power on January 20th and with that in mind it is time for healing and I feel President elect Biden and VP elect Ms. Harris should be magnanimous to accept that offer and initiate the first few steps in that process that will bring sanity and respect that US has lost in the world community,” Dr. Shivangi added.

Dr. Navin C. Shah, Founder and former President of AAPI, said, “The unlawful entry and banalization of the Capitol Hill, the temple of the US democracy is totally unacceptable. These culprits be immediately caught and brought to justice. The authorities of the Capitol Hill complex should  take  urgent actions to inhibit such a mob violence.” Dr. Shah calls for “cool minds of leaders and law makers prevail to have a peaceful transfer of power and address the serious issues, like Corvid 19, unemployment  and poor economy, challenging millions of our citizens. For over 200 years the US has survived with the rule of law and constitution and it will go on successfully for many centuries to come.”

Dr. HetalGor, a Board Certified OB GYN in the state of New Jersey described the events as “Unconstitutional, Unbelievable, Unimaginable, and Unpatriotic.”  Pointing that in the midst of pandemic, a rally was called on the day of electoral vote certification “with the sole purpose of stopping the count,” dr. Gor said, “Years of brainwashing, spreading misinformation, without any evidence calling election rigged when most judges have confirmed no irregularities, instigating the crowd to march to Capitol was home grown terrorism. Months back telling white supremacy groups to stand by, putting pressure on Vice President Pence to act unlawfully & unconstitutionally: all this for a selfish man’s injured pride. One man has caused so much damage to this country, bringing it shame, despair, dividing people, abusing power, disgracing the office. He is not only fit to be a president but an American .He should be impeached, the least we can do. In spite of all the obstacles , democracy prevailed,” added Dr. Gor.

Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, condemned the behavior of the rioters as “deplorable that the President of the United States of America who lost the election incited his supporters to use violence and riots inside the Capital Building, the cradle of democratic institution, so as to keep his power and continue as the President. President Trump should have gracefully accepted the election results and hand over the power in a smooth transition.”

KhanderaoKand, Director of Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) USA, Founder of Global Technology Professionals Association (GITPRO), said, “I am shocked and saddened to see the unruly and violent protest in Washington DC. This is one of the worst un-democratic moment in the history of the world’s longest democracy.”

Mr. Anil Bansal, President of FIA (NY, NJ & CT) said, “As a non-white American, what I saw on my 65th birthday was no gift. Watching the dramatic visuals of thousands of Trump supporters, storming the US Capitol, my first reaction was to compare the stark difference between how the Black Lives Matter activists were treated versus the trump supporters. For the first time, I understood the word, “White Privilege.”

KanchanaPoola, past President of New York Tamil Sangam, lamented the lack of law and order  on 1/6/2021, “which will go down in the history as the worst act by citizens, encouraged by a
sitting President who is unfit to be the leader,  whose false claims of stolen votes.” Quoting a CNN reporter, who called Trump “A Sore Looser” Ms. Poola reminded of what President George Bush said: “Trump has made the most powerful country into a Banana Republic. But in those countries he would be removed immediately- but as long as these Republicans are in majority at Congress he will get away with it. Hope the Republicans learnt a lesson loyalty is not earned when they allow an unfit-man at the helm. Hope the Republicans have the back bone to do the right thing for the great country USA claims to be.”

Dr. Mathew Joys, Vice Chair of Indo-American Press Club, called the riots by Trump supporters, including some of Indian origin as “unfortunate.” Stating that it may be common for political, cultural, and religious rallies to be held to display the country’s flag in which they were born and raised. We have seen Malayalees carrying the Indian flag at the recent Democrat rallies and violent BLM rallies.The Indian flag was flown at the Capitol Building by a man I knew personally. Participating in such a Rally or bearing an Indian National Flag, only be viewed as a demonstration of our solidarity to the party or to the nation that feeds us.”

GunjanRastogi, past president of IALI and currently serving as the president of NIAASC described the event on Jan 6th as “Absolutely despicable and a stain on this country’s history.” Stating that  Republicans and Trump supporters “prioritized party allegiance over acknowledging President Trump for who he truly is – a liar who has continually incited violence through his words and tweets” she called on all Americans – Republicans and Democrats alike – “must wake up and start electing officials based on character and actions, not for their associated party. President Trump must be held accountable for causing this unforgivable assault on the Capitol.”

