India Abstains From Condemning Russian Invasion Of Ukraine At UN Security Council Ending 77 Years Of Peace In Europe, Putin’s Military Forces Invade Ukraine

For the first time since the end of World War II, 77 years ago, one European state has attacked another European state. Chosen by Russia’s Dictatorial President, Vladimir Putin, Russian troops and tanks are storming the capital, Kyiv, in his efforts to seize power from the democratically-elected Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

India, along with China and the United Arab Emirates, has abstained on a Security Council resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The resolution proposed by the US and Albania with the backing of nearly 60 countries received 11 votes in favor, giving it a majority in the 15-member Council, but was nullified by the Russian veto on February 25th.

The resolution proposed by the US and Albania sought to declare that Russia has committed acts of aggression against Ukraine and the situation is a breach of international peace and security. It had also demanded that Russia immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and completely withdraw its military forces from within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.

Amid ongoing military operations by Russia against Ukraine, US Permanent Representative, Linda Thomas Gre, said: “We are here today because of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, unconscionable war on Ukraine. This is a war of choice. Russia’s choice. Russia chose to invade its neighbor. Russia chose to inflict untold suffering on the Ukrainian people and on its own citizens. Russia chose to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, to violate international law, to violate the UN Charter.”

The strange part is that the early stages of the invasion seem to be all too familiar – especially Russia’s recognition of “independent” Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Putin’s moves during the Georgian War in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 were eerily similar to what he is doing in Ukraine in 2022.

A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale war into Ukraine in the name of military operation, the Russian troops have now captured Chernobyl nuclear plant and Vorzel village, which is just 8 kilometers away from Kyiv. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged to remain in the capital and has said that he is Russia’s number 1 target.

Russia claims its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have been hit since the invasion began Thursday with air and missile strikes and Russian troops entering Ukraine from the north, east and south.

Ukraine’s health minister reported Saturday that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 others had been wounded during Europe’s largest land war since World War II. It was unclear whether those figures included both military and civilian casualties.

In Kyiv, a missile struck a high-rise apartment building in the southwestern outskirts near one of the city’s two passenger airports, leaving a jagged hole of ravaged apartments over several floors. A rescue worker said six civilians were injured.

Explaining the abstention at the United Nations, for abstaining from condemning the Russian invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine, India’s Permanent Representative, T.S. Tirumurti said, “It is a matter of regret that the path of diplomacy was given up. We must return to it. Dialogue is the only answer to the settling of differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment,” he added.

Without naming Russia, Tirumurti, however, said, “India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine.” But taking a neutral stance, he added, “We urge that all efforts are made for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities.”

India’s abstention followed a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday. But US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken called India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar to press the case for voting for the resolution. India’s abstention is a bump in the road to closer relations with the US and the West.

US Permanent Representative, Linda Thomas Greenfield made the voting on the resolution a litmus test for how countries stand with the US. “There is no middle ground,” she said before the vote. And after the vote, she added, “This vote showed which countries truly believe in supporting the core principles of the UN and which ones deployed them as convenient catchphrases. This vote showed which Security Council members support the UN Charter and which ones do not.”

Shortly afterwards, Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres said, “The UN was born out of war to end war. Today, that objective was not achieved. But we must never give up. We must give peace another chance.  The UN Charter has been challenged in the past, but it has stood firm on the side of peace, security, development, justice, international law & human rights. The international community must do everything in its power so that these values prevail in Ukraine & for all humanity.”

He added, “The contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. all member states need to honor these principles and finding a constructive way forward.”

The matter now goes to the 193-member General Assembly, which is expected to take up a similar resolution next week and the nonmembers of the Council who backed the failed resolution would be able to register their votes there.

Russia’s isolation was apparent because the three abstentions did not amount to support for it either. As symbolisms go, it was stark as China abstained even though Russia’s President Vladimir and China’s President Xi Jinping had signed a statement this month on ties with “no limits”.

India was courted by both the US and Russia given the symbolic nature of the vote and the West’s desire to isolate the US. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to press the case for voting for the resolution.

India’s abstention will strain India’s growing relationship with the US and the West as Washington had made the voting on the resolution a litmus test for how countries stand with Washington’s position. “There is no middle ground,” US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said before the vote.

And after the vote, she said, “This vote showed which countries truly believe in supporting the core principles of the UN and which ones deployed them as convenient catchphrases. This vote showed which Security Council members support the UN Charter and which ones do not.”

Britain’s Permanent Representative Barbara Woodward said, “History will record how we voted today. And which countries stood up to be counted in defense of the charter and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Tirumurti’s remark that India “was deeply concerned about the welfare and security of the Indian community” in Ukraine drew a sharp response from Ukraine’s Permanent Representative Sergiy Kyslytsya. Turning towards Tirumurti and raising his voice he said, “It is exactly [for] the safety of your nationals right now in Ukraine that you should be the first to vote to stop the war to save your nationals in Ukraine.”

The vote was taken by a show of hands around the horseshoe-shaped desk of the Council against a mural symbolizing UN’s mission of bringing peace and freedom to a world ravaged by war. Kyslytsya asked to observe a moment silence to “pray for the souls” of all victims of the war in Ukraine without mentioning any nationalities or to meditate for peace.

Fearing Imminent Russian Invasion, India Asks Citizens To Leave Ukraine

Concerns over Russia’s intentions in Ukraine mounted after talks in Geneva between Russia and the U.S.-led NATO security alliance ended last week without success. Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops and moved heavy weapons along its border with Ukraine in recent weeks and has begun positioning forces along the Belarus-Ukraine border.

The Pentagon accused Moscow of deploying armed saboteurs into Eastern Ukraine to start violence as a pretext for moving its troops into the country, a tactic Russia used in 2014 during its invasion and occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. The Russians said they would withdraw if NATO agreed to a series of security measures, including permanently banning Ukraine from the Western military alliance, a proposal that has been flatly refused. Secretary of State Antony Blinken ’84 will meet with Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, Friday in an attempt to find a resolution to the standoff.

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday he was convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a decision to invade Ukraine, and though there was still room for diplomacy, he expected Russia to move on the country in the coming days. Russia has repeatedly denied preparing to invade Ukraine.

Acknowledging the “real possibility” of war, US Vice President Kamala Harris Harris tried to make the case to American allies that rapidly spiraling tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border meant European security was under threat and there should be unified support for economic penalties if the Kremlin invades its neighbor, Reuters reported.

As Western leaders warn of an imminent Russian invasion, Belarus defense minister Sunday said that in a step that further intensifies pressure on Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are extending military exercises that were due to end on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Ukraine, meanwhile, advised all Indian nationals, whose stay is not deemed essential, to temporarily leave Ukraine. Indian students were also advised to also get in touch with respective student contractors for updates on chartered flights.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has posed the question that’s kept the world on edge for weeks: will Russia attack Ukraine? Not even those in the Russian government — besides President Vladimir Putin — appear to know the answer, but the fact remains that there has been a steady buildup of Russian troops and military hardware near the Ukraine border; the largest since the end of the Cold War.

“They have all the capabilities in place, Russia, to launch an attack on Ukraine without any warning at all. No one is denying that Russia has all these forces in place,” Stoltenberg told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. “The question is, will they launch an attack?”

Over 150,000 Russian troops are stationed at various points along the border with Ukraine. Russian forces have also been posted in Belarus, an ally that lies to the north of Ukraine.

According to reports, multiple explosions could be heard late Saturday and early Sunday in the center of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The origin of the explosions was not clear. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC that the plans that the West is seeing at Ukraine’s border suggest that a Russian invasion could be “the biggest war in Europe since 1945 in terms of sheer scale”.

Almost 2,000 ceasefire violations were registered in eastern Ukraine by monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Saturday, a diplomatic source told Reuters Sunday. The Ukrainian government and separatist forces have been fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014. An upsurge in shelling has thrust the region to the center of tensions between Moscow and the West over a Russian military buildup near Ukraine.

“The fact is that this directly leads to an increase in tension. And when tension is escalated to the maximum, as it is now, for example, on the line of contact (in eastern Ukraine), then any spark, any unplanned incident or any minor planned provocation can lead to irreparable consequences,” he added. So all this has – may have – detrimental consequences. The daily exercise of announcing a date for Russia to invade Ukraine is a very bad practice,” a report by Reuters, quoting Biden stated.

Repeated Western predictions of a Russian invasion of Ukraine are provocative and may have adverse consequences, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday. Putin takes no notice of such Western statements, Peskov told Rossiya 1 state TV.

Moscow has insisted it has no plans to invade Ukraine and its forces in Belarus are there for military drills set to take place in the coming days. The U.S. and its Western allies have warned of severe economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia should an invasion go ahead.

How A Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Could Affect The World?

The number of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders have continued to build in recent days, with U.S. officials estimating that 169,000 to 190,000 personnel are in place near Ukraine or in Russian-occupied Crimea.

President Biden spoke about the situation on Friday, saying that U.S. intelligence now believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to proceed with an invasion.

“We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days,” Biden said. “We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”

Biden has signaled to the American public that it, too, may feel effects if Russia invades Ukraine.

“If Russia decides to invade, that would also have consequences here at home. But the American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost,” he said in a speech Tuesday. “I will not pretend this will be painless.”

Russia says it is not preparing to invade, and it is not a certainty that Putin will decide to do so. World leaders are continuing diplomatic talks in a high-stakes effort to avoid that outcome.

Still, the possibility of an invasion has raised the specter of consequences — sanctions, countersanctions, energy supply issues, a flood of refugees — that would be felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders. Here’s what to know.

The U.S. has promised severe sanctions if Russia invades — and Russia could retaliate

“If Russia proceeds, we will rally the world and oppose its aggression. The United States and our allies and partners around the world are ready to impose powerful sanctions and export controls,” Biden said Tuesday.

Those sanctions could include restrictions on major Russian banks that would dramatically affect Russia’s ability to conduct international business. Severe U.S. sanctions could drive up prices for everyday Russians or cause Russia’s currency or markets to crash.

Because the U.S. does not rely much on trade with Russia, it is somewhat insulated from direct consequences. Europe is more directly affected. But certain sectors of the U.S. economy rely on highly specific Russian exports, primarily raw commodities.

“The premise of sanctions is to hurt the other guy more than you hurt your own interests. But that does not mean there will not be some collateral damage,” said Doug Rediker, a partner at International Capital Strategies.

Energy prices could soar

Russia is a major exporter of oil and natural gas, especially to Europe. As a result, officials have reportedly shied away from severe sanctions on Russian energy exports.

But there are other ways the energy market could be disrupted. Nearly 40% of the natural gas used by the European Union comes from Russia. President Biden has said the not-yet-operational Nord Stream 2 pipeline would not move ahead if Russia invaded Ukraine.

For one, Russia could choose to cut off or limit oil and gas exports to Europe as retaliation for sanctions. Nearly 40% of the natural gas used by the European Union comes from Russia — and no European country imports more than Germany, a key ally of the United States.

Even if Russia chooses not to limit exports, supplies could still be affected by a conflict in Ukraine because multiple pipelines run through the country, carrying gas from Russia to Europe. “They could simply be casualties of a military invasion,” Rediker said.

Either way, if Europe’s natural gas supply is pinched, that could cause energy prices — which have already been climbing — to rise even further. And even though the U.S. imports relatively little oil from Russia, oil prices are set by the global market, meaning local prices could rise anyway. On Tuesday, Biden promised to work with Congress to address “the impact of prices at the pump.”

Other industries, from food to cars, might also be hurt

Russia is a major exporter of rare-earth minerals and heavy metals — such as titanium used in airplanes. Russia supplies about a third of the world’s palladium, a rare metal used in catalytic converters, and its price has soared in recent weeks over fears of a conflict.

And a major conflict in Ukraine would disrupt Ukrainian industries too. Ukraine is a major source of neon, which is used in manufacturing semiconductors.

As a result, U.S. officials have warned various sectors to brace for supply chain disruptions, including the semiconductor and aerospace industries.

Fertilizer is produced in major quantities in both Ukraine and Russia. Disruptions to those exports would mostly affect agriculture in Europe, but food prices around the world could rise as a result.

The shock to international stability could hit global markets

Beyond sanctions and countersanctions, global financial markets would likely have a negative reaction to a European military invasion of a scale not seen since World War II.

Americans with exposure to the stock market — like those with 401(k)s and other retirement accounts — could feel an effect, though it would most likely be short term.

“Markets are fundamentally not prepared for a land war in Europe in the 21st century,” Rediker said. “It’s something people just have not contemplated.”

The U.S. stock market has already been unusually volatile in recent weeks, churning over inflation, possible moves by the Federal Reserve and the possible conflict in Ukraine.

Historically, the market has bounced back relatively quickly after geopolitical events. That’s what’s most likely today too, analysts say.

But if a major Russian invasion and subsequent conflict cause long-lasting disruption of energy markets and other exports, investors could rethink that conventional wisdom.

“You’re potentially at a point where not only are we looking at Russia potentially invading Ukraine and sanctions and countermeasures, but you are also looking at a rise of China that doesn’t necessarily agree with the American perspective on the world anyway,” Rediker said. “Are we looking at a point in which some of the major premises that people take for granted have to be reassessed?”

Russia might respond with disruptive cyberattacks on U.S. targets

Another way Russia could respond to U.S. sanctions is through cyberattacks and influence campaigns.

Various federal agencies, including the Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security, have warned of possible cyberattacks on targets like big banks and power grid operators. And just last week, U.S. cybersecurity officials held a tabletop exercise to ensure that federal agencies are prepared for possible Russian retaliation, The Washington Post reported.

“They have been warning everyone about Russia’s very specific tactics about the possibility of attacks on critical infrastructure,” Katerina Sedova, a researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, told NPR.

Russian cyberattacks have targeted Ukraine relentlessly in recent years, including attacks on the capital city of Kyiv’s power grid in 2015 and 2016. But a major escalation could shift focus to U.S. targets.

Sedova pointed to the Russian state-backed attack on the IT software company SolarWinds and a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline for six days as examples of how major Russian cyberattacks could disrupt U.S. operations. (The Biden administration said it does “not believe the Russian government was involved” in the pipeline attack.)

Power grids, hospitals and local governments could all be targets, she said. For now, Sedova said she is more worried about subtler attacks — like influence campaigns that aim to “sow discord between us and our allies in our resolve” to act jointly against Russia.

“Oftentimes, cyber-operations go hand in hand with influence,” she said. “They’re targeting a change of decision-making, a change in policy in that direction, a change in public opinion.”

A major invasion would likely spark a refugee crisis

A full Russian invasion could send 1 million to 5 million refugees fleeing Ukraine, U.S. officials and humanitarian agencies have warned.

“It will be a continent-wide humanitarian disaster with millions of refugees seeking protection in neighbouring European countries,” Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said last month in statement.

Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine and is already home to more than a million Ukrainians, would likely see the most refugees. Over the weekend, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said his country was preparing for an “influx of refugees” from Ukraine.

The U.S. military says that the thousands of soldiers deployed to Poland this month are prepared to assist with a large-scale evacuation.

“Assistance with evacuation flow is something they could do, and could do quite well. They are going to be working with Polish authorities on what that looks like and how they would handle that,” Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said this week.

At the largest scale, a refugee crisis would not be contained to Europe — the U.S. would likely see refugees seeking asylum too.

Omicron Wave Declines, Giving Hope For A World Longing To Be Free Of Pandemic

The U.S. has experienced a brutal winter wave of COVID-19, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Daily deaths are higher today than they were during the peak of last fall’s Delta wave, and have plateaued at about 2,500 per day. Many hospitals are still under huge strain and are postponing elective surgeries to free up beds for patients with COVID-19. Daily cases have been higher than during the Delta surge, despite multiple eager predictions in the past that we had reached herd immunity and that the pandemic was over.

Nevertheless, there are promising signs that we are turning a corner. New daily cases are falling rapidly—they are down by over 75% from the peak of the Omicron wave. Hospitalizations are also falling. While we are not out in the clear yet, especially in poorly vaccinated regions of the U.S., the sharp downturn in cases is cause for optimism.

The fall in cases is also an opportunity for fundamental preparation, given the high chance of a future wave. To prevent being overwhelmed again, we should be proactive now in putting a preparedness system in place.

Instead, in the face of these receding cases, some pundits are calling for an end to pandemic control measures, such as indoor masking and testing of people with no symptoms. And several states have rolled back mask mandates, even though indoor masks mandates remain popular in public polling (the Biden Administration is being more cautious about easing masking). We fully understand the frustration and impatience behind these calls. Pandemic fatigue is real. Yet this yearning for ‘normal’ ignores the reality that our society before COVID-19 was anything but normal. If it had been, we may not have suffered as devastating a pandemic as we have. Instead it was those very conditions that allowed for terrible inequities and outsized impacts on America’s poor, which still continue today.

We are concerned that the Biden Administration is not taking preparedness seriously enough. It was a welcome step to see the Administration making 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers, and we are delighted that Americans can now go online and order four free rapid tests per household. But four rapid tests and a mask will not be enough to end the pandemic. These measures are not commensurate with the size of the problem, and they must be coupled with actual public health strategies for effective roll-out and sustained uptake.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that there is still a huge amount of viral transmission, with around 175,000 new daily cases. Less than two thirds of Americans are fully vaccinated—defined as two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson—which does not provide as much protection as it did before Omicron. Only a quarter of Americans have received a booster dose, which provides the highest level of protection against infection, hospitalization, and death. There are ongoing inequities in vaccination, including racial inequities, with Black and Hispanic populations being vaccinated at a lower rate compared to white populations. Only 24% of children aged 5-11 and 57% of those aged 12-17 are fully vaccinated. Hospitalizations among the under 5 hit record levels during the Omicron surge, yet vaccines are not yet licensed for this age group.

There is also what the New York Times calls a “pandemic of the forgotten.” Around 7 million Americans have weakened immune systems from transplants, cancer treatment, rheumatoid arthritis medications, or other medical conditions, and they could get very ill if they get COVID-19. Yet this push toward returning to normal seems to matter-of-factly ignore them. And, there is the growing number of people who are suffering from long-term morbidity after surviving infection—the condition now known as Long Covid—which we are only just beginning to understand.

One recurring problem when it comes to pandemics is that we suffer from short term memory. We cross our fingers and hope that this wave is the last. Many of us were surprised when Vice President Kamala Harris said that the Biden Administration “didn’t see Delta coming….didn’t see Omicron coming.” That’s absurd. Viral mutations were entirely expected. There is a serious risk of further variants arising, especially with inequitable and low vaccination coverage in much of the world due to supply hoarding. Distributing a few rapid tests and masks and hoping that this wave disappears and will be the end of the U.S. pandemic is not a sound approach.

Even with the current variants in circulation, we could see further waves, such as was seen in the South in past summers, especially in poorly vaccinated states, and as people move indoors to escape the heat and humidity. We could similarly see future winter waves as we have witnessed in the northeast. With cases of Omicron receding, now is the time to put in place a proper infrastructure, resilient enough to handle further surges. Instead of declaring “mission accomplished,” we must declare a considerable effort toward true preparedness.

In addition to driving up vaccination coverage, what would true preparedness look like?

Instead of a one-off distribution of N95 masks, the government should replenish the stockpile enough to deploy them again in the face of future outbreaks. These should be ubiquitously available, and in different shapes and sizes, placed outside any high-risk venues including public transport or crowded indoor sites of congregation (grocery stores, malls, retail, movie theaters, gyms, offices) during surges.

Serial rapid tests are needed, and they need to reach those unable to order them online. A single test is a snapshot in time—so after a known exposure, having enough tests for daily testing prior to leaving the home is what would actually be needed for 5 to 7 days. Rapid tests identify contagious people before they get symptoms, allowing people to avoid spreading the infection, thus breaking the cycles of transmission. One of us presented similar arguments for both Ebola and Zika in the past. Such rapid tests for SARS-CoV-2 can help keep schools and workplaces open, and they can protect vulnerable people in nursing homes, jails, prisons, and other high-risk congregate settings. High quality masks and rapid tests are particularly critical for protecting front line workers.

With the arrival of new antiviral drugs, such as Paxlovid, and data showing early antiviral use with Remdesivir is more effective, universal access to free tests has become even more urgent. These medicines can reduce your chances of being hospitalized or dying if they are taken soon enough after symptoms begin, but this requires access to testing for early enough diagnosis. Greater access to testing needs to be combined with fair and equitable access to these medications—especially for communities that traditionally have low access to care.

A joined-up preparedness plan would also include paid sick leave. During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, an estimated 3 in 10 people with symptoms in the U.S. went to work, infecting up to 7 million others. The U.S. is the only high-income nation without mandatory federal sick pay, and this will continue to be a huge barrier to controlling COVID-19.

Another way to curb transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is to improve ventilation and air filtration in all buildings, including schools. Congress has allocated up to $170 billion for school infrastructure improvements, including improving air quality. Unfortunately, too much of this money has been left on the table. In some cases, as Joseph Allen and Celine Gounder note, some schools are “already under attack by parents who are opposed to other pandemic-related public health measures, like masking.” Other school districts lack the know-how to make the upgrades—they need better guidance and standards. Some schools say they struggle to pay for upgraded ventilation systems even with federal aid.

Instead of being caught flat-footed by the next wave or variant, we need more comprehensive data and surveillance systems, including wastewater sampling, as well genomic surveillance to identify and track new variants. With better data, we can know when to titrate public health protections up and down. As Megan Ranney, professor of emergency medicine and academic dean of public health at Brown University says, we need “investments in better data systems, now, to signal when a surge is on its way and to provide clear metrics of when to increase protections (like masks)—and clear lines about when these protections can be relaxed.”

With so many people worldwide still unvaccinated, and many Americans without boosters, we should prepare ourselves for future pandemic ebbs and flows. To end the pandemic, the U.S. should do much more to boost global vaccine access including donating several-fold more doses, sharing vaccine technology more urgently, and funding massive global production. Domestically, an important guiding principle is that our policies should be driven by data and not dates—for example, we believe it is better to base the end of mask mandates on metrics such as vaccination coverage, hospitalization rates, and ICU capacity rather than picking an arbitrary end date. Unlike the start of the pandemic, we now have a remarkable array of science-based tools that can turn COVID-19 into something akin to a cold or flu, but to get there we’ll need higher vaccination rates, better data and surveillance systems, data-driven policies on masks and rapid tests, improved ventilation in shared public spaces, and a more resilient preparedness system.

Bappi Lahiri, India’s ‘Disco-King’ Dies At 69

Veteran singer-composer credited with popularizing disco music in India passed away in Mumbai city on Wednesday, February 16th. India’s first “Disco-King,” Alokesh alias Bappi Lahiri, 69, – nephew of the legendary trio of late Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Anoop Kumar, breathed his last at the Criticare Hospital, Juhu in Mumbai, said the hospital Director Dr. Deepak Namjoshi.

“He had been admitted to the hospital for a month and was discharged on Monday. But his health deteriorated on Tuesday and his family called for a doctor to visit their home, after which he was brought to the hospital,” said Dr Joshi. He suffered from several health complications and died due to OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) last night, the medico added.

He had several collaborations with international stars, including English model and singer Samantha Fox in the 1995 Hindi film Rock Dancer and with Snoop Dogg on Punjabi song Patiala Peg in 2015.

Lahiri – who attained fame as India’s first ‘Disco King’ – is survived by his wife, Chitrani, daughter Rema and a son Bappa, who has taken to his dad’s musical career. In a statement later, the Lahiri family said: “It’s a deeply sad moment for us. We are seeking love and blessings for his soul.”

Born in West Bengal, Lahiri’s first composition was for a Bengali film, ‘Daadu’ (1972), followed by a Bollywood film ‘Nanha Shikari’ (1973).

He arrived’ on the musical scene in a crescendo with ‘Zakhmee’ (1975) for which he composed music and also sang, pushing him to upper echelons at a very young age of barely 22.

During his career, he directed top legends like Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, his ‘Mama’ Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosale, Usha Uthup and many more to create waves with soulful, racy, vibrant and rhythmic music. He composed music for dozens of movies featuring top actors, including Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn and Mithun Chakraborty.

With the rise of hip-hop and break-dance culture in the latter half of the 80s, Lahiri took up the challenge and experimented with electro sounds on I Am a Break Dancer (Pyaar Karke Dekho), Break Dance (Kahan Hai Kanoon) and I Am a Street Dancer (Ilzaam), among others. Mithun Chakraborty and Govinda, two mega-stars in Bollywood known for their dance moves, became synonymous with Bappi’s compositions and vice versa. Govinda wrote on Instagram after Lahiri’s death that he would not have become a star without his music.

Lahiri created musical tsunamis with his compositions in ‘Chalte, Chalte’ (1976), ‘Suraksha’ with the pacy ‘Gunmaster G9’ becoming as popular as 007, and “Lahu Ke Do Rang” (both 1979).

Then followed ‘Manokaamna’ (1980) with several lilting numbers, ‘Wardat’ (1981), the raging music of “Disco Dancer” that had the nation dancing to his tunes with ‘Jimmy Jimmy, Aaja Aaja’, and ‘Namak Halal’ (both, 1982), the foot-tapping ‘Himmatwala’ (1983), ‘Sharaabi’ (1984) with the unforgettable ‘Log Kehte Hain, Main Sharaabi Hoon’, “Adventures of Tarzan” (1985) in which Kimi Katkar cavorted onscreen crooning ‘Tarzan, O My Tarzan’, ‘Dance Dance’ (1987).

Other films for which he composed memorable songs include ‘Commando’ (1988), ‘Prem Pratigya’ and ‘Guru’ (both, 1989). In 1990, he took the industry by storm with superhit music for ‘Naakabandi’ like the ever-green ‘Naakabandi-Naakabandi’ sung by Usha Uthup and Bappi himself, ‘Ghayal’, ‘Aaj Ka Arjun’, ‘Thanedaar’, ‘Sailaab’.

Later came films like ‘Dushman Devta’, ‘Sau Crore’, ‘First Love Letter’ (all, 1991), ‘Shola Aur Shabnam’, ‘Zindagi Ek Jua’, ‘Police Aur Mujrim’, ‘Geet’, ‘Tauheen’ (all, 1992), ‘Dalaal’, ‘Aankhen’, ‘Amaanat’ (1994), ‘Rock Dancer’ (1995), ‘Hum Sab Chor Hai’ (1996), ‘Benaam’ (1999), ‘Justice Chowdhary’ (2000), joint compositions for ‘Chandni Chowk To China’ (2008), ‘Baaghi 3’ (2020).

Lahiri also composed extensively for regional films in Bengali, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Tamil. Besides, he also composed English songs, and flirted with politics briefly with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Condolences poured in from top politicians and Bollywood celebrities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that Lahiri’s music was “all-encompassing, beautifully expressing diverse emotions” and that “people across generations could relate to his works. His lively nature will be missed by everyone. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” Modi added.

Top leaders, including President Ram Nath Kovind, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, BJP’s Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar, and others condoled the passing of Lahiri.

Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman tweeted his condolences and called Lahiri the “Disco King of Hindi cinema”. Leading Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar said Lahiri’s voice “was the reason for millions to dance, including me. Thank you for all the happiness you brought through your music,” he wrote on Twitter.

From the film industry, actors Vidya Balan, Shakti Kapoor, Roopali Ganguly, Deb Mukherjee, singers Udit Narayan, Shaan, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Mika Singh, producer Bhushan Kumar, filmmaker KC Bokadia, who had worked with the composer in his 1990 Amitabh Bachchan starrer “Aaj Ka Arjun”, attended the cremation.

Fondly called ‘Bappi Da’ by his fans and friends from the industry, the 69-year-old was credited for revolutionising the disco sound for Hindi film music landscape in the 70s and 80s and continued to churn out hits in a career spanning five decades.

Lahiri’s output was prolific and in 1986 he entered the Guinness Book of World Records for recording more than 180 songs for 33 films. It’s no surprise that, as the man whose soundtracks gave Indian cinema a youthful injection throughout the 80s and 90s, Lahiri had a sense of style as loud as his music. Over the years, Lahiri had crafted the image of a pop icon aided by his trademark gold chains that he wore for luck, his sunglasses.

A New Phase For AIR INDIA Begins As Tata Group Appoints Former Turkish Airlines Chairman Ilker Ayci As New Air India MD And CEO

The Tata Group has appointed Ilker Ayci — former Turkish Airlines Chairman — as Air India’s Managing Director and CEO effective on or before April 1. The development is in line with the Tata Group’s plans to appoint an expatriate chief to run the airline it took over from the Indian government last month.

The Air India board met on Monday last week to consider the candidature of Ayci, with Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran as a special invitee, and approved his appointment, Tata Sons said in a statement. Ayci’s appointment is subject to requisite regulatory approvals.

The announcement also comes a day after Air India asked its cabin crew to wear minimal jewellery to avoid delays at security checks and not to visit duty-free shops after clearing the immigration process as part of the airline’s efforts to improve its on-time performance.

Commenting on the appointment, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said, “Ilker is an aviation industry leader who led Turkish Airlines to its current success during his tenure there. We are delighted to welcome Ilker to the Tata Group where he would lead Air India into the new era.”

Ilker Ayci was chairman of Turkish Airlines since 2015, and his resignation from the post was announced by the airline on January 27 this year — the same day Tatas were handed over Air India by the Centre.

During his professional career, Ayci has been an advisor to the then Mayor of Istanbul Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul, where he took part in a number of development projects in Turkey’s largest city. Erdoğan is currently the President of Turkey.

Ayci was born in Istanbul in 1971. He is 1994 alumni of Bilkent University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, according to the Tata Group statement. After a research stay on political science at the Leeds University in the UK in 1995, he completed an International Relations Master’s program at the Marmara University in Istanbul in 1997.

“Tata Group made the winning bid at ₹18,000 crore to bag the airline in October last year. Of this, ₹15,300 crore is in the form of debt, while the remaining ₹2,700 crore is in cash. The cash consideration has been paid to the government.

The airline is run by Tata Sons’ wholly-owned subsidiary Talace. Out of its total debt of ₹61,562 crore, ₹46,262 crore has been transferred to Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special purpose vehicle formed by the government in 2019 for holding debt and non-core assets of Air India.

Founded by Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata in 1932, the aviation division of Tata Sons was listed as Air India in 1946, and it began flights to Europe in 1948 under the banner of Air India International. The airline was nationalised in 1953 by the nation’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Air India has a fleet of 117 wide-body and narrow-body aircraft, and AIXL a fleet of 24 narrow-body aircraft. A significant number of these are owned by the company. More than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues comes from the international market.

Indian American Judge Allows Lawsuits Against Trump For Jan 6th Insurrection To Proceed

Civil lawsuits seeking to hold Donald Trump accountable for the January 6, 2021, insurrection can move forward in court, Amit Mehta, a federal judge said last week in a ruling outlining how the former President could conceivably be responsible for inciting the attack on the US Capitol.

Trump’s statements to his supporters before the riot “is the essence of civil conspiracy,” Judge Amit Mehta wrote in a 112-page opinion, because Trump spoke about himself and rallygoers working “towards a common goal” of fighting and walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. “The President’s January 6 Rally Speech can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action,” Mehta said.

Two of the lawsuits were brought by Democratic House members, while a third was filed by Capitol Police officers. Democratic members of the House and police officers who defended the US Capitol on January 6 sued Trump last year, claiming he prompted his supporters to attack. Friday, Mehta wrote that the three lawsuits could move to the evidence-gathering phase and toward a trial — a major loss in court for Trump. “To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step. The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent,” Mehta wrote.

“After all, the President’s actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch,” Mehta added. “They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President’s broad immunity are not present here.”

While he homed in on Trump’s legal liability, the judge ruled in favor of three close allies to Trump who also spoke at the rally on January 6 — his attorney Rudy Giuliani, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, saying he would dismiss the claims against them.

When the Senate failed to convict Trump last year in the impeachment proceedings examining his role in the attack, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who voted against convicting Trump — noted that “civil litigation” was an avenue through which Trump’s conduct could be addressed.

The lawmakers allege that they were threatened by Trump and others as part of a conspiracy to stop the congressional session that would certify the 2020 presidential election on January 6, 2021, according to the complaints. They argue that Trump should bear responsibility for directing the assaults.

Trump’s legal team is likely to appeal the decision, which was made at the trial-level DC District Court. Representatives for Trump didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mehta’s ruling on what he calls a “one-of-a-kind case” sets up a rare instance where the former President could face concrete consequences for the insurrection.

But Mehta’s opinion, essentially melting away the protections of the presidency and the First Amendment because of the context of Trump’s speech and specific words and actions that day, could have further implications, including creating a new avenue to subpoena Trump and ask him questions and establishing where immunity for presidents ends.

How Donald Trump’s February just got way worse

At this time, there are no public indications that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into January 6, which includes several sets of conspiracy charges and a sedition case, has reached Trump. And after Republican lawmakers blocked Trump’s impeachment conviction, the GOP has largely fallen back in line behind the former President. The two House Republicans now serving on the committee to investigate the insurrection have faced calls for their ouster from the party, and Trump may very well be Republicans’ 2024 nominee for the White House.

The decision, Friday, however, sets in motion a path to the judge weighing the factual allegations and evidence against Trump in the cases as well as possible civil trials months or years from now, where Trump is at the defense table.

Lawyers for the Democratic lawmakers and police were elated with the ruling Friday, though they likely face a long road of additional court tangles ahead.

“Today is a major victory for the rule of law, and demonstrates just how important the courts are for ensuring accountability,” said Joseph Sellers, who represents a group of Democratic members of Congress that was first to allege a civil conspiracy against Trump in court.

The NAACP, working alongside Sellers, also applauded the ruling, and the group’s president Derrick Johnson called for accountability for Trump and the right-wing groups.

Matthew Kaiser, a lawyer for Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, called it a “great ruling” to potentially be able to take Trump to trial.

And Patrick Malone, representing the police officers, called it a victory for democracy. “It’s good to see that no one is above the law. Everyone should be held accountable for their actions,” Malone’s client, the Capitol Police Officer James Blassingame Jr., said in a statement. Swalwell said in a statement that he would seek to depose Trump and gather evidence about January 6.

Role of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers

Mehta wrote that it’s plausible the lawsuit could prove Trump entered into an agreement with far-right groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, who are criminally charged for conspiracy and also named in the lawsuit.

The judge noted how Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” at a debate before the election, and that he likely was aware of the Oath Keepers attending his rallies and of violence planned because of his election loss.

“It is reasonable to infer that the President knew that these were militia groups and that they were prepared to partake in violence for him,” the judge said. “The President thus plausibly would have known that a call for violence would be carried out by militia groups and other supporters.”

The cases will proceed against the Oath Keepers organization and against Enrique Tarrio, the recently incarcerated leader of the Proud Boys. They sought to get the case dismissed but the judge concluded that the allegations — of a conspiracy between Trump and the extremist groups and leaders — were plausible enough to allow the litigation to move forward.

Partial victory for other Trump allies

Some of his allies who were named as co-defendants succeeded in getting the civil suits against them dismissed. This includes his eldest son and his former attorney, who were named as defendants in some of the cases, but successfully argued that the lawsuits should be thrown out.

The judge indicated he would also eventually dismiss the case against Brooks, an Alabama Republican. They have all denied wrongdoing related to January 6.

In the ruling, Mehta said the case against Brooks was weak enough that he would simply dismiss it if he asked him to do so, teeing up the congressman for a victory. “Brooks’s remarks on January 6th were political speech protected by the First Amendment for which he cannot be subject to liability,” Mehta wrote.

But Mehta on Friday sidestepped the question of whether Brooks should have been protected in the litigation by the Justice Department — because, according to the congressman, he was acting in his official duties as an elected official when he spoke at the Trump rally before the riot.

The Justice Department so far has refused to protect Brooks, a revealing position for the agency that is conducting its own sweeping investigation of January 6.

The Department argued that Brooks’ role at the rally was “campaign activity” and not related to his official duties. Still, Brooks had asked Mehta to rule that he was acting as a government official and thus shield him from liability. Mehta said on Friday he would defer deciding on that issue.

Judge: Giuliani conspired to peddle disinformation

Regarding Giuliani, the judge said “there is little doubt” that he “was involved in a conspiracy” to peddle disinformation about the 2020 election — but that he couldn’t be held liable for the laws at issue in this lawsuit.

Democrats and police officers who filed the lawsuits “fall short” of establishing that Giuliani directly conspired to stop Congress from certifying the election on January 6 by force or intimidation, Mehta ruled.

Even though Giuliani spoke at the “Save America” rally before the riot, and told the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat,” the judge ruled that those comments weren’t strong enough to establish a conspiracy.

“Critically, Giuliani uttered no words that resembled a call to action. ‘Trial by combat’ was not accompanied by a direction to do anything,” Mehta wrote, calling it “constitutionally protected speech,” and pointing out that Giuliani didn’t know Trump would direct his supporters to march on the Capitol.

The judge said the allegations against Trump Jr. were even weaker, and thus should be dismissed.

“The allegations against Trump Jr. are insufficient to make him a co-conspirator in a plan to disrupt Congress from performing its duties,” Mehta wrote.

That situation was much different than Trump’s — who not only spoke about the crowd marching to the Capitol and fighting, but also failed to tell his rioting supporters to stand down as the violence unfolded. Instead, Trump criticized then-Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the electoral college certification, on Twitter, 12 minutes into the attack.

“When the President said to the crowd at the end of his remarks, ‘We fight. We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,’ moments before instructing them to march to the Capitol, the President’s speech plausibly crossed the line into unprotected territory,” Mehta wrote.

Sundar Pichai Unveils $100 Million Google Career Certificates Fund

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has announced a new $100 million Google Career Certificates Fund to prepare a skilled workforce for high-paying, high-growth jobs in fields like data analytics, IT support, project management and user experience design.

The goal, he said, is to enable ‘Social Finance’ to reach more than 20,000 American workers.

“This investment in America’s future has the potential to drive $1 billion in wage gains,” Pichai said in a statement late on Thursday.

Nearly 70,000 Americans have completed Google Career Certificates to date. “They are available to anyone, no college degree required. Seventy-five percent of graduates report seeing a positive impact on their career within six months, including a raise or a new job,” Pichai added.

He announced the fund at an event with US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Alejandra Castillo, and the CEOs of Social Finance, Merit America and Year Up.

“A sense of purpose and optimism is what brought me to America nearly 30 years ago. And it’s what drew me to Google and its mission to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” said Pichai.

Google’s digital skills program has also helped train 8 million Americans in all 50 states in the US. “We’ll invest Google capital and Google.org grants and provide our Career Certificate program. We’ll connect students to an employer consortium of more than 150 companies who are looking to hire workers with these skills,” Pichai noted.

It’s all designed around student success and they will receive all of this at no upfront cost, “and will only pay it back once they find a job earning at least $40,000 a year”. (IANS)

Incorporating Pleasure Can Lead To Safer Sex: WHO Researchers

Teaching people about achieving sexual pleasure can help sell safe sex messages, according to researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study found that programs using this approach improves condom use more than ones that focus only on the dangers of unprotected sex, the BBC reported. The researchers say enjoyment — rather than fear — is a healthy motivator.

Billions of dollars are spent around the world each year on sexual and reproductive health and rights services, yet many programmes do not address one of the fundamental reasons many people have sex — to feel good, the report said.

Anne Philpott, a public-health professional, set up The Pleasure Project — the group that worked with the WHO team — in 2004, as a result of the frustration of “endless Aids meetings where no one talked about people’s motivations for having sex”.

“Pleasure is arguably the most powerful motivating factor for having sex and yet has been absent from sex education or sexual-health interventions,” Philpott said.

“If you ask most people, ‘Did your sex education equip you for your relationships and sex lives?’ they will say, ‘No’,” she added.

Globally, a million sexually transmitted infections are acquired every day, the majority without symptoms. Using a condom can protect against these, as well as prevent pregnancy.

Philpott said condoms should be marketed as pleasure tools — as a way to enhance feeling and reassurance.

The researchers trawled medical literature to find recent examples of different safe-sex programs and measure their effects on behavior change. They found 33 projects promoting pleasure along with the safe-sex message, the report said.

And these tended to be more successful in terms of increasing condom usage than those that focused only on sexually transmitted infections and risk reduction, it added.

Teaching about pleasure, desire and joy alongside consent, wellbeing and safety are the objectives of a pleasure-based sex education programme. (IANS)

“Writing With FIRE” Nominated For Oscars

“Writing with FIRE” has become the first documentary from Indian filmmakers to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. Directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, the film is executive produced by long-time Indiaspora Friend Anurima Bhargava.

The nominations were announced live on the Twitter and official YouTube channel of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by Tracee Ellis Ross and Leslie Jordan. In a video posted on Twitter by Rintu Thomas, one of the creators of the film, she, co-creator Sushmit Ghosh and their families are seen watching the event live.

The heartwarming moment went viral on social media with fans and celebs both congratulating Rintu and sharing the video. Actor Ali Fazal shared Rintu’s original tweet and wrote, “This is HUGEEEE!!!!!! Congratulationsssssss.” Filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan also shared the video on his timeline and tweeted, “Congratulations to the whole team! This is amazing!”

Lyricist Varun Grover replied to Rintu’s tweet congratulating the team. “So well done, so wholesome. Congratulations and best wishes for the journey ahead,” he wrote. Fans noted how wholesome the video was. One commented, “The sheer joy on the filmmaker’s face. Congratulations.”

Directed by Rintu and Sushmit, both debutants, Writing With Fire chronicles the rise of Khabar Lahariya, India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. The film will compete against four other films in the category: Ascension, Attica, Flee, and Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).

The film shares the story of Khabar Lahariya, the only news network in India run by women, a group of intrepid rural Dalit journalists.  Hailed as “the most inspirational journalism movie, maybe ever” (Washington Post), the film won the audience award and special jury award at Sundance, the audience award at IDFA (largest documentary film festival in the world) and nearly 30 awards globally.

Armed with smartphones and the courage and conviction one must be born with, they investigate the incompetence of the local police force, listen to and stand by victims of caste and gender violence, and challenge long-standing, harmful practices that lead to injustice and intimidation.

Other nominees in the category are: Ascension, Attica, Flee, and Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).

Jane Campion’s gothic western The Power of the Dog led nominations to the 94th Academy Awards, where streaming services more than ever before swept over Hollywood’s top honours.

Campion’s film landed a leading 12 nominations, including nods for best picture, best director and all of its top actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Shot On Smartphone, Film ‘Pondicherry’ All Set To Hit The Big Screen

Shot on a smartphone, the film ‘Pondicherry’ is all about its beaches, natural beauty, French houses, people and culture of the city. Directed by Sachin Kundalkar, the film features Sai Tamhankar, Vaibhav Tatwawadi, Amruta Khanvilkar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Neena Kulkarni, Gaurav Ghatnekar and Tanmay Kulkarni. And the credit for making it unique with it’s photography goes to the DOP Milind Jog.

The launch of the trailer of the most awaited film ‘Pondicherry’ took place in Mumbai in Pondicherry Cafe.

Actress Amruta Khanvilkar, in the context of her role in the film, says: “The story attracted me the most and undoubtedly Sachin Kundalkar is one of the finest story tellers. I have thoroughly loved the depth of my character and the uniqueness of the film which is shot through a smartphone. In fact we shot with a limited crew which was a challenge for each one of us, but as said it’s all worth it in the end when the team has worked with all their heart.”

On the other hand actress Sai Tamhankar, expresses her happiness to be part of the movie. She talks about her character and what makes this movie different.

She adds: “I feel extremely blessed to bag such a brilliant film and this powerful character. Beauty of my character Nikita is ‘woman of few words & more of action’. Also, working with co-stars who are outstanding in portraying their roles, makes me even more inspired. It feels so good to bounce back with a fresh story line with one of my favourite filmmakers, Sachin Kundalkar.”

“I love the way he narrates his stories and the treatment Sachin gives and weaves his characters. The process of this film is something that has changed me in and out and for the better . It’s a film made on an Iphone (smartphone) with a crew of 15 people and an actor without (hair, makeup, assistant, chauffeur) any kind of assistance: truly a liberating experience!,” she shares.

Actor Vaibhav Tatwawadi shares why he took up the opportunity and what he liked most about this film. He says: “Coming up with a story based on the town of Pondicherry caught my attention at first. The stunning frames, brilliant direction and portrayal of the entire film are something new to be watched for viewers.”

Director Sachin Kundalkar gives insight into the idea behind the movie and appreciates Milind Jog for the way he shot the entire film.

He says: “This film brings different subjects altogether. The film may sound like a love triangle from the teaser, the theme of the same is way beyond that. Since this whole movie was shot on mobile, the obvious technical difference can be noticed. But, to maintain that balance and feel we shot it pretty carefully and came up with a great creation. It also showcases the brilliance of photographer Milind Jog. Many versatile actors have come together to make the film. This unique emotional story will surely appeal to the audience.”