Trump, who lost the Nov. 3 election by about seven million votes, called on his supporters on Wednesday to march on Congress, telling them at a rally that “you will never take back our country with weakness.”

What the pro-Trump rioters attacked was not only a building but also the Constitution, the electoral system, our democratic process. They humiliated the United States before the world and left America’s enemies chortling. They will be remembered as Benedict Arnolds.

Whatever a president’s rhetoric, he betrays the Constitution when he oversees a campaign to overturn a free election guaranteed by that Constitution, and when he galvanizes rioters to overpower our democratic process.

Trump summoned supporters to Washington and unleashed them as rioters on the Capitol as the Electoral College votes were being counted. “Be there, will be wild,” he tweeted. “Let’s have trial by combat,” his lawyer Rudy Giuliani told a rally of Trump supporters shortly before they stormed the Capitol. So pro-Trump crowds dismantled security fences and invaded the Capitol. You can call them rioters or terrorists or coup plotters, but they were not Making America Great Again.

A Reuters/Ipsos national public opinion survey, conducted Thursday and Friday, showed that seven out of 10 of those who voted for Trump in November opposed the action of the hardcore supporters who broke into the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden. Nearly 70% of Americans surveyed also said they disapprove of Trump’s actions in the run-up to Wednesday’s assault. At a rally earlier in the day, Trump had exhorted thousands of his followers to march to the Capitol.

The stunning display of insurrection was the first time the US Capitol had been overrun since the British attacked and burned the building in August of 1814, during the War of 1812, according to Samuel Holliday, director of scholarship and operations with the US Capitol Historical Society.

 

(Pictures Courtesy: LA Times & Business Standard)

IAPC Seminar ByAlberta And British Columbia Chapters On Global Economy In The Post-Covid Era

“Covid pandemic globally impacted meticulously by various factors like globalization severely disrupted, the digital revolution accelerated, and inequality in all the sectors drastically increased,” said Dr. EtayankaraMuralidharan, Ph.D. (School of Business, MacEwan University, Edmonton, Canada.), commencing the Zoom conference on Saturday, January 9th, 2021.

 

As a part of IAPC’s Web series Town Hall meetings, Alberta and British Columbia Chapters together was hosting the seminar on the subject “Global Economy in Post Covid Era.” The meeting was presided by Dr. Joseph Chalil( Chairman, IAPC), and Dr. P.V Baiju ( IAPC Director board member) was the moderator for the seminar.

 

Dr. Muralidharan presented the vivid aspects of the Covid consequences and how the world is adopting and reshaping globalization with social media resources like Zoom or webinar. He narrated the income inequality and income mobility and the means to change the objective or methods of operation in the governmental, organizational, and individual levels. He presented in turn how organizations contribute to social inequalities and how the firms need to develop CSR practices, reshape work designs, and to align compensation

 

The other panelist and economic expert, Dr. S. Mohammed IrshadPh D. (Jamsetji Tata School of Disaster Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India presented how the Covid pandemic pushed the economy down. Major countries are on the brink of economic recession, and the global economy is going to trail Pre pandemic trajectory for many years to come. He explained how economic resilience or accountable capitalism or how government stimulus can help overcome it.

 

The subject matter experts, after their presentations, tactfully answered the various questions raised by the audience. It was condensed that already pre Covid recession was creeping in, and the unexpected pandemic boosted the factors of recession. It is still uncertain how long the peril will continue.

 

BinoyKaruvayil, VP of the IAPC Alberta chapter, welcomed the guests and all the participants from the various chapters in Canada and the USA. Miss NeethuSivaram of the British Columbia Chapter well managed the event as the MC. Anjaleena Jose, the budding singer with her melodious voice, inspired the participants with her patriotic song ‘ VandeMataram.’

 

Dr. Joseph Chalil thanked the guests and the Chapter members of the hosting Chapters. Chairman also released the colorful “IAPC Alberta Chronicle Vol 2” and congratulated Chief editor Rajesh Peter and the editorial team. Founder Chairman GinsmonZacharia, General Secretary Biju Chacko, Treasurer Reji Philip, BoD member Thampanoor Mohan, Vice President C G Daniel, Treasurer Innocent Ulahannan were also active participants of the Zoom Meeting.  With the vote of thanks by Anitha Naveen, Secretary BC chapter, the productive and informative session was concluded.

FIA Leaders Recognized by Govt. Of India

FIA Board of Trustee member Srujal Parikh and past president Alok Kumar have been recognized by the Government of India with an award in observation of PravasiBharatiyaDiwas(PBD), Jan. 9. The award was presented at a ceremony held at the Consulate General of India in New York on January 9, 2021.

 

Parikh and Kumar were honored with the prestigious PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award for their leadership and contributions to community service, as well as being a friend of the Consulate.

 

Since 2003, the Government of India has been celebrating PravasiBharatiya Divas on Jan. 9 to recognize the contribution of the overseas Indian community toward the development of India as well as their contributions to their adopted country. The day commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Ahmedabad on Jan. 9, 2015.

 

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual celebration was held on a small scale in New Delhi where the Federation of Indian Associations of New York, New Jersey & Connecticut (FIA-Tristate) received the prestigious PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award by the Government of India. The PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award is the highest honor conferred on a non-resident Indian, Person of Indian Origin; or an organization or institution established and run by non-resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin, who have made significant contribution in better understanding of India abroad, support India’s causes and concerns in a tangible way, community work abroad, welfare of local Indian community, philanthropic and charitable work, etc.

 

“It’s great honor to receive this prestigious recognition along with my fraternity brother Alok Kumar,” Parikh said. Noting that the award is in recognition of their “community service with partnership with the Consulate,” Parikh converted his gratitude to Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Jaiswal;  Deputy Consul General, Shatrughna Sinha, as well as Mr. Vijay Krishna, “for this recognition.” Parikh also thanked FIA Chairman Ankur Vaidya for “trusting me and inspiring me for community work,” the FIA family, as well as his wife and his family for their support.

 

Parikh began his journey with the FIA 12 years ago as a volunteer. He was elected the president in 2018. Under his leadership, the organization celebrated the 72nd Independence Day of India. The theme of the parade that year was “VasudhaivaKutumbakam –World is one family.” Parikh says his  journey with FIA for the last 12 years, “from a volunteer to a member of the Board of Trustees,” has been a great one, “bringing great memories.” He says he is “proud to be part of an amazing team of FIA. Looking forward to the next challenge and working for the community to bring the FIA to the next level.

 

“It is an amazing experience when an organization gets recognized and at the same time a member of the organization also gets recognized,” said Kumar. “Thank you Hon. Consul General Shri Randhir Jaiswal and DCG Shri Shatrughna Sinha. A sincere thanks to all the community members who never forget his/her origin Who always cherish their origin and keep always motherland in heart. God bless America and Vandemataram.”

 

Kumar is the Managing Director and founding partner of United Business Solutions, Inc. (UBSolsInc), a prominent New Jersey-based IT Consulting firm. He currently resides in Old Bridge, NJ with his wife Mona, and their daughter, Garima. An entrepreneur by profession and a community servant by heart, Kumar has been involved and associated with various social organizations in New Jersey such as the Federation of Indian Associations (NY, NJ & CT), where he served as its president in 2019 and is currently an executive member of FIA and the Bihar Jharkhand Association of North America(BJANA). Previously, he has also held various executive positions at the Indian Business Association (IBA), South Asian Community Outreach (SACO). He holds a master’s degree in Computer Science.

(Picture Courtesy: FIA)

Unintentional Drowning Risk Factors: How and Where People Drown

Unintentional drowning is a terrifying experience with an astonishing prevalence. New World Health Organization statistics indicate that drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional death, accounting for 7% of all such deaths – 320,000 annually. What’s more, there are indications that this figure is underestimated. By analyzing the reasons why people lose their life to water, and focusing on improving standards in those areas, global authorities can help to minimize this figure.

The danger of watercraft

According to the CDC, two primary risk factors involved with drowning are an inability to swim and a lack of life jacket use. This is clearly not an issue in shallow water, and is rather associated with recreational craft usage. This could be a way to vastly reduce the amount of deaths in water, and is dependent on standards being implemented that seek to raise awareness of drowning risks on watercraft and ensure that all who embark take the necessary precautions. This will be a very constructive first step in addressing the wider problem.

A poverty gap

According to WHO statistics, low and middle income countries account for 90% of all drowning deaths. Conversely, developed countries such as the USA experience the majority of their deaths in the developed income category – generally, those taking leisure events. The likely cause of many people in low income countries losing their life to drowning stems from a need to undertake economic activity in poorly regulated environments. It is important that governments, internationally, who profit from cheaper labor, put pressure on for better standards and support this economically.