Presented by Akshay Bardapurkar and Planet Marathi, a Vistas Media Capital Company, the film ‘Pondicherry’ is written and directed by Sachin Kundalkar and produced by Neil Patel from Moh Maya Films.

Talking about the film, Planet Marathi Head and Founder Akshay Bardapurkar says: “We love working with innovative stories and direction to entertain the audience. ‘Pondicherry’ is a result of the same brilliant experiment. A different subject and storyline people will get to see in this film. The subject of the same is entertaining as well as informative.” The film is all set to release on February 25 in theatres. (IANS)

Made In India Perfume Launched In New York

A Made in India perfume from Uttar Pradesh’s Kannauj was launched in New York as part of the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ program on Valentine’s Day at the Indian Consulate in New York.

The launch of the perfume ‘Vikas Khanna by Zighrana’ was unveiled by the Consulate General of India in New York Randhir Jaiswal here. Perfume maker Zighrana said that it is delighted to work with an Indian cultural icon and intrepid entrepreneur Vikas Khanna for their first perfume. “This is possibly the first time that you have an Indian perfume from Kannauj (UP), that too, at a time when we are celebrating India’s 75 years of Independence,” said Randhir Jaiswal.

Swapnil Pathak Sharma, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zighrana, said, “It is an honour to launch the product here in New York. Coming from a small town, it is a dream come true. Presenting my city on such a global platform is a pleasure.”

“The new perfume ‘Vikas Khanna’ by Zighrana is a unique blend of spices like cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, sandalwood, jasmine and rose which have come to define the unique smells of India for more than a millennia,” the company wrote in its press release.

The Zighrana CEO said that the company will also launch a perfume dedicated to her hometown, the “perfume capital of India”, Kannuaj.

“Hailing from Kannauj, the perfume capital of India, situated close to the cradle of our civilization the holy and pure mother river Ganga, this new product is our humble attempt to capture the essence of Incredible India. Incidentally, the parent company of Zighrana has a family history of creating fragrances since 1911,” it added.

The perfume maker said that they have used precious ingredients like pure rose oil which is both resource and labor intensive to generate and it takes nearly 100 kilograms of flowers to make as little as 20 grams of rose oil.

The company has planned to come out with more distinct fragrances representing India’s history and culture. Moreover, the brand wants to bring their traditional attars to the US market and explore opportunities in the scented candles market.

US To Back India’s ‘Rise, Regional Leadership’ Against ‘Coercion And Aggression’ By China: Strategy Document

In a document invested with tremendous geopolitical significance, US President Joe Biden’s administration has outlined its Indo-Pacific strategy that would “support India’s continued rise and regional leadership” as Washington seeks to counter China’s attempts at global domination.

The long-awaited document released on Friday said, “We recognize that India is a like-minded partner and leader in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, active in and connected to Southeast Asia.” China’s “coercion and aggression” is acute “along the Line of Actual Control with India,” it said.

It said that as it continues to build its strategic partnership with India, the US will “contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific” – a region where China confronts the US and other countries. The strategy plan said that the US would “steadily advance our Major Defense Partnership with India and support its role as a net security provider.”

India was given the Major Defense Partner designation in 2016 and the two countries have steadily built it up with several agreements for defense cooperation.

The document prepared mostly by the National Security Council and released a year after Biden assumed office sets out the plan for the Indo-Pacific, a region that his administration had said was going to be the focus of its diplomatic and strategic engagement.

Other developments like the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the standoff in Europe with Russia that is deploying a huge military force along the Ukraine border have come in the way, but now the Biden administration is reinforcing its commitment to the Indo-Pacific even as it says a Russian invasion is imminent.

Its release in Washington was timed to coincide with the meeting in Melbourne of the foreign ministers of the Quad, the group of India, the US, Japan and Australia that is emerging as the linchpin of the US strategy in the Indo-Pacific.

The strategy document warned, “The PRC (People’s Republic of China) is combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological might as it pursues a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and seeks to become the world’s most influential power.”

A senior administration official who briefed reporters about the strategy document said that there was “a recognition that India is a critical strategic partner, and a desire to continue building on the very good work of previous administrations to significantly broaden and deepen that relationship.”

Working with India is seen “as a very, very high priority,” the official said. “There is tremendous appreciation of the importance and the challenges of strengthening the engagement with India and a recognition that India is a critical strategic partner,” according to the official.

Asked about the likelihood of a defense pact with India like the AUKUS – the alliance between the US, Australia and Britain – the official cited the different situation in India in regards to achieving such an agreement without explicitly ruling it out.

“Obviously, you know, India is in a very different place, in many ways, than Australia, than other countries,” the official said.

But the official added, “India faces very significant challenges. And I think that, you know, China’s behavior in the Line of Actual Control has had a galvanizing impact on India.”

“We see tremendous opportunities in working with another democracy, with a country that has a maritime tradition that understands the importance of the global commons to advance critical issues in the region,” the official said.

The official turned to the Quad as the vehicle for promoting strategic cooperation with India.

“Obviously, India’s role in the Quad, I think, is a very significant element of that, including the much-enhanced ability to speak frankly about issues in the region; to work together to deliver, you know, essentially, public goods that address, you know, challenges in the region, and to enhance ways in which we can coordinate,” the official said.

The strategy document promised to “bring together our Indo-Pacific and European partners in novel ways, including through the AUKUS partnership.”

“We will foster security ties between our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, including by finding new opportunities to link our defense industrial bases, integrating our defense supply chains, and co-producing key technologies that will shore up our collective military advantages,” it added.

Highlighting the challenge from China, the strategic plan said, “We will focus on every corner of the region, from Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, to South Asia and Oceania, including the Pacific Islands.”

“In a quickly changing strategic landscape, we recognize that American interests can only be advanced if we firmly anchor the United States in the Indo-Pacific and strengthen the region itself, alongside our closest allies and partners,” it said.

Injecting a note of urgency, the document said, “Our collective efforts over the next decade will determine whether the PRC succeeds in transforming the rules and norms that have benefitted the Indo-Pacific and the world.”

The document noted that many of the US allies and partners are also focusing on the region and support for enhancing US involvement in the region has support in the US across party lines.

The document acknowledges that the US illusions of changing China into a responsible democracy through engagement are dead. “Our objective is not to change the PRC but to shape the strategic environment in which it operates, building a balance of influence in the world that is maximally favorable to the United States, our allies and partners, and the interests and values we share,” the document said.

“We will also seek to manage competition with the PRC responsibly,” but will cooperate with Beijing in areas like climate change and nuclear nonproliferation,” it said. (From South Asia Monitor)

TiE Boston Kicks Off Silver Jubilee Celebrations With Fireside Chats With 13 Founders

TiE Boston celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2022, traversing the prosperous path of generating and nurturing entrepreneurs, in an ever-changing landscape of technology and finance, and mentoring entrepreneurs through unprecedented pandemic times.

What started as TiE Atlantic in February 1997 as the dream of 13 Founding Members and only the second TiE Chapter, has now grown into an unparalleled network of successful, serial entrepreneurs who are deeply engaged and committed to giving back to the community by providing mentorship, tactical advice, and expertise to rising entrepreneurs.

In 2022, TiE Boston offers a full slate of programming to cover the entire cycle of entrepreneurship, from mentoring young entrepreneurs and student entrepreneurs, to taking business to scale through its ScaleUp program that was recognized as the most innovative TiE program worldwide in 2021, investing in companies through its Angels program, and encouraging diversity through Women’s Initiatives.

The 13 founders of TiE Atlantic (TiE Boston), in 1997, were:

Sushil Bhatia, Ashok Boghani, Ash Dahod, Samir Desai, Desh Deshpande, Radha Jalan, Ashok Kalelkar, Ramesh Kapur, Ranganath Nayak, Mahendra Patel, Dinesh Patel, Jit Saxena and Rahul Singh. The founders covered a broad spectrum of professions including technology, medicine, consulting and manufacturing.

Desh Deshpande

Mr. Deshpande, one of the founders and the first President of TiE Boston said, “TiE started 25 years ago in Boston when Entrepreneurship was in a nascent stage. Twenty- five years later it is amazing to see its impact. It has nurtured many entrepreneurs who contribute billions of dollars to the Massachusetts economy and hire thousands of people. TiE is even more relevant today to keep the economy growing and create opportunities for every resident of the state that has been innovative for the last 400 years.”

Samir Desai

The second President and a founding member of TiE Boston, Mr. Desai adds, “I remember the early days and am very proud of everything that we have jointly accomplished in the last 25 years! The impact of TiE Boston is tremendous and continues to grow.”

Founding member, Ms. Jalan, says, “As a woman entrepreneur in the 90s, TiE gave me an incredible sense of networking and community. I am proud to have started some Women’s Initiatives for TiE Boston and feel a great sense of pride on seeing how well they have integrated women entrepreneurs into the ecosystem.”

Radha Jalan

Besides establishing a network of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals, TiE Boston members also boast of creating several successful companies. TiE companies globally have created over $250B in wealth with TiE Boston being a major contributor.

TiECon East, successfully held annually as New England’s largest conference for entrepreneurs, is TiE Boston’s marquee event open to the public and hosts key speakers from the ecosystem of successful entrepreneurs.

Anu Chitrapu

Presently, the TiE Boston Board comprises of President Anu Chitrapu, and 11 Board members: Thomas Arul, Asha Dixit, Anupendra Sharma, Emily Ladd-Kravitz, Venkat Maroju, Zenobia Moochhala, Sangeeta Moorjani, Shirish Nimgaonkar, Kiran Uppuluri, Geetha Sreedhar, and Darshana Zaveri.

On the occasion, TiE Boston President Ms. Chitrapu says, “The 25th Anniversary is a rallying point for our Chapter, and we’re planning to use this momentum for tremendous growth across all our programs in the years ahead.”

To commemorate the 25th Year, TiE Boston has planned several events to acknowledge the founders, sponsors, members and program participants. The first is a series of fireside chats with each of our founders. This ‘Entrepreneurial Pioneers’ series of fireside chats will kick off with its inaugural event on Thursday, February 17th. Register here for the Fireside Chat with Dr Radha Jalan, moderated by Geeta Aiyer. A grand Gala for members will be held in the summer of 2022. Over the course of the next few months, TiE Boston will bring together its Founders and current Charter Members to explore the history of TiE Boston, the road ahead, and unchartered paths decidedly taken by entrepreneurial change makers and trailblazers.

TiE Boston connects tomorrow’s founders with today’s entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists. Founded in 1997 by entrepreneurs who immigrated from the Indus region, TiE Boston champions inclusion in innovation by blending the fundamentals of entrepreneurship with traditional Indian values that place importance on community, mentorship, and long-term relationships. TiE Boston is one of the region’s largest and oldest organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem, focused on supporting entrepreneurs throughout their lifecycle — from ideation to creation, through growth, wealth creation and ultimately, support of future founders. The TiE Boston community encompasses students, founders, experienced entrepreneurs, angel investors, and venture capitalists. Its programs foster trusted, long-term relationships between its participants — span education, mentoring, networking, and funding.

Reach TiE Boston by email at info@boston.tie.org with questions. TiE Boston’s Interim Executive Director, Rowena Kay Mascarenhas, oversees the strategic planning, operations and programs, while Archish Mittal manages memberships and partnerships, Dean Walsh manages the TiE ScaleUp program, and Vivek Soni manages the TiE Angels program. For more information about TiE Boston, visit https://www.tieboston.org/.

In Reforming Catholic Priesthood, Pope Francis Insists On Middle Ground

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — With broad strokes and a balancing act, Pope Francis weighed in on the polarizing tensions in the Catholic Church concerning the future of the priesthood. While upholding priestly celibacy as “a gift,” the pope distanced himself from the “perversion” of rigidity while speaking at a Vatican conference on Thursday (Feb. 17).

As Catholic bishops and laypeople in Germany call for a reevaluation of official doctrine on priestly celibacy, female ordination and sexuality, conservatives look at the emerging discussions on the future of the priesthood with a mixture of practical and theological concern.

The sexual abuse crisis has crippled the church’s credibility worldwide and the number of men entering the priesthood continues to dwindle, contributing to what Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the head of the Vatican’s department overseeing bishops, called “today’s priestly crisis.”

Pope Francis insisted on the importance of viewing the facts “with the Lord’s own eyes” and not trying to avoid “the realities that our people are experiencing,” while at the same time not resorting to “a quick and quiet solution provided by the ideology of the moment or prefabricated answers.”

Speaking about “the fundamental theology of the priesthood”  at the conference, which was organized by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops and the Center for the Research and Anthropology of Vocations, Pope Francis identified “mercenary” attitudes that emerge during crisis.

While one side favors “established ways of doing things,” grasping at the past as if “this determined order could quell the conflicts that history sets before us,” the other pushes to raise “the latest novelty as the ultimate reality” and casts aside “the wisdom of the years,” the pope said.

“Both are a kind of flight,” Francis said. “They are the response of the mercenary who sees the wolf coming and runs away: either toward the past or toward the future. Neither can lead to mature solutions.”

Pope Francis “is always looking for a balance — no extremism from the right wing or the left wing — he is very much a man of the middle,” Ouellet told Religion News Service. The pope’s speech is “conveying this wisdom of balance in his spirituality and teaching,” Ouellet added.

During Ouellet’s opening address, he said the conference aims to be honest about the challenges facing the priesthood today, “where sexual abuse is only the tip of the iceberg, visible and perverted, that emerges from deeper deviations that must be identified and unmasked.”

He suggested a renewed appreciation of lay ministry, which could lead to a reconsideration of the role of women in the church “in a more open and sensitive way to the charismatic dimension of the community.”

The pope upheld priestly celibacy as “a gift” in the lengthy speech at the Paul VI Hall but warned that “without friends and without prayer, celibacy can become an unbearable burden and a counter-witness to the very beauty of the priesthood.”

Francis’ comments follow those of German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich, who told reporters Feb. 3 that he supported a renewed study of priestly celibacy and that for some priests “it would be better if they were married,” not only because of sexual desires but also to combat loneliness.

Marx is considered among the most outspoken supporters of the Synodal Path in Germany, where Catholic clergy, laypeople and employees are airing their hopes and expectations for the future of the local church and beyond.

Francis’ address highlighted his pastoral approach to the struggles facing the church and the priesthood today. Against the “perversion of clericalism and rigidity” the pope said he desired team “closeness,” seeking to live out the faith together in community, in acknowledgment of people’s real experiences and suffering.

“The people of God want shepherds” who offer compassion and concern, with Jesus as the model, Francis said. They do not want “clerical functionaries” or “professionals of the sacred,” he said. In offering practical tips to achieve this, the pope drew from his 50 years of experience as a priest and laid out a four-pillared approach.

Closeness to God is the first prerequisite, Francis said, and essential to “learning not to be scandalized by whatever befalls us” and to protecting ourselves from “stumbling blocks.” Second is closeness to the bishop, which while centered on obedience, includes “discussion, attentive listening and in some cases tension,” he said.

Pope Francis’ loosening of the Vatican’s hierarchical structures that bridled bishops has led to a vibrant uproar of opinionated bishops taking to the pulpit and social media to voice their views — sometimes in opposition to the pope. Priests should “feel free to express their opinions with respect and sincerity,” Francis said, but for their part bishops must “demonstrate humility, an ability to listen, to be self-critical and to let themselves be helped.”

The pope’s final tip was to seek fraternity with other priests, which he said requires patience and setting aside arrogance and envy. For those seeking a quick fix or fast results in the quest to reform the struggling Catholic priesthood, Pope Francis counseled caution.

“Sometimes it seems that the church is slow, and that is true,” Francis said, “yet I like to think of it as the slowness of those who have chosen to walk in fraternity.”

20 Countries Account For 80 Percent Of All Emissions: John Kerry

Stating that only 20 countries on the planet account for 80 per cent of all emissions, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry said, unfortunately not all countries are adopting scientific plans to restrict temperature rise.

“Unfortunately some of those countries are not yet adopting plans to do what the science tells us we do, which is needed to reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius and cut our emissions by 45 per cent in the course of this next eight year period,” he said at the 21st edition of the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) being held virtually on Wednesday.

Asserting that the climate crisis is the single greatest security challenge that the world faces, Kerry called for “monumental transformation” in the way “we deal with the concept of sustainability”.

“Given the population growth rate on the planet, the level of current resource utilisation is rapacious and not at all geared to the prospect of sustainability,” he said at the ministerial session on ‘Ambition and Action in the Critical Decade for addressing Climate Change and Realising Sustainable Development’.

Commending the ambitious goals of 500 GW renewables by 2030 set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Glasgow (where the annual climate change summit was held in November 2021), Kerry said: “The criticality of achieving that goal was very simple. It is the only way that India itself becomes compliant with the 1.5 degrees goal, which we all ratified in Glasgow recently.”

The session that was moderated by former Ambassador and Distinguished Fellow, TERI, Manjeev Singh Puri, was also addressed by Ministers of Environment from Canada, Norway, Germany, Finland, France, and Spain.

Before moving on to the next speaker, Puri, said he would leave for him (Kerry) two thoughts in terms of global action. “The most important thing is what you want to do in the USA. You may not understand the huge role model impact that would have. The best practices that you would do, for example, electrification of public transport, or the use of green energy or the fact that the coal would be wound down, each and every one matter and then for all of us (remaining countries) they become the comfort zones to turn to,” he said.

“At Glasgow, who announced India’s huge commitment on renewable energy, also spoke about LIFE, which is Lifestyle for Environment. We count on you again, as leaders, the Europeans, the Americans, the Canadians, and of course, all of use, in terms of Lifestyle, if we can move away from profligate consumption, I am sure, there is lots of action in the area of production in any case.” (IANS)

Madhavan B Nair Elected Chairman Of World Hindu Parliament

Madhavan B Nair has been elected as the chairman of the World Hindu Parliament which opens at the Kerala Hindus of North America (KHNA) Convention in 2023. The organizers said that Jagadguru Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s dream of creating a world Hindu Parliament was being realized by its starting out at the KHNA convention. Madhavan B Nair was unanimously elected to the chairmanship of the World Hindu Parliament by the governing council headed by G K Pillai.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s desire to create a World Hindu Parliament aimed at unifying Hindu societies across the globe and to give them a new sense of direction was being realized at the convention, said the organizers.

Madhavan B Nair is well known in the Malayalee diaspora as a leading social, cultural, charity activist and entrepreneur. Madhavan B Nair, also popularly known as MBN is an entrepreneur who is always on the move and actively engaged especially when it comes to serving the community. He is a Chartered Financial Consultant by profession based in New Jersey, USA. He is the founder and President of MBN Insurance and Financial Services Inc.

Madhavan B Nair was born and raised in Neyyattinkara, located to the south of capital city Trivandrum of Kerala State. He is from Thalakulam Kunnakode family and born to Rajyasree Bhaskara Pillai and Rugmini Amma. His father Rajyasree Bhaskara Pillai was a freedom fighter, Editor and Publisher of Rajyasree Newspaper during that period. He completed his Primary, Middle and Higher Secondary schooling from Government School, Neyyattinkara; St. Mary’s School, Pattom and Government High School, Kattathurai respectively.

From his childhood, Madhavan B Nair has been creative, curious and adventurous. Growing up, he found a way to turn these virtues into a thriving career. He started his career in late teens joining  the Indian Air Force as a Combatant when he was a college sophomore. Besides serving Air Force, he completed his graduation both in Law and Management from the University of Poona. He left Air Force to begin his career as a lawyer. He was a Resource person for the Department of Commerce & Management, Kerala University for almost a decade until he moved to USA. He moved up in the ladder through furthering his education and developed his personality holistically.

He was fortunate to experience wide variety of life situations and challenges. He earned Cochin Stock Exchange professional membership and started Share Broking and Portfolio management in the name of Grand Jury Invest and Finance Ltd. It was doing wonderful. In fact, the Harshad Mehta Scam has compelled him to change the profession to education. The stock market was not modernized then.  This has directed him to go to the USA for business exploration. Here again with his full exposure in the financial market he was compelled to accept a beautiful offer from MetLife to explore the Asian Indian Market. He earned ChFC designation from American College of Insurance and Financial Services, Bryn Mawr,  Pennsylvania. As a chartered financial consultant, he performed well and excelled to top 1% of the industry.

Madhavan B Nair is known for his skill on financial optimization using insurance to recover loss opportunity cost. He uses financial models  to reduce the risk and maximizing the returns in a predictable and measurable way using insurance concepts.. He and his team successfully served the community as on date along with active participation in the community activities.

He is actively involved in socio-cultural activities locally, nationally and  internationally. His services has been acknowledged and appreciated by various entities. He was the President of FOKANA during the period 2018-2020. FOKANA is a premier umbrella association, formed in 1984,  consist of  more than 60 Kerala Associations from the whole of USA  and Canada. FOKANA touches  almost half a million  Malayalee families. During the period of 2018-2020 Kerala faced Hurricane and flood catastrophe. Under his presidentship FOKANA did a commendable service during and after the catastrophe. He was instrumental for rebuild Kerala  and life mission initiatives like Bhavanam project along with Bhavanam foundation of Kerala representing FOKANA. During this time his service was greatly recognized by national and international entities.

He founded NAMAM in 2010. It is one of the vibrant associations in North America. He also formed MBN Foundation in the year 2017 as a philanthropic organization with the objective of promoting skills to bring the best within students and also promote early awareness to prevent breast cancer. It is committed to the benefit of the community at large. He actively  contributed and contributing  his service in various capacities in various organizations. He can be reached madhavanbnair@yahoo.com or  732 333 3952.

SWERA Team Holds Historic Event Celebrating Lohri

SWERA, an organization changing the lives of socio-economically disadvantaged women, hosted its annual Lohri festival celebrations on Feb 12th,2022 at Atlantis Banquets, in Arlington Heights, IL. The highlights of the event were the beautiful cultural extravaganza put together by the SWERA team led by Jasbir Kaur Mann. Jasbir Kaur, who was one of the anchors at the event as well explained the significance of the Lohri festival and how the new concept of gender equality needs to be promoted and followed all over the world.

The festival of Lohri holds great significance as it marks the harvest of the rabi crops and the end of winter days. In Northern India, Lohri is usually celebrated with a bonfire. The lighting of a bonfire during this festival is an old tradition. Ancient people lit the bonfire to welcome the return of longer days.

The event was very well anchored by Jasbir kaur mann, nikki Sekhon, Gurmukh Singh Bhullar, Jasbir S Sanghera and Paramvir Kaur. The event started with Shabad Kirtan by the kids of Gurmat School followed by singing and dancing by many artists from all over the Midwest.

The event was graced by Mr. Ranjit Singh from Indian Consulate in Chicago, who addressed the audience and explained the significance of the Lohri festivities and importance of preserving our cultural heritage. Other speakers at the event were Satnam S Aulukh and Hemant Bhalla.

The event also featured the internationally acclaimed artist Anita Lerche, who is a Billboard Top-5 Charting award-winning singer and songwriter. She originates from Denmark and currently lives in Indianapolis.  Known as ‘Heer from Denmark’ she was the first non-Asian woman from the West to release an album in Punjabi in 2006.

After more than a decade on the South Asian music scene she was honored to receive the ‘Special Contribution Award’ at the UK Bhangra Awards, 2019. She also won her Global Music Award ,2021 for Best Female Vocalist for her latest solo album “Love is my Religion”.

SWERA provides a variety of services to the community that includes group mentoring through seminars and workshops on awareness of character development, mental wellness and civil rights and providing basic needs like books, clothes and other necessary supplies for vocational education through support groups. It also facilitates training in women empowerment and collaboration with other nonprofit organizations to enhance skills for entrepreneurship and employment.

Americans Less Likely To Have Sex, Partner Up And Get Married Than Ever

Valentine’s Day is a day of love, a special day on which we’re supposed to make sure that those around us know how much we care for them. But on this day when Cupid is supposed to strike us with his arrow, there are several reasons to think “love” (by its many definitions) isn’t what it once was in the United States, for better or for worse.

Indeed, here are four potentially troubling statistics and one potentially positive sign about love in the US. We’re at a 30-year low for sex

Twenty-six percent of Americans ages 18 and up didn’t have sex once over the past 12 months, according to the 2021 General Social Survey. You might think this is just a pandemic effect, but it’s part of a long-term trend. The two years with next-highest percentage of adults saying they didn’t have sex once in the past year were 2016 (23%) and 2018 (23%) — the last two times the survey was conducted. Before 2004, the highest percentage of Americans who said they hadn’t had sex in the past year was 19%.

Last year’s survey was also the first time that the percentage of Americans who had sex once a month or less topped 50%. In 1989, 35% of American adults had sex once a month or less.

Some of this has to do with fewer people getting married and an aging population, but that doesn’t explain all of it. Among married couples under the age of 60, 26% had sex once a month or less in 2021. In 1989, it was 12%. The 1980s really were better for sex.

We’re at a 30-year low for living together: Fewer people are living together with a partner.

It’s not just about sex. Some 62% of Americans ages 25 to 54 lived with a partner or were married, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center study of 2019 US Census Bureau data. This included 53% who were married and 9% who were cohabitating. That’s well below the 71% of couples who lived together in 1990, with 67% married and 4% cohabitating.

You might think the growing share of unmarried people living without a spouse is due to rising educational levels among women who don’t need the financial support of a man. The statistics tell a different story, though. Better educated people and higher wage earners are the most likely to live with a partner or be married. A lot of people won’t get married if they don’t think it’s financially feasible, according to Pew polling.

There’s also been a higher increase in unmarried men living alone (10 points) than women (7 points) compared to the 1990 baseline.

Partnership is at a low, not just marriage Could it just be the case that people are still in relationships, but don’t want to be tied down by either living together or being married? Yes, but the statistics suggest something else is cooking.

The General Social Survey has, on and off since 1986, asked participants whether they had a steady partner. This past year, 30% of adults ages 25 to 54 (the same age bracket as the Pew study) indicated that they did not have a steady partner. In 1986, it was 20%. In fact, the percentage of 25- to 54-year-olds who said they didn’t have a steady partner never topped 23% prior to the 2010s. It’s been 25% or above in every survey since.

Interestingly, as the population ages and more Baby Boomers have gotten above the age of 55, the percentage of older folks in a relationship has stayed fairly steady — in the mid-to-high 60s on average.

That means this trend toward singledom is more about young people than older people. It’s the same with sex: The percentage of those age 55 and older not having any sex in the last year (40%) is about the same as it was 30 years ago.

Many Americans Didn’t Get Their Partner A Card For Valentine’s Day

Of course, the reason love is on my mind is that today is Valentine’s Day. Love is supposed to be in the air.  A 2022 Monmouth University poll found, however, that a mere 55% of Americans in relationships usually receive a Valentine’s Day card from their partner. Combine the other 45% with the over 30% of all American adults without a partner, and most people aren’t getting a card from a partner this year.

Once again, it’s among the younger generation where love seems to be less in the air. The clear majority (64%) of Americans ages 55 and older who are in a relationship say they usually get a card from their partner. This drops to 57% among those ages 35 to 54 and a mere 41% in my age bracket (18-34).

It shouldn’t be that hard to do Valentine’s Day right. Our partners really don’t want that much from us. Just 4% want an expensive gift more than anything else for Valentine’s Day. The majority across age brackets yearn for a simple gift like chocolates or to spend the night at home with their partner doing a favorite activity.

The divorce rate is dropping

If there is one thing good about declining marriage and partner rates, it’s that it seems people are less likely to run headlong into a marriage that has a high probability of failing.

The rate of divorces and annulments was at its lowest level this century in 2019, according to the CDC/NCHS National Vital Statistics System. There were 2.7 divorces and annulments per 1,000 people in the population. That’s down from 4 per 1,000 in the year 2000.

It shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, that the divorce rate among young adults has seen the sharpest drop. This is the group that is least likely to marry, and those who do seem to be doing a better job of going into a marriage that has a good chance of succeeding.

Maybe one day I’ll be one of those lucky ones in a successful marriage. A boy can hope. Can’t he?

Senior Friendship Group Celebrates Valentine’s Day With Fun And Devotion

Senior Friendship Group Chicago celebrated Valentine’s Day on Feb 13th at Honest Restaurant in Niles, IL. The program started with President Harshad Parekh welcoming everybody.

Group President Harshad Parekh gave inaugural remarks and briefed everyone about the group’s past and future activities. He introduces Pinky Thakkar Chairwoman and founder of Senior Friendship Group Chicago. Group member Smita Parekh sang some melodious chants and created a beautiful devotional atmosphere. Everyone looked beautiful dressed ok the colors of love pink and red.

Members celebrating their birthday in January and February were congratulated on their special days.  Some members were also presented with awards for their excellent community service and leadership qualities. Award winning members included Ashwin Majumdar, Suresh Amin, Haribhai Lilabem Thakkar, Pinky Thakkar, Aruna Patel and Dilip Patel. Awards were presented by Arvind Patel.

“On this Valentine’s Day, I want to express my love and affection for my caring family and friends. I want to tell my husband Dinesh Thakkar how fortunate I am to have him in my life as my best friend and a wonderful life partner. I want to thank him for the love and support, and I look forward to celebrating our bond together for years and years to come. Happy Valentine’s Day”! Said by Pinky Thakkar

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, Slated For Release On July 1st

The anticipation for R Madhavan’s much-awaited directorial debut is thick in the air! The larger-than-life trailer of his biographical drama Rocketry: The Nambi Effect already has the internet waiting with bated breath to watch the film on 70MM. Today, the actor-turned-filmmaker announced a new release date for his film.

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is now slated for a worldwide theatrical release on 1st July 2022. The movie has been shot simultaneously in multiple languages including Hindi, Tamil and English, and will also be released in Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. While R Madhavan will be seen in the skin of the eponymous Nambi Narayanan, he has also directed, produced and written the film.

With a powerful ensemble star cast comprising of acclaimed international actors Phyllis Logan, Vincent Riotta, Ron Donaiche along with Simran, Rajit Kapur, Ravi Raghavendra, Misha Ghoshal, Gulshan Grover, Karthik Kumar and Dinesh Prabhakar, the movie will see special appearances by superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Suriya. Tracing the life of Indian scientist Nambi Narayanan, a former ISRO scientist and aerospace engineer who was caught in the throes of a spy scandal, the biographical drama will unveil the truth behind the mystery. The music has been composed by Sam CS in India.

The movie has already piqued the interest of the audience with its trailer taking the internet by storm. Touted to be Madhavan’s biggest movie yet, fans are awaiting his return to the big screen after three years, especially given his never-seen-before avatar. Staged on a mammoth scale, the film has been shot in India, France, Canada, Georgia, Serbia and Russia.

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect is being produced by TriColour films, Varghese Moolan Pictures and 27th Investments. The film is being distributed by UFO Moviez and AGS Cinemas in India and will be distributed internationally by Yash Raj Films and Phars Film Co.

Thousands Join The Campaign Against Anti-Conversion Laws In India

Many prominent citizens in India demanded for a Repeal of All Anti-Conversion Laws in India, in the context of the Anti-Conversion Bill scheduled to be tabled in Karnataka Upper House on February 14, 2022. The initial signatories for the Petition to the President of India included nationally well known citizens like:

Admiral L Ramdas (Former Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy), Mallika Sarabhai (Accomplished dancer & choreographer),  Medha Patkar (NAPM), Anand Patwardhan (Film Maker),  Mani Shankar Aiyar (Former Minister), Prof. Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd (Writer, Academician), Rev. Peter Machado (Archbishop of Bangalore), Margaret Alva, Former Governor of Goa, Gujarat and Uttarakhand), Teesta Setalvad (Advocate, Civil Rights Activist), K. Satchidanandan (Writer, Poet, Former Secretary of Sahitya Akademi),  Annie Raja (National Federation of Indian Women), Prof. Ram Puniyani,  Harsh Mander (Author, Social Activist), Kavita Krishnan (AIPWA), Dr. John Dayal (Senior Journalist, Human Rights Activist), Sandeep Pandy (General Secretary, Socialist Party of India), Tehmina Arora (Human Rights Activist), Brinelle D’Souza (Centre for Health and Mental Health, TISS), Susmit Bose (Musician), Irfan Engineer (Centre for Study of Society and Secularism ), Vidya Dinkar (Human Rights Activist), A C Michael (Former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission), and others.

While articulating that that a new Anti-Conversion Law is not necessary since the Indian Constitution has enough provisions for the same, the signatories also stated: `Wherever the Anti-Conversion law, ironically officially called Freedom of Religion Act, was passed, it became a justification for the persecution of the minorities and other marginalized identities.  The attacks on the minorities grew sharply in recent years since this law was used as a weapon targeting the dignity of Christians and Muslims particularly belonging to Adivais, Dalits and women.’ The petition called for joining hands to defend the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution and protection of human rights of the minorities and other marginalized sections in India. The petition was initiated by the National Solidarity Forum, a network of groups and individuals who started acting in response to the Kandhamal Genocide on the Adivasi Christians and Dalit Christians in 2007-2008.

In India, from the last few years there have been scattered and sporadic sub-radar attacks on Christian communities. Pretext made is that Christian Missionaries are converting by force, fraud, coercion or allurement. Population census shows a small decline in the percentage of Christians from 2.6 percent in 1971 to 2.3 percent in 2011. These Anti- Conversion Laws, generally called freedom of religion laws, are attempts to intimidate the Christian Community and the planned law in Karnataka is on the same lines,’ said Prof. Ram Punyani, the Convenor, National Solidarity Forum (NSF).

Ajay Kumar Singh, a Co-Convenor of NSF stated: `A Dalit converted to Christianity or Islam loses the reservation and protection from the State. The Dalit does not lose any reservation and protection if he or she converts to Sikhism, Jainism or Buddhism. It is a reality that the discriminatory dalit identity does not change no matter which religion one belongs to.  .  There are stringent penal for restricting the dalit and adivasi to convert to Christianity or Islam.  This law itself acts as an inducement to remain in Hinduism and violates the individual’s right to choose one’s own religion. It treats them as objects, who cannot decide for themselves.’

`The law disrespects women, and places restrictions for a woman to choose her partner. It is conceived with a notion that women in India are not in a position to think on their own and act on their own. This law is highly patriarchal. It is not acceptable,’ said Vidya Dinkar, human rights activist and a core team member of NSF.

Dr. John Dayal, senior journalist, human rights activist and a founder member of the National Solidarity Forum stated: `The Anti-Conversion Laws are not just affecting the Christians alone, they are meant for further persecution on the Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and women also in this country. They violate the basic tenets of the Indian Constitution and India’s secular heritage.’

`This law discriminates against certain religions. It is a violation of the principle enshrined in the Indian Constitution that all religions are equal. It is meant to strengthen religious conflicts and majoritarian nationalism in India. Moreover, it infantilizes the poor and gives the State power over matters that are deeply personal.’ Said Brinnele D’Souza, Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Thousands of people have already responded to the petition immediately by endorsing it and thousands of endorsements  are pouring in. The petition is available  on https://chng.it/gBYcGCPZyV

Supporting the petition, Margaret Alva, the former Governor of Goa, Gujarat and Uttarakhand, appealed: `the National Solidarity Forum is trying to collect signatures of people from all religions and backgrounds to dissuade the Government from passing this Bill. I request you to sign this appeal to withdraw the anti-Christian bill and such laws in other states of the country.’

Many political parties like Congress, Janata Dal, Aam Aadmi Party, Welfare Party, Socialist Party (India) and other political organisations have already come forward strongly against the Anti-Conversion Bill and the need to protect the Indian Constitution and the secular tradition in India.

FIA Leadership For 2022-23 Inaugurated

India’s Consul General in New York Randhir Jaiswal, in a private ceremony Feb. 9, 2022, administered the oath of office to the newly-elected executive team of the Federation of Indian Associations. The FIA President for 2022 Kenny Desai was sworn in to commit and fulfill his community organizational duties along with his 2022 Executive team, a press release from FIA said.

The new team consists of Himanshu Bhatia as the executive vice president along with Saurin Parikh and Haresh Shah, the two vice presidents; Parveen Bansal as the general secretary; Smita Miki Patel as the joint secretary; Amit Ringasia as the treasurer with Mahesh Dubbal as the joint treasurer.

Outgoing President Anil Bansal will remain a part of the Executive committee 2022 assisting the new President. Desai, a seasoned veteran community leader expressed his gratitude to the community and board for trusting him with leading the organizational efforts.  He assured he would deliver on the expectation of enhancing the community’s image and its selfless service and engagements.

On celebrating 75 years of Independence of India, Desai said he is committed to “a jamboree of blockbuster mega events” that will start with International Women’s Day celebration and carry on into October of this year.

The planned events include FIA’s cultural event of children’s Dance Competition on May 7th;  a historical inaugural launch of the festivities from Capitol Hill in DC on May 12th; Press events in India; International Yoga day in NYC; and the flagship event of flag-hoisting at Times Square, followed by the world’s largest India Day Parade on Aug. 21st on Madison Ave in New York City.

Bansal thanked his executive team and the FIA fraternity for the trust and confidence placed in him when leading the organization for two years thru some very unprecedented and challenging times.  He expressed confidence in his friend and colleague Kenny Desai saying, “Kenny bhai is (the) right candidate to carry the FIA flag and shine the pride and glory of our motherland and make our community and our brothers and sisters proud.”

The FIA Vice President Saurin Parikh, introduced Consul General Jaiswal who welcomed Desai’s presidency and expressed his best wishes. “This is the home of the Indian community and we welcome our community members here to work with us together for the betterment of the motherland and the diaspora” CG Jaiswal said.

Chairman of FIA Ankur Vaidya, who was joined by Jt. Secretary Srujal Parikh, Board of Trustees, and Alok Kumar, FIA Media Chair, congratulated Bansal and complemented his sincere dedication and contribution to the organization and to the community with his service.

Vaidya welcomed Desai and expressed his full support to him and the new executive team.  He expressed his gratitude to the Consulate for serving the Indian diaspora “selflessly to the best of their ability and capacity,” and urged the diaspora to extend the respect and credit to the Consulate for its efforts .

He also appealed the diaspora to give the due respect and credit to the consulate and its staff for their efforts to assist the community without interruption throughout the pandemic.

The event concluded at Saar Indian Cuisine & Bar, NYC, where Kenny Desai held a private reception for the FIA team.

AAHOA Mourns The Passing Of Jayanti P. (JP) Rama

AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel issued the following statement on the passing of one of AAHOA’s Past Chairs, Jayanti P. (JP) Rama:  “America’s hotel owners are heartbroken to learn about the passing of an AAHOA icon, Jayanti P. (JP) Rama. JP is the brother of AAHOA Founder HP Rama and past AAHOA Chairman MP Rama.

During his tenure at the helm of AAHOA, JP focused on building the association’s membership through awareness campaigns,  Town Hall meetings, and educational seminars, with sessions held throughout the country. He was known for being a staunch supporter of young people getting involved in AAHOA and the industry.

As vice chairman of the board of Auro Hotels, based in Greenville, S.C., JP focused on operations, purchasing, and design and interiors for acquisitions and new developments. Prior to Auro Hotels, JP was founding principal and vice chairman of the board for JHM Hotels, which was one of the nation’s largest hotel owner/operators. In 2017, the JHM Hotels’ name was retired and four new companies were launched to continue the family’s legacy.

The Rama family has given back generously in India by building a school, a water purification plant, and 200 homes for the underprivileged in their native village of Sarona. They also have contributed to the design and development of a children’s park and an eye hospital in the region.

In America, they endowed “The Rama Scholarship for the American Dream” with a gift of $1,000,000 which provides tuition assistance to college students attending hospitality school.

The family’s commitment to education continues in India, where Auro Hotels built and operates Auro University in Surat, a private university that is now known as one of the top MBA colleges in India.

While AAHOA is deeply saddened by this news, we know that his memory and contributions to this association and beyond will forever be a blessing.

We thank JP for his significant contributions to our industry and the lasting impact he’ll have on the many lives he’s touched throughout his life. We are thinking of JP’s family, friends, and everyone who loved him during this difficult time.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the nation, with Member-owned properties representing a significant part of the U.S. economy. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own 60% of the hotels in the United States and are responsible for 1.7% of the nation’s GDP. More than one million employees work at AAHOA member-owned hotels, earning $47 billion annually, and member-owned hotels support 4.2 million U.S. jobs across all sectors of the hospitality industry. AAHOA’s mission is to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners through advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, member benefits, and community engagement

Dr. Vivek Murthy And His Family Diagnosed With COVID

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy announced last week that he and the rest of his immediate family have tested positive for COVID-19. In a tweet shared Friday, the nation’s top doctor said he, his wife and his 5-year-old son all tested positive for the virus. His 4-year-old daughter, who first tested positive for the virus last weekend, is doing “ok” — saying she’s still congested and is hoarse from coughing.

Murthy says he and his wife Alice have mild symptoms, experiencing muscle aches, chills, and sore throat. His son has a runny nose and low-grade fever, but says is otherwise fine.

“Whether you’ve had COVID or not, whatever your beliefs may be, I wish for you the love of family & friends,” Murthy said in his tweet. “I know it feels like we’re in endless conflict. But we are brothers and sisters first with common hopes and common concerns. May we all find healing in the days ahead.”

“She’s doing OK. She’s congested, she’s having intermittent fevers still, and she’s telling us her throat is hurting her a lot,” he told NPR on Wednesday. “But thankfully, she’s breathing OK and she’s still smiling often, which makes us happy as her parents.”

Murthy’s daughter is four years old and not yet eligible for a vaccine. When he first revealed the news on Twitter on Tuesday, he wrote that while he wished a vaccine was available for kids under five, more data was still needed from clinical trials for that to happen.

Murthy spoke with All Things Considered about vaccines, parenting during the pandemic, and whether this experience had made him rethink how he talked to parents of young children in his role as surgeon general.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview highlights

On what went through his mind when he saw the positive test

I’ve been certainly thinking about COVID and talking to people about COVID for the better part of two years, even before I was surgeon general. But when it hits home, it always feels a bit different.

I just had this sinking feeling, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s four years old, she’s not vaccinated because there is no vaccine available for her age group.’ And as a parent, my questions were: Is she going to be OK? Could I have done something else to have prevented her from getting sick?

We have her wearing a mask in school, we take as many precautions as we can, but you know, my wife and I did feel some guilt, wondering if we maybe did something wrong that may have created more exposure for her. So that’s what was going through our heads.

On whether he feels frustration at how hard it is, even as the surgeon general, to keep very young kids who still cannot be vaccinated safe

In that moment, especially, but even in the many months prior to that, I had wished that we had a vaccine for kids under five. Thankfully, we’ve got a vaccine for children five and up, and for all adults. These under kids under five, like my daughter, are the ones who still don’t have that protection. I wish we had that. But I also know that we need to make sure we have good data and that data is thoroughly assessed by the FDA.

I do think they’re moving as quickly as they possibly can. They, in fact, took this step which is unusual of proactively asking [Pfizer-BioNTech] to look at the data for two shots, even though there’s a trial ongoing for three shots, because they wanted to know if there’s even a chance that the two shots had a good result for kids. They wanted to make that vaccine available as soon as possible. But the data wasn’t good enough to meet their threshold, which is why they now need to wait for three doses.

So they’re being proactive, like you’ve got to do during a pandemic. But the most important thing is we’ve got to make sure that vaccine is safe and effective, and they won’t compromise on that standard.

On whether this has made him rethink how he is talking to other parents of young children in his role as surgeon general

This emphasizes to me just how important the job of parenting is and how hard it’s been during this pandemic. It’s not like parenting was a walk in the park prior to the pandemic, but parents have just really had an incredibly difficult time during these last two years. And even though, you know, I’m the one whose daughter got sick on Sunday, there are millions of parents who have gone through this exact experience and had to navigate these issues, make decisions with limited information.

My hope is coming out of this that we can also do more as a society to support parents. You know, I can work from home, for example, my wife has a flexible work situation, but many parents don’t. And more broadly, I just hope we can recognize that while parenting may not generate a paycheck, it is incredibly important work and it’s hard for me to think of a job that’s more important than raising the next generation.

Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, Scientist, Researcher, Author, & Science Explainer To Deliver Keynote Address During AAPI’s 40th Convention In San Antonio, TX

“We are excited and honored to have Dr. Peter J. Hotez, an internationally-recognized physician-scientist in tropical diseases and vaccine development will deliver the keynote address during the 40th American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Annual Convention and Scientific Sessions planned to be held from June 23-26, 2022 in the beautiful city of San Antonio, Texas,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI announced here today.

Millions of doses of a new, cheap coronavirus vaccine will soon be available in India, thanks to the efforts and generosity of Dr. Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is also the Co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) and Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pedi, and his team of researchers, who have made the new CORBEVAX inoculation, which was developed in Texas with decades-old technology and little support from the U.S. government, received emergency use authorization last month from India’s drug regulation agency.