Better medical care

Improving medical care will help to save some lives in these countries, and it will also help to raise awareness of factors that can influence drowning. CNN note that conditions such as epilepsy and heart disease can create risk factors that are otherwise not present. Having a solid healthcare and support system in place to ensure people are aware of these risks and can respond accordingly is going to be important in ensuring that all people have equal access to safe swimming and a reduced risk of drowning.

Bringing these factors together can create real change across the world. Drowning is an avoidable death in the majority of cases, and much can be done to stop it impacting families globally. As always, the power lies in the hands of lawmakers.

This could be a way to vastly reduce the amount of deaths in water, and is dependent on standards being implemented that seek to raise awareness of drowning risks on watercraft and ensure that all who embark take the necessary precautions. This will be a very constructive first step in addressing the wider problem.

2021: Year of Living Dangerously?

Goodbye 2020, but unfortunately, not good riddance, as we all have to live with its legacy. It has been a disastrous year for much of the world for various reasons, Elizabeth II’s annus horribilis. The crisis has exposed previously unacknowledged realities, including frailties and vulnerabilities.
For many countries, the tragedy is all the greater as some leaders had set national aspirations for 2020, suggested by the number’s association with perfect vision. But their failures are no reason to reject national projects. As Helen Keller, the deaf and blind author activist, noted a century ago, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.”
After JFK’s assassination in November 1963 ended US opposition to Western intervention in Indonesia, President Sukarno warned his nation in August 1964 that it would be ‘living dangerously’, vivere pericoloso, in the year ahead. A year later, a bloody Western-backed military coup had deposed him, taking up to a million lives, with many more ruined.
Further economic slowdown
Lacklustre economic growth after the 2009 Great Recession has been worsened in recent years by growing international tensions largely associated with US-China relations, Brexit and slowing US and world growth although stock markets continued to bubble.
Economic growth has slowed unevenly, with Asia slowing less than Europe, Latin America and even the US. With effective early pre-emptive measures, much of East Asia began to recover before mid-2020. Meanwhile, most other economies slowed, although some picked up later, thanks to successful initial contagion containment as well as adequate relief and recovery measures.
International trade has been picking up rapidly, accelerating rebounds in heavily trading economies. Commodity prices, except for fossil fuels, have largely recovered, perhaps due to major financial investments by investment banks and hedge funds, buoying stock and commodity prices since late March.
Very low US, EU and Japanese interest rates have thus sustained asset market bubbles. Meanwhile, new arbitrage opportunities, largely involving emerging market economies, have strengthened developing countries’ foreign reserves and exchange rates, thus mitigating external debt burdens.
Unbiased virus, biased responses
The pandemic worsened poverty, hunger and vulnerability by squeezing jobs, livelihoods and earnings of hundreds of millions of families. As economic activities resumed, production, distribution and supply barriers, constrained fiscal means, reduced demand, debt, unemployment, as well as reduced and uncertain incomes and spending have become more pronounced.
While many governments initially provided some relief, these have generally been more modest and temporary in developing countries. Past budget deficits, debt, tax incentives and the need for good credit ratings have all been invoked to justify spending cuts and fiscal consolidation.
Meanwhile, pandemic relief funds have been abused by corporations, typically at the expense of less influential victims with more modest, vulnerable and precarious livelihoods. Many of the super-rich got even richer, with the US’s 651 billionaires making over US$1 trillion.
On the pretext of saving or making jobs, existing social, including job protection has been eroded. But despite hopes raised by vaccine development, the crisis is still far from over.
Don’t cry for me, says Argentina
Meanwhile, intellectual property blocks more affordable production for all. Pharmaceutical companies insist that without the exhorbitant monopoly profits from intellectual property, needed tests, treatments and vaccines would never be developed. Meanwhile, a proposed patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines has been blocked by the US and its rich allies at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Hence, mass vaccination is likely to be very uneven and limited by intellectual property, national strategic considerations (‘vaccine nationalism’), prohibitive costs, fiscal and other constraints. Already, the rich have booked up almost all early vaccine supplies.
The main challenge then is fiscal. Economic slowdowns have reduced tax revenues, requiring more domestic debt to increase spending needed to ensure the recessions do not become protracted depressions. Meanwhile, rising debt-to-GDP ratios and increased foreign debt have long constrained bolder fiscal efforts.
But despite the urgent need for more fiscal resources, we are told that if the richest are required to pay more taxes, even on windfall profits, they will have no incentive to ‘save’ the rest of us. Nevertheless, new wealth taxes have just passed in Argentina.
This time is different
As the pandemic economic impacts began to loom large, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva quickly offered debt relief for low-income countries on terms much better than the G20’s miserly proposal.
Unlike well-meaning debt-fixated researchers and campaigners, even new World Bank chief economist, erstwhile debt hawk Carmen Reinhart has urged, “First you worry about fighting the war, then you figure out how to pay for it”.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is concerned that “in the policies against the present pandemic, equity has not been a particularly noticeable priority… Instead, the focus has been on drastic control and sudden lockdowns…with little attention paid to labourers who lose their jobs or the many migrant workers, the poorest of the poor, who are kept hundreds of miles from their homes”.
COVID-19 may still bring major reforms, such as Roosevelt’s New Deal response to the Great Depression. But now, it seems likely to usher in a world where insecurity and unpredictability define the new normal. While professing to protect victims’ interests, ethno-populism blames ‘Others’ as the enemy responsible.
Still, many hope for a silver lining. Sen suggests that “a better society can emerge from the lockdowns”, as happened after World War Two, with greater welfare state provisioning and labour protections in much of the West and agrarian reforms in East Asia. But there is nothing to guarantee a better ‘new normal’.
Beyond neoliberalism?
For many, Joe Biden’s election to succeed Trump is being celebrated as a resurgent triumph for neoliberalism, enabling the US and the rest of the world to return to ‘business as usual’.
Incredibly, another Nobel laureate Michael Spence has even called for structural adjustment programme conditionalities for countries seeking help from the Bank and Fund, repudiating the Bank’s Growth Commission he once chaired, i.e., which found that seemingly fair, often well-intentioned conditionalities had resulted in “lost decades” of development.
But thankfully, there is widespread recognition that all is not well in the world neoliberalism and Western dominance created. Incredibly, Klaus Schwab, transnational capitalism’s high priest, has conceded, “the neoliberalist … approach centers on the notion that the market knows best, that the ‘business of business is business’…Those dogmatic beliefs have proved wrong”.
Instead, he advised, “We must move on from neoliberalism in the post-COVID era”, recognising: “Free-market fundamentalism has eroded worker rights and economic security, triggered a deregulatory race to the bottom and ruinous tax competition, and enabled the emergence of massive new global monopolies. Trade, taxation, and competition rules that reflect decades of neoliberal influence will now have to be revised”.
Will we ever learn?
The philosopher Santayana once warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Hegel had observed earlier that history repeats itself, to which Marx added, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”. Nevertheless, hope remains an incurable disease that keeps us all striving and struggling.
As FDR reminded his supporters, no progressive policies will come about simply by relying on the goodwill of those in authority. Instead, they will only be enacted and implemented thanks to popular pressure from below. As Ben Phillips has put it, “the story of 2021 has not yet been written: we can write it; we can right it”.