Unlike other vaccines in the market, Dr. Hotez and his team “don’t own any intellectual property.” While describing it the “World’s Coronavirus Vaccine” Dr. Hotez and colleagues say CORBEVAX is cheap and stable and could be relatively easy to scale — will be key to addressing global equity gaps. “That’s all we know how to do is make durable, low-cost vaccines for global health,” Hotez said.

“The presence of Dr. Hotez, a University Professor at Baylor University, Fellow in Disease and Poverty at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy,  Senior Fellow at the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University, Faculty Fellow with the Hagler Institute for Advanced Studies at Texas A&M University, and Health Policy Scholar in the Baylor Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and a True Friend of India at the AAPI Convention is a way for us, Physicians of Indian Origin to honor a legendary and celebrated champion of vaccines, who has developed vaccines for tropical diseases that afflict the world’s poorest people as he has devoted his skills, knowledge and experiences to help the world defeat COVID-19,” said Dr. Jayesh Shah, past President of AAPI and Chair of AAPI Convention 2022.

“AAPI is planning a historic convention in San Antonio to celebrate 40 years of AAPI that coincides with 75 years of India’s Independence. Excellent sessions and programs are planned!,” said Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention.

“Our physician members have worked very hard during the Covid 19 pandemic, and the 2022 convention is a perfect time to heal the healers with a special focus on wellness,” said Dr. Vijay Kolli, Advisor for the Convention. Accordingly, “some of the major themes at the convention include: Yoga and Meditation practices, Welcome kit with books & self-care supplies, A Personal Reflexology Session, Take home wellness routine, Ailment based yoga therapy sessions, Workshop on Spiritual well-being, Book talk with Yoga Gurus, including on the science of Yoga & Lifestyle medicine, as well as a unique opportunity to visit first of its kind in San Antonio, Aum Ashram as part of the Wellness session,” said Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, Advisor for the Convention.

Dr. Aruna Venkatesh, Convention Treasurer pointed out: “In addition to colorful entertainment, exquisite authentic Indian cuisine, esteemed yoga gurus and experts, who are planned to share their wisdom and leading the Wellness Sessions include: Paramaguru R. Sharath Jois, Sadhvi Bhagawati, Saraswati Eddie Stern,  Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa, Dr. Dilip Sarkar, Dr. Pankaj Vij, and  Dr. Param Dedhia.”

Dr. Hotez has authored more than 600 original papers and is the author of five single-author books, and has served previously as President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In 2011, he was awarded the Abraham Horwitz Award for Excellence in Leadership in Inter-American Health by the Pan American Health Organization of the WHO.  In 2017, he was named by FORTUNE Magazine as one of the 34 most influential people in health care, while in 2018 he received the Sustained Leadership Award from Research! America.   In 2019 he received the Ronald McDonald House Charities Award for Medical Excellence.

An ardent champion of vaccines going up against a growing national “antivax” threat, in 2019, he received the Award for Leadership in Advocacy for Vaccines from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.  In 2021 he was recognized by scientific leadership awards from the AAMC and the AMA. Dr. Hotez appears frequently on television (including BBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC), radio, and in newspaper interviews, including the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Convention offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin. The physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year.

Planned to have a limited number of attendance due to the ongoing Covid pandemic and taking into account the safety of the participants, including Physicians, Academicians, Researchers, and Medical students, “The annual convention offers extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” Dr. Gotimukula added.   For more information, please visit: www.aapiconvention.org  and www.aapiusa.org

ASEI To Honor Engineers, Scientists And Community Leaders At Its 34th National Convention Finale Awards Event

American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is hosting the awards event for its 34th Annual National Convention focusing on Sustainable Technology Innovations (STI-2022). This virtual convention was held successfully on January 15th and 16th, 2022 and an award event was announced to be held on Feb 27th,2022 with honorable guests Indian Ambassador to US Mr Taranjit Singh Sandhu and Indian Consul General San Francisco Dr. TV Nagendra Prasad. The keynote speaker at the virtual program is Dr. Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, Founder and Chairman, Sparta Group and Sycamore Networks, who will also be honored with ASEI Lifetime Achievement Award.

This convention comprising Aerospace Symposium, CXO Summit and Youth Technology Exposition (YTE) was put together by ASEI President and Convention Chair Piyush Malik along with Aerospace Symposium Co-chairs Dr. Shreekant Agrawal and Dr. Ajay Kothari, CXO Summit Co-Chair Surbhi Kaul and YTE Co -Chair Dr. Preetha Ram supported by tens of volunteers and over 35 accomplished speakers

The award ceremony for this convention will end with a finale awards ceremony session on Feb27 at 10 am (PST). where 10 outstanding achievers and those who contributed to ASEI growth and the society at large will be honored in addition to student winners of the YTE competition. This year’s outstanding achievement awards go to the following:

ASEI Intrapreneur of the Year – Shalini Govil-Pai, VP & GM, Google TV

Engineer of the Year Award in Technology /Cybersecurity- Bhawana Singh, Senior Vice President, Octa

Engineer of the Year Award in AerospaceTechnology /Robotics- Dr Sreeja Nag, Head of Software Systems Engineering at Nuro and Research Leader at NASA

ASEI will also honor others for their dedicated service to ASEI and Society as follows: Hari B. Bindal ASEI Founders Award – Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO International) & an ASEI life member having served on various ASEI committees over the past 8 years including Public Relations, Election and Awards

ASEI Service Excellence Award – Amrish Chopra, Cloud R&D manager, VMWare and ASEI Board Director who has been dedicated volunteer for many years and helped resurrect the ASEI monthly Newsletter.

COVID had brought our lives to a standstill in 2020 however there were numerous efforts that are helping us get back to normalcy. In the darkest moments, there were bright spots and ASEI will also honor four engineers for their service to society during those trying times with a Special “Engineer with a Heart” Award. Those are: Sanjiv Goyal, Entrepreneur and Angel Investor from Las Vegas for leading efforts of IIT Alumni through “United Against Covid” initiative; Yudhvir Mor, Vice President at Zuora in Noida who mobilized volunteers and efforts to help over 9000 women to find employment following traumatic loss of partner or parent due to Covid; Tarun Kappala, Technical Project Manager at SpringML in Hyderabad who took leave of absence to become an emergency ambulance driver to help victims and families during peak of Covid and provided exemplary service; Divya Ashok, ASEI Board Director from Silicon Valley who led the efforts from her organization Salesforce to organize executive support for two Plane loads of relief materials including Oxygen concentrators

ASEI President Piyush Malik said, “ASEI is a great organization providing a broad platform for the Indian origin engineers, technologists and young scientists providing wide networking and learning opportunities for all engineering professionals as well as to make them engaged in new technologies. ASEI is very pleased to recognize all awardees for their dedication, hard work, and exemplary contribution in their respective fields. We plan to continue with our tradition of acknowledging those who have made outstanding contributions in Science, Technology and Engineering and those who have done extraordinary work to support ASE and society”

Registration to the Award Ceremony is FREE. Pre-register at https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ej17j6pddbe7b23f&oseq=&c=&ch=

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals, students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guided by several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, and transparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships, and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan. Today, the organization also has chapters in Southern California, Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington, DC. For more information, visit: https://aseiusa.org

Rohit Sharma Is Country’s “Number 1 Cricketer:” Chetan Sharma Says

After naming Rohit Sharma as the Test captain for the upcoming series against Sri Lanka, Chetan Sharma, Team India chief selector, said on Friday that the right-handed batter is the “number one cricketer” in the country.

After naming Rohit Sharma as the Test captain for the upcoming series against Sri Lanka, Chetan Sharma, the Chairman of All-India Senior-Selection Committee on Friday said that the right-handed batter is the number one cricketer in the country. Rohit Sharma was appointed as the new Test captain of the Indian men’s team while veterans Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were dropped from the Sri Lanka series. “As far as Rohit Sharma is concerned, he is the number one cricketer of our country, he is playing all three formats of the game. The important thing is how we manage Rohit, cricketers manage their bodies. From time to time we will be in discussion with Rohit. If such a big cricketer is leading the country, we as selection committee want to groom further captains, and grooming them under Rohit will be tremendous,” said Chetan Sharma during a virtual press conference.

“It is hard to predict what problems can arise in the future, Rohit is fit and fine right now. We will give rest to every cricketer of ours, we want to give them proper rest. A body requires rest, we will see how things pan out and we will decide how will be getting the rest,” he added.

Further talking about Rohit being named Test captain, Chetan said: “Rohit was a clear choice of ours, we are very happy with naming him as captain. We will groom future captains under him, let’s hope everything goes right and if things pan out how we want them to, it will be really good.”

“If Rohit keeps leading for a long time, then it would be really good for us. But no one can predict it, as long as Rohit is available and fit, he will be the Test captain. When he wants to rest, we will give him the rest,” he added.

Washington Sundar and KL Rahul are ruled out of Sri Lanka T20 and Test series unless they recover early, said Chetan Sharma, Chairman, All India Senior-Selection Committee. Ravichandran Ashwin is subject to fitness as well. Axar Patel is still recovering in rehab and might get fit by 2nd Test match said, Chetan Sharma.

Earlier this week, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced a new schedule for India’s upcoming home series against Sri Lanka. The tour was supposed to start with the two-match Test, but now will begin with T20Is, with the first match being played at the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow on February 24. The second and third T20Is will take place in Dharamsala on February 26 and 27.

Following the T20I series, the teams will play two Tests, which form a part of the 2021-23 ICC World Test Championship cycle. Mohali will host the first Test from March 4 to 8, while the second Test will be played in Bengaluru from March 12 to 16. The first Test will be former captain Virat Kohli’s 100th Test match, while the second Test will be a day/night affair.

India’s Test squad for SL series:Rohit Sharma (C), Mayank Agarwal, Priyank Panchal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, KS Bharat, Ravichandran Ashwin (fitness), Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep, Jasprit Bumrah, Shami, Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Sourabh Kumar.

As 3 Canadian Colleges Shut Down, Indian Students Stranded

The abrupt school closures prompted scores of students to flock to the Indian High Commission in Canada for assistance, as many of them had been forced to pay up thousands of dollars in fees without warning, only to have their education halted.

Following the abrupt closure of three colleges in Canada’s Quebec that has left thousands of Indian students in a major predicament, the Indian High Commission in Ottawa has issued an advisory for Indian students affected by the sudden change in the status of their educational institutions.

The three colleges — M College in Montreal, CDE College in Sherbrooke, and CCSQ College in Longueuil — soon after pushing up deadlines for tuition fees and requiring students to pay up hefty quantities all of a sudden, issued a notice to students earlier this month that they were closing altogether.

Canada’s CBC News reported that all three colleges — run by the same recruiting firm, Rising Phoenix International (RPI) Inc. — have filed for bankruptcy. The request for creditor protection comes a little over a year after Quebec began to investigate several private colleges, including M College and CDE College, for “questionable” recruitment practices for students in India.

The abrupt school closures prompted scores of panicking international students from India to flock to the Indian High Commission in Ottawa for assistance, as many of them had been forced to come up with thousands of dollars in fees without warning, only to have their education halted.

“The High Commission has been approached by several students from India who were enrolled in the three institutions,” said the High Commission of India, in an advisory released on Friday.

“In the event that they find any difficulty in reimbursement of their fees or transfer of fees, they may file a complaint with Ministry of Higher Education, Government of Quebec,” stated the advisory, assuring students that there were avenues through which they could attempt to recover their lost money.

The advisory noted that the High Commission has been in close contact with Canada’s federal government, Quebec’s provincial government, as well as elected representatives from Canada’s Indian community to provide support to the affected students.

The students were also informed that they are free to approach the Education Wing of the High Commission in Ottawa or the Consulate General of India in Toronto if they require immediate assistance regarding the issue.

In addition, the advisory warned against making payments to any institutions that don’t have their credentials in order. “Students should not make any payments or reveal their personal information to any unverified person/institution offering students visa on payment,” cautioned the advisory.

Comments According to the application for creditor protection by the RPI Group, unpaid tuition fees and refund claims from 633 students against the company are estimated at nearly $6.4 million.

Dignity In A Digital Age: Making Tech Work For All Of Us

Digital technology has transformed virtually every aspect of human existence. We have online education, telemedicine, remote work, and e-commerce. Many of us spend hours a day online either communicating with other people, reading or watching media, or engaging in digital transactions. Yet there are several problems we must confront as we make this transition to a digital world.

Technology has divided us, fueled misinformation and disinformation, and accentuated inequality. Although digital tools make our lives easier and more convenient in many respects, they also challenge our privacy, security, and personal dignity. All those developments raise interesting questions about the future of technology and how we mitigate various problems.

To discuss these challenges, Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley area, in his new book, offers a revolutionary roadmap to facing America’s digital divide, offering greater economic prosperity to all. In Khanna’s vision, “just as people can move to technology, technology can move to people. People need not be compelled to move from one place to another to reap the benefits offered by technological progress” (from the foreword by Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics).

In the digital age, unequal access to technology and the revenue it creates is one of the most pressing issues facing the United States. There is an economic gulf between those who have struck gold in the tech industry and those left behind by the digital revolution; a geographic divide between those in the coastal tech industry and those in the heartland whose jobs have been automated; and existing inequalities in technological access—students without computers, rural workers with spotty WiFi, and plenty of workers without the luxury to work from home.

Dignity in the Digital Age tackles these challenges head-on and imagines how the digital economy can create opportunities for people all across the country without uprooting them. Congressman Ro Khanna of Silicon Valley offers a vision for democratizing digital innovation to build economically vibrant and inclusive communities. Instead of being subject to tech’s reshaping of our economy, Representative Khanna argues that we must channel those powerful forces toward creating a more healthy, equal, and democratic society.

Born into an immigrant family, Khanna understands how economic opportunity can change the course of a person’s life. Anchored by an approach Khanna refers to as “progressive capitalism,” he shows how democratizing access to tech can strengthen every sector of economy and culture. By expanding technological jobs nationwide through public and private partnerships, we can close the wealth gap in America and begin to repair the fractured, distrusting relationships that have plagued our country for far too long.

Moving deftly between storytelling, policy, and some of the country’s greatest thinkers in political philosophy and economics, Khanna presents a bold vision we can’t afford to ignore. Dignity in a Digital Age is a roadmap to how we can seek dignity for every American in an era in which technology shapes every aspect of our lives.

In India, Head Coverings Are Worn By Most Women, Including Roughly Six-In-Ten Hindus

In recent weeks, protests in India over Muslim headscarves in schools have gained international attention. The controversy began when a high school in the Southern state of Karnataka banned hijabs in classrooms, and demonstrations have since spread to other states. The Karnataka High Court has been deliberating the legality of the school ban and is due to issue a verdict soon.

Head coverings are relatively common among Indian women. About six-in-ten women in India (61%) say they keep the practice of covering their heads outside of their homes, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2019-2020. That includes a majority of Hindu women (59%), and roughly equal shares of Muslim (89%) and Sikh women (86%) – although the exact type of head covering can vary significantly among and within religious groups.

India’s adult population is 81% Hindu and 13% Muslim, according to the latest census conducted in 2011. Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains account for most of the remaining 6%. The Center’s survey only included adults ages 18 and older and does not show what share of school-aged girls wear head coverings.

How we did this

There are regional differences among Indian women when it comes to head coverings. The practice is especially common in the largely Hindi-speaking regions in the Northern, Central and Eastern parts of the country. In the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, roughly nine-in-ten women say they wear head coverings in public. In stark contrast, fewer women in the South say they cover their heads in public, including just 16% in the state of Tamil Nadu.

These regional differences are largely driven by Hindu women, as Muslim women tend to keep the practice of covering their heads in public regardless of what region they live in. This leads to large differences between Muslims and Hindus in the South in particular.

In the South, 83% of Muslim women say they cover their heads, compared with 22% of Hindu women. In the Northern region, meanwhile, roughly equal shares of Muslim (85%) and Hindu (82%) women say they cover their heads in public.

Within the South, the state of Karnataka stands out for its relatively high share of women who wear head coverings. More than four-in-ten women in Karnataka (44%) say they wear one, compared with 26% in neighboring Andhra Pradesh, 29% in Telangana and even fewer in the states of Kerala (17%) and Tamil Nadu (16%).

A majority of Muslim women in Karnataka say they cover their heads (71%), compared with 42% of Hindu women who say this.

Nationally, head coverings tend to be more common among women who are older, married, more religious and who have less formal educational attainment. The practice is also more prevalent in rural areas.

But in the South, age, education and other demographic differences are less of a factor in whether or not women cover their heads. Religion, however, does make a difference: Muslim women and women who are more devout are likelier to cover their heads in public. Among women in the South who say religion is very important in their lives, 29% say they cover their heads in public, compared with 18% who say religion is less important in their lives.

Headscarf wearing also varies by political affiliation. Even though some proponents of the hijab ban have been described as supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), women with favorable attitudes toward India’s ruling party are actually more inclined to wear head coverings in public than women who do not favor the governing party. This is true nationally, and in the South. Among Indians overall, 66% of women who have a positive view of the ruling BJP party say they cover their heads outside their home, compared with 53% among those who view the party unfavorably. This correlation may – at least in part – be tied to the fact that BJP supporters tend to be more religious.

India-UAE Fortify Multi-Faceted Bilateral Ties

Close on heels after announcement of conclusion of interim trade deal between India and Australia by mid-March, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with UAE will be a huge boost for Indian economy.  In a virtual summit meet commemorating 75 years of India’s independence and 50 years of UAE’s foundation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan witnessed the signing of CEPA.

The FTA with UAE is New Delhi’s second major deal after the India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) in February 2021.

Breaching the traditional timelines, expediting the talks, both countries finalised this early harvest deal in a record 88 days. Both the countries commenced the talks in September 2021. Three visits by the External Affairs Minister and a visit by Commerce Minister to UAE for negotiations laid the ground for CEPA. To increase the existing bilateral trade worth $60 billion to $100 billion merchandise trade, and services trade to $15 billion in five years, the CEPA envisioned to reduce tariffs initially of 80% goods and will extend to 98% of goods over time.

Besides enabling the two-way investment in trade and services, start-ups and fintechs, the FTA is expected to create 5 lakh jobs in gems, textiles, engineering, agriculture and auto sectors in India and 1 lakh jobs in UAE.

Introducing new structural changes and launching “Vocal for Local: Manufacture in India for the World”, a cumulative turn around in manufacturing sector Indian Government set the merchandise export target of $400 billion1 for the 2022. India is almost on reaching this milestone this year. Enthused by fledging manufacturing potential, India is aiming at $2 trillion exports by 2030- comprising of $1 trillion merchandise exports and $1 trillion service exports. The FTA with UAE will not only help in sustaining the growth but would facilitate access to attractive export markets for Indian goods.

In line with its ambitious targets, New Delhi has junked the strategy of signing trade agreements to join trade groups and shifted its focus on sealing bilateral FTAs with countries to facilitate market access and better integration of Indian markets to global supply chains. This FTA with UAE will eventually actuate India to conclude similar trade agreements with GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain), the UK, the EU, Australia, Israel and Canada on anvil.

UAE is part of the Greater-Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) and has free trade access to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Sudan and Tunisia2. With CEPA on roll, India can enter markets of West Asia and Africa.

Giving major push to its FTA strategy, the UAE is also planning to seal FTAs with eight countries including India, the UK, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Ethiopia, Israel and Kenya this year. Needless to say, enhanced economic cooperation is bound to foster a robust and resilient relationship.

India and UAE established diplomatic ties in 1972. But Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the country in 2015, a first in 34 years, resurrected the ties hinged on the pillars of energy cooperation, remittances and employment destination. In line with UAE’s “Vision 2021” which sought to diversify its economy, India and UAE harnessed a vision to expand the cooperation to different sectors. Subsequently, countries unveiled UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund. UAE pledged $75 billion to support India’s plans for building next generation infrastructure over a period of time.

The bilateral trade which mainly comprised of oil valued at $180 million per annum in 1970s steadily grew to $59 billion. Currently UAE is the third largest trading and export destination of Indian goods after US and China. UAE is 9th biggest investor in India in terms of FDI.

Since 2015, state visits by Prime Minister Modi in 2018, 2019 and reciprocal visits by Crown Prince in 2016 and 2017 reinvigorated the ties. In 2017, on the eve of Crown Prince’s visit to India as guest of honour for Republic Day celebrations countries elevated the ties to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Signalling trust and deepening friendship, UAE armed forces joined the parade becoming the first Arab nation to participate in the Republic Day march and second foreign military contingent. The first being the French contingent.

Aside the synergistic economic cooperation, the significant hallmark of India-UAE relationship is developmental partnership in J&K. Riled by abrogation of article 370, Pakistan has attempted to garner the support of OIC countries against India. Unequivocally stating that it is an internal matter of India, UAE cold shouldered Pakistan.

In response to Pakistan’s nefarious agenda to destabilise J&K, India roped in the UAE as a developmental partner. In October 2021, India hosted a high-level delegation from Dubai for signing a MoU with J&K administration for real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, logistics, medical colleges among others at Srinagar3. Giving a huge boost to trade, tourism and international connectivity, direct flight between Srinagar and Sharjah was flagged off.

As a follow up, commemorating J&K week at Indian pavilion of Dubai Expo 2020, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha travelled to UAE to meet business leaders to attract investments for economic development. He finalised investment commitments from Emaar, DP World and the Lulu world towards building of Mall of Srinagar, establishment of multi-modal inland container terminal and cold storage facilities and setting up of network of hypermarkets for handicrafts, horticulture products, fresh produce from J&K respectively. Clearly this mutually beneficial development partnership besides bolstering ties is a message to the World that India is keen of putting J&K on a growth trajectory.

Heralding 50 years of strong bilateral ties, leaders released a road map, “Joint India-UAE Vision Statement: Advancing the India-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: New Frontiers, New Milestones” for a future looking partnership. Multi-faceted partnership now revitalised by economic cooperation is leaping forward to consolidate such cooperation in arenas of culture, health, skills, education, global issues, defence and security, energy partnership, climate action, renewables, emerging technologies and food security.

Countries have also signed MoUs in areas like- economy, climate change and Houbara Conservation, Industries and Advanced Technologies, Low Carbon Hydrogen Developments and Investments, food security, financial services and Issuance of India-UAE joint stamps5.

Energy partnership has been key pillar of Indo-UAE bilateral ties. Additionally, UAE is also India’s first international partner by way of investing crude in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves Program, has committed to collaborate with India towards an equitable transition to low-carbon future. With UAE selected to host COP28 in 2023, countries have agreed to work closely in context of COPs, International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) and International Solar Alliance (ISA). With UAE joining the UNSC as non-permanent member for 2022-23, both countries resolved to “reinforce mutual support in multilateral areas to promote collaboration in economic and infrastructure spheres”4.

Modi condemned the recent attacks by the Houthi rebels against UAE. Reaffirming their joint commitment to fight terrorism and extremism, both the leaders emphasised the “importance of promoting the values of peace, moderation, coexistence and tolerance”. Thanks to UAE’s commitment towards moderation and tolerance, the West Asia fraught with turbulence and friction is witnessing a new churn. While Abraham Accords played a pivotal role in reshaping and integration of the region, the UAE’s role in bringing the countries has raised the hopes of new dawn of co-existence and peace.

India-UAE comprehensive strategic partnership and strong ties have paved way for a new multilateral touted as the “new Quad” comprising India, UAE, Israel and the US. Led by UAE, foreign Ministers of the countries held the first virtual summit in October to explore risk free economic opportunities in the post Abraham Accords era. As of now there is little to suggest that the new Quad envisages a strategic or security role. But India’s strong ties with UAE has helped it to overcome the traditional inhibitions to enter a regional cooperation arrangement in the West Asia.

UAE is home to 3.5 million Indian community with Indians being “largest minority ethnic group” making up for 38% of UAE residents. The intangible force of people to people connect and strong business to business relations have brought the countries much closer.

Indian diplomacy is certainly coming of the age by breaking the self-imposed barriers of staying away from West Asia. Maintaining strong friendly ties with rivals- Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India is slowly expanding its reach in the Arab region.

Breaking new ground through FTA, both countries have signalled their intent to consolidate the partnership with new optimism. Together with close collaboration and sense of purpose, countries have set a stage to usher into a new era of prosperity contributing to global recovery and creating immense opportunities for both economies.

Through an unprecedented outreach, both the countries have transformed a transactional energy cooperation into a comprehensive strategic cooperation. Now UAE is a vital strategic partner of India for the regional cooperation in West Asia.

A Nightmare 2021: The Year of Targeted Hate, Violence, Coercion, and Fear

Soon after midnight on 25 December in the old military town of Ambala Cantonment in Haryana, two miscreants entered the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, a landmark first built in 1848 and rebuilt in 1905. They shattered a statue of Jesus Christ at the entrance gate, throwing the head on the lawns, and damaged the lights they could reach. In a final act of hate and contempt, they urinated at the doors of the historic building that has stood through wars and the partition of India.

This terrible act of vandalism and desecration was one of sixteen acts of violence against the Christian church and community in India on Christmas day. By the time the year 2021 ended six days later, the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India had recorded 505 individual incidents of violence including three murders, across India. Some other agencies that document violence totaled a larger figure.

No denomination whether organized or a lonely independent worshipping family or neighborhood group, none has been spared targeted violence and intense, chilling hate, the worst seen since the general election campaign of 2014. The year 2021 saw calls for genocide and threats of mass violence made from public platforms, and important political and religious figures on the stage.

Uttar Pradesh, which was to go to the polls to elect a legislative assembly, topped the 2021 list with a record 129 cases, with Chhattisgarh at 74, neighboring Madhya Pradesh with 66 and Karnataka in South India at 48. West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, now a Union Territory, documented one case each. The North-eastern states as well as Kerala and Goa on the west coast did not record any case. All of them have sizable populations of Christians.

This was perhaps the third most violent Christmas the community has faced in India. On Christmas eve of 1998, 36 rural log churches were burnt and destroyed in the Dangs forested district of the state of Gujarat. The incidents were dubbed a “laboratory for right wing religious and nationalist fanatics.” On Christmas eve of 2007, another forest district, this time Kandhamal in the state of Orissa [now called Odisha] became the laboratory. Villages, houses, small prayer halls, large churches, and institutions were burnt, and people forced to flee for their lives into the forest. The violence was repeated a few months later. More than 100 were killed, many women, including a Catholic Nun raped, and close to 400 Churches and institutions destroyed. The Orissa government had identified the attackers as belonging to an arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh which had launched a massive hate campaign targeting the Christian community.

An analysis of the aggregated data shows that Christians were most vulnerable to attacks in the second half of the year, particularly in the months from August to December, the Christmas season. While October topped the list with 74 incidents followed by December with 64 incidents, August and September saw 52 and 50 cases respectively. The hot summer months of May and June were the most pacific (13 and 26 cases).

While three persons were murdered, in terms of other crimes enunciated in the Indian Penal Code, Coercion, Intimidation, Threats of violence and harassment of Christians was the most “common” crime with 137 cases, with arrest by police on fabricated cases close behind sat 81 cases. Of these, 17 persons were jailed by the police. Physical violence took place in 84 cases, while in 7 cases attacks on women were seen. Worship in churches of various sizes was interrupted or forced to stop in 65 incidents and 5 churches were destroyed. Critically for the communities in tribal and ~ 2 ~ other rural areas, there were recorded 36 cases of social boycott and ostracization, and 7 cases of forced conversion to Hinduism.

ICCR Scholarship Applicants For 2022-23 Announced

The Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR) has announced 100 Scholarship slots globally under the “ICCR Scholarship for Indian Culture” for pursuing study of Indian Culture such as dance, music, theater, performing art, sculpture, Indian languages, Indian cuisine, etc. for the academic year 2022-23.

Applicants are requested to log onto “Admissions to Alumni” (A2A), the Scholarship Portal developed by ICCR at http://a2ascholarships.iccr.gov.in/. This portal contains all the relevant information for the applicants including details of all State Universities, Central Universities and Institutes, colleges affiliated with them, courses available, availability of hostels, applications guidelines, eligibility criteria and other relevant information for helping the applicants in decision-making while applying for the academic courses of their preference.

Please carefully note the following:

1)   Application submission process will begin on February 10, 2022 and last date of submission is April 30, 2022.

2)  Applicants must be between the age of 18-30 years. Applicants have the option to apply to 5 Universities / institutes in the order of their preference of study. The admission, as far as possible,shall be given as per applicant’s preference.

3)  For academic year 2022-23, a 500-word essay in English has been introduced to ascertain English proficiency (While filling the application, the applicant has to write a 500 word essay in English language, on one of the topics / subject mentioned in the Portal). Besides, students can also submit their TOFEL / IELTS etc. Standardized Test scores, if available.

4)  Interested students are advised to visit university/ institute website and do thorough research of courses offered, eligibility criteria and general information about the university/ institute before applying for admission Students are also advised to refer to the University Handbook/University Grants Commission’s website etc

5)  ICCR will offer return economy class airfare to the nearest airport and train fare to the place of study, if so required.

6)   It is compulsory for all ICCR scholarship students to procure Medical Insurance policy with minimum sum assured for Indian Rupees Five Lakhs per annum.  Students can purchase medical insurance from any of the insurance companies of their choice. However to facilitate students, A2A Portal has two insurance companies for referral purpose.

Detailed guidelines on the process of applying for ICCR Scholarships are available on the A2A Portal http://a2ascholarships.iccr.gov.in/

For any further queries, interested students should contact the Education or Culture Section of the Consulate General of India, New York by email. Please send your queries to education.newyork@mea.gov.in or culture.newyork@mea.gov.in.

Lata Mangeshkar, ‘Nightingale Of India’ Dies At 92

Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, who died in Mumbai at the age of 92, was an Indian cultural icon and national treasure who made her name in Bollywood – despite only actually appearing on screen in a handful of films.

Lata Mangeshkar, who died on Sunday, February 6th after weeks of hospitalization, was cremated with full state honors at Mumbai’s iconic Shivaji Park bringing an end to a splendid and decorated career spanning seven decades. Just before the last rites, the national flag in which the body was draped, was handed over to the family members. Lata Mangeshkar’s brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar lit the funeral pyre of the singing legend.

A recipient of the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke Awards, Lata Mangeshkar was an icon of Indian cinema, having sung playback for an extensive list of Hindi films.

The classically-trained star rose to fame in India’s booming film industry as a “playback singer”, providing the singing voice to Bollywood’s lip-synching movie stars over the course of a career which spanned more than half a century.

For decades, the “nightingale of India” was the country’s most in-demand singer, with every top actress wanting her to sing their songs. Her records, meanwhile, sold in the tens of thousands, and she boasted a back catalog of thousands of songs spanning numerous genres and a total of 36 languages.

But she was also much more than her voice. Mangeshkar was a passionate cricket fan and had a love for cars and the slot machines of Vegas. She also rubbed shoulders with some of Bollywood’s brightest stars – and at least one Beatle.

Mangeshkar, or Lata Didi, as she was fondly called, came from a household that worshipped music. Her father Dinanath Mangeshkar was a towering personality in Marathi theatre. He acted, produced and sang songs in plays that would change the face of Marathi theatre. He was one of the foremost exponents of Natya Sangeet and an accomplished Hindustani classical singer. His mother Yesubai, an accomplished singer from the devadasi community, was one of Portuguese India’s (now Goa) most famous temple singers and dancers.

Born in September 1929, Lata was the first among her siblings – sisters Meena, Asha (Bhosle), and Usha, and brother Hridaynath – that ruled over Marathi and Hindi film music for decades. She was initially named Hema, but her father changed it to Lata after a character in one of his plays.

Their ancestral family name was Hardikar, but their paternal grandfather Ganesh Bhatt Hardikar was given the honor of performing the abhishek (ritual bathing of the deity) at Mangeshi temple in Goa, and they took on the family name Abhisheki. The late Hindustani classical maestro and scholar Jitendra Abhisheki is from the same family and a cousin of the Mangeshkar siblings. Later, Dinanath would adopt his last name from the temple, and call himself Mangeshkar. The name stuck.

Though Lata had started singing in movies by the age of 13 in 1942, it was her breakthrough performance in Majboor in 1948 that catapulted her into mainstream Hindi films. Her mentor was music director Ghulam Haider, who, the story goes, was so angry when producer Sashadhar Mukherjee rejected Mangeshkar’s voice for being “too thin” thundered to him that he would one day fall at Lata’s feet and beg her to sing in his movies.

Mangeshkar confirmed this incident in film historian Raju Bhartan’s biography on her. On several occasions, she credited Haider as her mentor. “He was the first music director who showed complete faith in my talent,” she said in 2013.

After Majboor’s success in 1948, she would achieve greater fame the next year when she sang the haunting “Aayega aanewala” in the runaway hit Mahal, whose music director Khemchand Prakash was later credited with mainstreaming another talent – Kishore Kumar. With Aayega aanewala, Mangeshkar had truly arrived, and was seen to have stepped out of the shadow of another film singing legend, Noor Jehan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Shivaji Park to pay his last respects to the singer and met the Mangeshkar family members and consoled them. He left the venue before the funeral.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister tweeted saying he is “anguished beyond words”. “The kind and caring Lata Didi has left us. She leaves a void in our nation that cannot be filled. The coming generations will remember her as a stalwart of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to mesmerise people,” he said in a tweet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said she remained the “most beloved voice of India for many decades” and added that her immortal golden voice will continue to echo in the hearts of her fans.

Lata Mangeshkar was cremated with full state honors

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, superstar Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, lyricist Javed Akhtar, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, among others, were also in attendance to pay their last respects.

One of the famous episodes of her life is when her music moved Jawaharlal Nehru to tears. On January 27, 1963 during the backdrop of the India-China war, Lata Mangeshkar sang Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon in the presence of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, bringing him to tears.

Subcontinent leaders, including Pakistan’s Imran Khan, sent their tributes to the legendary singer.

“With the death of Lata Mangeshkar the subcontinent has lost one of the truly great singers the world has known. Listening to her songs has given so much pleasure to so many people all over the world,” Imran Khan tweeted.

Lata Mangeshkar’s death has created a “great void in the subcontinent’s musical arena”, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said as she recalled ‘the empress of music’ with gratitude for her role in the Liberation War of 1971 against Pakistan.

Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari recalled the contribution of “genius” Lata Mangeshkar to Nepali songs as she paid her tribute to the singer.

“I am saddened by the news of the demise of famous Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar, who has also lent her melodious voice to many Nepalese songs,” Ms Bhandari tweeted in Nepali language.

Lata Mangeshkar, who belonged to a prominent musical family, also composed music as well as produced a handful of films. She was popularly known as the ‘Nightingale of India.’

In her melodious voice, Lata Mangeshkar had sung over 50,000 songs in 14 languages since her radio debut in 1941.

The central government has announced a two-day “state mourning” on the death of the legendary singer. The national flag will fly at half mast from February 6 to February 7 throughout India and there will be no official entertainment in this period.

Chalte Chalte: Lata Mangeshkar’s Melodious Journey Across Bollywood Epochs

Warbling her way into our hearts with the haunting and ethereal strains of “Aayega Aanewala” in “Mahal” (1949), Lata Mangeshkar became the definitive voice of several generations of Indian film heroines — from Madhubala to Madhuri Dixit, Kamini Kaushal to Kajol, Padmini to Preity Zinta, Sharmila Tagore to Sridevi, and countless others — in a wide range of melodic songs that will reverberate for all ages.

Filling the void left by singing superstars such as Noor Jahan and Suraiyya as a result of emigration or retirement, she overcame what Dilip Kumar once gently mocked as the “dal-chawal” flavour of her Urdu, to achieve perfect diction in that expressive language to fashion magic in the thousands of songs she rendered for scores of gifted music composers and inspired lyricists.

As the inevitable fate of humans stills the golden voice that was long an essential ingredient of a Bollywood film for seven decades, and helped many of these to be successful — Raj Kapoor, till the end of his life, was convinced that it was her absence that made his cherished “Mera Naam Joker” a flop — let us revisit Lata Mangeshkar through her songs for over the years, restricting it to one song per actress.

Even if we keep it to solos, leaving out the duets as far as possible, so as to focus on her superlative voice, which still makes it a tough task, not to mention highly subjective, given the range of her contribution.

Do we choose the pensive “Zindagi Bhar Nahi Bhoolegi Woh Barsaat ki Raat” or the daring “Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya” for Madhubala, the soothing “Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi”, the carefree “Panchi Banu Mast Phiru Mast Gagan Mein”, or even the redemptive “Jago Mohan Pyaare” for Nargis, the playful “Toone O Rangeele”, or the sparkling “Mere Naseeb Mein Tu Hai Ki Nahi” for Hema Malini?

Which one for Nutan, for Mala Sinha, for Rekha? Let’s try.

Madhubala: It was through “Aayega Aanewala…”, picturised on this actress, that Lata Mangeshkar’s voice came to the forefront, around seven years after her debut, and the Madhubala-Lata combine went on to produce magical melodies in classics from “Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi” to “Mughal-e-Azam”.

But, given Madhubala’s effervescent screen persona, let us choose the melody that shows her in a hapless and sombre situation, and shows the inclusive nature of Bollywood, and of India, the ‘hamd’ (a song composed in the Prophet’s praise) “Bekas par karam kijiye, o sarkar-e-Madina”, written by Shakeel Badayuni and composed by the illustrious Naushad.

Nargis: Raj Kapoor’s oeuvre had certain constants — himself as the star, Nargis as the heroine, Shankar-Jaikishan for music, Hasrat Jaipuri-Shailendra for the lyrics, and Mukesh and Lata as the voices. But Lata’s contribution to Nargis outspanned the RK banner. “Dil Ke Girah Khol Do, Chup Na Baitho, Koi Geet Gao” with the heroine, paired with the young and debonair Feroz Khan, in a challenging role in a film dealing with mental issues, is one worth listening

Meena Kumari: From “Mohe Bhool Gaye Sawariya” to “Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh”, the combination of Meena Kumari and Lata has given several unforgettable melodies to Bollywood. But their defining contribution comes in “Pakeezah”, the swan song of the gifted actress. It is difficult to choose between “Inhi Logon Ne” to “Chalte Chalte”, but it is the challenging “Thare Rahiyo” that showcases both at their best.

Vyjanthimala: While “Hothon Pe Daba Ke Aisi Baat” from “Jewel Thief” could be a strong contender, the success of Bimal Roy’s supernatural “Madhumati” owes a lot to its music, beyond the performances of Dilip Kumar, Vyjanthimala, Pran and Jayant. The duet “Dil Tadap Tadap Ke” is an evergreen melody, or “Chad Gaya Paapi Bichua” have their points, it is “Aaja Re Pardesi” stands out.

Sadhna: The heroine who popularised a new hairstyle had Lata Mangeshkar to thank for the songs that showcased her cinematic prowess, from the classical “O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi” to the haunting “To Jahan Rahega, Mera Saaya Saath Hoga”, but it is the haunting “Lag Ja Gale”, with the masterful music of Madan Mohan that will also evoke the impermanence of love and keep both in our memories

Nanda: The graceful actress with her endearing eyes also owes Lata Mangeshkar for the melodies that define her on silver screen, from “Kis Liye Maine Pyaar Kiya” to the “Allah, Ishwar Tero Naam”, but it is the sensuous “Yeh Samaa Yeh Samaa Hai Pyar Ka” that defines their collaboration.

Waheeda Rehman: Again a string of stirring melodies connect the elegant actress to the superlative voice from “Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil” to “Rangeela Re”, but it is the exuberant and carefree “Aaj Phir Zeene ki Tamanna Hai”, with that high-powered “Kaaton se kheench ke yeh aanchal” that begins it, seems a strong contender for their best.

Sharmila Tagore: From the soulful “Kuch Dil Ne Kaha” to “Chalo Sajna Jahan Tak”, the dimpled beauty found Lata as her ideal voice, but one of their best can be the full-powered, classical-tinged “Ab Ke Sajan Sawan Mein”, and the hidden affection it showcases.

Hema Malini: Again, from “Tune O Rangeele” to “Mere Naseeb Mein To Hai Ke Nahi”, Lata created magic in the musical sorties of the “Dream Girl”, but the one which stands out due to its setting, music and lyrics is “Ae Dil-e-Nadan” from “Razia Sultan”.

Rekha: While younger sis Asha Bhosle performed the best for Rekha in “Umrao Jaan”, Lata Mangeskhar was not behind for the diva as songs from “O Pardesiya” to “Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Ham” to “Aaj Kal Paaon Zameen Par” attest. But it is the rather challenging “Salaam-e-Ishq”, before the point where Amitabh/Kishore join in with that ‘alaap’.

Zeenat Aman: The vivacious, Westernised Zeenat was rather well served by Asha Bhosle (remember the rebellious “Dum Maaro Dam”), but Lata Mangeshkar was never behind as “Jiska Mujhe Tha Intezar” to “Shama Jale Ya Na Jale” show. It was, however, for a deglamourised, rural-dwelling Zeenat in the eponymous title song of “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”, which is a classic.

Dimple Kapadia: For this actress, who ventured into some rather off-beat movies after her comeback but performed with aplomb throughout, it is a toss-up between “Yaara Seeli Sili” from “Lekin” to “Dil Hoom Hoom Kare” from “Rudaali”, with their evocative music a perfect complement to that vigorous voice.

Madhuri Dixit: She was almost four decades younger, but still Madhuri Dixit found Lata Mangeshkar to be her perfect voice as “Didi Tera Devar Deewana” shows. But it is that exuberant “Dil to Paagal Hai” that shows Lata, nearly a septuagenerian then, still had an evergreen voice — as besides Madhuri, she sang for the even younger Karisma too

Kajol: “Yeh Dil Tum Bin Nahi Lagta” was Lata singing for Tanuja in 1968, and over a quarter century later, she was as fresh as she sang “Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye” for her daughter Kajol in the landmark “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge”. Take your pick from any song.

Preity Zinta: When you mix legends like A.R. Rehman and Lata, it will result in sheer enchantment. “Jiya Jale” is a song that stands out in “Dil Se”.

There are so many more — “Ghairon pe Karam Apno pe Sitam” picturised on Mala Sinha — which shows that Lataji could never be faulted on her Urdu pronounciation; “Dil to Hai Dil, Dil Ka Kya Aitbaar Kijiye” on Rakhee; “Tere Bina Zindagi Ko Shikwa Nahi” on Suchitra Sen; “Chori Chori Koi Aaye” on Poonam Dhillon; “Sheesha Ho Ya Dil Ho” on Reena Roy, and so many others that will remain testimony to her encompassing contribution to Bollywood.

Celebrating 70 Long Years on British Throne: ‘Remarkable’ Queen Elizabeth

The Prince of Wales paid tribute to the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee for the “remarkable achievement” of reaching 70 years on the throne. Prince Charles welcomed his mother’s wish that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, be known as Queen Consort when he becomes King.

He said he and his wife were “deeply conscious of the honor”. The Queen is the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, and spent the day privately. In a message marking the 70th anniversary of her reign, the Queen said it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla would have that title.

Prince Charles said in a statement: “The Queen’s devotion to the welfare of all her people inspires still greater admiration with each passing year.

“We are deeply conscious of the honour represented by my mother’s wish. As we have sought together to serve and support Her Majesty and the people of our communities, my darling wife has been my own steadfast support throughout.”

The Queen’s reign began when she was 25 years old, following the death of her father, George VI, on 6 February 1952.

The monarch said that, 70 years on, the day is one she remembers “as much for the death of my father, King George VI, as for the start of my reign”.

The 95-year-old said in a written message to the nation: “I would like to express my thanks to you all for your support. I remain eternally grateful for, and humbled by, the loyalty and affection that you continue to give me.”

The Jubilee is the monarch’s first without the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband of 73 years, who died last year.

She reflected on how much she had gained from support given “unselfishly” by Prince Philip and thanked the goodwill shown to her by “all nationalities, faiths and ages in this country”.

The Queen signed off the message: “Your servant Elizabeth R.”

Camilla, the future Queen Consort

Since marrying into the Royal Family 17 years ago, Camilla has grown into her role as a senior royal.

The path to public acceptance has been at times rocky, and at first Camilla was a controversial figure who was blamed by some for the end of the prince’s first marriage to Princess Diana.

In 1994, Charles admitted to adultery with Camilla, but said it came after his marriage to Diana had “irretrievably broken down”.

It was not until 1999 when she and Charles went public with their romance,

Since then, Camilla has won over a cautious public. She has been praised for championing her own causes and interests, including supporting literacy charities, animal welfare and organizations helping victims of domestic abuse.

Many have congratulated the Queen on this historic day, including Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron – three of the 14 British prime ministers to occupy No 10 during her reign.

Mr Johnson posted on Twitter: “I pay tribute to her many years of service and look forward to coming together as a country to celebrate her historic reign in the summer.”

His predecessor, Mrs May, described the monarch as “an extraordinary woman, who has dedicated her life to the service of her people and our family of nations”.

Mr Cameron said: “There can be no finer example of dignified public duty and service.”

Leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, echoed these sentiments, saying he would like to express his “deepest thanks” for 70 years of “unparalleled public service”.

The Labor leader added: “Her Majesty The Queen has been one vital and valued constant in an ever-changing world, representing security and stability for our country, during the ups and downs of the last seven decades.”

A message from the White House said the Queen had, over her 70-year reign, “strengthened the ties of friendship, shared ideals, and faith in democracy that forever unite our countries”.

The Queen used the eve of her Jubilee to directly address the unresolved question of Camilla’s future title.

U.S. National Debt Skyrockets Past $30 TRILLION

The U.S. national debt has surpassed $30 trillion, the highest it’s ever been, as borrowing surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data published by the Treasury Department on Tuesday.

National debt skyrocketed pandemic, but the nation reached the milestone much earlier than projected as a result of the trillions in federal spending being used to combat the pandemic, the New York Times reported.

‘Hitting the $30 trillion mark is clearly an important milestone in our dangerous fiscal trajectory,’ Michael Peterson, head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, told the Times.

‘For many years before Covid, America had an unsustainable structural fiscal path because the programs we’ve designed are not sufficiently funded by the revenue we take in,’ he added.

In January 2020, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the national debt would reach $30 trillion by the end of 2025. But it was reached much sooner due to the pandemic.

The $5 trillion used to combat the pandemic, which was used to fund jobless benefits, financial support for small businesses and stimulus payments, was financed with borrowed money, the Times reported.

The federal government now owes almost $8 trillion to foreign investors, led by Japan and China, which must be repaid with interest, according to CNN.

‘That means American taxpayers will be paying for the retirement of the people in China and Japan, who are our creditors,’ David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, explained to CNN Business.

The national debt has been skyrocketing since the Great Recession when the debt was $9.2 trillion in December 2007,  according to Treasury data.

But by the time, former President Donald Trump took office, the national debt stood at nearly $20 trillion, CNN reported.

‘Covid exacerbated the problem. We had an emergency situation that required trillions in spending,’ said Michael Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. ‘But the structural problems we face fiscally existed long before the pandemic.

Mike Pence Says, “Trump Was Wrong To Say I Could Overturn Biden Win”

Former US Vice-President Mike Pence has dismissed claims by Donald Trump that he could have stopped Joe Biden becoming president last year. In his strongest rebuttal yet, he said Trump was wrong to suggest he had had the right to overturn the election.

A mob stormed the Capitol as lawmakers met to confirm President Joe Biden’s poll win on 6 January last year.  Four people died during the riots, and a police officer who suffered two strokes while defending the building died the following day.

The two legislators, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, are the only Republicans on a congressional select committee investigating the riots. While censuring  the two, the statement by the Republican National Committee (RNC) accused the pair of helping to persecute “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse”.

The RNC appeared to suggest rioters had been involved in legitimate political actions but RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel clarified that it was a reference to “legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol”.

The vote was passed by an overwhelming majority of the 168 RNC members at their winter meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, reports say.

The committee said it would “immediately cease any and all support of them” as party members without removing them from the party.

Both lawmakers issued statements in advance of the vote. “The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon 6 January defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy,” Ms Cheney said.

They also received support from other opponents of Mr Trump in the party. Senator Mitt Romney tweeted: “Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol.”

‘I had no right’

Speaking in Orlando, Florida, Mr Pence was responding to Mr Trump’s comments on Sunday that he could have overturned the election if he had wanted to. Mr Trump has falsely claimed that the election was stolen by Mr Biden.

Days later Mr Trump said the select committee should be investigating Mr Pence instead of the rioters.

“President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone,” Mr Pence said.

“And [current Vice-President] Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”

Last May, House Republicans voted to remove Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership position because, they said, her criticism of Donald Trump prevented the party from focusing on upcoming elections.

On Friday, however, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution that will put Mr Trump, the 6 January Capitol riots and shifting Republican attitudes toward both into national headlines again.

The committee also did so in a way that will generate storms of criticism, by censuring Ms Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger for, in part, helping Democratic “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse”. Republicans say the line – added in a last-minute revision – was meant to reference individuals who protested the election results and not those who attacked the Capitol, but its inartful wording will ensure it is construed to include both.

The resolution is just the latest example of the grip Mr Trump holds on the Republican Party apparatus, even if polls indicate that the loyalty of some conservatives may be slipping.

The practical purpose behind the committee’s move is that it frees the party to shift financial support from Ms Cheney to her Republican primary opponent. The political fireworks were a collateral – if not unintended – effect.

The U.S. Is Considering A Radical Rethinking Of The Dollar For Today’s Digital World

Since its establishment as the country’s national currency, the dollar has undergone many updates and changes, but nothing compares to the proposal being debated today.

The U.S. is gingerly considering whether to adopt a digital version of its currency, one better suited for today’s increasingly cashless world, ushering in what could be one of the dollar’s most fundamental transformations.

In that scenario, the U.S. would not only mint the coins and print paper bills but also issue digital cash, or a central bank digital currency (CBDC), that would be stored in apps or “digital wallets” on our smartphones.

We could then use them to pay for things, just like we do with Venmo or Apple Pay, and no physical money would change hands.

It’s a vision of a cashless future that other countries are already embracing. China, for example, has unveiled the digital yuan on a trial basis. India this week said it would create a digital rupee.

Now the U.S. is weighing whether it wants to get into the game.

Last month, the Federal Reserve released a much-anticipated paper, laying out the advantages and disadvantages of a digital currency.

The Fed says it’s a first step, meant to kick-start an important conversation among policymakers and to gather feedback from average people to some of the country’s largest financial institutions.

So, how would it actually work?

Policymakers stress these are early days yet, and there is a lot that needs to be hammered out. All in all, the transactions conducted with digital dollars probably wouldn’t seem too different from existing private alternatives that allow us to pay for things by bringing our smartphones next to digital readers.

China, for example, allows digital yuan payments in the cities in which the country is piloting its digital currency, allowing citizens to make payments via an app set up by the government.

Reducing or eliminating fees is one clear benefit.

When you make a contactless payment today, it may seem immediate, but according to Chris Giancarlo, the former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a lot happens behind the scenes.

“My mobile device tells his mobile device to inform a whole series of banks, to confirm who I am, how much money is in my bank, that there is enough money to move from my bank to his bank,” he says.

And at each step of the way, there are transaction fees. In 2020, they added up to more than $110 billion, which was generally shouldered by businesses.

With a digital dollar, you could in theory eliminate those middlemen. If you wanted to buy a sandwich, for instance, you could transfer money from a digital wallet directly to a cashier.

It wouldn’t necessarily entirely eliminate nongovernment players. In China, for example, users who want to use the digital yuan can go to banks to add money to their digital wallets.

But just having digital dollars in circulation could put pressure on credit card companies and payment processors to lower fees to be competitive. That is, if enough people start using the Fed-run version.

In China, adoption of the e-renminbi has been slow given that private providers such as WeChat or Alipay are already pretty popular and entrenched.

Another argument for creating a digital dollar is to open up digital transactions to Americans who don’t have bank accounts. According to the Fed, more than 5% of U.S. households are “unbanked.”

Providing them with a digital wallet would allow people to participate in our increasingly cashless financial system.

It would also make it easier for the federal government to distribute benefits.. For example, having a digital dollar in place during the pandemic could have allowed the government to transfer relief payments directly into digital wallets.

What are the challenges?

Without question, one of the biggest issues is privacy. Because the Fed would implement and oversee the project, the central bank could accrue a vast amount of data, potentially giving it a lot more visibility into everyone’s financial life.

That could be useful to regulators who want to combat money laundering, for example, but it would also raise serious privacy concerns.

That makes it critical to sort out how much information the Fed would have, according to Raghuram Rajan, a professor of finance at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India.

“There will be legitimate questions about how much the government knows about each individual, and also, how much it can act to restrain activities by individuals,” he says.

Cybersecurity is another critical issue, especially given the uptick in hacks and heists at cryptocurrency exchanges.

To implement a digital dollar, the U.S. government would need to modernize the country’s financial infrastructure to stave off attacks.

A digital version of the Chinese yuan is displayed during a trade fair in Beijing in September. China is among a handful of countries that are experimenting with national digital currencies.

So what’s next?

Fed Chair Jerome Powell and his colleagues are moving ahead cautiously and methodically.

The Fed is in the process of soliciting feedback from the public after releasing its paper last month. And last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston released preliminary results of its ongoing research into the technological challenges associated with implementing a digital currency in the U.S.

It would take five to 10 years to introduce a digital currency in the U.S., several experts say, but they argue policymakers can’t sit idly by.

There is concern that by moving slowly, the U.S. is letting other countries shape standards for national digital currencies, and the popularity of the dollar could be diminished.

After all, for decades, it has been the world’s primary reserve currency, meaning many countries hold their reserves in U.S. dollars.

But Powell has made it clear he’s in no hurry. Last year, a reporter asked the central banker whether he was worried the U.S. was falling behind countries like China.

“I think it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast,” he replied.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: How to Reunite India

Unity in diversity is a phrase we all picked up in our school years. Enjoying the Ramlila festivities for the ten days to Vijayadashami ran parallel to watching the Tazia processions or the Jaina processions with slogans of Vande Viram (Hail Lord Mahavira), the celebrations of Dalits on the day Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, and the celebration of Christmas. These diversity experiences were deeply rooted in how Indians marked various festivals—it was experiential, not just in the realm of theory.

In Indian society, diversity goes as far back as the imagination can. Christianity is older in India than many countries with far larger Christian populations. Right in the seventh century, Islam became a part of this land. The Shaka, Kushana, Hunas, and Greeks added their flavours to our culture. How did diversity become so deep-rooted in our culture? While there was ethnic strife, the social conditions settled into coexistence and harmony between religious streams.

The Ashokan edicts ask for mutual respect between members of different religions (which included Buddhism, Brahmanism, Jainism, and the Ajivikas). Much later, the Mughal ruler Akbar promoted Deen-e-Ilahi and Sulh-e-Kul. In his book Majma Ul Baharayn, Dara Shukoh described India as a vast ocean made of two seas, Hinduism and Islam.

The Bhakti saints such as Kabir, Ramdeo Baba peer, Tukaram, Namdeo and Narsi Mehta drew followers from Hindus and Muslims. Sufi saints such as Nizamuddin Auliya, Muin al-Din Chishti, and Haji Malang became part of the Indian ethos. These saints embraced all the people irrespective of their religion and caste. They melded with the local culture fully.

 During the colonial period, divisive tendencies in the name of religion reared their head due to the British policy of divide and rule. The elite sections of society initiated and encouraged these tendencies. However, they were overshadowed by the integrative and all-inclusive freedom movement. It is here that the magical interpretation of Hinduism by Gandhi succeeded in mobilising people of all religions within the single thread of Indian nationalism. The charisma of Gandhi’s movements left a deep impression on people of all faiths. People recited shlokas from the Gita and verses from the Koran and the Bible in his prayer meetings.

During this period, we saw Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shaukatullah Shah Ansari, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Allah Bakhsh, and many others rubbed shoulders with Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and other leaders of the freedom movement. Diversity added richness and strength to the composite notion of Indian nationalism.

Cultural values drew heavily from interactions in subtle and profound ways, influencing all aspects of our life from food habits, literature, art, music, architecture and what have you. For the last few decades, events in India appear to be moving in the reverse direction, detrimental to peace and harmony. On the positive side, we witness the bubbling up of integrative efforts within and beyond religion. We had eminent social workers such as Swami Agnivesh and Asghar Ali Engineer, who promoted interfaith dialogue and sought to remove misunderstandings between members of different faiths. Many crusaders are silently working in society—Martin McWan, John Dayal and Cedric Prakash come to mind—who dedicated their lives to promote harmony. Such movements of interfaith dialogue went a long way in reducing theological and social misunderstanding among Hindus and Muslims and members of other faiths. Their initiative contributed in profound ways to maintaining amity between diverse groups. Each in their own way has come to imprint harmony on all of society.

Faisal Khan revived Khudai Khidmatgar, the organisation Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan founded. This grassroots organisation promotes amity and the spirit of mutual respect between Hindus and Muslims. They launched an open house—Apna Ghar—a system wherein members from all communities can live together and share their practices with others in a respectful way. Noted film maker Anand Patwardhan wrote, “…the Khudais have touched people’s hearts across the country and membership has swelled to 50,000. Today it has many Hindus, including a few who had once been in the RSS.”

India has been the site of many ghastly lynchings. The families of the victims have no social support and are desperately helpless. To empathise with them, social activist Harsh Mander started the Karwan-e-Mohabbat—Caravan of Love—that reaches out to the families of the victims of lynching to extend moral and social support. It has come as significant assistance to families and communities.

Many cities have communal harmony groups today and charity groups that help all, even though we may not hear about them much. These groups are working silently, unnoticed, while the violence of groups that promote divisiveness always hog the limelight. Even the farmer movement, the most significant post-independence mass movement, has promoted communal amity in a big way. Similarly, the Shaheen Bagh protests strengthened intercommunity amity.

The deeper problem is the global rise of those who believe in the “clash of civilisations” thesis and promote divisive tendencies. India is no exception. A United Nations-sponsored high-level committee when Kofi Annan was Secretary-General put forward the notion of an ‘Alliance of Civilisations’. This is the guiding principle of many groups who wish to revive India’s syncretic traditions. In the current troubling scenario, these rays of hope are lesser-known but critical for a peaceful future.

Virat Kohli Breaks Sachin Tendulkar’s ODI World Record

Former India skipper Virat Kohli returned with yet another poor figure with the bat in the opening ODI match of the three-match series against West Indies on Sunday, yet he managed to smash another of Sachin Tendulkar’s world record.

With back-to-back boundaries during the 14th over of India’s chase of 177 at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Kohli became the second cricketer in ODI history to score 5000 runs in India, joining the legendary Sachin (6976 runs) in the elusive list, while also becoming the fourth batter overall to reach the milestone in a single country. The two others include former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who amassed 5521 runs in Australia, and Jacques Kallis, who scored 5186 runs in South Africa.

Reaching the mark in his 96th ODI innings, Kohli surpassed Sachin to become the fastest batsman to score 5000 ODI runs in a single country. The former Indian batter had achieved the feat in his 121st innings, during the match against West Indies in 2007.

Two deliveries later, Kohli failed to control the pull shot against a shorter delivery from Joseph as he top edged the delivery to the fielder at fine leg. He walked back scoring just 8 off 4.

Earlier that same over, in the first delivery, Joseph had got rid of India’s new ODI skipper Rohit Sharma, dismissing him for 60 and ending an impressive opening stand of 84 runs alongside the young Ishan Kishan.

India had won the toss and opted to bowl first against West Indies who were folded for 177 in 43.5 overs with all-rounder Jason Holder top-scoring for the visitors with his 11th half-century score.

Yuzvendra Chahal was the pick of the bowlers with his 4 for 49, which is now his third-best ODI figure. Washington Sundar picked three while the pace duo of Mohammed Siraj and Prasidh Krishna picked three between themselves.

ASEI’s 34th National Convention On Sustainable Technology Innovations Held

Fremont, California: The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) hosted its 34th National Convention focusing on Sustainable Technology Innovations (STI-2022) on Jan 15 &16th. The convention consisted of 3 mini-conferences with over 35 speakers spread across two days. The Aerospace Symposium and Youth Technology Exposition were held on the first day while the last day consisted of a power-packed CXO Summit with a number of C-Suite executives sharing their wisdom with over 500 participants from many countries spread across 3 continents. The program details and a souvenir for the convention are available here: http://aseiusa.org/NC.

Kicking off the 34th National Convention, the ASEI President and Convention Chair Piyush Malik along with Dr. Shreekant Agrawal welcomed the delegates on Jan 15th morning at the Aerospace Symposium. Buoyed by the current euphoria of billionaires venturing in spacecrafts and plenty of investments pouring into the sector, the ASEI Aerospace Symposium had a Star Trek like feeling – exploring trends and technologies around four key areas viz. Space Tourism, Living on the Moon, Future of High-Speed Travel and Air Taxis. Former NASA Administrator Dr. Michael D. Griffin gave a heartfelt keynote address sharing his personal stories including those involving Indian food!

At the first panel focusing on High-Speed air travel moderated by Dr. Bala Bharadwaj, the participants learned how as a result of six decades of research on supersonic commercial aircraft design have paved the way for a new era in high-speed travel that is not too far from becoming a reality.  Dr. Vik Kachoria, Dr. Kevin Bowcutt and NASA’s Mary Di Joseph each presented their point of views before engaging in a panel discussion

Living on the moon panel explored getting most efficiently and cheaply to the Moon not only for tourism, but to establish settlements on the Moon, to live and work there. This time, it will be mining for the most important, life sustaining water-ice on the Moon, as well as exploring the lava tubes for habitats. Moderated by Dr. David Livingston, the knowledgeable expert panelists Dr. Bhavya Lal, Prof. Haym Benoroya and Dr. Ajay Kothari shared their vision

During the Space Access & Tourism session, the panelists Dr. Kelley Weinershith, Mr. Richard French and Dr. David Livingston were engaged in a lively discussion by Dr. Kavya Manyapu. They spoke how cheaper and more frequent space access as offered by startups like Rocket Lab and Astra have shown a path to help humanity benefit from Space by their launches of smaller satellites to near Earth orbits, thus helping improve life on Earth. All these developments of late are what dreams can be made of now. With the advent and successful deployment of reusable rockets, these dreams will be in the grasp of many in the coming decade.

Flying cars have been in many dreams for a long time. The business potential for air taxis is expected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2040.  All of this is possible now because of new and emerging technologies, including new batteries, autonomous operations, and advanced manufacturing.

Co-chairs Dr Shreekant Agrawal and Dr Ajay Kothari helped put the Symposium together with the help of speakers and volunteers. We hope to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers through this and our other programmes.

Youth Technology Exposition

ASEI has always supported STEM and youth empowerment initiatives. Our University Connect and STEM programs intersect at the YTE event.  The YTE is intended to provide a forum for young engineers and scientists to showcase their work in the areas of engineering and emerging technologies. Adapting to Covid times where we can.t meet in person to see science fair projects and interact with students and to recognize deserving students, we invited young scientists and engineering students to participate in our flagship YTE during this virtual ASEI 34th National Convention.

The afternoon of Jan 15th was reserved for the finals of Youth Technology Exposition. The YTE is a flagship STEM programme at ASEI where students participate with their science fair, engineering or innovation projects. The preliminary rounds conducted early in a calendar year by each ASEI chapter select a handful of winners from Grade 9 thru 12. As the year progresses and the National Convention nears, the competition heats up as well. The YTE finalists are selected from the preliminary rounds and asked to showcase their projects as well as face live Q&A form the YTE judges. This time, we had multiple entries from only our traditionally strong chapters of Silicon Valley and Michigan, but also from Florida and India. Dr. Preetha Ram aided by Mythli Srinivasan and Geetha Arun judged the finals. The top 3 prize winning entries were:

3rd Place

Creating a Haptic 4D model along with machine learning analysis by developing a Non-invasive pressure mapping method to screen Genital Skin Cancer by Sidharth Jain and Aasimm Khan from Mumbai, India

2nd Place

A Multistep, ML-Based Predictor of Parkinson’s Disease Progression Using GWAS, Patient Symptoms, and Gene Expression Data by Isha Jagadish from Saratoga, California

1st Place

A Physical Device to Help the Visually Impaired Read Money Using AI/Machine Learning in Third World Countries by Nidhi Mathihali from Saratoga, California

CXO Summit

The final day of the convention (Jan 16th) featured a CXO Summit where the invited speakers gave talks on latest emerging trends, as well as the audience engaged with them during CTO and CEO fireside chats and CIO panel.

ASEI president Piyush Malik welcomed the CXO summit delegates with a recap of the Aerospace Summit as well as a “State of the union” address about the ASEI’s growth and expansion of free programs and outreach for members and students during the Covid lockdowns in 2020/2021. He also talked about how Innovation and sustainable technologies are the imperatives for survival in the next decade.  From adaptive sustainable supply chains to becoming carbon neutral to adopting mandates emerging from United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, leaders across industries and organizations are forced to be prepared for the unexpected and he hoped that this Convention would encourage dialogue as well as solutions in this matter.

Opening keynote by City of Fremont Mayor Lily Mei highlighted how much infusion of advanced technology, AI, IOT etc.  have made Fremont grow with safety, sustainability and Innovation into a Smart City.

Veteran philanthropist and venture capitalist MR Rangaswami captivated the audience with his whirlwind tour of 40 years’ journey of Indian engineers from the trenches to the corner office in the US. Citing numerous success stories from his chapter in the book “Kamala Harris and the rise of Indian Americans”, he engaged with audience questions as well.

CXO Symposium Co-chair Surbhi Kaul engaged Juniper networks CTO Dr Raj Yavatkar in an interesting chat answering questions like “How leadership fosters Innovation in large organizations? And how does one go from being an individual contributor to a technology leader and ultimately a C-Suite executive? “

There was an innovation and sustainability panel moderated by Kunal Sood with three women speakers from across 3 continents that generated a lot of interesting discussions. What are public and corporate leaders doing in this realm of sustainability and innovation and how are they supporting the commercial entities within their jurisdiction. This panel of CXOs, academics and influential leaders explored these and more.

In a fireside chat with Piyush Malik, the founder and CEO of Automotive disruptor Techion, Jay Vijayan shared his nuggets of wisdom from his journey as Tesla’s first CIO to the founder of a 3x Unicorn.  “Stay customer obsessed, focus on what value you bring and don’t compromise on your values!”

Sandy Carter, an industry category creator as well as a marketing powerhouse lived upto her reputation as the “Energizer Bunny” while sharing her journey from engineering school to MBA and Senior Executive ranks across her career from IBM to Amazon to now a Web3 pioneer Unstoppable. Her talk “Going down the Web 3 Rabbit hole” was an overview to those interested in web3, NFTs, Crypto and Metaverse and generated a lot of audience enthusiasmNext, four CIOs led by Raman Mehta from Johnson Electric, Dr. Soma Venkat from Cooper Standard, JP Saini from Sunbelt Rentals and Karuna Annavajjala from Silicon Labs shared their view of post pandemic enterprise IT and the role CIOs play in the innovation agenda. This was followed by Award announcements and an informal networking session where all participants were able to come on camera and interact with the speakers and organizers.

The objective of this convention has been to provide a forum to promote and share advancements related to latest cutting-edge innovations and technologies across various engineering disciplines. The convention achieved the highest registration of any event in ASEI history and was attended by over 500 professionals each day including scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders across the USA. This two-day event featured keynotes and multiple interactive sessions with prominent business and technology leaders, scientists, media personalities, educators, policy makers, and venture capitalists

In accordance with ASEI tradition of recognizing exceptional engineers and scientists as well as ASEI volunteers, the ASEI awards will be given out for following categories: ASEI Lifetime Achievement, Hari B. Bindal ASEI Founder’s Award, ASEI Entrepreneur/Intrapreneur of the Year, ASEI Engineer/Scientist of the Year, ASEI Service Excellence and ASEI Special Awards

The awards ceremony will take place on Feb 27th,2022 where the honorable guests include Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu from Washington, DC and Indian Consul General in San Francisco Dr. TV Nagendra Prasad. All award winners will be felicitated along with speakers and volunteers. This event is open for all but pre-registration is required at www.aseiusa.org

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals, students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guided by several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, and transparent organization, providing positive role models, awarding scholarships, and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan. Today, the organization also has chapters in Detroit, Southern California, Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington, DC. For more information, visit: https://aseiusa.org/

Pegasus: The New Cyber Weapon For Dismantling Democracy

The New York Times recently reported that India had purchased the Pegasus software from an Israeli company, NSO, as part of the multi-billion-dollar armaments deal that included sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear. The report also said that the purchase was finalized during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel and cleared by the then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017.

Once again, the Government officials in India kept their silence on the New York Times story. Earlier, the Supreme Court in India has ordered an independent probe into Pegasus upon a ruling that came after petitions were filed which sought an investigation into allegations of unauthorized surveillance. The Court stated while ordering the inquiry that “the mere invocation of national security by the State does not render the Court a mute spectator.”

The Court also listed several compelling circumstances that were weighed before issuing an order. The right to privacy and freedom of speech are alleged to be impacted, and the entire citizenry is affected by such allegations due to the potential chilling effect. The bench went on to say that the “right to privacy is directly infringed when there is surveillance or spying done on an individual, either by the State or by an external agency” and “if done by the State, the same must be justified on constitutional grounds .” During the hearing, the Centre had filed a brief affidavit “unequivocally” denying the allegations and said the matter involved national security concerns. The Indian Express recently reported that two Cybersecurity experts had told the Supreme Court-appointed committee on the Pegasus issue that there is concrete evidence that the application was used to spy on the petitioners.

The NSO group claims that the product it sells to government clients is intended to collect data from the mobile devices of specific individuals suspected to be involved in serious crime and terror. However, contrary to their assertion, it has been reported that this spyware has been widely misused. In response, a global consortium of more than 80 journalists from 17 media outlets in 10 countries came together under the ‘Pegasus project’ coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Their findings shed light on the fact that at least 180 journalists across the globe have been selected as targets in countries like India, Mexico, Hungary, Morocco and France, and others. Potential targets also included human rights activists, academics, business people, lawyers, doctors, union leaders, diplomats, politicians, and several heads of state.

In a recent column, Siddharth Varadarajan, of ‘The Wire’ wrote further on his interaction with Ronen  Bergman of the New York Times stating that the Indian leadership showed ‘specific interest’ in and ‘specific emphasis’ on acquiring the controversial spyware. The column went on to say that the forensic tests by Amnesty International’s tech lab revealed the presence of military-grade spyware on the smartphones of several journalists, including two of the publication’s founding editors, investigative journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Sushant Singh and the leading opposition strategist Prashant Kishor. Their numbers were part of a leaked database of probable Pegasus targets, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, and former CBI director Alok Verma.

What is Pegasus? Pegasus is a spyware that can be covertly installed on mobile phones running most versions of iOS and Android. Pegasus can be installed on the phone through vulnerabilities in common apps such as SMS, WhatsApp, iMessage, or by tricking a target into clicking a malicious link. Once installed, Pegasus can theoretically harvest any data from the device  (SMS, Emails, WhatsApp chats, photos, videos, calendar, or contacts) and transmit it back to the attacker. It could also activate a camera or a microphone, record calls, and scan the GPS data. When iPhone is compromised, it’s done in such a way that allows the attacker to obtain so-called root privileges, or administrative rights, on the device. Pegasus could easily do more than what the device owner can do.

For a long time, Israel has used the sale of sophisticated weapons as part of its broader efforts to win diplomatic successes abroad or at the United Nations. Subsequently to this agreement, India voted in favor of Israel by denying observer status at the UN’s Economic and Social Council to a Palestinian human rights organization. India has maintained a commitment to the Palestinian cause for decades, and its records at the United Nations speak for itself. This sudden about-face by India is viewed as a betrayal of the Palestinian people, and Pegasus may have a lot to do with it. It is not only India that has changed its attitude towards Israel after a Pegasus deal; a few countries, including Mexico and Panama, also appeared to have done the same. After installing Pegasus spyware in Panama City in 2012, Panama’s Government voted to oppose the United Nations decision to upgrade the status of the Palestinian delegation.

The story of Khadija Ismayilova’s story is available in the public domain. In Azerbaijan, an oil-rich nation nestled next to the Caspian Sea, has increasingly stifled free speech and dissent in the last decade. Ismayilova’s investigation into the ruling family had made her a prime target of her own Government. The authorities had thrown the book at her arresting her: surreptitiously filming her during sex, accusing her of driving a colleague to suicide, and eventually charging her with tax fraud and sentencing her to seven years in prison. However, she was released on bail after 18 months and banned from leaving the country for five years. So, in 2021, at the end of the travel ban, when Ismayilova packed away all her belongings boarded a plane to Ankara, Turkey, she may have thought she was leaving all that behind.

Little did she know the most invasive spy was coming with her. For nearly three years, Khadija Ismayilova’s phone was regularly infected with Pegasus. “All night, I have been thinking about what I did with my phone. I feel guilty for the messages I have sent. I feel guilty for the sources who sent me information thinking that some encrypted messaging ways are secure, and they didn’t know my phone was infected,” she told reporters. “My family members are also victimized. The sources are victimized, and private secrets of the people I have been working with are victimized,” she added.

There is little doubt that the use of Pegasus is an assault on the right to privacy everywhere and specifically an attack on the very fabric of Indian democracy. Undoubtedly, the Government is responsible for monitoring people involved in criminal wrongdoings, and there are established procedures involving the judiciary laid out for it. However, targeting opposition leaders, journalists, and regular citizenry for surveilling for their God-given right to express themselves is tantamount to undermining the democracy itself. This Pegasus scandal exposes the mindset of the current leadership, and it does not bode well for the future of India.

George Abraham is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations and the Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA

Covid Has Claimed 900,000 American Lives

The U.S. has crossed yet another tragic landmark in the battle against COVID-19. On Friday, the country surpassed 900,000 deaths from the disease, two years after the first COVID-19 cluster was reported in Wuhan, China. Public health experts say coming close to the 1 million death mark from the coronavirus is “inevitable.”

“It’s absolutely staggering,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked the number of COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic. “It’s unreal, frankly. And what makes it an even … greater heartbreak — as if the loss of 900,000 souls weren’t enough of a heartbreak — is the fact that it’s probably an undercount of the number of people that we’ve lost.”

University of Texas at Austin professor and epidemiologist Lauren Ancel Meyers said the “horrible milestone” didn’t have to happen.

\”It was not inevitable. There are things that we could have done and should have done … to protect those who were most vulnerable,” she said. “It’s a very sad day.”

President Joe Biden marked the “tragic milestone,” recognizing the “emotional, physical and psychological weight of this pandemic” and urged Americans to do their part.

I urge all Americans: get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and get your booster shot if you are eligible,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s free, easy, and effective — and it can save your life, and the lives of those you love.”

Daily deaths remain high even as overall case numbers dip

The rolling seven-day average for daily COVID-19 deaths has been above 2,000 since Jan. 23, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s nearly three times higher than in November, when the agency was reporting a seven-day average of 700 daily deaths.

Vaccines are preventing most severe disease and death

As COVID-19 vaccines have become widely available for Americans, the number of those who have received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine continues to increase.

However, the percentage of fully vaccinated Americans is still relatively low at approximately 64%. Amid the most recent surge of the now dominant omicron variant, unvaccinated people were 97 times more likely to die compared with those who were boosted, according to data cited this week by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

Public health experts note that broader vaccination and boosting would have reduced the number of deaths. “We would have at least 300,000 fewer deaths. Probably more … than that,” if the early pace of vaccination had been sustained, said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “But at least 300,000 Americans who have perished would still be with us. It’s tragic.” According to the latest CDC data, 42% of eligible Americans have received a booster.

Experts Open The Door To Lifting Last Mask Mandates

As the spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant wanes, some experts say it is time to start lifting more restrictions, setting up a heated debate, particularly over mask mandates in schools.

People are exhausted with the pandemic after roughly two years, and health advocates warn that pandemic rules cannot last forever.

“We cannot remain in a perpetual state of emergency,” said Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University. “People burn out.”

Many aspects of life have already returned to something like normal. Bars and restaurants are open and packed across the country, and countless travel restrictions have been lifted.

But some locations, including New York and Washington, D.C., still have mask mandates for the general public, and in schools, mask requirements are more common.

Vaccinations remain as the key source of protection. People who are vaccinated and boosted have strong protection against severe disease, even if there is still a chance they get mild illness.

Wen noted that school-age children 5 and up can now all be vaccinated.

And Pfizer last week began the application for its COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as six months.

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said that restrictions in general should be lifted as cases come down, but not just yet, given that cases are still high.

“I’ve been saying for weeks that as cases recede we can soon relax public health restrictions,” Jha tweeted. “I think of this like the weather. When it is bucketing rain umbrella, rain coat, boots, are all essential. When the storm turns into a drizzle, those become less critical.”

The possibility of a future variant that has greater ability to evade the vaccines’ protection, or that causes more severe disease, leads some experts to call for loosening restrictions during the coming lull to give people a respite in case they need to return later.

“If we don’t take the off-ramps, nobody will listen when we need to have an on-ramp,” tweeted Jeremy Faust, a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Cases in the U.S. have fallen significantly from the peak during the omicron wave in mid-January, from approximately 800,000 new cases per day to about 350,000 per day, which is still quite high. More experts are putting a focus on hospitalizations, which have now peaked nationally, though again are still at the high level of around 123,000 a day, according to a New York Times tracker.

Asked about people returning to more normal activities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday cautioned that hospitalizations “are still quite high and [we are] certainly having hospital capacity challenges in many parts of the country still.”

“We really do have to look to our hospitalization rates and our death rates to look to when it is time to lift some of these mitigation efforts,” she said. “We will continue to reevaluate, and we know people are anxious.”

The matter of lifting restrictions has received a new burst of political attention as Republicans push to scale back measures such as mask mandates.

Virginia’s new Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, has drawn controversy and an American Civil Liberties Union-backed lawsuit from parents over an order making masks optional in schools in the state.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) more broadly said Wednesday that “it is time for the state of emergency to wind down.”

On the Democratic side, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock this week lifted the city’s mask mandate and proof of vaccination requirement for businesses.

“This virus is something we’re going to have to manage and learn to live with,” Hancock said.

A Monmouth University poll this week found that a large majority of Americans, 70 percent, agreed that “it’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.”

Republicans continue to fight hard against President Biden’s vaccine mandates, which many public health experts have praised as a crucial way to get more people vaccinated and help return to normal.

Advocates have also been pushing the Biden administration and Congress for more funding for global vaccination efforts, which can help prevent new variants from emerging.

Some experts are pushing back against the calls for returning to normal, pointing to more vulnerable people.

“The great, white middle — stretching right and left across the political spectrum and the op-ed pages of the Times — is ready to move on,” Gregg Gonsalves, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health, wrote in The Nation. “The thing is: Those left behind don’t have the choices or the resources that those with privilege do, whether they are poor, living with disabilities or chronic medical conditions — or just too old to matter.”

Wen, a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, said the CDC should at least set new benchmarks for under what circumstances masks would no longer be needed.

“It’s precisely because of the threat of future variants that we need to let up on restrictions now,” she said. “I’m not trying to sound the all-clear at all … I’m saying we need to take advantage of the lull that we have coming up.”

24th Winter Olympics Games Under Way In Beijing

The 24th edition of the Winter Olympics is officially under way after the Olympic cauldron was lit in a restrained opening ceremony in Beijing.

Almost 3,000 athletes from 91 nations will compete across the Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been criticised for awarding the Games to China because of the country’s alleged human rights abuses.

IOC president Thomas Bach said one of the missions of the Games was to “unite humankind in all our diversity”.

The Olympic torch was placed into the centre of a giant snowflake, which was then illuminated to become the cauldron.

The snowflake is made up of placards with the names of the 91 nations competing in Beijing.

Speaking during the ceremony, Bach addressed “all political authorities across the globe” during his speech, asking them to “give peace a chance”.

“In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, we show the world: yes, it is possible to be fierce rivals, while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together,”

Beijing is the first city to host both a summer and winter edition of an Olympic Games, with the opening ceremony held in the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium that was built for the 2008 Games.

Just as in Tokyo six months ago, there were no paying spectators, friends or family present in the stands, although there were diplomats and team members applauding the athletes on.

Representatives of 56 ethnic groups from across China relayed the national flag into the stadium to begin the opening ceremony.

The Olympic rings themselves emerged from a frozen block of ice, with athletes entering the arena underneath them.

Curler Eve Muirhead and alpine skier Dave Ryding, both competing in their fourth Winter Olympics, carried the Great Britain flag into the stadium.

Bach told the athletes: “You will show how the world would look like, if we all respect the same rules and each other.

“Over the next two weeks you will compete with each other for the highest prize. At the same time, you will live peacefully together under one roof in the Olympic Village.

“There, there will be no discrimination for any reason whatsoever. ”

Why are the Games controversial?

A number of countries declared a diplomatic boycott of the Games, including the United Kingdom, with no ministers or officials attending the opening ceremony.

The Beijing government is accused of committing atrocities against the Uyghur Muslim population in the northwest province of Xinjiang, with the World Uyghur Congress describing the Games as “a genocide Olympics”.

There have been reports that, as well as interning Uyghurs in camps, China has been forcibly mass sterilising Uyghur women to suppress the population.

China has consistently denied allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, insisting camps were not detention camps, but “vocational educational and training centres”, while the IOC says it must “remain neutral on all global political issues”.

There has also been widespread concern over the safety of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after she made accusations of sexual assault against a top government official. Bach will meet face-to-face with Peng during the Games.

Russian president Vladimir Putin was in attendance at the opening ceremony, having met with China’s President Xi Jinping earlier in the day.

US House Passes Bill With More Measures For Immigrants In STEM Fields Forbes

Amendments to a recently passed House bill will expand immigration opportunities for foreign-born scientists and engineers. If retained during negotiations with the Senate, the measures in the bill could become the most significant on legal immigration to pass Congress in more than 30 years.

Supporters of the provisions will argue that no bill promoting innovation can justify not including improved ways to attract and retain foreign-born talent. More than 70% of the full-time graduate students at U.S. universities in electrical engineering, industrial engineering and computer and information sciences are foreign nationals. Members of Congress have recognized that other countries are doing a better job than the United States attracting and retaining such talent.

House Bill: On February 4, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act 222 to 210 with only one Republican vote. In June 2021, the Senate passed a similar bill. There are enough differences between the two bills to make final passage uncertain.

Significant Immigration Provisions: On January 25, 2022, the House Rules Committee added Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) LIKE Act to create an immigrant startup visa and also an exemption from annual green card limits and backlogs for foreign nationals with a Ph.D. in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Because of the potential to provide new opportunities for entrepreneurs and top researchers around the world, these two additions, in the long run, might produce more innovations in the United States than all the other sections of the nearly 3,000-page bill. Both measures fund additional scholarships for U.S. students in STEM fields by charging $1,000 supplemental fees for those receiving a green card or status under the legislation.

As discussed here, the bill creates a temporary visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs who qualify and “Allows the founder to apply for and receive lawful permanent residence if the startup entity meets certain additional benchmarks.” The lack of a startup visa disadvantages the U.S. compared to other nations like Canada in retaining and attracting foreign-born entrepreneurs. The absence of a startup visa and the per-country limit caused Jyoti Bansal to wait 7 years for a green card before he could start AppDynamics, which grew to employ over 2,000 people and was valued at $3.7 billion when Cisco acquired it in 2017.

Exempting individuals with Ph.D.s in STEM fields from annual green card limits would relieve many from long wait times for permanent residence and (indirectly) reduce the decades-long waits for other highly skilled immigrants. The provision would allow U.S. employers to gain a significant competitive edge by offering the chance at permanent residence to outstanding researchers from around the world, including those early in their careers and engaging in cutting-edge work. (See here.)

Katalin Karikó, who produced the underlying research breakthrough that made messenger RNA possible for life-saving vaccines, could have benefited from a special green card provision for Ph.D.s. Karikó earned her Ph.D. in Hungary and toiled for years in America, first as a postdoctoral researcher, before her work became recognized as life-saving. Approximately 56% of postdoctoral researchers work on temporary visas, with many in biological sciences, medical sciences, engineering and research and development. The new measure would allow many more an opportunity to stay in and contribute to the United States.

“The America COMPETES Act also helps build our domestic STEM workforce and encourages start-up companies to establish roots here,” Rep. Lofgren said in a statement. “Individuals who earn STEM doctoral degrees from top research universities in the U.S. will be able to quickly obtain permanent residence and founders of start-up companies will have a chance to grow their companies here. These measures will help ensure that America is once again the number one destination for the best and brightest innovators and the next generation of entrepreneurs worldwide.”

Does The House GOP Understand Its Position On Immigration Aligns With The Chinese Communist Party’s Leadership?: If the Chinese Communist Party lobbied in Congress, it likely would have applauded a statement issued by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that called for removing the bill’s provision to bring more Ph.D.s in STEM fields to the United States.

Analysts who have studied China and its technology plans understand that the country’s leadership fears a more open U.S. immigration system able to attract high-level science and engineering talent. It would welcome removing from the bill measures to attract STEM talent to America.

“Chinese leaders understand the extent to which the United States benefits from international talent inflows,” writes Remco Zwetsloot in a report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They therefore celebrate America’s flawed immigration system and fear reforms that would improve U.S. talent attraction and retention. Commenting on U.S. retention of Chinese STEM students, the head of the CCP’s Central Talent Work Coordination Group has complained that ‘the number of top talents lost in China ranks first in the world.’”

Zwetsloot cites a Chinese artificial intelligence white paper that found U.S. immigration restrictions “have provided China opportunities to bolster its ranks of high-end talent.” Moreover, “The deputy editor of China Daily USA, a government newspaper, said that expansion of the U.S. employment-based immigration system ‘would pose a huge challenge for China, which has been making great efforts to attract and retain talent.’”

The evidence indicates removing the provision to provide more green cards for Ph.D.s in STEM fields would please the leaders of China and hurt the ability of U.S. companies to compete globally.

Ross Amendment Adds Health Professions: An amendment at the Rules Committee sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) added “health professions and related programs” to the STEM fields for which Ph.D.s are eligible under the bill to be exempt from the annual limit on employment-based green cards. The bill already covered physicians with a medical residency.

In a press statement, Rep. Ross elaborated on who would be added under “health professions and related programs” in her amendment by including a link to the Classification of Instructional Programs covered: “Expand the bill’s green card cap exemption for individuals with doctorates in STEM fields to include individuals with doctorates in these health care fields.”

Foster Amendment Adds Dual Intent For Many International Students: An amendment sponsored by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) provides international students on F visas in STEM fields with “dual intent.” That means a consular officer no longer will need to be convinced a student in a STEM field will not seek permanent residence in the United States. The Biden administration recently reversed restrictive guidance in the Foreign Affairs Manual—added during the Trump administration—that would have a similar effect to the Foster amendment. However, a law is more difficult than guidance for a new administration to change.

Manning Amendment Expands Eligibility For STEM Green Card Exemption: An amendment sponsored by Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) expanded the exemption from the annual numerical limit for green cards for Ph.D.s in STEM fields to include individuals with a master’s degree “in the case of an alien who works in a critical industry.”

What is a critical industry? “The term ‘critical industry’ means an industry that is critical for the national security or economic security of the United States, considering key technology focus areas and critical infrastructure,” according to the America COMPETES Act. The term “critical infrastructure” under 42 U.S.C. 5195c “means systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.”

In sum, like most new laws, regulation will define the scope of the provision, but it is likely to include several technology specialties.

E-4 Visas For Specialty Occupation Professionals From South Korea: An amendment by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) would add South Korea as a country from which the United States can accept, on a reciprocal basis, specialty occupation professionals in a new E-4 status. The annual limit is 15,000, though the experience with Australia is far fewer visas likely would be used each year.

The bill also includes immigration and human rights measures for Uyghurs and residents of Hong Kong.

Challenges in the Senate: Before the House-passed immigration provisions become law, they must overcome three challenges in the Senate. First, the bill will require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, meaning a compromise with Republicans in the Senate is necessary.

The Senate’s version of the bill passed 68-32 in June 2021, so there has been bipartisan support for the legislation. “Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), who was a lead proponent of the Senate bill, said the House measure would have to undergo large changes for a deal to be struck,” reported the Washington Post. “[Commerce Secretary Gina] Raimondo said that the most contentious of the numerous partisan disagreements over the House package concerned its trade-policy changes,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Second, it is unclear if there are Senate Republicans who will oppose the House-passed immigration provisions, but given Rep. McCarthy’s statements, that is a possibility. Third, it is unknown whether Senate Democrats will fight to keep the immigration measures. In the past year, most of the immigration energy among Senate Democrats has focused on legalizing individuals here without lawful status.

An optimist would say the time has come for change. The year 1990 was the last time Congress passed legislation that included legal immigration reforms as significant as startup visas for immigrant entrepreneurs and a smooth path to permanent residence for the world’s top scientists and engineers. A pessimist would take the opposite position: If it’s a good provision on immigration, it likely won’t become law. Members of Congress have the rest of the year to prove the pessimists wrong.

An Indian University Now Trains Future Bollywood Actors

World Design University (WUD) is India’s first university dedicated to educate students in the creative domain. Seated in the heart of the educational hub of India – Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Sonipat, Haryana – WUD plays the role of a harbinger of a revolution in the education system in India.

World University of Design introduces a 6-Month Certificate Programme in Film Acting in their academic session 2022. The programme will be headed by veteran trainer for aspiring actors Mr. Farrukh Naqi Azmi and will commence from March 2022 onwards.