IATA Travel Pass To Be Introduced

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it is in the final development phase of the IATA Travel Pass, a digital health pass that will support the safe reopening of borders. IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic.
Governments are beginning to use testing as a means of limiting the risks of COVID-19 importation when reopening their borders to travelers without quarantine measures. IATA Travel Pass will manage and verify the secure flow of necessary testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories, and travelers.
IATA is calling for systematic COVID-19 testing of all international travelers, and the information flow infrastructure needed to enable this must support:
Governments with the means to verify the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting the test certificates.
Airlines with the ability to provide accurate information to their passengers on test requirements and verify that a passenger meets the requirements for travel.
Laboratories with the means to issue digital certificates to passengers that will be recognized by governments, and;
Travelers with accurate information on test requirements, where they can get tested or vaccinated, and the means to securely convey test information to airlines and border authorities.
“Today, borders are double locked. Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share, and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements. That’s the job of the IATA Travel Pass. We are bringing this to market in the coming months also to meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
IATA Travel Pass incorporates four open-sourced and interoperable modules which can be combined for an end-to-end solution:
Global registry of health requirements – enables passengers to find accurate travel information, testing, and eventually, vaccine requirements for their journey.
Global registry of testing/vaccination centers – enables passengers to find testing centers and labs at their departure location, which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
Lab App – enables authorized labs and test centers to share test and vaccination certificates with passengers securely.
Contactless Travel App – enables passengers to (1) create a ‘digital passport,’ (2) receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for their itinerary, and (3) share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. Travelers can also use this app to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout their journey, improving the travel experience.
IATA and International Airlines Group (IAG) have been working together in the development of this solution. They will undertake a trial to demonstrate that this platform, combined with COVID-19 testing, can reopen international travel and replace quarantine.
The airline industry demands a cost-effective, global, and modular solution to safely restart travel. IATA Travel Pass is based on industry standards, and IATA’s proven experience in managing information flows around complex travel requirements.
IATA’s Timatic is used by most airlines to manage compliance with passport and visa regulations and will be the base for the global registry and verification of health requirements.
IATA’s One ID initiative was endorsed by a resolution at its 75th Annual General Meeting in 2019 to facilitate travel processes with a single identity token securely. It is the base for the IATA Contactless Travel App for identity verification that will also manage the test and vaccination certificates.
“Our main priority is to get people traveling again safely in the immediate term that means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements. And that will eventually develop into a vaccine program. The IATA Travel Pass is a solution for both. And we have built it using a modular approach based on open source standards to facilitate interoperability. It can be used in combination with other providers or as a standalone end-to-end solution. The most important thing is that it is responsive to industry’s needs while enabling a competitive market,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo, and Security.
The first cross-border IATA Travel Pass pilot is scheduled for later this year, and the launch is slated for quarter one 2021.

Mini Dark Chocolate Fondant for 2 (Dairy-free)

Wanna start your New Year with a guilt-free sweet treat? This yummy chocolate goodness is perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings and is quite easy to make as well!

How I developed this recipe-

There are definitely a lot of chocolate fondant and molten lava cake recipes out there on google and many different cookbooks. But trust me, most of them haven’t come out perfect for me. It was always either overdone or undone, cakey or too gooey ..etc. This one here is a never-fail recipe and once you see the results by yourself, you’ll definitely make  it again.
And yeah, it’s dairy-free as well- that simply means it won’t trigger any inflammatory reactions in any dairy allergic or intolerant or restricted person. But yeah, this is a versatile recipe and you can refer notes for more details.

What’s special about this recipe-

Dairy-free & refined sugar-free: Sugar & Dairy are known to mess up with the hormones and cause acne triggers for many. Considering this, along with the rise in healthy fancy diets for lactose intolerant people, this recipe is a saver for almost everyone in the family to equally enjoy a chocolate dessert.

Real goodness of dark chocolate: Known to be rich in antioxidants and mood boosting properties dark chocolate has a high reputation in today’s world. But most of the time, it’s adulterated by low quality fats and dairy in most desserts. This recipe here preserves the purity and thus the goodness of dark chocolate, so that your chocolate would literally feel yummy in the tummy.

What you’ll need-

70 g good quality dark chocolate (* I used Van houten)
50g vegetable oil (preferably avocado/coconut or neutral oils like sunflower or canola. * I used avocado oil)
1/6 cups brown sugar (half of 1/3 cup)
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
Half a tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of white flour
Oil & cocoa powder for greasing & dusting pots, respectively

How to make-

Preheat the oven to 200 degree Celsius. Grease and dust 2 ceramic ramekins or mini oven-proof pudding bowls with oil and cocoa powder respectively.

Combine chocolate & oil in a bowl and melt it in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each 30-seconds until fully combined.
Stir in the eggs and beat until even combined & gloppy. Now mix in vanilla and finally the white flour.

Pour this chocolate mixture into the prepared ramekins and bake for 10 to 13 minutes, just until the sides are little puffed up, whereas the centre is still moist and gooey.

Take it out from the oven and flip it onto the serving plate after cooling for not more than 30 seconds.

Notes, Tips and Suggestions-

. You could you either use 70 % dark chocolate chips or your favourite dark chocolate bar leftovers (chopped up) for this recipe.

. It’s best served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and fresh berries. Also dust your mini dessert with snow sugar (powdered/icing sugar) before serving to make it look more appealing.

. If not preferring to go dairy-free, you could make this dessert the traditional way by substituting the same amount of oil with butter in the recipe.

. Baking for longer time could result in a cakier chocolate dessert rather than a molten chocolate centre, which is undesirable.