The programme is aimed at providing extensive training to the candidates for a career in Hindi Bollywood Film Industry and has a limited number of 25 seats which will be allotted based on application and personal interview. Divided into 2 divisions comprising of 3 months each the candidates will first undergo intensive training in the first half and then feature in a full-scale Feature Film which will further be used to launch them as actors. The film will be produced and distributed by WUD itself. This is a unique offer that sets this course over and above other courses of shorter duration.

The 6-month acting course is  designed such that  students inculcate a sense of confidence and effortlessly act in front of the camera, get a good command over spoken language with a flawless dialogue delivery; master facial expressions, develop good body language and flexibility; develop the essential skills of observation, imagination, sense and emotion memories; ability to improvise; master movement with special focus on dancing abilities to improvise; and the fundamentals of action choreography.

As World University of Design sets foot into a new genre, Dr. Sanjay Gupta (Vice Chancellor, World University of Design) says, “Extremely thrilled and hopeful to add the course on Film Acting to our diversified menu of courses! More than that I am exhilarated to have someone as seasoned and skilled as Mr. Azmi boarded with us and flagged off this essential milestone in the history of the university. In the past we have witnessed students showing interest in the domain of film acting and I am very sure the seats will be taken soon.”

Peppered to handle his new role at World University of Design Mr. Farrukh Naqi Azmi says, “I have been training acting aspirants for more than 3 decades now in India as well as abroad but every time the whole experience feels new to me. Every place has its own dialects, speech formations and a certain way of life which needs to be gauged before the grooming, diction and the whole technique shapes up. So here I am, keen and waiting to start off the acting journey for new kids!”

While advancing its footsteps in order to provide a bright future to its students, the university will ensure that every student gets plenty of auditions each in Mumbai. WUD is not only making provisions for their students to be equipped with necessary skill-sets like make-up and video editing but also providing prospects to them to produce their own short films or music videos if they please.

About World University of Design: World Design University (WUD) is India’s first university dedicated to educate students in the creative domain. Seated in the heart of the educational hub of India – Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Sonipat, Haryana – WUD plays the role of a harbinger of a revolution in the education system in India. It is the torchbearer of breaking stereotypical educational patterns and has facilitated the shift of studies pertaining to design from being solely vocation-oriented to academic-oriented; thereby offering substantiated degrees (under section 2(f) and 22(l) of the UGC Act) to its students instead of mere diplomas and certificates.

Established in 2018, World University of Design is a young university offering a myriad of programmes at undergraduate, post graduate and doctoral levels across disciplines like Architecture, Design, Fashion, Communication, Visual arts, Performing Arts & Management. Equipped with the largest portfolio of design courses in India, the university offers a number of cutting edge programs in computers & design, transportation design, animation & game design, UI/UX, film & video, built environment & habitat studies, design management, art education, curatorial practice etc

Climate Change Forces Rapid Melt Of Earth’s Highest Glacier

The highest glacier on Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, “may already be a relic from an older, colder, time,” says the scientist who collected the highest ice core on the planet from it for a new study. The South Col Glacier is now losing several decades of ice accumulation every single year, the international team of scientists is reporting.

From April to May 2019, the multidisciplinary team from eight countries conducted a comprehensive scientific expedition to Mt. Everest in the Khumbu Region of Nepal as part of National Geographic and Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Expeditions partnership.

Team members, including 17 Nepali researchers, explored five areas of science that probe environmental changes and their impacts: biology, glaciology, meteorology, geology, and mapping.

They found that Earth’s warmer climate is causing melting and what the scientists call “sublimation.” This happens when the snow top gets removed and the exposed ice, which is darker, absorbs more sunshine than when the top layer of snow was intact. This, in turn, accelerates the glacier’s melt rate, they explain in a new paper in the latest issue of the “Nature Portfolio Journal Climate and Atmospheric Science.”

“The sublimation is like the drip from a leaking dam and the rapid ice loss is what happens when the dam breaks,” explained Mariusz Potocki, a glaciochemist and doctoral candidate in the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, who collected the highest ice core.

The research team investigated the timing and cause of the rapid ice mass loss on the South Col Glacier. At 7,900 meters (26,000 feet) above sea level and just a kilometer below the peak of Mount Everest, this is the highest glacier and one of the sunniest spots on Earth.

“Once South Col Glacier ice was regularly exposed,” Potocki said, “approximately 55 meters of glacier thinning is estimated to have occurred in a quarter-century – thinning over 80 times faster than the nearly 2,000 years it took to form the ice at the surface.”

“It also suggests that the South Col Glacier may be on the way out,” he said. “It may already be a relic from an older, colder, time.”

Potocki and his fellow scientists have three main concerns:

  • The faster the ice accumulation disappears, the more quickly the glacier’s capacity to provide water for the more than the one billion people who depend on it for drinking and irrigation, will also disappear.
  • New impacts can increase the risk of avalanches in the region.
  • Future expeditions to Mount Everest could encounter more exposed bedrock as snow and ice cover continues to thin in the coming decades, potentially making the mountain more challenging to climb. On the other hand, the warming air will mean more oxygen for climbers.

The impacts of climate change on the South Col Glacier have been most intense since the late 1990s, the research team learned.

The study’s lead author Paul Mayewski, serves as scientific and expedition lead, and director of the Climate Change Institute University of Maine.

“It answers one of the big questions posed by our 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition – whether the highest glaciers on the planet are impacted by human-source climate change. The answer is a resounding yes, and very significantly since the late 1990s,” Mayewski declared.

The warming will have a compounding effect on the experience of climbing Mount Everest, the researchers predict. They say the surface on some sections of the route will gradually shift from snowpack to ice to exposed bedrock, and avalanches will become more dynamic due to the instability of the ice.

Glacier melt is even likely to destabilize the Khumbu base camp, home to many Mount Everest climbers and logistics teams throughout the climbing season.

Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Propose 2-State Confederation

Israeli and Palestinian public figures have drawn up a new proposal for a two-state confederation that they hope will offer a way forward after a decade-long stalemate in Mideast peace efforts.

The plan includes several controversial proposals, and it’s unclear if it has any support among leaders on either side. But it could help shape the debate over the conflict and will be presented to a senior U.S. official and the U.N. secretary-general this week.

The plan calls for an independent state of Palestine in most of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel and Palestine would have separate governments but coordinate at a very high level on security, infrastructure and other issues that affect both populations.

The plan would allow the nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank to remain there, with large settlements near the border annexed to Israel in a one-to-one land swap.

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Settlers living deep inside the West Bank would be given the option of relocating or becoming permanent residents in the state of Palestine. The same number of Palestinians — likely refugees from the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation — would be allowed to relocate to Israel as citizens of Palestine with permanent residency in Israel.

The initiative is largely based on the Geneva Accord, a detailed, comprehensive peace plan drawn up in 2003 by prominent Israelis and Palestinians, including former officials. The nearly 100-page confederation plan includes new, detailed recommendations for how to address core issues.

Yossi Beilin, a former senior Israeli official and peace negotiator who co-founded the Geneva Initiative, said that by taking the mass evacuation of settlers off the table, the plan could be more amenable to them.

Israel’s political system is dominated by the settlers and their supporters, who view the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people and an integral part of Israel.

The Palestinians view the settlements as the main obstacle to peace, and most of the international community considers them illegal. The settlers living deep inside the West Bank — who would likely end up within the borders of a future Palestinian state — are among the most radical and tend to oppose any territorial partition.

“We believe that if there is no threat of confrontations with the settlers it would be much easier for those who want to have a two-state solution,” Beilin said. The idea has been discussed before, but he said a confederation would make it more “feasible.”

Numerous other sticking points remain, including security, freedom of movement and perhaps most critically after years of violence and failed negotiations, lack of trust.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the Palestinian Authority declined to comment.

The main Palestinian figure behind the initiative is Hiba Husseini, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team going back to 1994 who hails from a prominent Jerusalem family. Other contributors include Israeli and Palestinian professors and two retired Israeli generals.

Husseini acknowledged that the proposal regarding the settlers is “very controversial” but said the overall plan would fulfill the Palestinians’ core aspiration for a state of their own.

“It’s not going to be easy,” she added. “To achieve statehood and to achieve the desired right of self-determination that we have been working on — since 1948, really — we have to make some compromises.”

Thorny issues like the conflicting claims to Jerusalem, final borders and the fate of Palestinian refugees could be easier to address by two states in the context of a confederation, rather than the traditional approach of trying to work out all the details ahead of a final agreement.

“We’re reversing the process and starting with recognition,” Husseini said.

It’s been nearly three decades since Israeli and Palestinian leaders gathered on the White House lawn to sign the Oslo accords, launching the peace process.

Several rounds of talks over the years, punctuated by outbursts of violence, failed to yield a final agreement, and there have been no serious or substantive negotiations in more than a decade.

Israel’s current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is a former settler leader opposed to Palestinian statehood. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is set to take over as prime minister in 2023 under a rotation agreement, supports an eventual two-state solution.

But neither is likely to be able to launch any major initiatives because they head a narrow coalition spanning the political spectrum from hard-line nationalist factions to a small Arab party.

On the Palestinian side, President Mahmoud Abbas’ authority is confined to parts of the occupied West Bank, with the Islamic militant group Hamas — which doesn’t accept Israel’s existence — ruling Gaza. Abbas’ presidential term expired in 2009 and his popularity has plummeted in recent years, meaning he is unlikely to be able to make any historic compromises.

The idea of the two-state solution was to give the Palestinians an independent state, while allowing Israel to exist as a democracy with a strong Jewish majority. Israel’s continued expansion of settlements, the absence of any peace process and repeated rounds of violence, however, have greatly complicated hopes of partitioning the land.

The international community still views a two-state solution as the only realistic way to resolve the conflict.

But the ground is shifting, particularly among young Palestinians, who increasingly view the conflict as a struggle for equal rights under what they — and three prominent human rights groups — say is an apartheid regime.

Israel vehemently rejects those allegations, viewing them as an antisemitic attack on its right to exist. Lapid has suggested that reviving a political process with the Palestinians would help Israel resist any efforts to brand it an apartheid state in world bodies.

Next week, Beilin and Husseini will present their plan to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Beilin says they have already shared drafts with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Beilin said he sent it to people who he knew would not reject it out of hand. “Nobody rejected it. It doesn’t mean that they embrace it.”

“I didn’t send it to Hamas,” he added, joking. “I don’t know their address.”

Hindupact Urges Pakistan To Replace Masood Khan As US Envoy

The Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective (HinduPACT) urges President Joe Biden to reject Pakistan’s Ambassador-Designate to the United States – a known terrorist sympathizer – Masood Khan and to appoint a religious minority in his place. This will reflect that Pakistan is taking a tangible first step towards ending the state sponsored violence against religious minorities within their borders.

Masood Khan has been open and vocal about his support for convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, who is known colloquially as “Lady al-Qaeda.” He has also supported UN designated terrorist organizations like Hizbul Mujahideen – which he praised as “a role model for freedom fighters across the globe” –, Jamaat-e-Islami – which was directly involved with helping the Pakistani military commit the egregious genocide against hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi religious minorities in 1971 –, and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen – which has ties to the late Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Khan even attended at least one event with promoters of Hizbul Mujahideen during which convicted spy Ghulam Nabi Fai was a speaker.

Khan openly praised convicted terrorist, ISIS supporter and commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Burhan Wani; a machine gun touting jihadist. On the fifth anniversary of his death, in July 2021, Khan stated: “Don’t think for a minute that Burhan Wani is dead or gone. Burhani Wani lives in our hearts and stands tall. He sacrificed his life for a cause. His legacy continues. We, the people of Jammu and Kashmir complete his mission of freedom.”

Further, Khan’s appointment undermines both America’s and India’s national security interests; a key US ally.

The percentage of religious minorities in Pakistan has decreased exponentially over the past seven decades, and the appointment of Khan only further emboldens the perpetrators of crimes against these minorities to continue unchecked. We are calling upon the administration and State Department to reject Masood Khan’s appointment for the aforementioned reasons and for the sake of upholding the true tenants of democracy which includes the right to religious freedom and the ability to practice without fear of reprisal.

We hope that by appointing a member of the Hindu, Sikh or any other religious minority as their representative to the US, the government of Pakistan will be able to take a long overdue step in sending a message to the global community and to the people of Pakistan, that it intends to secure the rights of all its citizens irrespective of their faith.

Strained US Hospitals Seek Foreign Nurses Amid Visa Windfall

With American hospitals facing a dire shortage of nurses amid a slogging pandemic, many are looking abroad for health care workers. And it could be just in time.

There’s an unusually high number of green cards available this year for foreign professionals, including nurses, who want to move to the United States — twice as many as just a few years ago. That’s because U.S. consulates shut down during the coronavirus pandemic weren’t issuing visas to relatives of American citizens, and, by law, these unused slots now get transferred to eligible workers.

Amy L. Erlbacher-Anderson, an immigration attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, said she has seen more demand for foreign nurses in two years than the rest of her 18-year career. And this year, she said, it’s more likely they’ll get approved to come, so long as U.S. consular offices can process all the applications.

“We have double the number of visas we’ve had available for decades,” she said. “That is kind of temporarily creating a very open situation.”

U.S. hospitals are struggling with a shortage of nurses that worsened as pandemic burnout led many to retire or leave their jobs. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continue to rise and fall, placing tremendous pressure on the health care system. In California alone, there’s an estimated gap of 40,000 nurses, or 14% of the workforce, according to a recent report by the University of California, San Francisco.

Hospitals are filling the gap by hiring traveling nurses, but that can be expensive. And hospital administrators say not enough nurses are graduating from U.S. schools each year to meet the demand.

Some hospitals have long brought nurses from the Philippines, Jamaica and other English-speaking countries, and more are now following suit. And both longtime recruiters and newcomers are trying to take advantage of the green card windfall before the fiscal year ends in September.

The U.S. typically offers at least 140,000 green cards each year to people moving to the country permanently for certain professional jobs, including nursing. Most are issued to people who are already living in the United States on temporary visas, though some go to workers overseas. This year, 280,000 of these green cards are available, and recruiters hope some of the extras can be snapped up by nurses seeking to work in pandemic-weary hospitals in the United States.

The Biden administration, which has made moves to reverse Trump-era policies restricting legal immigration, has taken some steps to try to help foreign health care workers so they can assist with the pandemic. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it would speed the renewal of work permits for health care workers, which could help keep some foreign citizens already in the United States on the job. The State Department told consulates last year to prioritize applications for workers at facilities that are responding to the pandemic, an agency official said.

Faith Akinmade, a 22-year-old nurse from Nigeria, is among those hoping for a quick solution. After completing college in the U.S., Akinmade has been working as an ICU nurse for University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky. But her work permit is set to expire in March. She said she needs it renewed, or her green card approved, to stay on the job.

“At this point and time, I just feel like I have faith that at the end of March something is going to show up to continue to work,” Akinmade said. She said the issue affects many of her international colleagues as well as domestic ones, who may be pressed to take on shifts for colleagues if their immigration paperwork doesn’t come through.

Dr. Roxie Wells, president of Cape Fear Valley Hoke Hospital in Raeford, North Carolina, said she started trying to bring over foreign nurses before the pandemic, but it wasn’t until last year that these recruits started getting consular interviews in larger numbers. So far, about 150 were approved to come work, but Wells said they’re still waiting on another 75.

“Obviously it has become more necessary during the pandemic,” she said. “The 150, if we didn’t have them, we would be in a precarious situation.”

The surge in the omicron variant in the United States has made the strained staffing situation even more apparent in hospitals as health care workers, like so many others, have been sickened by the highly contagious virus and sidelined from work at a time when more patients are coming in.

Sinead Carbery, president of International Nurse Staffing Solutions for AMN Healthcare, said the demand for international nurses has risen between 300% and 400% since the pandemic began. The number of nurses that can be brought into the United States even with the additional green cards won’t be enough to meet demand, and many more recruiters are now seeking to hire nurses overseas because there are immigrant visas available, she said.

“This is a window of opportunity,” she said. “Because everything is flowing so well, there’s a lot of competition for that talent.”

National Nurses United, a union representing 175,000 registered nurses, said more scrutiny should be given to international recruitment to ensure foreign nurses aren’t brought in and subjected to unsafe working conditions. The union contends hospitals drove away U.S. nurses by keeping staffing levels so low — and this was well before concerns arose about worker safety and protections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Mahon, the union’s assistant director of nursing practice, said many foreign nurses sign yearslong contracts with employers, which can make it hard for them to speak up about labor or patient safety concerns. She said hospitals that saw nurses quit during the pandemic are turning to an overseas workforce to replace them.

“This kind of dynamic is particularly attractive right now to employers who have not made any of the changes necessary to ensure patient and nursing safety during this COVID-19 pandemic,” Mahon said. “Instead of them addressing the actual problem, they want to go and pivot to this other really fake solution.”

Hospital administrators, however, contend there simply aren’t enough U.S.-trained nurses to go around. Patty Jeffrey, president of the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, said the United States should expand nursing education programs to train more nurses domestically, as well as let more nurses come in from overseas. But she acknowledged bringing in a much larger number of nurses would require legislation.

“The calls are every day ringing off the hook: We need 100, we need 200, we need all these nurses,” Jeffrey said.

Jorge Almeida Neri, a 26-year-old nurse from Portugal, arrived in the United States late last year, though he began the process before the pandemic. He said a required international nursing exam was delayed due to the virus and it took four months to get a consular interview, though other international nurses he’s met waited much longer. He interviewed for his current job at a Virginia hospital, which he got through a staffing agency, about a year ago.

“After getting everything certified, the immigration process started, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be quick.’ I was wrong,” he said.

Almeida Neri said many Portuguese nurses seek work overseas since wages are low, though many go elsewhere in Europe, which doesn’t take as long as the United States.

Despite the demand, there’s no guarantee hospitals will in fact snap up more visas. Greg Siskind, an immigration attorney, said U.S. consular offices aren’t required to issue visas solely because they’re available, and are hampered by limits on remote work and video interviews. He said most employment-based green cards tend to go to professionals already in the United States, not overseas, though more could be done to speed these up, too.

“Under their current policies, if they don’t make any changes, it is going to be hard,” he said of the likelihood the U.S. government will issue all the available visas, “but there’s a lot of things they could do.”

Karnataka’s Hoysala Temples Nominated For UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebid and Somnathapura in Karnataka have been selected as India’s nomination for UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites for the year 2022-23.

The Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebid and Somnathapura in Karnataka have been selected as India’s nomination for UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites for the year 2022-23.

On Monday, Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO Vishal V Sharma formally submitted the nomination of Hoysala Temples to UNESCO Director of World Heritage Lazare Eloundou.

The ‘Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala’ have been on UNESCO’s Tentative list since 15 April, 2014, and stand testimony to the rich historical and cultural heritage of this country.

G Kishan Reddy, the Union Minister of Culture, Tourism and Development of Northeastern Region, said,

“This is a great moment for India to see the Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas temples being submitted for inscription in the World Heritage List.”

“Our efforts in protecting our heritage is evident from the work the government has been putting in inscribing both our tangible and intangible heritage and also repatriating the cultural heritage that was stolen or taken away from India,” the minister added.

All the three Hoysala temples are protected monuments of the Archaeological Survey of India and therefore their conservation and maintenance will be done by it, the culture ministry said.

What are World Heritage Sites, how they are chosen by UNESCO and how many of them are in India, let’s find out:

What are World Heritage Sites

– A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

– World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance.

– As per an international treaty adopted by UNESCO in 1972 called the ‘Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage’, UNESCO seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

– As of July 2021, a total of 1,154 World Heritage Sites (897 cultural, 218 natural, and 39 mixed properties) exist across 167 countries. With 58 selected areas, Italy is the country with the most sites on the list.

– A World Heritage Site can be either cultural or natural areas or objects which are inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for having “outstanding universal value”.

– These sites are usually considered to have cultural significance to all the people in the world, including future generations.

How are they selected

– According to The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, a country must first list its significant cultural and natural sites into a document known as the Tentative List.

– The sites selected from that list move onto the Nomination File, which is then evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union.

– Any site that wasn’t first included in the Tentative List cannot be nominated.

– The two bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee, which consists of diplomatic representatives from 21 countries.

– The committee meets each year to decide whether a nominated property can be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

– The committee makes the final decision if a site meets at least one of the ten selection criteria.

Does a site lose its designation

– A site may lose its designation when the World Heritage Committee determines if it is not properly maintained or protected.

– It is first placed in the list of World Heritage in Danger as the Committee attempts to find a remedy involving the local authorities. If any remedies fail, the designation is revoked.

– A country can also request the Committee to partially or fully delist a property, generally in such cases when its condition has seriously deteriorated.

How many World Heritage Sites are in India

– There are currently 32 cultural, seven natural and one mixed World Heritage Sites in India.

– Agra Fort, Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, and Taj Mahal made it to the list in 1983.

– The latest sites to be added to the list Dholavira in Gujarat, Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple in Telangana in 2021.

– There are 46 sites in the Tentative List including a group of monuments at Mandu and the historic ensemble of Orchha in Madhya Pradesh, Satpura tiger reserve, temples of Kanchipuram, temples at Bishnupur in West Bengal, and Sri Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab.

Long Island, NY Celebrates 73rd Annual India Republic Day

Town of Hempstead Celebrates 73rd. Annual India Republic Day with Flag Raising Celebration at Town Hall. Hempstead Town Supervisor and Town Board recognize holiday to celebrate freedom in the world’s most populous democracy and honor the Indian American community’s Legacy in Hempstead Town.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin, along with members of the Hempstead Town Board and leaders of the Indian American Forum, India Association of Long Island, IIDPUSA and several Community Leaders and members joined together to celebratethe73rd Annual India Republic Day. The event was held on the front steps of Hempstead Town Hall last Wednesday, January 26,2022to highlight the transition of the highest populated democracy in the world to a republic. The National Flag of India was publicly raised to commemorate Indian American residents and culture.

Indians American culture and tradition are vastly important in the Hempstead Town Community, “Clavin Said. “America’s largest township is thankful y obo home to thriving community of Indian Americans contribute to shaping the dynamic identity of our home. It is vital and right that we communally recognize and celebrate the fundamental parts of our neighbor’s ‘history’. Welcome remarks given by Indu Jaiswal Chair IAF and Bobby Kumar Kalotee, Chairman Human Rights Commission, Nassau County, also present were Bina Sabapathy, President IALI, Deepak Bansal President IDPUSA, Jasbir Jay Singh, Zahid Syed, Human Rights Commissioner Nassau County, Jagdish Sewahni. Bina Kothari, President NY GOPIO, Roopam Maini, Vijay Goswamy Executive Members of IAF

Due to the persistence of the COVID -19 pandemic. The event was held completely outdoors. The Flag raising proceedings included a cultural music selection, singing of the United States National Anthem by Dr Bhavani Srinivasan, and Indian National Anthem by Jyoti Gupta, Blessings from the Priest  Samiran Chakraborty from NY Kali Mandir, Patriotic Medley By Budh Prakash Singh Jasuja, Nanki Jasuja, Dr Jag Kalra, Koolbhushan Sharma and Jyoti Gupta, and Keynote speaker Dr Azad  Anand, Trustee IAF, explaining the history and significance of the Indian American Community to the town and country.

The importance of India Republic Day extends far beyond the Town of Hempstead. Said Hempstead town Clerk Kate Murray, who began the tradition during her tenure as Supervisor. “Indian Culture has had a profound influence on American culture the course of many years and I am always glad to honor and Celebrate the Indian American neighbors in our Town. We encourage all residents to join us in celebrating our Indian American community’ Clavin Said ‘Happy India Republic Day “

Oil Prices Hit $90 A Barrel For The First Time Since 2014

US oil prices jumped above $90 a barrel last week for the first time in more than seven years. The latest rally comes just a day after OPEC and its allies declined to aggressively ramp up production to cool off red-hot energy prices.

Crude jumped 2.2% to $90.15 a barrel in afternoon trading. That marks the first time US oil prices surpassed the $90 threshold on an intraday basis since October 2014.

Oil has surged by 37% since closing at a recent low of $65.57 a barrel on December 1 amid Omicron fears and the fallout from the US-led intervention into energy markets.

Last week, Brent crude, the world benchmark, closed above $90 a barrel for the first time since October 2014.

OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, announced Wednesday it will stick to its previously telegraphed plan to increase production by 400,000 barrels per day. That’s despite the fact that some on Wall Street suggested OPEC+ could boost production more substantially to meet demand.

“OPEC+ opted to hold its shortest meeting on record and rubber-stamped the 400 kb/d monthly increase, sticking with a hands-off the wheel management approach despite global inflationary fears,” RBC Capital Markets strategists wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

India Prepares Roadmap For Indian Universities To Set Up Foreign Campuses

A federal Indian committee has been asked to “submit a framework/structure for opening of campuses abroad by Higher Education Institutes after examining the existing provisions for opening of offshore campuses” by March 17.

The Government of India has formed a 16-member committee comprising directors of seven IITs and vice-chancellors of four central universities to prepare a roadmap on the demand “from various quarters” to allow overseas campuses” of Indian universities. The development comes on the back of IIT Delhi’s proposal to open centers in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The committee, headed by IIT Council Standing Committee Chairman Dr K Radhakrishnan, has been asked to “submit a framework/structure for the opening of campuses abroad by Higher Education Institutes after examining the existing provisions for the opening of offshore campuses” by March 17.

The committee members include directors of seven IITs — Mumbai, Delhi, Kharagpur, Madras, Kanpur, Guwahati, Dhanbad — and the vice-chancellors of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Banaras Hindu University, University of Hyderabad, and the Director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Its mandate includes drawing up the administrative, financial, and legal framework of the proposed overseas campuses.

The proposals, including that of IIT Delhi, will be placed before the committee. Among the highlights of IIT Delhi’s proposed overseas campuses are four-year undergraduate courses, an annual intake of up to 240 students in four branches based on SAT scores, and campuses spread over 100 acres that are close to major cities with good air connectivity.

The premier engineering school’s proposal marks its second attempt to expand abroad. Its previous attempt to set up a research academy in Mauritius under an agreement with the Mauritius Research Council had run into a controversy in 2014 following objections raised by the Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani.

IIT-D’s second attempt

The Centre’s move to set up a committee to prepare a roadmap for Indian universities to set up foreign campuses comes on the back of IIT Delhi’s proposal to open campuses in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Earlier, IIT-D’s attempt to set up a research academy in Mauritius had been objected to by then HRD Minister Smriti Irani.

“The operational safeguard required for insulating the parent institute vis-a-vis its offshore campuses from liabilities as per law of foreign country” is also among the terms of references of the Radhakrishnan committee.

A senior Education Ministry official said the committee has so far met once where discussions were held on whether the IITs should collectively start one campus abroad or should each IIT compete individually abroad.

“And why just IITs? Many other central universities have the necessary expertise to launch off-shore campuses. The committee will provide a roadmap. IIT Delhi is an institute of eminence and has an autonomous decision-making structure. But any proposal that involves funds will require the ministry’s approval,” the official added.

According to the structure outlined by IIT-D, the proposed campuses — which will be headed by directors appointed by the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Delhi centre — in Saudi Arabia and Egypt will have to be financially supported by stakeholders based in those countries, including their governments, the industry or philanthropic donors.

“An alternate model would be to set up the KSA campus [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] as a for-profit entity. This would have the advantage of attracting potential investors who could provide the capital needed to set up the campus. However, IIT Delhi has no experience in working with such a model and while it might be willing to explore the possibility this would not be its priority,” it said in the draft proposal.

In line with the National Education Policy, the Centre had last year issued guidelines allowing institutions of eminence such as IIT Delhi to open overseas campuses with the prior approval of the Ministry of Education and no-objection certificates from the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs.

“The campus would admit 60 students in each discipline each year and this would imply 240 students in each cohort and roughly 1,000 students and 60 faculty members on campus after 4 years,” says the IIT-D proposal. Students will spend their final year of the course in the Delhi campus, it adds.

Of the total faculty members, 60 per cent are proposed to be either Saudi-based or from Egypt. The recruitment of teachers, who will be expected to spend one semester every three years at the India campus, will be carried out by IIT Delhi.

The proposal includes the creation of “ultra-modern laboratories and classrooms”, dormitories, food courts, sports facilities, 150 apartments to house teaching and non-teaching staff on a 100-acre campus “close to a major city having good air links to Delhi.”

“The adjoining city should have good educational and medical facilities to cater to the needs of teaching and scientific staff that would be housed on the campus,” it pitches.

The Most Intelligent In The World Is Of Indian Origin

A 12-year-old Malayalee schoolgirl has achieved the maximum score possible in a Mensa IQ test, a feat achieved by only 1% of those who sit the society’s entry paper. Lydia Sebastian completed the Cattell III B paper supervised by Mensa, the society for people with high IQs, with minutes to spare at the sitting at Birkbeck College, London.

This Indian-origin girl (Parents & Grandparents are from Kerala) in the UK has achieved the highest possible score of 162 on a Mensa IQ test, outwitting physicists Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. The young girl’s favorite subjects include Maths, Physics and Chemistry and she has stated to the media in England that she wants to do something related to Maths in her career.

Her parents are from Kerala, her father Arun Sebastian is a radiologist at Colchester General Hospital while her mom Erika Kottiath is an associate director with Barclays Bank.

Lydia pressed her parents all year to allow her to take the intelligence test, which she finally took during her school break. Sebastian completely downplayed the super tough exam–going so far as to call it “easy.” “At first, I was really nervous but once I started, it was much easier than I expected it to be and then I relaxed, she said. “I gave it my best shot really.”

Arun said seeing his daughter score the highest possible score on one of the tough IQ test he was “overwhelmed”. He said: “Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking got an IQ of 160. To be honest, I didn’t really believe it.”

When asked whether she likes coming to Kerala she said that she has been visiting her Grandparents house in Kerala ever since she was a year and a half and loves living in Kerala. She may come back to Kerala after her studies and possibly contribute to the progress of kerala, the progress of India and of the whole world in turn.

Mensa is considered to be one of the oldest intelligence society in the world. It accepts only those individuals as members who score in the 98th percentile on an IQ test. The eligibility criteria to get the membership is to score at least 132 or higher only.

Share this with every Indian and let us be proud of our 12 year old Malayalee Girl.

Nitu Chandra Bags Two More Hollywood Films

Actor Nitu Chandra marked her Hollywood film debut with Never Back Down: Revolt last year. One of the female leads in the film, she was seen engaging in high-octane combat sequences. Currently being managed by late actor Irrfan’s team in Los Angeles, USA, she has bagged two more Hollywood projects. And she insists on playing parts that doesn’t represent Indians in a skewed manner.

S The actor says that she turned down Hollywood offers that represented Indians in a not so positive light; also talks about Indian actors appearing in blink-and-you-miss-it roles in international projects

he tells us, “I’ve denied two projects where Indians weren’t represented in a very positive light. I don’t want to do anything that maligns our identity. I want three billion global Indians to be proud of me.”

Indian actors, who have been a part of Hollywood projects over the last few years, have often been trolled for their blink-and-you-miss-it appearances in them. Talking about it, Chandra says, “There have been films where they’ve done a two-minute or a five-minute role. But they were hugely publicised and hyped, and the audiences were promised something big. And since we, Indians, are very emotional, we were disappointed after the watching those films.”

But the 37-year-old actor wants to change that with her choices: “I’ve been listening to interviews where Indian actors say that they’re happy to be a small part of a project, but I was very proud to be one of the main leads in a commercial Hollywood film.”

To focus on her career in the West, Chandra has bought a home in LA and is planning to buy a house in London, UK, too. “I want to work everywhere in the world, across languages. I did a Greek film (Block 12; 2016) too where I did a lot of action,” she says, adding, “I often thought why not go out and grab opportunities all over the globe? As women, we’re so strong, and I believe we can achieve whatever we aim for.”

Alzheimer’s-Like Changes Found In COVID Patients’ Brains; Flu Shot, Mrna Booster Safe Together

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Alzheimer’s-like changes seen in COVID-19 patients’ brains

People who die of severe COVID-19 have brain abnormalities that resemble changes seen in Alzheimer’s disease – accumulation of a protein called tau inside brain cells, and abnormal amounts of the protein beta-amyloid that accumulates into amyloid plaques – small studies have found.

At Columbia University, Dr. Andrew Marks and colleagues studied the brains of 10 COVID-19 patients and found defects in proteins called ryanodine receptors that control the passage of calcium into cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, defective ryanodine receptors are linked to accumulation of tau into so-called neurofibrillary tangles. These tangles were present in high levels in the COVID-19 patients’ brains, the Columbia team reported on Thursday in Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Other research teams have looked for – and found – abnormal amyloid levels in brains of COVID-19 patients, according to reports posted online ahead of peer review on bioRxiv and on The Lancet’s preprint server.

In all the studies, patients had experienced the most severe forms of COVID-19. If similar changes are occurring in the brains of patients with milder illness, that might help explain the “brain fog” associated with long COVID, Marks said. Patients with severe COVID-19 might be at higher risk for dementia later in life, but it is too soon to know, he added. His advice: Get a booster vaccine and avoid the virus. “If you get COVID-19, you probably won’t die, but we still don’t know a lot about the long-term effects.”

Seniors can get flu shot, mRNA COVID-19 booster together

Seniors can safely get the high-dose flu vaccine and an mRNA COVID-19 booster dose at the same time, a new study confirms.

The study’s 306 participants, all older than 65, were randomly assigned either to receive Sanofi’s Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent influenza vaccine and a third shot of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine at the same time, or either of the vaccines alone. Blood samples obtained before and 21 days after vaccination showed that giving the two vaccines together did not affect the resulting immune response, with similar antibody levels generated in participants in each of the three groups, according to a report published on Tuesday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

A spokesperson for Sanofi said combined administration of the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines “did not raise any safety concerns and the study team is continuing to follow study participants through 6 months after vaccination.”

Fluid in some rapid COVID tests could be deadly for kids

In some COVID-19 rapid test kits, the small bottle of “reagent” fluid contains sodium azide, a powerful poison that is particularly dangerous for small children, experts warn.

In adults, small amounts can quickly cause dangerously low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, or even heart attacks or strokes, said Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, Co-Medical Director of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C. Higher doses can be fatal, she and her colleagues wrote in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Sodium azide levels in COVID-19 rapid test kits are not always high enough to cause low blood pressure in adults, and the iHealth kits being sent out by the U.S. government do not contain any sodium azide at all, Johnson-Arbor said. “However… since children are typically much smaller than adults, they are at a higher risk of experiencing poisonous effects after swallowing any amount,” she said.

Poison control hotlines have been getting reports of accidental exposures to the reagent fluid. “Some people have swallowed the solution, some have spilled it onto their skin, and others have put it in their eyes,” mistaking the bottle for eye drops, Johnson-Arbor said. “If you or a loved one swallows the reagent fluid or gets the fluid in their eyes or on the skin, contact Poison Control right away.” (In the U.S., at www.poison.org or 1-800-222-1222; in the UK at https://www.npis.org/).

Covid Lockdown Linked To Increase In Drinking At Home

Lockdown measures throughout 2020 have been linked to people in Scotland and England drinking more at home, according to new research.

The latest study, from researchers at the University of Sheffield and University of Glasgow, measured the impact of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 on drinking practices, using data on almost 300,000 adult drinkers.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, found that while people were broadly drinking the same amount of alcohol during periods of restrictions as they were when no restrictions were in place, lockdowns appeared to be linked to a shift in habits to at-home, late evening drinking.

In Scotland, the study found that there was also an increase in solitary drinking, although researchers say this could be explained by a higher proportion of people living alone in Scotland than in England.

At-home drinking remains an under-researched area, and while the long-term impacts of these recent changes are not yet known, the study authors suggest that these new drinking habits should be closely monitored as we move into a period of fewer restrictions.

During the first UK lockdown, venues such as pubs and restaurants were closed, affecting the type of locations where people could drink alcohol. Restrictions were eased from July 2020, with pubs and restaurants gradually allowed to reopen. However, from September 2020 in response to rising case numbers, a series of national and local restrictions were put in place that once again impacted hospitality settings.

The research team studied 41,500 adult drinkers in Scotland and more than 250,000 adult drinkers in England, focusing on the original March 2020 lockdown, the easing of restrictions in July 2020 and the onset of further restrictions in September 2020 until December 2020.

While figures show there was no statistical difference in the total number of alcohol units consumed each week during different periods of the first year of the pandemic, more detailed analysis reveals that lockdown restrictions were associated with people starting to drink later in the day, and in Scotland where there is a higher proportion of people living alone, with more solitary drinking.

Dr Abigail Stevely, co-author of the study from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group, said: “Despite some concerns that people might drink more in the day-time, we actually found that there was a shift towards people starting drinking later in the evening during lockdown restrictions. This perhaps reflects changes in people’s routines and the absence of opportunities for daytime socialising such as going to the pub with colleagues after work.

“Although we found that lockdown restrictions did not change overall levels of alcohol consumption, there is evidence from other studies that heavier drinkers may have increased their consumption. It will be therefore important to continue monitoring drinking during the pandemic to prevent additional health problems in future.”

The study’s findings suggest shop-bought alcohol consumption increased following the March 2020 lockdown and remained persistently higher than previous years throughout the rest of 2020, even in the period when lockdown restrictions were eased. Meanwhile, hospitality alcohol consumption decreased following the March 2020 lockdown and remained lower than previous years throughout the remainder of 2020.

The researchers believe this is most likely explained by three reasons: even when on-trade premises reopened they were operating at reduced capacity; some venues (e.g. nightclubs and live music venues) remained closed; some people will have continued to stay away from hospitality settings even in periods of lesser restrictions over fears of catching COVID-19.

Dr Iain Hardie, lead author of the study from the University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said: “Going forward it remains unclear what the long-term consequences will be of the changes in alcohol consumption in 2020. With hospitality premises back operating at closer to full capacity it’s likely that alcohol consumption in these venues will move closer to pre-pandemic levels, although they could potentially decline again in response to new variants if restrictions are reintroduced or people are afraid of indoor spaces.

“However, the increase in home drinking in 2020 is a concern. We know from other studies that alcohol related harm has risen during the pandemic. The increase in home drinking is likely to have contributed to this. In the past, home drinking has been a relatively under researched topic, and there is now a need to monitor it more going forward to find out whether these home drinking habits picked up by people in 2020  become a new norm within peoples’ drinking behaviour. ”

The study, ‘The impact of changes in COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on alcohol consumption and drinking occasion characteristics in Scotland and England in 2020: an interrupted time-series analysis’ is published in Addiction. The work is funded by The Economic and Social Research Council. The Medical Research Council and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office.

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities, renowned for the excellence, impact and distinctiveness of its research-led learning and teaching.

With six Nobel Prize winners among its former staff and students, Sheffield has a proud history of discovery, innovation and social change. In 1930, it pioneered the very first medical use of penicillin, while more recently researchers developed a lifesaving drug for the treatment of ovarian and breast cancer.

Developmental Roadmap For Jammu And Kashmir

With the overall objective of ensuring good governance, socio-economic development, to address regional disparity and improve administrative efficiency, since Independence India has undertaken exercise of state reorganization on several occasions. The 12th such reorganization of states in India saw the reorganization of the State of Jammu & Kashmir as the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu & Kashmir with an elected Legislative assembly and Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh with an elected Council – on 5 August 2019, the Indian Parliament voted in favor of the reorganization by abrogation of Article 370, ended exceptionalism of the Jammu & Kashmir region and brought it on the same footing as the rest of India.

Since then, the region has seen many positive developments. All Central laws have been extended to the UT including legislations meant for protecting and promoting social, economic, and political rights of women, children, under-privileged sections as well as those for ensuring transparent and accountable governance. These include the Right to Information Act 2005, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2007 etc.

The UT has now amended the Panchayat Act for establishment of the 3rd tier of Panchayats at district level. This is a step forward to strengthening grass-root democracy. Elections to Block Development Councils (BDC) were held for the first time in the history of J&K in October 2019 with 98.3 % voter turnout. For the first time, women benefited from reservation bringing them into mainstream politics. In October-November 2020, elections were conducted for District Development Council, with 51.7 % voter turnout. The newly elected BDC chairpersons and Sarpanchs were sent for training visits to other states.

Over USD 230 million has been devolved through Panchayat institutions for MGNREGA, Mid-Day meals and other programs. 44 Digital village centers have been established at Gram Panchayat to provide internet access to rural areas as well as access to e-delivery of Government services. Over 70,000 ration cards were seeded with Aadhar while 50,000 families were covered under state-sponsored Health Insurance Schemes. Over 15,000 loans have been sanctioned which included 4600 loans for women entrepreneurs.

To improve infrastructure in villages, over 20,000 development works have been identified directly by the people, of which 7000 have already been executed. Under the Budget Estimation Allocation Monitoring System – information regarding funds released by the Government for developmental projects can be monitored, thus ensuring transparency in allocation and disbursement of Government funds. An integrated grievance redressal and monitoring system was launched in September 2020, to provide an online grievance redressal system to the people of J&K. Over 85,000 grievances have been received, with over 90 % grievances being satisfactorily dealt with.

J&K Industrial Development Policy 2021-30 has been notified with an outlay of INR 28,400 crores to provide incentives to all new industrial units being set up in the UT as well as any existing units undertaking substantial expansions. J&K Industrial Land Allotment Policy 2021-30 has been adopted under which land has been allocated to 15 industrial projects with a projected investment of INR 1,548 crore (200 million USD). Single window clearance rules have been notified.

Under Prime Minister’s Development Package 54 projects have been identified with the investment of INR 56,261 crores (USD 7.5 billion). 20 of these projects have been completed/substantially completed. 13 more are likely to be completed by the end of 2021-22 and remaining by 2022-23.  The completed projects include the all-weather 8.45 km long hi-tech tunnel between Qazigund and Banihal built at a cost of USD 420 million. Rambagh flyover in Jammu has been completed. During 2020-21, 1289 road construction works were completed at a cost of INR 1638 crores (USD 220 million). Construction work of 14500 km of road has been completed so far under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, which has connected about 2000 places. The Udhampur-Sringara-Baramulla Railway Link project is under construction. The world’s highest railway bridge is being built over the Chenab river for this link. An international flight from Srinagar to Sharjah has been started in October 2021. In addition, nine flights from Jammu and Srinagar have also been started.

Power generation capacity is to be doubled in the next 3 years. 3500 MW of hydro-power capacity was installed in the last seven decades, another 2500 MW is to be added by 2024-25. J & K achieved 100% household electrification. Over 350,000 beneficiaries were covered by laying down new electric cables in remote areas and thus eliminating dependency on diesel generators. All 18.16 lakh rural households of J&K to have functional household tap connections by March 2022. 100% saturation has been achieved in 17 individual beneficiary centric schemes, including Saubhagya (universal household electrification), Ujala (domestic lighting program), Ujjwala (LPG connections to deprived households) and Indradhanush (full immunization of children) schemes. Social Security schemes have been expanded to include over 270,000 additional people. Transgender people have been added for the first time to provide them with pension benefits.

J&K has received investment proposals of over USD 4 billion. The J&K Government has also entered into six agreements with global investors at the Dubai Expo 2020 to bring in investments in real estate, infrastructure, tourism, healthcare, and manpower development.

7 new medical colleges and hospitals including 2 AIIMS, 2 cancer institutes, bone institutes and child hospitals are being established in J&K. IIT Jammu and IIM Jammu have started functioning from its own campus while work on AIIMS Jammu has started. Seats for graduation in medicine (MBBS) have been increased from 500 to 1100.

50 new colleges are being established with additional opportunities to over 20,000 students. Government has facilitated translation of textbooks in local languages of Dogri, Hindi, Kashmiri, and Urdu for primary schools. Two special Centers have been established in Jammu and Srinagar for providing tutoring and guidance to students for civil services and other competitive examinations under the PARVAAZ Scheme. In addition, scholarship assistance is being provided to students. Centers for Invention, Innovation, Incubation and Training have been established in Jammu and Baramulla as a joint venture between the Government and Tata Technologies, to provide training to unemployed engineers. During FY 2021-22 nearly 140,000 persons have been covered under various self-employment schemes of the Government. Government plans to establish 1,000 Atal Tinkering Labs in J&K, of which 187 will be established by the end of FY 2021-22. Work on two IT parks, one each in Jammu and Srinagar, and rural BPOs in all district headquarters will be commenced soon. This will provide employment opportunities to youth.

Sports infrastructure has received impetus in J&K. Under Prime Minister’s Development Package for upgradation of sports infrastructure, Government has allocated INR 200 crore (26 million USD) to the region. Government is developing two Khelo India Centres of Excellence in Jammu and Srinagar.

A new Wool Processing, Handicrafts and Handloom Policy 2020 has been adopted for promotion and development of Handicrafts and Handloom sector. Financial Support Scheme to the tune of INR 100,000 for each Cooperative/Self Help Group in the Handicrafts and Handloom Sector has been approved. Government has also approved a new Credit Card Scheme for providing a loan of INR 200,000 for Artisans/Weavers with interest subvention of 7% for five years.