Thanks,
Certina Romel

Geffen Playhouse Announces World Premiere Of Sri Rao’s “Bollywood Kitchen”

Geffen Playhouse, in association with Hypokrit Theatre Company, launches filmmaker and cookbook author Sri Rao’s Bollywood Kitchen this month. The latest show is part of a new lineup of live, virtual and interactive productions from the Los Angeles-based theater’s Geffen Stayhouse banner, created to entertain performing arts lovers during the pandemic. Sri Rao’s Bollywood Kitchen, directed by New York City-based Hypokrit Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Arpita Mukherjee, is inspired by his cookbook of the same name, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In this interactive production, Rao invites us to prepare a homemade Indian meal along with him, drawing on the recipes that were staples at his family’s table, when growing up in Pennsylvania. As we join him in cooking these delicious dishes in our very own kitchens, Rao interweaves the story of his parents immigrating to America, the joy and nourishment that Bollywood musicals brought to his whole family and the culinary traditions they shared. Mouthwatering flavors come together with the colorful exuberance of Bollywood films to create a festive and fun virtual experience about rediscovering the comforts of home and the impact of Indian cinema.

“The two questions I get asked most often at cocktail parties are, ‘Can I get one of your mom’s recipes for homemade Indian food?’ and ‘I’ve never seen a Bollywood movie before—can you recommend one to me?’ Well, the Geffen is giving me the opportunity to answer both questions at once—and this time, the cocktail party is at my place! Bollywood Kitchen is my way of introducing audiences to two of my passions—Indian food and films—while taking them on a personal journey of my family’s immigrant experience,” said Rao, who is also the creator and showrunner of Netflix’s upcoming series, The Actress, starring Bollywood icon Madhuri Dixit and produced by Karan Johar.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the world-renowned Geffen Playhouse to bring Sri’s unique Indian-American, immigrant experience to life by interweaving food and film into a one-of-a-kind live experience,” said Mukherjee, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Hypokrit Theatre Company in NYC. “Our company prides itself on telling the intersectional stories of people of color, and we are certain Sri’s journey will be relatable to many Indian Americans who embrace their multiple identities and create a confluence of culture by honoring their past and celebrating their present.”

AAPI Welcomes 2021 In Style

At AAPI’s New Year Celebrations, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar Praises The Sacrifices Of Indian American Physicians, Hoping For End to Covid in 2021

“Let me congratulate the great work done by the physicians around the world, and especially the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) members,” said Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishnakar in a live message via Zoom from his home in India to the members of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) at a colorful New Year 2021 Welcome Event organized by AAPI on Friday, January 1st. Recognizing the leadership of AAPI, led by Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda and the executive committee, he commented them “for their service to humanity, putting their own life at risk, doing so much for the society.”
Acknowledging that the past year 2020 has been a period of immense challenges for Humanity, Sri Sri Ravishnakar acknowledged the sacrifices and heroic efforts and contributions of physicians of Indian origin. “Healthcare professionals, particularly the Physicians of Indian Origin have put their life at risk, and have served humanity well,” he said.
“I wish you all a brighter and happier New Year in 2021,” hoping that “we will find answers for the problem of covid-19.” Stressing that “What matter is the need for Inner Strength,” Sri Sri told Indian American physicians that “I’m sure you all recognize the value of mental health and Inner Strength. May all you be very strong physically and mentally.” Showering his spiritual blessings on each of them, he said, “I want to wish you all a very happy new year and lots of blessings for you to continue to serve the society the way you have been doing.”
In his New Year message, Dr. Jonnalagadda, President of AAPI said, “All across the world, people are looking forward to welcoming 2021 and bidding goodbye to the challenging year that was 2020, which will be a year seared in all our memories. It’s been a year that has fundamentally challenged long established certainties about what we think is safe and what we believe is healthy in all areas of our lives.”
Pointing to the record time in which healthcare professionals and leaders have been able to make, distribute and administer vaccines around the world in order to combat and mitigate the deadly virus, he said, “The innovative ways healthcare professionals have learnt and begun to practice Medicine gives humanity HOPE. A New Year is a powerful occasion: It’s a time when we reflect on our gratitude for the past and our hopes for the future. And it’s a chance to welcome a fresh start to reinvigorate our enthusiasm for chasing goals and dreams. As we wave goodbye to the old and embrace the New Year with hope, dreams, and ambition. A Very Happy New Year full of Blessings, Happiness, Health and Prosperity!”
The event was coordinated and presented by Dr. Anajana Samaddar, Chair of AAPI’s Women’s Forum and Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Event Chair.
The celebrations included contemporary and classic music live from India by a talented and much acclaimed team of artists led by Gautham Bharadwaj & Niranjana, who were the only band chosen from India to perform at the 2012 London Olympics. The team performed live to the delight of a large audience from across the US with melodies in several Indian languages.