To boost agriculture sector, a unique market intervention scheme for J&K has been introduced – Government of J&K has entered into an agreement with National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) wherein NAFED will invest nearly USD 230 million into high density plantations of Apple, Walnut, Cherry, Pear over the next five years in order to increase produce. Moreover, Kashmiri Saffron has been given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Government is working on developing 3 cold storage clusters with the investment of INR 500 crores (67 million USD).

J&K has one of the highest budget allocations for healthcare sector (5%) in India.  Free and universal healthcare insurance scheme in J&K has been extended to all its residents.  J&K is one of the leading UTs in India in COVID-19 vaccination coverage, having fully vaccinated more than 99 % of its adult population. Booster dose vaccination campaign for health care and frontline workers and elderly has been launched. Government has provided special monthly pensions and scholarships to the families who have lost their bread winners to COVID-19.

As per the recent data released by the Home Ministry, compared to 2019, number of terrorist incidents have reduced in the region by 59% in 2020. The incidents reduced by a further 32% till June 2021 compared to the corresponding period in 2020. The UT of J&K is witnessing governance reforms, implementation of progressive legislations and big impetus to economic development. Currently, J&K is positioned 21st in the ‘ease of doing business’ rankings among 36 states and UTs.

Indian Union Budget Reveals Importance Of Cryptocurrency

At last, it is a piece of surprising news that Digital currency is also being introduced in the Indian fiduciary system as part of yet another dream project of Digital India. The Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman and the  Governor of the Central Bank of India had elaborated on this. We have heard earlier that the Indian Government was also making a move to ban foreign digital currencies in the country. The Central Bank is in the process of making an official announcement soon on its development model of digital currency (CBDC). Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Indian Digital Rupee will be launched using blockchain technology in the financial year 2022-23.

Anyway, the Supreme Court made a favorable ruling in favor of lifting the Reserve Bank’s ban on crypto use. This ruling created a new wave among Indian investors and led to a rapid rise in retail. At the same time, investors are optimistic about the central bank and the emergence of digital currencies.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced in her budget speech that the distribution of digital currency would begin. But there are widespread doubts about what a digital rupee is. The announcement comes at a time when the central Government is considering a strong policy to curb the misuse of cryptocurrencies. At the Republican Economic Summit in November 2021, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Electronics & IT, hinted at the introduction of an official digital currency.

 What is Digital Rupee?

The digital currency of the Reserve Bank of India will be based on blockchain technology, the technology behind Bitcoin, and other popular cryptocurrencies. According to the Finance Minister, this will pave a more efficient and cost-effective currency management system. However, the future of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is unclear.

The RBI has already been keenly watching the performance of major economies worldwide and their respective central banks for CBDC schemes. As a result, the central bank has almost decided on the issue of official digital currency. While the Reserve Bank mentions the need for central banking digital currency (CBDC), it also makes it clear that the government is concerned about the risks surrounding other cryptocurrencies. Why has the government not yet officially banned such currencies? Why did the Supreme Court overturn the ban on banks operating cryptocurrencies? The questions are numerous.

As economists fear that cryptocurrency is one of the most widely used dangerous currencies globally, without any government control. It can also be described as a private currency and minting huge profits sometimes. All of these operate with the support of some unknown sovereign guarantees. No country provides any security. For example, a Rs.500 Indian currency note!. The Reserve Bank Governor guarantees on  500 currency note. Even if it is paper, the RBI pays for it. But governments do not ensure the value of digital currencies like Bitcoin.

However, we know that the value of crypto like Bitcoin is supported by complex programming. No one or any government can change it individually, and it involves multiple checks at multiple computer servers worldwide, related to its value. Therefore, the easiest way to understand digital currency  is to use a digital currency that can only be transferred from one person to another via the Internet on platforms like Coinbase.

However, the RBI is not the first financial institution in the world to make such a drastic move. Reports indicate that India is far behind its technological  derivatives  in terms of crypto controls. We were hearing that China has been working on this for so many  years;  supported by the Chinese Central Bank and government approval. The Chinese widely use digital currency for e-commerce portals, offline shops, and other outlets through smartphones.

However, there is a difference between CBDC and cryptocurrency as the latter has some basic features. Those features cannot be copied to digital currencies. Cryptocurrencies, by nature, operate on the basic principle of anonymity. The exciting part is that the details of the seller and the buyer cannot be tracked. But beware,  in the case of a digital currency released by the central bank will have a whole tracking system, just like a standard currency. This is the kind of digital currency used in China. This ensures that transactions will take place under the supervision of the government. Go ahead Digital India!

Indian American Woman To Serve As Judge In New Jersey Municipal Court

The first female Indian American judge Dipti Vaid Dedhia is nominated for the post of Judge in Edison Municipal Court by Edison Mayor Sam Joshi.

“We should all be happy about Dedhia’s appointment.” Mayor Joshi said, “Our Council members unanimously approved this nomination.”

Dipti Vaid Dedhia was nominated by Edison Mayor Sam Joshi.

“Dedhia’s appointment broke a glass ceiling that we should all be proud of. Our Council members supported this nomination unanimously,” Mayor Joshi said in an official statement.

Formerly the Deputy Attorney General in Employment Counsel and Labor for the State of New Jersey, Dedhia graduated from George Washington University before receiving her Juris Doctor from Seton Hall University of Law. She has spent decades litigating complex employment matters, investigating complaints involving violations of law or policy, and representing the governor’s office of Employee Relations in arbitrating grievances between the administration and labor unions, according to a statement released after the meeting.

“When I was young, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my career, but I had two amazing parents who motivated me to strive for a life of significance and conscience. In recognition of their immense impact on my life, one of my main goals in my new role is to be an example to the youth of today. My message to them is simple: though the path may not be clear as you stand here today, your goals are attainable. Achieving your dreams through courage, kindness, and perseverance is not a cliche – I am living proof,” Dedhia said in the statement.

Dedhia was the recipient of the Most Successful Mediator Award in the Passaic County Superior Court Clerk’s Program, in addition to her years of expertise offering legal advise on labor laws, anti-discrimination rules, prevailing pay regulations, and best employment practices.

Indian American Dipti Vaid Dedhia has become the first female South Asian municipal court judge in Edison and New Jersey’s history with the Edison Township Council confirming her nomination.

“Dedhia’s appointment broke a glass ceiling that we should all be proud of,” stated Edison’s first South Asian Mayor Sam Joshi, who had nominated her. “She is the most qualified and ready for the job.”

“It was truly my honor and privilege to nominate Dipti Vaid Dedhia as Edison’s next municipal court judge. Our Council members supported this nomination unanimously,” Joshi said after the confirmation vote Jan 26.

Born in London, Dedhia, a wife and mother of three, moved to New Jersey with her parents at the age of 2 and has lived in the state for the past 36 years, including 20 in Edison.

Formerly the Deputy Attorney General in Employment Counsel and Labor for the State of New Jersey, Dedhia graduated from George Washington University before receiving her Juris Doctor from Seton Hall University of Law.

She has spent decades litigating complex employment matters, investigating complaints involving violations of law or policy, and representing the governor’s office of Employee Relations in arbitrating grievances between the administration and labor unions, according to an official statement.

“When I was young, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my career, but I had two amazing parents who motivated me to strive for a life of significance and conscience,” Dedhia stated. “In recognition of their immense impact on my life, one of my main goals in my new role is to be an example to the youth of today.

“My message to them is simple: though the path may not be clear as you stand here today, your goals are attainable. Achieving your dreams through courage, kindness, and perseverance is not a cliche – I am living proof,” she stated.

Dedhia was a recipient of the Most Successful Mediator Award in the Passaic County Superior Court Clerk’s Program. She has participated in national civil rights competition and is certified in deposition skills by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.

Dedhia is a frequent contributor to Huffington Post, Brown Girl Magazine and the Aerogram, according to the township.

The Evolution Of Global Poverty, 1990-2030

The last 30 years have seen dramatic reductions in global poverty, spurred by strong catch-up growth in developing countries, especially in Asia. By 2015, some 729 million people, 10% of the population, lived under the $1.90 a day poverty line, greatly exceeding the Millennium Development Goal target of halving poverty. From 2012 to 2013, at the peak of global poverty reduction, the global poverty headcount fell by 130 million poor people.

This success story was dominated by China and India. In December 2020, China declared it had eliminated extreme poverty completely. India represents a more recent success story. Strong economic growth drove poverty rates down to 77 million, or 6% of the population, in 2019. India will, however, experience a short-term spike in poverty due to COVID-19, before resuming a strong downward path. By 2030, India is likely to essentially eliminate extreme poverty, with less than 5 million people living below the $1.90 line. By 2030, the only Asian countries that are unlikely to meet the goal of ending extreme poverty are Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, and North Korea.

In other parts of the world, poverty trends are disappointing. In Latin America, poverty fell rapidly at the beginning of this century but has been rising since 2015, with no substantial reductions forecast by the end of this decade. In Africa, poverty has been rising steadily, thanks to rapid population growth and stagnant economic growth. Exacerbated by a pandemic-induced rise in poverty of 11%, African poverty shows little signs of decline through 2030.

These trends point to the emergence of a very different poverty landscape. Whereas in 1990, poverty was concentrated in low-income, Asian countries, today’s (and tomorrow’s) poverty is largely found in sub-Saharan Africa and fragile and conflict-affected states. By 2030, sub-Saharan African countries will account for 9 of the top 10 countries by poverty headcount. Sixty percent of the global poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected states. Many of the top poverty destinations in the next decade will fall into both of these categories: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Somalia. Global efforts to achieve the SDGs by 2030, including eliminating extreme poverty, will be complicated by the concentration of poverty in these fragile and hard-to-reach contexts.

By 2030, poverty will be associated not just with countries, but with specific places within countries. Middle-income countries will be home to almost half of the global poor, a dramatic shift from just 40 years earlier. Nigeria is now the global face of poverty, overtaking India as the top poverty destination in 2019. (While India temporarily regained its title due to COVID-19, which pushed many vulnerable Indians back below the poverty line, Nigeria will reclaim the top spot by 2022.) In 2015, Nigeria was home to 80 million poor people, or 11% of global poverty; by 2030, this number could grow to 18%, or 107 million.

Poverty numbers and trends have traditionally been reported on a country-by-country basis. However, today we see that low-income countries have significant corridors of prosperity, while middle-income countries can have large pockets of poverty. With advances in geospatial and sub-national data, there is a growing push to move from country-wide metrics to sub-national data, in order to better identify and target these poverty “hotspots.”

One Third Of US Population Experiences Warmer Temperature

More than a third of the American population is currently experiencing rapid, above-average rates of temperature increase, with 499 counties already breaching 1.5C (2.7F) of heating, a Guardian review of climate data shows.

The US as a whole has heated up over the past century due to the release of planet-warming gases from burning fossil fuels, and swaths of the US west, north-east and upper midwest – representing more than 124.6 million people – have recorded soaring increases since federal government temperature records began in 1895.

Though the climate crisis is convulsing the US, it is doing so unevenly. Hotspots of extreme warming have emerged in many of America’s largest cities, and places as diverse as California’s balmy coast to the previously frigid northern reaches of Minnesota, while other places, particularly in the south, have barely seen their temperatures budge.

“The warming isn’t distributed evenly,” said Brian Brettschneider, an Alaska-based climate scientist who collated the county temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). “Many places have seen dramatic changes, but there are always some places below the average who will think, ‘It didn’t seem that warm to me.’ The impacts differ depending where you are.”

Ventura county in California has heated up more than any other county in the contiguous US, according to the Noaa data, experiencing a 2.6C (4.75F) increase in total warming in the period from 1895 to 2021. Meanwhile, counties that include many of America’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Boston, have all seen their average temperatures rise far beyond the national average, which stands at about a 1C (1.8F) increase on pre-industrial times.

Mark Jackson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service based in Oxnard in Ventura county said the county’s temperature increase was “a remarkable number, it’s a scary number when you consider the pace we are looking at”. Jackson said the county had seen a large increase in heatwaves, including a spell above 37C (100F) last summer that “really stressed” the local community.

Ventura county, which hugs the Californian coast north-west of Los Angeles, is known for a pleasant Mediterranean climate cooled slightly by the proximity of the ocean. But Jackson said that recent heatwaves have seen warm air flow down from mountains in the nearby Los Padres national forest to the coast, while the ocean itself is being roiled by escalating temperatures. “It’s been really remarkable to see it get that hot right up to the coast,” he said.

California is in the grip of its most severe drought in 1,200 years and scientists say this is fueling the heat seen in many places in the state – Los Angeles has warmed by 2.3C (4.2F) since 1895, while Santa Barbara has jumped by 2.4C (4.38F) – by reducing moisture in soils, which then bake more quickly.

Higher temperatures are also worsening the risk of wildfires in the state. “We lost everything,” said Tyler Suchman, founder of online marketing firm Tribal Core who in 2017 fled with his wife to escape a huge wildfire that razed their home in Ojai, in Ventura county. “It was harrowing. The winds were blowing like crazy and the hills lining the highway were all on fire, I had never seen anything like it.”

Just 11 months later, a separate wildfire destroyed the couple’s next home, in Malibu, as their neighbor scooped up water from his hot tub in a desperate attempt to tackle the flames. “No one wants us to move next to them now,” Suchman said. “You can see how the area has changed over the 18 years since we moved to Ojai. It’s a beautiful place but regrettably we can’t live there now, the risk is too great.”

Hotspots of above-average warming are found across the US. Grand county in Utah, a place of sprawling deserts, cliffs and plateaus, is the second fastest warming county in the lower 48 states, while every county in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut has warmed by more than 1.5C (2.7F) since 1895.

It’s the more northern latitudes that have experienced the most extreme recent heat, however, with counties in Alaska making up all of the top six fastest warming places since 1970 (comparable temperature data for Alaska does not go back further than the 1920s). Alaska’s North slope, situated within the rapidly warming Arctic, has heated up by an enormous 3.7C (6.6F) in just the past 50 years.

“There really is a climate shift under way in Alaska, everyone can see things are different than they used to be and everyone is concerned about what the future here will look like,” said Brettschneider, who added that even his teenage children had noticed the retreat of sea ice, an elongating fire season and a dearth of cold days.

The warmth is also melting frozen soils, known as permafrost, causing buildings to subside and roads to buckle. “If you drive on the roads near Fairbanks you better have a strong stomach because it feels like you’re riding a rollercoaster,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy.

Other locations traditionally used to severe cold have also seen sharp temperature increases. Roseau and Kittson counties, in northern Minnesota, are both in the top five fastest warming counties in the lower 48 states, with their warming driven by winters that have heated up by around 3.8C (7F) in the state since modern record keeping began.

Winters are warming more quickly than summers because more heat usually escapes the land during the colder months, but it is now being trapped by greenhouse gases. “Some might say ‘well I like warmer winters’ but people are noticing negative impacts, such as changes to the growing season and the loss of cultural practices such as cross-country skiing races,” said Heidi Roop, a climate scientist at the University of Minnesota. “Even small temperature changes have big consequences.”

Globally, governments set a goal in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to avoid a temperature rise of 1.5C (2.7F) above the pre-industrial era. Beyond this point, scientists say, the world will face increasingly punishing heatwaves, storms, flooding and societal unrest.

While certain areas of the US have already passed 1.5C, the important metric is still the global average, Hayhoe said. “In some places a 2C increase is fine but 2.5C is when the wheels fall off the bus, some locations are OK with 5ft of sea level rise because of their elevation while others can’t cope with 5 in because they are low-lying,” she said. “Local vulnerability is very customized. What’s relevant for communities is whether the world meets its targets or not, it’s a collective target for the world.”

That global threshold is in severe peril, with some forecasts warning that 1.5C (2.7F) could be breached within a decade without drastic cuts to carbon emissions. Communities will need to brace themselves for the consequences of this, according to Roop.

“The warming we are seeing is pushing at the bounds of lived human experience, of what we thought was possible,” she said. “We are paying the costs for that and we need to prepare for the changes already set in motion, as well as to prevent further warming.”

The map of US counties on this article was amended on 6 February 2022 to correct the temperature conversions.

Vandalization Of Gandhi Statue In New York Condemned

On Saturday, February 5th, a life-sized bronze statue of the late Mahatma Gandhi, located in New York City’s popular Union Square was vandalized. The Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective (HinduPACT) sees this hate crime against Hindus and Indian Americans – which took place during Black History Month, nonetheless – as an affront to both Gandhi and the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; two public figures and leaders who sought to eradicate hate on the basis of race, religion and creed.

Balabhadra Bhattacarya Dāsa (Benny Tillman), President, Vedic Friends Association said, “Some years ago I had the great fortune of attending the annual Gandhi/ King celebration in Atlanta, and the keynote speaker that year was MLK’s wife Coretta Scott King.” Dāsa recalls her saying “My husband MLK, was a disciple of Gandhi.” Dāsa added: “As an African American practitioner of the Hindu Dharma, I am deeply offended that anyone would disrespect Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired MLK to take up the mission of non-violence, which inspired major changes in society that are still positively impacting our lives today.”

Utsav Chakrabarti, Executive Director of HinduPACT said, “This is not the first time that statues of Mahatma Gandhi have been vandalized in the US. In the past few years, statues of Mahatma Gandhi had been vandalized by groups aligned with radical Islamists and their sympathizers in South Asian communities.”

Ajay Shah, President of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) and Convenor of HinduPACT and American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) said, “Mahatma Gandhi and the freedom movement he spearheaded served as the inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King and the American Civil Rights movement.  The MLK Memorial in Atlanta, GA has an area dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. It is no coincidence that Mahatma Gandhi’s statue was desecrated during the Black History Month. The perpetrators of this act and their sponsors are sending the message that they have not accepted peace, human rights, freedom and equality of all human beings.”

This is not the first statue of Gandhi to be desecrated. In Washington, DC, his statue at Gandhi Memorial Plaza was vandalized amidst George Floyd riots on June 4, 2020and it “was defaced by Khalistani elements” on December 12, 2020.

In California, Gandhi’s statue in the Northern California City of Davis’s Central Park was vandalized on January 26, 2021; half of Gandhi’s face was severed and missing and was sawed off at the ankles then toppled over. Statues of Gandhi are a symbol of equality. Those who attempted to desecrate his image are indicating their aversion to seeing a society where equality reigns supreme among all people.

Ancient Indian Temples Are Designated ‘Iconic,’ Worrying Preservationists

Promises of ‘better connectivity, more jobs and more tourists’ sound more like threats to some locals and conservationists.

The ancient, ornately carved Hindu and Jain temples outside this central Indian city have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, and they are on the Archaeological Survey of India’s list of national treasures.

Now, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is moving toward designating the Khajuraho group of Hindu and Jain temples an “iconic tourist destination,” causing many in this area to despair for their future.

V.D. Sharma, a local member of Parliament who belongs to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, recently proclaimed that Khajuraho is on its way to becoming “a world-class tourist destination” with “better connectivity, more jobs and more tourists” — prospects that sound more like threats to some locals and conservationists.

Built over more than a century beginning about 850 A.D. by the warrior kings of the Chandela dynasty, these monuments stand out as the pinnacle of temple architecture in northern India.

Sitting atop ornate terraced platforms, the 25 surviving buildings rise abruptly from their environs in imitation, some say, of Mount Kailash — the Himalayan peak known as the abode of the gods. The structures are carved with numerous scenes from their faiths’ mythological repertoires — both sacred and profane, contributing to India’s reputation as the land of Kama Sutra.

According to news reports, the Modi government has greenlighted more than $6 million for projects in and around Khajuraho. A $4.5 million convention center was launched last year.

“The ‘iconic city’ label is a flawed concept,” said Chinmay Mishra, a cultural activist based in Indore. “Profiteers with no vision are turning spiritual centers into amusement parks.”

Brijendra Singh, a 77-year-old tour guide, has shown visitors around the famed Khajuraho group of Hindu and Jain temples for 52 years.

Singh weaves stories around the profusely carved sculptures depicting acts of worship, human emotions, domestic scenes, amorous couples. He worries that insensitive development could threaten the material remains of Khajuraho culture, while admitting that “sustaining outstanding universal value of heritage is critical.”

Locals are also concerned that a four-lane highway now being built to deliver tourists much closer to Khajuraho will destroy the traditional fabric of Indigenous communities.

“Many houses and temples have been demolished and thousands of trees have been uprooted to widen this highway,” said Devendra Chaturvedi, a local journalist.

Another issue is the possibly destructive effect of increased air traffic. The Khajuraho airport — located a few miles from the main group of temples — has been spruced up with a new terminal building and infrastructure to accommodate more flights. Two flying training academies are being set up on the premises for training aspiring pilots.

The director of the Khajuraho airport, Pradeepta Bej, said no heritage impact assessment has been ordered, to his knowledge. In the late 1990s, a report by the National Physical Laboratory of New Delhi noted occasional higher levels of acoustic excitation around the various temples of Khajuraho.

A former chief scientist of the Delhi-based laboratory, Mahavir Singh, said, “Vibrations above five millimeters per second for a single event could cause cracks in the monuments and heritage properties, so the situation should be monitored at the airport and surrounding areas.”

Others worry that with tourists will come increased encroachments outside the temple grounds.

“Tourism isn’t the only economy,” said Nagvendra Singh, a lawyer who plans to start a grassroots organization aimed at saving the temple town. “What is the government doing about urban encroachments, vehicular pollution, dust pollution and upkeep of monuments?”

Conservationists say the government restoration is a threat in itself. Shoring up temples with plain stones, they worry, and the use of abrasive cleaning techniques could also hasten their deterioration.

A monument attendant said that the temples are being cleaned by unskilled workers who are mostly unsupervised. Further, he noted there are no scientific or chemical restoration plans for their upkeep, posing a threat that they could become piles of plain stones.

Mrudula Mane, a conservation architect based in Ahmedabad, said monuments can’t be frozen in time but proper mitigation measures would arrest their speed of decline. “Chemical treatment has to be done under close supervision,” said Mane. “Abrasive cleaning techniques could exfoliate the sandstone monuments too much and cause erosion.”

According to Mishra, similar government rebuilding efforts elsewhere have harmed their aesthetic value. He pointed to a major refurbishment of Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges; Jallianwala Bagh; and Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram in Gujarat.

Residents say Hindu nationalists are also pushing for more rituals at the temples that would misrepresent the Hindu thought and practice the temples stood for. “We can’t change people’s approach to religion,” said Anurag Shukla, a local historian, “but opening up these sites to more rituals or pujas may severely impact heritage.”

According to Shukla, the government’s primary aim is not preservation but to whip up Hindu pride.

In 2018, the Indian Parliament passed the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, allowing the government in New Delhi to finance and carry out “urgent” public works within 100 meters of monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The original act prohibited any construction around the 100-meter radius.

Shivakant Bajpai, a superintending archaeologist at the Archaeological Survey of India’s Jabalpur circle, under which Khajuraho falls, said the current development scheme would not interfere with conservation, but he deferred questions about an impact assessment at the airport.

“The airport is far away from the protected area,” he said. “We are custodians of cultural heritage, so the airport authorities should be contacted for the fallouts of development.”

Nearby residents said the government has kept them in the dark about what the “iconic” designation means or its implications.

“We are being treated like outsiders in our own lands,” said Om Dubey, who works for a grassroots civil rights group in Khajuraho.

Conservationists said the protection of sacred sites must involve both government agencies and people. Shared responsibility, they say, would spark better dialogues on developing sites versus preserving heritage.

“Preserving Khajuraho’s sacred roots is critical,” said Brijendra Singh. “If development gets precedence over our faith traditions and monuments, what will remain iconic here?”

Asia Society’s Kevin Rudd Calls Xi-Putin Meeting As highly Significant

On February 6th, on the sidelines of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly issued a call to halt NATO’s expansion according to a statement issued by the Kremlin.

“This is highly significant. It is the first time since the Sino-Soviet split that China has taken a definitive position on European security in support of Russia on something as fundamental as NATO. It’s also notably on a matter not immediately germane to China’s core security interests. It puts at risk China’s wider relationship with the Europeans. But Xi believes he is now powerful enough and has sufficient economic leverage with Europe to get away with it.

This is a big shift in the Chinese foreign policy mainstream. The world should get ready for a further significant deepening of the China-Russia security and economic relationship — one that as recently as 2014 (at the time of the first Russian military action in Ukraine) was remote. It also signifies that China now sees itself as a global, not just a regional, security actor.”

— Kevin Rudd, President of the Asia Society and former Prime Minister of Australia

The Asia Society navigates shared futures for Asia and the world across policy, arts and culture, education, sustainability, business, and technology.

Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, the Asia Society is a nonpartisan, nonprofit institution with major centers and public buildings in New York, Hong Kong, and Houston, and additional locations in Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Mumbai, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Zurich.

Cricket Legend Sunil Gavaskar To Address AAPI’s 40th AAPI Convention In San Antonio, TX

San Antonio, TX: February 7th, 2022: “Legendary Cricket Star Sunil Gavaskar, well known around the world as an inspirational speaker, philanthropist, and the chairman of H2H Foundation will be a keynote speaker during the 40th Annual Convention of AAPI to be held in San Antonio, TX from June 23rd to 26th, 2022,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula announced here.

Confirming his presence at the Convention, “The Little Master” Sunil Gavaskar told AAPI members who are part of the “greatest profession in the world,” and said, “It’s a unique honor to be part of the important AAPI convention in Texas. I am looking forward to meeting you all in Texas.” Mr. Gavaskar referred to his association with the “Heart to Heart Foundation” and how the Foundation is touching many hearts around the world.

According to Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair of the Convention 2022, “While the theme for the historic convention is ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ especially when there are growing signs of burnout among physicians, by offering positive remedial resources as part of a first-ever Wellness Program being offered to participants, the special and unique once in a lifetime interactive session with the Cricket legend will allow the AAPI delegates to listen firsthand to the stories of his glorious cricket days, and the stories that tug at the hearts of the audience.”

“During A Meet & Greet Luncheon event with Sunil Gavaskar, recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards for his contributions to Indian cricket will inspire the hearts and souls of AAPI delegates by telling us how India remains the world capital for Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), with 300,000 children born each year,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI said.

Without medical/surgical care, over 25% of children die before their 1st birthday, contributing to over 10% of the Infant Mortality Rate and resulting in 250+ children dying every day; many more die in infancy or the preschool ages. Only a small fraction of children with CHD can afford the cardiac surgery, which can cost over $100,000 in the United States.

With frugal innovations in CHD care H2H Foundation has reduced the average cost of an open-heart surgery to only $2000$  per patient, which would otherwise be $75,000 to $125,000 in the United States and $5,000 to $9,000 in India. Gavaskar has personally sponsored 34 surgeries to match his 34 test centuries. The legendary cricket master is touring the United States to raise awareness and funds to support the cause.

Heart to Heart (H2H) Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children born with CHD, by providing FREE pediatric cardiac surgeries in collaboration with the group of Sai Sanjeevini Hospitals in India. Since February 2014, these hospitals have also been providing primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare exclusively to children with CHD and over 10,000 surgeries have been performed free of cost. 10,000 is also the number of innings played by Gavaskar. Additionally, for every test century, he has scored he has personally funded the same number of surgeries.

Dr. Kusum Punjaabi, Chair of AAPI BOT said, “At AAPI, the largest ethnic medical association in the nation, we are proud, we have been able to serve every 7th patient in the country. We serve in large cities, smaller towns and rural areas, sharing our skills, knowledge, compassion and expertise and caring for millions of people.”

“A huge thank you to all of the doctors, physicians, and other healthcare professionals for your dedication and commitment to service during this uncertain time,” Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI said. “This is a unique opportunity for All of us, the front-line physicians who are putting our lives at risk to save the lives of others,” Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said. “Thank you for fighting selflessly against this virus and helping keep everyone healthy and safe,” Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI added

Organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the country, representing the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, the historic 40th Annual Convention will offer a valuable platform for physicians and healthcare thought leaders from across the country and globally to convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of ideas on medical advances, and will help develop health policy agendas and recommend legislative priorities in the coming years.

The convention will be held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, TX located on the RiverWalk. This world-class facility will afford an intimate setting that will facilitate our ability to convey cutting-edge research and CME, promote business relationships, and display ethnic items. Vendor satisfaction and comfort are our top priorities, added Dr. Shah.

A dedicated Convention Committee Team led by Dr. Jayesh Shah including Mr. Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention; Dr. Aruna Venkatesh, Convention Treasurer; Dr. Vijay Koli, Past President of AAPI & Convention Advisor; Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, Convention Advisor; Dr. Rajeev Suri, President of TIPS & Co-Chair of the Convention, Dr. Shankar Sanka, Co-Chair of the Convention; Dr. Hetal Nayak, Co-Chair of the Convention; Kiran Cheruku, Co-Chair of the Convention; and Chief Operating Officers, Mr.  Reddy Yeluru and Me. Ram Joolukuntla, are working hard for the past several months to make the Convention truly historic.

Some of the major themes at the convention include: Yoga and Meditation practices, Welcome kit with books & self-care supplies, A Personal Reflexology Session, Take home wellness routine, Ailment based yoga therapy sessions, Workshop on Spiritual well-being, Book talk with Yoga Gurus, including on the science of Yoga & Lifestyle medicine, as well as an unique opportunity to visit first of its kind in San Antonio, Aum Ashram as part of the Wellness session.

Esteemed yoga gurus and experts, who are planned to share their wisdom and leading the Wellness Sessions include: Paramguru Sharatha Jois, Sadhvi Bhagawati, Saraswati Eddie Stern, Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa, Dr. Dilip Sarkar, Dr. Pankaj Vij, and Dr. Param Dedhia.

Besides Lifestyle medicine and wellness, There is an outstanding lineup of CME speakers to provide AAPI members education in all areas of medicine.

While encouraging AAPI members to register for the Convention, Dr. Gotimukula urged them to “Come, engage in a freewheeling conversation with the cricket legend where he will share interesting anecdotes and inspiring experiences. Interact with Sunil Gavaskar and tap into his wealth of wisdom on leadership, career, and life and take away insights on how to learn, lead, and live. Each delegate can get to take away cricket bats and other memorabilia signed by Gavaskar as souvenirs of a memorable event if you sponsor a child for congenital heart surgery!  For more information, please visit: www.aapiconvention.org  and www.aapiusa.org

Biden Starts 2nd Year of Presidency With Diminished Public Support And Daunting Challenges

Joe Biden began his presidency with positive job ratings and broad public confidence in his ability to deal with a number of major challenges – particularly the public health impact of the coronavirus. He starts his second year with diminished job approval and majorities expressing little or no confidence in him on many of these same issues, the coronavirus included.

Currently, 41% of U.S. adults approve of Biden’s job performance, which is down slightly from September (44%) and substantially lower than last April (59%).

With the omicron variant continuing to spread across the United States, fewer than half of Americans (44%) now say they are very or somewhat confident in Biden to handle the coronavirus; that share is down 21 percentage points since March (65%).

A new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 10-17 among 5,128 adults on the nationally representative American Trends Panel, finds that Biden and his party are facing a difficult political environment with the midterm elections 10 months away:

Just 21% of the public is satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. That is 12 points lower than last March (33%) and 15 points lower than in February 2018 (36%), near the beginning of the previous midterm year. For more, see Americans broadly negative about the state of the nation, but most see a better year ahead.

The public’s views of the nation’s economy remain quite negative; just 28% say economic conditions are excellent or good. Overwhelming majorities say that prices for food and consumer goods (89%) and gas prices (82%) are worse than they were a year ago, with more than half saying they are “a lot” worse (60% food and consumer goods, 54% gas prices). However, a 56% majority says the availability of jobs has improved compared with a year ago.

Nearly two years after the coronavirus first began spreading in the United States, majorities continue to say COVID-19 is a major threat to the economy (69%) and to the health of the U.S. population (57%). When thinking about the pandemic, Americans are split over whether the worst is still to come (50% say this) or the worst is over (49%).

While opinions about Biden and the state of the nation continue to be deeply divided along partisan lines, Democrats have become less supportive of the president and less satisfied with the way things are going in the country. Just 29% of Democrats express satisfaction with the state of the nation, down 18 points since March.

Since September, Biden’s job approval has declined 3 percentage points among the public overall, but 7 points among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (from 75% to 68%); over the past six months his job rating among Democrats has fallen 20 points (from 88%). The falloff in this period has been less pronounced among Republicans and Republican leaners (10 points since July), who already overwhelmingly disapproved of the president’s performance.

In addition, favorable views of Congress have declined, with the change largely driven by Democrats. Overall, 28% of the public expresses a favorable opinion of Congress, compared with 36% last April. While Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to have a favorable view of Congress (36% vs. 18%), the share of Democrats who view the Democratic-led Congress favorably has fallen 14 points since last April (from 50%); Republicans’ views are little changed (21% then, 18% now).

Nonetheless, the public continues to have a more positive image of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, though majorities have unfavorable impressions of both. Currently, 43% view the Democratic Party favorably and 35% have a favorable view of the GOP. Ratings for both parties have slipped slightly since last year; notably, both coalitions continue to view their own parties somewhat less favorably than they did in March 2021.

And larger shares of Americans say they agree more with the Democrats than with Republicans on several key policy areas, including policies to deal with the health impact of the coronavirus (41% agree with the Democratic Party, while 27% the Republican Party; 31% agree with neither). Significantly more Americans also say they agree with the Democratic Party than the GOP on policies of climate change (by 22 points), health care (16 points), abortion (10 points) and education (8 points). Comparable shares agree with both parties on economic, immigration and gun policy. Among eight policy areas included in the survey, there is none on which a significantly larger share agrees with the GOP than the Democrats.

Democrats also are more widely seen as governing honestly than Republicans (45% vs. 39%), and a larger share of the public says the Democratic Party (51%) than the Republican Party (46%) respects the country’s democratic institutions. Yet majorities view both parties as “too extreme” in their positions; 57% say this describes the Democratic Party very or somewhat well, while 60% say it describes the Republican Party.

The year begins with members of both parties less willing to support their parties’ leaders making concessions to achieve results than they were a year ago. Nearly half of Democrats (48%) want Biden to “stand up” to Republicans even if it makes it harder to address key problems; 37% said this last year, shortly before his inauguration.

Republicans, who were more resistant to making concessions a year ago, have become even more so; 72% want GOP leaders to stand up to Biden, up 13 points from last year.

As Inflation Soars, A Look At What’s Inside The Consumer Price Index

After many years of historically low inflation, consumer prices in the United States continued their steep ascent last month. The Consumer Price Index, the most widely followed inflation gauge, increased 7.0% from December 2020 to December 2021 – its highest rate in nearly 40 years.

The CPI – or, to give it its full name, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) – isn’t the government’s only measure of inflation. For that matter, it isn’t even the only version of the CPI. Pew Research Center analyses typically use the CPI’s Retroactive Series, especially when adjusting prices or dollar values over several years or decades, because that series adjusts the CPI for previous years to reflect current methodology. There’s also the Chained CPI, which is meant to reflect how consumers alter their buying patterns in response to changes in relative prices – for example, buying more chicken when beef becomes more expensive. The Chained CPI often (but not always) comes in a bit below the “regular” CPI-U: It rose 6.9% between December 2020 and December 2021.

But the CPI-U is the most widely cited inflation metric, so it’s worth popping the hood and looking inside to see how it works.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is responsible for the CPI, starts by collecting price data for hundreds of discrete goods and services – the so-called “market basket” – from around 8,000 housing units and 23,000 retailers, service providers and online outlets in 75 urban areas around the country. Data on rents is gathered from some 50,000 landlords and tenants. The items sampled, and their weights in the overall index, are determined by the Consumer Expenditure Survey, which is carried out for BLS by the Census Bureau.

The BLS reports index weights for dozens of categories, subcategories and specific items in the CPI’s basket of goods and services. The biggest category by far is shelter, which accounts for nearly a third of the index. The single weightiest item, at about 22.3%, is “owner’s equivalent rent of primary residence” – essentially how much homeowners would have to pay if they were renting their homes. (The idea is to separate out shelter, the service provided by a house, from whatever value the house might have as an investment.)

While shelter costs carry the most weight in the CPI, they’ve not risen nearly as much as the index as a whole. In December, owner’s equivalent rent was up 3.8% compared with December 2020, and regular rent of primary residence was just 3.3% higher. The one big exception among shelter costs was lodging away from home, a category that mostly tracks hotel and motel room rates, where prices were 27.6% higher than a year earlier. However, that subcategory accounts for less than 1% (0.849%, to be precise) of the CPI.

The next-biggest category, food, accounts for just under 14% of the index. Groceries, or “food at home,” makes up a bit more than half of that category. Grocery prices were 6.5% higher than a year ago, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been to a supermarket lately. Meats, especially beef and pork, led the way, with prices for beef roasts and steaks more than 20% higher than a year ago, bacon up 18.6% and chicken parts up 11.5%. (On the other hand, prices for hot dogs and cheese both are down 0.6%.)

Eating out has gotten more expensive too. Prices for full-service meals and snacks consumed away from home were up 6.6% from December 2020, and limited-service meals and snacks were up 8%. School breakfasts and lunches were down by nearly two-thirds, perhaps because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has authorized free meals for all children in public schools this academic year.

Besides at the supermarket, consumers also feel the effects of inflation acutely at the fuel pump. Gasoline accounts for just 4% of the overall CPI, but prices for it have risen more than any other good or service in the CPI basket over the past year. Regular unleaded gasoline, for instance, is up 50.8% since December 2020. It should be noted that gas prices fell sharply in 2020, as demand plunged because much of the U.S. economy was shut down. As the economy reopened and demand came back, so did gas prices, though they’ve since risen 20% or more above pre-pandemic levels.

Energy goods and services, a category of which gasoline is a major component, accounts for roughly 7.5% of the overall CPI. Prices for fuels used for home heating and cooking also are sharply higher than a year ago: Fuel oil is up 41%, propane, kerosene and firewood are up 33.8%, and piped natural gas is up 24.1%.

Aside from motor fuels, the vehicles that burn them also loom relatively large in the CPI. New vehicles account for nearly 3.9% of the index; prices for new cars rose 12% from December 2020 to December 2021, and new trucks prices almost as much (11.6%). But the real movement was for used vehicles: Prices for used cars and trucks, which make up about 3.4% of the index, have soared 37.3% over the past 12 months. Why? The pandemic has disrupted and depressed production of new vehicles, while low interest rates have increased demand for cars and trucks. Buyers who couldn’t find the new vehicles they wanted have moved over to the used lot, increasing demand at the same time as the flow of pre-owned cars and trucks dwindled.

Indian American Communities In North America Celebrate India’s 73rd Republic Day

Thousands of miles away from India, their motherland, India remains close to the hearts of millions. Reflecting their love and appreciation for their motherland, Indian Americans across the country celebrated India’s 73rd Republic Day in style in separate functions. Nearly 400 people attended the Jan. 26, 2022 Republic Day of India event organized by the Indian American Community of North America, IACONA.

Some of the leaders present included IACONA Chairman Albert Jasani, Padma Shri recipient Dr. Sudhir Parikh of Parikh Worldwide Media, Person of the Year 2021 Award winner Dr. Sunil H. Parikh, Chandra Jhaveri, Dev Karlekar, in addition to the community dignitaries, retired Colonels and Generals from the Indian Army, according to organizers of the celebration in New Jersey.

The attendees also included Commissioner Sue Kylie who is running for Congress, and Township office holders, elected officials, representatives from the Police Department and the Department of Defense. Among other guests were heads of several community organizations, sponsors of the event and donors.

The event began with the hoisting of the Indian flag and singing of the Indian National Anthem, followed by a cultural program of Kathak and Bharatnatyam Dances, and a dinner.

Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Wordwide Media and ITV Gold, right, with Albert Jasani, founder of Indian American Community of North America, IACONA, on stage at the Jan. 26, 2022 celebrations of India’s 73rd Republic Day held in Royal Albert’s Palace, Fords, N.J. Photo: ITV Gold

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Sudhir Parikh wished everyone a happy Republic Day.
“This is the day when India really became a democracy 73 years ago,” he said. “And we are happy and lucky that we are here and we are celebrating the Republic Day of India,” he said.

“Let us work for Mother India and do something for Mother India because that is our responsibility to help Mother India,” he added. “I would like to congratulate the Indian American Community of North America and chairman Albert Jasani and other members,” he said.

Following its practice, IACONA awards a community member for their outstanding contribution to the community through the year. This year, the award was given to Dr. Sunil H. Parikh.

IACONA also paid tribute this year to the participants in India’s freedom struggle, with special tributes to Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. This year, a special tribute was also paid to the India’s General Bipin Rawat who died in a recent plane crash along with several others. The event also had a memorial presentation for those of the community who were lost during the pandemic.

Speaking to those gathered, Dr. Sunil Parikh said he was very proud to see IACONA take a big step towards creating more awareness about India by celebrating India’s Republic Day. He said the SSAI had been working in New Jersey and in India for the past 21 months, providing meals, masks, plasma, navigation help for COVID testing and for vaccination. The organization was planning a new Health Center in partnership with St. Peters Hospital, he said.

Chandra Jhaveri, dressed to represent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said he wanted to show his respect to the Prime Minister by doing that and called for hailing India in one voice.

Council member Juned Qazi said, “I wish all the Indians in America and globally a Happy Republic Day,” he said. Introducing Commissioner Kylie of Monmouth County as a candidate for Congress, he said, “I want all Indians to vote for her.”

Commissioner Kylie said, “I am very excited to have met a lot of the Indian community at this wonderful celebration. … A great great group of people that I immediately fell in love with.”

Kylie went on to say, “There’s a lot of things we have to change in our country. But we’re going to stick together we’re going to count on our faith. And we’re going to count on doing things that makes common sense. So hopefully I see you again soon.”

Dev Karlekar, founder and CEO of GuruSchools, acknowledged all the dignitaries gathered. “Today we are celebrating India’s Republic Day at the  Royal Albert Palace, New Jersey, along with some of our prominent leaders such as Councilman Juned Quazi who has brought some other political leaders to this event to spread awareness about India and Indians,” he said. “Needless to say, Albert (Jasani) graciously opened his doors so that we could have the event. All precautions about the pandemic and protocols were followed. Thank you ITV for covering us, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Vande Mataram,” he concluded.

One of the attendees recounted his experience decades ago when he participated in the ceremonial parade on Rajpath in New Delhi. “I walked and saluted our ‘tiranga’ on Rajpath. That has become my lifelong memory till today after 63 years,” he said.

Indian Embassy celebrates 73rd Republic Day of India

The Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. celebrated India’s 73rd Republic Day observing Covid-protocols, by having an in-person and online broadcast of the event. Attended by community members and watched by others as it was webcast, the event highlighted the achievements of India in various fields including during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today, India is better placed to face the increasing challenges and complexities that the world encounter. We have a massive vaccination drive against COVID-19 ongoing, administering more than 1.6 billion doses so far, and taking vaccines to the remotest corners of the country. The initiative of the government aimed at boosting jobs, consumer demand, manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture and exports are accelerating economic recovery,” said Ambassador of India to the United States, Taranjit Sandhu, during the 73rd Republic Day of India celebrations, at the India House, Jan. 26, 2022.

He also noted that this was the year that the world’s largest democracy was celebrating its 75th Anniversary. To mark the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, the Government of India launched a special initiative, Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, last year. The official start of the initiative was March 12, 2021, a 75-week countdown, which will end Aug. 15, 2023.

New York Consulate, community organizations salute India

The 73rd Republic Day of India was celebrated in the Consulate General of India, New York with a flag-hoisting ceremony on Tuesday, January 26, 2022. Due to the pandemic, the number of participants attending the event was restricted. However, the event was telecast LIVE through the Consulate’s social media platforms, so that a larger audience could participate.

Consul General Randhir Jaiswal unfurled the national flag after which the national anthem was sung.

As is the tradition, the Consul General then read out the address of the President of India. A video congratulatory message received from Governor of New York Kathy Hochul was played at the event.

A short cultural program was presented by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, which included singing of patriotic songs and poetry recitation.

Around the United States, various Indian Consulates and local community and cultural organizations also celebrated the Republic Day with much fanfare in virtual mode.

FIA-New England celebrates 73rd Republic Day in Worcester, MA

The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) New England held a colorful virtual celebration supported by the Consulate General of India in New York on January 25, at the iconic Worcester Union Station in Worcester, Massachusetts. Dignitaries including State Senator (Massachusetts) Michael Moore, former U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy III, and former Rhode Island Assemblyman Robert Lancia participated in the event.

The Federation of Indian Associations Ohio held a Flag Hoisting ceremony at the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, on January 26. Ohio State Senator Niraj Antani and prominent members of the Indian community were present at the event. The program was live-streamed.

The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) held a virtual Republic Day event on January 26, in association with the Consulate General of India. Several dignitaries including State Senators Kevin Thomas (New York), Vin Gopal (New Jersey), Kesha Ram (Vermont), Neeraj Antani (Ohio); and members of State Assemblies Raj Mukherjee (New Jersey), Latha Mangipudi (New Hampshire), Harry Arora (Connecticut) and Jennifer Rajkumar (New York) participated in the event.

Because of Covid restrictions, the event was a combination of Zoom/YouTube/Facebook live in front of the 75 invited guests, and more than 1,000 online guests, according to a press release from the organization.

Worcester Union Station was decorated in the hues of saffron, white, and green as the Indian tricolor was unfurled by dignitaries belonging to different castes, creeds, religions, and colors, reflecting the joy of unity amidst diversity and to mark the 73rd anniversary of Republic Day of India, organizers noted.

Among those who participated in unfurling the flag were Massachusetts State Senator Michael O. Moore, State Representative Robert Lancia, U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, State Representative Hannah Kane, Ex-congressman Joe Kennedy, Interim Chair of the  Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Terrick Andey. This was followed by the singing of the Indian national anthem.

Other community and cultural organizations such as the International Center for Cultural Integration (ICCI), Long Island; the Tri City India Association, Albany; the Indian Association of Buffalo (IAB); the Indian Cultural Heritage & Arts Awareness Club, New York; the Indian Association of Greater Boston (IAGB); the Indian American Community in Northern America, New Jersey; The Council of Indian Organizations (CIO) in Pennsylvania; and the Hindu Temple of North America, Queens NY are scheduled to hold their respective events in the coming days.

Harvard President Vows To Fight Back US SC Move On Asian-American Kids

Hurting after the US Supreme Court announced a decision “that could put Harvard’s forty years of legal precedent at risk,” Larry S. Bacow, the university’s President, has warned that “colleges and universities could lose the freedom and flexibility to create diverse campus communities that enrich education for all”.

The SC has agreed to review a challenge to the consideration of race in college admission decisions, often known as affirmative action.

With three new conservative justices in the SC since its last review, the practice may be facing its greatest threat yet.

The court said Monday it would consider a pair of lawsuits alleging that Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC) discriminate against Asian American applicants.

“Our admissions process, in which race is considered as one factor among many, makes us stronger. It prompts learning in day-to-day exchanges in our classrooms and laboratories, in our residential houses, and on our playing fields and stages. Our students understand these truths and see them reflected in their interactions with their classmates. Diversity opens our eyes to the promise of a better future,” said Bacow, earlier Chancellor at M.I.T. and President at Tufts, in a “dear members of the Harvard community” mail reviewed by IANS.

“Harvard celebrates and nurtures individuality as intensely as this nation. Those who challenge our admissions policies would ask us to rely upon a process far more mechanistic, a process far more reliant on simple assessments of objective criteria. Each of us is, however, more than our numbers, more than our grades, more than our rankings or scores.

Ask yourself, how much have you learned from other people at this University? How much have you grown from conversations across difference? Would these conversations have been as rich if you had shared the same interests, the same life experiences, and — yes — the same racial or ethnic background as your fellow community members? This is why applications of any kind routinely go beyond mere numbers to include interviews, samples of work product, recommendations, and references. Narrowly drawn measures of academic distinction are not the only indicators of individual promise.”

“As the Supreme Court has recognised many times, race matters in the United States,” Bracow argued.

“I long for the day when it does not, but we still have miles to go before our journey is complete. Harvard will continue to defend with vigor admissions policies that were endorsed in the thoughtful decisions of two federal courts that concluded that we do not discriminate; our practices are consistent with Supreme Court precedent; there is no persuasive, credible evidence warranting a different outcome. Though I wish yesterday had turned out differently, I remain confident that the rule of law — and the respect for precedent that perpetuates it — will prevail.”

The SC is taking up two lawsuits filed by Students for Fair Admissions, a Virginia-based group, that says race should play no part in the admission process. The group is led by Edward Blum, a legal strategist.

The group argues that Harvard and UNC intentionally discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

Examining six years of data at Harvard, the group found that Asian-American applicants had the strongest academics but were admitted at the lowest rates compared to students of other races.

It also found that Harvard’s admissions officers gave Asian-Americans lower scores on a subjective “personal” rating designed to measure attributes such as likeability and kindness.

A federal judge in 2019 upheld Harvard’s admissions practices, saying it was “not perfect” but passed constitutional muster. The judge said race-conscious practices always penalise groups that don’t get an advantage, but they’re justified “by the compelling interest in diversity” on college campuses.

An appeals court upheld the ruling in 2020.

The group brought similar claims against UNC, saying its process disadvantages white and Asian American students. A federal judge sided with the university last year.

In its appeal to the SC, the group asked the panel to review both cases and also to overturn the court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v Bollinger, which upheld admissions policies at the University of Michigan’s law school.

That cleared colleges to consider race if it’s done in a “narrowly tailored” way to serve a “compelling interest”. The group’s appeal argued that the Grutter decision “endorsed racial objectives that are amorphous and unmeasurable and thus incapable of narrow tailoring”.

Satya Nadella Ranked Top Among CEOs In Brand Finance List

The Brand Finance Brand Guardianship Index has ranked Microsoft boss, Satya Nadella, as the top CEO in the world.

Nadella, a first-generation Indian immigrant to the US, “has been credited with overhauling Microsoft’s fortunes by changing its culture towards one of teamwork, innovation, and inclusivity, and instilling a growth mindset throughout the business”.

Three other Indian-origin expat CEOs rank high: Sundar Pichai of Google is at 5, Shantanu Narayan of Adobe at 6, and Puneet Renjen of Deloitte at 14.

  1. Chandrasekhar of the Tatas is at 25 in the list and Anand Mahindra of M&M and Mukesh Ambani of Reliance are at 41 and 42, respectively. State Bank of India’s Dinesh Kumar Khara is at 46.

The top 10 of the Brand Finance ranking is dominated by CEOs (referred to repeatedly as brand guardians) from the tech and media sectors.

Tech boasts six of the top ten – Tim Cook is in second place, having overseen Apple become the first to hit a $3 trillion market valuation.

Cook is followed by CEOs of household tech names: Tencent’s Huateng Ma at 4, Pichai at 5, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings at 7.

AMD CEO Lisa Su is a new entrant at 10. This makes her the highest-ranked female.

She newly qualifies for the ranking as AMD has propelled into the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 after a 122 per cent brand value growth over the past year.

Su steered AMD through a global chip shortage during the pandemic and came out the other side boasting record revenues.

Her leadership of a tech company is unfortunately a rarity, with most being run by males.

This is reflected in the ranking, as the rise in the number of tech brands has come hand in hand with a decrease in the number of female CEOs in the top 100 – from eight in 2021 to five this year.

At a country level, the index mirrors the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking, with the US and China leading the way. There are 101 CEOs from the US, which represents 40 per cent of the index, and 47 from China, which represents 19 per cent.

Brand guardians from these two countries head up a number of key sectors: Jianjun Wei of Great Wall in Automobiles at 3, Patricia Griffith of Progressive Insurance at 11, Xiongjun Ding of Moutai Spirits at 12, and Baoan Xin of State Grid Utilities at 13.

Among the Americans, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America is at 16, Ramon Laguarta of Pepsi at 17, Andy Jassy of Amazon is at 23.

The highest-ranked CEO outside of the US and China monopoly is ADNOC brand guardian Sultan Al Jaber at 15. He is also the top-scoring leader in the oil and gas sector. Aside from ADNOC, Sultan holds senior positions in the UAE government, and in promoting the diversification and growth of the UAE economy.

CEOs of the three UAE brands from the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking all feature and record higher scores than last year, with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Emirates at 34th and Etisalat’s Hatem Dowidar at 79.

Apple has retained the title of the world’s most valuable brand following a 35 per cent increase to $355.1 billion – the highest brand value ever recorded in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking.

Apple used 2022 to be effective to a much broader range of services. The iPhone still accounts for around half of the brand’s sales. However, this year saw Apple give more attention to its other suite of products with a new generation of iPads, an overhaul to the iMac, and introduction of AirTags. Its range of services, from Apple Pay to Apple TV, has had increasing importance to the brand’s success, the report noted.

“Privacy and the environment are salient topics, and Apple bolstered its credentials on both fronts. This is evidenced by a greater transparency of the App Store’s privacy policy, reinforcing the trust customers have in the brand, and the announcement that more of Apple’s manufacturing partners will be moving to 100 percent renewable energy, as the company aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.”

Tripling in brand value over the past year, TikTok is the world’s fastest-growing brand. With 215 per cent growth, the app’s brand value has increased from $18.7 billion in 2021 to $59.0 billion. Claiming 18th spot among the world’s top 500 most valuable brands, TikTok is the highest new entrant to the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking.

Overall, media brands accounted for the top 3 fastest-growing brands in the ranking – with another social media app, Snapchat, brand value up 184 per cent to $6.6 billion and South Korean internet brand Kakao, brand value up 161% to $4.7 billion, following closely behind TikTok.

Snapchat saw increased daily usage and revenues grow by 77 per cent in the first 9 months of 2021, with the popularity of its short-form video feature, Spotlight, being a key driver.

Other notable performers from the media sector include those that offer streaming services, with Disney (brand value up 11 per cent to $57.0 billion), Netflix (brand value up 18 per cent $29.4 billion), YouTube (brand value up 38 per cent to $23.9 billion), and Spotify (brand value up 13 per cent to $6.3 billion).

Traditional media brands have seen a continued decline, with people favouring social media platforms and on-demand streaming in their place.

The tech sector remained the most valuable in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, with a cumulative brand value of close to $1.3 trillion. In total, 50 tech brands feature in the ranking, however, the brand value is largely attributable to three big players, with Apple, Microsoft (brand value $184.2 billion), and Samsung Group (brand value $107.3 billion) together accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total brand value in the sector.

Closely behind them, Huawei managed to reclaim its place among the top 10 most valuable brands in the world, following 29 per cent growth to $71.2 billion. Huawei’s smartphone business was hit by US sanctions, but it reacted positively by heavily stepping up investment in both domestic technology companies and R&D, as well as turning its focus to cloud services.

Brand Finance is an independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy headquartered in London.

India’s Economy To Grow At 8.0-8.5% In 2022-23

The Economic Survey 2021-22 has projected the economy to grow at 8.0-8.5 per cent in 2022-23, thereby moderating the growth forecast from 9.2 per cent expansion for 2021-22 outlined by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in its first advance estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Last year’s Survey had projected real GDP to record a 11 per cent growth in 2021-22, post a 7.3 per cent contraction in 2020-21. While this year’s growth comes on a low base year economic output, the expansion next year has to be seen from the recovery levels in economic output.

The Survey flags inflation as a concern while assessing the macroeconomic stability indicators and suggests that the Indian economy is “well- placed” to take on the challenges of 2022-23.

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on January 31st tabled the Economic Survey 2021-22 in the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of India’s Parliament.

“Growth in 2022-23 will be supported by widespread vaccine coverage, gains from supply-side reforms and easing of regulations, robust export growth, and availability of fiscal space to ramp up capital spending. The year ahead is also well poised for a pick-up in private sector investment with the financial system in a good position to provide support to the revival of the economy,” it said.

The growth projection for the next year based on “the assumption that there will be no further debilitating pandemic related economic disruption, monsoon will be normal, withdrawal of global liquidity by major central banks will be broadly orderly and oil prices will be in the range of $70-$75/bbl,” the Survey said.

The Survey projection is comparable with the World Bank’s and Asian Development Bank’s latest forecasts of real GDP growth of 8.7 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively for 2022-23. As per the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) growth projections released on 25th January, 2022, India’s real GDP is projected to grow at 9 per cent in both 2021-22 and 2022-23 and at 7.1 per cent in 2023-24. It stressed the need to watch up for imported inflation. India’s Consumer Price Index inflation stood at 5.6 per cent in December 2021 but wholesale price inflation, however, has been running in double-digits. “Although this is partly due to base effects that will even out, India does need to be wary of imported inflation, especially from elevated global energy prices,” it said.

Last year’s Economic Survey had pitched for an expansionary fiscal policy in 2021-22 to boost growth and advised the government towards significant privatisation of state-owned companies. A privatisation push and review of the banking sector asset quality was recommended in last year’s survey.

Setting the tone for the Union Budget 2022-23, to be presented on Tuesday, the Economic Survey 2021-22 tabled in the Parliament on Monday stressed on the need for the government to provide a buffer against stresses such as the uncertainty in the global environment, the cycle of liquidity withdrawal by major central banks, etc.

India’s economic growth in 2022-23 could spring a surprise: ASSOCHAM

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s economic growth in the upcoming financial year, i.e., 2022-23, can be surprising on the higher side, ASSOCHAM Secretary General said on Monday.

“While the 8-8.5 per cent GDP projections for FY23 are on the back of a high base of 9.2 per cent in the current financial year, ASSOCHAM is of the view that India’s economic growth can surprise us on the higher side.

“Even as the pandemic is still raging in most parts of the world, its latest variant is less damaging. Besides, with 75 per cent of eligible Indians fully vaccinated and the booster dose being rolled out, India would be far better prepared to take on the challenges,” ASSOCHAM Secretary General Deepak Sood said.

ASSOCHAM said it shares the prognosis of the Economic Survey that the Indian economy is well placed to take on the challenges of 2022-23, riding on the back of continuous reforms in supply side and safety nets to the vulnerable sections of the society.

Sood further said that the advance estimates suggest manufacturing to be growing by 12.5 per cent in the current fiscal while services would expand by 8.5 per cent.

“Traditionally, services grow at a faster face. Clearly, the Covid impact on contact intensive industries is reflecting even as manufacturing has been aided by supply side reforms. Once the impact of PLI scheme kicks in, we expect the manufacturing to be leading the growth for the foreseeable future,” Sood said, adding that robust performance in exports has also helped the manufacturing.

He further said that the Economic Survey is right in its assessment about the investment scenario, saying: “The private investment recovery is still at a nascent stage, though there are increased activities in the brownfield projects. Heavy lifting would still be needed by the government with capital expenditure, and we expect that in the Budget.”

The Survey has pointed out that the government has the fiscal capacity to maintain the support, and ramp up capital expenditure when required, ASSOCHAM said in a statement.

“Schemes like credit guarantee with 100 per cent guarantee for additional funding of Rs 4.5 lakh crore to MSMEs have provided critical relief to the sectors severely hit by the pandemic. More such measures are expected in the Budget,” it said.

“The Survey has re-emphasised the government’s asset monetisation and disinvestment agenda, which spells out bare minimum presence of government ownership even in the strategic sectors. Successful completion of Air India disinvestment should infuse confidence for the roadmap,” it added.

India To Launch Its Own Digital Currency In 2022-2023

India’s central bank will launch a digital version of the rupee in the next financial year, the country’s finance minister said on Tuesday.

“Introduction of a central bank digital currency will give a boost, a big boost to the digital economy,” Nirmala Sitharaman said as she delivered the country’s annual budget. “Digital currency will also lead to a more efficient and cheaper currency management system.”

The Reserve Bank of India will introduce the digital rupee in the 2022-2023 financial year which begins on Apr. 1.

Sitharaman gave no details about how the digital rupee would work or what it would look like, but said it would be introduced “using blockchain and other technologies.”

Blockchain refers to the technology that was originally created alongside bitcoin, but the definition has since evolved as its applications have moved beyond cryptocurrencies.

India would be one of the world’s largest economies to introduce a so-called central bank digital currency (CBDC) if it sticks to its plans.

China has been working on a digital version of its yuan since 2014 and is furthest ahead when it comes to launching CBDCs globally.

Over the past two years, the People’s Bank of China has been carrying out trials in the form of lotteries, where digital yuan is handed out to citizens in certain cities for them to spend. More recently, the central bank has looked to expand the use of the digital yuan. China has not launched its digital currency nationwide yet and has no timeline to do so, however.

Elsewhere, Japan is looking into its own CBDC, and the U.S. Federal Reserve last month released a study into a digital dollar, but did not take a firm position on whether it would issue one.

While India is pushing forward with a digital rupee, it has tried to take a tougher stance on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and is currently working on regulation for the sector.

On Tuesday, Sitharaman said income from the transfer of virtual digital assets should be taxed at rate of 30%.

Indian-American Candidates Gain Support For 2022 US Mid Term Elections

Ahead of this year’s elections, AAPI Victory Fund, and Indian American Impact Fund jointly endorsed Indian-American congressional candidates, Nida Allam of North Carolina and Kesha Ram Hinsdale of Vermont.

Allam is currently the Durham County Commissioner and is running for U.S. House of Representatives in North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District.

Ram Hinsdale is a Vermont State Senator and the first woman in the state to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Shekar Narasimhan, founder and chairman of AAPI Victory Fund said the organization was pleased to announce its support for Allam and Hinsdale.

“As elected leaders and champions for the progressive movement in their respective states, Nida and Kesha have made strides for not only the AAPI community but for all of their constituents. They continue to dedicate themselves to ensuring that progress leaves no one behind,” Narasimhan is quoted saying in the press release.

“We are honored to endorse these two exemplary candidates who will make history when elected to Congress as they strive to make a positive impact on our country. We look forward to supporting them both on their path to Congress,” he added.

Neil Makhija, executive director of Indian American Impact Fund, a political action committee which has funded scores of election campaigns around the country, echoed similar sentiments.

“Our team is extremely honored to endorse Nida Allam and Kesha Ram Hinsdale for Congress. Both Nida and Kesha uphold the progressive and justice-oriented values that we at IMPACT are thrilled to support in tandem,” Makhija said.

“As Indian-Americans, Nida and Kesha’s bids for public office serve as a reminder that Indian-Americans are deeply underrepresented in American government. The historic strides that they’ve made in their respective states are just the beginning for Indian-American and AAPI communities to have a seat at the political table, and we’re excited to see how they continue to prioritize marginalized communities come midterms, and beyond,” Makhija added.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, also expressed her support and is quoted in the press release saying, “It’s wonderful to see so many South Asians and South Asian women running for Congress this cycle.  They certainly bring a strong set of assets to the table, and will energize a whole new community of voters.  I may be the first, but I certainly won’t be the last,” Jayapal is quoted saying in the press release.

Allam said she was honored to be endorsed by the two organizations. “The Indian-American community needs more representation at the highest levels, and I’m proud to be supported by these champions for our community. As a Member of Congress, I’ll fight for the progressive policies that working families across North Carolina need,” Allam said.

Ram Hinsdale said, “If elected as Vermont’s first Congresswoman, I look forward to working with AAPI Victory Fund, Indian American Impact and Representative Pramila Jayapal to build a bigger coalition for racial, economic, and social justice.  They have challenged politics as usual, amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities and fighting for the issues that working Vermonters care about. I am honored to have earned this endorsement.”

Allam is the daughter of Indian and Pakistani immigrants. She attended North Carolina public schools and then NC State University, where she led a campaign to partner with local healthcare workers to provide free healthcare to low-income community members.

Her life took a turn in 2015 when her friends Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha were murdered in their Chapel Hill home in an anti-Muslim hate crime, according to her bio on her website nidaallam.com.

“Deeply affected by the deaths of her friends and determined to carry on their legacy, Nida threw herself into organizing to amplify underheard voices and increase community safety through solidarity, the website profile says.

Allam served as a political director for the Bernie Sanders campaign and then was elected Third Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, the first Muslim elected to the party’s Executive Council. She currently serves on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

In 2020, Allam ran for Durham County Commission and was the highest vote-getter in the general election, becoming the first Muslim woman elected to public office in North Carolina.

Ram Hinsdale was born in Los Angeles and has bachelors degrees in Natural Resource Planning and Political Science from the University of Vermont.

She also has a Master degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

She represented Burlington-Chittenden District in the Vermont House of Representatives on from 2008 to 2016, where she sat on the House General, Housing & Military Affairs and Ways & Means Committees, and as Vice Chair of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee.

Ram Hinsdale has also served as Co-Chair of the Vermont Attorney General’s Immigration Task Force, and as a member of the boards of Emerge Vermont, the Main Street Alliance of Vermont, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Regenerative Food Network, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

Gandhi Memorial Foundation Observes Gandhiji’s 74th Punyatithi, Shaheed Diwas

Chicago IL: Mahatma Gandhi’s 74th death anniversary was observed on January 30, 2022 at 11:00 am at Mahatma Gandhi Statue in the National Heritage Park on McCormick Boulevard in Skokie, Illinois. Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi was remembered by singing of “Gandhi’s favorite Bhajans” and Powerful Tributes by Gandhi Memorial Foundation Board Members and Floral tributes by Consulate General of Chicago Mr Amit Kumar and his wife Mrs Surabhi Kumar.

The contribution of Mahatma Gandhi towards the nation and its independence is well known in Indian History. He was a great freedom fighter who taught the lesson of non-violence to the whole world and worked on building the unity of the nation which was broken by the British. After India got Independence in 1947, Bapu stayed away from politics and started working on harmony, peace, and brotherhood among the people. On Friday – January 30, 1948 at 5:17 PM the Father of the Nation was assassinated by Nathuram Godse in the year 1948 at Gandhi Smriti in the Birla House during the evening prayers. January 30 is the day when Mahatma Gandhi was martyred, and the Government of India announced the day as Shaheed Diwas or Martyrs’ Day (Sarvodaya Day).

The event starts by Shree Gurusamy welcoming remarks. Prayer songs “Vaishnav Janto and Raghupati Raghav Rajaram” led by Bhartiben Desai were very inspiring. Consul General Amit Kumar’s remembrance of Gandhiji’s talisman quotation was very timely. Dr Sriram Sonty remembered the Last few minutes of Mahatma Gandhiji’ Life. The White and Red color beautiful Garland was donated by Srinivas and Kavitha. Tea and snacks provided and brought by Consul Ranjit Singhji’s team. Diptiji put lots of efforts to call snow removal service because of over 10-inch snow by Mahatma Gandhi Statue in the National Heritage Park. Due to very cold weather (16 Degree Fahrenheit) the event was only for 15 minutes.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal Works Towards Changing the Uneven Impact of Climate Change

The research showing how climate change-related events disproportionately affect vulnerable communities is staggering. From New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to New York City after Superstorm Sandy, extreme weather events tend to hit minority communities hardest. A 2019 study found that Black Americans living in communities hit by disasters over the study period lost nearly $20,000 in wealth—whereas their white counterparts gained more than $126,000 as investment flowed and communities rebuilt.

New legislation unveiled Tuesday last week by Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal aims to turn that grim reality on its head with a slate of initiatives designed not only to mitigate the damage caused by climate-related disasters to vulnerable communities but also to turn the wave of investment that comes after a disaster into a bright spot for them.

“One of the things we really want to fix is how the resources get distributed: who gets the jobs, how do we make sure that those jobs are well paid, and that it becomes an opportunity to—wait for it—build back better in those communities,” says Jayapal.

Jayapal’s legislation, which draws on consultation with a range of environmental groups, contains a laundry list of policies with that aim in mind. The bill would establish a grant program for states, local governments and nonprofits to create jobs in “climate resilience” with a requirement that the recipients commit to employing a diverse workforce. These jobs include things like preemptive climate resilience work—think of retrofitting and restoration that helps soften the blow of a major disaster—as well as jobs that follow the storm, like clean up and debris removal. These industries already exist in some parts of the country, but worker protections are uneven. The bill’s text say that this grant program could create one million jobs annually that provide for worker safety and benefits.

The legislation would also provide funding for local governments to come up with their own resilience plans—and require them to address the disparate challenges faced by the most vulnerable communities. A new Office of Climate Resilience at the White House would serve as a hub for the federal government’s coordination with vulnerable communities.

Jayapal unveiled the bill Tuesday morning with 30 progressive Democrats as co-sponsors, but, with provisions like a loosening of immigration rules for climate resilience workers, it faces a tough road to pass as written in the politically divided Congress. Even so, Jayapal says elements of the 131-page bill can shape discussions on a range of other active policy discussions. The proposal could, for example, inform how Congress structures a Civilian Climate Corps, a proposed federal program to put Americans to work on climate projects that already was included in the climate and social spending bill that passed the House of Representatives in the fall. Other elements could help support the Biden Administration’s Justice40 initiative, which requires 40% of the benefits of federal climate investment to benefit disadvantaged communities. “This is actually laying out a vision,” she says.

That vision leaves much of the details to states, cities and communities—and that’s sort of the point. Activists have spent years calling on government to pay closer attention to environmental justice issues while also demanding solutions that empower local leaders.

Beyond the substance of the bill, the legislation would also deliver some political benefits, helping people connect the hundreds of billions of dollars that the Biden Administration hopes to spend on climate measures to the everyday lives of key constituents.

“If people feel like they’re never being considered, that frontline communities are never being considered, or that fossil fuel workers are never being considered, their lives and livelihoods are not being considered, we will lose them politically,” says Jayapal. “They will either go to another party, depending on where they are or they just won’t come out and vote.”

Is India On The Path To Genocide?

Genocide is the willful extermination of a whole ethnic group and calls to mind Hitler’s death camps to kill the Jews (1939-45), Stalin’s use of starvation to crush the Ukrainian peasants (1932-33) and Kemal Ataturk’s slaughter of the Armenians (1915).

American scholar and activist Gregory Stanton has publicly asked whether India too in recent years has been showing “early warning signs” of genocidal behavior.

In a recent address to the US Congress, he appealed to his government to let India know that its recent actions regarding minorities were a matter of universal concern.

Stanton is the founder and chairperson of Genocide Watch, an organization that monitors the policies and actions of governments regarding their ethnic minorities. It is not only totalitarian governments and dictatorships that veer toward genocidal policies; some democracies are no better.

Stanton cites instances from his own US government. White Americans have been responsible for the virtual extermination of Native Americans and for the oppression and impoverishment of Afro-Americans through slavery. To which we might add that Americans deliberately annihilated two Japanese cities in the final stages of World War II through atomic bombing.

What are the early warning signs of a majoritarian government’s evil designs on its minorities? Stanton lists six.

“Classification” is the way in which politicians refer to “us” and “them” as an acceptable form of “othering.” This may be based on skin color or on ethnic background. On the subcontinent, it is based on religion. While India poses as a Hindu majoritarian state, Sri Lanka and Myanmar claim to be Buddhist, while Pakistan and Bangladesh are Islamic.

And each of these South Asian countries has had a history of aggression towards its ethnic minorities — from Partition to the persecution of the Rohingya.

Classification leads naturally to “markings” or “symbolizations.” Hitler wanted all Jews to wear a yellow Star of David sewn on their outer clothing. Hindu mobs demand that “Jai Shri Ram” become the identity mark of Hindutva. In Islamic Pakistan, the blasphemy law has been misused to incriminate every manner of opponent.

“Discrimination” and “dehumanization” are the third and fourth steps in genocidal behavior.  Muslims have been described as “termites” in this country in the same way that other derogatory epithets such as “chinkis” (an offensive term for northeast Indians) are used for others we dislike.

The fifth stage is “polarization.” Here hostile actions against the victimized group are routinely enacted and justified: “love jihad,” “forced conversion,” “gharwapsi,” (a program of religious conversion to Hinduism from Islam and Christianity) “shuddhikaran” (purification) and lynching are some of the hostilities against minorities in this country.

Finally, “extermination.” In this country, the state will probably use non-state actors to achieve its ends. Instead of a gulag or death camps for the victims, riots and lynching serve the purpose — that of expulsion from one’s homeland or extermination.

This has happened in Kandhamal (Odissa, 2008) and in the Dangs (Gujarat, 1998). The officials of the state stand aside and watch while the violence takes place. They do not interfere. Theirs is the silence of complicity.

So will such genocide take place?

It is always difficult to foresee the future, but some things may certainly be said. India is not a small country; it is vast and diverse. Where there is diversity of background and ambition, there is also a plurality of opinion. Not everyone in India feels the same way.

For it is a sad truth that human beings are more easily incited to hate and violence than to love and acceptance of each other

Much of the hostility to minorities — Muslims, Christians, Dalits, tribal people and women — takes place in the north of the country, still backward and undeveloped in many respects and susceptible to manipulation by political propaganda.

Any attempt at genocide will certainly provoke a violent reaction on the part of the minorities, which will rupture the fabric of the nation. In Sri Lanka, the ethnic tensions between Sinhala and Tamil erupted in a bloody civil war that dragged on for 26 years (1983-2009).

Besides, most Hindus are uncomfortable with the more violent aspects of Hindutva and its divisive politics. While discomfort exists, it does not translate into active opposition to this toxic agenda. How true is that oft-quoted saying, “For evil to succeed, all that is required is that good people do nothing.”

It would be foolhardy to ignore Gregory Stanton’s warnings. They are not alarmist or exaggerated but based on hard evidence and dismissed at our peril.

For it is a sad truth that human beings are more easily incited to hate and violence than to love and acceptance of each other. This is what makes world peace such an elusive goal.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official editorial position of UCA News.

FDA Fully Approves Moderna Vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday, January 31st granted full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, giving an additional vote of confidence in its safety and effectiveness.

The full approval for people ages 18 and older was based on follow-up data showing “high efficacy and favorable safety approximately six months after the second dose.”

The vaccine had already been available since December 2020 under an emergency use authorization, but full approval provides an extra emphasis.

Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said she hoped the move gives some people additional confidence in the vaccine.

“The public can be assured that Spikevax meets the FDA’s high standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality required of any vaccine approved for use in the United States,” she said in a statement. “While hundreds of millions of doses of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine have been administered to individuals under emergency use authorization, we understand that for some individuals, FDA approval of this vaccine may instill additional confidence in making the decision to get vaccinated.”

Pfizer’s vaccine already received full approval in August.

“Our COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to hundreds of millions of people around the world, protecting people from COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. “The totality of real-world data and the full [approval] for Spikevax in the United States reaffirms the importance of vaccination against this virus. This is a momentous milestone in Moderna’s history as it is our first product to achieve licensure in the U.S.”

A booster shot of the Moderna vaccine is also recommended five months after the second shot.

About 74 percent of adults are now fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The numbers are much lower for boosters, which are crucial for achieving higher protection against the omicron variant, with 44 percent of fully vaccinated adults having received a booster, according to the public health agency.

In the other big COVID-19 vaccine news, Maryland-based Novavax finally applied for emergency use authorization for its vaccine in adults.

The request was based in part on results from two large clinical trials of approximately 30,000 participants in the U.S. and Mexico. The company said two doses of the vaccine given three weeks apart demonstrated an overall efficacy of approximately 90 percent, though the trials took place before the omicron variant became dominant.

Novavax was one of the six companies the U.S. invested in as part of Operation Warp Speed. The company originally wanted to ask the FDA for authorization by May 2021, but had to delay the request multiple times due to numerous development and manufacturing setbacks.

The protein-based vaccine could provide an alternative to the mRNA shots available from Pfizer and Moderna, as there is a small risk the mRNA vaccines cause heart inflammation in certain adults.

The authorization process from FDA could take several months, though the vaccine is available under emergency use from the European Commission, and the World Health Organization.

The Novavax vaccine is given in two doses spaced 21 days apart; the company recently announced plans to test a booster shot.

House Democrats Push For ‘Swift’ Action To Lower Drug Prices

A group of 40 House Democrats is pressuring party leadership to act quickly on measures to lower prescription drug prices, highlighting the importance of the issue to the party, especially in an election year.

Lowering drug prices is a long-held policy goal for Democrats and a crucial aspect of their campaign messaging.

But the proposal is stalled in Congress along with a slew of other measures included in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, given concerns from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) about other parts of the package.

The group of Democrats, led by Rep. Susan Wild (Pa.), is pushing to jumpstart action.

“We write today urging you to take legislative action as swiftly as possible to lower drug prices,” the Democrats, many of whom represent competitive seats, wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “For years, people have sent us to Washington on the promise that we end Big Pharma’s monopoly control over prices and provide patients with much needed relief. We must make good on that promise — and we have the ability to do so.”

Democrats already have an agreement on drug pricing legislation that they reached in November after negotiations with a handful of moderate members.

That agreement would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain older drugs that are no longer on their period of “exclusivity,” where they are protected from competition. The measure would also limit drug price increases to the rate of inflation and cap patients’ costs for insulin at $35 per month.

But the proposal is facing a murky path forward, given the obstacles for the larger Build Back Better package of which it is a part. Manchin supports action to lower drug prices, but he has concerns about other parts of the package related to spending and the possibility of causing more inflation.

Drugmakers raise list prices for prescription medicines by 6.6% this year

The Wall Street Journal (1/30, Walker, Subscription Publication) reports drug makers raised list prices for diabetes, cancer, and other prescription medicines by an average of 6.6% during the first weeks of 2022. An analysis by Rx Savings Solutions found that through January 20, nearly 150 drug makers raised prices for 866 products in the United States.

The letter from the 40 Democrats, which was first reported by Politico, does not specify a path forward for the drug pricing legislation, but it is possible that a deal could be reached with Manchin on a slimmed-down overall package.

“President Biden supports this plan,” they write. “We support this plan. Every Democratic member of the U.S. Senate supports this plan. And most importantly, the American people support this plan. It is time to enact it into law.”

CDC Urged To Provide Clear Path To Endemic Status

Experts say that Covid will likely lose its “pandemic” status sometime in 2022, due largely to rising global vaccination rates and developments of antiviral Covid pills that could become more widespread next year.

Instead, the virus will likely become “endemic,” eventually fading in severity and folding into the backdrop of regular, everyday life. Various strains of influenza have followed a similar pattern over the past century or more, from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

Covid will probably remain dangerous once the pandemic ends — much like the flu, which killed as many as 62,000 people in the U.S. between October 2019 and April 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide clear guidance that will allow states to transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic and into endemic status.

“We need the CDC to help us to have the right standards to end this pandemic and move to more endemic status,” Hutchinson said during a meeting with President Biden, Vice President Harris and other governors as part of a meeting of the National Governors Association.

“And so that’s an important element that we as governors, in a bipartisan way, hope that the CDC can be helpful to define that more clearly,” added Hutchinson, who chairs the association. “We want to go from today to more normal.”

The governors had met earlier with Jeff Zients, the head of the White House COVID-19 response team. “We got a way to go on that, in my view, but we’re moving,” Biden said of the pandemic. “I think it’s all about making sure we have the same standards we’re applying across the board.”

Biden said the administration would “try like the devil to keep schools open,” something Hutchinson had thanked the president for supporting so clearly.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a Monday briefing that the current state of the pandemic and accompanying restrictions are not “the new normal,” noting that the country is still seeing high levels of infections and hospitalizations.

Hutchinson’s call for a clear set of guidelines to help Americans ease back into normal life comes as recent polls have shown much of the public is fatigued and frustrated by the pandemic two years after the first cases were detected in the United States.

The Arkansas governor has been a consistent partner for the White House on pandemic messaging, as he has urged vaccinations in a conservative state and praised Biden for his efforts to depoliticize the pandemic.

As COVID-19 Numbers Improve, Experts Are Optimistic

For at least the third time in the past two years, Connecticut finds itself moving past a devastating COVID-19 surge and hoping its coronavirus nightmare may finally be reaching an end.

But just like the previous two times, experts say there’s cause for encouragement — and also reasons to hold off on the victory parade.

First, the good news: The state’s test positivity rate has dipped dramatically in recent weeks, and its rate of new cases is the lowest it has been in more than a month. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Connecticut has declined steadily as well, easing the burden on health care institutions.

Experts say there’s no obvious reason those promising trends won’t continue in the near future. Pedro Mendes, a computational biologist at UConn Health, said Friday that his models project Connecticut will be down to 530 COVID-19 hospitalizations by Feb. 19 — less than half the current total.

“We’re past the peak, so that’s really good news,” Dr. Scott Roberts, associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital, said. “I think there’s reason to be optimistic looking ahead.”

Now the question is, what comes next? Will recent trends continue? Will summer in Connecticut be free of COVID-19? Are further surges on the way? What role might a new variant play?

Experts note that Connecticut continues to see high levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and caution against easing precautions too soon. They also warn that a new strain could disrupt all progress at any time, just as delta and omicron have done previously.

“The obvious question people are asking is, ‘Can I make plans for this summer?’” Dr. Peter Hotez, a Hartford native, Baylor University professor and vaccine scientist, said. “And I think the answer is, yes you can, but be prepared that nature could throw us a curveball and bring us a new variant.”

A COVID-free summer?

Each of the past two summers, Connecticut has experienced dramatic drops in COVID-19 transmission, permitting major steps toward pre-pandemic normalcy for many residents. Early last summer — before the delta variant caused a moderate spike — the state’s positivity rate fell below 0.5%, leaving as few as 25 patients hospitalized statewide in early July.

This experience has led some experts to believe COVID-19 waves are largely seasonal, with the Northeast experiencing surges when the weather is coldest and residents are spending time together indoors — followed by dips in transmission when the weather is warmest and people can socialize outside.

“We saw COVID really plummet this summer, so I don’t see a reason that wouldn’t happen again,” Roberts said. “I am predicting that things will continue to improve, if not reach this low-level steady state of infection and hopefully only continue to get better as warmer months come about.”

Dr. David Banach, hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health, noted that most respiratory viruses, including many other coronaviruses, recede in the summer before returning each winter.

“I think there’s reason to be optimistic that we’ll see that low level of transmission during the summer months,” Banach said. “Based on what we know about the virus spread here in the Northeast, there is still reasonable expectation that the community level rates in the summer will likely be low, barring any surprises like new variants that may pop up.”

Of course, summer isn’t here yet.

As of Thursday, Connecticut was still averaging more than 3,7000 COVID-19 cases a day, more than at almost any time last year.

“We have to be careful not to be overly optimistic,” Hotez said, on a call organized by Hartford HealthCare. “Because we have seen situation where it starts to go down very quickly and then people assume we’re out of it and then it gets stuck halfway down and plateaus for a while.”

“The obvious question people are asking is, ‘Can I make plans for this summer?’ And I think the answer is, yes you can, but be prepared that nature could throw us a curveball and bring us a new variant.”

After two years of pandemic, many Americans are looking for a sign that things are OK again, that COVID-19 is no longer an acute concern. When can they stop wearing masks in public? When can they safely gather in large groups?

In Banach’s view, that point won’t arrive all at once but will instead play out incrementally over several months.

“It’ll be a gradual transition. I don’t think it’ll be an on-and-off switch,” Banach said.

“As rates start to get lower, people in the community will have increasing comfort with gathering in small groups, potentially without masks, and that’ll be a more gradual process,” he said.

Road to endemicity

Given the degree to which the delta and omicron variants have managed to evade vaccine-induced immunity, experts say it’s highly unlikely that the state, the nation or the world can stamp out COVID-19 entirely.

The new best-case scenario, they say, is that COVID-19 shifts from its pandemic stage to an endemic stage, meaning it remains present but at levels that can be more easily controlled.

“When we’re thinking about ‘endemic,’ we’re not thinking about eradication. We’re thinking about something that is predictable and more manageable,” Banach said.

“For instance, with the flu, we know that there are going to be … waves of flu activity, we know generally when they’re going to occur, and we can prepare for them accordingly and react when we start to see them.”

Crucially, endemic doesn’t mean harmless. Malaria and tuberculosis, for example, are endemic diseases that nonetheless cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year worldwide. But when a disease is endemic, there is less likelihood of a devastating surge that strains hospitals and necessitates dramatic control measures.

“Endemic may still mean seeing waves in which a substantial number of cases occur,” Banach said. “The key is to be able to predict when that is going to happen and respond in a way that is going to decrease the impact without causing the level of disruption to society that we’ve seen.”

Just as the flu kills tens of thousands of Americans — and hundreds of Connecticut residents — most winters, COVID-19 will likely cause some level of sickness and death even once the pandemic officially ends.

“We see that surge every winter with a lot of the respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist at Hartford HealthCare. “We still worry about everything that happens when [a disease] is endemic.”

Of course, Connecticut hasn’t yet reached the endemic stage. For now, the pandemic continues to smolder, one new variant away from igniting again.

The variant variable

All optimism about the coming months of the pandemic come with a notable caveat: A new strain can change Connecticut’s outlook at barely a moment’s notice. It happened last summer with the delta variant and again this winter with the omicron variant.

Experts say the next prominent strain could be less severe than omicron, potentially helping to facilitate the endemic stage, but that it could also be more severe.

“There’s always the outstanding question of, ‘What’s the next variant around the corner?’” Roberts said.

Hotez, who has become a go-to national voice on COVID-19 over the past two years, said he thinks some in the medical community are overly optimistic about the coming months of the pandemic and are failing to account for the possibility of a new, highly threatening variant.

Though Hotez said he’s not overly concerned about the new omicron subvariant, BA.2, recently detected in Connecticut, he warned that more strains could be on the way, particularly if vaccination rates were to remain low across large segments of the global population.

“Mother Nature is pretty much telling us what she has in store for us,” Hotez said. “As long as we refuse to vaccinate the Global South, meaning the world’s low and middle-income countries …. she’s going to continue to hurl variants of concern at us.”

And so most experts aren’t ready to make assurances about the coming year. Maybe the omicron wave will prove to have been Connecticut’s last and the state will have a manageable time ahead — or maybe another variant will prolong the pandemic even further.

“I don’t know that we really have a lot of evidence to know what the next variant of concern might be,” Hotez said. “In some ways we got lucky: Can you imagine if omicron … was causing as severe illness as delta? As bad as things are, it could be much worse.”

Seeking To Offer Pardon To January 6th Rioters, Trump Creates New Headaches For GOP

Former President Trump is creating new headaches for Republicans after he floated pardons for Jan. 6 attack participants and lashed out at Vice President Mike Pence for not overturning the 2020 election.

Trump’s comments — made separately during a rally in Texas on Saturday and in a statement on Sunday — injected back into the spotlight the attack on the Capitol, carried out by a mob of the former president’s supporters, and a rehash of the 2020 election.

GOP lawmakers, including allies like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), immediately distanced themselves from comments by Trump, who is flirting with a 2024 comeback bid as he falsely claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“I just think people who broke the law on January 6 need to be held accountable, period,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Trump floated the pardons during a rally in Texas, saying that “so many people have been asking me about it.” Trump indicated that he was willing to use pardons, if he is back in the White House after 2024, for people involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol “because they are being treated so unfairly.”

More than 700 individuals have been charged related to the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol, which forced the evacuation of the House and Senate chamber and sent lawmakers running for cover in the complex.

Graham, during an interview with CBS News, warned that pardoning individuals tied to the attack would be “inappropriate.”

“I don’t want to send any signal that it was okay to defile the Capitol,” Graham added. “There are other groups with causes that may want to go down to the violent path that these people get pardoned.”

Graham’s pushback is notable because he’s remained one of the president’s most vocal allies in the Senate GOP caucus, including publicly warning Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that he needs to be able to work with the former president. Graham recently visited Trump, and has predicted that he’ll be the party’s 2024 GOP presidential nominee if he wants to be.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said he aligned with Graham’s view.

“I just don’t think you want to encourage unlawful behavior,” Thune said.

Trump’s use of pardons garnered controversy during his White House tenure.

Though Trump used his pardon power less frequently than his immediate predecessor, he did use it to benefit some of his allies including pardoning his former chief strategist Steven Bannon, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The New York Times reported last year that Trump also discussed pardoning himself, something a president has never done before and a step that would likely spark a fierce legal battle. 

Trump’s decision to raise the issue of pardons for individuals tied to the Jan. 6 attack comes as Senate Republicans, in particular, are eager to move past the 2020 election as they shape their message heading into the November midterm election.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he wants the November election to be squarely focused on Biden and his administration.

Even as McConnell — who was a close ally of the former president during most of his tenure — has tried to stay focused on Biden, loyalty to Trump has emerged as a litmus test for many Republicans including in key battleground GOP primaries.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) immediately hit back at Graham saying that he was “pretending to be a friend” to Trump.

In addition to floating pardons, Trump on Sunday night lashed out at Pence for not unilaterally throwing out the results of the 2020 election when he was presiding over Congress’s formal count of the Electoral College results last January.

“If the Vice President (Mike Pence) had ‘absolutely no right’ to change the Presidential Election results in the Senate, despite fraud and many other irregularities, how come the Democrats and RINO Republicans, like Wacky Susan Collins, are desperately trying to pass legislation that will not allow the Vice President to change the results of the election?” Trump asked.

“Actually, what they are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away,” he added.

Earlier on Sunday before Trump issued his statement, Collins said she was ‘unlikely’ to support Trump if he ran in 2024, becoming one of the rare Senate Republicans to make that notion public.

Trump led a public and private pressure campaign to try to get Pence to throw out the results from key battleground states. Pence, however, refused saying the Constitution tied his hands — an interpretation that many senators agreed with.

“That‘s not my understanding of the law,” Cornyn said, asked about Trump’s claim.

A bipartisan Senate group, led by Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), are currently negotiating potential changes to the 1887 law, which lays out how the Electoral College results are counted.