For more details on year round activities and programs, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Winning 2 Seats in Georgia Run Off, Democrats to take Control of US Senate

Democrats won control of the US Senate after Jon Ossoff joined his Georgia colleague Raphael Warnock in beating Republican incumbents in run-off elections, giving incoming president Joe Biden control of both houses of Congress.
Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have defeated Georgia’s two incumbent Republican U.S. senators in the state’s runoff elections, the Associated Press said Wednesday, in a development that gives their party effective control of the Senate.
Ossoff and Warnock were projected the winners over Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler by the AP following campaigns that drew massive spending and worldwide attention because the runoffs were set to determine the balance of power in Washington. The AP called the race for Warnock over Loeffler first, at about 2 a.m. Eastern, then followed with the call for Ossoff over Perdue on Wednesday afternoon.
Republicans controlled 50 seats in the Senate following November’s elections and would have remained the majority party in the 100-seat chamber with just one win in Georgia. But instead Democrats picked up two seats and now are set to run the Senate.
The pair of Democratic wins in Georgia mean a 50-50 split in the Senate, effectively giving Democrats control of the chamber since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be able to cast tie-breaking votes.
Ossoff, at 33, will be the youngest member of the Senate when he is sworn into office. Ossoff, a CEO of a London-based investigative documentary company, entered the national political scene four years ago when he narrowly lost a special election in Georgia 6th Congressional District in a race that drew national attention, making it the most expensive House election at the time. Perdue, 71, was first elected to the senate in 2014. Prior to being elected to Congress, Perdue was a businessman who worked for companies like Reebok, PillowTex, a North Carolina textile company and Dollar General.
Warnock made history with his election win, becoming the first Black Democrat elected as a U.S. senator from a state in the South and only the 11th Black senator in the history of the nation. He becomes the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate race in Georgia in 20 years.
“To everyone out there struggling today, whether you voted for me or not, know this,” Warnock said as he declared victory in a video from his home. “I hear you, I see you, and every day I’m in the United States Senate, I will fight for you. I will fight for your family.”
President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration and the Democratic-run House of Representatives now won’t face the same checks on their policy priorities that they would have faced with a Republican-controlled Senate, though analysts have said the slim Democratic majority in the chamber could mean more power for moderate senators from either party.

Mob Inflamed By Trump, Storms US Capitol

The U.S. Capitol was put on lockdown on Wednesday, January 6th as crowds protesting President-elect Joe Biden’s victory breached security barricades while Congress was debating the certification of his electoral win over President Donald Trump.
Angry supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting a peaceful transfer of power, forcing US lawmakers to be rushed from the building and interrupting challenges to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
The riots on the historic Capitol Building began after Trump vowed to he would “never concede” and urged the massive crowd to march to the Capitol where hundreds had already gathered under tight security. “We will never give up,” Trump told his noontime rally.
President Trump falsely repeated the claims that he is the rightful winner of the Presidential election, as he stood inside a bulletproof box addressing masses of followers. President Trump said: “You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough and we will not take it anymore.”
Trump has spent much of his time since the November presidential election trying to contest the result by presenting an argument of voter fraud.  However, the President hasn’t yet been able to provide any evidence to support his inflammatory claims.
The US Congress and Senate had begun the solemn procedure of certifying a new president, in an extraordinary joint session to confirm the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
The deliberations inside were still in their early stages when they were overcome by raucous demonstrations outside, as protesters who clashed with police entered the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags. They abruptly interrupted the proceedings in an out-of-control scene that featured eerie official warnings directing people to duck under their seats for cover and put on gas masks.
The proceedings in both the Chambers were disrupted and the lawmakers including Vice President Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi were escorted to safer locations for fear of their safety, while the House and Senate, along with several Office Buildings on the Hill were evacuated.
House members inside the Chamber were instructed to pull out the gas masks from underneath their seats and be prepared to put them on, according to police.
With mounting pressure from several officials and lawmakers from his own party, over two hours after the rioters invaded the Capitol, President Donald Trump, in a video message, told his supporters to “go home” while continuing to keep up false attacks about the presidential election,
Trump opened his video, saying, “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now.” He also went on to call the supporters “very special.” Trump told the rioters: “We can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”