Among the changes they are considering is codifying that the vice president’s role is ceremonial and increasing the number of members from the House and Senate that have to object before they can force a vote on a challenge to a state’s results.

The group, which now includes approximately 16 senators, met on Monday night in the Capitol and are expected to meet with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairwoman and top Republican on the Rules Committee.

“I’m very much of the view with Mike Pence that he didn’t have the authority,” Thune said, adding that Senate Republicans can’t “control what the former president does on that or other issues.”

Thune added that there was “some interest” in making changes to the Electoral Count Act.  “I think there are some questions and ambiguities around that century and a half old statue that probably need to be clarified,” Thune added.

How Breyer’s Replacement Could Reshape Court’s Liberal Wing

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the court’s senior liberal jurist, is reportedly stepping down at the end of the 2021-2022 term. Breyer, 83, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, is the oldest justice on the court, and his retirement would give President Joe Biden a potential opportunity to make good on a campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to fill the seat.

There are several candidates whose names have been circulating as potential nominees. They include Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, of the D.C. Circuit, who is considered a leading candidate; Justice Leondra Kruger, of the California Supreme Court; and Judge Michelle Childs, of the South Carolina District Court.

Regardless of whom Biden picks to fill the vacancy, the balance of power will remain unchanged, with conservatives holding six seats to the liberals’ three. But the president’s nomination is sure to encounter resistance from Republican leadership in the Senate, who bent over backwards to ensure former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, did not even receive a hearing to fill the vacancy created by the death of former Justice Antonin Scalia.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s upcoming departure from the Supreme Court hands President Biden the chance to tap a replacement who is expected to bring youth, diversity and a more liberal outlook than the retiring 83-year-old jurist known for his unique brand of judicial modesty and pragmatism.

The seating of Biden’s nominee, who he has said would be the country’s first Black female justice, will not fundamentally shift the balance of the 6-3 conservative majority court. But replacing Breyer with a justice who is ideologically to his left could reshape the three-member liberal minority and alter the court in more subtle ways.

“I think it likely that whoever is appointed will likely be more liberal than Justice Breyer, who often had a decidedly conservative bent,” said Dan Kobil, a law professor at Capital University, who described Breyer overall as “mildly progressive.”

Biden announced Breyer’s retirement Thursday at a White House event, saying he planned to pick a nominee before the end of February.

The president also said he would seek input on his judicial selection from a variety of sources — including senators from both parties, legal academia and Vice President Harris — while standing firm on his 2020 campaign pledge to nominate the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

“I’ve made no decision except one: The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character experience and integrity,” Biden said. “And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It’s long overdue in my view.”

Among the likely candidates to replace Breyer are Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Leondra Kruger, 45, who has served on the California Supreme Court since 2015; and J. Michelle Childs, 55, a federal district court judge in South Carolina whom Biden recently nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court.

Biden’s nominee is expected to round out the court’s liberal wing, which also includes Sonia Sotomayor, 67, and Elena Kagan, 61.

Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said that compared to Breyer, the next justice is likely to be less deferential to the government when it appears as a party before the Supreme Court.

“Breyer’s replacement is likely to be a little more progressive, especially on criminal justice issues,” Adler said. “Justice Breyer has likely been the most pro-government justice on the court, and so there is likely to be a slight change there.”

But an even more important shift, in Adler’s view, has to do with a change in status among the justices: Breyer’s departure means Sotomayor will become the court’s senior-most liberal justice.

Significantly, the senior-most justice in the majority selects which justice writes the opinion. The same goes for the losing side, with the senior-most justice assigning authorship of the dissenting opinion — with the option to write it themselves.

Given the court’s conservative supermajority, liberal justices are often relegated to the dissenting minority on hot-button issues, from disputes over abortion restrictions and religious liberty to voting rights.

Sotomayor, now the court’s most liberal member by a wide margin, has shown herself to be uncowed by the court’s ideological lopsidedness, frequently blasting conservative rulings with fiery dissents.

“The biggest effect of Breyer leaving is that the senior-most liberal justice will now be Sotomayor, instead of Breyer, and that will likely have effects on opinion assignments, which may change the tone of how some issues are handled or discussed,” Adler said.

And since the new justice is likely to find herself in the minority on divisive, politically charged cases, dissent may be a major force in shaping the role.

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart, once remarked that a forcefully written dissenting opinion can exert pressure on other justices, causing the authors of majority opinions to refine and clarify their argument. In rare cases, a dissenting view has even garnered enough support to supplant the majority opinion.

Dissent can also lay down an important historical marker, Ginsburg said during a 2010 speech. She illustrated the point with a quote from the late Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes: “A dissent in a court of last resort is an appeal … to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting judge believes the court to have been betrayed.”

Steven Schwinn, a professor at the University of Illinois Chicago Law School, said the role of frequent dissenter could alleviate some pressure on the Supreme Court’s new arrival.

“This could give a new Justice a unique opportunity to develop her own voice and approach early in her tenure, as she may need to worry less about writing to keep or gain a majority,” he said. He also held open the possibility that a new justice could create “new opportunities for work across the ideological aisle.”

On the other hand, if the next justice proves more progressive than Breyer, it could put pressure on Kagan, now the court’s most moderate liberal, to take on an even greater role as a consensus-seeker.

“I would expect Justice Kagan to try to move into the role of ‘bridge builder’ between the two camps,” said Kobil, “if that is even possible anymore on hot-button issues.”

Another possibility, he said, is that the two sides will move further apart still, producing more acrimony.

“I anticipate the troubling prospect of an increasingly partisan divide among the justices, with [Republican and Democratic appointees] lining up squarely against each other on most ideological issues,” he said. Such a pattern, he said, would mean “Chief Justice Roberts has his work cut out trying to maintain the perception of the court as an institution of integrity rather than simply another instrument in partisan culture wars.”

Nominees need 51 votes in the Senate to be confirmed. Currently, the Senate is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats), but Democrats have a majority because Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casts the deciding vote in the Senate in the event of a tie.

Breyer’s decision to leave the court comes as the court faces questions of legitimacy given the tactics Republicans deployed to secure three additional conservative  seats in recent years.

“What Mitch McConnell did with Merrick Garland was unprecedented,” Paul says, “a politicization of the confirmation process unlike anything we’ve seen before.” Garland is now serving as U.S. attorney general.

A moderate liberal, Breyer has provided a key check against a majority-conservative court for most of his time on the bench. He has been a reliable defender of administrative agencies, deferring to their expertise; notably, he voted in the majority to legalize gay marriage in 2015, endorsed pro-choice positions on abortion, and wrote a majority opinion striking down an effort to overturn to the Affordable Care Act as recently as last term.

Hitting Net-Zero Without Stopping Flying

One of the largest producers of carbon emissions is air travel, yet many view flying as a necessary enabler of tourism and international business. One promising way for consumers to take responsibility for their carbon emissions are voluntary carbon offsets (VCOs), which offer air travellers the opportunity to make a small donation to neutralise their carbon footprint. Yet there are conflicting recommendations as to how to encourage consumers to opt into these green initiatives.

Researchers from Copenhagen Business School designed three online experiments to test strategies for increasing consumer participation, which contribute to the aviation carbon offset literature and offer useful new insights for airline companies.

In this study the researchers argue that VCOs have the potential to balance the practical need for air travel with the larger considerations of sustainability, yet current VCO programmes are not effective.

“Despite their potential, few existing studies have explained how to present VCOs so they can effectively appeal to the sensibilities of individual travellers with different travel requirements. More broadly, more participation in VCOs may also increase collective awareness and creates market pressure on institutions to decide to behave responsibly,” says Associate Professor Qiqi Jiang, Department of Digitalization, Copenhagen Business School.

The main findings

The evidence from the research shows that travellers booking flights in the near future are more likely to opt-in to VCOs when they are presented with concrete messages that emphasise specific actions.

In contrast, the research found that travellers flying in the distant future are more likely to opt-in to VCOs when they are presented with abstract messages that emphasise general initiatives.

“We also found choice is useful, especially for those travellers  flying in the near future and receiving concrete messages,” adds Qiqi Jiang.

Specifically, the study suggests that airlines should adjust the presentation of VCO programmes according to the temporal distance to the flight during booking and provide travellers opportunities to select their preferred way to neutralise their carbon footprint.

The study has been published in the Journal of Travel Research.

Promoting sustainable behaviors

“At present, most airlines present only one project that individuals can support with their VCO contribution. Our findings highlight specific conditions (consumers booking flights in the near future) in which multiple options can help encourage consumers to opt in,” says co-author Associate Professor Rob Gleasure, Department of Digitalization, Copenhagen Business School.

The researchers point to the fact that current research on VCO mainly focuses on how personal attributes affect intention to opt into VCO. For example, a certain socioeconomic status or psychological factors were found to significantly influence individual willingness to opt into VCO. Besides, some studies discussed which remedies, e.g., reforestation, renewable energy or helping local communities, can best promote VCO opt-in for specific groups of users. Despite the importance of these findings, the researchers argue they offer limited practical value for practitioners in aviation, as much of the insights require extensive personal data.

“Our proposed strategies only require the airlines to know the date of the flight being booked and provide the options to offset carbon footprint,” adds Rob Gleasure.

Creating actionable solutions

The findings afford actionable solutions for both airline companies and policymakers. “For airline companies, they can adopt our suggestions on the dynamic presentation of VCO messages to increase the likelihood of VCO opt-in. Consequently, the airline companies can raise more money from VCOs to fight against the climate challenge and boost social responsibility. Growing adoption of VCOs may also highlight the practice and motivate policymakers to enforce additional regulation on corporate VCO projects and expenditures,” adds Qiqi Jiang.

In addition to the practical focus of the research, the researchers highlight that much of what persuades consumers to opt into sustainable behaviours is not the projects themselves but the manner in which they are presented.

“We also reconcile some contradictory advice by showing why appealing to principles is useful in some circumstances and not in others, why providing details is useful in some circumstances and not in others, and why providing options is useful in some circumstances and not in others. This helps to accommodate a range of green causes and users with different values and interests,” Qiqi Jiang concludes.

Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status May Impact Patient Outcomes after Heart Surgery

Dr. Amit Iyengar – Led Study Finds, Patients In Disadvantaged Communities Experience More Complications

Patients with mitral valve disease who live in disadvantaged communities are more likely to experience complications and are at higher risk for death after surgery than those with higher socioeconomic status (SES), according to research presented at the 58th Annual Meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

“We collaboratively undertook this work with The Society of Thoracic Surgeons to better understand the impact of socioeconomic status on mitral valve surgery in the US,” said Amit Iyengar, MD, MSE, from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “The STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database was linked with a very robust composite metric that evaluates average SES based on census block tract groups, and showed it relates to mortality and rate of achieving a successful repair, independent of all other demographic or hospital and surgeon-level characteristics we had available.”

Using data from the STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database, Dr. Iyengar and colleagues identified 46,831 adult patients who underwent—for the first time—isolated mitral valve repair or replacement for degenerative mitral disease from 2012 to 2018. Socioeconomic status was calculated using the 2018 Area Deprivation Index (ADI), a geographically-derived measure used to assess average income, education, employment, and housing quality for a given region. For this research, the group queried the ADI at a single city block level or rural equivalent.

“We confirmed the effect of ADI by looking at it more closely in smaller bootstrapped subsets,” said Dr. Iyengar. “We did this thoughtfully, trying to shed some light on the mechanisms by which socioeconomic status would affect outcomes.”

The researchers determined that low SES patients—who more commonly received health care under government payor programs such as Medicare and Medicaid (63% vs. 49%)—had more urgent/emergent surgery (21% vs. 13%), with minimally-invasive approaches used less often (24% vs. 39%).

“Neighborhood SES is associated with differing valve pathologies and presentations,” said Dr. Iyengar. “Clinically, the extremes of SES represent two differing patient populations—elective degenerative pathology (high SES) and more urgent, non-degenerative pathology (low SES).”

In addition, and importantly, low SES was associated with a lower repair rate (65.3% vs. 82.8%). Mitral valve repair has been widely regarded as the optimal surgical procedure to treat mitral valve disease and may help minimize complications that can occur with replacement, including the risk of blood clots with mechanical valves. In fact, low SES patients not only had a higher complication rate (48% vs. 40%), but also a higher 30-day mortality rate (2.9% vs. 1.3%).

“The data are very revealing and show several important findings such as lower SES patients have bigger incisions, fewer repairs, and worse outcomes in terms of complications and mortality,” said T. Sloane Guy, MD, MBA, from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was not directly involved in this research. “There have been many papers out recently suggesting that certain groups of patients based on sex, race, or socioeconomic status have poorer outcomes. The usual conclusion drawn is that such patients are getting worse medical care. But the issue is more complicated, and I think most of us live by the tenant that we treat all patients the same regardless of any patient characteristics.”

This research also showed that high SES patients tend to travel farther for surgery (33 vs. 17 miles) and receive operations from higher volume surgeons (62±69 vs. 31±46 cases/year).

Dr. Guy explained that access to care and the ability to travel to a high-volume mitral valve specialist were “clearly revealed as a discriminator” that negatively impacts those living in socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods. “Presumably, they have limited resources and options compared to those living in other neighborhoods,” he said.

The researchers acknowledge that—moving forward—more work is required to determine how to best address these types of treatment disparities. Dr. Guy shared that efforts should focus on improving patient access to quality health insurance, care, and information.

For more information, contact Jennifer Bagley, Senior Manager, Media Relations and Communications, at 312-202-5865 or jbagley@sts.org.

Founded in 1964, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons is a not-for-profit organization representing more than 7,700 cardiothoracic surgeons, researchers, and allied health care professionals worldwide who are dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for surgeries of the heart, lung, and esophagus, as well as other surgical procedures within the chest. The Society’s mission is to advance cardiothoracic surgeons’ delivery of the highest quality patient care through collaboration, education, research, and advocacy.

Toyota Says, “Sending Our Cars To The Moon Is Our Mission”

Toyota is working with Japan’s space agency on a vehicle to explore the lunar surface, with ambitions to help people live on the moon by 2040 and then go live on Mars, company officials said Friday.

The vehicle being developed with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is called Lunar Cruiser, whose name pays homage to the Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle. Its launch is set for the late 2020’s.

The vehicle is based on the idea that people eat, work, sleep and communicate with others safely in cars, and the same can be done in outer space, said Takao Sato, who heads the Lunar Cruiser project at Toyota Motor Corp.

“We see space as an area for our once-in-a-century transformation. By going to space, we may be able to develop telecommunications and other technology that will prove valuable to human life,” Sato told The Associated Press.

Gitai Japan Inc., a venture contracted with Toyota, has developed a robotic arm for the Lunar Cruiser, designed to perform tasks such as inspection and maintenance. Its “grapple fixture” allows the arm’s end to be changed so it can work like different tools, scooping, lifting and sweeping.

Gitai Chief Executive Sho Nakanose said he felt the challenge of blasting off into space has basically been met but working in space entails big costs and hazards for astronauts. That’s where robots would come in handy, he said.

Since its founding in the 1930s, Toyota has fretted about losing a core business because of changing times. It has ventured into housing, boats, jets and robots. Its net-connected sustainable living quarters near Mount Fuji, called Woven City, where construction is starting this year.

Japanese fascination with the moon has been growing.

A private Japanese venture called ispace Inc. is working on lunar rovers, landing and orbiting, and is scheduled for a moon landing later this year. Businessman Yusaku Maezawa, who recently took videos of himself floating around in the International Space Station, has booked an orbit around the moon aboard Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Starship.

Toyota engineer Shinichiro Noda said he is excited about the lunar project, an extension of the automaker’s longtime mission to serve customers and the moon may provide valuable resources for life on Earth.

“Sending our cars to the moon is our mission,” he said. Toyota has vehicles almost everywhere. “But this is about taking our cars to somewhere we have never been.”

Tata Group Chairman Tells Air India Staff To Look Ahead On A New Journey

Tata Group Chairman, N. Chandrasekaran, has called upon Air India employees to work together to build ‘the airline our country needs’. In a communication to the employees, Chandrasekaran said: “Now is the time to look ahead.”

The communication to Air India employees came on a day when Tata Group subsidiary, Talace Private Limited, formally took over the managerial control of the airline.

“I, like many others, have enjoyed reflecting on stories from the airline’s brilliant past. My first flight was with Air India in December 1986, and I will never forget how special it felt to be onboard, or the exhilaration as we soared into the sky,” the letter read.

“Today is the beginning of a new chapter. The entire nation’s eyes are on us, waiting to see what we will achieve together. To build the airline our country needs, we need to look to the future,” it added. Notably, the purpose of the letter was to welcome the employees into the Tata Group “family”.

“Our group has its own storied past. I have learned that to preserve what is best about the past, requires constant change. It is by evolving, adapting and embracing the future that we best honour a glorious history,” Chandrasekaran said in the letter.

It added that the “golden age” of Air India lies ahead and the “journey towards it starts now”.

Indian Government has handed over the management control of Air India to Tata Group subsidiary Talace.

With this, Air India’s strategic disinvestment was complete after the Centre received a consideration of Rs 2,700 crore from the ‘Strategic Partner’ — Talace — which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons.

Tata Sons subsidiary Talace, which took over the managerial control of Air India on Thursday, will get more than 140 aircraft and eight logos, among other assets such as human resources.

However, the transaction does not include non-core assets, including land and building, valued at Rs 14,718 crore, which are to be transferred to government of India’s Air India Asset Holding Limited (AIAHL).

Besides, Tatas will also not get the world-famous art collection of Air India.

Nevertheless, the group will get Air India’s 117 wide-body and narrow body aircraft apart from 24 aircraft of Air India Express. A significant number of these aircraft are owned by Air India.

It will also get to operate these aircraft on over 4,000 domestic and 1,800 international routes.

Also, eight brand logos would be transferable to the Tatas, which they have to retail for a period of five years.

As far as revenues are concerned, more than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues come from the international market. The airline is still the largest player from India in the international market, having a strong footprint across geographies like North America, Europe and Middle East, with attractive slots and bilateral rights.

Additionally, Air India comes with a frequent flyer programme which has more than three million members.

In terms of manpower, the conglomerate will get the total talent pool of Air India and Air India Express, which stands at over 13,000, including permanent as well as contractual employees.

Under the agreement with the Centre, no employee will be removed for one-year. In the second year, if an employee has to be removed, a VRS option will be provided.

The employees will be provided gratuity, provident fund and post-retirement medical benefits.

Financially, Tatas will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore. It had to pay Rs 2,700 crore to the Centre as the cash component.

In addition, Tatas will need to take care of the Rs 20 crore loss per day that the company suffers.

There is also a three-year business continuity clause in the agreement.

Tatas would also need to maintain 51 per cent stake in the airline for at least one-year. Besides the upfront payment, Talace will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore.

The transaction covered three entities – Air India, Air India Express and AI SATS. Post the formal take over, a new board was constituted which included Tata Group’s executives.  (IANS)

Gold Demand Globally Rose 10% In 2021

Global demand for gold increased 10 per cent in the calendar year 2021, led by improved economic growth and investors’ sentiment during the October-December quarter, the Word Gold Council said on Friday.

Gold demand jumped almost 50 per cent in the period, thereby hitting a 10-quarter high.

The total demand for the yellow metal was at 4,021 tonnes, excluding the “over the counter” figures.

“Demand for gold in the consumer-driven jewellery and technology sectors recovered throughout the year in line with economic growth and sentiment, while central bank buying also far outpaced that of 2020. Investment demand was mixed in an environment of opposing forces: high inflation competed with rising yields for investors’ attention,” the council added.

Jeweler fabrication staged a strong recovery in 2021 and it grew 67 per cent to 2,221 tonnes in 2021.

“This was in good part linked to Q4 demand, which – at 713 tonnes – saw the strongest quarterly jeweler consumption since Q2 2013,” the council said.

Global holdings of gold ETFs fell by 173 tonnes in 2021 in sharp contrast to 2020’s record 874 tones rise.

Bar and coin investment jumped 31 per cent to an eight-year high of 1,180 tones.

“Central banks accumulated 463 tonnes of gold in 2021, 82 per cent higher than the 2020 total and lifting global reserves to a near 30-year high. The pace of buying slowed in the second half, with a 22 per cent Y-o-Y decline in Q4.”

Further, gold used in technology rose nine per cent in 2021, to reach a three-year high of 330 tonnes. (IANS)

The Ayurvedic Kitchen Launched

With the idea behind the book to present Ayurveda in a simplified, contemporary and relatable manner to ensure that the reader can incorporate Ayurvedic principles in their daily cooking and food habits to achieve optimum health, authors Dr. Asghar and Sonal Chowdhary say that this system considers food as the first medicine, and in these times of the Pandemic, it has become even more important to stay healthy.

The duo, whose book ‘The Ayurvedic Kitchen’ (Westland Publishers) recently hit the stands stresses that recent times have proven that the best defense against the virus is immunity.

“There is a lot of buzz, curiosity and a variety of readily available information on the internet regarding the same. People try different ways to boost their immunity but unfortunately, the information available on the web gives a blanket approach for everyone. With this book, we want the reader to have an individualised approach as per their own constitution and genotype (which they can know using the Dosha Quiz in the book ) and help them understand ways to include immunity-enhancing foods in their diet,” Dr. Asghar tells IANS.

They say the book is for anyone who is looking to reset their food habits which are in sync with their own body, mind and health.

“It will be useful to ayurvedic consultants, nutritionists, dieticians, therapists, as they can guide their patients towards a healthier food approach as the recipes and food items scientifically connotes calories, effects on doshas, seasons and also their nutritional benefits,” says Chowdhary.

Both believe that contrary to popular perception, the young are getting more inclined towards natural ways of healing.

“Millennials are increasingly getting aware that natural forms of healing are better as they have minimal or no side effects. They are happiest when diseases are cured with fewer medicines or by practising proper diets or regimens,” asserts Chowdhary.

Dr. Asghar adds that when one looks at the pathology of diseases, many of them occur owing to incorrect diets and skewed daily regimes — something which Ayurveda sheds much light on.

“Well, the result of wrong eating habits are quite visible to everyone. Lifestyle disorders are on a rise and they are directly linked to incorrect eating habits. The result of these habits have started to build fear in most people and they have started taking more interest towards natural ways to combat the present condition.”

Chowdhary adds that fitness is becoming important for this experimental generation who are keen to try alternative natural ways and work more towards prevention than looking for cures.

The authors also say that in this time and age, it is paramount to think about the integration of different medical systems that can instrumental in making people healthier.(IANS)

GOPIO Chapters Of North Eastern States In US Organize India’s 73rd Republic Day Celebrations

Hundreds of Indian Americans representing GOPIO New York, GOPIO Manhattan, GOPIO-CT and GOPIO-Central Jersey came together to celebrate India’s 73rd Republic day virtually on Wednesday, January 26th, 2022, paying rich tributes to their motherland, India as she stands tall among nations of the world, proclaiming freedom, democratic values, economic and technological advancements, and the rich cultural traditions.

In his inaugural address, Indian Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, a career diplomat with over two decades of diplomatic career serving in Portugal, Cuba, South Africa and at the Permanent Mission of India in New York, greeted the Diaspora in the United States and around the world on the occasion of India’s 73rd Republic Day celebrations.

Stating that celebrating India’s Republic Day is special each year, but this year it’s more so because it is the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ambassador Jaiswal pointed to the several events that are being organized across the United States to commemorate the event, where a large number of people joined virtually and in person, including Greetings and Proclamations from the Governors of the state of New York And Ohio and from the mayor of New York City as well as from the NY state Senate.

Referring to fact that the “Indian Diaspora in the United States is very strong, and has contributed immensely to the India-US relations and to Mother India,” Ambassador Jaiswal said, “The Indian Diaspora is playing a very important role in the cooperation between India and the United States in all areas, especially in the healthcare sector. “Covid is one area where scientists from India and the United States are collaborating in developing vaccines and medicines. We are grateful to the Diaspora for all of your contributions.”

Referring to the several elected Indian American leaders who attended the event, Ambassador Jaiswal said, “Your presence and greetings mean a lot to us and to the Indian Diaspora and to the Indo-US relationship.” Announcing that India has provided 1.6 Billion does of Covid vaccination in the past 1 year, the senior diplomat representing India told the participants, how India’s economy is doing remarkably well and that there are 60,000 StartUP Companies established in the past year. He praised India’s efforts towards women’s empowerment as India continues to contribute towards world peace and prosperity.

Neil Makhija, Executive President of Indian American Impact spoke about how they work towards helping NRIs get elected to state and national offices. “Our goal is to increasing the representation of NRIs in all states,” he said. “Across the country, a record number of Indian-Americans have been elected to the state and national offices. I am thrilled to be where we are today.” He went onto introducing each of the elected officials who had joined the celebrations today.

Vipin Gopal, State Senator from New Jersey recalled his recent visit with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy traveling to several states in India meeting with several Chief Ministers and building relationships collaborating in several areas between India and New Jersey, which now has the fastest growing Indian American community in the United States. He proudly stated about how New Jersey has passed the legislation including Asian American history in the school curriculum teaching Indian history to all school children in the state. Referring to his frequent trips to India to meet with his grandparents, the young Senator said, “I am inspired by the values taught by family, which we carry them in our lives.”

Kesha Ram, Burlington, Vermont, VT State Senator, shared of the reasons for her entering politics. “I got engaged with the community for long, where we care for each other.” One of the youngest ever to be elected to State Assembly at the age of 21, she said, “I am the first ever woman of color top be elected to the state Assembly in Vermont. Continuing to break through the barriers, we can work together to elect more NRIs. “It’s incredible to be of public service, following in the footsteps of my great grandfathers, ” she said, referring to her ancestry back in India, who had fought for the freedom for India. “We have carried with us that spirit of community service.”

Ohio State Senator Niraj Antani, said, he is the 2nd Indian American ever elected to a statewide office and he is one of the only Republicans of Indian Origin to be elected. “Freedom is rare and needs to be upheld and protected. I work hard to reach across the aisle, and cooperate with people in both the Parties to legislate.” Sharing his early days and inspiration to enter politics, he said, “My parents worked hard to live the American dream. There is a need for us to be at the decision making table. Everyone is able to realize the dream. We stand on your shoulders, to carry on the Indian values.”

State Rep. Raj Mukerji from the state of New Jersey said, “We are celebrating the world’s largest democracy today and India’s contributions to building a better world for all.” He pointed to how the Indian American Cacuses are growing across the nation and in several states. In the state of New Jersey, the Indian American representation in state offices has grown from 1 to 7 this year. “That’s the way it should be. I am proud of all that GOPIO has contributed socially and financially to make this happen. I am proud of the contributions of the Indian Diaspora, who are in the front lines of global healthcare. NRIs are helping the nation and the world, come out of the Covid. And it’s the time to celebrate.”

NY State Representative Jenifer Rajkumar from the 28th District thanked GOPIO and the Indian American community for the inspiration she has had in her life, “Indian identity is central to my election to the state assembly in New York. I stand on your shoulders as GOPIO has played a great role in helping me get elected to the State Assembly.” Referring to the record three Indian Americans elected to the state, she said, “We made history and I want to thank the community leaders who have made this possible.”  Rajkumar shared with the audience as to how growing up in a family that emphasized the teachings of Gandhian principles has helped her to appreciate diversity, justice and equality for all. She referred to the Bills she has introduced in the Assembly to celebrate Punjabi culture and declaring and October as Hindu heritage month as well as to celebrate India’s Independence Day.

New Hampshire State Rep. Latha Mangipudi, who has been elected to the NH House of Representatives, shared with the audience about her own life, challenges in becoming a female, non-White elected official from a state which is majority White. “It was a very slow and gradual journey after I had come to the US to pursue higher studies in the 1980s.” Inspired by Gandhiji’s message of non-violence, which Martin Luther and late Rep. John Lewis had imbibed in their public life, the 1st generation Indian American said,  “I am a woman, Brown colored, 1st generation Indian and very vocal in expressing my views.” Stating that she has introduced traditional health systems of India including Ayurveda in New Hampshire,  she thanked the Indian Consulate which has “worked with us to enhance awareness on India and its diverse culture and democratic values.”

GOPIO Chairman, Dr. Thomas Abraham in his introductory remarks highlighted how India, after a long non-violent struggle, India got its independence from the British Colonial Rule and declared itself a Republic in 1950 with one of the longest written constitutions. “Although we started with almost nothing, in 75 years, India made progress under democratic rule and is now moving forward to become the Third Largest economy in the world. As we celebrate 73rd Republic Day of India, let us rededicate ourselves to the cause of democracy, freedom, justice, and peace not only in India but all over the world,” he said.

Dr. Abraham, a veteran Non-Resident Indian community leader pointed out that India has sent a large number of its brightest to America, who have made substantial contributions in building up the economy of America. “Our contributions are noted very well in the Health Care especially our doctors and nurses are frontline workers against Covid. We have also made outstanding contributions in hospitality, science and technology and education. We are also not behind in the political process. The biggest achievement came when one of us, an African/Indian American woman Senator Kamala Harris was sworn in as the Vice President of the USA.  The last General Election also saw a larger number of Indian Americans being elected to state legislatures. Eight of them from the Northeast have joined us this evening. Thank you to all for joining us,” Dr. Abraham said.

GOPIO members have been in the forefront, contributing to the larger community here in the United States and towards supporting various initiatives back home in India, especially during the Covid pandemic. “We had sent Oxygen concentrators to India last year when the Pandemic was at its peak. Many GOPIO chapters continue to serve the local communities in different countries by donating and serving food to the homeless and needy and replenishing and providing cash to the food pantries which serve the homeless and needy families.” He urged the larger Indian Diaspora members to become GOPIO members, either at the International level or the chapter level.”

Dr. Jaya Daptardar eloquently emceed the event. American  National Anthem was sung by: Mathy Pillai, while the Indian National Anthem was by Jyothi Gupta and team from Long Island. Popular artists from around the world, including Pallavi Belwariar , Kedar Godbole , Srinivas Gunupuru, and Trupti Shah presented popular evergreen patriotic songs such as Vande Mataram and Jai Ho with their beautiful voices. Media Sponsor and Live Streaming was provided by Indus TV (New Jersey). Shivender Sofat, President of GOPIO Manhattan, proposed vote of thanks.

Prominent among those who had joined the Republic Day celebrations included, VP Ram Gadhavi, chair of Gujarat Literary Academy of North America; Lal Motwani, GOPIO Foundation Chairman and President of Sindhi Circle; Dr. Asha Samant, GOPIO International Coordinator-at-Large; and several GOPIO Chapter Presidents, including, GOPIO New York President Beena Kothari; GOPIO Manhattan President Shivender Sofat; GOPIO-CT President Ashok Nichani; GOPIO-Central Jersey Kunal Mehta; and, Rockland County Legislature Anney Paul.

Co-Sponsoring Organizations and the leaders who had attended the event included: President of the National Federation of Indian American Association Lavanya Reddy from Seattle and Secretary Ashok Patnaik from Los Angeles, VP for New York Region Gunja Rastogi, who is the President of National Indian American Association for Senior Citizens; Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Executive Director Sudhir Vaishnav; Indo-American Senior Citizen Center of New York President Mukund Mehta; Jiwan Jyoti Chairman Suresh Arya from Rockland County; Jhilmil President Anoop Bhargava from New Jersey; Milan Cultural Association President Suresh Sharma from Hartford, CT; and, Kerala Center President Alex Esthappan from Elmont, New York.

IAPC Atlanta Chapter Reconstituted With New Office Bearers

IAPC Atlanta chapter has demonstrated over the years its unique quality of accepting changes and promoting new officers for each term.Exiting president Sabu Kurian (appointed to the national committee) recommended sitting secretary Jomy George as the next president, and Anie Anuvelil seconded the recommendation. Then the Vice president’s nomination was approved by Lukose Tharian and Philip Thomas. Followed by the secretary’s request for the new term, the suggested name was Sam T Samuel and Joint secretary Philip Thomas. The recommendation was unanimously seconded by Joseph K V and Thomas K. In addition, Grace Tharian is elected as Treasurer, and  Leelamma S.M as Joint Treasurer.

Thomas Kalladanthiyil was appointed as the Advisory board’s Chairman for the new term. The following members were selected to be the advisory panel – Harmeet singh, Dominic Chackonal, Roy Augustin, Lukose Tharian, and the Chapter unanimously agreed to the recommendation. The appointed executive officers gave their acceptance speech, and the New president declared the goals and vision for the Chapter for the new term. Secretary shared his vision to strategize the Chapter in a reformed way. Also, the treasurer shared unique ideas to make the Chapter financially sound for the new term. The future and the possibilities of the IAPC Atlanta chapter are endless and exciting. New executive members are motivated to see what the future holds for the Chapter with their talents and vision.

Founder Chairman Ginsmon Zacharia, Chairman Kamlesh Mehta, Board Secretary Ajay Ghosh, Directors Dr. Mathew Joys, Mini Nair, Sabu Kurian and General Secretary C. G. Daniel congratulated and offered all support and cooperation to the Newly elected Office Bearers at IAPC Atlanta.

US Embassy Greets Jaffrey, Nadella And Pichai For Padma Awards

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who were recently named for Padma Bhushan, responded to the development with utmost gratitude. While Nadella stated that it was an honour to receive the award, Pichai stated that he was humbled by it.

Both Nadella and Pichai were announced as the recipients of India’s third-highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan, on the eve of Republic Day. Both the CEOs were named under the Trade and Industry category.

Nadella took to Twitter to convey his gratitude for the honour.
“It’s an honor to receive a Padma Bhushan Award and to be recognised with so many extraordinary people. I’m thankful to the President, Prime Minister, and people of India, and look forward to continuing to work with people across India to help them use technology to achieve more,” Nadella said in his tweet.

On the other hand, a report in MoneyControl stated that Pichai had issued a statement saying, “I am deeply grateful to the Padma Awards Committee, the President and Prime Minister, as well as the people of India for this honour. It’s made all the more meaningful to be among this esteemed group of individuals who have each had a profound impact on their fields and communities, and I am humbled to receive this award alongside them.”
Although Pichai had not tweeted about the awards, he was seen liking congratulatory tweets.

Following the announcement, Indian Embassy in the US had congratulated both Nadella and Pichai along with culinary expert Madhur Jaffrey, another recipient of the prestigious award.

In 2014, Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as CEO of the Seattle-headquartered giant. He took charge at Microsoft at a time when the personal computer-focused company was struggling to make the shift to a world of mobile-led computing and was steeped in corporate culture that accorded primacy to internal competitiveness.

Pichai began his career as a materials engineer. After a short stint at the consulting firm McKinsey & Co, he joined Google in 2004. On August 10, 2015, he was selected as the next CEO of Google after previously being appointed Product Chief by CEO Larry Page.

Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu Meets With NYC Mayor Eri Adams

His Excellency Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States of America met New York City Mayor, Mr. Eric Adams on Sunday, January 30, 2022, at the City Hall.  Ambassador Sandhu was accompanied by Mr. Randhir Jaiswal, India’s Consul General in New York, and Dr. Varun Jeph, Deputy Consul General while Mayor Adams was joined by New York State Assemblywoman Ms. Jenifer Rajkumar, Deputy Mayor Ms. Meera Joshi and other senior aides.

Ambassador Sandhu congratulated Mayor Adams on his historic election as the New York City’s Mayor and conveyed best wishes. He thanked the Mayor for his support to India-US partnership and to the Indian diaspora in New York.

They held discussion on further bolstering the strong partnership between India and the City of New York with special emphasis on key areas including affordable healthcare, renewable energy, new and emerging technology, education and knowledge partnership, IT and fintech.

Ambassador Sandhu sought the support and participation of Mayor Adams and his team in the Consulate’s programmes to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, celebrating rich cultural heritage of India in the city of New York, and further strengthening people to people ties.

After the delegation level meeting, the two sides were joined by around thirty prominent members of the City’s Indian American diaspora. Indian community in New York and USA is the living bridge between the two countries. Its contribution was acknowledged by Mayor Adams and he assured that New York-India partnership will grow even stronger under his leadership.

Queen Elizabeth II – Queen of Unique Qualities

No doubt, across the Commonwealth countries or the English speaking world, the only one person known and honored as “the Queen” is Queen Elizabeth II of United Kingdom. She is remarkably a great personality of numerous specialities, February 8th, on this day in 1952  Elizabeth II was proclaimed “The Queen” of Britain.

Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-ruling British monarch during 2015, when she surpassed the ruling of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. She is also the first monarch to celebrated the Sapphire Jubilee, which marks 65 Years of throne, and now on great 70 years, by this February 8th.

Surprisingly the Queen Elizabeth II doesn’t use and old alarm clock. Instead Her Majesty wakes up every morning by hearing the bagpiper, playing outside of her window for 15 minutes daily morning at 9 am.

Though Indians fought against British rulers by Quit India Movement, and chased them out, we cannot forget the good things they did in India; and no doubt still we respect the Queen for the highest official position she holds.

The Queen undergone homeschooling by Britain’s best tutors. She mastered constitutional history and law as preparation for her future role, and took lessons in religion from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

She has so many special privileges, and she doesn’t need a driver’s license, a license plate, or a passport, which makes her position unique. In other words, since all British Passpirts are issued in the name of the Queen, she herself doesn’t need or have one. And the Queen also doesn’t require a driver’s license to drive or a license plate on her car.

You might wonder to note that the Queen gets about 200-300 letters every day. She reads a few by herself and then has staff members respond.

She was the First Lady of the Royal Family to join the Armed Services as a full-time active member. She had the privilege of learning and speaking French from French and Belgian governesses at a young age.

Another thing is about her celebrating her birthday twice. On April 21, 1926, she was born but has two recognized birthdays. The first is the actual anniversary of the day she was born (April 21) and another day as her “official” birthday, when the weather is better, for the Trooping the Colour parade. The tradition was started in 1748 with King George II.

To buy the material needed to create her beautiful wedding dress, the Queen spent her rationing coupons and the British government gifted her 200 coupons Her beautiful iconic dress featured a 13-foot-long train with over 10,000 seed pearls imported from the US.

All whales, swans and dolphins in the U.K. waters belong to the Queen since the early twelfth century.The Queen is the owner of an apartment in New York City too. It is reported that in 2015, Her Majesty purchased an $8 million, 3,000-square-foot modern penthouse in United Nations Plaza in New York City.

You wish to hear about Her Majesty’s drinking habits. “Before lunch a gin and Dubonnet, added with a slice of lemon and too much of ice, is her favorite. With lunch, she will take wine and a dry Martini and a glass of champagne in the evening.”

Her purse is not just to keep any money or other belongings, but it is used as a gadget to signal her staff. Just like we hold the smartphone always, the Queen is spotted only with her handbag. It is said that when ishe places her bag on the table, it is an indication that she wants to go within five minutes. If she puts her bag on the floor, it is a negative indication that she’s not enjoying the conversation and wants to be escorted out at the earliest..

In 2004, the Queen hosted a “first ever ladies only event” to celebrate “Women of Achievement” Luncheon at Buckingham Palace. She is patient enough to sit for over 129 portraits during these years of her reign.

Queen Elizabeth II, has a diamond jewelry collection quite as vast, historic and intentionally impressive, as mentioned while she celebrated her 95th birthday in 2021. Her collections include many deeply personal pieces such as the wide diamond bracelet she received from her beloved Prince Philip, who died on April 9.

Even the monarch goes undercover sometimes in public. On a recent low-key trip to Scotland, she met some (ignorant)American tourists while walking. When the tourists asked if she lived locally, she mentioned that she had a house nearby, and when asked if she’d ever met the Queen, she simply pointed at her security and said, “No, but he has!”. Yes, “The Queen” is bold, beautiful and hilarious too!. Long live the Legend- The Queen Elizabeth II!

Documentary ‘Writing With Fire Shines’ Light On The Only All-Women News Outlet In India

It’s 2016 and inside a newsroom in India, a group of rural female journalists are discussing why they need to pivot away from print reporting to digital. It’s a conversation that would feel familiar to journalists across the world—except many of the reporters at the online news outlet Khabar Lahariya have never even touched a smartphone, let alone used it to capture video. “I’m scared,” one woman says, noting that she is still learning how to report for print. Another explains that she doesn’t even use the phone her family has for fear she may damage it. But as time goes on, they learn anyway.

When filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh sat in on this conversation at Khabar Lahariya, it confirmed that they had stumbled upon something special. A year earlier, they set out to create the documentary Writing With Fire, which closely follows a handful of Khabar Lahariya’s journalists from 2016 through 2019. The film marks the married couple’s first feature debut and was made by their production company Black Ticket Films, which focuses on social justice issues.

Khabar Lahariya’s journalists report on illegal mining, rape cases, subpar sanitation, elections and religious polarization in their local communities in Uttar Pradesh, India—the country’s most populous state and one with significant caste discrimination and high rates of crimes against women. The award-winning film, which premiered at Sundance in January 2021, was recently shortlisted for an Oscar in the ‘Documentary Feature’ category. In a group interview with TIME staff on Jan. 20, and in later follow-up conversations, Thomas and Ghosh shared how they approached the story and their experiences working on the film and releasing it during the pandemic. “We wanted the audience to have an immersive experience of what it means being a Dalit woman journalist working in Uttar Pradesh,” Ghosh says.

The women at Khabar Lahariya, which translates to ‘Waves of News’ are predominantly Dalit—among one of the most marginalized groups in India, which includes individuals oppressed as lower-caste or those falling outside the caste system altogether.

The central character of Writing With Fire is Meera Devi, who is the outlet’s chief reporter when the documentary begins. (She is now bureau chief.) Devi is a charismatic leader who is deeply invested in the growth of the journalists working for her and the stories she tells. In one scene, Devi—who is Dalit herself—visits a Dalit neighborhood as part of her reporting on the national government’s Swachh Bharat Mission, which had promised universal sanitation for all Indians. She asks a woman whose family still has to defecate outside their home whether she thinks the government is lying when they say they have fulfilled this promise. “Look at the condition of my house. We have to take our children to the forest, even at night,” the woman responds. When Devi asks another Dalit family why their home is so far outside the main village, they say it’s because other communities consider them impure.

Devi and her family also face discrimination, too. She says in the film that her daughter’s classmate started mocking her upon learning that she was Dalit. “I tell my daughters their caste identity will always follow them. This is how our society is structured. But it’s important to challenge the system,” Devi says.

Devi serves as a dedicated mentor to those working under her, teaching them everything from how to use a smartphone and recognize the English alphabet to thinking critically about angles and framing. In one scene, she sits a junior reporter, Shyamkali, down to explain why her story about a religious guru could inadvertently promote his work and gloss over how some have used their status to sexually exploit women.

Initially, Shyamkali is one of the members of the newsroom who struggles most with her work. (In another scene, editors say she has a low monthly publication count.) But by the end of the film, her impactful reporting on a rape case leads to the arrest of the alleged perpetrator—a testament to her growth under Devi’s guidance. “The rigor with which they have trained each other is so strong and deep,” Ghosh says.

Devi approaches her interviews with a genuine curiosity, even when she may not agree with the views of those she is interviewing. “As journalists they are looking at the deep wounds of India with a compassionate lens, with a genuine intention to understand the world,” Thomas says. In one scene, she asks a man why he is wearing political insignia at a religious festival. When he responds saying that God doesn’t discriminate between the political and non political, she gently asks what has God got to do with politics.

While the film unpacks serious issues such as caste oppression and violence against women, the female reporters who drive the story maintain their spirits while out in the field. Part of that was by design: Thomas says she was tired of one-dimensional stories about female suffering that fail to portray the warmth and complexities of female solidarity. “People come in thinking that this is going to be a dark, heavy social justice film coming out of India and then they experience the intelligence, wit and acumen of these women and they’re like whoa,” Ghosh says. “The film wouldn’t be half as powerful without that.”

Thomas says the film also illustrates the importance of diverse newsrooms. In India, many newsrooms are dominated by dominant caste men. Meanwhile, at Khabar Lahariya, many of the reporters are survivors of the kinds of trauma and challenges that they write about in their stories. “They come from the communities that they report on. There is this added sense of: if I don’t show up at this place, at this time, tomorrow, nobody else will,” Thomas says.

The documentary notes upon closing that more than 40 journalists have been killed since 2014 in India, making it one of the deadliest countries to practice journalism.

Thomas and Ghosh hope the film moves viewers to consider how they can support independent local media, wherever they live. “The fourth estate, globally, is under duress and it’s important for citizens to champion its values, to find journalists and institutions whose work they believe in and find a way to support them,” Ghosh says.

Khabar Lahariya had already been operating for more than a decade when the filmmakers arrived to document their work. Now, their Youtube channel has almost 550,000 subscribers, their team is growing, and they are closely following this year’s elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Asked whether the filmmakers’ presence may have influenced Khabar Lahariya’s successful trajectory, they were clear that it was a coincidence “They’re a juggernaut. There was no stopping them,” Ghosh says. “It was like, this train is moving. Do you want to hop on or not?”